Beef Barley Soup

Hey there– Soup!!  Glorious soup!  It’s finally cooled down enough here to put on a big bubbling pot of soup (although I’m still waiting for a chilly night to make a fire in the fireplace).  This soup’s rich and hearty and with a spot of salad and a chunk of wheaty bread, it makes fine fall supper (with leftovers for lunches!).

BEEF BARLEY SOUP
2 tab. olive oil
1 pound beef chuck steak (or stew meat)*
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tab. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
4 cups water
2  14 oz. cans beef broth
3/4 cup barley
2 tab. cornstarch (optional)

Salt & pepper the beef and cut it into smallish pieces.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Put the 1/4 cup flour in a plastic bag and add the meat.  Shake until the meat is coated and then drop it into the hot soup pot.  Cook until the beef’s browned all all sides.  Take it out of the pot and set aside.

In the same sop pot, drop in the onion and carrots (add a little more oil if the pan looks dry).  Cook for 5 minutes until the onion and carrots start to get tender.

Then add in the garlic, tomato paste and basil.  Stir it up.  Next pour in the water and beef broth and then return the meat to the pot.  Bring to a low simmer and cook 45 minutes until the beef is tender.

Add in the barely and simmer 45 minutes more until the barley is soft and yummy.

If you like your broth thicker (I do!), you can combine 1/2 cup water with 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it until it is thoroughly blended and stir it into the bubbling soup until it thickens– 2 or 3 minutes.  Enjoy!

*I used chuck steak because it was on sale at the market.  The recipe I worked from used stew meat & it may take a little longer to cook before the meat is tender.

Mongolian Beef

Hello all–  We’re nestled in for the night here in Madison Wisconsin.  Loved our Laurel and John’s “Wisconsin wedding weekend in the woods!”  plus a little woodsy hiking and a lot of water-parking with grand-girls since then.  So actually, I haven’t been cooking up much lately!!

But here’s super at our house back in California a couple weeks ago.  Rich brown sauce wrapped around tender chunks of beef –all over brown rice.  Simple and so good.

MONGOLIAN BEEF
1 cup brown rice
2 tab. cornstarch
1 pound flank steak
2 tab. olive oil
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled & minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
1 cup brown mushroom, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
garnish: green onion, chopped

sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

Put the rice on to cook according the directions on the package.

Then put the sauce together.  In a container with a tight fitting lid shake together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and 2 tsp. cornstarch until it is thoroughly blended.  Set aside.

Cut the flank steak into 1/4 inch strips.  Toss it in a bowl with the 2 tab. cornstarch.  Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet. And then drop the meat in an even layer int he bottom of the skillet.  Cook on high for just about a minute on each side so it has a nice crisp char.  Remove to a plate.

In the same skillet, drop in the ginger and onion.  Cook 2 or 3 minutes until the onion is translucent.  Then add in the mushroom and garlic and cook a couple minutes more.

Give the sauce ingredients one more good shake and then pour it all into the hot pan over the onion mixture.  Stir until it thickens and then add in the beef.

Layer the cook rice and beef & sauce onto a plate.  Sprinkle the top wit green onion.  Done!

Baked Taco Stacks

Hello all–  Do you love tacos as much as we do around here??  I saw this recipe and it reminded me of the big taco stack that old Mrs. Neely would bring to the church suppers when I was small.  I remember waiting in line and hope hoping there would still be a slice for me left when I got to the table…

These are little individual stacks of that same memorable dish– hot from your oven.  Add a little sour cream, some avocado.  Delish!!

BAKED TACO STACKS
1 pound ground beef
1/2  yellow onion, chopped
2 tab. Taco Seasoning
1 cup corn kernels*
14 oz. cn petite diced tomatoes**
18 small “street taco size” corn tortillas
1  1/2 cup grated cheddar or colby jack
garnish:  sour cream, avocado, cilantro leaves, hot sauce.

Salt the bottom of the skillet (to prevent sticking) and then drop in the ground beef and chopped onion.  Cook chopping the beef to bits, until the beef and onion are nicely browned and cooked through.  Drain any fat rendered in the pan.

Stir in the taco seasoning, corn and tomatoes to the beef.

Spray a baking sheet with a rim with cooking spray.  Layer a tortilla, then the beef mixture, then a little cheese.  Repeat 2 times to make a 3 layer taco stack.  Do this whole stack process 6 times to make 6 little stacks.

Tent the tray with foil (try not to touch the tops of the stacks with foil) and pop it into a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Take off the foil and cook 5 minutes longer.

Garnish the stacks with a spoonful of sour cream, cilantro and avocado.   Serve hot sauce or salsa on the side.

Beef & Eggplant Ragu

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Hello Pasta Loving Friends– We were talking about–“If you had to eat just one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you pick?”  There were Vietnamese fans (those noodles!) and Chinese (so much variety!), but I was torn between Italian (pasta & gelato, of course) and Mexican (just because that’s what we eat in So Cal).

So for you who love pasta as much as I do, here’s a rich, thick, savory sauce to pour over the top of your favorite angel hair or rigatoni.

And thanks to Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen for this recipe — been reading her warm and friendly posts for years…

BEEF & EGGPLANT RAGU
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground sirloin
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 Chinese, eggplant, cut to small pieces
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. finely minced rosemary
16 oz. pasta
garnish: parmesan romano, grated

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and then add in the chopped onion.  When it starts to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Then add in the beef, chopping it in the pan with a wooden spoon, until it is all crumbled.  Cook until it is browned and then add the eggplant.  Cook 4 minutes more.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and rosemary.  Leave it uncovered on a low simmer or 20 to 30 minutes until the flavors are melded.

While that’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta and layer it on a large platter, topped with the ragu.  Sprinkle on the parmesan romano and serve it steaming hot.

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Beef Tenderloin with Apricot & Olives

IMG_7678Hi all– A few days before Christmas the Fed Ex man came to my door with a huge white styrofoam box.  What on earth?  Did Larry order something mysterious?  I slit it open and it turned out to be packed goodies from a steak/meat company– A Christmas gift to us from my mom!  You have to admit she’s great at imagining gifts we’d love.

So I tucked it all in my freezer and have been doling out this luscious meat a bit at a time.  This week I tried a new recipe that I’ve had in my file forever, just waiting to test it out.  And it turned out to be just right with the tender, juicy Christmas gift tenderloin–the briny olives and sweet sauce that begged to be sopped up with a sturdy chunk of bread. Delish!

BEFF TENDERLOIN WITH APRICOT & OLIVES
1 cup white rice
1/4 cilantro, chopped (or your favorite herb)
1 pound beef tenderloin, cut in friendly chunks
splash of olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tab. tarragon vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have on hand)
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup mixed good olives*
6 oz. bag of baby spinach

Cook the rice according the instructions on the bag.  Set aside in the pot to keep it warm.

While that’s cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet and then drop in the chunks of beef. As  it’s browning liberally salt and pepper the meat.  Cook on high for just about 5 minutes until the pieces are browned but still medium inside (please don’t overcook the meat like I usually do!).  Remove the steak from the pan.

In the meat juices cook the garlic a minute or two.  Then add the vinegar and preserves.  Cook about 3 minutes more.  Then add in the meat, olives and and spinach.  Stir on the heat just until the spinach starts to wilt and the meat is warmed though– only a minute or two.

Stir the cilantro into the cooked rice and serve of the rice an meat on the same platter– Be sure to scrape all the lovely apricot sauce out of the pan!  Makes 4 polite servings.

*I have to admit I’m a bit of an olive snob (blame it on all those olive filled years we lived in Spain!).  I don’t mind buying store brand products or shopping at the most affordable store in town.  But when it comes to olives, splurge!  Please don’t buy those salty hard ones in the jar.  Thank you.

Tamale Pie

IMG_8071Hi everyone– I’ve been eating this tamale pie for as long as I can remember.  It was a staple in my mother’s kitchen.  Since I’m too busy (lazy?) to make Christmas tamales, I whipped out this recipe when the Monday night friends came for dinner this week.  I love this stuff.  Not sure if it’s just the nostalgia of good old tamale pie or if it jus tastes so warm, savory, spicy great!  Anyway here’s the recipe ( a version of the 1950’s favorite)

TAMALE PIE

Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can corn
1 14 oz. can small black olives
1 package Lawry’s taco seasoning

Brown the ground beef in a deep pan.  Strain off all of the fat that’s rendered.  Then mix in the tomato sauce, corn, olives and taco seasoning.  Simmer on low, low heat while you make the topping.

Cornbread topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 egg
2 tab. canola oil
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ones.  This will be thinner than regular cornbread batter.  Pour the meat mixture into a 9″ square pan and then drizzle the cornbread batter over the top.  Bake it all at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the cornbread is golden and the filling is bubbly around the edges.

Garnishes:
sour cream
salsa
green onions
chunks of avocado
cortijo cheese
cilantro
grated cheddar

Pick the garnishes you like best and pile them on your tamale pie when it’s steaming hot ready to eat on your plate.  It’s just good old fashioned good food.