Monday, September 6, 2010

Sloppy Joes - The Best Ever

Sloppy Joes encompass the best of all kinds of things - inexpensive, delicious, family-friendly, quick and easy. The concept is simplicity itself - simmer ground meat in sauce and serve on buns. Almost a one-dish meal - it takes only a simple green salad or quick veggie to round them out into a healthy, satisfying meal.

Sloppy Joes have been around for quite a while - and have become an American go-to staple. They've also grown over the years - made not just with ground beef and tomatoes anymore - they can be made with any ground meat, and any type of sauce. This one is the classic though - rich with tomatoes, onions and peppers, spiked with Worcestershire and garlic.

They also are the best for stretching the budget - as well as working quite a few veggies into the tummies of the pickiest eaters. I recently found ground beef for $1.63 per pound, so I loaded up. This version is just about the best I've ever had. You won't want the packet or canned stuff ever again - especially when you realize that this one is almost as easy as the pre-packaged sauces. And the cost is comparable as well - so you get homemade, control of the ingredients, no additives or preservatives AND the best-ever flavor. Nice!

This particular recipe makes enough to easily feed eight adults well. I made enough to have two meals out of one night's effort. If you wish, you can cut the recipe in half, or simply place the extra mixture in the freezer for a meal later in the month - all you have to do is heat it up. That works any day for me! This one is also rather 'saucy' - if you wish a tighter Joe, just add a total of 2 cups of the ketchup/BBQ sauce. The sauce does tighten by the second day - so it's a matter of preference for you. Give this one a try - you'll be hooked on this quick, easy and delicious meal!

The recipe!

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 ½ Tbl garlic powder

1 Tbl yellow mustard

2 cups ketchup

1 cup BBQ sauce

¼ cup brown sugar

2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbl hot sauce

1 Tbl apple cider vinegar

1 can tomato paste

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef.

2. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté for about five minutes.

3. Add everything else to the skillet, stirring well to combine. Bring to a simmer.

4. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with toasted hamburger buns. These are great with pickles!

If you wish - you can brown and drain the ground beef, then throw everything else into a slow cooker. Set on low and walk away for about four hours. It'll be done for you!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Beer Chili

I think chili is one of the most brilliant concepts in the culinary world. Simmer together meat with peppers in some sort of sauce and you have deliciousness. I view types of chili the same way I do burgers or BBQ - there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it - the bowl in my hand is usually my favorite chili. For years chili was traditionally made with red meats, beef, bison or venison topping the list. But in the past couple of decades various white chilis have made their debuts, to my absolute delight. There are of course tremendous debates over the inclusion of beans - I'll hold my head up now and say I put them in there. Texans usually get upset, but I'm Tennessean and that's the way it is.

This particular version is one of my favorites - the basic chili - with no heat added - is wonderful. I use that version for when I know I'm feeding those who just don't want the heat - namely my youngest kiddo and my dad. Take the heat up in small increments from there - start with the hot sauce for very mild heat, and work yourself up to big bold stay-with-you hot, by working in the cayenne (careful - it packs a punch), red pepper flakes and of course the chili peppers.

The beer in this chili adds a great depth of flavor that can be hard to achieve without it. Use whatever kind you like - I tend to use lagers for the mildness of their flavor. Dark beers add an entirely different flavor profile, and are fabulous - try whatever your favorite is. Chances are if you like to drink it you will love it in this chili. Make sure you like to drink the one you choose, you'll have five more after you've gotten the chili put together to keep you company while it simmers.

Like most stews, this gets better as it sits. The flavors come together and it becomes One with Deliciousness. It simply needs to be reheated to be amazing. This makes about eight large servings.

•2 lbs ground beef –85% lean preferably

•2 large white onions, chopped

•2 large bell pepper, green or red or mixed, seeded and chopped

•3-4 cloves garlic, minced

•2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice

•2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce

•1 (12 oz) can beer

•2 (15 oz) cans spicy chili beans

•1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

•1/3 cup chili powder

•1 tsp kosher salt

•1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

•Optional heat ingredients:

•3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste

•1-2 tsp cayenne pepper

•4 fresh jalapeno or Serrano peppers, seeded and chopped

•3 tablespoons red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)

Serve with sour cream, shredded Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, diced green onion and minced cilantro for garnishes.

1. In the bottom of a large Dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain excess grease.

2. Add onion, bell peppers and garlic, and sauté with the ground beef for about five minutes. Add diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, beer and chili beans.

3. Add Worcestershire sauce and chili powder, stirring well to combine. Add optional ingredients at this point – hot pepper sauce, cayenne, serrano or jalapeno peppers, and red pepper flakes.

4. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover and allow it to simmer for about 2 hours.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Southern Meatloaf

HeliumRecipes: Southern meatloaf

Stuffed Zuchini

Don't worry about waiting for the zucchini in either your own garden or your neighbor's to explode in overabundance - fresh zuchini is available year round in almost every part of the country. It's delicious, packed with vitamins and full of flavor. Better yet - it's inexpensive. Which makes it a frequent star of the table at my house.

Simple sauteed zuchini is a favorite of course - but it does get old after a while. No problem - zuchinni is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. It can go sweet or savory, and takes on the flavors of whatever it's cooked with beautifully. So in my quest to find as many dishes as possible that use zuchinni, I've been able to pair it with just about everything.
In this dish, there are the best of all possible worlds. It takes on the flavors of the other veggies and the croutons, while keeping a crisp-tender texture that's awesome. It's hearty enough to star as a meatless main dish if you wish it to, or it goes gorgeously with any number of proteins as a wonderful side. Try it with roasted pork loin, or whole roast chicken. The cheese and croutons make this appealing to even my pickiest eater, and the rest of the children actually love it.
Give this one a try - you'll discover it's easy and adaptable, inexpensive and delicious. Bombshell!
The Recipe!

•6 medium zuchini, halved lengthwise for boats, or cut into wide disks

•2 tablespoons olive oil

•1 tsp salt

•freshly ground black pepper

•1 Tbl butter

•1 small onion, diced

•1 cup garlic croutons

•1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry

•1/2 cup sour cream

•1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar

•Salt and pepper to taste

1.Preheat oven to 375F.

2.Place the zuchinni, cut side up, on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and black peper. Bake for ten minutes, or just until barely beginning to become tender. Don't overcook at this point or they'll become mushy after they're stuffed. You just want to be able to scoop out the pulp.

3.Scoop out the pulp, making sure to keep the shells intact. Set pulp and shells aside.

4.Over medium heat, in a large skillet, saute onion for about five minutes or just until beginning to turn translucent and fragrant. Add all remaining ingredients to the skillet, as well as the reserved pulp of the zuchinni. Stir well to comine.

5.Reduce heat to medium low and cook stuffing mixture for a few minutes, or just until warmed through. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into the shells, pressing slightly and mounding in as much as possible. Return shells to the baking sheet.

6.Bake stuffed zuchini shells for about 15 minutes, or until heated, and the cheese in the stuffing has melted and become gooey. That's it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Zuchini Bread

I didn't end up getting to plant my own garden this year, but I was gifted to full-on, all out access to someone else's - and it was a big one at that. Just as I remember from my childhood in my grandparent's and mother's gardens, zucchini was everywhere. Even in years where it seems as though nothing else grows as it should, zucchini seems to bound enthusiastically all over the place, producing gobs of beautiful green veggies. It's an abundance that seems to overwhelm gardeners across the country from July to September as regularly as the seasons themselves.

Matter of fact, August 8th has been designated National Sneak Some Zuchinni onto your Neighbor's Porch Day - which tickles me to death. For the first time in my life, not only did I have more than I could quite handle, I was also being gifted with the overflow from the gardens of friends. Which led me to compile a master list of everything I knew of that could be done with it. I actually managed to put together quite a list.

At the top of the list is my kids' favorite - zucchini bread. I adore quick breads anyway - they're my favorite way to throw together something quick and wonderful for an after school snack or a fast side dish. Check out Bladen's Raisin Bran Banana Muffins, or Orange Quick Bread. (Most quick breads can be done as muffins as easily as a loaf). The sweet thing (pun intended) about this bread is you can either freeze the loaves themselves, tightly wrapped for up to two months).You can also grate the zucchini ahead of time and freeze that in two cup portions - which will last longer in the freezer. I've kept it for up to six months this way - just pulling it out and defrosting it when I was ready to use it. This is awesome for preserving the harvest far into the winter months, and maximizing that summer abundance.

Give this great recipe a try - you can always use store bought zuchinni. Don't wait for next year's harvest or for someone to sneak some on your porch if you don't already have more than you know what to do with. Sweet, moist and delicious warm or cold, this one will be a favorite in your house too.
The Recipe!

You'll Need:

•3 cups all-purpose flour (or half all purpose and half whole wheat)

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•1 teaspoon baking powder

•1 Tbl cinnamon

•3 eggs

•1 cup vegetable oil (or half oil and half applesauce)

•2 1/2 cups sugar

•1 Tbl vanilla extract

•2 cups grated zucchini

•1 cup chopped pecans

1.Grease and flour two small loaf pans. 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325F.

2.In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon.

3.In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to the sugar and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4.Bake for 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Turn loaves out onto rack, and serve warm or at room temperature. Bread can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. It's great toasted with a little butter. Or a lot of butter.