Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mimicking Hamburger Helper

Magic Man was a well established bachelor when we met.  He was and is independent, a handyman, a very talented illusion manufacturer, housekeeper, and cooks to survive - not because he likes that task.  To be fair, he does a few really good recipes "up his sleeve", so to speak.  I love his potato salad, beans, ribs, fajitas, and sausage.  HIS personal favorites added Hamburger Helper, canned asparagus, and green beans overloaded with bacon, onions, and salt.

The other night, like every night this week, required a quick meal at home.  At work I wondered what we could toss together and be palatable.  I don't stock Hamburger Helper in my pantry, but decided with our stock we could mimic Magic Man's favorite "blend."

Arriving home from work, I headed straight for the kitchen snatching a large baking potato and onion en route.  My trusty Dutch oven started heating on the burner and after a quick potato prep, we sliced it into thicker-than-potato-chip pieces.  We browned the potato slices in hot oil in the Dutch oven, then chopped the onion while the potato slices cook.  The spuds were done, so they started the draining excess oil process and were set aside.  Back in the Dutch oven, the onions saut├ęd to which we added some ground beef.  A quick defatting of the meat mixture and addition of some flour - I guess it was a couple of tablespoons, we stirred this together and let the mixture bubble and brew for a while.  It was time to toss in some salt, pepper, and minced garlic followed by a cup-ish of chicken broth.  This mixture was thickening nicely and starting to smell really good.  During that simmering time, I discovered a package of frozen peas and dumped those in.  Back in went the potatoes, followed by a couple of big dollops of sour cream.  A final good stir and it was time to eat.

Magic Man complained.  We should have doubled the recipe.

No pictures to go with this story.  Maybe next time.  No one expected this meal to be a hit.  The best part is, this recipe becomes one of our "Some" collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Asparagus Pasta

I love recipes.  I especially love recipes whose measurements are accurately noted as "some."

Tonight we had a quick, one dish meal, portioned just for Magic Man and me.  This recipe was adapted from an article in Southern Living magazine so many years ago I can't recall the issue.  We replaced their pecans with our leftover chicken to present this dish as perfect for our family.

Start "some" (about 1 cup) mini penne pasta boiling in the Dutch oven.  I prefer the penne.  It has the same proportions as the vegetables.

While that's cooking, cut 1 red bell pepper into matchsticks,
cut "some" asparagus into 1" pieces,
chop "some" leftover chicken,
and mince 3-6 cloves of garlic.  Have ready some seasonings to taste:  pepper, basil, parsley, (fresh if you have the luxury of herbs handy) and a chicken bouillon cube.  I cheated this time, since I also have no fresh garlic tonight.  Must be time to head back to the local market.
Also, consider scooping "some" of the pasta water, and have a handful of Parmesan cheese close at hand.

Drain the pasta when it's al dente, breathe a sigh of relief that you were wise to reserve the pasta water ahead of time.  Meanwhile, back in the Dutch oven, begin to saute the red bell pepper.  After some minutes, usually 3, toss in the asparagus.  Stir that around for another three minutes or so.  Add the chicken, garlic, seasonings, and chicken bouillon cube.  Stir in a couple tablespoons of reserved pasta water.  Add more water as needed. Just before serving add the Parmesan, toss to coat.

If you're lucky, pour the mixture into a serving dish just in time for dinner.  Magic Man prefers to scoop it out of the pan.  He dares not wait a moment longer to eat.

This recipe easily exchanges or changes ingredients... shrimp, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, jalapeno, pasta shape.