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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A hearty cheeseburger soup for cool weather

This is one of those recipes you have to fiddle with to suit your own tastes, and I have adjusted the ingredients below from the recipe I found on Pinterest. But I served it to guests the other night, and the enthusiasm was contagious. It makes a bunch, so tomorrow I'll take leftovers on a visit to my brother and his wife at their ranch--I expect it will be even better. I'll take sour cream (because I forgot to stir it in the first time) and chicken broth, in case it needs thinning--which I doubt.

2 carrots, grated
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 cups potatoes diced (for three people I used two large baking potatoes--surely not eight cups)
3 cans chicken broth (I measured about 45 oz. from some in the freezer and then from the boxed kind  you buy at the grocery--don't like canned)
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
1 lb. hamburger meat (I used ground sirloin)
1/2 c. milk
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1/4 c. sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat, drain and set aside. Dice the potatoes, grate the carrots, and chop the celery and onion. Melt 1/4 c. butter in a large pot; saute the onions and celery until clear.Add carrots, hamburger, potatoes and chicken broth (you can cook the potatoes at least partially beforehand and then it all goes faster). Simmer until vegetables are tender--but potatoes must be fork tender at this point.
Melt remaining 1/4 c. butter and stir in flour. Add to soup to thicken. Stir, then add the cheese in chunks and the milk. Stir until cheese is melted. Simmer in crockpot the rest of the day. Just before serving take it off the heat, add sour cream, stir and serve immediately.
I peppered this generously and sometime during the day tasted it and decided it need a good dose of salt. I was afraid the cheese would be too salty, but not so.
Serve with crusty bread and a nice wine. Oh, heaven! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Cuban dinner on the porch--no ocean, no jungle

The ocean in front and a jungle behind us were all we'd have needed tonight to set the Cuban atmosphere. But what we had was oh so pleasant--a nice breeze, just the right temperature, and dinner with two good friends on the porch.
I fixed a Cuban pork dish which I didn't realize Elizabeth had eaten before until she said, "I think that's my favorite thing of all the dishes you make." So simple, but you have to start it well ahead of time and pay attention toward the end. (I got to sipping wine on the porch and almost missed that part.) This is a recipe I first learned from an employee probably 25 years ago, but I have since found the same instructions in a magazine.
Use 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. untrimed pork butt. If the butcher will cube it for you, great, but I find their idea of cubes is much bigger than mine, and I usually end up cubing the cubes. Bring 2-1/2 cups water and 1 Tbsp. salt to boil. Put the pork in and turn to a simmer. Let it cook at least 1-1/2 hours, usually more, until the liquid is evaporated; the pork will then brown in its own juices and you have to turn judiciously.
While it's cooking, mix 1/3 c. lime juice, 2 crushed cloves garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp. cayenne (I'm not a fan of cayenne and left this out). Serve as a dipping sauce for the pork, but also serve lime wedges on the side.
I thought I had enough for Cox's Army and was makng noises about leftovers, but the recipe says "Serves four" and we three had very little left over.
As a side I served black beans which were sort of an experiment. I used a medium size can, rinsed and drained; added 3 crushed garlic cloves (by mistake--thought I was putting them in the lime juice but it turned out great), 1 small onion chopped, and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Let the whole thing simmer almost as long as the meat cooks, so that the juices thicken.
You can also serve rice as a side dish with this but Elizabeth made us a simple spinach salad with olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing, dried cranberries, and roasted almonds.
And, with Sue, my Fort Worth adopted daughter and former neighbor, we indulged in girl talk about loves and life. What a pleasant evening.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stuffed cabbage the easy way

Have you ever made stuffed cabbage? The original way, passed down by someone Hungarian? I have--you layer cut garlic clovers all over the bottom of dish, then painstakingly peel off cabbage leaves, keeping them intact if possible (no small chore that!) and soften them in boiling water. Then put a Tbsp. or so of a delicious rice, meat and tomato sauce mixture in each leaf, roll into a small package and hope you can lay it seam side down on the garlic. When you have rows of those little bundles, cover the whole thing with tomato sauce. Time? Oh, about three hours. Frustration? Priceless.
When one of my sons was in high school he loved stuffed cabbage and begged for it. I found a way of doing it that is much easier.
Start with a whole head of cabbage. Remove the outer tough leaves; then carefully remove two large leaves, keeping each in one piece. Core the cabbage and discard the core. Then carefully scrape out the interior of the cabbage, leaving about a 1-inch thick shell. Dice the cabbage  you've removed.

Make tomato sauce: Mix
one 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with liquid
one 6 oz. can tomato pate
1 Tbsp. brown sugar,
1/4 tsp. salt,
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1/8 tsp. ground allspice

Separately, in a Dutch oven, over high heat, saute:
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 cup diced cabbage

When meat is browned and cabbage tender, stir in 1 cup of the tomato sauce and 1 cup cooked rice.

Fill cabbage shell with beef mixture. Cover the opening with those two reserved cabbage leaves and tie securely with kitchen twine.

Into the same Dutch oven you used for the meat, pour 1/2 cup red wine, scraping to loosen browned bits. Add remaining diced cabbage and tomato sauce. If mixture seems dry, add water a bit at a time. No more than 1/2 cup.

Place stuffed cabbage, stem side down in, in sauce; heat till sauce boils. Reduce heat to low and simmer until cabbage is tender, about an hour and a half.

To serve, place cabbage in a deep platter, discard string. Spoon sauce over cabbage. Let the cabbage collect itself a minute and then cut into wedges to serve. Pass remaining sauce in a gravy boat.  The image above sort of gives the idea, only I put the cabbage open side down--makes it easier to pour the tomato sauce over it and to serve in wedges.

Makes 6 servings. Great hearty one-dish meal for cold days.