Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Wow, once again it's been over a week since my last post.  I've had a lot of company lately, and I am currently nursing a bad case of strep throat, so meals have been old stand-bys for company, and whatever my husband can make me while I'm sick.  I do have some things I've been meaning to post though, so while I'm sitting at home I thought I'd do just that.

Tuna Noodle Casserole is something I had never really eaten until I was in my twenties.  My mom just doesn't really care for fish, so we never ate it.  I love it, but I never make it.  A few weeks ago it sounded really good, and after looking at a few recipes, I decided I could come up with my own version.  It turned out great, and I think it would freeze nicely.  The leftovers reheated really well, and I think it was almost better the second and third day.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 small hot pepper (jalepeno, serano, etc.) or 1/4 cup bell pepper minced
  •  1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups milk
  • 15 oz (3 small cans) Albacore tuna
  • 1 lb. frozen green peas
  • 8 oz. cooked egg noodles
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Add olive oil to skillet or dutch oven and heat.  Saute onion and pepper until onion is soft.  

2. Add cream soup, milk, tuna, and peas to softened onions and peppers.  Stir together and simmer until peas are cooked.

3. Add cooked noodles to tuna, cream soup and peas and mix well.

4. If not already using an oven safe dutch oven, transfer mixture to oven safe baking dish.

5. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan Cheese

6. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fruit Crisp

 Don't get me wrong, I do love pies, and all those of you out there who think pie crust is scary, it just takes patience.  When I'm feeding a large group, or when I have a ton of fruit to use up, I make a crisp instead.  Crisps are super simple.  If you can chop, measure, and pour, you can make a crisp.  The crisp I made last week was rhubarb, but I've also used the same recipe with peaches and blackberries.  Other than melons or pineapple, I really can't think of any fruit that wouldn't work using this method.  These are especially good for picnics and it can be served warm or at room temperature.  This recipe makes a 9 x 13 in. pan, but feel free to make half in an 8 x 8 in. pan.

Fruit Crisp

At least 4 cups of bite sized fruit (berries are really easy because you don't have to chop them)
1-2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoons white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup melted butter

 1. Preheat oven to 375 F. and filling 9 x 13 in. pan with chopped fruit.  Top chopped fruit with sugar.  I know 1-2 cups is a huge difference, but it just depends on how sweet your fruit is.  For rhubarb and blackberries I use the 2 cups.  For peaches I only use 1 cup of sugar, so you'll need to judge this on your own.

2. Mix all ingredients for the crumble and sprinkle over fruit.

3. Bake for 45 minutes.  At this point, the fruit will be cooked through and start bubbling through the crispy top.  With really juicy fruit like berries, I usually put a cookie sheet under the baking dish in case it bubbles over.

4. That's all there is to it.  Enjoy your crisp!
Hot crisp, ready to eat.  I wish I had more.  My husband and I ate the entire pan in three days.

Is the food ready yet?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mashed Potatoes: A Recipe

Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  In fact, as a kid when we went to a buffet I would always skip the dessert and grab a bowl of mashed potatoes.  In my family, I've been the one making the potatoes for years.  I've been wanting to post this recipe for awhile, but I've never measured what I do when I make them.  I just go by taste and how they look.  I finally got around to measuring everything, so I could tell you what I do.  Below is my recipe, and yes, I said I would post this yesterday.  However, I had this post almost finished, and then I remembered my secret weapon: my grandpa's potato masher.

This is what I use to make mashed potatoes.  I used to use a mixer, which will give a much creamier potato, but really, using this I have no lumps.  One of the big keys to having non-lumpy potatoes is to mash the potatoes while they are still hot.  If you let them cool they will get lumpy, and this will cause a tantrum right before Thanksgiving dinner (ummm, not that I would know about that or anything).  Anyway, below is my mashed potato recipe.  Please note, if you are doubling this recipe, keep the butter amount the same.  Anything over 5lbs. of potatoes will require more butter.

Mashed Potatoes
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes
1 stick butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
3 TBS. Milk
garlic powder

1. Peel and cube potatoes.  I had smallish potatoes, so I cut them into fourths and sixths.  The smaller they are cut, the quicker they will cook, and the easier they will mash.

2. Put potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water.  The cold water part is really important, the potatoes will become gummy if you start them out in hot water.  Add about 3 tablespoons of salt to the cooking water. This will help impart some flavor to the potatoes, but you will still need more salt after they are cooked.  Bring water to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.  This will take around 15 minutes.  A trick I use to test the doneness of the potatoes is to squish them with tongs.  If they squish easily, they are done.  You could also poke them with a fork.

3. After potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander.  Remember, you need to mash them while they are still hot, so have your other items ready to go.  

4. Put your stick of butter into the pan you just cooked the potatoes in.  This will help melt the butter.  Pour the potatoes over top of the butter.  Now, mash the potatoes.  After all the potatoes are mashed up, put in the sour cream and stir.  You will want this to be thick.  Add the milk slowly until your desired consistency of potato is reached.  Next, add salt and garlic powder.  I usually use fresh garlic, but in the case of potatoes, I think the powder is the way to go because it blends in easier.  Again, do not be afraid of the salt.  It will seem like you are adding a lot, but just taste as you go.

5.  Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beef and Noodles

I know that during the summer most people want light meals, salads, and cold sandwiches.  Not me, kind of like how I crave salads in the winter, I want hardy comfort food in the summer.  If you're one of my readers who likes to keep his or her heavy meals for when the snow if falling, read on anyway, and save this idea for later.  

 First I caramelized about 2 lbs. of onions.  I found some amazing candy onions at the farmer's market, and I was actually thinking about making French onion soup with them.  Beef and noodles won out, so maybe I'll make the soup next week.  If you don't normally caramelize onions, don't be afraid of the amount.  They cook down a lot.  I get my pan hot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then add the onions.  I then turn the heat down to medium low and generously salt the onions (about 2 teaspoons salt).  Stir onions after addition of salt and about every 5 minutes after that.  I let my onions cook for 20 minutes until they were nice and brown.
 See, I told you they would cook down.  I could have taken them even further than this, but I knew they would be sweet, so I stopped here.  Next, I added about a quarter cup of vodka to deglaze the pan.  Deglazing just means added a liquid to get up all the delicious brown bits.  If you don't have vodka, you could use red or white wine, beef or veggie broth, or water.

 Next I added about 3 lbs. of round steak (we really like this leftover).  I had three packages in the freezer, so that's what I used, but you could use anything you have lying around.  I actually wish I had a bone in chuck roast because I think it would have had a richer flavor.  I also added 6 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and about 2 cups of water.  I let this simmer, covered, for about 3 hours.  When I opened the pan, the beef was nicely tender and cooked to perfection, the onions had cooked nicely into the broth.  Next, I removed the beef and set it aside.  I tossed out the bay leaves and I added about 3 cups of water to the broth and tasted for salt.  I brought the broth to a boil and added 8 oz. of egg noodles and cooked according to package directions.  Last, I added the beef back to the pan and checked again for seasoning.

The finished product was served over mashed potatoes.  Gasp!  I know my mother would never approve of this meal with its two starches, but it was really good.  Tomorrow's post will contain the recipe for my mashed potatoes because I finally got around to measuring everything.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Restaurant Review: Don Sol Mexican Grill

Moving has some advantages, and a big one for me is checking out great new restaurants.  My husband took me to Don Sol a few months ago for their Sunday buffet, and I was blown away.  I had never seen a Mexican buffet before, but I think it's a great idea.  The buffet contains hard, soft, and fried bowl taco shells.  It has about four kinds of fajita meat along with tilapia, carnitas, carne asada, and grilled chicken.  It also includes tamales, cheese enchiladas, spicy potatoes, spicy eggs, refried beans, and rice.  In addition to all that there is a cold salad bar with traditional salad fixings but also pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole.  There are also several kinds of desserts and a choice of ice cream or ice cream bars.  There is too much to try it all, and I know I'm leaving a few things out.  With all this variety, the food is still really good.  The fajitas suffer a little from sitting in the hot bar, so I usually stay away from those.  The carnitas are amazing, perfectly seasoned and tender.  The pico de gallo is some of the best I have ever had. Whenever family or friends come to visit, I take them to try the buffet.  If you are in Mattoon, Il. on a Sunday, you should check out Don Sol.  I want to go on a different day to try the menu, but I have heard good things about it too.  You can check out their website link
 My plate: refried beans, grilled chicken, tilapia, carnitas, beef chimichanga, and soft tortillas
 This really is a great pico de gallo
 My mom's plate: Chicken fajitas, beef fajitas, shrimp fajitas, carne asada, and rice
 My husband's plate: chicken fajitas and grilled veggies
Dad's taco salad.

Looking at all these plates I realize that we all have a ton of meat.  However, if you are a vegetarian, you could still find more than enough to eat.  They have grilled veggies, beans, rice, potatoes, eggs, and cheese.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Ricotta and Baked Ziti

A lot of times I like to try making something in the kitchen just to see if I can.  Some projects I considering are homemade soda, mead, divinity,  kaiser rolls, and bourbon balls.  Right now I'm getting a little obsessed with making cheese.  I know I posted about homemade ricotta before, but this time I thought I would do a few step by step pictures, so you can see that the process is really easy.  You can do this too. All you need are lemons, whole milk, heavy cream, and salt.  The ricotta that this technique produces is so much better than anything in the grocery store, and you will feel amazingly accomplished and cool if you make this.  I use the recipe found here.  
First, cut and juice your lemons.  I always make a double batch of ricotta, so this is twice as much lemon juice as called for in the recipe above.
 Wait for milk to reach proper temperature.
 After milk has come to temperature, stir in lemon juice gently and let sit for 5 minutes.  Then you can pour the curds and whey into a few layers of cheesecloth set over a strainer and bowl.
 Let sit for 1 to 2 hours depending on how firm you want this.  
Make baked ziti.  I used the recipe here.  This was amazing.  It was extremely rich though, so I wish I had made a salad to go alongside.  It was even better the next day as leftovers.