Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hamburger Stroganoff

Here's another recipe I've made dozens of times. It's not fancy, but it's yummy and my whole family likes it! :) 

5/2013 Update: I still make this quite often for my family, although now I use homemade cream of mushroom soup

Hamburger Stroganoff
Printable version here

1 lb. lean ground beef (or less; I typically use 3/4 pound)
1/2 small onion, chopped (or however much onion you like)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or cream of onion)
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup. sour cream
Cooked noodles

Brown ground beef & onions; drain. Stir in soup, milk, butter, salt & pepper; simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Heat through. Mix with hot noodles.

One nice thing about this recipe is that it can be frozen. What I do is make it as written, but stop before putting in the sour cream (because it doesn't freeze well). Freeze the mixture in a ziploc bag. When you're ready to use it, thaw, heat in a saucepan, then add the sour cream once it's hot. Add to noodles, and voila! Dinner in like 5 minutes! (plus time to cook the noodles, but that's easy) I just thawed a bag last night for our dinner; here's what it looks like:

Why I love it? It's inexpensive, easy, tastes good, and requires a small number of ingredients.  I also like that it can be made ahead and frozen!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Poke Cake

(c) Kraft Foods

This cake is a Christmas tradition for me. I love it! You can make it as either a 2 layer cake or as 24 cupcakes. Having just finished making a batch of the cupcakes, I can assure you that the layer cake is easier! :) It's much faster, easier, and I think it looks nicer (since you get both colors in each serving). So, here is the recipe for the cake version:

Holiday Poke Cake

2 baked 9-inch round white cake layers, cooled
2 cups boiling water, divided
1 pkg. (3 oz.) red Jell-O, any flavor
1 pkg. (3 oz.) lime Jell-O
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed
Decorative topping (such as raspberries, sprinkles, etc.)

1. Place cakes, top-side up, in clean 9-inch round pans; pierce with large fork at 1/2-inch intervals.

2. Add 1 cup boiling water to each flavor dry gelatin mix in separate small bowls; stir 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Pour red gelatin over 1 cake and lime gelatin over remaining cake. Refrigerate 3 hours.

3. Dip bottoms of cake pans in warm water 10 seconds; unmold. Fill and frost cake layers with Cool Whip. Refrigerate 1 hour. Top with decorations right before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

(Here is the cupcake version)

This is what my cupcakes looked like after poking & pouring Jell-O on them.

The inside (these got a little too much Jell-O on them; normally there's a little more white to them)

Why I love it? My favorite things about this recipe are that it is very festive looking, the cake is very moist, and it is really flavorful. It's light & refreshing. You can vary the colors too, for other occasions. I just love the red & green. :)

Creamy Chicken & Pasta Bake

I made this dinner for the first time the other night. We all liked it. :) It's from Kraft.

Whenever I can, I try to get the ingredients ready beforehand like this. It makes things go so much more smoothly!

After you put the last cheese on top, bake it only until the cheese melts. Too long and it will start to dry out.

Creamy Chicken & Pasta Bake
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups rotini pasta, uncooked (about 6 oz.)
1 small bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (or less; I use 10 oz.)
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 oz. cream cheese, regular or light (just under 1/2 a package)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (4 oz.), divided
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper
Garlic powder and/or Italian seasoning

1. Heat oven to 375ยบ. Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, adding broccoli for last 4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add a little oil & swirl it around, then add chicken. Cook 3 min. or until no longer pink, stirring frequently. Stir in broth; simmer 3 min. or until chicken is done. Add cream cheese; cook and stir on low heat 1 min. or until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella. (Also, the original recipe doesn't state this, but at this point you should add a little salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you'd like. I used about 1/2 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. Italian seasoning.)

3. Drain pasta & broccoli. Add to chicken mixture, mix lightly. Spoon into 8-inch square baking dish; cover with foil.

4. Bake 10 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake, uncovered, 3 min. or until melted.

Why I love it? The sauce tastes really creamy & flavorful, but it's lower in fat than traditional alfredo sauce. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable (really, one of the very few I like), so I enjoyed this new way to serve it. It was really easy cooking it with the noodles. The kids asked for seconds, too, which means this is a make-again recipe!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sloppy Joes

I got this recipe years ago from a friend, and it's a staple in our house. Even my pickiest eater likes it!  All I need to buy is ground beef & onions (or I typically have them in the freezer), and the other ingredients are already in my pantry.

Sloppy Joes
Printable version here

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
Ketchup (to desired consistency)
1 tsp. each dry mustard*, celery salt, & vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
Few drops Worchestershire sauce

Brown meat with onions and bell pepper; drain. Add remaining ingredients; cook over medium heat until hot. Serve over buns.

*Prepared mustard may be substituted

Why I love it? It's inexpensive, quick, and uses ingredients I almost always have. The sauce is good- a little tangy, and really flavorful. You can also make the meat mixture and freeze it. Put it in a freezer bag, then just pull it out later and heat! Dinner in no time! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Refried" Beans

This recipe has been one of my best finds from seriously!! I had never known how to cook dried beans before. Now I do! :) There is no turning back. Canned refried beans is another thing to add to my list of "Things I used to buy store-made, but now that I've made it from scratch, it's the only way I like it!" I've made these probably 10 times now. Since it's a technique most people probably haven't done before, I took pictures to add to the recipe.

I serve these one of two ways. One is to just serve them as a side, along with enchiladas, or something like that. The other is to make bean burritos with them. This is our favorite! I either do just beans for a filling, or sometimes I'll cut up one cooked chicken breast, and divide that among all of us. It's a great way to either stretch, or skip, the meat. To make burritos, I put beans, (maybe chicken), sour cream, cheese, and a little taco sauce, and roll them up. Another idea- they're great in this Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Sometimes I purposely make leftovers so I can make the soup!

(Note- I always halve the original recipe. That makes enough for my family of 5, with maybe a tiny bit leftover. That's how I'm writing it here.)

*** I made a separate post of my tips for making these, you can see that here***

Refried Beans
Printable version here

1/2 onion, peeled and halved
1 1/2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (or chopped green chilies, about 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
4 1/2 cups water
Taco seasoning

1. Place all of the ingredients (besides the taco seasoning) into a slow cooker. (This fits perfectly in my small 1 1/2 quart crock pot) Stir to combine. Cook on high for 6 hours. (If too much water is evaporating, then the temperature is too high. Add more water as needed. I've never had to do this step). If you make a bigger batch, or use a bigger slow cooker- you'll need to increase the cooking time.

2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them (along with the onions), and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency. Add taco seasoning and salt to taste.

Why I love it? It fits all of my desired qualities in a recipe- it's cheap, easy, yummy, and healthy! I love knowing exactly what's in the beans, and they are so much more appealing to look at than refried beans that have just been dumped out of a can. My whole family loves these, and I've converted other family members into cooking their beans this way, too! :)

What it looks like just before cooking:

Just about finished cooking:

I take the beans out with a slotted spoon, and put them in a plastic bowl.

Mash them until they're the consistency you like. Add seasonings, and you're done!