This is what I served for dinner tonight when my folks came over. Yes, it looks like a lot on the page but – trust me, each and every recipe is incredibly easy. It kinda had to be, I feel a nasty cold trying desperately to rear its ugly head. Just to give you an early clue as to how easy they actually are, I used a store-bought mix in two of the recipes. I love keeping all sorts of boxed mixes on hand for days just like today. So there, my secret’s out.
Oh and yes, there is a lot of cheese here, I realize that.
*Carne con Col y Pimiento Rojo
(OK, obviously my Spanish is a bit rusty now, but I have to confess that I fancied up the name of this dish quite a bit because Beef and Cabbage Casserole with Pimento Cheese just didn’t have the same ring to it…And honestly, would you have continued to read the recipe had I just said Beef and Cabbage Casserole with Pimento Cheese? I mean, I just ate it and loved it and I still don’t find that appealing.)
-Dice 1 small head of cabbage and 1 small onion. In a large skillet, sweat out the vegetables in a little olive oil and season with several good pinches of S&P and a TB of sugar.
-Remove veggies from pan, set aside.
-In the same pan, brown 1 lb of lean beef that you’ve diced into very small pieces and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. (Depending on the fat content in your meat, you may need to add more oil to the pan).
-Once beef is fully browned and almost cooked through, remove and set aside (keep separate from the cabbage).
-Again, in the same pan add 2 TB of unsalted butter to the rendered beef fat and melt. Add to that 2 TB of flour, whisk together until it begins to bubble. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups-2 cups of milk, (I used my standby of 1 can of evaporated, whole milk). When the milk mixture has thickened, turn the heat down to low and stir in 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Turn heat off.
-In a large, greased casserole dish layer 1/2 of the cabbage mixture, then 1/2 the beef, then 1/2 the sauce. Repeat. Top with about 2 cups of good Pimento Cheese Spread*.
-Bake at 350* for 30-45 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.
(*note-I don’t necessarily have a recipe for Pimento Cheese, I just make sure the cheese is extra sharp cheddar and the mayo is full-fat Hellmans, and that I only add enough mayo to make a spread, never so much that it becomes gloppy. And I season with salt and a pinch of ground cayenne pepper.)
*Plantain Corn Spoonbread
(A delightful twist on plain, sweet cornbread. I just happened to have some plantains on hand that I needed to use, but sweet potatoes would be wonderful as well in this. The plantains make it very custard-like in texture.)
-Cut a long slit into the skin of 4 ripe plantains and place in your microwave. Cover with a damp paper towel and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, flipping half way through, until the fruit is fully softened.
-Place plantain flesh in a large mixing bowl and add about 1/3 of a cup of milk. Mash until only small lumps remain. Add 1 large egg and mix until well combined. Season with a pinch of salt and cinnamon.
-Empty the contents of 1 8.5oz box of corn muffin mix and 1 15oz can of corn, drained. Stir until just combined, (don’t over-mix, a few lumps are OK).
-Fold in 1-1 1/2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
-Pour batter into a greased, 9*13in glass baking dish and bake at 400* for 25-30 minutes, or until the center is just set.
*Chocolate Zucchini Fudge Cakes
(An incredible way to get some vegetables past your kids sweet tooth)
-In a large mixing bowl empty the contents of 1 box of brownie mix and 1 box of chocolate pudding mix. Add to that 4 eggs, 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 tsp of espresso powder. Use an electric beater to mix thoroughly. Set aside.
-In your food processor, with the shredding blade attachment, shred 4 medium zucchini or 1 of those enormous baseball-bat sized ones you just discovered in your garden (I use this same recipe for chocolate-carrot cupcakes. You would need 4-5 carrots for that). Dump out the shredded zucchini into a large kitchen towel and bring up the edges to create a tight pouch so that you can squeeze all the liquid from the zucchini over the sink.
-Fold the shredded and drained zucchini into the chocolate batter until all is incorporated. Grease 2 12 cup standard muffin tins and, using a greased ice cream scoop, fill your muffin cups all the way full. (I get anywhere from 22-24 cakes, but if you don’t fill every muffin cup then add a little water to the empty ones to ensure even cooking).
-Bake at 350* for 25 minutes, or until no longer jiggly in the center. (These are very moist and fudgey, so a little stickiness in the finished cakes doesn’t mean they’re not done.)
-Remove from pan and allow to cool on the rack before icing.
-I like to frost with the following easy Icing:
(use your electric mixer to whisk everything together until silky smooth)
-1 stick of softened butter
-1 brick of low fat cream cheese
-a splash each of vanilla extract and almond extract
-a pinch of salt
–5-6 big spoonfuls of powdered sugar, or just enough to make it sweet but not so much that you can no longer taste the cream cheese tang.