Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hamburger Casserole (aka Hash)

I think every family has a version of this recipe.  This is mine.  All amounts are approximate, since I don't usually measure anything for it.  Cheese is actually optional.


  1 tbsp oil
  1/2 to 1 lb lean hamburger
  1 14fl oz can tomatoes (or 3 medium fresh)
  3/4 lb fresh mushrooms
  1 cup frozen peas
  1/2 cup corn or chopped carrots (or both!)
  1-1/4 cup macaroni, dried
  1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I use the pre-grated stuff Ian uses to make tacos).
  1 onion, chopped
  1-3 cloves garlic, minced
  2 tbsp paprika
  1 tbsp ground coriander
  Salt & Pepper


  1. Start the macaroni cooking.  It usually takes about 10+ minutes. Follow package directions, and add a little oil to the macaroni after you drain it, if the hamburger is not ready.
  2. Chop the onions, mince the garlic, and chop the carrots (if you're using them).
  3. Warm the olive oil in a nonstick wide skillet (use more oil if you don't have nonstick) over medium heat.
  4. Add the onions, garlic, and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent.
  5. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms have shrunk and the excess water has evaporated.
  6. Add the hamburger to the skillet and brown the hamburger, crumbling it up as it browns.
  7. Add the spices and stir for a minute or so.  The spices will absorb the excess oil, and in doing so will make the flavor great.
  8. Add the canned tomatoes (or fresh).
  9. Reduce heat and cook until the macaroni is done, or for about 15 minutes. 
  10. When the macaroni is done cooking, add it into the skillet and stir well.  Continue to cook the 15 minutes.
  11. At the end of the 15 minutes, add the peas and stir well.
  12. Cook for another 5 or so minutes, until the peas are done
  13. While the stuff is cooking, grate the cheese if it's not already grated.
  14. Just before eating, mix the cheese in, stir until the cheese melts, then eat it.                               
Ian likes to add parmasean cheese to it too, but I'm fine without. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Spice Mixes & Crock Pots & Pork Chops

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the newer crock-pots are a lot hotter than the older ones.  Looks like the FDA came in and set some sort of minimum heat level guidelines, and so the manufacturers had to respond.  Now, I'm not complaining, but if you just bought a new crock-pot, be aware that it will cook faster than your old one.  Not that it's fast, but still.  Anyway.

I have long loved the spice mixes you can get from Penzey's Spices, and one of my favorites is the Pork Chop Seasoning.  I love Penzey's because they don't put junk in their spice mixes, and this pork chop seasoning is no exception.  The description (which matches the label) lists the following: fine salt, hickory smoke, garlic, onion, white pepper and ginger as the ingredients. They have single spices and herbs, the seasonings like the one above, and a variety of speciality & salt-free seasonings too.

All this to get to the main point of this post - a super easy/ super lazy way to make some really good pork chops in the crock-pot.

    1 pork chop per person (Ok, 2 for the teen-ager if the pork chops are small). I used frozen boneless pork chops.
    Penzey's Pork Chop seasoning
    1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce per pork chop
    1/2 stick of cinnamon (maybe a bigger piece if you have more than 6 chops)
    4 or 5 whole cloves (easier to find and dig out)

The quick version: 
    Sprinkle the pork chops with the seasoning then layer them with applesauce in the crock-pot.  Add some cinnamon stick and whole cloves and let simmer on low until done and tender.

  1.  Sprinkle the pork chops with the Pork Chop Seasoning and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. Hunt for the applesauce (last time I used two of the single-serve cups), cinnamon, and cloves, and get out the crock-pot.  Use a crock pot that will be at least 3/4 full when you put the pork in. (I use a 1.5 qt crock-pot which fits two thick boneless pork chops very nicely)
  3. Put the first pork chop flat on the bottom of the crock pot, and pour the 1/3 cup of applesauce over it.
  4. Set the next pork chop on top of the applesauce on the previous pork chop, and continue until you have layered all the chops with the applesauce.  The applesauce should cover over the top of the last pork chop.
  5. Break the cinnamon stick in half and place it in the applesauce that has come out from between the chops.
  6. Sprinkle the cloves over the top of everything.
  7. Plug in the crock-pot and set on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours.  The meat should have an internal temperature of 165ºF, and be very, very tender.
  8. Carefully take the pork chops out of the crock pot, then scoop the applesauce out and serve over the chops.  
That's it! Enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oven Roasted Cabbage

Cabbage: it's not just for St. Patrick's Day! Oven roasted cabbage is a surprisingly simple, tasty, and inexpensive winter side dish.  

There are only four ingredients.  Cabbage, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Shred the cabbage. I tried using a food processor but found it to be faster to use a knife.  
Bonus:  less equipment to clean up.

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat. It’s going to look like a lot, but it cooks way down. And you'll wish you had cooked two heads. Ok, maybe one will be plenty.

Layer it all on a baking pan and cook at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

There should be plenty of brown bits when it's done. The brown bits are the best part.

This stuff is good. Really good.

1 head shredded cabbage

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Toss all ingredients together and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything is cooked evenly.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is an old, old recipe from my old, old Betty Crocker's Cooky Book ( ©1963)! I like it for a couple reasons - first, because it isn't attached to any one brand of chocolate chips, and second, because it makes about 3 dozen, using a 6 oz bag of chocolate chips.  Which just happens to be the size of the bags of the Scharffenberger chocolate chips, and is plenty of cookies for Ian and me.  You should double this recipe if you are using a regular (12-14 oz) bag of chips.

2/3 cup shortening (part butter or margarine) -- I use 1/2 cup plain Crisco, plus 2-2/3 tablespoons of butter.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 six-oz package semi-sweet chocolate pieces (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I usually omit these - Ian doesn't like them and I don't care)

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (quick mod).  (use 350º if you have a convection oven combo)
  2. Mix shortening, sugars, egg, and vanilla thoroughly.
  3. Stir dry ingredients together (add 1/4 cup more of flour for a more rounded, softer cooky) and blend in.
  4. Mix the nuts (if using) and chocolate pieces in.
  5. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough about 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until delicately browned (cookies should still be soft)
  7. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheets.
  8. Makes 4 to 5 dozen 2" cookies (I only get 3 dozen, but I think they are bigger than this)
Thanks to Susannah Skyer Gupta for the lovely photo (above) she took of the cookies she made (with nuts) using this recipe.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gluten Free Gingerbread Cake House

Helen and Luke like to decorate gingerbread houses at Christmas time so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try this recipe.  One of the things I liked about it was that it spelled out all the ingredients rather than calling for a “gluten free flour blend”.  I haven’t baked gf enough to have a favorite blend, so I like a recipe that calls for specific amounts of each flour/starch.

The recipe calls for “sweet rice flour”.  Another name for this is “glutinous rice flour”.  I find most of my flours and starches at a local Asian market.  Much cheaper than the gluten free baking aisle of the local grocery store.

The recipe also calls for buttermilk which I never have.  I do, however, always have these two ingredients on hand: 

Mix together 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in 1 cup of milk.  Let it sit for five minutes before using it in the recipe.

Look at this beautiful batter.   If that doesn't scream gingerbread, I don’t know what does. 

A couple of years ago I bought this nifty Nordic Ware Gingerbread House Bundt pan.

I use cooking spray to grease it well.  Gets all of those nooks and crannies.  It took 55 minutes at 350 degrees to cook completely.
After it came out of the oven, the challenge was to get it out of the pan in one piece.  Success!  Or so I thought...

 When I went to trim a little off of the bottom to even it out:

Disaster struck.  Magnitude 8.2 quake? 

The flavor of the cake is very good.  One of the biggest problems with gluten free baked goods is that they’re very crumbly.  Luckily I had a couple of traditional spice cake mixes in the pantry so gingerbread house decorating was able to go on as scheduled.