Sweet Tea

It’s January which means the return of two of our household favorites: Project Runway and 24. We are an eclectic mix aren’t we? We celebrated the return of Jack Bauer with our usual Jack Bauer Quesadillas, and this year our little cupcake enjoyed a quesadilla with us as well (minus the hot sauce and jalapenos)! I was trying to find a recipe that would go well with this post, and since 24 is all about secrets and Project Runway is all about deliciously fabulous fashion, I thought I would share my husband’s secret recipe for delicious sweet tea. In my new cookbook that I got for Christmas (Katie Lee Joel’s The Comfort Table), she shared her recipe for sweet tea, and commented on how all southerners have their variation. While my husband isn’t exactly “southern”, I have to say he makes the best sweet tea I have ever tasted (and we have plenty of southern friends that agree!). Part of it is the ingredients…the other part is the method…oh and make sure you use good filtered water. If you know my husband you aren’t surprised by that! HA!

Sweet Tea

You’ll need a gallon size pitcher to make the tea, or you will have to divide it among two smaller pitchers.

Ingredients:

1 gallon of filtered water

4 Luizanne Decaffeinated Family Size Tea Bags

1 cup of sugar

Instructions:

Place water in a large soup pot on high heat. Pour sugar in gallon size pitcher. As soon as water reaches a boil add tea bags and immediately take off heat. Let steep for exactly five minutes, remove tea bags, and then pour tea in gallon size pitcher (the one that has the sugar in it). Stir sugar and tea and let sit out until cool (about an hour).

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Tacos

One of my standbys when I was making dinner for friends in college was tacos. However, one of the first times I made tacos with a friend of mine she was surprised that I had a recipe that I put together for the taco meat. It may sound like a lot of trouble if you are used to making taco meat with a store packet, but trust me it’s simple, easy and delicious!

Ingredients

1 lb Ground Beef

Toppings:

Chopped Lettuce

Diced fresh Tomatoes

Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese

Diced Red Onion

Sour Cream

Taco Sauce

Tortillas (I prefer Aztec brand)

Beef Seasoning

1 small can tomato sauce

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. paprika

½ tsp cumin

Shake of garlic

Shake of cayenne pepper

Directions

In a medium sized skillet on medium-high heat brown the meat. After the meat is cooked through, turn to low and add the beef seasoning. Leave meat on low while you cook tortillas and add meat and desired toppings.

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Mostaccioli

Now that I have a break for a few weeks, I thought it was time to start up my recipe collection again. This is a classic recipe of my family that we (my sister and I) actually were not introduced to until recently. For my Mom’s birthday this year she asked if we would make this recipe that my Grandmother used to make for her and her sisters when they were growing up. It is quite involved, but it is extremely delicious and makes enough for a crowd. Oh and it’s a kid favorite! My nephew has been asking for it again ever since we made it.

Ingredients:

Mostaccioli Pasta

Parmesan Cheese

2 lbs ground beef divided

1 lb ground Italian sausage

1 large minced onion

1/2 minced green pepper

2 minced celery ribs

2 cloves garlic chopped fine

2 tbs worcestershire sauce

1 and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 to 2 tsp Chili powder

Pinch ground clove

Pinch parsley flakes

Dash hot sauce

2 bay leaves

4 cups of diced tomatoes

3 cans of tomato paste

2 eggs

Bread crumbs

Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

Brown together in olive oil:  1 lb ground beef and 1lb Italian sausage (either links cut into slices, or sausage broken up like we do for lasagna) with 1 large onion minced, 1/2 green pepper minced, 2 celery ribs minced, and 2 cloves garlic.  Drain, then add 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper, 1 1/2 teas. Italian seasoning, 1-2 teas. chili powder, 1 quick shake of ground clove (mom says NO more, be careful, just a little shake), pinch parsley flakes, dash Tabasco (hot sauce) and 2 bay leaves.  Add 4 cups diced tomatoes in juice. Add 3 cans tomato paste.  Cook for 2 hours (simmer on low)

Meanwhile make meatballs (can be made ahead) – 1 lb. ground beef, 2 eggs, bread crumbs – roll into small balls and brown (or cook in oven until done)

Cook mostaccioli according to box directions.

Combine meat sauce, mostaccioli, and meatballs and put lots of parmesan on top.

Makes 4 quarts.

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Rachael’s Pumpkin Soup

So I haven’t been creating many recipes of my own lately. Between work, birthday parties, and oh yeah being a Mom I found myself out of just about everything this weekend and trying to figure out if I could get away with waiting to go grocery shopping until Monday. This is due to my absolute refusal to grocery shop on the weekend unless it is completely necessary. I do understand that people need to grocery shop on the weekend, in fact most people grocery shop on the weekend. However, since I do not have to grocery shop on the weekend I make it a point to try to wait it out until the week, and even early in the morning to avoid crowds, so I can shop in peace (ha! with a one year old). So as our pantry was getting pretty empty this weekend, we had various dishes of fish sticks, muffins, and eggs (except for our little love bug, who always eats better than we do!)

I digress. In my attempt to have better dishes this week I was looking around food network and came across a recipe that is a favorite of mine and especially fitting for this time of year. If you haven’t tried this soup before, you need to. I started making it as part of Thanksgiving lunch four years ago and even the pickiest eaters have tried it, gone back for seconds, and love it. So here’s the link for that delicious recipe: Rachael Ray’s Pumpkin Soup.

Here’s a picture…of its deliciousness!

Rachael Ray's Pumpkin Soup
Rachael Ray's Pumpkin Soup
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Guacamole

I can’t provide you with the exact recipe as this is a “secret family recipe” I’m sharing, but I can give you the basic ingredients and amounts used to make my Dad’s guacamole. I was inspired because this as it is a game day favorite and I’ve never taken it anywhere and had any left over. In our family the “tasting” of the guacamole is a tradition and usually leaves little left for the table. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 ripe Hass avocados

1 tablespoon lime juice

3-4 heavy spoonfuls of salsa (we use tostitos medium chunky salsa)

1/4 diced red onion

4 dashes (or more!) hot sauce (we use Louisiana hot sauce)

2 diced roma tomatoes

Instructions:

Mash avocados in a bowl with a fork until only slightly chunky. Add in lime juice, red onion, tomatoes, salsa, and hot sauce. Mix and taste with chips until satisfied (hopefully bowl won’t be gone before you serve it).

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Baby Macaroni and Cheese

Since we are now introducing table foods, I have been trying to come up with interesting table foods for our little cupcake to eat. I had looked at the little jars of baby macaroni and cheese at the store and found that the list of ingredients was long and complicated. I then started looking through my cookbooks at home and came up with my own version of macaroni and cheese for babies. It is a small amount, as we are not eating very much of it yet. It is simple and takes the same amount of time as making it from the box!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of mini fusilli

1/2 tbs of butter

1/2 tbs of olive oil

1/2 tbs of flour

3 tbs of whole milk

1 slice of mild cheese

Instructions:

Cook fusilli in a small saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for about 15 minutes (this is past package directions, but you want it to be soft and mushy for babies. Especially mine who still doesn’t have teeth!).

In another small saucepan melt the butter and olive oil on low heat. Once melted whisk in the flour and let cook for one minute. After flour has cooked whisk in milk. After milk has cooked for a minute, break cheese into chunks and whisk in. Stir until smooth.

Once fusilli has finished drain and then add to cheese mixture. Stir pasta with cheese. Make sure the macaroni and cheese has cooled before serving!

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English Muffin “Pizzas”

When I was little one of my favorite snacks was English muffin pizzas. In fact the year I turned seven I had a luau birthday party and we made English muffin pizzas with all sorts of topping choices. The other day my mom and I were looking for something for lunch and I put these together. These are a bit of a grown up version of the pizzas I used to make. Add more or less vegetable proportions depending on your taste! (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

Two whole wheat English muffins

Five large fresh basil leaves sliced thinly or chopped

1/2 of a yellow or red pepper sliced thin

About fifteen thin strips of red onion

1 Roma tomato sliced thin

1 cup of mozzarella cheese shredded

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese shredded

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Heat a broiler on high heat. (I say broiler, as you may have an oven with a broiler function, or you may have a separate broiler…like on Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals)

Split English muffins so you have four halves and toast them. Place them on a cookie sheet. In a saute pan on medium heat, cook the yellow pepper and onion in about 1 tbs of olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper, until tender. After onions and peppers are tender add in tomatoes and about 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar and cook until the tomatoes soften about 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the saute mixture among the English muffins. Top with basil leaves, then the cheese. Toast in broiler until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Serve and enjoy!

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Pasta Sauce with Wagon Wheels

They are called rotelle, but I call them wagon wheels. I have started buying them because they are fun for our little sweet pea to munch on and go well with the pasta sauce I created here. You can easily add hamburger meat to this sauce to enrich it, but I like it with just the peppers and tomatoes.

Ingredients:

1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes

1/2 can of diced tomatoes (or you can dice two fresh Roma tomatoes)

1 half of a yellow pepper (you can substitute red)

About 7 large fresh basil leaves sliced thinly (or you can tear them like lettuce)

A handful of flat leaf parsley chopped

1 small yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

Dash of salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more if you like your sauce spicy)

2 cups of wagon wheels

Heat a large soup pot of water until boiling. Salt water and cook wagon wheels according to package directions.

While you are bringing the water to a boil, begin making the sauce (you can also make the sauce in advance and re-heat the next day, or just let it simmer on low on the stove the same day. The longer it cooks the better it will be!). In a heavy bottomed and higher sided large sauce pan saute the onions and garlic on medium heat in olive oil for about five minutes. Add in the peppers and saute for another ten minutes. Add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until it begins to bubble a bit then add in the basil and parsley. Turn the heat to low and let simmer until pasta is ready. Toss pasta and sauce together and sprinkle with a bit more parsley if you like.

The finished product
The finished product
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Cheesy Beefy Burros

These were a standard in my family growing up. I think it’s a recipe that my Mom found in a magazine years ago. There are two ways that you can make them, baked or fried. I’ll give you the recipe for both! It’s basically meat and cheese, but the sauce is really what makes the recipe. I introduced these to my husband when we first met and it quickly became one of his favorites and most requested for dinner recipes. It may sound complicated with the folding, but with a few tries it is easy and also really cost effective!

Ingredients

1 lb at least 85 percent lean hamburger beef

1 block or 1 bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

1 16oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

Tortillas

shredded lettuce

sour cream (optional)

green chilies (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a high sided skillet to medium-high heat. Break up beef in pan and cook thoroughly then drain off excess fat. Mix in cheese with beef until well melted. Heat tortillas on griddle (or in microwave for 20 seconds). Roll up about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of meat inside the tortillas (picture instructions below). Basically fold the tortillas like a hot pocket over the meat. Spray a 8 x8 inch dish (deep sided) with cooking spray. Place folded “burros” in pan and cover with foil. Cook in oven for 20-25 minutes.*

While cooking meat, in a blender combine diced tomatoes, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cumin. Blend until well combined and tomatoes are broken down. Pour into saucepot and heat over medium-low.

Spread lettuce over plates. Place a cooked burro on plate and cover with sauce. Top with sour cream and chilies.

*Alternatively: Heat about a quart of vegetable oil in a large soup pot. Heat oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a frying thermometer. Place tortillas carefully in sauce pot and cook two at a time for about 5 minutes each, until golden brown and crispy.

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Grilled Pepperjack Chicken

This is a fairly easy recipe that my mom told me about. It’s best grilled (you can use an outdoor or indoor grill), but you could bake the chicken if you prefer. I do not have pictures of the particular recipe because I am fairly new to grilling, as we finally have a place where we can use a grill. While I was grilling the chicken I decided I would just throw the onions and the bacon on the grill that I was planning to top the chicken with. If you have ever grilled before you can probably imagine what happened next. If so, you can skip to the recipe below, haha, if not I will explain further.  Bacon has a lot of fat in it and unless you are a very experienced griller should not be cooked on a grill. I tossed everything on the grill, shut the top, and left it for five minutes (oh and I did look up grilling bacon and I had the grill on low heat). When I came back and opened the grill all of the bacon was on fire, as well as the onions. I shut the grill ran in the house and got my husband to come help me put out the fire. After we pounded out the fire with a spatula, the bacon had completely disintegrated within the grill. However, we did get some tasty charbroiled onions and chicken out of the mess. So I suggest frying the bacon or cooking it in the oven (on a cookie sheet) per package instructions.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2, but can be easily doubled):

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 slices of sandwich friendly pepperjack cheese

2 thick full sliced rounds of onion (with all the center rounds)

2 pieces of bacon (cooked per package instructions)

Barbecue sauce (you can buy your favorite, or make your own)

Olive oil

kosher salt and pepper

Instructions:

Set a grill to medium-high heat. Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Place some barbecue sauce in a plastic bag. Insert chicken into plastic bag, close tightly and shake bag to cover with barbecue sauce (You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if the sauce is particularly thick). Place in fridge to marinate for fifteen minutes (you could also do this early in the day and the chicken will be just even more seasoned). On a separate dish coat onions with olive oil. Keep onions in tact, don’t separate rings.

Place onions and chicken on the grill. Let onions cook for about 15 minutes, and remove when they begin to caramelize and become soft. Let chicken cook for about ten minutes then turn. Cook for another ten minutes and then check temperature. Continue cooking for five minutes at a time, turning each time you check it, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees. After the chicken has reached the appropriate temperature, evenly distribute onions, bacon, and lastly cheese on the chicken. Turn the grill to low and let the cheese melt thoroughly on the chicken. Remove chicken and eat!

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