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Simple and delicious

By Angie Sutton

www.mothersapronstrings.com

How many of you are reading this article and wondering what you can make for dinner tonight? It is a daily question we ask ourselves as sure as we brush our teeth, get dressed and put on shoes. I’ll be honest, I look forward to Wednesday night fellowship dinner at our church. It’s like being on vacation from thinking about cooking for a whole day.

The stress of deciding what to cook lies in three areas. The first area is the simple question of what to cook. The second area is our worry that if we try a new recipe it may be a flop. And the third stress we put on ourselves is trying not to bore our family with the same-old, same-old ingredients.

I peruse lots of recipe books and online sources for ideas. Of course, I’m drawn to those that have 10 or less ingredients, and actually, five ingredients is even more appealing. The best recipes are those shared by friends with the seal of approval from their family table. I’ve become comfortable tinkering with recipes along the way to suit our likes. I tend to leave out garlic because the kids don’t like the taste and honestly, sprinkling the final dish with dried parsley is not likely to happen on a rushed Tuesday night.

This week’s collection of recipes is simple yet delicious and earned the “ok” from Sutton Central. Our local farmer’s market has a bumper crop of slicing tomatoes and fresh fruit to complement these meals.


Slow Cooker No-Boil Manicotti

Dump your filling ingredients into a gallon-sized resealable freezer bag and cut the corner tip off for an easier filling. Filling uncooked shells is so much easier! I use my larger slow cooker for this recipe to ensure shells have plenty of space to cook.

Filling:

2 c. cottage cheese, drained
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Other:

1 (8-oz.) pkg. manicotti shells
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 (26-oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

Combine filling ingredients. Lightly spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread about 1/2 cup sauce on bottom of crock. Fill each uncooked manicotti shell. Place filled shells in crock. Top with spaghetti sauce, making sure each shell is completely covered. Evenly spread remaining shredded cheese on top. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Shells will be fork tender when done. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top at the same time you have the lid open to check tenderness during the last 30 minutes.


Beef Burrito Skillet

You can easily make this with leftover pork tenderloin, beef pot roast or chicken and shred it. Toss in a cup of thawed frozen corn or serve it with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and sliced avocado.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 (1-1/4-oz.) pkg. taco seasoning
1 (15.5-oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. salsa
1 c. tap water
4 (6-inch) flour tortillas, cut or torn into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 c. finely shredded taco cheese mix
1/3 c. sour cream
1 large green onion, chopped (optional)

Brown ground beef in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain if necessary. Stir in taco seasoning, kidney beans, salsa and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Toss in tortilla pieces and sprinkle cheese evenly across the top. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Top servings with sour cream and onions.


Black Bean Soup

This simple recipe can be made in a slow cooker or on the stove top.

2 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. prepared salsa
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lime

Garnish:

1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 a lime (more or less)
Sliced green onion tops (green part) or cilantro

Stovetop: Dump one can of beans in the blender with the stock, salsa, cumin and chili powder, and blend until smooth. Pour into a large sauce pan with the second can of beans over medium heat. Add salt and pepper as needed. When heated through, stir in lime juice and remove from heat. Top each serving with sour cream, chopped onions and cilantro.

Slow Cooker: In a 6-quart slow cooker combine beans, salsa, chili powder and cumin. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Thirty minutes before done remove about 1 cup of beans and liquid and puree in a blender, then return to the crock. Add cilantro and green onions and continue to cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with sour cream.


Muffin Tin Meatloaf

I like to place the muffin tin on a foil-covered cookie sheet to catch any drippings while it cooks.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
1 egg
1/2 c. saltine crackers, finely crushed (about 12 crackers)
1 1/2 c. Mexican-style finely shredded cheese, divided
1 c. salsa, divided

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix beef, onion, egg and saltine crackers with 1 cup cheese and 1/2 cup salsa. Lightly spray each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Press meat mixture into muffin cups. Use your thumb to gently make an indention in the middle of each filled cup. Bake 20 to 25 min. or until meatloaves reach and internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Top with remaining salsa and cheese and bake 3 additional minutes.


Simple Ranch Pork Chop Meal

Double the recipe if your pan and oven size allow. I have a double oven so I set my second oven to broil and just transfer the pan. The broiling step is worth the extra time, but watch it closely so you don’t end up with burnt ingredients!

4 (8-oz.) pork chops, bone-in, 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick
10 baby red potatoes, cut in half
Fresh green beans, trimmed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (1-oz.) pkg. ranch seasoning and salad dressing mix
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet covered with foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place pork chops, potatoes and green beans in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ranch seasoning and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Roast until the pork is completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 140 degrees F, about 18 to 20 minutes. Then broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until caramelized and slightly charred.

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