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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

03/18/2017

~ Simply: My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles ~

IMG_6830Throughout Eastern Europe, cooks make a side-dish that basically consists of green cabbage and egg noodles.  It's quick-and-easy, totally-delicious, unpretentious, old-world comfort food.  I simply refer to it as "cabbage and noodles" or "cabbage noodles", because every country has their own ethnic name and spelling for it and every cook is adamant that "their people" invented it -- the Eastern Europeans are no different than the French or the Italians in that respect.  Sigh.

IMG_1863Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to halusky, haluski, halushki, haluska etc.  They define them as "thick, soft, dumplings or noodles", and, "the name can refer to the dumplings themselves or the complete dish.".  I grew up eating the old-world ~ Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings ~, and we called them haluski.  When we were eating today's recipe, the version containing egg noodles and cabbage, we called them "easy haluski". You can find my haluski recipe in Categories 4, 12 or 14.

Cabbage is a staple in the Eastern European diet.  It's cheap, available all year, and, it stays fresh in the root cellar or vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for a long time.

IMG_6742In any given Eastern European household, the cabbage is braised using the same basic stovetop method, but, past that, it's made to that family's liking.  Some cooks braise it in bacon fat and add crisply-fried chards of bacon to the dish.  Other cooks, like my mom and grandmother, braise the cabbage in butter, because, believe it or not, some folks don't think everything tastes better with bacon -- we think everything tastes better with butter. Almost everyone adds onions and some folks add bits of garlic too. Everyone seasons the dish with salt and pepper, and, occasionally a few caraway seeds.  In my family's kitchens, freshly-sliced or a jar of well-drained sliced mushrooms are often added -- because we are mushroom lovers. 

IMG_6750In any given Eastern European household, the egg noodles, which are cooked separately and often made from scratch, are typically flat, wide-ish strands.  That said, for a simple weeknight side-dish, cooking a bag of store-bought egg noodles isn't a compromise.  Please try to use egg noodles, not pasta, and, if you've got cooked noodles leftover from soup, this is a tasty way to use them up.  Once cooked, the noodles are tossed with the cabbage and the dish is served, many times with a dollop of sour cream on top.  In my grandmother's kitchen, it was her go-to side-dish for ham, roast pork, pork chops, pork sausage or kielbasa. Feel free to add sliced or diced cooked meat to the mixture to serve it as a main-dish as well.

IMG_6841My family's version of butter-braised cabbage & egg noodles:

IMG_67721  stick salted butter

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion, sliced into thin, half-moon shapes

1  4 1/2- or 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, well-drained (optional)

2  teaspoons garlic powder

2  teaspoons sea salt

1-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

1  small, 2-pound head green cabbage or 1/2 of a large 4-pound head

12  ounces wide, flat egg-noodles, cooked and drained as package directs

sour cream, for serving tableside

IMG_4955Note:  I like to use my 16" electric skillet to make cabbage and noodles.  It controls the heat perfectly, and, has the capacity to hold a voluminous amount of raw cabbage (which shrinks as it wilts), along with the cooked and drained egg noodles when they get tossed in at the end.  If you don't have one, use a wide-bottomed, 8-quart stockpot on the stovetop.

IMG_6774 IMG_6777 IMG_6780 IMG_6783~Step 1.  Slice the onion, as directed into 1/4"-thick half moon shapes, then cut the half moons in half to shorten them up a bit.  In skillet over low heat (150°), melt the butter.  Add the sliced onions, optional mushrooms, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Increase heat (200°) to gently cook, stirring frequently until the onion begins to soften.  While onions and mushrooms are cooking: 

IMG_6757 IMG_6760 IMG_6763 IMG_6764~Step 2.  Cut the head of cabbage in half and cut each half into quarters.  Slice each quarter into 1/2"-wide strips, then, cut some of the particularly longs strips in half to shorten them into fork-friendly pieces, keeping in mind they will lose moisture and shrink a bit when cooked.

IMG_6786 IMG_6787~ Step 3.  Add the cabbage to the onion mixture. Using two large spoons, toss, like a salad, to coat the cabbage in butter and onions.  Put lid on skillet.  Adjust heat to medium (225º) and cook, stirring frequently until cabbage is tender and "to the tooth", about 15-18 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary to keep the cabbage from browning.

Note:  Some versions of this recipe do call for browning the cabbage a bit.  Feel free to do so, but know that unlike onions, which, due to their high sugar content get sweeter as they caramelize, cabbage, does not.  Cabbage which contains some sugar but not a lot, gets a bitter edge to it when fried -- I don't care for it.  I like my cabbage cooked until just tender, still sweet and green.

IMG_6789 IMG_6790 IMG_6795 IMG_6800 IMG_6808~Step 4.  While cabbage is braising, on the stovetop bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to the water.  Add the noodles and cook, according to package directions, until "to the tooth".  Drain noodles into a colander and give it a few vigorous shakes to remove excess water.  Add the hot egg noodles to the cabbage mixture and toss to thoroughly coat the noodles in the buttery cabbage mixture.

Cover skillet & allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.  

IMG_6813Totally-delicious, unpretentious, comfort food:

IMG_6815Simply:  My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles:  Recipe yields 4-6 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife;  16" electric skillet or wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; two large spoons; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; colander

IMG_2890Cook's Note:  Another side-dish I just love is:  ~ My Grandmother's Braised Cabbage and Carrots ~. In this recipe, the raw ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and and put in the oven to braise.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 4, 12, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/15/2017

~ Kids' Stuff: Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne ~

IMG_6712Quality time.  Sitting at Wendy's with one, two or all three of our kids for lunch.  When school was out for the Summer, I did that about twice a week.  We'd all get in my car to run errands, drive a short mile to the traffic light that exited our neighborhood and intersected with our town's busiest four-lane main thoroughfare, and there, to the left of that light sat:  Wendy's.  I've always contended its placement was purposeful.  Our Park Forest neighborhood was a well-planned maze of tract houses on tree-lined streets with sidewalks, and, almost every house contained: children.  On our cul-de-sac alone, six of the eight dwellings housed a total of 22 children, and, no matter what street you lived on, unless you were willing to travel in the opposite direction which added 4-5 miles to the trip, no one could escape the neighborhood without passing:  Wendy's.

F52b682e15cf90e54d18c7034905e46dThat meant, every mom or dad with kids in the car, every time they stopped at that light, got asked the same question, "can we eat at Wendy's?"  Most times we sat at a table inside and occasionally we used the drive-thru, but yes, promising my kids they could eat at Wendy's if they behaved themselves and physically helped me do the grocery shopping, etc., worked like a charm.  In terms of fast-food chains, which I am by no means a fan of, I rate Wendy's rather high.  Let's suffice it to say, if, to the left of that traffic light there had been a McDonald's or a Taco Bell instead of a Wendy's, my kids wouldn't have been so fortunate.  Period.

It's worth mention that to this day a large percentage of Wendy's employees are teenage kids from that neighborhood working part-time after-school or Summer jobs.  When he was sixteen years old, that included our youngest son too -- who was their employee of the month once!

Where's the beef?  Etched in American advertising history.

Clarapellar_1_Everyone's familiar with the Wendy's success story.  In 1968, at the age of 35, Dave Thomas sold his KFC restaurants back to Kentucky Fried Chicken and in 1969, fulfilled his lifelong dream by opening his own restaurant in Columbus Ohio:  Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburger Restaurant.  Named after his daughter Melinda "Wendy" Thomas, they got immediate attention from the industry because they sold made-to-order square-shaped hamburgers made from fresh, never frozen, beef -- a higher quality product at a competitive price.  They were the first to offer choices for health conscious folks, including salad bars (which came along in 1979).  In 1984, using an elderly actress named Clara Peller, Dave's "Where's the Beef" commercial took America by storm.  After appearing in over 800 Wendy's commercials himself, by 1990 Dave Thomas was a household name.

Wendy's chili:  chocked full of their beef, beans & veggies:

IMG_6659When I was lunching with my boys indoors on those lazy, crazy Summer days back in the 1980's, while they were eating their 'burgers and fries and slurping their chocolate Frosty(s), my meal consisted of the salad bar, a cup of chili and a diet cola.  I'd skip the salad dressing and spoon the chili right atop my heap of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.  I loved it and I never felt that I was eating something that wasn't healthy.  Wendy's chili was something I genuinely enjoyed.

In the latter 1980's, my mom came across a copycat recipe for Wendy's chili in Women's Day magazine.  Except for the addition of the Tostitos salsa, which I added at the behest of our middle son, the recipe is unchanged.  I won't lie.  I have several recipes for chili in my repertoire, but, this one, kid-tested and mother approved, like Dave Thomas, is a success story.  It pleases everyone.

IMG_67012 - 2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

IMG_65921 1/2 cups medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup medium-diced green bell pepper

3/4  cup medium-diced red bell pepper

2  teaspoons garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  15 1/2-ounce jar Tostitos salsa, medium or hot, your choice (Note:  The original recipe did not call for salsa.  It called for 2, 15-ounce cans tomato sauce.  That choice is yours.)

1  40-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained (Note:  The original recipe called for 1, 16-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained, and 1, 16-ounce can pinto beans, well drained. Feel free to make that substitution, however, I personally like the flavor of red kidney beans better, and, in the case of the extra 10-ounces, more is better.)  

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon black pepper 

IMG_6597IMG_6598IMG_6600Step 1.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, place  ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, using a spatula to break the meat up into bits and pieces, until meat is cooked through and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pot, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6602IMG_6605IMG_6607Step 2.  Add the undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained kidney beans, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, salsa and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady, gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, to steep, 30-45 minutes.  

Note:  If you have the time to make the chili a day ahead and reheat it, it tastes even better.

Where's the beef?  In this chili "con carne".  Chili "w/meat":

IMG_6715Truth.  I've always had a secret love affair w/Wendy's chili:

IMG_6723Kids' Stuff:  Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne:  Recipe yields 3-3 1/2 quarts chili con carne.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; spatula; ladle

IMG_6693Cook's Note: Whether your a fan of the show or not, everyone is a fan of chili mac.  My recently posted recipe for ~ Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese. Together ~, has always been made with my copycat Wendy's chili recipe.  My boys claim it's the best chili mac around!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/13/2017

~ Walking Dead: It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese. Together. ~

IMG_6693On Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, while scouting around in search of food and guns, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), fall through a rooftop into a room filled with just that, guns and miscellaneous canned foods and military RTE (ready-to-eat) meals.  Rick goes full-blown romantic on Michonne.  After the obligatory sex, they eat a candlelit feeding-frenzy dinner and Rick presents her with a surprise, and it's not jewelry -- it's one last type of RTE meal. "I've been waiting to show you this one," Rick says, "It's chili. And mac 'n cheese.  Together." The scene wasn't over a moment when I told Joe I was going to write a blog post about chili mac.

IMG_6659Chile Mac:  Retro favorite of the RTE meal & Hamburger Helper.

Hamburger Helper entered the marketplace in 1970, and Chili Macaroni Hamburger Helper entered the marketplace in 1971.  Packaged by General Mills and sold as a part of the Betty Crocker brand line of products, the mascot is a "helping hand" named "Lefty" -- a four-fingered, left-handed, white glove with a face.  In its basic form, each box contains dried pasta and packets of powdered sauce and seasonings.  The contents get combined with browned ground beef and water or milk to create a meal.  Over the course of a short few years other flavors (Lasagna, Bacon Cheeseburger, Philly Cheesesteak, Beef Stroganoff etc.) were added, along with variations like Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper, and, Asian Helper (which contains rice in place of pasta). Others, like Fruit Helper (a dessert product made with canned or fresh fruit) and Pork Helper (pork fried rice and pork chops w/stuffing), were discontinued shortly after their introduction.

DSCF7973Hamburger Helper wasn't an option for me as a little kid.  It wasn't invented until I was 15. Hamburger Helper, although invented, wasn't an option for our three boys either.  I wouldn't allow it.  Mean, mean, me? Mean, mean them.  My kids would brag to me about every one of the great Hamburger Helper-flavored dinners they ate at their friends' houses after school.  They begged me to buy it. That infuriated me, mostly because I made a one-skillet hamburger and pasta dinner for them, mostly from scratch, just like my mom made it for them -- using her quick and easy A7e0c9a2-a041-4e8a-a8da-394e61edaeb2_2.47412931566ce0a4e5bb2914097704dbground beef chili recipe, canned beans and pantry staples, spices, cooked macaroni and grated cheese.  I served it to their friends after school in my kitchen too -- often.  I can only hope those kids went home and bragged to their mothers that I made my own Hamburger Helper from scratch. Mean, mean me.  Sad but true.

Today's recipe hasn't been 'out-of-the box' in at least 25 years.  

IMG_6646Pun intended.  Thank-you Rick Grimes for the inspiration!

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 8.48.26 AMEven though Hormel has been selling its canned chili since 1935 and Kraft has been selling their boxed macaroni and cheese since 1937, to this day I have never tasted either one.  During the 1960's my mom made her own version of macaroni and cheese on the stovetop for my brother and I who were entering our teen years.  For her mac 'n cheese she used one of two '60's era products:  Cheez-Whiz or Velveeta.  She didn't start making chili until the 70's, when she was a grandmother.  She made it for my sons when they came to visit.  The recipe she used was one she clipped out of a Women's Day magazine -- it was supposed to be a copycat of Wendy's chili (the fast-food chain founded by Dave Williams in 1969) -- she and my dad both love Wendy's chili. Because it is both simple and tasty, hers is the recipe I use to make my chili mac with one addition.  When Tostitos introduced their restaurant-style salsa in 1995, my sons couldn't get enough of it.  At the behest of our middle son, I began adding a jar of Tostitos salsa to the chili.

IMG_6655"It's chili.  And Mac 'n Cheese.  Together."  ~ Rick Grimes

IMG_6592For Mom's Wendy's-Style Chili (Recipe yields 3+ quarts -- use 1 quart today today, freeze 2 quarts  for two more chili mac meals):

2 - 2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

1  cup medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup medium-diced green or red bell pepper, or a combination of both

2  teaspoons garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  15 1/2-ounce jar Tostitos salsa, medium or hot, your choice

1  40-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon black pepper

For Mel's Mom's Wendy's-Style Chili Mac:

1  pound elbow macaroni, cellentani, penne or other tubular pasta

4  tablespoon salted butter, cut into pieces and softened

1  15-ounce jar Kraft Cheez Whiz, softened in the microwave, or, Velveeta, cut into cubes

1  quart chili, from above recipe (4 cups)

IMG_6597 IMG_6598 IMG_6600~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, place  ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, using a spatula to break the meat up into bits and pieces, until meat is cooked through and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pot, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6602 IMG_6605 IMG_6607~ Step 2.  Add the undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained kidney beans, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, salsa and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady, gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, to steep, 30-45 minutes.  

Note:  If you have the time to make the chili a day ahead and reheat it, it tastes even better.  Yum.

IMG_6613 IMG_6622 IMG_6626 IMG_6628 IMG_6642 IMG_6652 IMG_6656~Step 3.  While the chili is steeping, in an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil, add 1 tablespoon salt to the water and add the pasta.  Cook, as the package directs, until al dente.  Drain the pasta into a colander and immediately add it to the the still hot stockpot and return the stockpot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter pieces and Cheez-Whiz or Velveeta cubes and stir or toss until cheese is melted.  Ladle 1-quart/4cups of the chili into the pasta, stir, and serve.

Winner, Winner Chili Mac Dinner:

IMG_6662Chile Mac.  Perhaps as great as a retro recipe can get.

IMG_6668Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese.  Together.:  Recipe yields 3+ quarts, enough for 3 chili mac meals, 6-8 servings of chili mac per meal.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; spatula; ladle; 8-quart stockpot; colander; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017c34d41d3e970bCook's Note:  Please don't confuse chili mac with ~ Cincinnati Chili: My Holiday Bowl Game Tradition ~.  In 1922, two Northern Greek immigrant brothers, Tom and John Kiradjieff, opened a small Greek restaurant in Cincinnati called "The Empress". The restaurant struggled until they began serving chili made with spices common to their culture, which was ladled over a mound of spaghetti, and called: "spaghetti chili".  They soon began serving it with a variety of toppings, or, "five 6a0120a8551282970b017d3f030e4a970cways".  When ordering Cincinnati chili, here is the protocol:

~ chili only ("one-way")

~ a mound of spaghetti topped with chili ("two-way")

~ spaghetti topped with chili and lots of shredded yellow cheese ("three-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese and diced onions ("four-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese, diced onions and separately cooked kidney beans ("five way").

Another popular way to serve it is called the "cheese Coney".  This consists of chili ladled onto a hot dog (in a steamed bun) and topped with cheese (topped with diced onion and/or mustard)!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)