Crispy Beef

Yesterday, my good friend Alysha and I had a cookie baking extravaganza! It was so fun to get together and just bake cookies…for 3.5 hours straight! Normally, if I bake cookies, it’s just basic stuff, but we really went all out yesterday. Pretty soon I’ll have the full cookie baking blog post up, but until then, you can enjoy one of the pictures below, of her kitchen.
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In the meantime, I felt like posting a somewhat “lighter” recipe (since I’ve been posting really heavy dishes lately), but this amazingly delicious crispy beef from Table for Two also calls for quite a bit of oil, so it’s not healthier really, but it is lighter than the mac’n’cheese type recipes of late.
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Cookie baking extravaganza

In any case, it was so delicious! Freezing the beef prior to cooking was such an interesting tip (and maybe commonplace, but I’d never done it before!). I think it really helped the crispiness. Usually when I make and bread beef, chicken, or anything else, the breading slips off, or it’s not the desired crispiness, and so forth – but not this! This was so flavourful, crispy, and just plain wonderful. It was great to pair with brown rice and green beans. Yummm.

One side note: the original recipe calls to essentially deep fry the beef. I did not feel comfortable using quite that much oil, so I pan-seared mine, partially covered in oil, instead of full deep frying. I still used about one cup of oil, maybe a bit more – but far, far from the 4 cups that the original recipe calls for.
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Crispy Beef

serves 4

Ingredients:
-1.5lbs stir fry steak or sirloin steak, cut into thin slices
-3tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, divided
-6tbsp cornstarch
-1 medium-sized navel orange
-3tbsp molasses (I didn’t have any, so I just used dark brown sugar)
-1tbsp rice vinegar
-1.5tsp sesame oil
-1 jalapeño, de-seeded and thinly sliced
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1tsp freshly grated ginger (or substitute 1/2tsp ground ginger)
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes
-2 scallions, chopped (for garnish)
-4 cups or 1 quart of canola oil, for frying (I used about 1-2cu, since I didn’t fully deep fry my beef)

Directions:
-In a large bowl, toss beef strips with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, then sprinkle cornstarch on top and toss to coat evenly. Place coated beef on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and place into freezer for 45 minutes (I just used a plate since I don’t have a wire rack). **You’ll need to do this because the freezer will dry out the surface moisture of the beef, thus helping with the crispiness of the beef.
-In the meantime, peel the outer zest of the orange into long strips, and then continue slicing, to make thinner strips. Then juice the orange as best you can, to get at least 1/4 of a cup of juice.
-Place the orange zest strips, orange juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, molasses, rice vinegar, sesame oil, jalapeño slices, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl and whisk it to combine.
-When ready, heat up canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a dutch-oven, to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (uh…I didn’t check the temp, I just guesstimated). Set up a large plate lined with two layers of paper towels, to have ready when the beef is done.
-Once the pot is hot enough, add the beef to it. Depending on how much you have and the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.
-Fry the beef until done, and they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula, and let them rest (and drain) on the paper towel-lined plates.
-In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the soy sauce mixture with the orange zest strips to the pan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove it from heat, then toss the beef strips in to coat evenly.

Cheesy Meat Lasagna

I seem to be posting a lot of comfort food dishes lately! But hey, that’s what the winter season is for, right? Besides, lasagna is a great dish – it is fairly simple to do, is super filling, and usually creates plenty of leftovers! This 40 Minute Quick and Easy Cheesy Meat Lasagna from The Slow Roasted Italian did not disappoint me (or my husband) at all!

It involved hot Italian chicken sausage (which was kind of hard for me to find…not sure if that’s normal or not), which was really good! I have never used chicken sausage before, I don’t think, and definitely not for a lasagna. But it added a great flavour to it.
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Additionally, I did not leave the tomatoes as-is, but I blended them first. Normally when I see recipes with canned tomatoes, I substitute tomato sauce (which usually changes the texture/consistency a bit), but I’ve recently started using the canned tomatoes, but it’s more work (and more clean up), so I’m not sure if I will keep doing that, but we’ll see. I have also noticed that using canned tomatoes is REALLY bland, and far more bland than using tomato sauce. Does anyone else notice that, or is it just me, cuz I am new to using canned tomatoes?

By the way, I apologize for the pictures…it is hard to take a quality lasagna picture with just a cell phone camera. But you get the idea!
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Cheesy Meat Lasagna

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-1.5lbs hot Italian chicken sausage
-2 (14.5oz) cans Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
-1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
-2tbsp tomato paste
-1 egg
-1 (16oz) container part skim ricotta cheese
-1/2tsp fresh ground pepper
-1/2tsp kosher salt
-3/4cu grated parmesan cheese, divided
-lasagna noodles
-8oz Italian cheese blend, divided

Directions:
-Preheat oven to oven to 425°F.
-Prepare lasagna noodles according to package direction, then set aside.
-In a large skillet over medium high-heat, brown the sausage. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
-Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 4 ounces shredded cheese and egg, and mix until well blended.
-Spread a small amount of meat sauce onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish (mine’s square, so it makes less). Top with a layers of noodles, half the ricotta cheese mixture, and some more of the sauce. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles then cover with sauce and sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Spread remaining shredded cheese over the top, and cover with foil.
-Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake further, uncovered, 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Potato Soup

It is definitely that wintery, blustery season of hot cocoa, fuzzy socks or slippers, steaming mugs of soup, and…well, I could just go on and on! It is also the season of decorated trees! As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I got our tree over the weekend and it’s mostly all decorated (“mostly” because my husband hasn’t added his tinsel yet, though he insisted we have it). I love coming home to the smell of a fresh (albeit dead) tree in my living room. I love it even more when I come home after my husband, cuz then the lights are already on. =)

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But let’s go back to the topic of steaming mugs of soup. I love soup. Soup is amazing. I found this loaded baked potato soup from How Sweet It Is, and it is AMAZING. I used to make a lot of recipes from this blogger, however her recipes (especially the more recent ones), can be pretty complex, with tons of ingredients, and, well, I just don’t have time for that. But this…was heavenly. Seriously. I can’t remember what kind of potatoes I used – I think it was my reds that I had to get used up, and what better way to do that, than with potato soup?

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I’ve made potato soup before (or at least soup including potatoes), but I think this was the first time I baked the potatoes first. So yummy! Also, I severely increased the amount of liquid ingredients – as the original blogger stated that it served 6, but according to her amounts, it would barely serve 3 or 4! I basically doubled most of the liquid ingredients and it was MUCH better (we like leftovers in this house!).

The only thing I was worried about was flavour! The original ingredients don’t include much in the way of flavouring. However, I baked the potatoes with a dash of garlic salt, which I think helped A LOT. Also, I have been using the chicken bouillon cubes (instead of traditional broth) lately, which I think packs more flavour than the regular broth. Because of those additions/changes, it was so good!! One more thing is that I did not use smoked cheddar. I didn’t want to trouble myself with that, so I just got regular sharp cheddar. Yum.image

Baked Potato Soup

serves 5-6

Ingredients:
-6-8 yukon gold potatoes, baked with skin on and chopped (you can use any kind of potato – and I recommend using a dash of garlic salt or another spice while baking)
-2tbsp butter
-2tbsp flour
-1-2cu heavy cream
-2cu (or more) skim milk
-1/2-1cu chicken broth
-1cu grated smoked cheddar cheese
-2+ green onions, chopped
-4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

Directions:
-Heat a large pot on medium heat.
-Once hot, add butter and flour, and whisk into a roux. Then add heavy cream, potatoes and skim milk, continuously stirring until thickened.
-Stir in cheese, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
-Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
-Depending on desired consistency, add chicken stock, then stir in 2 slices of crumbled bacon and green onions. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
-Serve and garnish with remaining bacon

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Happy Wednesday! To recap, I had such a great and full last weekend…on Friday night, my husband and I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One with a good friend…it was SO SO SO SO SO good. Seriously. Even my husband (who hasn’t read the books) was literally on the edge of his seat for much of the movie.
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On Saturday evening, we went to dinner with my mother-in-law and her boyfriend. On Sunday we went to church and then I got to hang out with my good friend for lunch and shopping (she’s 9mo pregnant – can’t wait to meet her little one soon!)
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On Saturday, we also got our Christmas tree! We did the lights Saturday night, but two strands is just never enough, so on Sunday I went out to get a third strand…and then Sunday night, we were going to string the lights and decorate the tree, however one bulb went out, and in my attempt to fix it, made half the strand go out. So we bought another third strand, then finally decorated it on Monday. But my husband still needs to put up his beloved tinsel. Things in my household tend to be a…process. ;) ;)
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So while I don’t have Christmas tree pix, I do have a WONDERFUL recipe to share! I made buffalo chicken mac’n’cheese by A Spicy Perspective last week and it (like Mockingjay) was so so so so so good!! It was so creamy, first of all, which is a huge bonus. Homemade mac and cheese can be a difficult endeavor, but this was NOT! I wish I had taken more pictures of the process, to be honest, but oh well. In any case, if you like buffalo chicken, and you like mac and cheese, then you should definitely try this! Yum.
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Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

serves 6

Ingredients:
-one regular sized box of pasta (I used whole wheat shells)
-1 large chicken breast, cooked, shredded or cut into bite-size pieces (I baked mine with a few shakes of garlic salt, for about 35mins at 400F)
-2 small bell peppers, red and yellow, seeded and diced (I omitted this, because my husband doesn’t like peppers)
-1 bunch chopped green onions, divided
-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
-8oz cream cheese
-1cu blue cheese dressing
-3/4cu Buffalo Hot Wing Sauce
-3cu shredded cheese, divided (I recommend a blend)
-3/4cu Panko bread crumbs

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
-Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain, and pour into a large baking dish.
-Add the cooked chicken, chopped bell peppers, 3/4 of the green onions, and 2 1/4 cups of shredded cheese to the baking dish, then mix well.
-Place the garlic, cream cheese, blue cheese dressing and 1/2 cup of hot wing sauce in a food processor. Puree it until smooth, taste, and add another 1/4 cup hot wing sauce if needed. Pour over the pasta and toss.
-Mix the remaining 3/4 cup cheese and the Panko together. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta, then sprinkle with the remaining green onions.
-Bake until golden, about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven.

Thai Chicken Bites

A little over a week ago, we had my good friend Spencer over for dinner and to watch The Hunger Games (well, part of it). We are gearing up to watch Mockingjay Part One this weekend – I am so freakishly excited!  It was also this same friend that got me into the books in the first place, as he had sent me the boxed set for my birthday several years ago, so I felt obligated to read them, and then instantly fell in love.  So thank you, Spencer! =)
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These Thai Chicken Bites by Lauren’s Latest are SO. FREAKING. AMAZING. Seriously. This might be one of the best recipes ever. It is also mostly gluten-free (or can easily be made gluten-free), so if you have food allergies, or plan to have company that does, then this is a great recipe for that, too!
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The only downside is that this takes forever to make. Cutting 3 large chicken breasts into bite size pieces is fairly simple – however double-dredging each and every little piece took about 20+ minutes on its own, since I had to dredge them individually (I tried to dredge several pieces at once but that didn’t work out). Not to mention, I kept having to add more dry ingredients, then watch (and flip) what was already in the wok, etc. Despite that, it was still well worth it in the end – and my husband and good friend can both attest to that as well!
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Thai Chicken Bites

serves 4

Ingredients:
-3 large chicken breast, boneless and skinless
-1cu all purpose flour (I used GF flour, and had to use way more)
-1/2tsp garlic powder (I added more, as I added more flour)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-2 eggs
-4tbsp milk (add more milk and egg if you start to run out)
-canola or peanut oil for frying
-1/3cu sweet chili sauce
-carrots & cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
-Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside.
-Preheat oil in a large skillet or wok (I used my wok!)
-In a shallow dish, stir together flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, whisk egg, milk, salt and pepper together. Toss chicken pieces into dry mixture first, then into the egg mixture and back to the dry.
-Place chicken pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown on each side. (About 3-4 minutes per side.) Remove and drain on paper towels.
-Transfer to a large bowl and toss with sweet chili sauce, then top with carrots and cilantro.

Beef and Bean Chili

A few months ago (aka…summer…) some friends of ours had their 3rd baby, and I signed up to make them a meal and deliver it to their house, so they didn’t have to cook. A bunch of people signed up, I believe 3 nights a week for several weeks, to give mama a break while caring for an infant plus two older kids, while dad is at work. It was fun to meet her baby and treat her to a nice and hot dinner. They had requested low calorie and low carb, which is hard to find in easily-transported dinners (soups, stews, spaghetti, casseroles, etc.), but then I found this beef and bean chili from Weight Watchers that I had been meaning to try and it seemed perfect! I made a double batch so that I could have dinner for my husband and I, as well.

For their batch, I used the canned tomatoes as-is, but I blended the tomatoes for my husband and I’s batch (I HATTTTTE tomato chunks, which I’m sure everyone is well aware).  It was so good! And you can’t even tell that it’s “healthy.” I have found that some WW recipes are touch and go – some are just bland and flavourless, and then some are really spectacular.

Oh, and we STILL have cooked beans left over in the freezer from this…a bag of dried beans makes a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT.

I did not get a chance to snap a picture of my own creation, therefore the photo used below is not my own, it is owned by Weight Watchers was obtained from their website.

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Beef and Bean Chili

serves about 6-8

Ingredients:
-1lb lean ground beef
-2tsp olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 ribs celery, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I omitted this, since I was cooking it for two kids as well)
-2tbsp chili powder
-2tsp ground cumin
-1tsp dried oregano
-2 bay leaves
-1/2tsp table salt
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes, or more to taste
-28oz canned crushed tomatoes
-1cu reduced sodium beef broth
-8oz tomato sauce
-30oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2cu shallots, chopped

Directions:
-Coat a large stockpot with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Remove beef from pot and set aside.
-Add oil to the pot and set over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, celery, garlic and jalapeño. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.
-Add reserved beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt and red pepper flakes, and stir to coat vegetables and beef with spices. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce and beans, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.
-To serve, discard bay leaves, and ladle chili into bowls and top with chopped shallots (I omitted the shallots).

Note: According to the WW website, 1 heaping cup is 5 points. Sweet!!

Slow Cooker Apple Cider Beef Stew

Happy December 1st!  It has been so cold all weekend and today is no different – a whopping 25 degrees outside!  I know some of you on the east coast or in the midwest may be laughing at me right now…I remember living in and travelling through the “Tri-Ota” region (MN, ND, and SD), this would be a heat wave.  In any case, cold is cold, amiright?
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Because of this, it is the PERFECT time to make beef stew!  What is better than coming home to a delicious-smelling house and then pouring a bowl of delicious-tasting stew?  This slow cooker apple cider beef stew recipe from Baked By Rachel packs quite a punch.  I actually made it a little while ago, on Halloween, for dinner for my husband, my mom, and my in-laws.  Everyone loved it, it served the 5 of us, plus about 2 containers of leftovers!
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Now, this recipe definitely has a “holiday twist” to it, and it’s not the apple cider.  In fact, I couldn’t even taste the apple cider, to be honest.  But the cinnamon was verrrrry prevalent, which was fine for all of us, except my mother (who tends to make “comments” on most dishes I make, haha).  My mother taste-tested the stew before we ate, and she informed me that she does not like cinnamon, unless it’s on things like oatmeal, but should not be in a stew.  Thanks mom. ;)  Because of that, I upped some of the other ingredients and added a bit more salt and pepper, and then let the flavour blend in the crock for another 20 or so minutes.  By the time we sat down to eat, the cinnamon flavour died down quite a bit.

If you’re among picky eaters, this may not be the recipe for you (or just use less cinnamon), but if you love traditional favourites, food adventures, and cinnamon, then I highly recommend you make this dish ASAP!  Especially while the weather is chilly!
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Slow Cooker Apple Cider Beef Stew

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-2lbs beef stew meat, cut into small pieces
-1cu yellow onion, chopped
-1cu carrots, chopped
-3/4cu celery, chopped
-3cu russet potatoes (I used red potatoes), cubed
-1tsp ground black pepper
-1/2tsp dried thyme
-1/2tsp cinnamon
-1/2tsp cumin
-3cu beef broth
-3/4cu apple cider
-1/4cu flour

Directions:
-Add vegetables and then the meat to the slow cooker.
-Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin.
-Add the beef broth and apple cider and gently stir, making sure that all of the potatoes are covered by liquid (I think I had to add a bit more liquid at this point)
-Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.
-In the last few minutes, remove 1cu of liquid, whisk flour (a spoonful at a time up to 1/4cu), then return it to the crock and stir to combine (this will help to thicken the stew). –Let it continue to cook for a few more minutes before serving.

If you enjoy more traditional beef stews, then you should definitely check out these recipes!:

-Slow Cooker Beef Stew

-Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew

-Bistro Beef Stew (best stew ever)