Beefyroni

Cheesy Beefaroni

I’ve been visiting rehab lately.  Something about that sentence has a whole lot of shock value until I clarify that I was going to visit my grandmother who was getting physical therapy/rehab for a broken arm.  After a number of weeks and an operation to reset the bones with pins, the powers that be at her insurance company decided they were done paying for her stay at the facility.  And that was that.

Yup, my 90 year old grandmother got kicked out of rehab.  I can add that to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself say.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m flanked by life beginning and ending.  On one hand there is Miss Libby just starting out on this journey.  On the other is my grandmother whose journey is winding down.  And both metaphorically as well as mathematically I am almost exactly in the middle of the two.  Somehow that feels so very right.  I get to watch Libby’s light grow and shine while I also get to see my grandmother’s fade.  Both are a privilege but there is sadness in the certainty of knowing I face a profound loss ahead.

I was talking about this recently with a friend and said how unfair I thought it was that after such a long life my grandmother should be facing a growing list of health issues.  And my friend said something that really made me think.  She reminded me that it takes time for a life to begin.  And it takes time for a life to end.  The notion of people peacefully passing on in their sleep?  It looks nice in the movies, but life isn’t The Notebook.  So what I’m seeing, and struggling with, this is part of the process.

That doesn’t make me dislike it any less.  But at least I can look at it a little differently now.  And in those moments when my heart breaks just a little at seeing my grandmother look so old and frail, I can take comfort in the delight she gets from seeing Libby’s joy and wonder unfold at the world around her.

Beefyroni

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Note:  This is all about comfort.  I’m not suggesting that you should feed your feelings…well, maybe I am.  But there is something reassuring about ground beef, macaroni, and cheese.  Maybe it’s the simplicity of the dish.  Or maybe it’s just a trifecta of perfection.  Mine is not to reason why…yours shouldn’t be either…just enjoy.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Cheddar cheese, grated

Brown the beef and onion in a large skillet on medium high heat, breaking the beef apart with your spoon or spatula as it browns.

While the beef and onion cooks, combine the beef broth, mustard, ketchup, and salt in a bowl.

Once the beef is no longer pink, drain off most of the grease (remember, there’s a lot of flavor in those drippings).  Add the broth mixture to your pan with the beef and bring to a boil.  Add the macaroni, give it a stir, and then cover the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until the macaroni is tender.

Add the cheese, stir to combine, and dig in to a heaping bowl of comfort.

{printable recipe}

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Deb’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

What is it about getting older that makes my bad memory even worse?  I freely admit that it’s not unusual for someone to tell me a story about a past event that I was part of and have absolutely no recollection of it.  Not a speck.  I just shake my head and mutter “if you say so”.  They could be making it up and I wouldn’t know the difference…not that I’m inviting them to test this theory or anything.

One of my college roommates has this disturbing power of recollection.  She can talk about something that happened years ago with exquisite detail….we did this and you were wearing this and he said this and blah, blah, blah.  It makes my head hurt to think of all that detail just swimming around in her brain waiting for a chance to be called upon. But good on her for being able to pull random facts out at will.

This forgetfulness of mine recently paid a visit to me in the kitchen.  See, I had been recommending Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken to someone and realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I made it.  Not because I’m walking around like Guy Pearce’s character, Leonard, in Momento but because it had been months since this dish hit my table.  So I put buttermilk and chicken on the grocery list and when the time came to set up the chicken and the buttermilk on a blind date, all I could remember was that the two needed to hang out in the fridge for a day or so.  I forgot that they needed some sweet and spicy chaperones.  It wasn’t until I went back and looked at the recipe for the oven temp that I realized my mistake.

Thankfully, not even my crappy memory was able to break this recipe.  Because I seasoned the chicken with paprika, salt, and some chili seasoning after its milky date and it was every bit as delicious as if I had remembered to season the buttermilk in the first place.

Deb’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

BAH Note:  Super delicious.  This might even become your weeknight go to chicken dish.  You could set your oven as high as 425 degrees and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.  It may sound foolish but that kind of heat makes me nervous….so you do what you’re comfortable with.   Either way you get delicious, moist chicken.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoked, whatever you have)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 pounds bone in, skin on chicken (you use the parts you like best)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the buttermilk, garlic, salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper in a zip top plastic bag or a bowl large enough to hold the chicken.  Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator anywhere from 2 hours to 48 hours.

When ready to bake, heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking dish or sheet pan with foil.  Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and place in your dish or pan.  Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and roast for 45 – 60 minutes until done.

{printable recipe}

Best Bean and Beef Chili

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you will not dirty this many dishes…promise.

I’m not an overly huggy person.  I like my personal space and one of the surest ways to press my buttons is to breach that airspace without clearance from the tower.  I’ve had a relationship fail because the other person was too damn grabby with the hands all the time.  Ok, in all fairness that wasn’t the only reason the relationship failed.  There was a massive amount of emotional clingyness in addition to the need to be physically touching me every waking moment.  Just thinking about it now, years and years later, makes me tense up.

Then again, I’ve also been told by another past boyfriend that I “run hot and cold”.  At the time I brushed that comment off completely.  It’s only been in the last few years or so that it percolated up through the recesses of my mind and bobbed along the surface in moment of clarity.  And I finally get what he meant.  He meant the prickliness that surrounds me like a force field, that has always just been part of who I am.

It takes a while to unpack this emotional baggage, so I’ll abbreviate the story.  Assume that I have a hard time trusting people.  Imagine that my default setting rests firmly on “I will trust you and then you will let me down”.  After the ability to trust another person has been eroded, the willingness and desire to open up and be vulnerable to someone is replaced with the instinct to hurt them before they can hurt me.  So yes, I can see a clear pattern of pushing people away while at the same time trying to pull them closer.  And it is no surprise that after being pushed away again and again, people get fed up and move on…so the cycle viciously feeds and sustains itself.  Talk about exhausting.

Here’s the thing I have to keep reminding myself…we’re all broken in some way.  We all have a heavy piece of emotional baggage we’ve been shouldering for too long.  But we can choose to hold on to it longer or just let it go….or at least not to hold on to it so tightly.

And that’s where I am.  I’m trying to open up more of my physical and emotional personal space.  So when The Mistah suggests that I need a hug, I try to listen to that voice inside me that says “yes I do”.  Taking a chance to trust can feel good, as good as when The Mistah gets out of the shower and wraps me in a first-thing-in-the-morning-because-I’m-already-in-a-stabby-mood hug.  It’s like being hugged by the sun.

Best Bean and Beef Chili

Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

BAH Note: I used to be firmly anti-chili.  But I took a chance and learned that the right chili will not let me down.  This is a chili I learned to love.  The beef.  The beans.  The way a dollop of sour cream sublimely tempers the heat of the spice.

Be patient if this takes longer than you think it should to get the beans and tomatoes smoothish in the food processor.  And trust me when I say that as gross as it looks in your food processor, it will do wonderful things after it cooks….I will not let you down on this.

  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can  (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • agave nectar, approximately 2 tablespoons

Puree half of the beans with the diced tomatoes in a food processor until the mixture is fairly smooth.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the chopped onion and cook over a medium flame  until the onion is softened and translucent.  Add the ground beef to the pot and cook until it is no longer pink, breaking it up with a spoon.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes.

Add the broth, pureed mixture, rest of the beans, cinnamon sticks, and agave nectar (if using) to the pot and simmer, partially covered anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt and additional chili powder and cumin to taste.

Fancy it up with some sour cream and shredded cheese.  Or enjoy it as is.

{printable recipe}

Crockpot Char Siu Pork

Asian Pulled Pork

“It’s in the ‘Freezes Beautifully’ section of my cookbook, and I want to make something that freezes beautifully.”  – Annelle, Steel Magnolias

The Mistah and I have only recently begun to seriously budget.  Until now, budgeting meant making sure we had enough money in savings to cover our over spending from checking.  I know  that’s not the best approach…I knew it as we were in the midst of it.  But it was easier than having the conversation about getting things under control.  Now that our family has grown, the money talk can’t be avoided.  I guess I should consider this practice for the other “talks” that wait for us down the parental road.

Have you ever tried to convince someone to do something the way you think it should be done?  Then you know that if you and the other person don’t think alike, that can be a hard sell.  Not to mention seriously frustrating for you both.  That’s how all of our previous attempts at having the money talk went.  It was my way or your way, but not our way.

Something had to change.  So we took a page from organizational management tools and formed a committee.  We meet monthly.  We keep minutes.  We look for ways to meet our goals and objectives without having to be right.

The reason I’m oversharing this with you is because at our last Finance Committee Meeting, one of the ideas presented for consideration was to buy a separate freezer.  The thought behind this is that our refrigerator/freezer can’t accommodate a gallon of ice cream without a fight.  Trying to buy frozen foods in bulk, or heaven forbid actually cooking and freezing individual portions of meals is completely out of the question without additional cold storage.

We haven’t fully committed to this plan.  Do you know how much an upright freezer costs?  They ain’t cheap.  So I’ve been trolling Craigslist.  Until I either land my white whale used or suck it up and drop some serious cash for a new one, my “freezes beautifully” selections are done on a small scale…and our Frigidaire is an ice cream free zone.

Crockpot Char Siu Pork (Asian Pulled Pork)

Adapted from Cooking Light: The New Way to Cook Light

BAH Note:  I scored a deal on a 4 pound pork roast and doubled the recipe.  If you scale it up, be prepared for a longer cooking time.  My 4 pound roast took nearly 12 hours to fall off the bone.

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (lower sodium recommended)
  • 1/4 hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 pounds Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of extra fat
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin, ketchup, honey, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and five spice powder in a small bowl.  Stir to fully combine and then transfer to a large zip top plastic bag.  Add the pork roast and refrigerate at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Place the pork and the marinade from the bag in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until the meat falls apart.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board or sheet pan and let it cool before you shred it with two forks.

Meanwhile, carefully ladle the liquid from the crockpot into a saucepan.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce reduces a bit.  Taste for seasoning and spoon the sauce over the shredded pork.  Stir to let the sauce get reacquainted with the pork before shoving it in your face.

{printable recipe}

Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

Lately I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming the stereotypical crotchety old lady.  The one who mutters under my breath about “kids these days” and “hell in a handbasket” and then wonders why people avoid making eye contact with me as they pass by.  All I need to complete the transformation is a housecoat, hair rollers, and a coffee mug full of gin as I sweep my porch.  Ok, maybe that is a bit of a stretch.  Because anyone who knows me knows that my coffee mug would be hiding vodka or wine….never gin.

Who knew that I would feel so old and tired at 42?  But when you’re young and daydream about what the future holds, you totally gloss over the unglamorous parts of being an adult.  Things like pulling weeds, taking out the trash, paying bills, and navigating the tough patches in relationships.  What you think about is the freedom of being an adult when you get to call the shots.

You certainly don’t imagine what it will feel like to work a full day, slog through rush hour traffic with a cranky toddler as your backseat driver, and arrive home to discover hair balls and cat vomit deposited throughout your house.  Or as I like to call it, Wednesday.

Oh, and when you do finally get in the door, clean up the vomit, change a diaper, and set the toddler up with enough toys to stock an aisle at Target, you are expected to make dinner magically appear.  After dinner there are dishes to wash, clothes to fold, emails to return, bed time for the toddler, lunches to make, and deep breaths to take.  Glamorous, right?

Some days I handle this with more grace than others.  And on my best days, I have dinner mostly prepped and ready to go in the fridge.  Because let’s be real, if I didn’t we would have cereal for dinner as often as we have cereal for breakfast.  And as glamorous as that may sound when you’re young, at 42 I can tell you that it’s really not.

Chilled Avocado Soup with Shrimp
Adapted from Cooking Light Good Mood Food

BAH Note:  Cooking Light calls for low fat sour cream.  I got feisty and used regular. Let your conscience (and your waistline) be your guide.  Yes, this dish has several components.  But they can all be made ahead of time.  When you’re ready to serve, just put all the pieces together.

Soup:

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced peeled avocado (about 2)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

Lime Cream:

  • 3⁄4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, unpeeled
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup corn kernels (about 2 ears if using fresh)
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped red onion

To prepare soup, place chicken broth, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Cover and chill.

For lime cream, combine sour cream, cilantro (if using), lime juice and zest, and salt in a bowl.  Stir until combined and add additional lime juice to get the consistency you like.

To prepare shrimp, heat oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Spread the shrimp into a single layer on the sheet pan, coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until the shrimp is firm and cooked through.  Allow to cool thoroughly before peeling.

While the shrimp roasts and cools, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions begins to soften.  Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally to allow the mixture to brown and char a bit.

Serve the chilled avocado soup garnished with the shrimp, lime cream, and corn mixture.

{printable recipe}

Beef Tenderloin with Wine Sauce

Beef Tenderloin with Wine Sauce

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

BAH Note:  To amp up the wine sauce even more, whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter just before taking the sauce off the heat and serving.

  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced shallots
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.  Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and set a cooling rack in the pan.

Pat the tenderloin dry and then season all over with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the beef and sear until well browned on all sides, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the tenderloin to the sheet pan and roast in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloin reaches 140 degrees for medium rare, approximately 30 minutes (155 degrees for medium).  Remove the tenderloin from the oven and let it rest, covered with foil, until ready to serve.

While the tenderloin roasts, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 or 10 minutes.  Add the wine, broth, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup, approximately 40 minutes.

Once the sauce has reduced, pour it through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan.  Be sure to press all the juices out of the vegetables.  Whisk the cocoa powder into the reduced sauce, add the rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the sauce over slices of the beef tenderloin.

Baked Barley and Mushrooms

Baked Barley and Mushrooms

Adapted from And Baby Cakes Three

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, simmering
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, saute the onions and mushrooms until tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the barley and salt and stir so that it gets coated with the oil in the pot.  Cook the barley for a few minutes, until it gets a bit toasty, before stirring in the simmering broth.

Stir to combine, cover with a lid (or aluminum foil if your pot doesn’t have a lid) and bake for 1 hour.

After an hour, carefully remove the pot to check for doneness.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the barley should be just tender.  If the barley is still too hard, add additional liquid and continue to cook, covered, checking every 15 to 20 minutes.  Once the barley is done, you can cook for 10 or 15 minutes with the lid off if you have too much liquid left in your pot.

Carefully remove from the oven and stir in the grated cheese, if using, before serving.