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I started cooking as a kid and have found it to be a passion for me throughout my life. I've worked in a cooking specialty store, ran a catering company and most importantly, fed my family and expressed my love for them through food.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Runza? I don't even like to jog!!!

What on earth is a Runza you say?  If you're not from the midwest, this may seem like a made up word.  But as a child in the Lincoln Public Schools, it was even on the school lunch menu.  Bunza, Runza, let's call the whole thing off!

It is, simply put...ground beef, cabbage and onions, baked inside of a soft white bread dough.  They're German I think.  What I know, is that they make me happy.  They are sold at fast food Restaurants called Runza drive in.  And though they are good, nothing beats a homemade runza.  And they are amazingly simple.  I'm not saying they are "quick"but they are hearty fare and often a fan favorite.  My recipe is a cheater version.  If you aren't a cheater like me and are willing to make homemade dough (because you actually understand and embrace yeast unlike me), make a regular white bread dough.

Here you go! 

This recipe make about 12 good sized Runzas.  They freeze my friends.  Bake em all, then wrap the remaining in foil then in a zip lock bag.  Reheat in the oven to crisp them up.

3 pounds of ground beef, fat is fine here...remember, this is not for vegetarian or health nuts
1 small or 1/2 of a large green cabbage finely shredded...don't get crazy here...red cabbage is a BAD idea
2 small onions diced fine

1 bag of Rhodes white bread dough with 3 logs in it

Thaw the bread dough in the bag overnight in the fridge

The night before you want to make them (you can do it the same day, but this is just easier),

Shred the cabbage (I use the food processor and it take about 1 minute!).  I also chop my onions in the food processor.

Brown the hamburger in a BIG dutch oven or a big skillet.  You might have to do this in batches.  After the burger is about half browned, add the onions.  Once it is completely browned, add the cabbage.  At this point, do not freak out.  Add it all and it will cook down.  I don't dig long shreds of cabbage in the ultimate runza.  It should flavor the meat mixture somewhat subtly.

You're cooking it till the cabbage is soft...not crunchy at all.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Don't be shy about seasoning them.  Taste it and adjust it.  Cabbage tends to need a little extra salt so don't be shy.

 If there is much fat in the bottom after cooking (more than 1 -2 tablespoons)  either drain it off or add about 2 tablespoons of flour, mix well into the meat mixture and cook for about 3 minutes.  If you're doing this the night before, cover and chill for the next day.  I like to add a touch of flour because it firm up the filling.

Ok...so now you have what seems like a LOT of the filling.  But you'll be happy you have so much.

When you're ready to assemble the runzas, take your dough out and divide 2 of the logs into 12 portions -  you'll have 1 log left.  I usually make some simple buns and Tessa smears them with Nutella when they are still warm.  ooh it's good.

Back to the main event. 

On a good work surface with enough flour on hand to make things easy, roll out each dough portion into an oval about 6-7 inches across.    With your hands, scoop up a loose log of filling (1/2 a cup or so) and place in the middle of your dough.  Pull up the corners, then the rest of the dough to seal it up and pinch together.  Flip your little loaf of love over.  Shape it into a fat little oval.  That's it.  You just made yer self a Runza.

Place your happy bundles on a big jelly roll pan...you can usually get 12 on a pan and this recipe makes about 12.  Some like the bundles to touch on the baking sheet but I like a crispy crust all around so I space em out.

Bake them at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes till golden. If you want a softer crust, brush em with a little melted butter right after they come out of the oven.

That's it my friends.  I hope you'll try them.  They bring back all kinds of memories of my grandma making 2-3 big pans at a time.  It's a cheap and easy way to feed a crowd.  For years, this along with homemade Chicken Noodle Soup was my Christmas eve fare for my family.

Now, if you eat too many of these, you just may have to take up jogging.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beef Bourguignon - a saga in beef

I feel like I have a lot in common with Julia Child.  She was 6 feet 2 inches tall.  I'm 6 feet 3 inches tall.  She loved to cook and share.  I love to cook and share.  Julia was quirky, warm, extremely talented and worldly and had an infectious laugh.  I'm 6 feet 3 inches tall.

Regardless, I have always wanted to tackle her Beef Bourguignon.  And I say tackle in almost a literal way.  This recipe (below) may seem simple.  It is not.  This is not for the faint of heart as it has a lot of steps.  There are 2 additional recipes that go into this recipe (braised onions and sauteed mushrooms).  When you start out on this journey, know that the end point will be worth it.    Please recall this as you sweat and juggle and re-read the recipe and sweat some more. 

First, make a commitment that you will follow the recipe.  Every single step.  They matter, really they do.  You will need to boil bacon (yes, you read that right) before frying it.  You will coat the browned meat in flour and stick the pan in the oven, take it out, stir it, return it, lower the heat, blah blah blah.  You will be braising 25 small white onions that need to be carefully peeled first.  You will dirty about 4 pans and about 5 bowls, a strainer, a colander, tongs, 2-3 wooden spoons and endless tasting spoons and just about the time you think to yourself, "This is nuts!  Why on earth am I doing all of this for stew???" You will start to smell it.  The aroma is amazing.   It transports you somehow to some old world inn in which large steins of ale are clanked together with gusto and beef bourguignon is served in earthen bowls and the men who consume such fare end the meal by leaning back and unbuttoning their pants in subtle appreciation for such splendid food. 

With all of that said, the end product may move you to tears. It is seriously that good.  The broth is rich and full and yet not heavy or overpowering.  The beef is fork tender but not mushy and the onions and mushrooms are like little jewels, nestled into the meat.  I served it over buttered noodles with a crusty bread for sopping up sauce. 

I made this in the Le Creuset dutch oven my amazing mother in law Agnes gave me.  I love this piece of cookware and it makes a huge difference when cooking.   And I love Agnes for sharing a love for good cooking and eating! 

And so, if you're into 30 minute meals and find anything else a silly waste of time, keep on a walkin' friend.  This recipe ain't for you.  But if the idea of crafting a meal sparks something in you, please give it a try.  The resulting meal will be among your favorites.

Happy Eating

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds lean beef, cut into 2-inch cubes  - best from a roast

1 large carrot, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 teaspoon thyme

A crumbled bay leaf

18 to 24 white onions, small

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)

1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered


Cooking Directions
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.
Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.
Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

***You can stop here...let it cool and put it in the fridge to serve up to 24 hours later.  It just gets better.  Then to serve just heat gently on medium heat.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Legends in Lincoln - that's NOT good eating

I don't usually do this but I had one of the worst dining experiences of my entire life on Saturday. And I won't be back but what I would also like to do is to keep others from having a similar experience.

After a fun day at the horse show, Craig, Tessa and I stopped by Legends sports bar in Lincoln (84th and Holdredge) for lunch.  We've been there many times before and for sports bars, it wasn't bad.  Lots of TVs for the hubby to catch up on basketball..TVs in the booths to keep a 5 year old occupied and decent enough burgers,  all in a comfortable environment.

What we experienced this time was wildly different.  First, we tried 4 different booths before giving up on a working TV in the booth.  All were not working.  There were a few TVs on overhead but the four large screens were blank.  The waitress informed us that they were "busted".  The sports experience was lost.  The hope of entertainment for our daughter, dashed.  No colors and placements, no TV and REALLY slow service.  We watched wait staff just going from table to table trying to figure out where food went.  The table next to us had food for their 6 guests come out seperately and then they sat there for about 5 minutes without silverware or napkins.  We had to go ask where our order was at.  We didn't get silverware either and when we asked, it took a while.  The fries were soggy, the portions were meager, and generally, the food was not good.  My burger was tasteless.  My daughter got 2 chicken strips in an order which seemed lame.  We watched people sit down, wait 10 minutes without anyone bringning a menu, water, nothin.  One table turned several times...people just got up and left. 

The sports memorbilia on the walls had been removed and the walls were half painted.  The bathroom was out of paper towels.  There were platforms where there perviously were booths...now tables and chairs...don't sit there...you are dangerously close to having your chair fall off the platform.  Not that anyone would care.

Let me say this...our waitress tried but frankly, she didn't and couldn't get it done in that environment. 

A large group of Boys Basketball fans from Blair came in and I was just hoping that this didn't sour their opinion of Lincoln.

We heard from a "regular" that they are trying to turn it into more of a restaurant. Great...I just don't want to be the "test subject" patron while they figure that out.

Food - D
Atmosphere - F
Service - D
overall experience - just on principle - FFFFFFF

Be warned.  DO NOT GO TO LEGENDS. There is my public service announcement for the day!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blue cheese, bacon and chive stuffed chicken

I love blue cheese in the way the children love candy.  Its unique flavor first presented itself to me in the form of the blue cheese  dressing at Valentino's.  But now, I dream in blue cheese. 

I truly believe that it makes almost anything better.

And in this recipe, it makes the chicken delicious.  This is a very easy recipe based upon a compound butter and bone in, skin on chicken breasts. 

Make the butter...to one stick of room temp butter, in a small bowl, add 4 strips of crisp bacon, chopped, about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh chives and about 4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese.  Mix it well. Divide it into 4 portions.

Next rinse and pat dry 4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts.  You'll need to stick your fingers in between the flesh and the skin to create a sort of pocket.    Stuff 1/4 of the butter under the skin.  With your fingers, simply work the butter into a even layer.  Repeat on all breasts and place them in a roasting pan.  Bake for about 40 minutes in a 425 degree oven. 

What happens here is that the butter bastes the chicken as it bakes. The flavors permeate a bit and it is just darn good.

It is suggested that you can swap ingredients...instead of blue, use brie or sharp cheddar, etc.  Try a different herb, maybe a sun dried tomato, etc.  I think it would be fun to try out other options but I know in my heart that the lure of blue cheese is simply too strong.

Happy Cooking to all! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Porkchops taste good.


I am proud that my 5 year old daughter understands that pork is pig and that bacon and sausage and pork chops are pork because frankly, pig tastes good.  There, I said it.

Here is a fast, easy, few-ingredient recipe for Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Take 2 thick or medium cut pork chops...season on both side well with salt and pepper and drop into a super hot skillet with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it.  Brown well on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side) and transfer to a baking dish with sides.  You're looking for a deep golden brown crust here.  Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes depending upon the thickness of the pork.

Lower the heat to medium and then into the "pork chop pan" saute 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots (can sub red onion in a pinch).  Saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Next...measure out 1/4 cup of brown sugar (light or dark, no matter but must be brown) and 1/3 cup of good balsamic vinegar.  Add both sugar and vinegar to shallots, stiring to combine.  NOTE...the acidity of the vinegar will burn yer nose if you are standing right over it when you dump it in...be warned.  Keep stiring to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and cooking over medium for about 2-3 minutes.  DONE with the glaze!  Now just take the beautiful pig chops out of the oven, and place into the glaze pan, along with any drippings they gave off.  Flip em over a few times to coat.  Serve with some rice and veg or maybe some risotto!  When you serve em, make certain to drizzle a little extra glaze over the top. 

Happy Pig Eatin'.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chicken Fried Chicken with Panko

I grew up with a traditional "whole chicken cut up and fried" kind of fried chicken.  But since we don't really eat dark meat, I find myself never making fried chicken.  Here's my alternative. 

Don't get me wrong...this is not quick and it is not low fat but it is insanely good
You'll need three low bowls for breading, a jelly roll pan with a cooling rack on top as well as a big skillet and a cutting board and sharp knife and a big zip lock bag (or plastic wrap).  For ingredients you'll need about 2 pounds of chicken breasts, 3 eggs, an entire box of panko, about 1 cup of flour, salt and pepper and plenty of veggie oil.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

First, dry off the chicken with a paper towel.   Lay out a couple of long lengths of waxed paper on the counter.  For fat breasts, I cut them horizontally into 2 or 3 slabs.  At a minimum, I do one cut across the breasts horizontally.  Next, put each piece in a zip lock bag, (large) but don't zip it.  With a mallot, pound each to be a bout 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.  When done pounding, spread out onto the waxed paper and season with salt and pepper generously on both sides.

You're ready to bread the chicken..pull out three low bowls.  In the first bowl, put in about 3/4 cup of flour.  In the second, beat 3 eggs with 2 tablespoons of milk.  And finally, fill the last bowl with Panko crumbs.  These are Japanese, crispy and wonderful...but can not be swapped for regular dry breadcrumbs. 

I usually keep one hand dry and one wet...so with my right hand I drop the chicken in the flour to coat all sides and then drop into the egg.  With the left hand I flip the chicken over to coat with egg then move to the Panko.  With my right (dry) hand I coat well with the Panko.  Then transfer to the waxed paper.

The waxed paper is important as you will end up with what looks like a HUGE amount of chicken and need a place prepared to "set" it.

Now you're ready to fry....in a large skillet, brown the chicken in small batches till golden on both sides over medium high heat.

THIS IS IMPORTANT...once you fry it, transfer the chicken to a cooling rack sitting on a jelly roll plan.  You're browning it just to get it brown, not to cook it through...you'll do that in the oven.

Once all of the chicken is cooked and on the rack, pop into the oven for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, in your chicken pan, add about 3 shallots (or red onion in a pinch) finely chopped.  Saute for about 1 minute on medium.  Next, add about 3-4 tablespoons of flour to the drippings and shallots.  Cook the flour for about 2-3...ideally it gets a little brown.  Next, add about 2-3 cups of milk.  Cook on medium till it thickens.  Use more milk if needed to get it to a correct consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

I always make mashed spuds.  Always.  Because nothing is better than "milk" gravy, fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Again, this makes A LOT...so be prepare to heat up leftover chicken back on the rack on the jelly roll pan in the oven, and enjoy some great chicken sandwiches!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bacon Deviled Eggs...Super Bowl Fare by my husband Craig

My husband Craig is cooking up a Super Bowl Storm!  And when I saw these amazing Bacon  Deviled Eggs, it reminded me that you truly eat first with your eyes. Thus, just wanted to share this food picture.

And mostly, I love sharing this photo because Craig is such an awesome cook and we both embrace this love of cooking and sharing food and mostly just believing in good eating.

Happy Super Bowl!