Beef Stroganoff – Hamburger Helper Style

Beef Stroganoff H Helper Style

When my kids were young, one of their favorite things to have for dinner was Hamburger Helper. Back then it was easier for me, mom of three, to buy things like Hamburger Helper. They were inexpensive and easy to make especially during the week. Nowadays, I like to recreate things from scratch instead of buying premade foods. It’s not only healthier but it is a challenge for me. I love to be challenged in the kitchen.

The other night, I took out a pound of ground beef for dinner. I asked Scott what he thought I should make for dinner and he said Hamburger Helper Stroganoff. The challenge was on. I thought about what was is stroganoff first. Beef tenderloin, mushrooms, cognac and sour cream are the major players but who has the money for tenderloin and cognac. First, kids would prefer the ground beef and second, they don’t need the cognac. I gathered the other players for my recipe and got started. It came out thick, creamy and full of flavor. Your kids will love it more than the box, I promise.

Here’s how I made it……
Serves 4 – 6

1 lb ground beef
2T butter
1 small onion chopped
8 oz button mushrooms sliced
3 garlic cloves minced
1T dried dill weed
1T dijon mustard
1 can beef consomme
1/2c sour cream
1/4c parmesan
1 small package wide egg noodles

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and thoroughly brown it. If using lean ground beef, add 2T veg oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the butter and onions to the pan. Cook until the onions are soft, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan and cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the dill, salt and pepper. Add the mustard and consomme and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the beef back to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Add salt to the pot of water, then add the noodles and cook according to directions. Drain reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Take the skillet off the heat, add the sour cream and parmesan and stir to combine well. Add the noodles and combine for a minute or so. If too thick add a little of the pasta water at a time until it is creamy.


Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak

Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak

Flank steak is one of the best cuts of beef for marinating and grilling. It is relatively lean so it takes to a marinade well. I think it isn’t used as much as let’s say a sirloin but it can be just as flavorful. Just make sure to cook it to a medium rare and cut it across the grain or you will end up with a very tough cut of meat.

This recipe is simple and easy and made with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Just make sure you start it marinating first thing in the morning for the grill that night. Overnight is ok too.

Here’s how I made it
Serves 4

1 3lb flank steak
2/3c balsamic vinegar
3/4c olive oil
2 cloves garlic smashed
2T stone ground mustard
1T fresh oregano leaves torn
1T rosemary leaves
1t kosher salt
1/2t pepper

In a large ziploc baggie, add all ingredients except steak. Mix well. Add the steak and massage the marinade all over it. Place in the fridge, turning every couple of hours for at least 8 hours.

Remove from the bag and dry with paper towels. You don’t want to grill a wet piece of meat or you will steam instead of grill it. Grill over medium high heat about 4 minutes per side. Don’t overcook. Let rest 10 – 15 minutes before slicing against the grain.

You can serve this alone or make it into a sandwich, tacos, burritos, etc.

Chipotle Chicken Club

Chipotle Chicken Club

I haven’t blogged for a while. Every once in a while I find it good that I take a break. It usually leaves me refreshed and ready to blog although I never stop cooking.

Here’s an easy sammie for those hot nights where you just want to throw something on the grill. If you don’t feeling like grilling, you can always throw the chicken into the oven. It’s spicy and juicy from the chicken and the sauce but the cheese and tomato help to tone that down. It’s really fast and easy.

Here’s how I made it….
Serves 4
4 chicken thighs boneless and skinless
Slices of fontina cheese
3/4c chipotle salsa – recipe follows
1/2c mayo
Zest and juice from 1/2 lime
4 strips of thick cut bacon cooked and cut in half to make 8
8 slices of tomato
8 slices of sourdough bread

Place chicken thighs in a bowl and toss with 1/4c of the salsa, salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 – 1 hour. Place on a grill over medium heat and cook for about 6 minutes on the first side depending on size. flip and place the cheese on the chicken. Cook an additional 6 minutes or so. Internal temp should register 165. If baking in an oven, I would set the oven at 400 and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Place the cheese on the chicken during the last few minutes of cooking. Set aside while you make the sammie.

In a small bowl combine the mayo, lime zest and juice, and salsa. You can either toast the bread first or not. Spread some of the chipotle spread on both sides of the bread. Lay a piece of chicken down on the bottom bread, top with bacon, tomato, lettuce and top with the other slice of bread. (I like to season the tomato once it’s on the sammie.) Enjoy!!!

If you have avocado, you could add that for some richness and creaminess.

Chipotle Salsa
1 chipotle from the can
4 medium size tomatillo husks removed and rinsed cit in half
2 cloves garlic still in their jackets
1/4c water

Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat. When hot add the tomatillos and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and browned. Turn every few minutes. Set aside to cool a bit. Take the skin off the garlic. Place the chipotle, tomatillos, garlic and water in a food processor or blender with a 1/2t salt and blend for a couple minutes. Let cool or refrigerate.

Chicken in Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo Chicken Thighs

Who doesn’t love buffalo chicken wings. It is one of my absolute favorite appetizer to eat. I love the vinegar bite and then the heat that hits the back of your throat. Then cool it off with blue cheese dressing. So good.

But buffalo sauce doesn’t have to be just for wings. Why not make it into a gravy and smother chicken thighs with it? If you love buffalo wings, you will go crazy for this dish. It’s so good, you can eat the gravy all by itself. I know because I did.

Here’s how I made it…..
Serves 4
2T olive oil
8 chicken thighs skin removed
2T butter
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 fresno or jalapeno chili diced – seeds removed
1/2c white wine or chicken stock
1t paprika
1T dijon mustard
1T worchestershire sauce
1c chicken stock
2T buffalo sauce or hot sauce
2 – 3T Wondra flour
2T fresh parsley chopped

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the oil. Brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Add the butter to the pan. When melted add onion, garlic, chili pepper, salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 6 – 8 minutes. Deglaze with the wine or stock and cook until reduce by half. Add the mustard, chicken stock, paprika, worchestershire sauce and hot sauce. Put the chicken back in and bring up to a simmer. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and whisk in 2T of the flour into the sauce. If it doesn’t thicken enough, add the additional tablespoon. Add the parsley and stir. Taste for seasoning. Pour the gravy over the thighs. Enjoy!!!

I served it over lemon herb rice, roasted asparagus and a pear, blue cheese salad.

Ceceilia’s Vegan Lasagna

Vegan Lasagna

A couple weeks ago, I had a contest on my Facebook page where I asked people to give me cooking challenges. Some days it is hard to think about what to fix for dinner especially since I am the type to not cook the same dish over and over. The winner, Ceceilia Gunness, asked for a recipe for vegan lasagna with pesto and eggplant. The reason I found this a huge challenge for me is because I am not vegan and really didn’t know much about it. I have been researching it over the past week to make sure that I came up with a recipe that was completely vegan but tasted good. I have to say that it was a pretty big challenge. The biggest challenge for me was that vegans eat no cheese and I am a cheese freak and I wanted the recipe ingredients to be easy to find so that you didn’t have to go to a specialty store to buy one or more. I think I came up with a pretty good vegan lasagna.

Here’s my recipe…..
Serves 6
1 box no boil lasagna noodles
1 eggplant sliced into 6 slices
2T olive oil
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2t red pepper flakes
8 oz cremini mushrooms sliced
1/2c white wine
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 pkg store bought pesto about 6 oz.
1 pkg extra firm tofu
2 zucchini sliced into 10 slices
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil spray. Lay the eggplant slices on the baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and brown about 8 – 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze with the wine and cook until absorbed. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 6 – 8 minutes.

In a blender or food processor add the tofu and pesto with a 1/4c water. Process until smooth but thick.

In a 9 x 13 pan ladle in a spoonful of the tomato sauce. Top it with a layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the sauce, then the eggplant, then 1/3 of the tofu mixture. Next layer the noodles, 1/3 of sauce, the zucchini, then 1/3 of the tofu mixture. The final layer is noodles, sauce and tofu. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting.

* I topped with a tomato before baking for a fresh taste. You could also use all eggplant instead of a layer of zucchini.

French Onion Grilled Cheese Sammie

French Onion Sammie

I love french onion soup. When I smell onions slow cooking, I am immediately taken back to a cruise Scott and I took. There was a specialty restaurant that we decided to try on the second night of the cruise. One of the first thing I noticed on the menu was french onion soup. I knew Scott would order it but usually I would order something different but I decided to try it. I was hooked. I think from that night on, we ate at this place every night and every night I had the soup. That memory is what inspired me to come up with this sammie.

Here’s how I made it….
Serves 4
3T butter
1T olive oil
2 lg yellow onions sliced
1T fresh thyme leaves
1c grated gruyere cheese
8 slices good quality sliced french bread
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet over medium low heat, add the butter and oil. When melted and hot, add the onions, thyme, salt and pepper. Slow cook the onions until they are completely wilted and have turned a beautiful brown caramelized color. Remove from heat.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

On a slice of bread, pile a good amount of onions. On another slice of bread, add a good amount of cheese. Put bread together. On the outside of each slice, spread a thin amount of mayo. I use this instead of butter. Grill the sammie over medium heat until golden and the cheese has melted. Enjoy!!!!

Easy Spring Marinated Salad

Marinated Salad

Yay spring is here and soon there will be the freshest tomatoes of the year but until then, try this marinated salad. It takes cherry tomatoes and adds a ton of flavor by infusing the dressing overnight. It’s simple to put together and the vinegar brings out the bright flavors of the salad.

Here’s how I made it…..
Serves 4 as a side.
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved (I used yellow and red)
1/2 seedless cucumber sliced then each sliced quartered
1/4 red onion sliced
1 can artichoke hearts drained and chopped
3T white wine vinegar
2T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2T basil (Don’t chop until just before serving)

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, artichoke, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the veggies and toss. Cover with plastic and pop into the fridge. The next day, toss the veggies early in the day and pop back into the fridge. About an hour before serving, chop the basil and sprinkle it into the veggies. Toss and serve.

*If you aren’t a red onion fan, you can wait to put them in the salad until the next morning.