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October 20, 2014

Make Ahead Monday: Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce


I have to admit that I didn't think having a second baby would hinder my kitchen efforts as much as it had. It's not that I don't have time to cook and bake, but it's finding an APPROPRIATE time to cook. With a preschooler running around, and a newborn that LOVES to eat, it seems that the hours between school and bedtime have me running around without any sort of direction trying to cook, keep the kids happy, answer the door of politicians and solicitors, etc. I'm not back at work yet, but I know that day will come quicker than expected, and I need to figure this whole thing out before then. 

Enter make ahead meals. I've always done a pretty good job of making extras of certain dishes that freeze well, such as chili, lasagna and seasoned beef for tacos, burritos, etc., however I've never been really good at taking advantage of the rare free moment to prep ahead for the next day or coming week. I admit that I like to be lazy if I can! That being said, I want to stop being so lazy; it'll certainly make dinner time a lot easier. I need to start reinventing leftovers more, prepping for meals on the weekend or the night before while a casserole is in the oven or something, actively making freezer meals, anything I can to get dinner on the table without tearing my hair out, or ignoring my family. There's no point in taking the time to cook for my family if I'm too stressed to enjoy it!

With that in mind I've decided to implement a Make Ahead Monday segment on the blog. On Mondays I will post a meal that can be used to help make cooking in advance a little easier. Whether that's as fully make ahead as prepping a meal from start to just before cooking on night one to pop in the oven on night two, or something to pull out of the freezer before heading to work in the morning, a crockpot meal that's ready when you get home, or even just a way to prep some of the ingredients to save 10 minutes! I'm definitely not promising a weekly post... at least not yet. I do have a newborn at home that loves to eat, so I'm spending A LOT of my time acting as a dairy cow.

Now, without further adieu, my first Make Ahead Monday recipe/tip... the world's easiest tomato sauce. 

I have a marinara sauce that I absolutely love, but sometimes it's too much for certain dishes. It's not the lightest sauce known to man. Also, I may not always have ingredients on hand if I get a hankering for a quick spaghetti. But with this sauce, it's literally 3 ingredients that I always have on hand. And it's pretty light for a tomato sauce. And it's E-A-S-Y! Open a can, cut some butter, cut an onion... simmer and serve! You really can't get much easier than that. 

This is a great make ahead recipe because you can make a big batch of it and use throughout the week in repurposed dishes, or freeze some of it. For example, when I made this I doubled the recipe. I froze half, and I used just under half to make a baked ravioli. I set aside about a cup for pizza later in the week. Now, I have sauce in the freezer for a night that I don't have time to simmer, and I had sauce ready for pizza in a few days!

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce
Ingredients:
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, in the sauce
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half

Directions:
Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often, breaking up the tomatoes to get the desired texture you want (I like mine smooth smooth smooth!). 

Remove the onions and serve!

Note: You can also use tomato puree and simmer a little less. I've done this too when I don't want to deal with breaking up the tomatoes since I do like mine smooth.

July 21, 2014

Mexican Shredded Beef (Slow Cooker)


I've been holding out. I'm not sure why it's taken me a little over a year to share this recipe, so I apologize! I first made this recipe about a year ago to feed a small crowd (well, a crowd compared to my normal 3 people, but 8 may not be a crowd to many!), and I've made it many MANY times since, but never got around to taking pictures of it. If you like tacos, enchiladas, eating shredded beef just with a fork from te Tupperware container then you need this recipe in your life.

I generally just do ground beef when I make tacos because it's quick and a taco is always delicious, but the moment I tried this, nothing really compares. I probably make this beef about half the time and ground beef the other half, and we eat tacos quite often in our house.

What I love about this recipe is that it's easy to modify how hot or spicy you want it, but as is, it has a bit of a kick but isn't overly spicy. And you spend like 10 minutes prepping it before throwing it in the slow cooker to do the rest of the work for you!




Mexican Shredded Beef for the Slow Cooker
Ingredients: 
2lb. boneless beef road
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons chili powder (more for a little extra heat, or use a hot version)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (again, a little more for a little extra heat!)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Liberally season the roast with salt and pepper. Add the roast to the skillet and brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Put in your slow cooker.

Add onion to the pan and cook about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for about another minute. Stir in broth and spices, scrapping up browned bits. Pour the "sauce" over the top of the roast.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred with two forks and allow to cook a few minutes longer. If you need to soak up any of the extra liquid you can put the slow cooker on high for a little bit after shredding the beef.

Source: Elly Says Opa

July 15, 2014

One-Pot Chicken Mudega Skillet Dinner (Chicken with Prosciutto and a Lemon Wine Sauce)


While many people take the opportunity to grill as much as possible during the summer months, personally it's not my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of food from the grill, but I'm just not a fan of being outside grilling. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to hot temperatures, and this summer I'm in my 3rd trimester with my baby girl, so I'm really not digging extreme heat. However, I've discovered my love of one-pot and skillet dinners.

One-pot and skillet dinners are quick to prepare, and only require one pot and a few prep utensils, which are easy to clean while the dish is cooking away on the stove. What's not to love?

While menu planning for the week, I was looking through one of my favorite cookbooks, that I've neglected for far too long - The Pasta Revolution by the wonderful people at America's Test Kitchen. I saw a recipe for a Chicken Saltimbocca skillet (one pot dish) that catches my eye every time I open the book. As I was reading it for the 100th time probably, I started thinking about a local favorite of mine - Chicken Mudega, and thought I could easily adapt the recipe in to a chicken mudega dish. Chicken Mudega is a St. Louis based dish, as far as I know, that is a breaded chicken breast topped with Provel Cheese and a madeira wine butter lemon sauce with prosciutto. Delicious! (There's usually mushrooms as well, which I omit because I do not like mushrooms!)

Rob and I were fans, and well, Ty preferred to play with his food. Apparently we've approached the phase where pasta = snakes. This snake fearing mom is not impressed. Plus, I'm the one that cleans the table during bath time, so I'm doubly unimpressed! But what he did eat he liked! But, as for Rob and I, we were fans enough that I'm already planning on making this pretty soon!



One-Pot Chicken Mudega Skillet Dinner (Chicken with Prosciutto and a Lemon Wine Sauce)
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped in to 1/2" pieces
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin or cubed
Salt and Pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup dry white wine (for a more authentic "Mudega" profile, use Maderia, but I prefer drier wines in pasta dishes)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
12 ounces thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Provel cheese (or a combination of White American and Mozzarella if you are not in the St. Louis area and don't have access to Provel)

Directions:
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.; Add prosciutto and cook until crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside on a paper towel-lined.
plate.

Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook without moving for about 1 minute to brown. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until cooked through, about 2-4 minutes depending how thickly you sliced or cubed your chicken. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add onion to the skillet with the fat from the meats and oil still in it. Cook over medium heat about 8 minutes until softened and transluscent. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in wine and simmer about a minute until thickend.

Stir in broth, water and pasta. Increase heat to medium-high and cook at a high simmer for about 12-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is tender.

Transfer the entire contents of the chicken bowl, including juices, to the skillet, along with butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese and half of the prosciutto. Stir well to incorporate everything and melt the chicken. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper as desired. Top individual portions with remaining prosciutto.

Source: Heavily adapted from The Pasta Revolution by the editors of America's Test Kitchen

May 1, 2014

Family Recipe Sour Cream Sheet Cake


There are some recipes that automatically take you back to childhood.  This cake is one of them!  Growing up, my Nana Ethel used to make this for many many family get-togethers. We call it sour cream cake, and I remember as a kid thinking that was weird.  I mean, sour cream in a cake?  And how come I liked it, since I don't like sour cream?  That's the good thing about kids though; all you have to do is tell them it's cake and they'll eat.  Unless they're my nearly 3-year-old on Easter who said he doesn't like cake.  But, he's also going through a phase where he says he doesn't like his favorite things, and then proceeds to eat more than ever only minutes later.

I've been wanting this recipe for years, and after many failed Google attempts to find it, I finally caved and ask my mom and aunt if they have it.  My aunt immediately called me with the recipe spouted off from memory.  Not only did my cousins, brother and I grow up with this cake, I never thought about the fact that my mom and aunt did also, as well as my grandma and Great Aunt Sally as I was lucky enough to have my great-grandma in my life for longer than a lot of children are.

This recipe is very easy, with very few ingredients, so I'm not surprised my aunt was able to immediately call me with the memorized recipe.  The sour cream, FOUR eggs and boiling water definitely make this a moist and decadent cake.  And you top something with cinnamon sugar and I'm in love.  Since I always have 2 cake mixes in the pantry (yellow and chocolate), I always have the ingredients on hand for this recipe, and now I'm so happy I have the recipe, should the need ever arise for a quick cake!

One day I may try to make it from scratch, but for now I'm more than happy eating the leftovers of this quick easy cake that immediately takes me back to family gatherings as a child.  I just wish the clothes were better :)




Family Recipe Sour Cream Sheet Cake
Ingredients:
  • 1 box yellow cake mix (I like Duncan Hines)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (about 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray (or coat with butter).

Using a hand or stand mixer, mix cake mix, sour cream, eggs and oil together.  Slowly mix the water in to avoid cooking the eggs, and immediately pour in prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the edges are becoming golden.

Source: Old family recipe