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.
I grew up with one sister, but now thanks to marriage I have 5 sisters. Sisters are a great resource for recipes. On so many holidays we’d savor each other’s recipes and tuck a few of our favorite recipes written out on index card into each other’s stockings. When my recipes all feel a little blah, I can email a sister and get some awesome recipe inspiration.
This is what happened the other week while I was Facetiming with a sister-in-law. She was in the middle of making beef stew – a recipe she had gotten from another sister-in-law. It was a gravy-style beef stew, similar to my favorite beef stew recipe, but instead of calling for beer like my recipe did, it called for red wine.
Since I had some stew beef in the freezer and was eager to try a new recipe with it, this was the perfect solution!
The original recipe calls for bouillon cubes, which often include MSG, to which, incidentally, that sister and I are both allergic. If this is the case for you, try making your own beef stock using soup bones and our beef stock recipe or make your own powdered vegetable bouillon cubes.
Serve over potatoes (baked or diced and baked or sauteed) with a side of a roasted green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts.
1 bouillon cube, 1 tablespoon powdered vegetable bouillon (recipe noted above) or 1 cup beef stock
3 tablespoons cornstarch
freshly cracked black pepper
1½ cups dry red wine
salt (to taste)
Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired
Dutch Oven Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a Dutch Oven on a stovetop, add olive oil and turn to medium heat. Brown beef in batches and set aside. Add onion and garlic and deglaze the pan.
Return beef to Dutch Oven. Add stock or bouillon and pepper and stir.
Sprinkle with cornstarch and stir until coated.
Add wine and stir. Transfer Dutch Oven to oven and allow to cook for 3-5 hours.
Add beef, onion, garlic and oil to crockpot. Add stock/bouillon and pepper and stir. Sprinkle with cornstarch and stir until coated. Add wine, cover and allow to cook 5-6 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low.
A table can be a comfort. A restaurant can be an island set apart from the cares of life. When my husband and I moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida at the end of May, I needed just such an oasis.
“What is Port St. Lucie like?” Friends asked me before we moved. “I mean, is it a city, or the country, or what?”
“It’s just houses and strip malls and palm trees as far as the eye can see,” I said.
So after I moved, I needed an oasis because much of the Port St. Lucie landscape is monotonous. I looked for egrets and sandhill cranes by the roadside canals, just to break the relentless ugliness of supermarkets, office supply stores, pawn shops and fast food restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the convenience of being within a ten-minute drive of the nearest Target as much as the next person, but that convenience has its price, and in so many suburbs the price is an endless vista of bland uniformity.
So imagine my delight when my husband and I stepped into a local Cuban restaurant on our anniversary this past June. We had parked in a strip mall parking lot and entered through a strip mall door, but once we were inside the restaurant, I felt like I was in someone’s home. Bamboo shades blocked my view, and my memory, of the parking lot. White tablecloths adorned the tables, and antique chairs beckoned. The bar looked like it came from the set of Key Largo. I could smell savory seared beef.
A server joked with us like we were old friends. Life slowed down. I saw only vistas of beauty and comfort.
I looked at the menu and ordered vaca frita—“fried cow.” The Spanish language tells it like it is.
I don’t think it was just the fact that I felt so at ease in this restaurant that made the beef taste so good. Vaca frita is an amazing meal that starts with slow-simmed beef that is then fried in oil. The beef isn’t breaded the way most fried food is, but it gets crispy nonetheless.
Later that night, I texted a Cuban friend of mine: “I ate something called fried cow. It was so good I almost wept.”
A few weeks later, I had to try making vaca frita myself with Lone Star Farm’s skirt steak, sold in their freezer packs. I hope that whenever I serve this meal, my table will also be a comfort, creating an oasis for whoever eats there.
You know what arepas are, right? No? Oh, good! Neither did I until this summer (and neither, apparently, does spell check).
This summer, a friend of mine mentioned a new local Venezuelan restaurant that served $6 arepas on Wednesdays, and even though I had no idea what an arepa was, spending $6 on a nice sit-down dinner with friends sounded just fine.
When Arepa Time arrived, I discovered that the arepa meal was much like a standard American “barbecue” sandwich with pulled, seasoned meat. Only, instead of being served on a Kaiser roll or other hearty bread, the meat was wedged between two arepas, which are kind of like English muffins made with a special kind of cornmeal. And the delicious seasoned beef inside my arepa was topped with smoked gouda and avocado.
I knew right then that this was a meal I needed in my future.
Unfortunately, the whole reason we were getting together with friends that Wednesday was to say goodbye because we were moving far away. Far away from good friends and from this newly discovered treat.
I would just have to learn how to make beef arepas on my own. This has proved much easier than making new friends. I was astonished at how simple it is to make arepas at home, and how deliciously soft and buttery they were. The beef roasts for 3-4 hours in a Dutch oven, but once you’ve browned it, you hardly have to think about it again. And the arepas themselves are easier to make than most bread! I am hoping to make this delicious Venezuelan cornbread for some new friends in our new locale soon, but this savory, buttery meal will continue to remind me of the last evening we shared with these friends in our old neighborhood.
Beef recipe adapted from The Candid Appetite; Arepa recipe adapted from Gluten Free Girl. If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can brown the meat in a saucepan and then transfer it to a baking dish and roast 3-4 hours, or transfer to a crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours.
Taquitos are usually deep-fried, but this Mexican meal using ground beef from Lone Star Farm bakes to perfection in about 15 minutes.
Here are some factoids to help you feel even better about each savory (and especially filling) bite in this Zucchini Beef Taquitos recipe.
Zucchini isn’t ordinarily blended with beef, but these taquitos are a great opportunity to add some garden nutrients as you cook. The shredded zucchini bulks up the taquitos well in combination with the beef. Once the meat is more browned, the zucchini tends to match the shade of the beef. For anyone who has kids who aren’t quite in love with zucchini yet, rest assured that it’s almost entirely undetectable by the tongue and is mostly hidden away in the beef and seasonings.
Some nutritional perks of zucchini are fiber, magnesium, manganese, calcium, folate, potassium, copper and phosphorus as well as vitamins B1, B2 and B6; vitamins A and C also make special appearances as bonus benefits. While zucchini is often treated like a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit, so if it could talk, it’d probably identify well with how the almighty tomato knows the same botanical confusion.
And since it’s often said that in some cases fresh produce loses the potency of its nutrients when cooked, it’s good to know that “a cup of cooked zucchini gives you more calcium, potassium, vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin K than raw zucchini does.”
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s nice to learn that corn tortillas in this recipe join in fiber, phosphorus, copper and manganese. You don’t always expect that of something like tortillas.
When you make this recipe, it serves 4 people with 3 to 4 taquitos each, but bellies often become so full after you eat the second and third ones that any side dishes almost seem unneeded. With this in mind, you might be able to stretch the recipe to feed more than just 4 people, and this is all the more likely if you do decide to prepare more than just the taquitos. Adding veggies, starches or fruit as separate portions of a meal might be another way to extend the full-belly factor across more family and friends as you’re putting this together for lunch or dinner.
For anyone who has an iron deficiency, pay attention to ground cumin. It is incredibly rich in iron, to the point that one teaspoon alone has 22% of the amount a body needs daily.
Enjoy testing out this recipe. Remember, responsibly raised local beef is a form of love to its community, and zucchini can share some of that palate-hugging affection with its nutrition-savvy elements in this mix.
Shred zucchini in a cheese grater or food processor. Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Join together the zucchini, beef, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder cumin and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until beef is no longer pink, being sure to stir frequently. Remove the blend from heat.
Spread the tortillas out on two large baking sheets in slightly overlapping rows. Warm the tortillas in the oven for two minutes. Remove the tortillas, and put them on a plate.
Coat the baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil. On a flat surface, sprinkle a tortilla with one layer of cheese, then spread ¼ cup beef mixture in a thin layer across the tortilla. Sprinkle with more cheese, and tightly roll it up. Repeat this with the other tortillas.
Place each taquito facing with its side-seam down onto the baking sheet. Brush the tortillas with olive oil, and be certain to spread adequate olive oil on the edges—not enough olive oil on the tortillas may lead to dry and lightly burned ends.
Bake the taquitos until browned and crispy, approximately 15 to 17 minutes. Once removed from the oven, allow the taquitos to cool for a few minutes.
Serve with a crave-worthy salsa, guacamole and sour cream or some plain Greek yogurt.
I’m a food tourist. I’ve decided to embrace this. While I love to unwind by a lake front or see the view from a mountain top, one of the most memorable parts of any trip is the food that the region has to offer.
Globalization has made a lot of America look (and taste) the same, and yet when I lived in Chicago, I couldn’t get a decent hoagie and would have gotten strange looks if I ever tried to order one. And when I lived in Pennsylvania, nobody had pizza that tasted quite the same as a Giordano’s deep dish.
So when I travel, I look for food that’s unique to the region. I’m in Florida right now, so that means BBQ, gator meat (it tastes like very juicy chicken, I promise) and authentic Cuban food (I’ve just got to figure out how to make amazing authentic vaca frita- “fried cow”- for an upcoming Lone Star Farm blog article!).
And a few weeks ago I was in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and that meant Juicy Lucys. Before this trip, I had never heard of a Juicy Lucy. Have you? It’s basically an inside-out cheeseburger, with all the cheesy gooey goodness in the middle of the burger instead of slapped onto the outside. It makes the whole burger a lot cheesier.
Our friends took us to Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis, home of the original Juicy Lucy… depending on who you ask. Others will say this famous burger got its start at the nearby 5-8 Club. After trying one, though, you’ll just be glad somebody thought to stick some cheese between two thin burger patties because it sure is good. Make it this Father’s Day!
If you haven’t noticed yet, we’re a little obsessed with Philly Cheesesteaks. Why? Well, obviously they are delicious. What’s better than beef smothered in cheese? Philly Cheesesteaks take it to the next level with hot and/or sweet peppers and sauteed onions and/or peppers. And then there’s those fluffy Amoroso rolls. Or are there? Perhaps the Philly Cheesesteak taste can be achieved without the empty carb of the roll.
Enter: Philly Cheesesteak Baked Potatoes.
Since I’ve been trying to find ways to cut out “bad” carbohydrates, I’ve started looking for other alternatives. Sure, you may be thinking “but aren’t potatoes a carb too?” Yes, they are, but according to Livestrong.com, they fit the criteria to be considered a “good” carb. That’s because they contain fiber, vitamins and minerals, all of which help prevent your blood sugar from spiking and allow you to feel more sustained fullness.
So last week I made these delicious Philly Cheesesteak baked potatoes. They rocked my world. Why?
Baked potatoes beg for delicious toppings – and sometimes a change from the regular ol’ sour cream, cheddar and chive topping is quite welcome! I used Yukon Gold potatoes too, which achieve a much smoother interior texture than the more dry Russet potato, and the exterior became nicely golden brown.
Plus, the option to use ground beef makes them so much more versatile! I use up my portion of chip steak all too quickly from my Lone Star quarter cow, so I’m always looking for things to do with ground beef!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke potatoes all over with a fork. Brush with olive oil and set in a casserole dish. Bake one hour until potatoes skins look nicely golden brown. (You can speed this process up by microwaving them first and then transferring to the oven if time is of the essence).
In a large sauté pan, sautée onions in 1 tbsp. oil until translucent - or even until caramelized, according to your preference. Set aside in a small serving bowl
In the same pan, sautée the peppers with 1 tbsp. oil. Set aside in a small serving bowl. (If you plan to serve the onions and peppers together, you can sautée the peppers once the onions are about half-way cooked).
In the same sautée pan, brown the beef. Set aside in a serving bowl.
Arrange cheese on a plate and put hot and sweet peppers in serving dishes.
Set all ingredients out on table and let everyone build their own baked potato cheesesteak with the toppings of their choice.
These quesadillas. They have become legend in our house. When we talk about good dinners we have enjoyed recently, these quesadillas top the list. And whenever we mention these quesadillas, we’re silent and dreamy for a moment, remembering the salty taste of the seasoned beef and the spicy, creamy cheese sauce. Then we snap out of it and our conversation resumes.
We love quesadillas. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t. They are one of those easy meals where the finished combination of cheese and tortilla is even better than the sum of its parts. Kitchen chemistry at its finest.
Because they’re so easy to make, quesadillas are also easy to elevate. It’s easy to spend just a few more minutes in the kitchen to play with the basic cheese and tortilla combo: to brown and season some meat and whip up a queso blanco sauce, for instance.
You can even get fancy with the drinks since the meal itself is simple.
Or you can have wonderful friends who volunteer to make fancy drinks. When we enjoyed these Beef Quesadillas with Queso Blanco Sauce, my friend Stacy joined us and brought with her some horchata she had spent hours making. She made this cold drink using rice and almonds, grinding them up, covering them with hot water, letting this mixture soak overnight, and then straining it in very small batches the next day. The resulting horchata was rich, creamy, and refreshing and brought an ideal balance to the spicy meal. I think I told her twice that the horchata was “heavenly.”
With horchata, a side of black beans, and a tall stack of beef quesadillas, you will be all set for a meal you’ll dream about for months to come.
In a saucepan over low heat, stir heavy whipping cream, cheese, yogurt and half of the spices together, continuing to heat and stir until melted. Be careful that it does not burn.
Brown beef with garlic and add remaining spices and chiles.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Assemble the quesadillas: Spoon beef off-center inside the tortilla, drizzle cheese sauce over the beef and fold the tortilla in half. Fry the quesadillas until golden brown, flipping once.
Top with chopped tomato, cilantro, and drizzled queso blanco sauce.
Several people who know what was going on in the Talbot kitchen on Thursday afternoon might raise an eyebrow at this title–including my husband, my sister, and the friend I took a walk with the evening after my first beef wellington attempt.
Really? Beef wellingtons are that easy? Then why did you have to try them again and perfect the recipe before sharing them on the blog?
Well, here’s the thing.
You should always get your recipes from someone who has tried a recipe, not been entirely happy with it, and then remade it successfully. Then they will know exactly how to avoid the problems you are most likely to encounter!
After a little trouble-shooting (already done by yours truly), these little pockets of beefy goodness really are easy–and fancy–enough to serve as part of your Easter menu!
So what is beef wellington anyhow? And how can you make this delicious dish in a simple yet elegant way, so that it will easily grace your Easter table?
A beef wellington is, traditionally, “a preparation of fillet steak coated with pâté and duxelles”–a mixture of chopped mushrooms– “which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.”
Think of the most elegant empanada you can imagine. That’s a beef wellington.
I decided to make mine with spinach and feta rather than pâté and mushrooms. Spinach felt more like springtime.
Now, what went wrong the first time, and how can you avoid it?
Problem: Prioritizing the Pastry
First, the recipe I used prioritized making the puff pastry look perfect. That was pretty silly. After all, the hearty center of this recipe is the beef, not the pastry! Because the recipe prioritized the pastry, the beef was not as tender as it could have been.
The Simple Fix: When I remade this recipe this morning, I followed my tried-and-true roasting method and pan-seared the beef to lock in the flavor, and then proceeded with wrapping the beef and baking it.
Problem: Too Salty!
Second, the recipe called for pancetta. Glorious pancetta. What could go wrong there? Well, pancetta is pretty salty, and the saltiness took over the more subtle flavors of beef and spinach.
The Simple Fix:
I opted for a spinach-and-feta mixture that uses onions and garlic to maximize the savory flavor blend without extra salt. I turned to another tried-and-true element here and used the same filling I use for spanakopita. I know that you can use this mixture with pastry and not have it turn out too salty!
Problem: Sticky Egg Wash
One final problem: The egg wash, which again, prioritized the pastry and made it look gorgeous, stuck to the pan and made it hard to remove the beef wellington.
The Simple Fix: Parchment paper! Parchment paper can withstand baking temperatures of up to 420 degrees, so it’s safe to use for this recipe and super convenient for clean-up!
So, go ahead and add this recipe to your Easter menu! It’s impressive and elegant, and we’ve done thorough troubleshooting! The spinach-feta and beef combination is absolutely irresistible!
Surround beef with feta-spinach mixture, wrap it in cling wrap, and freeze it for 30-45 minutes so it is easier to work with!
Materials: microwave-safe cling wrap, parchment paper
2 lbs sirloin steak
2 puff pastry sheets
20 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound feta, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until soft and golden (about 8 minutes).
In a colander, wring out the well defrosted spinach so that is is quite dry. You don't want the spinach to add much extra moisture that would make the beef wellington soggy. Combine spinach and feta. Add herbs, spices, onion and garlic. Set aside.
Cut beef into individual portions, about 2-3 inches wide. Brown on all sides in a heavy pan. Set aside until cool enough to work with, and then pat dry to remove any excess moisture.
Spread out 6 individual portions of cling wrap, large enough to wrap around the beef, and spread the spinach-feta mixture evenly on top. When beef has cooled slightly, place it in the center of the spinach-feta mixture and wrap the beef so that the spinach-feta surrounds it. Place in freezer for 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a generously floured surface, roll out puff pastry and cut it into six individual portions large enough to completely surround the beef. Brush with egg. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
When beef is ready (i.e., the spinach-mixture clings to the beef), place the plastic-wrapped beef in the center of the puff pastry and remove and discard the cling wrap. Now wrap the beef in the puff pastry, place seam-side down on the prepared cookie sheet and brush with egg.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and beef reaches an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees.
Tacos feel like summertime, but citrus fruits, like the many limes these carne asada tacos call for, reach their peak when it’s winter in Pennsylvania.
That’s the first thing that makes these Carne Asada Broiler Tacos a winter delight. Here are three other reasons:
They’re super easy! Just a few ingredients, many of which you probably have on hand, and you’re on your way. And not only that, they’re convenient to make ahead of time. You can marinate them in the morning and all of the spicy, zesty flavors will have seeped into the steak by dinnertime. That’s good news for busy winter evenings, and good news as the short month of February flies past our eyes in a flash….even if it is leap year!
February is the month when winter really starts to drag, at least for me. By February I’m ready to see some crocuses. I’m ready for more daylight. I’m ready to trade in grim gray landscapes for some sparkling bright green grass. Tacos feel like summertime, and I need a hint of summertime this month. I need some LIMES, with all their dancing zesty party flavors!
Flank steak! This steak is a lean, flavorful cut. It lends itself to marinades, becoming more tender after marinating at least 2 hours.
Ready to get your end-of-winter taco party started? Here we go!