Poblano Burgers

*Photo and Content Updated August 2012*

Inspiration: This meal was Brandon’s creation. He’s my awesome griller, and he thought up this idea a while ago and has just been waiting for a good day to give it a try. I love the nights when he heads outside and grills us up a fab meal. And what’s better than a grilled burger on a summer evening? Not much! With all of the great foods that you can grill, I still find that nothing spells summer more to me than a burger.

What we Loved: Firstly – grilling poblano peppers (and then putting them on top of grilled burgers) smells amazing. I felt it necesary to note. Secondly – the flavors of this burger were just perfect, from the ground beef seasoned with Southwestern spices, to the smoky rich poblanos, to the nice pile of gooey, melted cheese. Both the burger itself and the poblano had that great, slightly blackened grilled flavor, and the peppers and pepperjack cheese really added a wonderful level of heat. We enjoyed this with some cool guacamole on the side, and the only thing missing was an icy margarita.

Tips: This burger is fairly spicy, so I wouldn’t make it if you don’t like spicy foods. Or, you might consider using a mild cheese like cheddar or even goat cheese to scale down the heat a touch.

Poblano Burgers
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

Ground beef, enough to make 2 patties to preference
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Kosher salt
2 small poblano peppers
Pepper jack cheese, to taste
Cilantro, to garnish

1. Place the ground beeef in a bowl, and add a good sprinkle of garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, coriander, and salt. Mix with your hands to combine, and then form the meat into two patties.

2. Place the poblano peppers on the grill, and grill until blackened on all sides. Remove the peppers from the grill, and place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let the peppers sit for approximately 5 minutes, and then remove the skins from the peppers. Remove the stem and core from each pepper, and then slice the peppers in half vertically, leaving you with four total pepper slices. Remove any extra seeds.

3. Grill the burgers as desired. When the burgers are almost cooked, top each burger with two poblano pepper slices and a slice of cheese, and cook until the cheese is just melted.

4. Top with cilantro.

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Carne Guisada

Inspiration: Being in a meat CSA has a ton of benefits. First and foremost, B and I are always sure that the meat that we’re eating has come from humanely raised animals, which is the reason that we joined the CSA in the first place. Awesome, awesome, awesome. But another added benefit is that we always have a freezer full of different cuts of meat that we have to build our menus around. It’s fun to figure out what to make with a random leg of lamb or an emu steak or, in this case, an English roast.

What we Loved: I’ve been making an effort to clean out my pantry and use up random ingredients, so I changed this recipe to use an extra can of tomato sauce that I had floating around. I immediately regretted the decision, thinking that by substituting tomato sauce for chopped tomatoes and water, I had ruined the recipe and made it into something much more like a tomato-based chili. But you know what? My worries were for nothing, because this meal was awesome and completely unique. The only liquid ingredients that I used were the tomato sauce and a bottle of Negra Modelo, and the prominent flavor of the stew was really that of the Negra Modelo. The beer is rich, nutty, a little bit sweet, a little bit smoky…and the stew was just the same. Such a fantastic flavor. The meat was incredibly tender and shredded right apart in the stew, and the garnish of cilantro added such a fresh herb flavor. And what better compliment to the meal than a couple of cold bottles of Negra Modelo?

Helpful Hints: The original recipe calls for simmering the stew on the stovetop, but I cooked mine in the crock pot all day because I had a bunch of errands to run. I think the sauce would be a little thicker if you simmer the stew on the stovetop, but the crockpot version was wonderful, too.

Carne Guisada
Source: Homesick Texan

I made some changes to the ingredient list and also cooked the recipe in my crock pot. I have a stove-top safe insert for my crockpot, but I will give the instructions for a regular crockpot. If you have a stove-top safe insert, just cook everything in the insert.

2 pounds beef roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 serrano peppers, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 12 oz bottle Negra Modelo
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 bay leaf

1. Brown the beef in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the beef to the pan in small batches, which will allow a nice brown crust to form. Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.

2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the saute pan. Add the onions and peppers, and cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown, approximately ten minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan while the onions are cooking to release the browned bits. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

3. Place the beef and onion mixture in your crockpot. Add the tomato sauce, Negra Modelo, cumin, chili powder, oregano, cilantro, and bay leaf.

4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Guinness Beef Stew

Inspiration: I love St. Patrick’s Day. Love it. It’s one of my favorite holidays, and I always look forward to it every year. I love the good food, the nicer spring weather and sunshine that’s finally settling in, the good drinks, the celebration of such a great culture…I love it all. In fact, I like to make the holiday into St. Patrick’s Week around our house. This past Saturday, I made this stew in the crockpot in the morning, then B and I went out for some lunch and shopping downtown.  We stopped in at the Irish pub (one of our favorite places in town) for a couple of pints of Guinness, and they were having their “St. Practice Day” party with Irish music, bagpipes, etc. It was so much fun, and coming home to this hearty stew for supper (alongside a nice, cold glass of Bailey’s) was just perfect. It was a great start to our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and a long menu of Irish food that I have planned!

What we Loved: B and I both devoured this stew. My favorite part was the broth, which was just outstanding. It was so rich and flavorful with the juices from the meat and the flavors from the bacon, Guinness, tomato paste, and all of the seasonings. And after cooking for 8 hours, the meat and the carrrots were so tender that they just fell right apart. As we sat at the table eating this, it was cold and rainy outside and the wind was howling. It really was the perfect night for such a comforting stew.

Helpful Hints: The actual Guinness flavor in this stew is really very subtle, so I wouldn’t worry about adding it if you’re not a huge fan of Guinness or beer in general. It certainly doesn’t taste like you’re eating a beer stew! The broth just has a wonderfully rich and intense flavor that I’m not sure would be the same if you left the Guinness out.

Guinness Beef Stew
Source: Adapted from Vintage Victuals

5 slices bacon
1.5-2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can Guinness (about 15 oz)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste

*I made this recipe using the stove-top safe insert of my crockpot. I’ll give directions for cooking without the stove-top safe insert, but if you have that particular crockpot, then just cook everything in the insert on your stove-top.

1. Add the bacon to a large saute pan, and cook until browned. Remove the bacon to a plate, and set aside.

2. Add the beef to the pan in batches, browning it in the bacon grease. Cook the beef pieces for 2-3 minutes per side, just enough to create a nice, brown crust. Remove the meat as it is browned to the plate with the bacon.  

3. When all of the meat is browned, add the carrots and the onions to the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are softened and browned. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

4. Pour the Guinness into the pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spoon.

5. At this point, transfer everything to your crockpot. Add the Worcestershire, thyme, bay, beef broth, and tomato paste. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and mix to combine.

6. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Cuban Picadillo with Almonds

Cuban Picadillo with Sauteed Almonds

*Photos and Content Updated July 2012*

Inspiration: I’m always so fascinated by what people in other parts of the world are eating. I love hearing about dishes from other regions, and I love giving them a try myself. Even if the recipes that I make aren’t completely authentic, they’re still exposure to foods that I wouldn’t normally have the chance to eat, which I think is pretty awesome.

What We Loved: This dish caught me completely off guard. I love ground beef, so I always thought that Cuban picadillo looked tasty, but for some reason I was expecting it to be a bit on the bland side. Boy, was I wrong. With my first bite, I made a remark to Brandon that I couldn’t believe how complex the picadillo tasted. There was just a bit of sweetness from the cinnamon and cloves, a bit of sour from the olives, and a bit of savory from the grass-fed beef, garlic, and tomato paste. Everything combined for a really great, complex flavor that I really wasn’t expecting. Brandon thought that it reminded him a little bit of an Indian meal, with all of the different spices that were in there.  And the almonds on top added even more flavor and crunch. What a great dish.

Tips: Don’t be shy with the spices, particularly the cinnamon, which is really important to the overall flavor of the dish. When combined, I think that all of the spices add a lot of complexity to the dish and give it its characteristic flavor, so I would suggest tasting as you go and adding as much of all of the spices as you’d like.

Cuban Picadillo with Sauteed Almonds
Source: Adapted from Artsy Foodie, originally from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes

1 lb grass-fed ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or more to preference
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to preference
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves,  or more to preference
1 bay leaf
3 oz tomato paste
1 cup hot water
12 pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped

1. Brown the beef in a saute pan until cooked through.

2. Add the garlic, oregano, salt, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, tomato paste, and water. Mix well, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. If the mixture is too dry and there really isn’t much to simmer, add a touch more water.

3. Add the olives, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and add the almonds. Stir to combine and serve.

Meatballs and Marinara with Zucchini Ribbons

Inspiration: If you haven’t noticed, Brandon and I have been drastically reducing our carbohydrate intake, and I’ve found that there are a suprising number of ways to take carbs out of our meals without sacrificing our favorite foods entirely. I’ve seen the idea of using zucchini as a base for sauce instead of a pasta all over the web, and it seemed like such a great idea to me. I knew that a vegetable wouldn’t replace a pasta, but then, it didn’t really have to as long as it tasted good!

What we Loved: I really enjoyed this new take on a “spaghetti and meatballs” supper, and to tell the truth, I didn’t even miss the pasta. The zucchini was crisp and fresh, having been softened just a little bit in a saute pan, and I thought that it added a nice and light vegetable flavor to the marinara sauce, meatballs, and Parmesan cheese. Zucchini is a vegetable that I often like to serve with marinara-based dishes, anyway, because I’ve always felt like it compliments the tomato flavor very well, so it really does work great in place of pasta. This dish was so light, yet it still tasted indulgent. These days, I really do love vegetables much more than starches, so it’s nice to have a classic starch dish where the vegetable is now the star!

Helpful Hints: I think that these zucchini ribbons would work well with any type of pasta sauce. A pesto cream sauce or an alfredo sound great. And if you’d prefer, you can use a mandoline or good knife skills to cut the zucchini into very thin matchstick-like strips that resemble a pasta like spaghetti.

Meatballs and Mozzarella with Zucchini Ribbons
Source: original recipe to serve 2

6 large meatballs, uncooked  (I used some leftover uncooked meatballs from this recipe that I had frozen in the freezer)
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 small zucchini
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Add a drizzle of olive oil in the bottom of a saute pan or pot. Add the onion, and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

2. Add the tomatoes, parsley, oregano, and an extra drizzle of olive oil, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the meatballs to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, cook for 3-4 minutes, then reduce the sauce to a heavy simmer. Cover the pan, and cook for approximately 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

4. While the sauce is cooking,  use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini into long strips. Work your way around the zucchini, stopping when you get to the seeds.

5. When the sauce is almost finished, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the zucchini strips, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until just softened but still a bit crisp.

6. Serve the zucchini noodles topped with the marinara sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Inspiration: I thought that these meatballs would go great with an appetizer-only dinner that we recently had. And as a bonus, I knew that there would be plenty of extra to freeze for future meals. I see them served with marinara sauce in the future!

What we Loved: I’ve always loved spaghetti and meatballs, meatball sandwiches, and meatball appetizers. But what made these meatballs even better than others that I’ve had was the cheesy mozzarella center. It was the perfect added touch! I also loved the crispy brown coating, which added a nice crunch and which may have been my favorite aspect of the dish. As for the flavor, the fact that this recipe used both ground beef and Italian sausage resulted in a wonderful, spicy depth. I’m going to keep the recipe as my standard meatball recipe from now on.

Helpful Hints: This recipe made about thirty meatballs, for reference. If you don’t want to use mozzarella, I think that nearly any cheese would work in its place. Mozzarella is very mild, so if you’d like something with more flavor, a pepperjack or even a cheddar would work great.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Source: Adapted from Mark’s Daily Apple

1 lb ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage (I used spicy)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup almond meal
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
A few grinds of black pepper
Approximately 3 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined. Using your hands works well.

2. Roll the mixture into meatballs, placing the mozzarella cubes into the center of the meatballs as you roll them. Try to enclose the mozzarella completely.

3. Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs, and cook until the first side is nicely browned. Turn the meatballs, browning on all sides.

4. Place the meatballs on a foil-lined sheet into a 350 degree oven and cook for about 15 minutes longer, until they’re cooked through.

Beef Bourguignon

Inspiration: I’ve had this meal on my list to try for quite some time now. As I mentioned in my last post, I really love to use my time off during the week before Christmas to cook, and this was one of the first meals that I put on the menu.

What we Loved: B and I agreed that this dish was really unbeatable. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. My favorite aspect of the dish was the sauce, and I loved seeing all of the ingredients go into the pot as I was cooking to result in a sauce that was so layered and rich. The vegetables were cooked in the grease from the bacon and beef, and then the pan was deglazed with sweet brandy before red wine, beef broth, and seasonings were added in. The end result was a rich, earthy sauce that coated the meat and vegetables in flavor. Everything in the stew was incredibly tender, from the meat that fell apart in the bowl to the vegetables that were so soft and juicy as you bit into them. We really thought that this was a perfect recipe.

Helpful Hints: This recipe originally called for flour and butter to be swirled into the stew at the end. I skipped that step because we don’t use flour, and we really didn’t miss it. The sauce was fantastic just as it was, but if you’d like to thicken the sauce a bit, see Ina Garten’s original recipe.

Beef Bourguignon
Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

I adapted the recipe to my tastes. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

6 slices bacon, diced
2 lbs beef chuck steak, diced into 1 inch cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 large carrots, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch chunks
2 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 bottle dry red wine (I used a cabernet)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 lb baby portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Add the bacon to a large dutch oven. Saute for approximately 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a plate.

3. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Sear the beef in the bacon grease for 3-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Work in batches if necessary. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon.

4. Toss the carrots and the diced onions with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper in the fat in the pot. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

5. Add the cognac to the pan, scraping the brown bits from the bottom. Cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated.

6. Put the meat and bacon back in the pan. Add the wine and the beef broth, ensuring that the meat is covered. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, and place the pot in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

7. While the stew is cooking, saute the mushrooms in a saute pan in a drizzle of olive oil, cooking until the liquid released from the mushrooms is evaporated and the mushrooms are browned.

8. Place the stew on the stove top. Add the mushrooms, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.