Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taco-Mex Homemade Hamburger Helper (One Pot Wonder)

When I made the recipe for Homemade Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, it was a big hit with my family. I was reminiscing how my my mother used to buy a Mexican-themed one. It's been a very long time, but I remember a taco-style flavor to the beef.

I thought I'd tinker with the recipe and see if I could adapt this with a Mexican/Southwestern theme and see if I could create my own version of my childhood memory.

I discovered Avocado Oil at Trader Joe's and like using it in lieu of olive oil, because it has a higher smoke point. If you ever spot it, buy some! It's great.  Once I browned the ground beef, I added a chopped onion and red bell pepper.

I love black olives, so a drained canned of those was added to the mix.  Some taco seasoning (I make my own but packaged is fine), tomato paste would give some color and flavor the sauce.

I always keep a can of mild diced green chiles in my pantry. They are very mild, since I'm sensitive to really hot peppers.  Okay, then, we mix this right up...

 So, now we build the "sauce" by adding some flour...


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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Ultimate Sugar Cookie - and my best cookie baking tips

A few months ago, one of my students brought a plate of sugar cookies to share with my office. For me, it was love at fist bite and I had to fight the urge to not share the cookies. However, in good conscience, I passed them around and everybody raved about them. I asked her if she'd get the recipe from her dad-- and after constant a few reminders, she brought me a recipe card. Score!

The recipe card was hand written with the name "Aunt Esther's Sugar Cookies". I asked who she was, and my student said she had no idea, and her dad couldn't remember how he got the recipe.  Well, Aunt Esther, whoever you are-- thank you so much!  The recipe only had ingredients and no detailed instructions. The few instructions said to squeeze the dough into one ball and pinch some dough and shape them into balls and roll in sugar. However, I was able to find a way to make the batter so that the dough turns out soft enough to scoop...



...and then gently press down with the palm of my hand.

 
I have baked many sugar (or vanilla) cookies in my lifetime and they are all good. But this cookie recipe ranks #1 favorite with my family now.  Every time I bake a batch (and I've made these a few times) my intention was to  photograph them, like most food bloggers do-- with a pretty mat or napkin, the classic milk jar with a colorful straw...but these cookies disappear way too fast! I give up. I just need to share the recipe with these quick photos,  because you'll thank me.

Whenever I post photos of cookies I've just baked, I am asked how I get my cookies to look just like a professional bakery.  Here are some "tricks of the trade" I've picked up over the years that have improved the results of my cookies:


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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homemade Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper (One-Pot Wonder)


I can remember, back in the early 1970's when Hamburger Helper first hit the supermarket.  My mother, being born and raised in the Bavarian Alps, had a limited repertoire of  American cooking. We were both shocked and surprised when Mutti brought this home to make for our dinner. My two brothers and I absolutely loved it!    I think Mutti loved how inexpensive and easy it was, since she also worked full-time, while raising the three of us.



Today, the times have changed, as many families are becoming more health conscious (thus, moving away from "processed foods). However, I still have great food memories of Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, but now I can make my own with ingredients from my pantry and refrigerator, and I can control what's in it!

When I spotted this recipe on "The Daring Gourmet", it was a windy and rainy day and I was transported back to my childhood. I especially loved that this recipe is a One-Pot meal, and I had all of the ingredients on hand.

The main ingredients are ground beef and cheddar cheese...of course. You can use medium or sharp-- whatever you prefer.


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Farmhouse Chicken Noodle Soup (Pressure Cooker Style)

 
First, let me explain that if you don't own a pressure cooker, you can still make this recipe in a regular old stock pot. Just increase the cooking time by four times! If you do own a pressure cooker, then this is THE chicken soup recipe for you! Pinkie promise!

Besides making this in a pressure cooker, with only 20 minutes of cooking time*, the chicken broth turns out to be super flavorful-- and there is an unexpected ingredient that helps to give that special "umami" that tickles the taste buds.

I did a little internet search for "Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup" and was surprised that many of the recipes list "chicken bouillon" or "chicken broth" as an ingredient.  That made no sense to me! 
I wanted to make chicken soup with....well, chicken!  I knew I wanted to add a mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), herbs etc. and nothing else!  Then I remembered one of my most used books, "Pressure Cooker Perfection"  from America's Test Kitchen.

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