Category Archives: Recipes

Beef Stroganoff

DSCF2730Recently a friend created a group on a website that rhymes with acebook named “WTF are we having for dinner“. She invited all her friends, and we simply post what we’re making for dinner each night, thereby inspiring others for their own dinners. It’s a fabulous idea, it works wonderfully, and you should join us.

It’s become quite apparent through my postings in the group that I love love love love love stroganoff. And, I’ve been craving it for a couple weeks now. It’s so apparent, that my craving has become a bit of a joke in the group. Fortunately for me we finally satisfied that craving last night. And in doing so, I decided I would share my favourite stroganoff recipe with you.

There are measurements included in this recipe, but I’ve got to mention that I only loosely follow those numbers. There is leeway in this recipe, and you can tweak it to your liking with very little issue.

Start off with approximately 1 1/2 lbs of beef. A nicer cut is going to fry up nicer and be more tender, but really the cut you use is up to you. I used some form of steak last night (I have no idea what kind; we buy our beef from Costco and purchased a giant roast which we cut up into steaks). You can alternately use meatballs here, but I’ve never actually tried that in this recipe and imagine those would have to be cooked up ahead of time.

Cut the beef into strips about 1/4″ thick, then dredge the meat in around 1 1/2 tbsp of flour. Just put your beef into a bowl that has a lid (or use a 2nd bowl that is a similar size), sprinkle in the flour, cover and shake.

Mmm beefy buttery goodness.

Mmm beefy buttery goodness.

In a large frying pan, melt 1/4 cup of butter. This is the only real stickler in this recipe. Using oil or margarine doesn’t have the same properties and you really want the natural butter fats and flavour here. Once melted, toss in your beef and let it cook. Walk a way. Don’t stir it up, let it fry on one side, on medium-high heat.

After two or three minutes, I like to turn down the heat a little bit and then add 1 thinly sliced onion, and flip the beef. You’ll fry this up until the onions become translucent. Once this happens, remove the beef and onion from the pan, leaving the drippings.

Thicken to an almost thick gravy consistency.

Thicken to an almost thick gravy consistency.

Into the drippings, add:
 2 tbsp flour
     1-1/4 cup beef stock or consomme
     2 tbsp tomato paste
     1 tsp salt
     1 tsp dry mustard 

Mix these in very well, and stir constantly. This sauce will thicken fairly rapidly.

Once your sauce is an almost thick gravy consistency, add back your beef and onions, as well as a whole bunch of sliced mushrooms. That’s pretty specific, right? The original recipe I use calls for 1 10oz can of mushrooms, but I’m no fan of canned mushrooms and prefer to use fresh when ever possible. I also don’t limit my mushroom intake. I love them, and more is always better. So I use what ever I have left in my fridge and in they go.

I wish you could smell this right now.In addition to the mushrooms, add 3 tbsp dry sherry. This is listed as an optional ingredient in my original recipe, but seriously folks, you don’t want to miss this step. The sherry is where it goes from a tomato-y cream sauce to stroganoff. The minute it gets added you can smell the difference. It’s magic.

Once the beef is tender, add in 1 cup of sour cream or creme fraiche. Stir this in until the sauce is heated up again, but not boiling.

This is the part of the blog where I start digging through my fridge for left overs.

This is the part of the blog where I start digging through my fridge for left overs.

And that’s it. Serve this delight over noodles or rice and enjoy!

Recipe: Bacon Broccoli Pesto

We eat an awful lot of pasta in this house, which is quite unseemly for an Irish family as my husband likes to remind me. However, it’s cheap and plentiful and we love it.

Well, most of us. The girls don’t like it as much as Scott and I do, and would like to see a bit more variety than the red sauces and cheese sauces we normally use. I’m pretty sure I could never tire of a good bolognese, but there are others in the family to consider.

So we’ve been trying out pesto, and I think last night I came up with the best combination ever. Because one of the deciding ingredients is bacon, and we all know how full of win that is.

DSCF2548So here’s what I used:

1 pkg bacon
2 cups mushrooms cut into large chunks
2 red onion, sliced into large slices
a fair amount of fresh broccoli (we love broccoli so I added quite a bit)
450g rotini (enough to make about 6 cups cooked. I did mention we love pasta?)
Pesto sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s what I did:

I cooked the pasta and broccoli separately. I almost always cook the broccoli separately since we are pretty picky about how we like it, and don’t prefer it mushy or burnt. So when its added to anything, I pre-cook it, then add it in at the end. (This includes stirfrys, etc.)

I cut the bacon into chunks, and set it to fry. Once it was almost done, I drained most of the fat, leaving a little bit so the rest didn’t stick to the pan. I added the mushrooms and onions, and fried it until the onions were sauteed the way we like it.

DSCF2549Once everything was cooked up, we just mixed it all together. That’s it. We used a jar of pre-made pesto, since it’s still the middle of winter here in Canada and I don’t have access to good fresh basil. Mix all the parts together, add your salt & pepper as you wish and voila. It is fabulous with a bit of parmesan as well.

This made enough for our family of five plus there are left overs for lunch today. Let me know what you think and what you would do differently!

Granola cups

My family loves granola bars. The problem with commercial bars is, however, they are never quite right. They are often too sweet, full of ingredients you can’t pronounce, and far too many taste like cardboard. (I’m reminded of a certain brand which shall remain nameless. Their commercial offered customers a free box of their all natural granola bars, and if you didn’t like it, the owner of the company would eat the box it came in. I sent back the box, although I’m sure the cardboard tasted better.)

Since it’s just a baked good at its core, I decided to try to make my own granola bars. And so off to Pinterest I go. I found lots of recipes for baked oatmeal, but that really wasn’t what I wanted. I then found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a site that I have used before for cookies with great results.

The recipe from Smitten Kitchen bakes the granola in a cake pan, then it is cut up into bars. In my Pinterest travels I found a recipe for personal sized baked oatmeal that I found interesting, and decided to try the bar recipe in cupcake cups.

2013-02-15 09.38.18

The recipe itself is very easy and very customizable. Made with very basic ingredients, even I had them in my pantry.

She leaves it open to your choice of fruits and nuts, as long as you meet the proportions. I used almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins and chocolate chips (I used a bit less sugar to compensate for the chocolate chips, since we don’t enjoy an over sweet bar).

My helper. Posing for the camera, like the ham he is turning out to be.

My helper. Posing for the camera, like the ham he is turning out to be.

 

I then put them into baking cups, a table spoon at a time, pushing the dough in to make sure it would stick.

I then stuck them in the oven for 40 minutes and off I went to knit.

Now those of you who know anything about baking and have checked out the recipe I used have just said, “OOOOOOHHHHH NOOOOOO”. And quite right.

For what ever reason, my brain was not in the correct baking mode yesterday. You see, when changing a recipe from a cake pan to a muffin tin, one must also alter the baking times. It takes much less time in a muffin tin than in a cake pan, since there is less space taken up by the batter.

Now normally I would catch myself since I rely on my sense of smell when baking. The moment it smells done, regardless of the time left on my oven timer, I check it. I’ve learned that every recipe is written for the writers oven; and my oven is not her oven. I’ve had far too many things come out burnt/undercooked using recommended timings. And so I should have caught the smell of these long before the timer went off.

But, as I said, I was knitting. With that wonderful yarn. I’m sure I only got 3 stitches done (at least that’s what it felt like) when the timer went off. And as soon as the timer went off, I KNEW. I could smell those burnt raisins. And that’s not a pleasant smell.

2013-02-15 11.35.44Now being an adventurous type, I still tried these babies. Picking out the burnt raisins, they are still VERY tasty. But you need a pickaxe to eat them.

I’ll definitely be making these again, but perhaps I’ll find something else to do while they are in the oven rather than knit. Like housecleaning or something else otherwise distasteful so I pay attention.

Recipe review – Homemade Soft Pretzels by Alton Brown

Many people are already familiar with Alton Brown and his recipes. He has several shows on the Food Network (like hosting Iron Chef America and Good Eats), is an active blogger and on Twitter. He’s not your every day tv chef; he explains the science behind the methods, making him super cool.

Don't they look fantastic?

Don’t they look fantastic?

I have a confession to make though. I love Good Eats, and watch it when ever I can. I follow Mr. Brown on Twitter and Facebook, I enjoy what he has to say. I have never, however, tried one of his recipes.

The time had come for me to change that. I’ve been having a craving for soft pretzels for a few weeks now and he retweeted a photo from a follower who had used his recipe to make pretzel balls. Since I’ve had very little luck finding a soft pretzel recipe that worked out to be, you know, SOFT, I figured why not give a new one a try.

The recipe itself is like any other bread recipe. The proportions are nice for a soft dough, and easy to make with your kitchen mixer. I saw no difference there between this and any other recipe I’ve tried, until the boiling step.

I’ve heard of this immersion method before, and have never tried it. I haven’t seen the Good Eats episode where Alton explains this, so I have no idea about what this does or why it works. Since it’s a new to me recipe, I followed the instructions.

Once the pretzels are formed, you dunk them in a pot of boiling water and baking soda for 30 seconds. Then brush with the requisite egg yolk and salt and bake.

Since this immersion method is the only thing different (aside from a proportion here and there) from other pretzel recipes I’ve tried, I can only conclude this is why they are amazing. And they are amazing. I’m going to have to change how I buy baking soda. Bulk only from now on, those little boxes of Arm & Hammer aren’t going to cut it.

I’ll be making a lot of these pretzels. A lot. I think I may make some more now. Especially since yesterday’s batch are all gone and I’m having a craving.

Review – Quick Sour Cream Cheese Bread

Image stolen from The Family Kitchen

Yesterday I found a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try, because it sounded delightful. Quick Sour Cream Cheese Bread from The Family Kitchen is super easy, and yes, very quick.

I served it with dinner last night, and sadly, I forgot to take a photo before serving. Not that it matters much, it came out looking EXACTLY like the photo on the source website.

As I do with all new recipes  I make it as directed the first time. That gives me a chance to try it and make any alterations in the future.

The recipe says that you can use yogurt or sour cream, and I imagine that if one went with greek yogurt this would be a healthier option. The sour cream option was perfect for me to use up that not-expired-but-still-soup-consistency sour cream in the fridge; you know, that stuff that is no longer good for slopping all over your potatoes.

As for the taste test, well, meh. It feels like it’s trying to be a giant butter biscuit and failing. We had guests (what a better time to try a new recipe, huh?), and the consensus was that it tasted to buttery. Which is interesting since there is very very little butter in it. But I get what they were saying.

Suggestions at the end of the recipe include adding diced ham or bacon to it; I wholeheartedly agree with this one. This bread was practically screaming for ham.

If I make this in the future, and I likely will; I’m not willing to give up on it yet, I’ll make it as muffins with ham or bacon as a breakfast treat. I may also add a bit of mustard and more cayenne to add a little zip.

As is, I rate this a 3/5. But it has possibilities.

American Sandwich Bread

I had hoped that I would share a fantastic photo with today’s post, but sadly that didn’t happen. I tried a new bread recipe, and I suppose the fact that I got only a cell phone photo before it disappeared is a good thing.

I have been on the hunt for a bread recipe that is similar to store bought, since that is what my husband and kids like. The American Sandwich Bread recipe is awfully close.

The instructions are simple, like most bread recipes. It does all the mixing in a mixer rather than hand kneading (not that I have found much difference and usually use the machine just to save my arm muscles). It does something I’ve never done with baking, which is to add a pan of water to the oven. I don’t know the logic behind that, I don’t see the steam making that much of a difference, but then I’ve never been schooled in the culinary arts.

I did use active yeast instead of instant, and so I had to adjust the instructions a bit for that. My yeast is at the last little bits of the jar so it didn’t rise as nicely as I would like.

I personally found the bread a little sweet. It calls for 3 tbsp of honey rather than using sugar which was interesting. I would like to try it with a little less, next time. It also uses scalding milk, which does make it (I find) a bit sweet.

It is a lovely consistency for sandwiches. My husband declared it would make a fantastic roast beef sandwich. I declare you should definitely give this recipe a try.

Peanut butter shortbread cookies

Yesterday I decided to try the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookies featured on The view from Great Island blog. This was a pretty interesting experience.

I am not a beginner baker, but I still have an awful lot to learn in the kitchen. When I was taught baking, it was with recipes that said, mix dry, add wet, bake. There was very little difference in if we used margarine or butter, and ingredients were substituted where we needed to. I don’t fault that type of baking, after all, you do what you know. But, let me tell you, what a difference when you do things the way it is intended.

Yesterdays lesson was on mixing. I made the blunder of mixing the dough with a mixer, rather than stirring in the dry ingredients at the appropriate time. The result was a horribly crumbly dough, which did not form into a log as intended, but had to be formed into cookie shapes in order for me to bake them. They came out too large, and the consistency just wasn’t right.

The taste, however, is wonderful. My husband, the shortbread expert of the family, loved them. He insists that they aren’t shortbread cookies, just shortbread-like; they do have peanut butter, after all. But that didn’t stop him from scarfing a couple down.

Today I’m making the Double Dark Chocolate Shortbread cookies from the same blog, doing it right this time. Already, before even taking a bite, I can see a difference.