Friday, June 22, 2012

Hamburger Stroganoff

This may not be the prettiest meal I'll ever post, but it is another nostalgic comfort food dish for me.  I've reduced it heavily from the recipe my mom made when I was a kid.  When I first moved out, I was also moving out of state, far enough that visits would be 1-2 times per year.  One of the things my mom sent with me was a binder of recipes that I'd loved growing up.  This was in there, and that's where I've taken it from.  I don't have any idea where she originally got the recipe.  Don't forget to prepare the potatoes, however you prefer to bake them (I actually use the microwave when they're being served under a dish like this).
  • 2 strips of bacon, diced
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 C chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • pinch pepper
  • 2/3 C condensed cream of mushroom soup (from a 10.75 oz can)
  • 1/2 C sour cream
1.   Place ground beef and bacon in skillet; cook and stir until beef is browned.  Add onion and cook until just tender.  Spoon off excess fat.
2.  Blend flour and seasonings into meat; stir in soup.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.
3.  Stir in sour cream.
4.  Serve over baked potatoes.

Robyn's notes: this is a very filling meal, in my opinion.  You will be using half of the can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, see "Using Up Ingredients" at the top of the page for suggestions on what to do with the rest of the can.  The recipe says this can also be served over egg noodles or toasted hamburger buns, but I like it best over baked potatoes, so that's all I'm listing in the recipe itself.  It was hard to find a good skillet size for this, I used a 10-inch, which was perfect for browning the beef, bacon, and onion, but once it got to the simmering it seemed a bit large.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan when stirring.  I let the skillet sit over low heat for about 2 minutes after stirring in the sour cream, just to let it thicken up a bit before spooning it over the potatoes.  Probably only a 4 star recipe, but the nostalgia factor gives it a fifth star.  

 ***** 5 Stars: Excellent. A favourite for both of us, I will make this repeatedly

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Breakfast Burritos

For most of my career, I chose to work the night shift (aka Mids/Graveyard).  I really preferred it to either Days or Swings, for a lot of reasons, but there were a few aspects of working nights that were challenging.  One of those is the food issue.  If I was asleep from approximately 8am until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, then when I woke up I wasn't likely to be in the mood for dinner foods, even though it was the regular dinner time.  My meal during my shift (I usually tried to get the 2:30 or 3am lunch break) was never anything particularly special or filling, because it's hard to get enthused about a meal at that time of night, especially when you only have 30 minutes to reheat and eat.  When I got home from work I was ready for a nice big meal...but generally too tired to fix one after a 10-14 hour shift.  So co-workers and I often went to either a particular pancake restaurant or a small Mexican cafe that opened right before our shift ended.  At the latter, I always ordered a breakfast burrito, and the ones I got there are still the best I've ever had.  A few years ago I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to have a breakfast burrito for dinner, and was horrified at how many people asked me what that was. 
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 C frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes
  • 2 medium (soft taco size) flour tortillas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk
  • dash salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2-3 Tbsp diced ham
  • 1/3 C shredded cheese (either 4 Cheese Mexican blend or Cheddar)
1.  Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully add potatoes to form an even layer.  Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes.
2.  In a nonstick 8-inch skillet on another burner, warm tortillas one at a time over medium-low heat.  Set aside and cover to keep warm.  Beat together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. 
3.  Remove lid from potatoes, turn them, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes without further stirring. 
4.  Melt butter in small skillet used to warm tortillas.  Add egg mixture and cook slowly, scrambling with a silicone spatula.  As soon as the egg starts to set, add ham and continue to cook and stir together until cooked to your preference.
5.  Spoon approximately 1 Tbsp cheese down center of each tortilla.  Top with half of potatoes onto each, then half of the egg mixture.  Cover each with remaining cheese.  Fold over sides of tortillas and secure, if needed, with a toothpick.

Robyn's notes: this is a simple dish, but it can take some trying to get all the timing right, since both skillets are working at the same time and everything has to finish at just the right moments to keep anything from getting overcooked or cold from sitting.  I always have a bag of these potatoes in the freezer.  Likewise, I always have 4 Cheese Mexican blend shredded cheese in the house, it's more my standard than regular cheddar, so that's what I use.  Just before removing the eggs and ham from the skillet, I like to stir a bit of the cheese (maybe a Tbsp) into them so it gets all nice and warm and melty and gooey and integrated, instead of  just being layers.  Some people like to add salsa or onions and peppers or a bit of hot sauce to their breakfast burritos, since I can't eat any of that I don't.  The ham can be replaced with bacon or sausage, or left out entirely for a vegetarian version.  Without ham it might be a good idea to add a third egg, as I don't think it's as hearty a meal.  Although I've got a 'breakfasts' label on this, I'm much more likely to serve it as a dinner these days. 

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peach Mango Smoothies

About 10 or 12 years ago, I picked up a couple Smoothie cookbooks, with the intention of eating more healthily.  I only ever made 3 or 4 recipes out of both, partly because they called for a lot of specialty ingredients and insisted that I put the items into the blender in a certain order, processing for a certain number of seconds between each addition, and I was lazy and poor and those things didn't work for me.  So eventually I stopped bothering with some of the ingredients in one of the smoothies, and stopped worrying about careful combining.  This is where I ended up, and it's a smoothie I've been making ever since.
  • 1 banana, diced
  • 1/4 C mango sorbet (store-bought ok)
  • 1 C frozen sliced peaches
  • 3/4 C frozen diced mangoes
  • 1/2 C juice of your choice (see notes below)
1.  Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until combined and smooth, stopping blender as needed to stir and push chunks down.

Yield: approximately 22 fl oz

Robyn's notes: it's ok to use a frozen banana, but if so, the banana needs to be diced into coins before being frozen.  I usually have a couple frozen diced bananas on hand for making smoothies with, they do turn brown in the freezer but as long as they were fresh to start they'll retain their freshness long after they stop looking pretty.  A full-size frozen banana is very hard to process and becomes quite frustrating.  I have used both store-bought frozen fruit and fruit that I've frozen myself for the peaches and mangoes, and it really doesn't make any difference.  I prefer buying fresh and freezing myself; if getting the store-bought make sure to buy fruit that has not got added sugar or syrup, it'll mess with the flavour of the finished smoothie.  It is best to use frozen, not just fresh fruit, however, because of the moisture content.  I use whatever juice I can find or have in the house, with a few guidelines.  My preference is for Orange Peach Mango, it just gives the best and truest flavour for this combination of ingredients.  If I can't find that, I'll go for whatever peach-mango combination I can find.  If there isn't one, I'll go for an orange-banana combination, and if that's not available, straight orange juice.  I prefer not to use "tropical mix" juices or strawberry-banana (even though I love the latter as a juice), because it just doesn't taste as good for this use.  For measuring the mango, I usually use the 1 Cup measure and just don't fill it up, since there's a lot of air between the mango pieces it's hard to get an accurate measurement without using a scale.   

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hungarian Goulash

This is a very reduced version of a recipe my mom made for us a lot when I was growing up.  I don't know how much similarity it bears to actual Hungarian dishes, I've done a lot of travelling but Hungary is not one of the places I've visited.  It is, for me, a touch of childhood and the smell of it cooking means comfort.  Plan ahead, this recipe has a long cook time.
  • 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 3/4 C sliced onions
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1/3 C condensed beef broth from a 10.5oz can
  • 4 oz egg noodles
  • 1/3 Tbsp butter (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp poppy seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 C sour cream
1.  In medium bowl, toss meat cubes with flour to coat.  In Dutch oven or 10-inch skillet, brown meat cubes in oil until well browned on all sides.  Add onions, paprika, salt, pepper, and beef broth.  Cover and cook over low heat for 1-1/2 hours or until meat cubes are tender.
2. Shortly before serving, cook noodles as instructed on package.  Drain.  If desired, toss with butter and poppy seeds.
3.  Add sour cream to meat mixture and cook over low heat until heated through, stirring constantly.  Serve over noodles.

Robyn's notes: It may seem like 1 Tbsp of flour isn't enough to coat 1/2 lb of meat, but it really turns out to be enough.  I also tap off as much excess flour as possible before putting it in the pan, so it doesn't get gloppy.  I used a ten-inch skillet.  When browning the meat it was the perfect size to accommodate all the cubes with space to turn them once, and when it came time to cover and cook I pushed all the ingredients to one side of the pan together.  I checked the status of the meat several times during the 90 minutes of cooking, stirring things around and making sure there was still enough liquid, as my mom had warned me I might need to add more broth.  She generally uses her electric skillet to make this for 4 people, and in the electric skillet she adds more broth.  I didn't need to add another drop.  I can't eat seeds, they cause a lot of pain for me, so I just leave the poppy seeds out entirely, I don't think it changes the taste or enjoyment at all.  Probably more a 4 star dish if it didn't have such nostalgic feeling for me.  As it is, I won't make it often, but will make it for many years to come, 5 stars.  

***** 5 Stars: Excellent. A favourite for both of us, I will make this repeatedly

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mango Sorbet

Without an ice cream maker.

I have to be careful about the kitchen appliances that I choose.  Space and money are both limited, so anything that takes up room and has only one use is something I'm just not going to spend money on.  Ice cream makers fall into that category.  We don't eat ice cream very often, so it's not really a loss, if we had one I'd feel like we needed to justify it, and we'd eat ice cream more than we really want or need to.  However, I do love sorbet, specifically peach or mango sorbet, and in the summer I treat myself to pints of them and eat them straight out of the carton with a spoon.

The problems with that are double.  One is the price.  They tend to run about $4 for a pint, and I consider that to be a lot for a snack or dessert.  The other problem is the ratio of ingredients in store-bought sorbet.  For the mango, for example, there is more water than any other ingredient, sugar being the next highest, then mangoes, followed by juice--from concentrate--of lemon, pumpkin, and carrot.  Add "natural flavours" and pectin, and you've got a $4 cool treat.  I'd really rather not have more water and sugar than fruit in my sorbet.  So here's my alternative.  Be aware that since no ice cream maker is required, you can't just leave it and forget about it, it has to be checked.
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
1.  In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil.  Stir until sugar dissolves, remove from heat and cool.
2.  Peel mangoes and remove as much flesh as possible, placing all flesh into blender.  Pour 1/3 C cooled syrup into blender over mango, add lime juice, and puree until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a freezer-safe container with a removable lid.
3.  Stir every hour for the first 2 hours, then every 45 minutes after that, for a total of 6-8 hours.

Yield: see notes below

Robyn's notes: The texture is not quite as smooth as what you would get from an ice cream maker, but for my taste it's perfectly fine.  As I was doing the stirring, I tasted a bit of it from time to time, and really thought I'd have to throw it out and start again.  It was quite sour, and I thought I had my simple syrup ratio off.  In the morning it had all evened out.  It's nowhere near as sweet as the store-bought stuff, and if you want really sweet sorbet you may want to increase the amount of syrup incrementally, but it tastes very mango-ey and I'm happy with it.  I used an old Cool-Whip container, and my yield was 1-1/2 packed Cups or 12.5 oz (this is going to depend on the size of your mangoes and how much flesh you're able to get off of them, but expect to get around this much).  So a bit less than the pint I'd get at the store, but mangoes were on special and I already had the lime so this cost me $1 to make and I feel good about what's in it.  Now, don't go eating it all, one of my next recipes will call for some of it.  I made this a second time, using a light syrup that I had cooked peach halves in for canning.  Came out very well.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently