Beef Stew…pie?

I’ll admit it, I’m a superfan of Emmymade on Facebook. If you’re not familiar, click through and check out her page. She makes really fun food videos, and covers everything from recipes that went viral on TikTok and copycat versions of famous foods, but my favorites are those where she takes military-issued food rations and makes something insanely good out of them, like this one:

Video credit: Emmymade // At around 13:17, something caught my eye – she puts beef stew in a pie (puff pastry)!


My husband and I were watching this video the other night, and when she got to the part with the beef stew (13:17) the two of us looked at each other as if the light bulbs above our heads lit up at exactly the same time!

I had a plan already to make my regular beef stew, so I thought, hey, let’s mix it up a bit and try putting it inside puff pastry! SPOILER ALERT: IT WORKED AND IT WAS REALLLLLY GOOD!

You can use any beef stew you like (including canned, if you’re in a pinch), but if you need a great, simple beef stew recipe, try mine. The steps are below, in photos:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I used Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets (one box includes two sheets). Defrost as package instructs, and place one sheet on a sheet pan lined with foil and lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon your cooked stew over the sheet, leaving room at the edges for sealing.
Beat up 2 egg yolks and brush around the edges of the base layer. Drape second sheet of puff pastry dough over the top of the stew and press the edges to seal. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg and cut a small hole in the center to release steam. I sprinkled mine with a little bit of dried thyme, but it’s not necessary.
Bake for about 20-25 mins or until crust is puffed and golden brown.
Cut up and serve! I had extra stew, so I served it separately in a bowl and froze leftovers.
Crispy, flaky and buttery outside, savory and warm inside. A winner dinner – except for my daughter, who hates all things beef stew and protested this meal by having a TV dinner that’s off in the distance!


Takeaways:
1. Next time, I think I’d try to make individual pies, which would give a crispy crust on all four sides (because, who doesn’t love puff pastry?!)
2. You could make your stew ahead of time and keep in the fridge. It can be added to the pastry cold, since the cooking in the oven will warm it right up.
3. I’d chop my veggies and beef smaller, for more uniform bites in the filling.

Give this a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

Homemade Taco Crunch Wraps – Success! (but not before a fail!)

We’ve fallen into a rut of ‘typically expected’ weekly meals – pasta one day, burgers the next, chicken on another day, even a little breakfast for dinner now and then, but tacos – those are always on a Tuesday. This week, I decided to switch that up a bit and try to make one of my favorite things from Moe’s Southwest Grill – they call it a Stack!

They describe a Stack as “Our Take on a Southwest Wrap: soft on the outside, crunchy on the inside, it’s like a quesadilla and a hard taco had a baby”. Image credit, Moe’s Southwest Grill

The way I see it, a Stack, or Crunch Wrap as Taco Bell calls theirs, is basically a hard shell taco that’s split, filled, and wrapped in a giant tortilla. In any case, the crunch on the inside and the warm wrapper on the outside makes for a great, filling meal that’s fun to just pick up and eat. What’s also nice is that you can fill it with anything you like – in this week’s version, I made mine with ground turkey meat instead of beef, and added a standard taco seasoning, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. I also added a little shredded lettuce, but found that it got too warm and soggy in the grilling process so ended up picking it out as I ate. I think it would be great to experiment with fillings (as you could with any regular taco or burrito situation) – maybe use shredded up rotisserie chicken for a quick version, or ground beef or shredded pork… even just a plain cheese and vegetable one for the non-meat eaters out there. The possibilities are really endless!

My instructions below are simply for the assembly – be creative!

What you need:
– Protein like chicken, ground turkey, ground beef cooked in your favorite taco seasoning
– Shredded cheese
– Toppings like: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, black beans, refried beans, jalapenos, etc.
– Large flour tortillas (like burrito size wrappers)
– Tostadas, I found mine in the Taco section of the supermarket
– Griddle or large fry pan

How To:
1. See the above photo set of the process, but it goes like this…
2. Have all of your filling ingredients ready to go.
3. Don’t make the mistake I made! ++FAIL ALERT CENTER PHOTO++ I thought by assembling on the hot griddle, the wraps would get softer and easier to handle – NOPE! The wraps got crispy very fast and were impossible to fold over since they shrunk a bit as they got hotter, leaving the tostada exposed. Do all of your assembly on a plate, then move to the griddle for the final crisping.
4. Heat up your griddle or pan.
4. Layer in this order: tortilla, tostada in the middle, cheese, meat (or extra cheese), toppings, cheese again, then a final tostada on top.
5. Fold the tortilla up and around the middle until you get it as tightly closed as possible and grill folded side down to seal it all in. Flip when lightly browned and enjoy!

The end result is a warm, slightly chewy/crispy outside and a nice crunch inside – full of your favorite filling. Let me know in the comments what combos you come up with!

Brunch, anyone?

Wikipedia says: “Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch, and regularly has some form of alcoholic drink served with it. It is usually served anytime before 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.”

I’ll just say that a weekend brunch is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to mix it up a bit and get family and friends together to enjoy a meal during the day, rather than a later dinner.

This recipe is my version of a pretty basic breakfast casserole that my Mom used to make. It’s eggy, bready, cheesy and the best part is, you can pretty much throw as many add-ins as you want and it still turns out delicious!

Breakfast Casserole | Serves 6

Start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf white bread, chopped
  • 9 large eggs
  • 6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 3 Cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package frozen Brown & Serve breakfast sausages
  • Additional add-ins (if desired): frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and squeezed dry), cooked sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, or cooked chopped bacon or ham.
  • Serve with maple syrup or ketchup.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix up eggs, milk, salt, pepper and melted butter in a bowl.
  3. Place a layer of chopped bread into your baking dish. Top with meat and cheese, repeat until your ingredients are used up and your casserole is piled high.
  4. Gently pour egg mixture over bread/cheese/meat. Let sit 15 mins to soak in.
  5. Bake for 45-55 mins or until casserole is golden brown and puffed.
  6. Top with maple syrup or ketchup and serve.

Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

My original plan for this recipe was to just throw it all in my Crock Pot and let it do its thing while I went to work, but time got away from me that morning and then I thought – “I bet I can do this in the Instant Pot”!

So I started Googling. I found lots of great recipes online, but some featured different cuts of pork, some had a lot of extra ingredients (that I didn’t have on hand), so I settled on creating my own mashup of the parts of a few recipes that I liked and it turned out great! What I like most about the Instant Pot version is the crusty bits that you can only get from searing the meat prior to cooking. I find that when I slow-cook this (even if I sear ahead of time), it ends up being a bit waterlogged and bland. This recipe has a great texture, gets nice and stringy and is full of great barbeque flavor.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6 on slider buns

• 3lb Pork shoulder roast
• 2 Cups of your favorite BBQ sauce
• 1-1/2 Cups water
• 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning Rub – you can use this, or a packaged version:
• 2 TBS dark brown sugar
• 1tsp red pepper flakes
• 1tsp garlic powder
• 2tsp onion powder

Browse through the slide show to see before, during and after!

How To:
Total time, about an hour.

  1. Turn on Instant Pot to Sauté Mode and allow to get ‘HOT’; add olive oil.
  2. Combine seasoning rub ingredients in a small bowl. Trim excess fat off pork shoulder and cut into 3 large/even chunks. Coat each piece with seasoning rub and place into Instant Pot.
  3. While pork is browning, combine 1 cup of your barbeque sauce with the water. Remove pork from Instant Pot and set aside on a plate when browned on all sides.
  4. Deglaze pot- pour BBQ sauce/water mixture into pot and scrape browned bits from the bottom. Add pork back to pot and cover with lid with vent on ‘sealing’.
  5. Set time to 40 minutes on high pressure (with keep warm off) and when done allow for a 10 minute natural release. Flip vent to remove any additional pressure before opening.
  6. Shred pork with 2 forks and add in remaining barbeque sauce. Serve on buns with pickles and coleslaw. Enjoy!

Easy Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

Once your Instant Pot comes to pressure, you are only 3 minutes away from delicious Mac & Cheese!

What I love most about this quick and easy recipe is that you’re only dirtying one pot, and there’s plenty of flexibility to upgrade this Mac & Cheese with things like fancier cheeses (think gruyere), and add-ins at the end like chopped cooked bacon, or veggies (I topped this batch with Tyson’s Buffalo Chicken Strips)!

Ingredients
Serves 4 as a meal; 8 as a side dish
• 1lb uncooked elbow pasta (I used Barilla Pipette)
• 4 cups cold water
• 3 Tbs unsalted butter
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
• 3 Cups shredded cheese (I used half sharp cheddar and half cheddar monterey jack blend)
• 1/2 cup milk (whole or 1%)

How To:
1. Place water, salt and pasta into Instant Pot (mine is a 6qt). Stir. Close lid and set to high pressure for 3 minutes. Be sure valve is on “sealing”.
2. Once done, do a quick release and remove lid. Add butter and stir until melted. Add cheese, pepper and milk and stir until creamy.
3. Top with your favorite toppings, or nothing at all!

Mom’s Meatloaf

Fun fact: when I was growing up, I really didn’t care for meatloaf. The texture was weird to me, like a spongy burger? I think I remember bites of crunchy onions and some “green stuff” in there (parsley, ugh), but as a kid, I forced it down (because that’s what we were supposed to do!) and didn’t really think much more about it.

It seems though, as you get older and start cooking for yourself and others, old family recipes creep up on you and you put your own twist on them – maybe to make them more ‘likeable’ or how I would have wanted them to be at the time, so I guess we’ll just call this ‘My Version’ of my Mom’s Meatloaf!

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What you’ll Need (Meatloaf serves 4-6):
• 2lbs ground beef
• 2 large eggs
• 1 carrot, finely grated – adds moisture to the meatloaf!
• 3/4 Cup seasoned bread crumbs
• 1 Tablespoon onion powder
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon parsley
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Meatloaf Glaze:
• 1/2 Cup ketchup
• 1/4 Cup dijon or yellow mustard
• 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

How To:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, spices, eggs, breadcrumbs and carrot. Get dirty and mix with your hands! I find it always comes out best this way. If mixture feels a bit dry, add milk a little at a time. Mixture should be dense but soft and shape-able.
  2. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and form meat mixture into a loaf shape and place into baking dish.
  3. Mix meatloaf glaze in a small bowl with a whisk until combined, brush over top of meatloaf.
  4. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and lay crescent roll dough over top, overlapping slightly to cover the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until crescents are browned. If you’re using a meat thermometer, beef should come to at least 160 degrees F. Slice and serve.

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Burrito Casserole

If you’re tired of taco Tuesdays and want to mix it up a bit, this Burrito Casserole gives you the same flavor – and it’s great for feeding a crowd (think that big Football Party…). What I love most is that you can sneak lots of veggies in for some extra nutrition and they’re disguised by that great taco flavor (the kids won’t suspect a thing!).

Basically this recipe contains all the same elements of a burrito, without the mess of wrapping and rolling. I served mine with tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado and everyone loved it!


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Burrito Casserole
Serves 4-6
Start to finish: about 30 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 1lb ground turkey (or beef, or chicken)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 Can Rotel (8oz, or 1 Cup of your favorite pre-made salsa)
  • 1 Cup frozen corn
  • 1 Can (8oz) Black Beans
  • 4 Cups of cooked white or brown rice
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour Cream, Avocado, and Tortilla Chips for serving (optional, but YUMMY!)

How To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Prepare rice as directed on package. While rice is cooking, brown your ground meat with the chopped onion.
  3. Once meat is browned, add in: taco seasoning, water, Rotel, black beans, and corn.
  4. Stir all together until combined.
  5. Layer in baking dish: rice, then meat mixture, top with shredded cheese.
  6. Bake in oven for about 15 mins or until cheese is melted.
  7. Serve with sour cream, avocado, chips, etc.

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Air Fried (Fresh) Chicken Breast Strips

While I do love the occasional air fried batch of processed/frozen, super-breaded chicken strips and nuggets, the whole purpose of this air fryer craze is to try and cook at least a little bit healthier, right?

I made some chicken strips for dinner last night that turned out really good! Super simple – just 3 ingredients – a quick prep, and they came out fully cooked and moist inside and really crispy outside. My breadcrumb of choice is always Panko (here’s a great article about what Panko is from Chowhound) when I want my coating to be crunchy. The little flakes crisp up so much more nicely than standard breadcrumbs, and it’s available everywhere now. I buy the seasoned store brand for 99 cents!

Follow along and try these for yourself, they’re pretty hard to mess up! 🙂

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Pro tip #1: I never flour my chicken when breading – just pull out of the package and dry with a paper towel – it helps the egg stick better! 
Pro tip #2: Use tongs to do your dipping and breading process – keeps your fingers clean!

 

Easy Air Fried Fresh Chicken Breast Strips
Serves: 3-4 with sides
(we had peas and rice!)
Start to Finish: about 30 minutes

Here’s what you’ll need, and note the cooking time can be altered depending on your preferred crispness and how many you’re making at once:

  • 1 – 1.5 lb of fresh chicken breast strips
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups Seasoned Panko breadcrumbs (I did not test with regular breadcrumbs, so if you do, let me know how they come out!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste; cooking spray

How To:

  1. Preheat air fryer to 360 degrees F for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken strips from package and pat dry; set up two bowls and one plate.
  3. In one bowl add 4 eggs and whisk to combine. In second bowl, add bread crumbs, salt and pepper.
  4. One by one, dip chicken strips into beaten egg and then drop into bread crumbs, pressing in as needed and shaking off any excess. Transfer to plate and pile up.
  5. Open air fryer and spray bottom of basket with nonstick cooking spray (I use Olive Oil Pam). Place chicken strips in but do not over crowd or layer on top of each other. I fit almost the whole 1.5lb pack in mine.
  6. Spray tops of chicken lightly with nonstick spray (this helps the browning!) and close air fryer.
  7. Cook at 360 degrees for 17 minutes. No need to shake or turn over chicken – just set it, make your sides, and enjoy! Increase time if you like it crispier.

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I use the Cosori 5.8qt Air Fryer, and love it!

Air Fried French Fries!

“They won’t be the same!”, they said.
“They won’t be as crunchy!”, they said.

Well “they’ were wrong! French Fries are a favorite in our house and I’m always looking for healthier ways to cook them. While I never truly “fried” them in a vat of oil, I did bake my fries in the past and they always came out not quite right – either overcooked or undercooked and I never got that crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside like a good, satisfying fry should be.

When I got my air fryer, I really didn’t expect anything spectacular, but I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised! One of the most common misconceptions about air frying is that there’s no oil involved. Lies! Some recipes do call for oil, but the quantity is so minute, especially in this recipe, that it’s truly just there for crisping purposes and a bit of flavor.

Follow my tips below and comment if you try my recipe!

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The most important step! Do not skip soaking your fries – it makes all the difference!

Perfect Air-Fried French Fries
Serves 2-3
Start to Finish: about 45 minutes

• 2-3 large russet (baking) potatoes
• Cold water for soaking potatoes
• 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
• Salt and pepper to taste

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How To:

• Clean and dry potatoes; cut into 1/2 inch strips
• Place potato strips into a bowl and soak in cold water for 10 minutes (NOTE: this is possibly the most important part of the how-to! Soaking will make the potatoes “less slimy” and aids in the crisping process, don’t skip this step!)
• After 15 minutes, rinse potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel
• Preheat air fryer to 380 degrees F
• Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper until evenly coated
• When fryer is ready, place potatoes in basket gently piling but not packing them in and cook* at 380 degrees for about 28 minutes, shaking the basket half way through cooking.
• For crispier fries, cook a little longer!

*If you’re using the Cosori Air Fryer 5.8qt (my fryer!) – once preheated, add potatoes to basket and hit the “french fry” button and set for 28 minutes. It will automatically pause and remind you to shake half way through.