Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Italian Goulash

Originating in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, goulash is a stew comprised of meat and vegetables, and seasoned with paprika and other spices of your choice.   My version has an Italian flavor and the addition of shell pasta. I had it on the table within 40 minutes, so it’s a great meal for those busy weeknights. Experiment with what you have on hand.  No shell pasta?  Use elbow macaroni.  No dried mushrooms?  Substitute a cup of sliced criminis or button mushrooms. It is hearty and delicious, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  Mr. O-P looked at me warily when I started putting this together, he a fan of the meal comprised of foods arranged separately on the plate. One taste and it was quickly devoured.  My guess is that everyone in your family is going to love it.

Italian Goulash
Serves 4

1 pound ground chuck
½ large yellow onion, diced
½ green pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 cups mushroom water (reserved from rehydrating, or low-salt beef stock if using fresh mushrooms)
2/3 cup of your favorite marinara (I used Classico)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of cayenne
½ cup red wine
1 cup shell pasta, uncooked

Place dried mushrooms in a 2-cup measuring cup and pour 1-1/2 cups of lukewarm water over them.  Set the timer and allow soaking for 30 minutes. At this point chop your garlic and vegetables.

While mushrooms are hydrating, place beef in a 4-quart saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking it up as you do so, until no longer pink.  Stir in onion and green pepper.  Cook until the vegetables are opaque.  Drain on paper towel lined plate.

Return beef mixture to pot and add garlic, marinara, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, paprika, sugar, Worcestershire, cayenne, salt, pepper, and wine.  Bring to a boil.

Drain mushrooms through a paper towel lined fine mesh sieve.  Pour mushroom water into the pot.  Rinse mushrooms thoroughly, rough chop, and add to the pot.  Cover pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add pasta, stirring in well.  Cover pot and simmer on medium for 15 additional minutes or until noodles are done.

Turn off heat and leave on the warm burner for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve topped with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Murphy’s in a Clogher Valley Mist

I tend, as I imagine do most of you, to read seasonal cookbooks during the particular season that they reflect.  After all, it makes perfect sense.  Unfortunately, in doing so, I end up bypassing a lot of really good recipes because, during the season, I am usually too busy to make them.

While one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Irish Table by Irish-American culinary journalist Margaret M. Johnson, is not exactly seasonal, I tend to pull it out only during the month of March to find something appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day.  It features my kind of Irish food, namely that from pubs and bed-and-breakfasts (my favorite places to dine while traveling in Ireland), and certainly puts to rest the idea that all Irish food is bland and tasteless.  In looking for a potato recipe to accompany tonight’s dinner, I chose this one.  It was quick and easy to assemble, the not-too-fond-of-potatoes, Mr. O-P loved it, and how could I not be completely charmed by the name?

To serve, I baked it in a baking pan, as directed in the recipe, and then scooped it into warmed mini casserole dishes.

Murphy’s in a Clogher Valley Mist
Named for the Dungannon Valley where Grange Lodge, a small Georgian country house, is situated.  This recipe is from proprietor Norah Brown.

1-1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used Melissa’s Baby Ruby Gold)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 slices bacon
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup (4 ounces) Smoked Gouda, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Butter a 1-1/2 qt. baking pan.

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and let cool to the touch.  Cut each potato into four wedges.  Place the wedges, skin side down, into the prepared baking pan and toss with the butter.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  Using a slotted metal spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Pour the cream over the potatoes, sprinkle with the grated cheese, and crumble the bacon over all.  Season with salt and pepper, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cream has thickened and the cheese has melted. 

Serves 4.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spicy, Dippy, and an Ultimate Giveaway

Do you like pub grub, tavern tidbits, and bar food as much as I do?  Sure you do.  Do you like Oktoberfest?  Of course.  How about a bunch of free stuff, does that blow your skirt up?  You know it does.  And because it does, this blog post is really going to excite you.  I’m joining a host of other bloggers who are participating in the Ultimate Beer Lover’s Oktoberfest Celebration Giveaway in conjunction with the launch of award-winning author John Schlimm’s new book, The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour.  This exciting new cookbook features over 325 irresistible recipes for delicious bar bites – from Sizzling Sriracha Peanuts to Taproom Tacos to Blitzed Bean Soup.  In addition there are beer cocktails, chuggers, shots, shooters, chasers, punches, floats, and shakes.  I get exhausted just thinking about it.  Consider it as a party in a book.
Schlimm is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, Straub Brewery, beginning with his great-great-grandfather, Peter Straub, and he really knows his stuff.  The recipes in this book are not only delicious, but each is paired with three different brews, contains various dietary substitutions, and even features recipes to make ingredients within the recipes, e.g. margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, and Worcestershire sauce.  Wow.  So if you don’t have an ingredient on hand, he provides you with a recipe to make your own.  How cool is that?

I made the Spicy Friday Night Nuts and Horseradish Dipping Mustard.  Both were sensational.  In the case of the nuts, I was intrigued by the interesting selection of spices, wondering just how cloves and cinnamon were going to work in a savory snack.  As it turned out, the spices meld beautifully, made the house smell amazing, and left us with an aromatic, highly addictive snack.

Spicy Friday Night Nuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine*
4 cups pecans, almonds, unsalted peanuts, and/or walnuts**
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tabasco, or to taste
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste

Place the margarine in a 2-quart, microwave-and-over-safe pan.  Melt either in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove, and then stir in the nuts of your choice.  Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Microwave the mixture on high for 6-8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.  For a toastier flavor, spread the mixture on a baking sheet, and run the sheet under a hot broiler for 4-6 minutes, stirring once. Serve warm, or at room temperature.  Store the nuts in an airtight container lined with paper towels for up to a week. Yield: 4 cups

*I used butter
** I used pecans
The Horseradish Mustard is to die for.  I could seriously eat this stuff with a spoon.  It is designed for dipping, but I have pretty much been slathering it on everything.

Horseradish Mustard
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1-1/2 cups hot water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons dry mustard (Colman’s)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Place the bouillon cubes in a small bowl.  Add the hot water and dissolve the bouillon cubes.  Blend the cornstarch, sugar, mustard, turmeric, vinegar, and horseradish in a small saucepan.  Place over low heat, and slowly whisk in the dissolved bouillon.  Cool, stirring until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes.  Place the eggs in a bowl.  Whisk two tablespoons of the warm mixture into the eggs, then pour the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan, whisking constantly.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Let cool.  Store in sealed containers in the fridge.  Yield: 1-1/2 cups

Now for the good part, the giveaway.

The giveaway runs from October 1 to November 7.  One lucky winner will receive the Ultimate Beer Lover’s Oktoberfest Prize Pack including:

1 signed copy of The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour by John Schlimm
2 Humane Society of the U.S. T-shirts (1 male M; 1 female M)
Lucky Brand Jeans Gift Card for 1 free pair of jeans
6 Straub Brewery Pilsner Glasses
Coleman Soft Cooler with Hard Liner, in red
Weber BBQ Apron, black
1 OXO Steel Bottle Opener
Set of 2 wooden snack bowls
Set of 4 wooden coasters

Enter now, and tell all of your friends.  It is worth every ounce of effort for the cookbook alone.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Top 100 Step-by-Step Napkin Folds


Not only do I collect cookbooks, but I also collect books on napkin folding. As someone who obviously enjoys setting pretty tables, I find such books invaluable. You might be surprised just how many of them are out there, I know I certainly was. They run the gamut from being ridiculously easy to shockingly complex. And while I use each one of the napkin folding books that I have, the absolute best of the lot is the one by Denise Vivaldo, Top 100 Step-by-Step Napkin Folds, recently sent to me by the publisher for review.
As the title indicates, it contains concise instructions and step-by-step photos for a hundred different folds. One hundred!  It is divided into easy, intermediate, and advanced folds, and further separated by occasion. Imagine wanting to have a Mexican Fiesta and having a napkin fold to fit in with that theme.  Christmas coming up?  No problem, fold your napkins into a stocking or a tree. Mother's Day? Fold napkins into small purses and put a sweet, loving note to mom inside. Some of my favorite folds are in the categories of Afternoon Tea and Hawaiian Luau; it seems well worth planning one or other event, just to display some of the darling folds. 
There is also a small section on how to embellish napkins should you be weary of the ones that you have, and hope to dress them up a little. Instructions will help you learn to embellish edges and monogram.

This book employs the use of single and double napkins, along with a number of folds that will allow you to put to use your vast collection of napkins rings. Or maybe I'm the one with the vast collection of napkin rings. No matter. Now you will actually be able to show them off and your napkin folding skills at the same time. An Entertaining Diary at the back is where you can record the details of every party so as not to duplicate in the future.  Invaluable!
A wire binding that is hidden behind a hard cover allows it to fit nicely on your shelves and still lie flat when you are working on your folds. 

This book is a must have.

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