Category Archives: Beef

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Bowl

My current job has a really fun Taco Tuesday tradition. Somehow I didn’t know about this into well into my time there but on Tuesdays, the line practically runs out the door while people wait for their yummy lunchtime tacos. Unfortunately I’m moving on and won’t be there for any more Taco Tuesdays. So, in homage to the cafeteria, PLUS to feed my hungry child, I decided to make my own tacos. In addition, my husband is always a fan of those taco salads that come in the edible tortilla bowl so I decided to surprise him with that treat for dinner too. Success all around! This dinner will satisfy your hungry family for sure!

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

To make the tortilla bowl, I placed medium sized flour tortillas into a brioche pan. I’ll be honest, I have no idea why I have brioche pans because I’ve never made (and possibly never even eaten) brioche (though I want to, after all, it is bread). But anyway, I put the tortillas into the pans, sprayed a light coating of nonstick olive oil spray on them, and baked them in a moderate (300 degree) oven for 25 minutes until crispy and lightly golden. Keep an eye on them because your oven may be quicker than mine and you don’t want a charred taco shell. If you aren’t lucky enough to be cluttering your kitchen cabinets with brioche pans, other pans will work too to create the shell, possibly a small metal (oven-safe) bowl. A quick pinterest search showed me that some people use an inverted muffin tin to get the right shape. So you have options. Or just use the taco filling for soft tacos, it’s still awesome!

Tortilla Shell

For the filling, I cooked onions in a large skillet until softened, then added garlic, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. You can use a jalapeno too if you prefer extra spice. Then I added ground beef and cooked it until it was browned. Finally, I added in a can of crushed tomatoes and let the mixture cook until the liquid was evaporated because no one needs watery tacos!

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

The last step is decorating your taco salad with all your favorite toppings. I stuck with veggies, just some chopped lettuce, tomato, and onions but feel free to dress it up with guacamole, cheese, sour cream, or whatever floats your boat! Picky eaters will love to adorn their own individual tacos.

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

Don’t forget, Cinco de Mayo isn’t too far off…this would be a perfect way to celebrate–with a large margarita of course!

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Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Bowl (adapted from Everyday Food)

Yield: serves 6-8

6-8 medium flour tortillas

nonstick cooking spray

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (I used 4 small onions)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 jalapeno chile, minced (optional)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

salt, to taste (I used 3/4 teaspoon)

fillings for taco salad such as lettuce, tomato, onion, olives, black beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, etc. (your choice!)

Directions:

1. For the taco shell, place the tortillas into a brioche pan, on an inverted muffin tin, or in any oven proof bowl. Lightly coat with the nonstick spray. Bake at 300F for 20-25 minutes, checking frequently to ensure not too browned. Let cool slightly in pan.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and other spices, stirring the mixture together.

3. Add the ground beef to the pan, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until the liquid has evaporated, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

4. Carefully remove the taco shells from the pan and place onto a plate. Fill the shells with the beef mixture and your toppings of choice.

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Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Since my son started eating “real” food, meatballs have become one of the most frequently served dinners in our household. I like to mix it up, sometimes using beef, sometimes turkey, and I use a variety of seasonings and sauces. But sometimes it’s nice to stick with traditional Spaghetti and Meatballs. This recipe doesn’t require hours of your time. It’s fast enough to make for a weeknight dinner though still hearty and satisfying so you feel like you’re sitting down for a relaxing family meal.

Easy Spaghetti & Meatballs

The meatballs include standard ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs (I used panko), garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and an egg white to help bind everything together. Easy so far. I’ll admit this recipe “cheats” a little and includes jarred tomato sauce. I love to make everything from scratch but I have my hands full with a full time job and a toddler and sometimes (okay, realistically, always) there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes to do it all. So jarred sauce it is.

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

After forming the meatballs from the ground beef mixture, I lightly browned them in a nonstick skillet coated with a little olive oil cooking spray. I then added the prepared tomato sauce, spiced it up with a little basil, and let simmer for 10 minutes. I made the pasta while the sauce was simmering and the dinner was ready before I knew it, about 40 minutes max. Save time after work by chopping the onions in advance or preparing the meatballs in advance and refrigerating the uncooked meatballs until you’re ready to brown them. I bet this would freeze well too!

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Like all the meatballs I’ve shared here, my son was a HUGE fan! No leftovers for us! He’s only 18 months old but I’m sensing my grocery bills are going to be nuts when he’s a teenager since he can already down quite a bit! But I love cooking for him. And seeing his excitement when he finds something really yummy, like these Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs, is so worth it!

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Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Cooking Light Five Star Recipes)

Yield: serves 4

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup minced fresh onion

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 jar (about 25 ounces) of tomato sauce (tomato and basil flavor works great), divided

cooking spray

1/2 tablespoons dried basil

8-12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, onion, bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, egg white, and 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Shape into 20-24 meatballs, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides for 6 minutes. Pour in the remaining tomato sauce and add the dried basil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, boil water and prepare the pasta according to package directions. Serve meatballs over spaghetti. Garnish with basil or cheese if desired.

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Curry Meatloaf with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Glaze

I was so excited to participate in this monthly recipe swap through “What’s Cooking?” because I finally met the minimum number of recipes. Just barely but hey, it counts! I was assigned to try a recipe from Ashley of Cheese Curd in Paradise. I immediately went to her blog to check it out and spent an hour reading through her recipes as well as the fun stories about her life that she intersperses throughout. Her son is only a few months younger than mine so I loved that we have similar challenges when it comes to cooking for our families now. I had a hard time choosing which recipe to prepare because several really caught my eye to include the Indian Spiced Meatballs and Red Velvet Cheesecake but I eventually settled on Curry Meatloaf with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Glaze because the flavors sounded really interesting and I know my son does well eating foods with ground meat. It did not disappoint!

Curry Meatloaf with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Glaze

I made a few changes to the original recipe, using panko breadcrumbs instead of crushed up saltines and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk to keep it dairy free. Unfortunately once I took it out of the oven and sliced it there were still some slightly pink parts within so I had to put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes but that was really the only snafu.

Curry Meatloaf with Sriracha Peanut Glaze

The meatloaf was moist and flavorful and the glaze was delicious. The sweet combination of peanut butter and orange juice coupled with soy sauce and a hint of sriracha was fantastic. It was definitely not overly spicy. My son loved it. He had thirds! Can we say growth spurt anyone?! Anyway, we very much enjoyed this unique twist on meatloaf and will definitely make it again. Thanks Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise for sharing your delicious recipe with me!

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Curry Meatloaf with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Glaze (adapted from Cheese Curd in Paradise)

Yield: 1 meatloaf

For the meatloaf:

nonstick cooking spray

2 pounds ground beef

2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper

2 tablespoons minced white onion

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 egg

1/8 cup unsweetened coconut milk (can use regular milk if you prefer)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/8 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 cup ketchup

For the glaze:

1/3 cup peanut butter

2/3 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha

pinch of salt and pepper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine all of the meatloaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until well combined. Press the meatloaf mixture into the loaf pan.

3. Bake for 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small mixing bowl.

5. After 45 minutes, remove the meatloaf from the oven, drain any grease that may be there, then top the meatloaf with the glaze.

6. Return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the center is no longer pink.

7. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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If you like this recipe, also check out Cheese Curd in Paradise for more recipes from Ashley! Thanks to Sarah from A Taste of Home Cooking for hosting!

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

What’s for dinner tonight AND tomorrow? How about Slow Cooker BBQ meatballs? Minimal effort for maximal flavor!

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

We have some weeks that are really crazy. My husband and I can get really busy with working nearly opposite schedules leaving us with minimal time to cook thanks to a clingy toddler who wants to be held all the time and/or climbs up the oven door to check out what’s happening on the stovetop. (He is very familiar with the word “hot” but still loves to explore!) To avoid takeout or quick prepared freezer food every night, we try to do some cooking in advance to have food ready to go. Just pop in the microwave after work and 2 minutes later, dinner is served…

These tasty meatballs fit the bill. They’re great right from the slow cooker, reheat really nicely, and don’t take too much time to prep up front. I’ll give you our meatball recipe if you want to make them “from scratch” but you can totally sub in the already prepared meatballs from the freezer section of the supermarket and just make the quick and flavorful sauce if you really want to do things quick and easy. Aside from a simple dinner, they also make a nice appetizer at a party…though they’re a bit sticky so caution with white shirts and clean tablecloths!

To make the meatballs, combine ground beef (or turkey if you prefer) with panko bread crumbs, garlic, onion powder, black pepper, dried oregano, and some eggs to bind things together. Mix everything really well by hand. When my husband and I first starting dating he made me meatballs but didn’t do such a great job mixing things and hence, “variety pack” meatballs were born, since you never knew which variety you’d get in a bite…so to avoid “variety pack,” mix thoroughly. Form into meatballs. We got 75 small (about 1 inch in diameter) meatballs. Then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes until no longer pink inside.

For the sticky sweet sauce, in the crockpot combine the meatballs, honey, apricot jelly, your favorite barbecue sauce, and 3 tablespoons of your favorite grill spice. We use McCormick Smokehouse Maple because it is both sweet and smoky and imparts great flavor to the sauce. Then turn the slow cooker to high until the meatballs are hot. Our meatballs were cold at the beginning (since we made them the day before and refrigerated them overnight) so it took about 2 hours, but if you make the meatballs then put them in the sauce immediately, it’ll be even shorter. Once the meatballs are hot, turn the slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.

We’ve come back to this recipe again and again to have an easy and tasty meal prepped in advance allowing for quick dinners on crazy weeks!

bbq meatballs

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Slow Cooker BBQ Meatballs

Yield: 75 small meatballs

For the meatballs:

2.5 pounds ground beef

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 large eggs

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Combine the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly by hand. Form into meatballs approximately 1 inch in diameter (a heaping tablespoonful). Place into pyrex baking dishes.

3. Bake until no longer pink inside, approximately 15 minutes.

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For the sauce:

1/8 cup honey

1/8 cup apricot jelly or preserves

3 cups barbecue sauce

3 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommend McCormick Smokehouse Maple)

Directions:

Combine the meatballs and the above ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cook on high heat until the meatballs are hot, about 2 hours. Turn to warm until ready to serve.

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This recipe was featured at the Sunday Sharing Pinterest Party at Adventures with Jude!

Want more meatballs? Try Fajita Meatballs or Gingersnap Meatballs!

Three Bean Chili & Homemade Chili Seasoning

The Super Bowl is almost here and while football is not really my thing, any “holiday” where food features prominently is worth celebrating, I suppose. Chili is certainly a popular football game day dish judging by the zillion or so recipes for chili I found on a Pinterest search. So why is mine worth a try? Well, your whole family can eat and enjoy it. Your mouth will not be ablaze with the fire of 10 million habaneros, however your taste buds won’t be bored either. There is a touch of spice, yes, but the spice level was more than tolerable enough for my toddler, yet the chili was full of flavor thanks to my original spice blend. Also, this chili is quick to make. It doesn’t have to sit in a crockpot all day while you’re waiting to eat. You can certainly let it simmer on the stove for a bit to let the flavors meld or keep it in a crockpot on warm after cooking but if you want to make this chili after work for a weeknight dinner, no problem.

Three Bean Chili with Homemade Chili Seasoning

So here goes…brown ground beef, onion, and chopped bell pepper in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Drain off any excess grease then add in tomatoes and the three beans. To be clear, that’s three types of beans: black beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Then it’s time to add the spice.

Three Bean Chili

The original version of this recipe called for store bought chili seasoning. I opted to create my own. Another Pinterest search revealed a number of posts on homemade chili seasonings so I took the the best from each of them and ended up using dried minced onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, chili powder, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and some brown sugar to balance out the smokiness of the paprika.

Homemade Chili Seasoning

Homemade Chili Seasoning

After all the ingredients were in the pot, I brought the chili to a boil, then let it simmer for 20 minutes. Garnish with whatever toppings you prefer. I just like crushed tortilla chips for the crunchy contrast but sour cream, shredded cheese, or diced jalapenos would all work great. Enjoy the game!

Side note: this recipe serves about 8-10 but if you’re not feeding a crowd, the leftovers freeze really well. Just thaw in the fridge overnight then reheat in a pot on the stove.

Three Bean Chili

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Three Bean Chili

Yield: serves 8-10

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 red or green bell pepper, chopped

2 – 16 ounce cans dark red kidney beans

2 – 16 ounce cans pinto beans

2 – 16 ounce cans black beans

1 – 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles

1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste

homemade chili seasoning (one batch, or to taste) or 2 packages store bought chili seasoning

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed

crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, or shredded cheese to garnish

Directions:

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper. Drain excess grease.

2. Add the beans, tomatoes and tomato paste, chili seasoning, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil.

3. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

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Homemade Chili Seasoning

Yield: enough seasoning for 2 pounds of beef/8 servings of chili

2 tablespoons dried minced chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Mix together all the spices in a bowl. Use right away for chili or store in a sealed jar for future use.

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Gingersnap Meatballs

Did you get too many gingersnaps at your cookie exchange? Did you bake the White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies but not dip them in the chocolate yet? Do you just love gingersnaps and their spicy tangy flavor? Gingersnap meatballs are fantastic year round but they’re an especially good use of leftover ginger cookies around the holidays, even the slightly stale ones at the bottom of your cookie exchange container.

Gingersnap Meatballs

This recipe really is one of my favorites. I’m not a huge meat eater, but this is one of those dinners that I crave. How much do I love this? The night before I went into the hospital to give birth to my son, what did I do? I should have slept. But no, instead I made a big batch of these meatballs to freeze for a treat on one of the (many) nights I was too exhausted from my newborn to cook. Granted in my 9 month pregnant state I’ll admit I ate quite of few of them before freezing but anyway, they’re that good.

Gingersnap Meatballs

The meatballs are fairly standard to start with, ground beef, minced onion, bread crumbs (I use panko), salt, pepper, and some lemon juice and water. I browned them lightly in a skillet then removed them. They still get more cooking time later so they were still a touch pink inside.

Gingersnap Meatballs

The amazing part of these meatballs is their sauce. It’s almost like eating candy! The gingersnap crumbs and brown sugar caramelize and become a thick delicious, almost syrupy, sauce. Combined with the pan drippings from the browned beef, the sauce is unforgettable. After letting the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes, they, too, become delightfully sweet. I like to serve these meatballs over pasta as a nice plain contrast to their sweetness. This recipes doubles well, if you want to freeze some for later…that is, if you can keep yourself from eating the leftovers.

Gingersnap Meatballs

A few notes:

-I use panko bread crumbs because they are dairy free. Other plain bread crumbs would be fine as well

-Save time by mincing the onion in a mini food processor. Since you have to grind up the gingersnaps anyway, you’re not adding extra dishes to wash

-It can be a bit challenging to find dairy-free gingersnaps at the store. Check the organic foods section; I usually have better luck there. Or just make your own…

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Gingersnap Meatballs (adapted from The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking)

Yield: about 25 1-inch meatballs (serves 4)

1 pound lean ground beef

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 medium onion, minced fine

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons margarine or shortening

2 1/2 cups beef broth

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (approximately 15 gingersnaps)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine the beef, bread crumbs, onion, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and the water. Form into 1-inch meatballs.

2. In a large skillet, heat the shortening on medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook until lightly browned and almost cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet.

3. To the pan drippings in the skillet, carefully add the beef broth and remaining tablespoon of lemon juice (there may be steam) and gently scrape the bottom of the pan to combine the drippings with the liquids. Once it comes to a boil, add the sugar and gingersnap crumbs and stir until combined.

4. Return the meatballs to the skillet and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Then stir gently and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes. Serve over pasta.

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Lo Mein

One of the fun benefits of this blog (so far) is that I am rediscovering my cookbook collection (that was the point anyway, right?). We received How to Cook Everything for a wedding gift and honestly I don’t think I really gave it the attention it deserves. I have lots of appetizing cookbooks but this one has a really interesting and unique selection of recipes for normal (that is, not fancy) food that I am excited to cook for my family. Tonight’s selection was lo mein. It was a much healthier alternative to the greasy stuff from our local Chinese takeout place and lends itself to lots of modifications depending on what is in your produce drawer and whether you’re serving a vegetarian or carnivore.

My husband made a batch of this tofu yesterday (I’m sure I will write about it in detail some other time…it’s amazing) so I decided to use it for this dish and go vegetarian for the night. Another nice thing about this meal is that a lot of the prep work can be done in advance making it a quick weeknight dinner. I cut the tofu into tiny cubes and soaked it in soy sauce. I sliced an onion into thin rings, then chopped up a pound of broccoli florets and sliced a red pepper into slender strips. I also minced 2 cloves of garlic and grated about a tablespoon of fresh ginger. It was key to get all the ingredients measured and ready to go up front so as not to slow down the cooking. The quantities are definitely not exact. I also ended up adding a cup of matchstick carrots I found in the fridge. Chopped up asparagus or mushrooms would work fine too. Or maybe some snow peas. The tofu didn’t have to be pre-cooked and certainly other proteins like beef or chicken would go splendidly as well; they just need to be sliced into very thin strips so they will cook fully and quickly when it is time. Once I had everything measured and set up…

set up for lo mein

…it was time to cook.

I boiled slightly salted water in a large saucepan and added 12 ounces of linguine. Whole wheat spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles would also work nicely here. Once it was al dente (it took 10 minutes) I drained it and tossed it with a tablespoon of peanut oil.

While the pasta was cooking I heated my wok on high then added another tablespoon of peanut oil. To that I cooked the onion until it was light brown, then I added the carrots, broccoli florets, and red pepper strips. I cooked them for about 6-8 minutes (go less if you prefer crisper vegetables). I stirred in the garlic and ginger and cooked for another minute or two, then removed all the veggies from the pan.

lo mein veggies

I added the final tablespoon of oil to the wok and carefully poured in the tofu (I tried to put the tofu in first, then the remaining soy sauce to cut down on splattering hot oil). I cooked it for a minute more. If using raw meat this might take a bit longer but again, this is why very thin strips are needed because it will cut down on cooking time. I then added in half a cup of vegetable stock, the noodles, and the vegetables and tossed it together for another minute.

The recipe was a keeper. I think it will be added to our regular repertoire given its versatility. For future I’d aim to get all the vegetables cut up over the weekend after doing our shopping so I can just immediately get to the cooking (and eating) part after a long work day. This lo mein was definitely a nutritious and tasty alternative to takeout!

lo mein

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Lo Mein (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Serves 4

salt

12 ounces dry linguine (or whole wheat spaghetti)

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

8 ounces tofu, beef, chicken, etc., sliced into small, thin pieces

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 pound chopped broccoli florets

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into strips

1 cup matchstick carrots

(Any other veggies you choose)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or chicken stock or water)

The Recipe

1. Boil water in a large saucepan and add salt if desired. Once water comes to a boil add the linguine or other noodles and cook per package directions, about 10 minutes. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, toss with a tablespoon of oil and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet on high. Once it is hot, add the onion slices and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring regularly. Then add the other vegetables and cook for up to 8 minutes, depending on how crispy you prefer your veggies. Add the garlic and ginger and stir in for about a minute. Remove vegetables from the wok.

3. Heat a third tablespoon of oil in the wok on high. Add the tofu (or chicken, etc.) to the wok and cook for about a minute (or if using raw meat, until fully cooked through). Then add any remaining soy sauce and the stock.

4. Add the pasta and vegetables back to the pan and combine, then serve.

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