Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak

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We eat a lot of chicken and I’m trying to cook more fish, but every once in a while we want a steak. We’re sort of crazy when it comes to grilling steaks. It’s raining outside. We grill steaks. It’s 105 degrees out. We grill steaks. The wind is blowing a million miles an hour. We grill steaks.

I always make a simple rub of freshly ground black pepper, seasoned salt, onion powder, and garlic powder, which I liberally rub it into the meat. But steaks are pretty expensive these days so I decided to look for a less expensive cut of beef and make something completely different.

I came across a recipe from Rachael Ray that was posted on the Food Network web site called Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak. It did not remind me of Indian food as she claimed, but I was intrigued that you toasted the seasonings, which is commonly found in Indian food preparations. It’s an extra step. Is it worth it? We shall see. And as usual, I changed the recipe, which included an adult beverage. I do have to say that the vodka mule looked refreshing, but I skipped it or we would have never had dinner.

Grab all your ingredients. Grate your ginger and garlic. Slice your veggies and skirt steak, which is a little cheaper than a New York or rib eye steak. Slicing the beef early concerns me because I don’t want overcooked meat, but it’s all good and helps you make a quick meal. Also, while this is all going on, make a pot of rice.

In a small skillet, add your seeds: coriander, cumin, and mustard. Toss in your peppercorns. I know it’s a lot of ingredients you don’t use often, but once you make this dish, you’ll want to make it again and you’ll have those spices on hand. After adding these items to the skillet, toast them for about a minute. You should be able to smell them and they are wonderful. Place them in a spice mill and grind. I have a NutriBullet so I use that instead. You can also use a spare coffee grinder. If you aren’t able to grind your spices, you can use already ground spices and skip this step. Combine your toasted (or not) spices with chili powder, garam masala, and turmeric.

Cooking happens quickly. I heated up my large cast iron skillet, but you can use any type of skillet. Just make sure it’s hot because you want to brown the beef so it’s a little crisp, which takes about 2 minutes on each side. Season it with salt, and set it aside on a plate. Next, cook your onions and peppers for about 3 minutes. Add your ginger and garlic. Cook it about a minute. Add the beef back in and toss in your spices. Mix that up and add some apple cider vinegar for acidity.

Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak

And that’s it. You’re done. Overall, I think this is an easy, quick weeknight meal. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients and some prep work, but it turns out that it’s really worth toasting the spices for a more intense flavor. The beef is super tender and the final addition of vinegar elevates the flavors in an unexpected way. Don’t skip this step. Serve with hot rice and enjoy.

Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak
Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak

Indian-Spiced Pepper Steak

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/4 pounds skirt steak
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1-2 Serrano or jalapeno peppers optional
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • canola oil
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • cooked rice

Instructions
 

  • Pat meat dry and thinly slice the meat into strips against the grain of the meat.
  • Add seeds and peppercorns to a small skillet over medium heat and toast a minute until fragrant. Place in spice mill and grind. You can use ground spices instead and skip the toasting step. Combine with chili powder, garam masala and turmeric.
  • Peel and slice red onion. Seed and thinly slice bell pepper. Optional: Thinly slice or chop the fresh Serrano or jalapeno peppers. Seed if you prefer milder food or leave seeds in for extra spicy. Grate or mince ginger and garlic.
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and cook beef in single layer to brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and remove to platter. Add another tablespoon of oil, and add onions and peppers, toss, and cook for 3 minutes. Add ginger and garlic, and toss a minute more. Add beef back to pan, sprinkle in spice blend, toss to combine with peppers, and add apple cider vinegar. Garnish beef with cilantro. Serve beef with rice.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

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Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods that you can make in so many different ways. I like to make a big batch of meat sauce and freeze it for future spaghetti dinners. Or make a bunch of meatballs (Ina Garten’s are the best) and freeze those to serve with jarred sauce and noodles. Along those lines, Cheesy Beef and Macaroni is a delicious and easy weeknight pasta dinner that everyone will love. It’s definitely not fancy. This one skillet dish makes plenty so you can freeze some for another night or just have some leftovers for lunch. This recipe comes from the Kitchn, but I changed it a bit. First off, I split the recipe. You are welcomed to make the full recipe, but I have no idea how it would fit in the 12-inch skillet that the recipe specifies. In fact, I used a 12-inch skillet and it barely all fit.

Gather all your ingredients. You need to chop up a few veggies: red pepper, carrots, and onions. Mince a few cloves of garlic. Grab ground beef, olive oil, a can of crushed tomatoes, and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Measure out your herbs and spices. Shred some cheese or buy it prepackaged. Pretty basic stuff.

Brown the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, drain the fat, and set it aside. A lot of recipes, including this one, don’t have you season the meat, but I think it’s a really important step. Salt brings out the flavor in meat. Use about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat. Throw in a little pepper to balance it out. I’ve found that if you season early on, you probably don’t need to add more salt later.

Add some oil and throw in your veggies and garlic. You’ll cook those until they are slightly soft for about 5 minutes. By the way, this is a sneaky way to add some veggies to your meal.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Put the beef back into the skillet and add your herbs, spices, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and 2 cups of water. Let that come to a simmer.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Once it’s simmering, add the pasta. I love this kind of meal because it doesn’t require you to boil the pasta separately. Oh, and let me remind you that I halved recipe and the ingredients are as close to the top as they should get. How ginormous was their skillet?!

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Cook until the pasta is tender, which is about 10 minutes.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Throw some cheese on top and let it melt. I used a cup of cheese. At the time I thought I could have used more because I was expecting this dish to be more cheesy like mac and cheese, but the amount of cheese was perfect.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

And that’s it! Like I said, not fancy, but a little fancier than your typical spaghetti and red sauce. Super comforting and delicious. Really easy to make in no time. You only use one skillet so clean-up is quick. Win-win.

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red, yellow, orange, or green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Instructions
 

  • Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Crumble and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set beef aside.
  • Wipe out the skillet. Heat oil over medium heat. Add bell pepper, carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Return the beef to the skillet. Add the basil, oregano, tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and 2 cups of water. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and let come to a simmer.
  • Add elbow macaroni, stir, and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, for 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and black pepper as necessary.
  • Sprinkle the cheese on top. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Serve from the skillet.

Hanger Steak with Chimol

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about culture. I don’t have a lot to say about mine and that’s a problem. My mom was from El Salvador, which makes me half Salvadoran. Growing up in California, I noticed that my mother didn’t embrace her culture as one would expect. She tried to blend in, didn’t teach me any traditions, and didn’t cook very many Salvadoran meals. She kept her memories of her homeland close to her chest and hidden. I regret not pushing her more for information, but she never wanted to talk about it.

She also hated cooking so I couldn’t fault her for not teaching me Salvadoran cooking. But she did make a few things and she made them well. She taught me how to cook black beans three ways: soup, refried, and gallo pinto. She baked Salvadoran quesadilla, a slightly sweet dessert made with rice flour and cream cheese. I remember one year when I was 5 she made tamales with some of the ladies from the neighborhood. I sat on a tall stool and watched all day as they did magical things to meats, dried fruits, and banana leaves. I wish she continued that tradition so I could learn, but it’s a lot of work and for someone who doesn’t like to cook, it was not fun, except the camaraderie shared among the women in the kitchen that December afternoon while drinking horchata. We ate tamales for Christmas Eve that night.

A few decades later, I’ve decided I need to learn what I didn’t learn: how to cook Salvadoran food. I’ve searched for cookbooks and came up empty handed. El Salvador is a small country, but I expected to find something. But with all this talk of culture, Bon Appetit has brought diverse cooking to the forefront and wrote an article about Salvadoran food. The article made me emotional, like maybe I’ve found my people. I know, it’s silly, but I found a piece of me that day, something to connect to. I decided to start my adventure on a fairly easy recipe, Hangar Steak with Chimol.

Chimol is a radish salsa that also includes red onions, lime or lemon juice, chiles, and cilantro. Some also add tomatoes, but this recipe left those out. Chimol drew out a distant memory of when my aunt made this icky radish and lemon juice mix every single day. At the time, I thought it was weird, but I think she was making chimol her way.

This recipe is not difficult to make, but making chimol was a little time consuming because of all the slicing and chopping. Combine lime juice along with thinly sliced red onion and serrano chiles (leave the seeds and membrane on for more spice). Grate a couple cloves of garlic (I added 2 cloves instead of 1 in the original recipe…I like a lot of garlic!) and slices of radish. I cut the radishes in half and then with the flat side down, sliced them up. Took a while, but that’s okay. Some things are worth the effort. I do have to say that I only used about 1/2 a chile because I didn’t want to scare away the boys. Next time, I’m going to make my own batch. Also, don’t forget to season it all with salt and pepper.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

When you’re done, it will look something like this.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

I think it looks pretty.

Prepare the grill for the hanger steak. I chose to use a grill pan and do this indoors. Hanger steak might be a bit tricky to find so ask your butcher if you can’t find it on the shelf. They usually have some in back. I thought it was the same as skirt steak and my butcher corrected me quickly. He’s a good guy. Here’s an informative article about the differences if you want to know.

While your grill pan is heating up, salt and pepper the meat and rub it with olive oil. Throw it on the pan on medium high heat. The original recipe has you do this first, but I think it’s better to wait until you’re done making the chimol.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

Cook each side for about 10 minutes for rare, or longer if you prefer. Move it to a large cutting board and douse it with that sauce no one can pronounce: Worcestershire. Apparently it’s used a lot in El Salvador and is sometimes called salsa inglesa, which I’m thinking of calling it that from now on. It’s a lot easier to say. I also learned that El Salvador has the highest per-capita consumption of salsa inglesa. That’s impressive.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes so when you cut it, the juices stay in the meat rather than run all over your board. Cut thinly and serve on warm tortillas with chimol and more salsa inglesa. Yum. The meat is super tender. The chimol is peppery and spicy with the right amount of acidic tang from the lime juice. I thought that it would be weird to have salsa inglesa in a taco, but it complements it perfectly. Definitely a make again.

Hanger Steak With Chimol
Hanger Steak With Chimol

Hanger Steak with Chimol

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • vegetable oil for grill
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1-2 serrano chiles
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 ounces radishes
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 1/4 pounds hanger steak cut in 2-3 pieces
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tortillas

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients: Thinly slice red onions. Depending on how spicy you want your chimol to be, remove the seeds and membrane of the chiles, and thinly slice. Grate garlic. Slice radishes. Rough chop cilantro.
  • Mix together lime juice, red onion, chiles, garlic, radishes, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil. Let chimol sit at room temperature while the steak cooks.
  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Oil grate with vegetable oil. Season steak with salt and pepper, and then rub all over with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Grill, turning once, until deeply browned on the outside and cooked to desired doneness, 8-12 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and generously drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. Let sit 5 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Serve steak with chimol, warmed tortillas, and more Worcestershire sauce.

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

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Unless you are somewhere warm, grilling cheeseburgers outside is probably not high on your list. But what are you to do when you want a delicious cheeseburger? You certainly can fry a hamburger patty indoors, but let’s try something easier and without the grease splatter.

The first time I made these cheeseburger sliders was for a Super Bowl party. I think I tripled the recipe and we had plenty without a lot of effort. This recipe makes a great party food. But I now make these all the time for my family with just a pound of ground beef. Sometimes I include chopped onions, sometimes I don’t. I don’t use lean beef because it tends to dry out in my opinion, but you certainly can use 93% instead of the 80% beef I use. You can also use ground turkey instead.

Grab a bowl. Mix up beef, bread crumbs, finely chopped onion, and salt. Don’t over mix or your burger will turn out tough. You just want to mix just enough so everything’s combined. Are the chopped onion bits all over the place so each bite has a piece of onion? Stop. You’re good.

Press the meat into an 8 x 8-inch pan.

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

You can use any sized pan, but the thickness will vary and so will your cooking times. Next, use a fork to poke a bunch of holes in the meat to help evenly cook the meat. Bake for 20 minutes. When you pull them out of the oven, you’ll notice that the meat shrunk and is in a pool of liquid. Completely normal.

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

Carefully pour the liquid out into a soda can or jar. Don’t pour it down the drain unless you want clogged pipes and your plumber on speed dial.

Top the burgers with slices of your favorite cheese. American cheese melts nicely, but we’ve used cheddar, pepper jack, or even blue cheese.

Stick the pan back in the oven until the cheese melts. Cut into squares the same size as your rolls, place them on Hawaiian rolls (or any sized roll or bun), add your favorite toppings, and tada! A cheeseburger!

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

I like to fry up some bacon while the the burgers are cooking in the oven for bacon cheeseburgers, but bacon bits will do in a pinch. Here we serve them with celery and pickles. That and the ketchup counts as a vegetable.

Do these have grill marks? No. They are oven-baked, people! And they are completely wonderful and delicious. Another easy meal.

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/8 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 9 Hawaiian rolls or slider buns
  • Cheese slices

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt. Gently press mixture into a 8 x 8-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness. Using a fork, poke holes throughout the meat so the meat will cook evenly. Bake for 20 minutes. As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan. When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.
  • Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese. Return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used) about 9 mini-hamburgers.

Instant Pot Beef Carnitas

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I love all things tacos. Taco Tuesday might be my favorite day of the week. One particular week I made these amazing beef carnitas that didn’t take as much time as my slow cooker pork carnitas, and were even better. I don’t remember having any leftovers and that’s saying a lot when we started out with a two pound hunk of meat and there’s only three of us.

This recipe alone is enough justification to run our and buy an Instant Pot. You really won’t regret it. There’s so much you can do with it and it’s not scary at all like those old-fashioned pressure cookers.

This recipe came from an Instant Pot magazine that I purchased when I first bought my Instant Pot. I really should try more of the recipes because none of them have ever failed. I made a few changes, but stuck to the recipe.

Gather your ingredients. Chop up an onion until you have a cup. Cut the meat into large 2-inch chunks. I used chuck instead of the stew meat that the recipe lists. Stew meat is a mixed bag, literally. Stew meat is whatever left over meat cuts the butcher has that are good for braising. Because the meat might not be all the same cut, you won’t get consistent results. Some cuts might be tougher than others all in the same package. It’s much better to just have one cut of meat, like chuck, and stick with that.

There are a lot of seasonings, but you probably already have most of them. If you don’t have ancho chili powder, use your standard chili powder. I actually had ancho chili powder so I’m sort of kicking myself. I couldn’t find it and thought I didn’t have any. Time to clean out that spice rack! Or, maybe I just need to make this recipe again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beef Carnitas

Combine olive oil with your seasonings.

Beef Carnitas

Add the beef and mix it until the beef is well coated. Also add your chopped onion, bay leaf, and broth in the pot.

Beef Carnitas

Add the meat to the pot and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Plan on an extra 15-20 minutes for the pot to come up to pressure. Sounds long, but it’s worth it. Go watch some TV or something. When it’s done, natural release the pressure, which will take another 5-10 minutes.

Remove the beef with a slotted spoon. Transfer the beef to a baking pan, shred it a little, and let it crisp up in the broiler for about 5 minutes. You can certainly skip this step, which I did. It’s less authentic, but I like the juicy chunks of meat just on its own.

Warm up some tortillas, spoon the carnitas onto the tortillas, add your favorite toppings, and enjoy. I think I was a little heavy handed with the toppings, but I swear the meat is down there somewhere. The meat is super flavorful because of the spices and tender beyond belief. I really did not except these results. Another win for the Instant Pot!

Beef Carnitas
Beef Carnitas

Instant Pot Beef Carnitas

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons kocher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho or red chili powder
  • 2 pounds beef chuck cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup onion coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • tortillas
  • your favorite toppings

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Cut up the beef into 2-inch cubes and mix until well coated. Place chopped onion, bay leaf, and broth in the pot. Add beef.
  • Cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. When cooking is complete, natural release to depressurize.
  • Remove the beef with a slotted spoon or large fine-mesh strainer to remove the liquid. Reserve some liquid if you are broiling the meat. Shred or leave in chunks. Serve on warm tortillas with your favorite toppings.
  • Optional: Transfer the meat to a baking pan. Use two forks to shred the beef and spread into an even layer on the pan. Broil about 4 inches away for about 5 minutes or until it reaches the crispiness you like. If needed, add some of the cooking liquid to moisten.

Chili con Carne

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It’s Super Bowl Sunday, but we’re not big football fans. The game is about getting together, listening to the national anthem, watching funny commercials, munching on snacks, enjoying the half-time show…oh and there’s the actual football game. Almost forgot about it. Unless the 49ers are in it, I’m not interested in who’s playing.

This year is different. Not that I get out much, but the last party I went to was our friend’s huge Super Bowl 2020 party. He had two TVs going, a kitchen peninsula overflowing with pot luck items, ice coolers brimming with beverages, and multiple chafing dishes full of Asian deliciousness from his family’s restaurant. There’s much talking, laughing, and small children running about (except my teenager who is bored out of his mind). There’s a little television watching, but mainly it’s about the food and the commercials.

This year is different, I repeat. I just tell myself it’s a different type of Super Bowl where we all should be socially distanced. Please stay home. It’ll be quiet, calm, and sometimes that’s okay. We might have the TV on. I’m going to make some cheeseburger and bacon sliders (recipe coming soon!). I thought about making my chocolate football brownies or chocolate dipped football strawberries, but I just want an afternoon of peace and a little reflection. It’s the year to slow down.

If you read this and have time to run to the store, do it because this dish is amazing and perfect for the Super Bowl. It takes forever to make so you can start mid-afternoon and have something ready by dinner time. Before I made it, I wondered if it was really worth the effort. YES! I’m talking about chili con carne. And it’s not from a can. It’s amazing. I can’t say that enough.

I decided to look up the difference between chili con carne and chili. There isn’t really. I guess if your chili has no meat, you really shouldn’t call it chili con carne, but some people would wonder if that’s even chili. Then there’s the whole controversy of beans versus no beans, which I will not get into. You guys duke that one out on your own.

Okay, enough talking and let’s get down to business. I found this recipe on Simply Recipes, and was really pleased how awesome it came out. I only made a couple substitutions. My biggest complaint is that it takes way longer than 10 minutes to prep. I don’t know who these people are except a chef on Chopped. It took me 10 minutes alone to cut up the meat. So, bottom line, give you yourself at least 30 minutes to bring all your ingredients together.

Chili con Carne

Measure out all your seasonings and place them in a small bowl with some water to make a paste.

Chili con Carne

This recipe calls out for two types of chili powder, red and chipotle. I didn’t want to spend $4 on chipotle chile powder (hello, that cuts into my Starbucks habit) when I already had ancho chile powder (and I have no idea why I did have that). How different can they be? Apparently not enough for this cook. Chipotle chile powder is made from smoked, dried jalapenos. Ancho chile powder is made from dried poblanos, which results in a milder, sweeter chile powder that isn’t quite as smoky or hot as chipotle. In my opinion, either is fine, and if you want, just stick to your standard red chili powder if you want. You might miss some of the smokiness, but you’ll be fine.

Next, get your bacon going in a fry pan while you finish up dealing with your onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes. Squeeze some lime juice and measure out the sugar. You can also drain and rinse some beans, and measure out the cornstarch, which you’ll put aside for now.

When the bacon is done, chop it up into bite size pieces. The recipe calls for you to cook it so you can crumble it, but I like my bacon a little meatier than that. I want substance.

Toss in the meat in batches to sear. Do not be tempted overcrowd the beef all into one pan or you’ll end up with a big pile of steaming meat. Not a good thing. By the way, the recipe says to drain the bacon fat and use a tablespoon for the meat. No way. I’m not going to that mess and it’ll taste better my way. This is not a time to be all healthy.

After you’ve seared the beef, set it aside and start on your onions.

Chili con Carne

Next add garlic and jalapenos. In this household, I usually hold back the spice for the boys, but not this time. Jalapenos really aren’t that spicy if you don’t include the membranes.

Chili con Carne

Next add your spice paste and cook it a little longer.

Put all this fragrant goodness into a large pot or Dutch oven along with the bacon, tomatoes, some water, lime juice, and sugar.

Chili con Carne

There’s a lot of flavors going on here, which is good because you’re going to let it cook for a couple of hours while you “watch” the game, snack, and drink beer. Well, if you’re on the East coast, you might want to make this a few hours before the game and dig in just as the game starts. You can still snack and drink beer. No one’s stopping you and if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s apparently to be day drinkers.

After 90 minutes, uncover the pot and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. When that’s done, you’ll think that you have a watery soup/stew situation going on. But wait! There’s more! Mix up your cornstarch with some water until it’s dissolved (no lumps) and add it to the pot. Throw in your beans (shocking, I know). Add a bit of salt, if it needs it. You might need to add a little more lime juice or sugar, but I didn’t think so.

Chili con Carne

Just in case, dip a corn or tortilla chip into it to taste. If you’re not sure, continue and repeat. It’s pretty much amazing at this point and eventually you should share it with others so take it off the heat, ladle into bowls, throw some cheddar cheese and onions if you like, and serve.

Chili con Carne

This is not your canned chili. I was concerned that I would spend hours making this to discover it’s not worth it. Wrong. It’s totally worth it. Just plan ahead. This is not a weekday meal, but it freezes well so you can have it anytime you want. Now I have to be concerned that the boys won’t want canned chili ever again.

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or chipotle
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 3 strips thick bacon
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck roast cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • salt
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 jalapeno chili peppers stems removed, seeded, membranes roomed, minced
  • 14 ounces whole tomatoes broken up
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 14 ounces red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in a couple tablespoons of water
  • salt
  • grated cheddar cheese and chopped onion optional

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl mix the red chili powder, ancho chile powder, ground cumin, oregano, thyme, and ground coriander seeds. Mix in water so that the spices forms a light paste. Set aside.
  • Cook the bacon in a large skillet on medium high heat until it's slightly underdone. Set aside on a paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the skillet. When the bacon cools, chop it into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  • Increase heat to medium high. Working in batches so that you don't crowd the beef , sear the beef cubes on all sides, lightly salting as you cook the beef. Remove beef from pan, set aside.
  • In the same skillet, add the chopped onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add and cook the garlic and jalapeno for a minute until fragrant. Add the chili paste and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Into a 6-quart thick-bottomed Dutch oven or pot, put onion chili mixture, beef, bacon, broken down tomatoes (break up the whole tomatoes with your fingers as you put them in the pot), water, lime juice, and sugar. Heat the chili on medium high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then uncover and simmer for another half hour.
  • Mix the cornstarch powder into a little water to dissolve the cornstarch completely and add to the chili to thicken it. Gently mix in the kidney beans. Add salt to taste.
  • Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheddar cheese and chopped onion.

Mini Meatball Soup

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Hi everyone! Fall is here and that means it’s soup time. Growing up, we always ate canned soup instead of making our own. I don’t know about you, but when I eat canned soup, I’m still hungry afterwards. I need something more substantial. The best way to solve this problem is to just make you’re own soup, which it’s so much easier than you think. For example, to make homemade chicken soup, you just need some low-sodium chicken broth, chopped up veggies, pre-cooked chicken pieces, and some egg noodles. Boil everything together and you’ve got soup. It’ll also impress your family.

Rachel Ray’s Mini Meatball Soup requires a little more work than that, but is still easy and super delicious. It’s a good week night meal with leftovers if you’re a small family like us. I decided to split it, which made two HUGE servings so we still had leftovers. The recipe below is the full recipe with a few tweaks.

Make your meatballs first. The recipe calls for making them while you’re sauteing your veggies, but there’s no way I can make meatballs in 5 minutes. I’m just not that talented.

Mix up ground beef, egg, minced garlic (mincing the garlic would take me 5 minutes alone), grated cheese (see, now I’m grating cheese!), bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg (secret ingredient?).

Mini Meatball Soup

The original recipe called for a blend of beef/pork/veal, but I’m lazy. I’m sure the combination is better, but this is supposed to be easy and I didn’t want to buy three types of meat. Set this mixture aside.

Chop up carrots, celery, and onions. Grab a bay leaf.

Mini Meatball Soup

Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep-pot or dutch oven for about 2 minutes. Place your veggies and bay leaf in the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to stir it so the veggies don’t stick.

After 5 minutes, added a ton of broth (10 cups!), more than the recipe called for. I also used 100% broth instead of broth and water. I think adding all broth makes for a more flavorful soup. Bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and start adding meatballs. Roll the meat into small balls and drop them in. The beauty is that the balls don’t need to be perfectly round. Just make sure they are consistently sized, about an inch across. When you’re done, add the pasta and stir. Cook for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is tender. Throw in some spinach.

Mini Meatball Soup

When it’s wilted, you’re done. That’s it. See how simple that was?

Mini Meatball Soup

You end up with something that is very reminiscent of Italian wedding soup. It’s hearty, comforting, and perfect for a crisp fall night. And it took you about 30 minutes. Perfect.

Mini Meatball Soup

You can also serve it deconstructed with the veggies push to the side. Sigh…

Mini Meatball Soup
Mini Meatball Soup

Mini Meatball Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta
  • 1 pound fresh baby spinach leaves

Instructions
 

  • Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a deep pot or dutch oven, heat add oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, onions, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Uncover your soup pot and add broth. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat. Roll meat mixture into small 1-inch balls and drop them straight into the pot. When you are done adding meatballs, add pasta to the soup and stir.
  • Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When the meatballs are cooked and the pasta is tender, stir in baby spinach. When spinach has wilted, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

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The final days of summer are gone. It’s officially fall, but the hot, breezy weather isn’t convincing me to bring my sweaters out just yet. There’s still time to grill.

Keeping with that theme, you must try this easy steak marinate. I chose sirloin steak because it happens to be one of the more “inexpensive” steaks. Beef prices have gone up so inexpensive is a relative term compared to the other pricey cuts of beef. Sirloin is not as tender as filet mignon or marbled like a rib eye, but it’s a dependable, lean hunk of meat. It’s the friend that will never fail you.

This recipe comes to you from The Food Network. I changed a couple things, but that’s because I did not plan in advance and did not have fresh herbs. I was too lazy to run to the store, too. Dried herbs are never as good as fresh, but this marinade is pretty damn good so I think it’s fine to use whatever you have on hand.

Make your marinade the night before. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, grated garlic, a trio of herbs, a little honey, and some red pepper flakes.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

In a gallon size resealable bag, add your steaks. The recipe calls for one large 2-pounder, but that’s crazy. I can’t find that anywhere. I plopped in 4 nice pieces totaling to about 1 1/2 pounds. This is plenty of meat for a small 3-person army with leftovers. Reserve a little marinade if you want to drizzle some over your cooked steaks. Pour the rest of your marinade into the bag, and squish the meat and marinade around until the meat is well coated. Seal it up and stick it in the fridge overnight. I like to put it in a glass pan in case the bag leaks. I hate cleaning my fridge, especially after the exploding soda incident. Let’s not speak of that.

When you are ready to grill, remove the steaks from the bag, dripping the extra marinade off, and place on a plate. Heat up your grill or grilling pan in my case because I didn’t want to send my husband out to grill in the unhealthy smoky air. I’m a nice wife.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

What you end up with is perfection. The rosemary, parsley, and oregano give it a delicious herby quality while the sweet honey and garlic/pepper kick rounds it out. Everyone gets along and you end up with summer on a plate.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak
Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • sirloin steaks

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, parsley, oregano, honey, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the marinade in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Combine the remaining marinade with the steak in a large resealable bag. Turn the bag several times to coat the meat. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan to high. Transfer the steak to a plate or baking sheet, letting the excess marinade drip off. Season the steak with salt and pepper. If possible, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Grill the steak until a thermometer inserted into the thickest side reaches 130 degrees F. For a 1 1/2 to 2 inch steak, this is about 16 to 20 minutes for medium rare, flipping every 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it rest 10 minutes. Serve whole or slice the meat to your preferred thickness, against the grain. Serve with the reserved marinade.

Beef and Lentil Stew

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Someone told me I cook a lot of chicken. I’ve never noticed, but I do. I love chicken. What’s not to love? It’s inexpensive and easy to work with. Thighs happen to be my new favorite meat because they are completely forgiving and the hoarders have mostly left them alone. But I do love beef so let’s branch out a bit.

I had a bag of brown lentils that I bought when the shelves were bare of canned lentils and most beans (hoarders!). I never used them because I found canned lentils a few weeks later that I used for another recipe. So I felt obligated not to waste these lentils and use them. But I’m actually really unfamiliar with lentils. It turns out that lentils are the easiest thing to make. They’re a legume and a cousin to the bean. You don’t need to soak them overnight like beans plus they are loaded with fiber and other good stuff. I thought lentils were just another bean, but not so.

With my trusty dried lentils, I made Beef and Lentil Stew from A Spicy Perspective. I made this during early summer, but I plan to make it again this fall when I need something super comforting.

I changed the recipe up a little based on what I liked and had in the pantry. Start by gathering and prepping your ingredients.

Beef and Lentil Stew

In a large pot (like a heavy Dutch oven), saute beef chuck and onions together until the onions are soft. Then throw in some minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Season the meat mixture with some salt and pepper and cook until beef is browned.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Add your veggies, those lentils, beef stock (not broth), and seasonings. I used a half a cup more stock than the recipe called for because I wanted a slightly thinner stew, but mostly these cartons have 4 cups in them and I didn’t want to keep track of a half of cup of stock.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer for at least an hour. Curl up with your favorite beverage and go watch an episode of Tiny House Nation. Episode 3 of season 1 on Netflix was particularly good. Just saying. You’ll even have time to spare.

The stew is ready when the beef and lentils are tender. Fish out those bay leaves if you can. Add some tarragon, salt, and pepper. You’re done.

Beef and Lentil Stew

This stew is fall in a bowl. The soft texture of the lentils with the hearty chunks of beef makes it both luscious and substantial. The veggies round out the dish, giving you all your food groups. Treat yourself to dessert, which is perfectly acceptable after eating this healthy meal.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Beef and Lentil Stew

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef chuck cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 2 celery stalks sliced
  • 3/4 cup dried brown lentils
  • 14 ounces finely chopped canned tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients, such as cut beef into cubes and slice vegetables.
  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the beef and onions for 3-5 minutes until the onion are soft. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until beef is browned.
  • Add the carrots, celery, lentils, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. cover, reduce heat, and simmer, for about 60-75 minutes until the beef and lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the tarragon Add salt and pepper to taste.

SpaghettiOs

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Like Sloppy Joes, here’s another nostalgic dish from my GenX childhood. A few years ago I bought a can to remind myself how amazing it tastes. Ugh. It was awful. Mushy pasta. Flavorless sauce. What kind of meat are in those meatballs? How could it be so bad, so not what I remembered? No wonder my parents didn’t want to waste their money on it, and would make plain spaghetti instead. But I felt like I was missing out.

When I came across this recipe, I just smiled. It has all the good memories of SpaghettOs with the deliciousness that the canned stuff didn’t have. This recipe comes from BA with a few tweets of my own. I split the sauce recipe. I had a few items I needed to use up and I wanted more meatballs. One could never have too many meatballs.

Warning. I didn’t take very many pictures. No gorgeous vegetables. No exotic spices. None of that. We’re down to basics here. Tomato. Pasta. Meat. Grunt.

Make your meatballs. Mix together panko, cheese, seasonings, egg, cream, and beef. Form into little balls. You’ve got yourself meatballs. I wasn’t sure if I’d use them all in the pasta, but they make really good leftovers. Like a meatball sandwich. Or on toothpicks, if we’re going old school.

SpaghettiOs

Time to cook these guys. I grabbed my gorgeous Le Creuset dutch oven. I love this thing. It’s expensive, but you only need one and it’s so durable that I’ll probably pass it on to my son. Hopefully, he’ll cook for himself by then. Right now we’re in the cheese and crackers phase. Another classic not to be overrated.

So, I have a love/hate relationship with meatballs. Mine NEVER stay together when I cook them. Maybe the mixture is too soft? Maybe I’m flipping them over too soon (but I don’t think so)? I honestly don’t know. If I had to do this over again, I’d make my favorite meatballs instead: Ina Garten’s Roasted Italian Meatballs. These never fall apart and are super easy to make.

Cook them up.

SpaghettiOs

Move them to a separate plate when they are cooked. Try not to obsess they aren’t perfect. know that they will taste fantastic.

Now it’s time to make your sauce. In the same pot, you’ll start layering your flavors. Cook up some chopped onion and minced garlic. Add tomato paste and cook. Throw in some spices, a little sugar (yes, sugar….it makes the tomatoes taste better…it’s science…something to do with bringing out the sweetness by toning down the acidity to unripe tomatoes), fresh basil (I’m sure the original SpaghettiOs didn’t use this), and ground tomato sauce. Cook it for at least 20 minutes. If you can cook it longer, you should because it’ll just taste better. It was time to get dinner on the table so after 20 minutes, I gently added my meatballs and meatball pieces, and cooked that for another 10 minutes.

While all this simmering is going on, cook the pasta. You want to use any pasta that looks like rings or is a short tube, like ditalini, which is what I had on hand. Anelleti looks more like rings (I looked it up…I don’t know what all these shapes look like), but I had made macaroni salad a while ago and had a bunch of ditalini leftover. I was tired of it staring at me every time I opened my pantry door.

When the sauce is done simmering and the pasta is cooked al dente. Gently mix together. To preserve what was left of the integrity of my meatballs, I spooned some sauce into the pasta, spooned some on a plate, added a few meatballs, spooned more pasta on top, added another meatball or two, grated some fresh Parmesan cheese, and called it good.

SpaghettiOs

The results were pretty good. Two thumbs up from the boys. The older “boy” laughed at the name. The younger boy thought we were crazy like usual.

SpaghettiOs

SpaghettiOs

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck 20% fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large basil sprigs
  • 28 ounces ground tomatoes
  • 6 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta

Instructions
 

  • Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef. Mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1"-diameter balls, about 24. Transfer to a plate.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet or dutch oven, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.
  • Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and ground tomatoes.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices.Continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5โ€“10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.