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Are you like me and secretly hide your love of Hamburger Helper – the ease of it all, the fact that your kids love it, and so do you? My favorites are Beefy Pasta and Cheeseburger Macaroni. I don’t think I have really cared to try the rest since I know it’s over processed and not healthy and I am already addicted to two of them. It’s a guilty pleasure, and a rare occurrence in my house. But when I bust out the Hamburger Helper in my house you can hear the cheering and there is never any left. And if there is my husband or my one stepson (I have two stepsons and one daughter) happily take it for lunch the following day. Well, I wanted to come up with a way to have my hamburger helper and eat it, guilt-free, too.
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. garlic powder (you could also use 2 cloves fresh minced garlic)
1 tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. pepper (or more to taste)
2 large beef bullion cubes (or 3 small ones)
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
2 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Brown the ground beef in a pan with the worcestershire, garlic powder, onion flakes, and pepper.
Crumble the bullion cubes into the meat and stir. Add the cornstarch and stir to coat the meat.
Slowly add the water and milk. Stir until mixed and add the pasta.
Cover and cook for 12 minutes (or until the noodles are tender). Add the cheese at the end and stir until completely melted.
It’s that easy! Just as easy as the boxed stuff and I promise just as good. You won’t go back! At least I will not go back, I’ll work on the cheeseburger mac next.
The recipe I followed originally called for almond champagne, I am not a fan of almond flavor, but if you are I hear Trader Joe’s carries a great almond Champagne.
I made this cake for my mother-in-law, she and I share a love of lemon, and Champagne is a favorite of hers, so the two together were perfect for her birthday cake! This cake is dense and not too sweet, and the frosting perfectly tops off this cake for a touch of sweetness. And look how pretty it is too.
1 cup softened butter
2 cups granulated sugar
5 whole eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Juice and zest of one lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Champagne (I used Cooks (the quality is not a huge factor when you cook/bake with it)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamed and smooth. Just like you would starting cookie dough.
Once the butter and sugar are creamed slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
Once the batter is mixed together, add the champagne and stir slowly – watch out it will bubble up!
I used my fancy new Pampered Chef stoneware bundt pan,but any bundt pan you have is good. Even a regular cake pan would due, it’s just prettier and fancier looking in a bundt pan.
Spray your pan with oil or wipe the pan with butter.
Pour in the batter and put into a preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour.
Frosting, Frosting Frosting…
And for the best part of the cake FROSTING!
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
2tsp. heavy cream (or milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside until the cake is almost cooled. If the cake is semi-warm the frosting can melt a little and will drip down the sides in the most delicious way. (the original recipe called for Champagne in place of the milk but my kids were going to eat this so I opted out of the champagne, but it would have been really good I bet, let me know if you try it and leave a comment about it!)
Serve with a nice glass of champagne!
Recipe adapted from www.countrycleaver.com
Now that we have passed St. Patrick’s day, and I missed the train on that one, I’ll share with you what I just learned to use my leftover corned beef to make. Corned beef and hash. For my husband and I this was one of those things we would eat when we went out for breakfast. We had corned beef and cabbage on St. Patricks day and other than the deli sandwich meat on occasion I never made corned beef. This year, I found out our kids like it and that I could make corned beef and hash. Now we will have corned beef a few more times a year.
First, I cook the corned beef in this recipe just like I would corned beef and cabbage. I like having a bit of chopped cabbage mixed in with my potatoes and corned beef. The cabbage really soaks up the flavor of the cooking liquid giving this dish a pop of flavor.
1 Pkg Corned Beef and the seasoning package.
1 head of cabbage
1 lb of small potatoes (check the package from TJs
2 tbsp. of butter
2 tsp. seasoning salt
1/2 c. reserved cooking liquid
Place the corned beef in a large pot, add water to the pot just covering the beef, then add the seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef. Cook the beef for 2-3 hours, until tender. Adding water as needed. When the water level begins to go below the beef add a little water 1 cup or so at a time. I like this process because the flavor of the liquid and corned beef becomes more concentrated.
After 2-3 hours, add the potatoes and cook for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook 10 minutes more.
Remove the meat, potatoes and cabbage from the pot and allow to cool (for handling). Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Chop corned beef into chunks.
Then chop into fine pieces.
Next coarsely chop the potatoes and cabbage. This does not have to be neat. It is a hash it’s supposed to be a rustic mixture of meat and potatoes, not a neat pile.
Mix the potatoes, cabbage, meat, reserved liquid and seasoning salt in a bowl.
This is my favorite seasoning salt, but any other brand or generic will work just fine!
Now heat butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Preferably this pan should not be a nonstick pan, as it does not allow for the crispy crust that make this so good. Once the butter is melted add the corned beef mixture. Cook until the meat and potatoes begin to brown, flipping the mixture browning the other side.
Serve with an egg and/or toast or eat it right out of the bowl. It may take some time to cook the corned beef but it is well worth it and easy. Try putting the corned beef in the slow cooker too so when you get home it’s cooked through, add the potatoes and cabbage at the end probably the last hour or so of cooking.
Spring is in the air and the vegetables are fast on its heels. Asparagus is one of my favorite spring vegetables, and many of you with community-supported agriculture baskets will probably be seeing a lot of asparagus here shortly. Not sure about you, but I usually blank when it comes to side dishes. As much as I love buttered salted veggies, it’s nice to have more ways to make vegetables exciting and flavorful.
To pick asparagus, choose bright green, firm stalks. Not limp or woody looking stalks. Bright green or violet stems are good. The tips should be tightly closed.
The best way to prep asparagus is to first snap the asparagus stalk. If you grab both ends of the asparagus and gently bend, the asparagus stalk, the stalk will snap where the stalk gets tough, and the tough part you don’t want to eat will snap right off with minimal effort. Wrap cut ends in damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Asparagus Au Gratin
1 bunch trimmed asparagus cut in half
1 tablespoon butter
½ onion diced
½ cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. thyme
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
¼ cup white cheddar
1 tablespoon Parmesan
In an oven safe pan sauté butter, onion, garlic and, if using, mushrooms and thyme season with salt and pepper. Add asparagus and sauté a minute or two. Add stock and cream and stir. Boil 3-5 minutes.
If not using an oven safe pan, transfer the mixture to an oven safe dish. Top with cheese and
bake for 15-20 minutes on 425 degrees.
Roasted Greek Asparagus: Arrange asparagus and tomato on a nonreactive pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven 15-20 minutes. Top with Feta and serve.
Roasted bacon wrapped asparagus topped with gruyere cheese: wrap asparagus with ½ slice of bacon, roast in 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Top with shredded gruyere and black pepper just before serving.
Pan roasted asparagus with soy sauce and ginger: Mix ½ tsp. of ginger, dash red pepper, and 3 tablespoons soy sauce together. In a wok or sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and soy sauce mixture to pan and sauté 2-3 minutes then cover and turn off the heat and let steam 2 minutes (more if you like more tender asparagus)
Most people are familiar with the classic tiramisu, an Italian espresso-mascarpone layered dessert. The creamy mascarpone combined with chocolate and espresso make a satisfying after dinner dessert. My love of cheesecakes has lead to many flavor combinations, like my Zebra cheesecake (on my blog), lemony versions, white chocolate raspberry, even an apple pie version. Classic desserts are my biggest inspiration for new cheesecake idea combinations. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, so it’s only logical to make it into a cheesecake. Besides who doesn’t like coffee and chocolate – it’s a perfect combination, such as peanut butter and chocolate. For Valentines Day, I decided to make this dessert for my love. He gave his seal of approval.
Mascarpone is traditional in tiramisu, however cream cheese is the traditional ingredient in cheesecake. Cream cheese and mascarpone are very similar ingredients. In fact, the two are regularly combined, and may even replace one another, in cheesecake, and other, recipes. Mascarpone is a little tangier than cream cheese if you were taste testing the two side-by-side. However, the consistency of the two does not differ too much. In this recipe, I keep the cream cheese base for the cheesecake, but incorporate a fluffy mascarpone cream to reel in the Tiramisu experience.
Over the years I have tested many cheesecake recipes. For this recipe I use my basic cheesecake recipe to start. It is a combination of a classic recipe, and my grandmother’s recipe. This recipe always yields a perfect combination of creamy and fluffy. Some of you may like a dense and dry cheesecake (my boyfriend included), and you can achieve that by removing two eggs from this recipe and not using a water bath.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. When I follow the standard water bath instructions, like most recipes call for, my crust ends up soggy. When I don’t use a water bath I notice my cheesecake is drier and cracks! So, I decided to use my roasting pan with the removable rack (my rack is flat not ‘V’ shaped) and filled the pan with water to just below the rack. This way I get moisture in the oven, without the soggy crust. If you have luck with a traditional water bath, definitely use it. It is all about what works for you.
1-package (12 lady fingers) –Raley’s keeps them in the bakery freezer, just ask the baker for a package.
4oz brewed espresso (you can use hot water and instant powder too)
Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of your spring form pan as tight together as you can. You want the least amount of gaps as possible (I put a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of my spring form pan). Sprinkle the espresso over all the lady fingers so each one soaks up the espresso. I tried dipping the lady fingers in the espresso first, but found if I tightly packed the lady fingers then added the espresso, that worked much better.
3- 8oz. pkgs cream cheese (softened)
3/4c granulated sugar
5 eggs (2 for a dense cake)
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp espresso powder, or 3 tablespoon brewed espresso
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and make sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in whipping cream and espresso. Pour the filling onto the lady finger crust.
Reduce the oven to 300-degrees, bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 5 min (or until the middle is set).
Once the middle is set turn off the oven and prop the oven open slightly for about 15-20 minutes so the cheesecake can cool slowly (this will help avoid cracking). Remove the cheesecake from your oven and allow it to cool a bit more.
1 cup mascarpone cheese (about 8 ounces)
1/3 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
In a bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer beat together mascarpone, cream, and sugar until mixture holds stiff peaks. Once your cheesecake is cool to the touch, spread, or pipe, the cream on to the cheesecake.
Sift sweetened cocoa powder over the top, or grate semi-sweet chocolate on top.
Refrigerate cheesecake 4 hours before serving.
Hey I never said a good cheesecake was easy…
My daughter and my boyfriend’s two boys love cinnamon rolls and pancakes. Usually, I save cinnamon rolls for special occasions since they involved making dough, letting it rise and then getting up early the next morning to get them ready. Homemade pancakes are a weekend tradition for us, and a favorite among our kids. When I saw a recipe online for cinnamon roll pancakes I had to try them. First, I used my own pancake recipe, but you can make your favorite homemade recipe, or use a box mix. Then, I use the frosting I use for my cinnamon rolls, and then made a “filling” out of melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
To be honest, the first time I made these was on a whim on a weekday morning before school/work. Yes sometimes I’m that crazy. But they looked easy enough, and they were, just a bit of a mess for a weekday morning. Next time I will make the frosting and filling ahead of time. You can make the frosting and keep it covered in the fridge. The filling you can make and keep in a plastic bag at room temperature. Then in the morning all you have to do is mix the pancakes and throw it together.
The kids were really excited to see a cinnamon roll pancake with frosting and all. One of them even said “hey look, they are like pancakes on the bottom.”
1 1/2 c. flour
1T. sugar (my regular recipe has 3T but we are adding so much sugar already)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
3T. melted butter
Mix first 4 ingredients. Then mix milk, eggs, and vanilla together. Then mix the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix about 10 strokes. Then add butter and mix briefly just to combine. (over mixing the pancake batter will result in flat tough pancakes).
Allow the pancake batter to sit while you make the filling and the frosting.
1 stick of melted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
Then put the filling in a bottle (my preference, because it gives more control) or a plastic bag. You can cut the tip off the bag and squeeze onto the pancake.
Then heat up a pan or a pancake griddle…I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to pour the batter onto my griddle. I allow the batter to set just a little, then add the filling in a spiral starting from the middle of the batter to the outside. Perfect…
Not Perfect…careful not to wait too long to add the filing and not get too close to the edge then you will have a spill…
Oh and before I forget! Wipe your griddle down with a wet towel between each batch, it gets messy and sticky.
Now for the frosting. I made the frosting before I started cooking the pancakes so it was ready when the pancakes were still warm, kind of like warm cinnamon rolls right out of the oven with melty frosting.
4 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1c. powdered sugar
Mix the cream cheese and sugar until crumbly.
Then add the milk 1 T. at a time. You can adjust the consistency of your frosting by adding more milk if you’d like.
Spread the frosting on the pancakes, just like a cinnamon roll.
See how the frosting gets down into the crevices of the pancakes…yum!
This is not a healthy, heart friendly recipe, but it sure is tastey. While I substitute some fat with yogurt there is still plenty of sugar in the “apple pie filling” and the brown sugar topping to affect your waistline. So that I can avoid those waistline issues, I keep a few slices for me (and my family) and bring the rest to my fellow co-workers to bring smiles to their faces in the middle of the week. Given this weekend is the beginning of Autumn, and the abundance of apples around town, no kidding, just this morning I saw a box full of apples in someone’s front yard, marked "free," a recipe with apples seemed fitting to kick off the start of fall.
Fall comes around, and so does the canning and baking bug. So far, I’ve made apple pie filling to keep on hand in the freezer, apple butter using the slow cooker and now this wonderful apple bread. Cooking and baking with the kids is always fun around this time of year as well, caramel apples, caramel corn and homemade candies (peanut butter cups, maybe?). Fall traditions are fun too, visiting Apple Hill, Corley Ranch and Lattin Farms festivals are always on my list.
Encouraging my fall excitement I decided I wanted to share a recipe to celebrate fall flavors. Brown sugar is one of my favorite ingredients, after chocolate of course, and it reminds me so much of baking and caramel, so it only made sense to make this apple bread using all brown sugar. The comforting smell of spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and apples will fill your house with the smell of fall. Hopefully this helps with what to do with the abundance of apples you, or your neighbors, may have.
Peeling Apples: I peel the apples and put them in a bowl filled with water and the juice of a lemon. Once I’ve peeled all the apples, I dry them, then I core and dice them.
½ stick softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch each of nutmeg and ground cloves
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tbsp vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray or butter. Cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer. Mix in the egg. In separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the yogurt – make sure to start with flour and end with flour.
Fold in the “filling” (see recipe below). Pour batter into loaf pan and top with the crumble topping (see recipe below).
Bake the loaf for 45-50 minutes or until tester comes out of the center of loaf clean. Let cool in the loaf pan for a few minutes before transferring to a rack. Let the loaf cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with butter. Enjoy.
1 ½ cups apples(about 3 medium apples), peeled, cored, and diced
¼-½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg and ground cloves
Mix the sugar and spices together, then toss with the diced apples.
Top with crumble topping.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
½ stick butter
Mix together with your fingertips until crumbly.
Notes: This could also be used for muffins. Pour into muffin liners in a muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
The food trucks pulled into town this past weekend and created a pretty big scene. By 11:45 when I arrived there were already lines forming. I’m glad I arrived early because as the day went on the lines seemed to get longer. Seeing the turnout on this event is just awesome. Food can always bring people together and this weekend the Gourmet Food Trucks really brought Carson City out and about.
I spoke with Fat Daddy’s Ice Cream and they commented on how nice people up here in Carson City have been to them. They were thrilled to be in such a beautiful place with great people. Hopefully that means they will be back! I tried the Chocolate malted crunch and my boyfriend tried the chocolate brownie with white chocolate topping. Both were super tasty. My chocolate malt crunch was crunchy and packed with malty flavor, which is my favorite. The ice cream was creamy and thick and did not melt faster than we could eat it (that is a real downer for me when my ice cream melts before I can eat it all). And Fat Daddy’s has some really fun marketing.
Again I visited my friend Phil at Traffic Jam, and this time he had Tri Tip on stick which was even better than the last time! Amazing! The next time I think I’m going to taste his Victorian Chicken Salad Sandwich with cranberries, apples, and almonds.
Of course I had to try Kenji’s tacos, at $1.50 a piece they were a huge steal! Chicken was my favorite but I tried the pork and beef as well. They blew me away. After waiting 40 minutes (this was average for most trucks by about 1pm) I would say they were well worth the wait. I will definitely be back to visit them in Reno on a Food Truck Friday. And on top of good food, they have good personality.
Next we had to try Slap Yo Mama. The name alone made me want to try this truck, but even more, the Snoop Dogg Montecristo (which this truck had the honor of making for Snoop Dogg himself). Two waffles, fried chicken breast, mac ‘n cheese dipped in batter and fried! Yes the heart attacker is what it should be called. Now I can say I really get what chicken and waffles is all about! This sandwich was extraordinary, definitely not an every day treat, but on occasion it would be okay. A friend of mine got the soft shell crab sandwich and we tried that. It was super good too, with a spicy sauce, oh yum. Typically I don’t like soft shell crab, but I was surprised it was cooked perfectly!
Suge Knight – red velvet waffle topped with 2 pieces of fried chicken with butter and maple honey:
Snoop Dogg Cristo: fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese between two waffles, batter fried and toped with powdered sugar & syurp (super YUM):
and they entertain…
And of course I tried the Nom Nom truck. The runner-up in the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Now I know that sounds funny, a show about food trucks, but I only got hooked because I happened to come across the show one night, and because it was hosted by Tyler Florence, who I really like and respect as a chef. This truck had an amazing following on the show and I can now say I have tried a Banh Mi. Chicken, pickled carrots and onions, jalapenos, cilantro on a roll. Those who know me, know I love cilantro and lime and onions. It’s one of my favorite combinations, so naturally this sandwich was a need to try. Fortunately for me when I finally made it to the truck I ordered the LAST Banh Mi for the day! I cut it so close! Very happy I was able to get to taste this sandwich. About half the way through the crispy sweet pickled veggies the heat of the peppers kicked in. Oh my is this sandwich good, but glad I shared it with a friend, my lips were on fire. I am not usually weak when it comes to spicy foods, but they have some nice hot peppers. In the photo below you can see just one of the many green peppers, it is sitting on the very top. This sandwich has so much flavor, I highly recommend trying Nom Nom if you make it to San Francisco or if they return for next year’s Food Truck Festival.
Thank you Casino Fandango for holding such a really awesome unique event for our little city! Such a great experience it was, and I will attend any future events. Hopefully this event had a big enough turn out for the Fandango to hold another. Now I will make more of an effort to head to Reno to test out more of our local food trucks, especially DISH truck and Gourmelt. Unfortunately we did not make it to those and both trucks. Both are well known for their outstanding menus so I cannot wait to try them!