I’m Back… with Burritos!

Editor’s Note: This might be the longest drought in my blog-writing history. Between vacation and giant projects at work, I barely know what happened to August, September and most of October. Which meant, of course, that things here took a backseat to everything else in life, unfortunately. I did keep taking pictures, so hopefully I’ll get through them and share things with the world sooner rather than later. Until then… enjoy some burritos! 

I had the privilege of borrowing The Best Mexican Recipes for a few weeks earlier this summer, and it was fun. I didn’t love everything I tried, but there were definitely some home runs (and I had to return it to the library before I tried everything that I wanted).

This is one of those hits. We liked it so much that I made it twice in three weeks, which is saying something, especially when I had the book for a limited time. (We really liked the Swiss chard and pinto bean burritos from the book as well, in case you’re looking for a meatless Monday burrito option.)  

I was a little worried that these would be too spicy for Andy, since they use chipotle chili powder instead of regular chili powder, but, Andy, in true Goldilocks fashion, declared that they were just right. He thinks they’d be better without the sour cream, but I completely disagree.

This recipe also introduced me to my new, go-to Mexican rice. Unless it’s a risotto, I struggle with rice. It always seems kind of blah to me. America’s Test Kitchen called for chicken broth in the rice, instead of water, and that makes a world of difference! It was good enough where I caught myself snacking on the rice while I finished making the rest of the burrito components, and that never happens in my kitchen.

I did discover that these are MUCH easier to roll / fill when you buy 10″ tortillas. The first time I made these, I just grabbed the next size up of the tortillas that I normally buy. They had a large “10” on the package, so I figured they were what I was looking for. (This is what you get when you shop in a hurry after work.) Turns out the “10” was the quantity, not the size. Whoops.

Burritos aren’t the easiest thing to photograph, especially when you just want to eat them. Trust me, they taste so much better than they look.

Beef and Bean Burritos

1 3/4 cups chicken broth, divided
3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinsed
6 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/4 cup minced cilantro, plus extra for garnish if desired
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
12 ounces 90% lean ground beef
1 15-ounce can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
6 10″ flour tortillas
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 1/2 cups), divided
6 tablespoons sour cream

First, make the rice. Combine 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth, rice, three minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small-medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until all of the broth has absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, for about 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and adding the chopped cilantro. Set rice aside, keeping it covered to stay warm.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the filling. Heat the oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. (ATK recommends a non-stick skillet; I used my 12″ Lodge.) Add the onion to the pan and cook until it softens, about five minutes. Stir the tomato paste, the rest of the garlic, cumin, oregano and chili powder. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

Place half of the pinto beans in a small bowl with the remaining broth. Use a potato masher to coarsely mash them into a chunky paste. Stir the mashed beans into the skillet with the cooked beef. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid evaporates from the skillet. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining beans, lime juice and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Place oven rack 6″ below the broiler and heat broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Microwave tortillas until warm and pliable, about 30 seconds to one minute. Lay tortillas out on the counter. Divide rice evenly among the six tortillas, placing it toward the bottom edge of the tortillas. Divide the beef and bean mixture evenly among the tortillas, then divide 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese between the six tortillas, topping each one with about 1/4 cup of cheese. Put a tablespoon of sour cream on the top of the filling in each tortilla.

Next, roll up each tortilla. Fold the sides over the filling, and then fold the bottom up over the filling. Pull the edge tight, then tightly roll the tortilla into a burrito. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Place the burritos seam side down on the prepared cookie sheet and top with the remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese melts and starts to turn golden brown, about three to five minutes. Serve warm.

From The Best Mexican Recipes

Click here for a printable version.

Upgraded Hamburger Helper

I did not grow up eating Hamburger Helper, or Tuna Helper, or any of those “add a pound of meat and enjoy” type meals. It just wasn’t something my mom bought. My dad did make his own version though, adding ground beef, onions and peas to mac and cheese. While I haven’t had that in a really long time, it was always a hit in our house growing up, and it’s easy to see why: cheese, pasta and meat, all in one pan.

Now that I’m responsible for making dinner every night, I can totally appreciate the convenience of a one-pot meal. Especially one that’s full of pasta and cheese. If I’m really on the ball with things, I can have all of the prep dishes (which are just a couple measuring cups / spoons, a cutting board, cheese grater and a knife) washed before dinner’s ready.

When I first saw this recipe, I thought it had a lot of potential. I mean, we love pasta, beef, cheese and Tex-Mex flavors. The sour cream and cream cheese worried Andy at first, but he was hooked after one bite, and now it’s one of our favorite comfort food dinners. Sometimes I take a page from my dad’s playbook and throw in frozen peas for a true, one-dish dinner. It’s also great with a side salad if peas in your Tex-Mex sounds weird to you. 😉

Creamy Taco Mac

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green (or red or yellow) pepper, diced
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
4 tablespoons taco seasoning (I always make my own.)
8 ounces small / short pasta
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro

Brown the ground beef in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the meat is close to being browned, add the onion and chopped pepper. Cook until the onion had turned translucent. Drain any extra fat off of the pan, if necessary.

Add the diced tomatoes, taco seasoning and beef broth to the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then stir in the pasta. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender (about 7-10 minutes).

Add the cream cheese to the pot and stir until it has melted into the broth. Add the peas, if using. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream. Stir until the sour cream is well-incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Barely adapted from Elly Says Opa, who adapted it from Delish

Click here for a printable version.

Crock Pot Success!

If there was a popularity contest among kitchen appliances, I really doubt the crock pot would win. It’s not pretty, like the stand mixer. It doesn’t chop/slice/dice/mince/blend everything like the food processor. It doesn’t clean up after you like the dishwasher.

In fact, the crock pot would probably be the last one picked, usually through no fault of its own. I mean, there are a lot of not-so-good crock pot recipes out there. You know the type: You put ingredients in the crock pot before work and leave, thinking that you’ll be rewarded with a delicious meal at the end of the day, only to come home to an overcooked, tasteless pile of mush. Disappointing and wasteful. (Also disappointing: Crock pot recipes that only cook for 2-4 hours. I’m gone from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. How on earth is that supposed to help me?)

This recipe, though, is not one of those disappointments, at least for me. It’s easy to put together (a must when you have to assemble it at 6:30 in the morning), and it tastes good 10 hours later. I always add potatoes, since they’re my favorite part of the traditional “pot roast.” When I remember, I add some minced garlic as well, since you can’t go wrong with garlic. 🙂


Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
8 medium carrots, peeled (or well-scrubbed) and cut into 3″ pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3-lb. beef Chuck roast
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

In a large (5-6 quart) crock pot, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the vegetables to the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Spread the minced garlic on top of the roast, then sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. (Martha says you can cook it on high for 6 hours, but I’ve never tried it. Like I said, I’m gone all day.) Transfer the roast and vegetables to a serving platter. If desired, strain the pan juices through a fine mesh strainer and serve alongside the meat and vegetables. (I take the lazy easy way out and simply drizzle a few spoonfuls of the pan juices over my plate before digging in.)

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, October 2008

Click here for a printable version.

Chili Days

November is one of those months that make me very, very thankful to have a warm, cozy house. It was a gray, rainy weekend, and now I’m sitting here listening to the wind howl outside. It’s perfect weather for chili. (Not that I made this today… we’re having a lazy evening here.) 

This is another recipe from Cooking for Two. (Do you hear me, Taste of Home publishers? You never should have discontinued the magazine!) I’ve tweaked the seasonings, added more tomatoes and doubled the recipe (which are the amounts you’ll see below). After all, our ground beef comes in one-pound packages, and what would I do with the other half-pound of meat? Plus, chili is one of those dishes that taste just as good (if not better) the next day.

It’s my go-to chili recipe. If I did feel like making a mess in my kitchen tonight, this would be the chili I’d make. It’s thick, beefy and full of beans. It’s got a little bit of a kick, and it’s the perfect match to my favorite cornbread. It works well both in the crockpot OR on top of the stove. Serve it up with some shredded cheese and sour cream, and you have a perfect November dinner.

My Wisconsin friends tell me that my chili is missing something – noodles. Chili with pasta is something they do in Cincinnati, not Cleveland. 😀

Slow Cooker Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of chili beans
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup water (I usually use this to rinse out my tomato sauce can before dumping it into the pot.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
dash hot sauce (I use Sriracha.) 
Shredded cheese and sour cream, for serving

(Holy crazy ingredient list, Batman! Don’t let it scare you though – they’re all pantry staples.) 

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, onions, green pepper and garlic. When the meat is almost browned, add the garlic to the skillet and cook for another few minutes. Add the spices to the meat and stir until combined.

Transfer meat mixture to a four-quart crockpot.* Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to the crockpot. Add the water and stir to combine.

Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Serve with cheese and sour cream.

*If preparing on the stovetop, rather than the crockpot, simply add all of the ingredients to your stock pot and simmer on medium-low for an hour or so. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. 

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Fall 2006

Click here for a printable version

Steak & Veggies, Campfire Style

As I mentioned last week, Andy and I spent the first two weeks of September living out of our car/tent. If you know us (or have been reading for a little while), you know that we have some favorites that always go camping with us. Things like s’mores, rice krispie squares, chex mix and pie iron pizzas.

Allow me to introduce you to another one of our camping staples: Lemon Beef Kabobs. It’s easy to mix up, and it seems to travel well in the cooler. It also helps use up the peppers and squash that seem to overwhelm our kitchen each summer.

I meant to cook this dinner during our time at Indian Peaks Wilderness, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Turns out that rain nearly every evening isn’t conducive to cooking over a fire. Thankfully, we were able to outrun the rain and enjoy ourkabobs over the fire at Wind Cave National Park a few days later. Somehow, dinner always tastes better when it’s flame-grilled. Yum.

A couple notes about camping prep versus home prep: For camping, I like to combine the meat and marinade in one of my Pyrex bowls, and then freeze it so it keeps longer in the cooler. To save time (and work) at the campsite, I also chop my peppers, onions and squash at home and transport them in a ziploc bag in the cooler. At home, I mix up the marinade in the morning and let it hang out in the fridge with the meat while I’m at work. Then, I chop the veggies and make the skewers when I get home from work. Either way, it’s easy AND tasty.

LemonBeefKabobs(A big thanks to Dan and Kim for making this dinner possible! We forgot to pack our skewers, and they found this handy contraption for us to use.) 

Lemon Beef Kabobs

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. sirloin steak, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1-2 green peppers, cut into chunks
1 small summer squash, cut into 1″ slices

Combine the lemon juice, oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, chopped onion, bay leaf and spices in a non-reactive bowl. Add the steak chunks and stir to coat. (Alternatively, you could put them in a large ziploc bag and toss to coat.) Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Remove steak from marinade and place on skewers with vegetables. (If you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water before using them.) 

Grill skewers over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until beef is done to your liking. Turn the skewers occasionally to prevent burning.

Slightly adapted from Cooking for Two, Summer 2008

Click here for a printable version.

Pot Pie Wow

Let me just start out by saying I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by this dinner. Sure, I expected to enjoy it a reasonable amount, dutifully eat my leftovers for lunch the next day and move on. Every once in a while though, out of the blue, you stumble on one of life’s tasty little surprises.

Like these Italian Pot Pies. They seem so simple. Onions, carrots, garlic. Ground beef. Tomato sauce. Biscuit topping. Nothing mind-blowing here, right? Well, something magical must happen when you bake these guys, because this is definitely a case of “the sum is great than its parts.” (Either that, or my cute new ramekins are endowed with super powers. Hmm. Hadn’t considered that possibility before.) 

They were also incredibly easy. Chop the veggies. Cook for a few minutes, then add the beef. Add the sauce and simmer. Mix up the biscuits. Pour into dishes and bake. Serve with a salad. I even had enough time to wash all of the prep dishes while these guys were baking, which meant that when we were done eating, all I had to do was throw a few things into the dishwasher and move along with my evening. Win win!

Italian Pot Pies

Italian Pot Pies

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef
2 cups tomato sauce (I cheated and used a jar of Barilla.) 
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled, according to Martha) 
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk (I used half and half.) 

Preheat oven to 450 and place the rack in the lowest position. (I’m actually not sure why you’d need to move the rack… I did just because I like to follow directions. It may not be necessary though.) 

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot, and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4-6 minutes. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add the beef to the pan and cook until the meat is no longer pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes.

While the meat mixture is simmering, make the biscuits. Place the flour, cheese, baking powder, salt and rosemary in a medium bowl. Whisk briefly to combine, then create a well in the center. Pour the butter and milk into the well. Stir just until the mixture comes together.

Divide the mixture into ramekins and top with spoonfuls of the biscuit dough. (I filled five seven-ounce ramekins; the magazine says it will fill four eight-ounce cups.) Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until topping is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick, about 12 minutes.

From Everyday Food Magazine, December 2008

NEW! Click here for a printable version!

Taco Tuesday!

We all know that I love my crockpot, right? Somehow, it always slips my mind in the summertime. Maybe it’s because I typically make soup, roasts and other “comfort” foods in it… things that seem completely out of season when it’s 75 degrees and sunny.

But let’s face it: aren’t we all busier in the summer than we are in the winter? The days are longer, and we’re trying to cram more into this wonderful, warm season. And when you think about it, the crockpot’s ideal for those days when it’s too hot to stand over the stove. Especially when you’re making shredded beef for tacos. The meat hangs out all day, and you come home to a house full of wonderful smells. Then, all you have to do is shred some cheese, wash some lettuce, warm some tortillas in the microwaves and get out the salsa and guac. Bam! Taco night is ready!

I saw this recipe on Elly Says Opa! and was very excited to discover that not only is it low-maintenance, it’s very tasty. (Of course, now I see her recipe for shredded Cuban pork, and I may have to try that too…) And giant pot of meat is a great addition to those taco nights with some of your closest friends. (Wait, are we the only ones who do this? Hmm. If you don’t have a regularly scheduled taco night, you’re missing out.) 

I realize this is an over-stuffed taco. This happens every. single. time. Rather than limit my fillings, I just place a second tortilla on the plate to catch whatever drips out. Gives me a head start on my second taco.

Shredded Beef for Tacos

2 pound boneless roast (I’ve used rump roasts and chuck roasts with great success. I’ve also used bone-in roasts. In that case, I usually use two roasts so I’m ending up with the same amount of meat.)
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste (I can’t say enough about the tomato paste in a tube. I realize it’s more expensive than a can, but since I only use a few teaspoons at a time, it’s totally worth it. They say the tube keeps for forever in the fridge.)
3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Don’t panic, this does not make it too hot to handle. Trust me.) 
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I’ve been using smoked paprika, and I am in love with the way it tastes/smells.)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Required Suggested Recommended Toppings
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Sweet pepper
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the roast with salt and pepper, and then add to skillet. Brown the roast on all sides, then place in the crockpot. Add the onions to the skillet, and cook for a minute or two, then add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for another minute or so, then add the beef stock and spices, scrapping up all of the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a minute, then pour the liquid over the roast in the crockpot.

Place the lid on the crockpot. Cook the meat on low for 8-10 hours. (I would assume that you could get the same results if you cooked it on high for half the time, but since I’m at work all day, I’ve never tried this.) Remove the roasts from the crockpot, place in a large bowl, and shred the meat with two forks. (This is the point where you’d remove the bones, if your roast had them.) Return the shredded meat to the crockpot, and turn the heat up to high for about 20 minutes, to soak up additional liquid if desired.

Serve with your favorite taco fixings!

From Elly Says Opa!