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    Entries in cans are evil (8)

    Friday
    Apr052013

    Mexironi and Cheese

    Although I’m pretty sure this dish probably falls into the casserole category, since Hubby and Seeley are both casserole-phobes, I will avoid using the dreaded c word.  To be fair, I think cans of crap thrown into a dish and baked, ruined that word for a lot of people.  Call it what you will, it’s easy and tasty, and that’s what matters. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • ½ lb. pasta
    • ½ lb. ground beef
    • ½ onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 2 Tablespoons green chilies  
    • 4 oz. cream cheese
    • 1 cup grated cheese
    • 2 Tablespoons sliced green onions
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • ½ cup water 

    Since this recipe uses half of a lot of things (½ lb. pasta and meat, ½ of an onion, ½ can of tomatoes and green chilies, and ½ pkg. of cream cheese) it is very easily doubled.  It makes quite a lot, though, so just be sure you have a large enough vessel for it.

    First up, get your pasta boiling.  Cook it according to the package directions, minus 2 minutes, then drain it and rinse it with cold water.  You want it to be a little underdone because it will soften up more during the baking process.  I used one called mezzi rigatoni, which is basically half length rigatoni, but any large-ish pasta will work.  Next, place a tablespoon of oil and the onion in a pan over medium heat. 

    Sprinkle on ½ teaspoon salt, and cook the onion until it’s translucent, then add the garlic. 

    Cook that for another minute or two, and then add the ground beef. 

    Break that up with your spatula as it cooks.  When it’s browned, sprinkle on the chili powder and cumin.  (I use extra lean beef, but if you use something with a higher fat content, you’ll want to drain any excess rendered fat first.)

    Stir that in and add the tomatoes. 

    After those come the chilies. 

    Stir that all together then reduce the heat a bit and pop a lid on for about 10 minutes.  Stir every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. 

    During that time, cut your cream cheese into cubes.  After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add the cream cheese. 

    It will slowly melt as you stir it in.  (I know, it doesn’t really look that pretty at this stage, but trust me, it gets better.)

    Add ½ cup grated cheese along with the green onions and cilantro.  Because cass… I mean dinners like this… are meant to be easy, I used pregrated cheese.   

    Once all of that is incorporated, it’ll be a bit on the thick side.

    Stir in ½ cup hot water.  There, that’s better. 

    Add your cooked pasta.  Oops.  See what I mean about a large enough vessel.  Imagine if I had doubled it. 

    Stir that together.  Somehow I managed it without making too much of a mess. 

    Pour the whole thing into a buttered baking dish.  A 9x13 works great. 

    Spread it around and cover with foil.  Now, at this point, you can go ahead and bake it, or you can make it ahead of time up to this point, refrigerate it, and continue on from here when you’re ready.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake, covered, for 25 minutes.  (if it’s been refrigerated, add 10-15 minutes)  Uncover, and sprinkle on the remaining half cup of cheese. 

    Back into the oven for 15 minutes.  By then it should be nice and bubbly and just starting to brown on top. 

    Sprinkle with a bit of fresh cilantro and dig in.  Even if you have casserole haters in your family, give this a try.  I bet they’ll like it.  Hubby even had seconds! 

    What was the best/worst casserole you grew up on? 

    Friday
    Nov162012

    "Green Bean" Casserole

    So I was talking to Hubby about the fact that I’ve totally neglected Thanksgiving posts this year.  He said I should make green bean casserole, which is kind of ironic considering he doesn’t like green beans or anything even resembling a casserole.  I know green bean casserole is a very traditional side for Thanksgiving, but I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan a green beans either.  Not to mention the canned crap it’s usually made with. Hubby suggested I use asparagus.  Why not?  I love asparagus.  I shouldn’t admit this in public, but I’m pretty sure he’s a genius.  So, if you like your traditional green beans, you can use them, or broccoli, or cauliflower, but I’m sticking with asparagus. 

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 lb. asparagus
    • 3 or 4 green onions
    • Handful of crimini mushrooms
    • 3 Tablespoons butter
    • 3 Tablespoons flour
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 2 cups milk
    • ½ cup cream
    • 1 teaspoon salt  
    • ½ teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican if you have it)
    • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
    • ½ teaspoon onion powder
    • ½ teaspoon garlic powder 

    For the onions: 

    • 1 onion
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 cup flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt

    The first thing to do is slice the onion.  Cut the onion in half (I like to leave the root end on to hold it all together) and make very thin slices. 

    Repeat with the other half. 

    Separate the slices and place them into a shallow dish like a pie plate.  (If ever there was a time for onion goggles, this is it.) Measure out 1 cup of buttermilk.

    Add ½ teaspoon of salt.

    And ½ teaspoon of pepper.

    Stir that together and pour over the top of the onions. 

    Toss the onions to make sure they’re all coated, then cover them and set them aside.

    Now onto the star of the show, the asparagus.  After it’s washed, bend each stalk and allow it to break where it will.  Anything below the break is tough and goes in the trash. 

    As for the rest, cut them into thirds and throw them into a large bowl. 

    Next up, the mushrooms.  I always wash my mushrooms. 

    I know, I’ve heard all the nonsense about water making mushrooms soggy or tough or whatever else it’s supposed to do.  Well, quite frankly, I don’t believe any of it, and regardless, I’ll take my chances.  If any other piece of produce looked like this, it would be getting a good bath. 

    Cut your mushrooms into chunks.  Do what you want with the stems.  I didn’t want to deal with trimming them, so I just discarded them. 

    Add them to the bowl and slice your green onions.  I ended up with maybe ¼ cup. 

    And into the bowl. 

    Now it’s time for the cream sauce.  As I’ve mentioned before, condensed cream of blech soups are nasty and not allowed in my home.  It just isn’t that hard to make a cream sauce.  In a pan over medium heat, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter.

    When it’s completely melted and bubbling, sprinkle over 3 Tablespoons of flour.

    Stir those together until they look something like this.

    Sprinkle in ½ teaspoon of black pepper. 

    Stir that around for 45 seconds or so and then pour in 2 cups of milk.

    Stir that together, then add ½ cup cream, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon each of dried oregano, dried parsley, onion powder, and garlic powder. 

    Stir constantly until it comes to a boil and begins to thicken. 

    Remove it from the heat and pour it over your bowl o’ veg. 

    Stir that until everything is evenly distributed and pour it into a baking dish.  Smooth out the top and set it aside while you get back to the onions. 

    Preheat your oven to 450°.  In a storage bag, mix together 1 cup flour and ½ teaspoon salt. 

    Remove the onions from the buttermilk and allow the excess to drip off.  (if you’re planning to make savory biscuits, that would be a fabulous second round use for this buttermilk)

    Drop them into the flour. 

    Inflate the bag like a balloon and shake shake shake. 

    You should end up with something like this.  If you start getting sticky clumps, add more flour and shake some more.

    Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it liberally with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the onions around trying your best to get close to a single layer. 

    Spray the onions liberally with the same cooking spray and into the oven they go.  9-10 minutes is all it will take for them to be browned and crispy. 

    *Warning, the oven at this temperature is hot and even with no smoke can send up a wave of air hot enough to set off the fire alarm, thereby scaring the bejesus out of the dog, for which it will take many treats to be forgiven. 

    Now back to the casserole part of this.  Turn the oven down to 350° and place the pan in, uncovered for about 50 minutes.  It will be nice and bubbly and starting to brown on top. 

    Give it a good stir then chop your crispy onions into slightly smaller pieces and sprinkle them over the top.  (Obviously it wouldn't be the same, but you could save yourself some work and probably get a similar effect by mixing panko with melted butter and onion powder and sprinkling that over the casserole before baking) 

    The heat emanating from the casserole will warm the onions, so just leave it to cool for a good 20 minutes, and serve or put it on the table with all the other fabulous sides you’ve made.  You will be blown away by what a difference it makes to skip the can and make your own. 

    What is your least favorite Thanksgiving side dish?