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Taco Salad

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
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A Taco salad is a hearty meal. It’s filling, satisfying and a great way to get non-salad eaters to eat salad.

To make four servings you will need salad fixings (video) – I’m using:

  • 4 cups of shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup of tomatoes – diced
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 small purple onion – thinly sliced

For the Taco part of the salad you will need:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 eight-ounce bottle of Catalina salad dressing
  • 1 packet of Taco seasoning mix

Catalina salad dressing is a sweet, tomato based dressing that has a beautiful bright red color.

Start by browning the beef in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. (Check out my video on Browning Ground Beef!)

Then drain off and discard the excess fat.

Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle on the Taco Seasoning mix.

Add the dressing

Fill the empty dressing bottle half full with water, and then add that to the pan as well. Mix everything together.

Bring everything to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer.

Simmer for 20-25 minutes.

After 20 minutes it will look like this:

While the beef is simmering, prepare the salad fixings (video):

You can prepare the green salad with whatever salad fixings you like. I like green-leaf lettuce. It’s a beautiful bright green color and does not have a really strong flavor. Click here if you are unsure how to wash lettuce. Once washed, chop the lettuce into bite sized pieces.

You can chop up one large tomato or slice in half some grape or cherry tomatoes.

Pile the salad onto individual serving plates. (Do not add extra dressing to the salad. You won’t need it once the beef and cheese are added!) The warm beef slightly wilts the salad and the cheese gets slightly melted from the warm taco mixture as well. (I added crunchy cucumbers and some sliced purple onion as well!)

Enjoy!

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Cabbage Soup

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
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This soup is thick, hearty, full of flavor, and perfect for the beginner cook. It was taught to me by my Dad, who did not cook very often but who had a few specialties that were his “signature dishes.” Cabbage soup was one of his best! He always made it as part of a traditional Polish Christmas Eve celebration dinner. I like making his recipe as soon as the weather turns cold. Be sure to pick up a loaf of (Polish) rye bread at the grocery store – it is perfect with this soup!

You might already have most of the ingredients for this soup in your kitchen. Onion, celery, carrot, olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth are the basic ingredients. Add a bag of dry yellow split peasand a bag of sauerkraut and the list is complete! (Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.)


Let’s startcooking!

One medium onion needs to get peeled and chopped.
(Check out my video for a quick review on How to Chop an Onion)

Dice one stalk of celery. Cut the stalk in half, and then in strips. From there it is really simple to dice the celery.

Do the same for the carrot – cut it in half, then strips, then into a dice. (My Dad never put carrots in his cabbage soup, but I like to start with a combination of carrots, celery and onions for almost all the soups I make.)

Dried split peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. It is not necessary to soak split peas, but they do require rinsing and sorting.

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(Note: Do not soak the split peas in water before cooking. Be sure to check out my post How to: Beans, Split Peas and Lentils which is a great primer on “pulses”.)

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Variety of Dried Beans, Split Peas and Lentils

Now back to the cabbage soup…

Put the dry yellow split peas into a colander and sort them. That just means to look though them to make sure there are no tiny stones that ended up in the peas. Sometimes you will see a green split pea mixed in with the yellow ones – you can leave it in or take it out!

Now rinse the peas under cold running water.

As always, it is really important to get all your ingredients prepared in advance.

Heat the oil in a large (6 quart) pot, on medium heat, until it shimmers.

Add the chopped onions…

…and the diced celery…

…and the diced carrot.

Stir the vegetables.

Then let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Add the rinsed peas to the soup pot…

…and the broth. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth.

Bring the soup to a boil.

Turn the stove down to simmer and cover the pot.

Simmer the soup for about one hour, giving it an occasional stir.

This soup gets VERY thick. You can add up to 2 cups of water (or even more!) to thin down the soup.

My Dad always used sauerkraut from a bag rather than buying it in a tin can. The sauerkraut from the tin can always tasted a bit “tinny.” You can find bagged sauerkraut in the “refrigerated pre-package deli meat section” of the grocery store.

Put the sauerkraut into a colander. Drain and rinse it under running cold water. Sauerkraut can be very tart. Rinsing it removes some of the tartness. (You can drain it in a bowl and save some of the juice. Then after the soup is cooked you can adjust the flavor by adding some of it back into the soup. This will add a bit of tanginess to the soup.)

Add the sauerkraut to the soup.

Stir everything together. You can see how really thick this soup is. At this point I have already added about 1 and 1/2 cups of water. I think I do need to add a bit more!

Season the soup with some salt…

…and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the soup with some nice Polish rye bread.

Enjoy!

P.S.
This soup tastes even better a day or two after it is made! When you take the soup out of the refrigerator to reheat it, it will have become very thick. Gently reheat it, stirring it often. You may have to add a bit more liquid to this soup if it has gotten too thick. It also freezes beautifully!

If you are a fan of split-pea soup you might also want to try my Green Split Pea Soup which has chunks of turkey kielbasa in it.

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How to Cook Lamb Chops

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
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I like to cook lamb chops quickly, in a frying pan, on high heat. Only seven minutes later, dinner’s ready!

There are many different cuts of lamb available.

These rib chops are have their own little “handle”, which makes them perfect for picking up and eating with your fingers. The nugget of meat in the center will be juicy and tender as long as it is not cooked past “medium.”

A ¾ inch thick chop is the optimum size to buy. Thinner chops tend to get over-cooked very easily. Figure on 2-3 chops per person.

Start by sprinkling some salt and pepper on both sides of each lamb chop.

Preheat your non-stick pan on high heat. To tell if the pan is hot enough, add about 1 Tablespoon of water to the pan. The water should sizzle and evaporate immediately.

Add the chops to the fry pan. You should hear them sizzle! If they are not sizzling, then your pan is not hot enough.

Set the timer to 3 ½ minutes to 4 minutes.

When the timer goes off, flip the lamb chops, using a pair of tongs.

Continuing cooking on the flip side for another 3 ½ to 4 minutes.

Mint sauce is traditional with lamb chops. Some people prefer mint jelly. You get to choose!

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If you are feeling adventurous you might want to give cooking a Leg of Lamb a try!

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Enjoy!

P.S.

All of my recommendations and cooking times are based on meat taken directly from the refrigerator.

According to Joy of Cooking, in their “Meat” section, they say (and I agree): “While many cookbooks and food experts recommend bringing meat to room temperature before cooking, we encourage you to follow the safer practice of keeping meat refrigerated right up to the last minute before cooking. While room-temperature meat will cook more quickly, there is not enough benefit to outweigh the risks of tempting bacteria even for a short time.”

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