Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper


This is a super-simple way to make "Hamburger Helper" at home, and YOU control the ingredients ... PLUS it tastes so good! The very first time I saw this recipe over on Chickens in the Road, I knew I wanted to make it and I am so glad I did. Quick, easy, one-skillet dish, ready in 30 minutes or less.

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tbls. corn starch
1 tbls. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Method
Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain. Add hot water, milk, pasta and corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and paprika.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time.

When the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, turn off heat and uncover. Let mixture stand, uncovered, about five minutes. It will continue to thicken as it stands.

You can make your Homemade Hamburger Helper in advance by pre-measuring the pasta. Place in a sandwich-size baggie. Snack-size baggies are perfect for the sauce mix. The measured pasta can be used in a number of Hamburger Helper varieties. Just label the sauce mix so you’ll know what you’re picking up then grab whichever bag of pasta you need. For the cheese, you can pre-measure your shredded cheese, or just measure it as you need it.

Try these variations:

Chili Mac: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar or jack cheese, shredded, near the end.
Lasagna: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups either lasagna broken into small pieces or small egg noodles, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded, near the end, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese during the 5-minute standing period.
Cheesy Beef Taco: Using 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup rice, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar plus 1 cup of Frito's during the 5-minute standing period.
Beef Stroganoff: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk (if you have sour cream, replace 1/2 cup of the milk with sour cream), and 1 1/2 cups small egg noodles, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with an add-in of 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.
Potato Stroganoff: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk (if you have sour cream, replace 1/2 cup of the milk with sour cream), and 1 1/2 cups very thinly sliced or diced potatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with an add-in of 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.
Salisbury: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups small egg noodles, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Cheeseburger Macaroni: Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end. (You can toss a 1/2 cup cheddar on top at the end, too, if you want. We’re going for cheesy here!)
Cheesy Italian Shells: Using 1 pound ground beef, 3/4 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups small pasta shells, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar, shredded, near the end.
Cheesy Jambalaya: Using 1 pound ground beef, 3/4 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 cup rice, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end.

Enjoy,
Mary

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Pulled Pork Mac n' Cheese


Can you believe this fabulous recipe is included in a romance series? Well it is and what could be better than romance and recipes? When I was asked to participate in this #Recipe Book Blog Tour I jumped at the chance and I couldn't be happier.

Terra Kelly is a fellow foodie, friend, a great blogger over at Cafe' Terra and now an author, where she combines both talents into one deliciously steamy romance novel, featuring some of her sensational recipes!

Need You, The Winters Family Series Book 2 is a "Heartwarming story of love and new beginnings!" After Alyssa and her daughter experience a horrible tragedy, she realizes a change of scenery is needed to help move on from the past. She ends up in Idaho, opens a cafe, and continues to live life in the past for the next two years. Until Alex arrives in Boise. Alex is the youngest Winters brother, a chef in Los Angeles. When he loses his job, he decides it’s time to leave the big city behind. He finds a job opening in Boise, Idaho for an Executive Chef position. He lost his job and girlfriend in the same day, now it’s time to just focus on work, or so he thought.  With so much sadness, can Alex show Alyssa it’s okay to love again? Will Alyssa realize she needs Alex to help her let go of the past?

Recipes included in this book:
Alyssa’s Favorite Pizza: Wood Smoked Pork Shoulder, Arugula and Mushroom Pizza
Kitchen Sink Beef Brisket Chili
Aunt Anna’s Special Apple Pumpkin Strudel
Lexie’s Favorite Strawberry Cheese Danish
Lexie’s Special Mac ‘n Cheese Pizza with Beef Brisket and Vegetables
Pulled Pork Mac ‘n Cheese

So now, let's see what all the fuss is about with this fabulous recipe! I made a few minor adaptations, but I promise you will love this "down home, feel good, comfort food with family or friends" recipe. While I make pulled pork all the time, I had never once considered combining it in mac 'n cheese ... mmm mmmmmm good!


Ingredients
Mac n' Cheese:
1 lb (16 oz box) pipette noodles, cooked (I used Elbow macaroni)
8 Tbsp salted butter
8 Tbsp flour
6 cups heavy cream
4 cups (40 oz) cheese: 16 oz container ricotta cheese, 2 cups shredded Vermont cheddar, 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (I used Sargento's 4-Cheese Mexican Blend, and Shredded Sharp Cheddar)
½ tsp ground nutmeg
6 scallions, sliced (use white and green portion)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
hot sauce to taste

Pork Shoulder Marinade (recipe by Steven Raichlen):
12 cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 tsp coarse salt
1½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tsp hot sauce
6 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 scallions, white and green portion finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
9 lb pork shoulder (I used a Boston Butt)


Method
For Marinade: Prepare marinade the night before you will prepare the pork shoulder. Let pork shoulder rest in marinade for about 12 hours, turn the pork a few times to ensure all the sides of the shoulder are touching the marinade.

In large marinade bag: Add garlic, salt, lime juice, white wine, red wine vinegar, hot sauce, parsley, scallions, and rosemary, mix together and then add the pork shoulder. Let marinate for 12 hours.

To cook pork shoulder: In roasting box or oven, let cook for 4-6 hours, or until it is 165 degrees F. Let rest for ½ hour. Shred meat with fork. (I poured one cup of the marinade over the pork, placed it in a large roasting pan, covered the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and baked it in the oven at 200 degrees for 12 hours). 

For mac n' cheese: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In dutch oven or large stock pot, on stove top heat pan on medium heat, melt butter, then slowly add flour and whisk the butter and flour together to make a roux, stir continually for about 3 minutes.

Then slowly add in cream, whisking cream and roux together. Next add nutmeg, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and leaves layer on spoon.

Stir in ricotta cheese, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, scallions, parsley, season with salt and pepper, then add hot sauce to taste.

Fold in pulled pork, cooked pasta and pour in 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

Bake mac n' cheese for 20 minutes or until starting to bubble. Turn oven to broil. Top mac n' cheese with shredded cheese and place under broil for about five minutes, or until browned.

Serves: 10

Get your copy of Need You on Amazon


Isabel Sloane grew up in suburban Philadelphia, and recently relocated to the North Carolina coast, renting a little cottage by the beach and working as a reporter. Her history with men, nothing to write home about. Drew Winters is a firefighter, who has spent his entire life in Wilmington, NC. After several failed relationships, he’s sworn off women altogether. When Isabel meets Drew, something’s going to give.  Can Drew convince Isabel he is not like the other men she has dated? Can Isabel prove to Drew that she’s not self-absorbed like all his past relationships. Will they be able to get beyond their chemistry for each other, and finally use the “L” word.

Recipes included in this book:
Connie’s Bourbon Lemonade Cocktail
Melt in Your Mouth Sweet Rolls
Cherry Limeade {Please Forgive Me} Cheesecake
Roasted Vegetable Chicken Salad
Roasted Vegetable Swirl Egg Bread

Get your copy of Catch Me on Amazon


Enjoy,
Mary

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick and Easy Mini-Pizzas


These little Mini-Pizzas use English muffins, shredded cheese and your choice of toppings for a quick and easy lunch or after-school snack. Put it together and cook it in just 10 minutes!

Ingredients
English Muffins, split (1 English muffin makes 2 mini-pizzas)
Olive oil
shredded cheese (your choice)
various toppings such as sliced pepperoni, black olives or mushrooms

Method
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Brush olive oil on both sides of split English muffins. Place muffins on a cookie sheet or baking pan.

Top each muffin slice with shredded cheese (I used a Mexican cheese blend), then with the remainder of toppings you like.

Place baking  pan in oven and cook approx. 10 minutes or until muffins are toasted and cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy,
Mary

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles



Fresh pickling cucumbers and just a few other ingredients make these Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles.

The most important part of the recipe is the pickling cucumbers. They’re short, small, and firm, but they make deliciously crisp pickles. Don’t be tempted to substitute another kind of cucumber or you’ll end up with soggy pickles.

When I purchased these pickling cucumbers at the Kershaw County Farmer's Market, I knew I wanted to get them pickled while they were still at their peak of freshness.


Ingredients
1-1/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
3 tbls. salt
2 tbls. sugar
2 cups cold water
1-3/4 to 2 pounds pickling cucumbers (about 6), cut into halves or spears
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tbls. dried dill weed


Method
Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan (such as stainless steel) over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until ready to use.

Stuff the cucumbers into clean 1 quart jars. Add the garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, dill, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly. Be sure the brine covers the cucumbers; add a little water if necessary.

Cover and refrigerate about 24 hours, then serve. Cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Enjoy,
Mary

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Supporting Local at the Kershaw County Farmers Market



One of my favorite things to do is support my local farms and markets. Fortunately for me, I have a group of "like minded" friends who travel with me to explore local farms and markets just outside our back door. The Kershaw County Farmers Market is one of our favorites, and is centrally located in Camden, South Carolina, easily reached whether you are coming from Columbia, Lugoff, Elgin or Sumter, and all of the surrounding communities.


One of the things we all really like about this particular market is the variety and availability of local produce, dairy and meat products, along with organic seedlings, herbal blends, Himalayan salt, prepared cheese dips, and pies or meals to go. It makes it one we look forward to every season.

With the Kershaw County Farmers Market, the season is typically the first Saturday in April through the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Believe me, we all look forward to opening day each year, and our excitement mounts as the day draws near. Yes, we are THAT group of friends who loves the taste of locally grown fresh produce and products.

I've been supporting this market for several years now, and one HUGE benefit of supporting local on a regular basis is you get to meet all the farmers behind the products. You know, you want to go to a place where everybody knows your name, and this is that place for me!

It usually starts with "hi Kathy" from Old McCaskills Farm to "hey Craig" of Camden City Market and Bell Honey Company, to "hi Robin" from Wil-Moore Farms. And so it continues as we make our way around the market from vendor to vendor. Another plus ... guess who they're going to message or email when they have a special or reduced price? Yep, that's right, it's all about the relationship you build, and the more you go and support local farms, the more you build that relationship. I love it and have benefited more times than I can count because of it.


This year the market relocated to the Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site at 222 Broad Street, just 1.4 miles off I-20, then north on Hwy 521. The spot couldn't be better with a large grassy area for the vendors to set up and plenty of parking for customers. It is so convenient and easy to get to.


10 Reasons to Support Farmers Markets: (via Kershaw County Farmers Market)
From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are just a few!


  • Taste Real Flavors: The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you-no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets-fresh from the farm. 
  • Enjoy the Season: The food you buy at the farmers market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavors. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in our region. As you look forward to asparagus in spring, savor sweet corn in summer, or bake pumpkins in autumn, you reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the turning of the year. 
  • Support Family Farmers: Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today's globalized economy.
  • Protect the Environment: Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.
  • Nourish Yourself: Much food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit. These practices may have negative effects on human health. In contrast, most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many of our farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques, picking produce right before the market, and growing heirloom varieties. 
  • Discover the Spice of Life Variety: At the farmers market you find an amazing array of produce that you don't see in your average supermarket: red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, green garlic, watermelon radishes, quail eggs, mushrooms, and much, much more. It is a wonderful opportunity to savor the biodiversity of our planet. 
  • Promote Humane Treatment of Animals: At the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical of animal agriculture. 
  • Know Where Your Food Comes From: A regular trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced. 
  • Learn Cooking Tips, Recipes, and Meal Ideas: Few grocery store cashiers or produce stock persons will give you tips on how to cook the ingredients you buy, but farmers, ranchers, and artisans at the farmers market are often passionate cooks with plenty of free advice about how to cook the foods they are selling.  
  • Connect with Your Community: Wouldn't you rather stroll amid outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The farmers market is a community hub-a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of small-town life in the midst of our wonderful city.







I encourage you to get out and support local farms and farmers markets in your area. Build a relationship with those farmers and the people behind the scenes.  BEST OF ALL, enjoy fresh, local in-season products. I think you'll be happy you did!

Be sure to check here for What's in Season in South Carolina.

Enjoy,
Mary


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Friday, April 3, 2015

No More Boring Camper Food

Seafood Feast during camping trip with friends
Whether you are headed our for a weekend tent camping trip, or a cross-country trip in your motor home, camper food does not need to be boring. With a little preparation and planning you can eat some fabulous foods while you enjoy your camping trip.

My husband manages a military campground for the U.S. Air Force now, but prior to that, we have been camping for many years. When our children were small, we started out with a tent, then graduated to a pop-up when our first grandson came along. We bumped that up to a couple of camper trailers, and finally to the 5th wheel we have today.

Even back many years ago, we were never "Beanie Weanie" people when camping. We always prepped and planned so we could enjoy some awesome food out in the woods. Nothing beats the taste of a grilled steak and the smell of a campfire burning.

It's all about the PREP! If you can make it ahead and store it, then do it. Any of these would work in a camper refrigerator, or a sturdy cooler, stored in a zip-top bags.
  • Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Chicken Salad, Egg Salad or Fruit Salad 
  • Shredded Chicken or Pulled Pork for sandwiches
  • Pancake Batter 
  • Chopped Veggies for use with grilling steaks, chicken fajitas, or omelettes (mushrooms, celery, onion, peppers, tomatoes)
  • Baked goods such as cookies and mini-breads store well and don't need refrigeration
Make a LIST! Write up a good list of things you want to prepare while gone, then make sure you have the condiments, side dishes, bread, buns to go with it. Example: hamburgers on the grill require hamburger patties, buns, condiments and any side dishes such as pickles or chips and dip. Baked potato lovers like butter, salt, pepper and maybe some sour cream or shredded cheese and bacon bits. You see how this goes ... make a list and check it against your shopping list.

Think BIG! There's no reason why you can't grill a Rack of Lamb or enjoy a Shrimp Boil while camping. The sky is the limit! 

Have your food do DOUBLE DUTY! Tonight's Grilled London Broil could be steak and eggs for breakfast, steak sandwiches, pepper steak and more.

What about POTS and PANS? A good grill fry pan, heavy bottom stock pot, large sauce pan and a camp fire coffee pot are all good to carry along.

Pack the COOLER!  Place a bag of ice and any frozen items on the bottom, line top of ice with several paper bags or layers of newspaper. Store refrigerated items such as eggs, bacon, and prepared salads on top. Replace ice daily depending on temperatures.

Don't FORGET! Napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, water bottles or plastic cups for drinks, handi-wipes, band-aids, insect spray, sun screen, Benadryl (fast acting for minor allergic reactions),  pain reliever, and any prescription medications.

Grilled St. Louis Ribs

Mano 'O Steak

Grilled Center Cut Pork Chops

Steamed Shrimp

Grilled Rack of Lamb

Grilled London Broil

Low Country Boil
Italian Seasoned Grilled Chicken
Shredded Chicken

Pulled Pork

And of course, roasting marshmallows and making S'mores is a requirement!




Enjoy,
Mary

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Perfectly Baked Ham


Finding the "perfect ham" begins by asking yourself what you want in a ham? For myself,  I wanted a ham cured naturally without nitrates or nitrites, so I chose my ham from Heritage Foods USA.

The Maple Sugar Cured Ham I purchased from Heritage Foods USA is from Halverson Farm, a farm who raises Berkshire pigs: "Located in Bernard, Iowa Randy farms with his wife and son on several hundred acres of beautiful eastern Iowa rolling hills. He is very proud of his cow/calf/beef herd and Certified Humane Berkshire pigs. His pigs live in hoop buildings which are deeply bedded and have outdoor access. Randy also raises alfalfa which he feeds to the cows. Randy was raised in town but helped his uncle in the country every summer who taught him farm skills. Now that Randy runs a farm, he has converted his father to helping out too!" Read more about the Heritage Food USA Farmers.


Buying pastured meat products, raised humanely on pasture, without antibiotics or added growth hormones, and processed at a USDA Inspected Humane Processing Plant is important to me. While many times you know I support small, local family farms in my area, none of them offer "cured ham" products, so I found the next best thing with Heritage Foods USA.


Fortunately for me, they had a sale on HAM at just the time I was looking to buy mine, and it was delivered just as perfect as perfect could be. It was nicely packaged inside an insulated heavy-duty Styrofoam cooler, surrounded by ice gel packs.

So now I was ready to bake it for Easter. We celebrated a few days early since my husbands days off from his work are weekdays. Oh my goodness ... it was delicious.

Ingredients
1 - 10-11 lb. fully cooked ham
1/2 cup water
Glaze if desired

Method
Preheat oven to 325. Place 1/2 cup water in roasting pan, and place ham in pan, cut side down.

Cover pan completely with foil and bake 15 minutes per pound or until ham is heated through. If using a glaze, apply it to the ham during the last 15-30 minutes of baking time. Any sooner and you may burn the sugars. See Heritage Foods USA Complete Ham Guide.

Remove ham from oven and let sit 15-20 minutes before carving.

Cooks note - I serve the glaze on the side so each person can add their own. Don't forget to save the bones to make a delicious Ham Stock for soups!



Enjoy,
Mary


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