I took a break. I had intended for it to be a short break that only lasted a few days. A few days turned into a few weeks.
Homeschooling is no joke.
Actually, let me backtrack. My children are in a blended program which means they attend school two days a week and their curriculum follows the local schools, but the other five days a week they are home and I am in charge of making sure all their schoolwork/testing is completed and answering any questions that may arise. Even though I’m not making up the entire lessons, it is still a chore. It’s a learning process for sure.
Also, I became really focused on monetizing the blog. I started this little blog/journey years ago as I love to write and I like to pretend to know how to cook. I’m not sure I do either particularly well, but they are a great way for me to unwind and let go of stress. When I rebooted my blog, I joined a few Facebook groups and the members were very focused on numbers, traffic, monetizing, etc. I got a little too wrapped up in that mindset and got burned out extremely quickly. I needed to take a step back and remember this blog is about my kitchen experiences. It is for me and my friends that choose to follow. Anyone else that wants to stop by, read about the craziness, and use the recipes are welcome and I enjoy having the guests, but if this blog only has ten readers per post, that is okay as well.
So now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get to the food!
My husband and I are HUGE NCAA football fans (ROLL TIDE!) and one of our “traditions” is to make a big pot of soup, stew, or chili on game nights. Unfortunately, we were camping when Alabama played their first game, so we settled for making our regular pot of chili when Tennessee played this past Monday. (On a side note, GO VOLS!- I grew up in a family of TN fans)
The beauty of this chili is that it is SUPER versatile! You can add or subtract anything and it still works! I’ve made it with and without beans. I’ve made it without the tomato sauce. I’ve made it with a lot more chili powder. I’ve made it with and without cheese. It is just so. incredibly. simple.
I’m including the recipe I used Monday. If you change it up, post below and let me know how you made it! I’m always up for trying new things! 😉
To begin, I diced a medium sized onion and a medium sized green bell pepper. I threw them into a large pan with a pound of ground beef and let it brown.
I drained the fat and then added the following into the meat mixture:
- one can of tomato sauce
- one can of petite diced tomatoes
- two cans of chili beans (pintos) *I like to add one medium and one mild can*
I mixed the canned products in thoroughly and then added in the chili powder and garlic powder.
I made sure the spices were also mixed in well and added the lid to the pan, turned to simmer, set the timer to twenty minutes, and relaxed. An occasional stir here and there and we had a fantastic dinner.
Easy. Fast. Yummy.
Does it get any better?
It’s taco night! Nope, just kidding.
This was the quote that sent rage through my house. My kids went straight from pleasant to demonic and it just so happens my husband was out of town. They don’t handle change very well anyhow, but when you take away their taco dreams and they are already hangry. No, just no.
Obviously, my minions are taco FANATICS. I make my tacos with a homemade seasoning mix to go into the ground beef. I also add in refried beans and my kids love it. They don’t even realize they are eating the beans, but it’s my secret way of stretching the taco filling and getting some sort of extra protein into their tummies.
The reason my dinner plans changed? As soon as I started rummaging through my spice cabinet, I realized I was missing cumin. At this moment, cumin and I are NOT on good terms.
I had to figure out something to feed the kids so I made Cheeseburger Macaroni. I don’t know if it’s an actual recipe I got somewhere or not, so I’ll improvise and type something up below. I usually make this when I have no plans and need something quick.
Here are the necessary ingredients:
I started by boiling the macaroni noodles. I didn’t/don’t have a measurement for this. I have always cooked the entire box and my husband takes any leftovers to work for lunch for a few days.
While the noodles were boiling, I browned the ground beef and onion together in a skillet on medium/high heat.
Once the noodles were soft and the meat properly browned, I drained both and combined them in a large pot. On a side note, make sure the pot is LARGE. If not, this happens:
I could barely move the spoon. I ended up needing to move the mixture to a large skillet, but that was almost too small as well. Next time I prepare Cheeseburger Macaroni, I will make sure my big pots are clean….
The cheese mixture needed to be watched and stirred constantly. For this reason alone, I always do the sauce last. First, I warmed up a 1/2 cup of milk on the stove until it was right at boiling (I also threw in a big pinch of salt and pepper).
Next, I mixed in a (generous) cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. It is very important that the cup of cheese is put into the milk in 3 or 4 handfuls. After throwing in a “handful”, I whisked the cheese until it was completely melted before adding the next handful.
If you throw all the cheese in at once, it tends to clump (I know this from experience!) Also, it’s gross to get a big clump of cheese in your meal!
Once the cheese sauce was fully melted, I poured it over the noodle and meat mixture and stirred until combined.
I mixed it on the stove top eye that I was using to cook the food. It was turned off at that point, but it was still warm so it helped the sauce mix in better and kept everything hot. If you do the same, just be careful that it doesn’t burn!
Here it is! My two big kids ate it and my youngest complained. She’s a threenager so her judgement is skewed.
Budget Stew. This recipe was listed online as something named similar, but I’m pretty positive the pictures and the recipe DID NOT go together. Not even remotely. Plus, I had to change it slightly to keep it from burning. So, this is it’s new name…I guess.
Budget Stew is exactly what it sounds like-stew on a budget. It’s cheap to make and my husband and two of my children liked it. My three year old (that hates all non-fried foods) didn’t care much for it and, surprisingly, I wasn’t a huge fan myself. I think I was going for something “beefier” and came out with something “tomato-y”. Those are words, right?
To begin, I need to clarify something that’s noticeable in this picture. The ground beef looks old. It looks terribly disgusting. It was not old or disgusting. It was fresh and was vacuum packed immediately after being purchased (I buy in bulk and then separate and freeze). When ground beef is packaged in this way (vacuumed), it turns brown. Something to do with oxidation or something. I don’t really know. I glazed over reading about it. I just know that turned brown (but was still edible) and no one was sick. WIN!
I had intended on presenting an easy Crock-Pot meal with little to no prep. I am about to fail….
To begin, the meat needs to be browned. I didn’t realize this until I had already peeled the carrots which leads me to the next step. The carrots need to be peeled AND the potatoes. But oh wait, the potatoes do not have to be peeled and I’m just illiterate. GRRR.
Once the meat is browned, drain it and then put it in the Crock-Pot with all of the vegetables that you have peeled, sliced, and diced. Arrange all the vegetables and meat and take a picture and post it on social media. Tell everyone that they just fell in that way. Kidding…sort of.
Next, it’s time to put the sauce in. I used garlic powder (you know my love for this stuff if you’ve read any earlier blogs) instead of real garlic and mixed it with the other spices in a small glass bowl. Then, I dumped the spice mixture and a can of tomato paste into HOT water to help the paste “melt”. Can I insert here that I despise tomato paste? I think it is the nastiest thing ever. I’m not even sure why, but I can’t stand it. I may have gagged a little while scraping the can…. Anyhow, pour the liquid on top of the meat/vegetable “art” and stir everything around.
Put the lid on the Crock-Pot and cook on low 6-7 hours or high 4-5 hours.
On a side note, I chose to cook on high (actually I just forgot to start dinner so I didn’t have an option) and 3.5 hours in, I had to add about 3/4 cup of water. The stew was so very dry that it began to stick to the side of the Crock-Pot so I had to add water. I’m adding this to the recipe at the bottom, but it may or may not be needed. Use your best judgement.
Also, I made cornbread because I felt like the stew needed a bread with it. I’ve included the recipe. It has been posted before, but it’s buried somewhere in archives.
By the way, I didn’t have any at the time, but Crock-Pot bags are seriously the greatest thing since sliced bread. They make clean-up a BREEZE!
- 1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
- 5-6 potates (peeled or un-peeled) diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
- 2 cups hot water
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- After browning the ground beef, add it to the Crock-Pot along with the potatoes, carrots, and onions.
- In a small bowl whisk together the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and oregano.
- Pour this mixture over everything in the slow cooker. Stir.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or HIGH for 4-5 hours. (If preparing on High, may need to check water levels around the 3 hour mark. If low, add another 3/4 Cup of water.
- Serve and enjoy
Idiot-Proof Cornbread (a.k.a. Southern Cornbread)
from the backside of Martha White Cornmeal bags
- Cooking spray
- 1 1/3 cups milk (or 1 3/4 cups buttermilk)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups self-rising enriched white corn meal mix
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Coat 8 or 9 inch pan skillet or baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place skillet or pan in oven 7-8 minutes or until hot.
- Beat egg in medium bowl. Stir in milk, oil and corn meal mix until smooth. Batter should be creamy and pourable. If too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more milk.
- Pour into prepared skillet or pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 8 servings.
**Note: I use the 9 inch round pan. The 8 X 8- inch pan makes cornbread that’s a little thicker than we like. **