Okay, that was a practically perfect meal!

We had the pleasure of hosting the O’Neills tonight at our place for dinner. I made the main entrée and dessert, and they brought a salad. We were pleasantly surprised to find the dishes complimented each other perfectly.

First, their salad was amazing. Mixed greens, red onions, carrots, goat cheese, grape tomatoes, almonds (or was it walnuts), mandarin orange wedges, and more I can’t remember, was topped with Kimmie’s homemade triple berry and watermelon vinaigrette. After tearing into our heaping mounds of salad, we moved on to the main course.

For dinner, I experimented even further with a recipe I’d already modified once before. This time, I made what I’m calling, “Meat and Potato Pancakes”. The original recipe, from AllRecipes, can be found here. Previously, I substituted leftover mashed potatoes for the shredded potatoes, using an exchange of 1/2 cup mashed for each potato. I also usually add a couple tablespoons milk to moisten the mashed, since they are usually a bit dried out from having been refrigerated in a less than airtight container. Tonight, because of the guests, I opted to try something else.

I upsized the recipe by half, making a third more, and then added about 3/4 pounds ground beef. The pancakes still held up well, with the beef adding a little more texture and flavor, as well as a nice protein source. The overall flavor is still mild enough to match up well with any toppings you might typically put on potato pancakes. We played with some greek yogurt and some of the goat cheese and both tasted great. The yield was twenty patties, comparable in size to quarter or third pound burger patties.

Dessert was a bookend to the salad, as we topped frozen mixed berries with warmed chocolate sauce. I found this at a booth last Saturday at Uncork Illinois, a local wine festival in Oak Park, Illinois. It truly is a great chocolate sauce!

This was the second time I hosted friends to cook for them. It was another resounding success. The O’Neills left happy, enthusiastically insisting we do this again soon. It was a memorable and educational evening, and it further strengthened my confidence in the kitchen. Feel free to give my version of the recipe and try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Electric Lingonberry Lemonade

I’m back with another new recipe. This time, it’s a delightful mixed drink that smacks of summer. The recipe is mine, measurements arrived at through a little trial and error, but credit for the idea has to go to my wife, who suggested the liquor in the first place.

Electric Lingonberry Lemonade
1/4 cup lingonberry cocktail
3/4 cup lemonade
1 shot vodka
Mix and serve over ice.

I get my lingonberry cocktail from IKEA. They sell a concentrate in their swedish market. I didn’t even know they sold it, as I had always gotten my lingonberry “soda” at the snack counter, premixed from the fountain. Once I found out it’s available to make at home, it made this idea much more viable for others to try on their own. This will taste great in summer, or when you need a taste of summer during those long winter months. Enjoy!

And remember… Please drink responsibly.

Easy and Tasty…

… are two of my favorite words when I have to whip up dinner on the fly. So here’s a quick recipe for you to try out for yourselves. This from-scratch concoction went great over rotini pasta, but you could probably top just about anything with it.

1 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons salsa (dealer’s choice)
1 medium-sized onion, diced
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup water
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated parmesan (optional)

Puree the canned tomatoes and salsa in a blender. Any salsa will do, but I used a Safeway Select chipotle salsa I had on hand. Heat up the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat and toss the onions and garlic in for a few minutes to get them started. Take the mixture out of the pan and brown the ground beef. Drain the beef and add the garlic/onions and puree.  Use the water to swish out the blender and pour it in with the rest. Cook on medium heat, stirring every couple minutes, to reduce the sauce, probably about 12-15 minutes. Let stand for 3-5 minutes and serve over your bed of choice. You can top this with the grated parmesan like I did, or maybe a nice shredded mozzarella. For a more southwestern kick, try shredded chihuahua or queso fresco and serve the sauce over rice.

Enjoy!