Tacos are my ultimate go-to food when I’m wondering what to cook with just a few ingredients. A good taco seasoning (without MSG) makes the job even easier! Try this one for a great DIY seasoning mix.
Just fry up some good Lone Star Farm ground beef, maybe add a few peppers and onions or even a jar of salsa if you’re feeling adventurous, add in the taco seasoning, grab a few toppings and you’re good to go!
In our house, it’s a must to have some kind of fresh salsa with our taco feast. Often it’s guacamole or corn salsa like this amazing Chipotle Style Corn Salsa. This past “taco time,” I had a few white peaches on hand, so I decided to make peach salsa. It was delicious and simple! Peaches are in season still for the next few weeks, so now’s the perfect time to take advantage of them! Farms like Weaver’s Orchard and Wolff’s Apple House even sell our beef at their markets, so you can pick up peaches and beef all at once.
Here’s the recipe for the refreshing summer peach salsa:
A fresh summery peach salsa to serve with taco salad.
4-6 tomatoes (Roma tomatoes are best)
½ a red onion
1 bell pepper
½ a jalapeno pepper, or dried cayenne pepper to substitute if needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro
Salt to taste
Chop the tomatoes, peaches, and pepper into about ½ inch pieces. Dice the onion, jalapeno and cilantro very finely - or pulse in a food processor. (Everything can actually be placed in the food processor if you prefer to save time and don't mind a more blended salsa.)
Juice the lime.
Mix all ingredients together and add salt to taste. Serve with chips.
For the taco salad, you’ll need:
1/2 a head of iceberg lettuce, washed and chopped
1 pound ground beef
Optional: diced peppers and onions and/or a jar of salsa
About a year ago, I lived down the street from a Greek Orthodox church in a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Every hour, the church bells would play a hymn, and even though most were hymns I had never heard before, the music filled me with hope and slowed down time. As I toted my groceries back from the store on blustery midwest afternoons, I felt like grace was filtering down over my neighborhood.
Living down the street from this church brought another blessing. Every August, the church sponsored “Greek Fest,” filling the street with a Tilt-a-whirl, a Carousel, many giggling children and the smell of beef and lamb roasted on a rotisserie.
The last August I spent in Chicago, my husband, some neighborhood friends and I decided we finally needed to experience Greek Fest for ourselves. I sat on a ledge with my friends and savored the last of summer and the soft saltiness of an authentic Gyro.
When I miss my Chicago friends, this is one moment I remember.
I can’t bring us all back together again in my new home just yet, but I can attempt to make Greek-style sandwiches reminiscent of the ones we enjoyed at Greek Fest.
The ones I made recently are not true gyros, since those use slow-roasted lamb, but if you are craving a similar soft saltiness and looking for an easy way to replicate gyros at home, this recipe does the trick–and uses up some of that Lone Star Farm beef you either bought on sale or have in your freezer from buying a portion of a Lone Star cow!
Nothing says summer quite like firing up the grill. The smell of grill smoke wafting through the neighborhood brings back so many great memories of lazy summer evenings. Since few of our friends have a grill like we do, we end up hosting a lot of barbecues throughout the spring and summer. What more perfect item to grill than burgers, which have endless possibilities for toppings, as witnessed in our previous article listing SEVEN ways to top your burgers, including:
Blue Cheese Barbecue
Plus, you can make a juicy-lucy burger with the cheese stuffed on the inside, or even make a cheeseburger wrap if you are one of the unlucky ones without a grill. If you’re feeling quite adventurous, you can even make your own pretzel rolls and try two more combinations:
Curry-Feta Burgers with Tomato on a Pretzel Roll
Gorgonzola Stuffed Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers on a Pretzel Roll
Dare I suggest two more burger topping options to add to this already substantial list? I don’t have a choice. They’re just too good.
Bruschetta Blue Cheese Burgers
Bruschetta & Fresh Mozzarella Burgers
Bruschetta is one of my signature dishes. For years I’ve grown tons of tomatoes in my garden. I even got to a point where I had too many tomatoes to make more salsa with (once I reached more than 60 jars!). So I set to work testing a bruschetta recipe that would work for canning, and landed on a truly delicious one. It uses white balsamic vinegar so as not to discolor the tomatoes. I loved the bruschetta recipe so much that I made an entire cookbook with over 25 recipes using fresh or canned bruschetta, which is available online and in-store at Weaver’s Orchard in Morgantown, PA and in-store at Wolff’s Apple House in Media, PA (coincidentally, you can also find Lone Star Farm beef at both of these markets!)
The cookbook shares a recipe for portabella bruschetta burgers with blue cheese, but in my house meatless “burgers” are quite often snubbed, so a burger made of Lone Star Farm ground beef is a much better option to keep everyone happy!
When I first saw the word “pasties,” I automatically added an “r.” Cornish pastries. That sounds delicious! After recent travels through the British county of Cornwall, I can vouch for the fact that Cornish pasties, and Cornish pastries are heavenly (if as “pastries” you count scones with marmalade and clotted cream, a delicacy that’s somewhere between butter and whipped cream).
Cornish pasties were so good that my sister recreated them at home. Below, you can find her recipe, which will make an amazing treat for Memorial Day picnics.
This kind of pasty is pronounced pass-tee, not paste-y (which describes my skin before I managed to get a sunburnt nose in a country famous for its rain). The first form of pasty comes from the same root word as pâté, which can be not only an hors d’oeuvre but also a savory pie of meat or fish.
And a savory pie is what you’ll get when you order one at bakeries in Cornwall. My brother-in-law described the one he ordered as a thick beef stew wrapped in pie dough. The dough is soft with a delicious firm crust at the edge, while the filling is tender without making the dough soggy.
Pasties are a historic grab-n-go meal. “Pasties are thought to have been around in Cornwall since the 14th century,” says the Cornish Pasty Association’s website, “so it’s only natural then that the Cornish have become rather attached to them.”
Stewed beef was a later addition, according to the Great Cornish Food Book, cited on the Cornish Pasty Association website. Before that, the workers who carried this convenient lunch used ingredients that were easier to come by—potatoes, onions and rutabagas.
Knowing that this was a worker’s lunch, it is easy to make the connection between pasties and mining. Traveling through Cornish coastal towns, we saw as many mines as pasty shops. Copper, tin, and other metals drew miners deep into the ground in Cornwall.
“It was the advent of Cornish mining in the 19th century that really brought the pasty into its own and made it an important part of the life of so many Cornish families,” says the Great Cornish Food Book. They were easy to carry. Some even say the miners held the rope-shaped “handle” on the edge of the pasty and discarded it at the end so they wouldn’t eat anything they’d touched with “grubby, possibly arsenic-ridden hands.” Others say the miners wrapped pasties in paper bags or cloth so they wouldn’t have to handle them with bare hands. I’m inclined to believe the second idea. That crust is one of the best parts!
Try them yourself! Here’s the recipe my sister made soon after we returned from vacation.
A delicious "hand pie" - perfect for eating on the run or as a stunning meal for company. For those who prefer a simpler method, store-bought crusts can be used. Just cut them in half first and form into a triangle, or make one very large pasty that serves 2. If you're pressed for time, you can even turn the temperature up and pre-cook the ingredients. Sometimes I microwave the vegetables and pan-sear the beef if I need a quick meal. Be creative. Use olive oil, add other vegetables, meats or cheeses, or even drizzle some wine or beer into your mixture too!
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
½ cup cold water
2½ cups potato, finely diced into about 1 cm pieces (about 3 medium potatoes)
1 cup white cooking onion, finely chopped (about 3 small onions)
1 cup carrots, finely diced (about 3 small/medium carrots
12 oz beef skirt steak, finely chopped (some recipes said you could use chuck roast instead)
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and egg yolks into a food processor and blend until the mixture forms crumbs. Slowly add the water until it forms a ball (you may not need all of the water). Wrap the dough in clingwrap and refrigerate 1 hour
Preheat oven to 350.
On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough. Cut out 6 circles of dough using a large bowl or dinner plate as a template.
Mix together the meat, vegetables, flour and a generous amount of salt and pepper in a large bowl. (Yes everything is raw still!) Ladle into the center of each circle of dough. Add a generous dollop of butter on top of the meat and vegetable mixture. Fold over and crimp the edges with a fork. Cut a few steam holes in the pasty. Brush with beaten egg. Scatter a little bit of cornmeal on the bottom of the pasty before placing on a baking pan to allow some heat to circulate underneath. Put another sprinkle of salt and pepper on top too before baking.
Bake 50 minutes at 350, until golden brown on top and the beef is no longer pink. Allow them to rest 5-10 minutes.
These reheated splendidly in the oven, and I imagine they would do fine being assembled ahead of time and baked later - which would make them the perfect meal to make ahead of time for company.
Dice your vegetables very small – about 1 cm or less than 1/2 inch pieces.
And, if you happen to find yourself golfing in Phoenixville, PA, look for the Wheatley mine on the grounds of the Pickering Valley Golf Course, where you can find this familiar-looking “Cornish stack.” It reminds me of an old saying: “a mine is a hole anywhere in the world with at least one Cornishman at the bottom of it.” As Cornwall was running out of minerals, other countries were discovering them, so many miners left Cornwall to offer their expertise and improve their lot elsewhere. Between 1841 and 1901, more than a quarter of a million people left Cornwall. The Wheatley mine in Phoenixville was founded during that time period: 1850, to be exact.
Every day around 4 p.m., throughout my entire childhood, I would ask my mother, “What’s for dinner?” Four p.m. was, after all, the cut-off point for snacks, so the best way to get through the hour or two between crossing the snack Rubicon and arriving at dinnertime was to imagine what we would be eating. Even if I was at a friend’s house, I would call my mom and ask, “Hey. Mom. What’s for dinner?” (And then of course try to strike a deal with my friend to eat at whoever’s house offered the tastier meal.)
If I did end up at my own table, I could count on a lively dinner. My parents, siblings and I would tell stories from our day. If someone’s story inspired questions, we would fetch the appropriate volume of our 1954 World Book Encyclopedias to answer them. “What was Johnny Appleseed’s real name?” “Can elephants have twins?” “Why is Pennsylvania called the Keystone State?” We weren’t living in the 1950s, but we were living in a pre-smart-phone world and gathered information wherever we could.
Some nights, we would eat beef stew. Not only was it a frugal meal, allowing Mom to use up veggies, it was also a crockpot meal that freed her up for a busy day.
Since beef stew was a staple of my childhood, I love trying new recipes for stew. There’s a sense of familiarity and relief. It’s a familiar process, leading to variations on a basically familiar taste.
This St. Patrick’s Day recipe blends new flavors, stretching the familiar. I can’t imagine my teetotaling mother pouring Guinness into either a glass or a stew back then, but this stew, like hers, is rich, hearty, and full of complex flavors. And it’s a crockpot meal that allows you to go out and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day and come home to a warm meal. If you’re crunched for time, you can skip sautéing the parsnips and onion. You sacrifice a little flavor, but the onion and parsnip will still cook through.
Adapted from Simply Recipes. Skip sautéing the veggies if you are short on time.
1.5 pounds beef stew meat cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup Guinness extra stout
1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds red potatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 parsnips, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Salt and pepper the beef and then brown in olive oil, working in batches if necessary so that all the meat gets well browned. Add garlic. Transfer to crockpot and add all ingredients except parsnips, onions and potatoes.
Saute parsnips and onions and add to crockpot. Add potatoes.
A few weeks ago, when my husband asked what was for dinner, I told him “meatballs.”
“Just meatballs? Not spaghetti and meatballs?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I’m not really in the mood for pasta or marinara sauce, but I have the ingredients for meatballs.”
So my work was cut out for me: find a recipe for meatballs that didn’t call for smothering the meatballs in tomato sauce. (Of course, when you’re in the mood for tomato sauce, spaghetti and meatballs can be quite delicious! Perhaps I had overdone the tomato recipes with my 50+ jars I canned from our garden the last summer).
I already had parsley on hand, so when I found a recipe for Lebanese Kibbeh meatballs, I knew this was what I’d be making for dinner. Instead of breadcrumbs, it calls for bulgur wheat. And bonus! Bulgur wheat is a whole grain, so that’s better for your health than breadcrumbs. It uses some different spices too: cumin, allspice and cinnamon, as well as fresh parsley, garlic and onions. Set aside some of those ingredients and make some delicious tabbouleh too!
The next time I made this, I went all out and made my own hummus (even down to the tahini), plus a tzatziki sauce and tabouleh. I loaded everything into a wrap (either pitas or tortillas work), but my husband skipped the tortilla and just used his fork. Either way is delicious!
When it comes to hummus, I’m not too picky about recipes, although this was the recipe I used this time around. To get creamy hummus, I always use canned chickpeas and remove the shells first (that filmy casing on the chickpea). This keeps the hummus more moist and creamy!
“Yes, I know exactly how to cook that.” Is that your reaction when you come across flat iron steak?
If you’re currently cooking flat iron steak with appetite and aplomb, feel free to skip to the recipe below.
But if you’ve never cooked this cut before, well, then this blog is for you. I hadn’t cooked it until this month, so did some research before I fired up the stovetop. (It was January in Pennsylvania, after all, so I couldn’t fire up the grill!)
After marinating the steak for 2 hours, I pulled it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, which took about 20 minutes.
Why get it to room temp? “Frying will be both faster and gentler if the meat starts at room temperature or above and is turned frequently,” advises Harold McGee in his classic guide, On Food and Cooking. He notes that you don’t want to overload the pan with cold, wet meat. So, being careful not to leave the meat out for an unsafe amount of time, let it come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, make the caper sauce (see below).
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Immediately before cooking, on the stovetop, pre-heat a large pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil over medium heat.
Cook steaks uncovered, pressing the meat down with another pan so that more surface area gets hot faster. You want the surface to brown well.
You know the beef is cooking well if you hear a constant sizzle. You want a “continuous strong hiss,” says McGee, rather than “irregular sputtering.” That continuous hiss was a little unnerving to me, as I’m used to boiling or sautéing on the stove top, not pan-frying, but I was confident in McGee’s advice and simply let the beef sizzle for a while.
I cooked the beef for 2-3 minutes per side so it would develop a brown crust, then transferred it to a 400 F oven to reach desired doneness.
The results proved that flat irons have a deep, rich flavor and are incredibly tender when you marinate them, bring them to room temperature, and cook them evenly.
My latest idea for cooking with beef is a sneaky one. I’ve decided to order beef dishes whenever I go out to eat at a restaurant I admire. That way, I get a chance to see what accomplished chefs–many of them from cultures other than my own–are making with beef. There’s more to beef than steak, pot roast and spaghetti sauce after all! On this plan, I’ve tasted arepas, vaca frita, cuban beef sandwiches, and delicious smoked beef (atop an oven-fired pizza).
Last month, I ordered something I never would have thought to make: a bolognese sauce made with braised short ribs.
Only a few years ago, I would not have thought to look for main dishes with short ribs at all. Ribs were for barbecuing, not for making a fancy main course. Then my sister introduced me to her recipe for Provençal Short Ribs. They take elegant to a new level. Making them is certainly an all-day or all-afternoon activity, but that only adds to the sense of accomplishment.
I liked making fancy short rib dishes so much I soon attempted Short Ribs with Chocolate and Pancetta. This one’s elegant, too, with a chocolate flavor much like chocolate stout (not like chocolate Christmas candy). The chocolate adds layers of flavor–rich and slightly bitter.
Those recipes prepared me to expect great things when my dish arrived. And I savored every mouthful. It was full of old world flavor–wine, mushrooms, tomatoes, and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
I had to replicate it a few weeks later. This version uses a crockpot so that chopping vegetables and searing ribs are your main task at the start of the day, and enjoying and preparing the gnocchi are all you need to do at the end. It’s so good it would make a wonderfully fancy new year’s meal.
When I was about five years old, my mom gave me my first advent calendar. Each day, I awoke with anticipation. When would Mom say it was okay to pry open the perforated cardboard door to find the candy inside? I lived whole hours within those minutes between waking up and tasting that chocolate. No chocolate since has tasted so good.
I often wish I could revive that childhood sense of anticipation each advent, even though I would not be eagerly awaiting candy but the much sweeter chance to celebrate what the season is all about.
But isn’t it hard to keep a sense of anticipation when we are so busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas? When you’re busy, you never have to wait for anything—in fact, you wish you could delay whatever events are on the horizon so you’ll have more time.
It can help to have a repertoire of easy meals lined up between the big meal at Thanksgiving and the big meal at Christmas. That way, even if everything else is crazy, you don’t have to go crazy in the kitchen too.
Here’s one that came to the rescue for me recently: Mexican Skillet Chili. You brown the meat with some onions in a big skillet, dump all the other ingredients into the skillet, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Really, it’s not much more time-consuming than ordering pizza. It makes a delicious filling for burritos, which has the added perk of making it stretch to feed more people.