Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where have I been? Culinary re-inspirations....

If you've been wondering, strange things are afoot at the Circle K.  Actually, since February, my life has changed dramatically.  The hubs and I are dealing with the challenge of living in two separate cities due to a job change I undertook.  As a result, I primarily live in a temporary housing situation in Florida while he maintains the homestead in Dallas.  Aside from completely demotivating me to cook since there is no one for whom to cook, I don't have my knives, utensils, or kitchen (or my sweetie for inspiration).  So, as a consequence, I have honestly cooked very little in the past four months. 

After finally getting settled a bit (with permanent digs coming soon), I finally feel inspired to cook again.  So, welcome back readers as I immerse myself in some new directions (I cooked fish!!) and experiment some on recipes that Ice wouldn't consider trying.  My welcome back present is actually an old favorite that I took from "Real Simple" magazine and adapted.  It is PERFECT for a summer bbq or potluck and I promise you will inspire others to make it too.  It is the ultimate recipe celebrating improvisation and versatility.  Don't like whipping up cream?  Omit the cream and powdered sugar and use Cool-Whip like my mom did.  86 the chocolate chips for different types of crushed up cookies (mint Girl Scout Thin Mints are a fave) or chopped candy bars.  Any way you make it, you won't want to put it back in the freezer!

Simple Ice Cream Cake
1 box (about 12) ice cream sandwiches, frozen
2 cups heavy cream
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In mixing bowl, whip up heavy cream with hand blender or mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Add powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (almost overbeaten).  Set aside.  Line a bread loaf pan with plastic wrap and wax paper.  Place a layer (about 1/2 of mixture) of whipped cream on bottom and sides of loaf pan.  Unwrap ice cream sandwiches.  Make a single layer of ice cream sandwiches (about 1/3) in bottom of loaf pan (can cut sandwiches to fit).  Top with half of remaining whipped cream.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over whipped cream.  Layer with more sandwiches (another 1/3).  Top with remainder of whipped cream, then 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and finish with rest of sandwiches.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for one hour or more.  Remove from loaf pan, flip (so that last layer of sandwiches is on the bottom), place on plate, and unwrap.  Let soften 2 - 3 minutes, then sprinkle whipped cream layer with remaining chocolate chips.  Place in freezer until ready to enjoy.

This makes a fantastic option with different types of chopped candy bars (probably need more than a cup of candy) and really gives you versatility based on the crowd.  Enjoy!

What is comfort food? An ode to ground beef

The foods of my childhood that I consider "comforting" are decidedly European in style - lots of "wursts" and potatoes to be found.  Ok, and ground beef, lots of it.  I still think fondly of the meals in Berlin, Munich, Prague, and Slovakia that evoke those same feelings of comfort and satisfaction. 

I know some of you that read this may turn your nose up at ground beef. From a foodie snob perspective, I can see the point. But really, some of the best food I've tasted has ground beef in it and even the most stuck-up food snob goes slummin' from time to time (generally under the guise of eating some authentic "ethnic" cuisine previously unfamiliar). What they don't know won't hurt them, right? I have news for food snobs - ground beef has tons of flavor! That burger you chow down - ground beef! Those empanadas you love at 2 am after leaving a club? Ground beef too! If you're a purist, you could grind your own (and yes, I have a meat grinder and I can do that), but honestly, on a random Tuesday night when I get home at 8:45 pm from work, do I REALLY want to bother?

I found myself thinking tonight about what would make me "comforted" after yet another LONG and trying day at the office.  Instead of my expected yearning for sausages (the "wurst") and 'taters (the potato component) that my husband would probably have requested, I found myself longing for Tex-Mex flavors.  Unwilling to purchase yet another bad version of fajitas at my local Chili's (they have great fajitas in Texas, not sure what the problem is in Florida), I turned to my pantry and another childhood staple - ground beef.

Yeah, didn't think you would want to bother either....  So, with that, I went to the subconscious part of my brain craving some comfort and asked it what it really might want on a night I'm missing my sweetie and generally feeling down.  The answer?  Tex-Mex flavors wrapped up in a ground beef package.  While our culture has decidedly focused their "versatility" monniker on chicken breasts, and deservedly so, an unsung hero in the home cook's arsenal is ground beef.  I'm not suggesting you go out and get some insanely fatty ground beef.  Ok, maybe for a juicy burger since you really need some fat to make that work, but for everyday use you can choose a variety of fat content options and yes, even lean versions with only 7% fat. 

Realizing that I only wanted to spend about 20 minutes cooking, I searched ye old pantry.  I found a bunch of spices with a Tex-Mex flavor, canned black beans, frozen corn, salsa, and ground beef.  Guess what?  They make a pretty tasty "kitchen-sink" dish, only took 20 minutes to cook, and satisfied my craving.  So here's my tribute to ground beef, a la Tex-Mex style:

"Kitchen Sink" Tex-Mex Main Dish
1 lb 85% lean ground round
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup store bought salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. minced garlic or garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips and shredded cheese for garnish

Cook onion until translucent; add ground beef and brown over medium heat until cooked through.  Once cooked, add in corn, black beans, salsa, and spices through oregano.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.  Cook over low heat five minutes or until heated through.  Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese as a garnish.