Monday, March 18, 2019

Tuna Sloppy Joes



 OK, I know there are already one or two of you out there who are crinkling your noses at the thought of a tuna Sloppy Joe. And to that I say Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!
 Seriously, though, why???? I literally asked 5 people if the idea of a tuna Sloppy Joe sounded good or gross. ALL FIVE said things like "ew" or "yuck" or my favorite: "you're gonna need to convince me." Ok, this is me convincing you!
 For those of you who may not know, a Sloppy Joe is a sandwich, usually served on a bun, usually made of ground meat in a slightly sweet tomato based sauce. So why doesn't anyone want to swap out the beef for some tuna? Is it the tomato sauce? Well, no, because it's very common to add tuna to a tomato sauce for pasta. So it beats me why my panel of judges gave this idea an immediate thumbs down. I thought it sounded pretty great, to be quite honest! In fact, I found several different recipes for it, so CLEARLY I'm not the only one! My only dilemma was which recipe to try!
 It came down to two ideas: Make the sauce from scratch, or just open a can Sloppy Joe sauce. Well, of course I tried BOTH, because I needed to see which one was better!! Usually, with beef Sloppy Joes, I would just open up a can of Manwich sauce and call it a day, but I wanted to try the scratch recipe to see if it was as good or even better.
 The recipe below is from Clover Leaf Seafood, which is based in Ontario Canada. It has several ingredients in it, all very easy. You mince a few aromatics, simmer the sauce, add tuna, and there it is. And guess what? It was DELISH! It's everything you want in a Sloppy Joe, only without the meat, and it's a great alternative to your usual Friday night fish sandwich.
And then I tried the Manwich sauce. Very similar, but slightly different, and also quite delicious! So as far as which one is better, I think it's a solid TIE for the win. I guess it depends what you have in your cupboard. Do you have a can of Manwich? Easy and fast. Do you have the other ingredients? Go for the scratch recipe. Either way, you'll have a yummy saucy sammy that is everything a Sloppy Joe should be. You should give it a try!!



1 tbs vegetable oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1 small red pepper, very finely chopped
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp EACH dry mustard powder and chili powder
1 tsp EACH Worcestershire sauce and honey
2 12oz cans tuna in water, drained 
Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the soup, vinegar, mustard powder, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and honey. Bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the tuna and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Spoon the tuna mixture over toasted buns; top with cheese and green onion, (optional.)


Tips:
Even with the Manwich sauce, I still sauteed some onions and peppers and then added them to the canned sauce with the tuna. It just makes it better!
The original recipe called for one soup can of water, I suppose that is to give it time to simmer while reducing the sauce. I omitted the water just to save time!




Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Joey's Corned Beef and Potato Casserole



  Very often, especially around St. Patrick's Day, people serve corned beef for dinner with the classic side dishes of cabbage and potatoes. But what if cabbage isn't very high on your list of favorites? Do you serve just plain corned beef and potatoes? No! You make this casserole instead!
 Or what if you have a bunch of corned beef and potatoes leftover from your boiled corned beef dinner? What do you do? Well, this casserole is the perfect round two!
 For me, the thing that makes this dish is the fresh dill and the rye bread crumbs. They both bring a fabulous caraway flavor that goes famously with corned beef. The other thing that really makes it is that little hit of mustard. It goes so well with the Swiss cheese and adds a brightness to the whole party. I'm not even kidding when I say that this is one of my favorite things that I've made in quite a long time! Seriously, this has such a fabulously different flavor, I think you should give it a try!



4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups diced corned beef
2 heaping tbs of Dijon or spicy brown mustard (or your favorite)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
3 lbs boiled potatoes, peeled (if desired), and sliced
8 oz shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
buttered rye bread crumbs
chopped scallions, for garnish



Heat oven to 350ºF.
 In a large skillet, melt butter. Add onions and peppers and place over medium heat. Saute until they soften up a bit. Then add garlic, corned beef, and mustard. Stir well. Sprinkle flour over all. Stir until everything is well coated with flour, about 2 minutes. Add milk and stir well. Add chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Stir well, and simmer until thickened. Adjust seasoning if needed.
 While the sauce is thickening, place half of the boiled potato slices in one layer on the bottom of a 9x13 or similar casserole dish. Top with half of corned beef mixture. Sprinkle with half of the Swiss, then half of the Monterey Jack. Repeat all layers. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the buttered rye bread crumbs. Place back in oven until crumbs are lightly brown. Remove from oven and let stand for a good 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped scallions, if desired.



Tips:
To boil potatoes, place them in a pot of cold water over high heat. Bring them to a boil. Since potatoes are different sizes, they will all finish cooking at different times. Test each potato with a fork (not a paring knife) removing each potato from the pot as it becomes tender, starting with the smaller potatoes and ending with the largest potatoes.
To make rye bread crumbs, place 2 or 3 slices of rye bread in a food processor and pulse until they become crumbs. Add some melted butter, then pulse a few more times.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Slow Cooker Corned Beef Brisket


  Do you like corned beef as much as I do? I have to say it's one of the most under-used meats, but it's so delicious! Why do we wait until St Patrick's Day to make it? (I say this about turkey on Thanksgiving too, but I digress...) Frankly, I've never had a corned beef dish that I didn't love. Whether we're talking about a Corned Beef Special (which is a sandwich of sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on rye bread), or your basic Reuben Sandwich (which is basically a hot version of the same thing, only with sauerkraut instead of cole slaw), I love all of it.
 One of the BEST ways (and some would argue the ONLY way) to cook a corned beef brisket is in the slow cooker. You just let it cook low and slow, and you wind up with a brisket that is fall-apart tender and perfectly delicious.
  So, let's talk about recipes and prep, shall we? It's REALLY simple and anyone can do this. And I mean ANYONE! To be quite honest, I never even follow an actual recipe. Basically, you can go with the bare minimum, or go all out for an entire corned beef dinner in one pot. It's flavorful, hearty, and it's comfort food at its best. If you've never tried it, then I'd say now is the time!
Here are a few of the ways that I've tried.

Option A, the bare minimum:
You just place your 3 or 4 pound brisket in the slow cooker, (fat side on top), sprinkle it with the packet of pickling spice that usually comes with it, (you could even add a little more, if you like), then add about a cup or two of water, and set it on low for 8 or 9 hours. You could slice it against the grain, or even pull it apart with two forks for sandwiches. Simple right?

Option B, make it more substantial:
Start the same way as Option A with your 3-4 pound brisket. Place it in your slow cooker, (fat side up), then add whatever aromatics you like. A few cloves of garlic, a sliced onion, a few carrots, a couple bay leaves, some fresh dill. And instead of adding just water, add some beef broth. Slow cook for 8 or 9 hours. Serve with potatoes mashed with lots of butter and cream.

Option C, the whole dinner in one pot:
Start the same way as Option B, with your 3-4 pound brisket and all of your aromatics. After about 4 hours of cooking time, add whole or halved potatoes and/or other root vegetables. Then two hours later, add some sliced or wedged green cabbage. Slice your brisket against the grain, and serve your vegetables on the side.

Variations:
Instead of adding water or broth, try adding an entire bottle of stout and a couple tbs of brown sugar.
I've even substituted apple juice instead of the other cooking liquids and added sliced apples to the party. Then cook it the same way. Low and slow for about 8 or 9 hours.

To make gravy, after it is finished cooking, remove everything from the slow cooker, leaving just the liquid. Whisk in a slurry of flour and cold water to the cooking liquid. Set it to high, and give it a good stir so that the liquid thickens up a little. You can speed up that process by adding some of the strained liquid to a small pot, stir in your slurry of flour and cold water, and then cook it on the stove top over medium heat until it thickens. Be sure to taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings if needed. You probably won't need to add any salt, but maybe a little cracked black pepper.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Guinness Bread


 A few weeks ago, my Kristin invited me over for dinner. It was just a no nonsense Friday night, nothing special going on, perfect night for some delicious home made soup. Not only did she make a tasty and healthy vegetable soup, but she also made a FABULOUS beer bread to go along with it. It got me to thinking, "hey, how come I don't have a beer bread recipe?" So I was inspired to see what different recipes I could find. I didn't want one that used bread flour or yeast because, well, frankly, I never keep them on hand. Clearly this meant that I'd be making a quick bread. I also wanted a recipe that would use an entire bottle of beer. I don't drink beer, so using anything less than the entire bottle would be wasteful. Then I found this recipe on a website called The Black Peppercorn, and it was exactly what I wanted!! It's so easy to make, you don't even need a mixer. Just stir everything together, pop it in the oven, and bake!
 Now, first, let me just say that even though this is not the sort of bread you'd use for sandwiches, this is definitely still a BREAD, not a cake. It does have a little sweetness from the brown sugar, but there is no mistaking that hoppy bite from the beer. It's not overpowering, but it's definitely there. It's fabulous with a schmear of soft butter served alongside a rich and luscious Lamb Stew or any favorite hot and hearty soup. Even better if you toast it first!
 So thank you again to The Black Peppercorn, and of course to my Kristin for the yummy dinner, and also for the inspiration! This is definitely a winner!




3 cups flour 
1/2 tsp salt 
4 tsp baking powder 
1/3 cup oats 
2/3 cup dark brown sugar 
12 oz Guinness 
1 tbsp oats 
1 tbsp butter



Preheat oven at 350ºF.
Grease a loaf pan with the 1 tbs butter. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/3 cup oats and brown sugar. Slowly beat the Guinness into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on the low setting. Do not over mix the batter, but make sure that it is not too lumpy. Pour the batter in the greased loaf pan and sprinkle the 1 tbsp of oats on top. Bake the bread for 50 minutes. The bread is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack until it is room temperature.


Tips:
Not a fan of Guinness? Use whatever kind of dark beer you like! And don't forget that little sprinkle of oats over the top. It adds great texture and chew!


Monday, February 25, 2019

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies



  Ok, I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again. I've never met a salted caramel ANYTHING that I didn't like. There's just simply nothing better than the combination of salty and sweet that you get from the simple addition of salt to a rich creamy gooey caramel. So when I was looking for chocolate desserts and happened to find this one on a blog called Gimme Some Oven, I knew I had to try it. (Full disclosure, I love that name and I wish I had thought of it! haha)
 These cookies taste as rich and delicious as a gooey caramel brownie. And that little pinch of salt over the top just sets everything off in the most perfect way. Enjoy them with a tall glass of ice-cold milk, and you'll be living your best life. I'm not even kidding. Bake up a batch or two, and I PROMISE you'll be a hit!



1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (11 oz.) bag Kraft caramel bits
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
coarse sea salt



Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the caramel bits and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Press each cookie down slightly to flatten, then sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.



Tips:
Very often when baking cookies or a cake, the first step is to beat the butter and sugar together. I always make sure to let it go for much longer than you'd think, just so that it really comes together to make a creamy texture. It's been my experience that letting it go for at least 5 minutes is a complete game changer in all of my baking!
Instead of greasing the cookie sheet, I just lined it with a sheet of parchment paper. It's seriously a cookie baker's best friend. And you don't have to use a new piece every time you go into the oven. You can reuse a sheet many times!
Oh, one other thing...I didn't press mine down to flatten before baking as the recipe directs. TBH, every time I bake cookies they wind up being a little on the flat side, so I was happy that these came out perfectly just by dropping them with a cookie scooper.