Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Celebrating 10 Years with our Best Recipes

Today Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations turns the big 1-0!! Ten years of sharing recipes from my kitchen - I can't believe it!



It's funny to think back on how much has changed in ten years both with this blog and with me personally. When I look back through the blog year by year I can remember things happening in my life by the way I was cooking and the food I would make. Kind of like when you hear an old song and it brings back a memory. My food brings back so many memories of times in my life. Oh how things have changed! Ten years ago we were both in our early 30s -

Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.Ten years ago I had never cooked risotto. I had never baked something that didn't come in a box. Believe it or not, I had never worked with bone-in chicken (except that one time I made chicken soup from scratch in high school). There were so many dishes and ingredients I hadn't heard of, or wasn't brave enough to try. I (thought) I loathed mushrooms and blue cheese and eggs. Things like homemade tomato sauce, pan sauces, homemade frosting and whipped cream did not exist in my kitchen. And my knife skills? None. I still used to put my index finger along the top of my cheap knives.

But then after being married for about three years, I took an interest in cooking, mostly because both my husband and I were getting sick of tacos, stuffed peppers, pepper steak, and cheese nip chicken. Sadly, that's about all we ate when we were both home... Thank goodness for work travel!

When I first jumped into really cooking, I immediately discovered that I did not enjoy measuring and preferred to go by taste, look, and smell. I soon started to read recipes and decide what I'd change before even trying the recipe. I had some failures and some successes, and learned a LOT along the way. Weekly I was trying at least 2-3 new recipes, and Saturday nights were dedicated to date nights at home where we'd cook something new and fancy together (yes, my husband is an awesome cook and loves being in the kitchen whenever he can!). I don't think we ate the same thing more than twice for at least 2 years because I was in love with experimenting and creating new recipes. That is when I decided to start this blog - it was really just a way to keep track of recipes. I had no idea where it would take me.

During those first few years, favorites were discovered and put on rotation, however I never lost that love of creating new recipes. Over the years my food has evolved to suit our lifestyle, and these days, instead of spending hours on one recipe, I focus a lot more meals to feed my family. Although every now and then I do get a full day in the kitchen and love it!!

Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.

Writing this blog has taught me and brought me so much more than just cooking.

Entertaining and planning menus is one of my favorite things to do. I love sitting with my notebook writing out ideas and I totally appreciate that my husband lets me run them by him a million times. Luckily he enjoys it too, and we love creating holiday menus together. We often start talking about Christmas months before the big day!

Photography has also become a hobby of mine. I know I still have a lot to learn and hope to find the time to take some classes soon, but on my own I can see much improvement. Those early food pics were pretty homely, as my husband would say! (so please, as I share some old recipes below, be mindful of that :)

And finally, it's crazy to think that I wasn't even on Facebook when I started this blog. There was no such thing as Twitter, Instagram, Yummly, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. I could go on and on! It has been fun connecting with people through those platforms and learning the best ways to use them to connect with all of you (and meanwhile my 6 year old sees a logo and knows what social media platform it belongs to - it's like second nature to them!).

Since my life and this blog are completely entwined, I can't help but think of how my personal life has changed over the past ten years. Ten years ago I was in my early 30s, married almost 4 years and working in the corporate world, traveling the country (and world) for pharmaceutical and medical meetings. After the birth of my daughter I decided to move on from that life, and now I consider myself very lucky that I am able to work part-time for now so I can be there for the school bus, school events, and extracurricular activities with my amazing 6 year old daughter. 
Cooking with kids Ten years ago I wasn't even thinking of kids yet, and now this little one is almost 7! How awesome is it that she loves to get in the kitchen with me and we can pretty much get her to try (almost) anything. Most recently she tried mussels and loved them! She's an energetic little girl and keeps us on on toes - our little first grader who loves acting, dancing, cooking, singing, playing outside, reading, writing, making lists, playing games and telling jokes. 
Things haven't always been easy over the past ten years - although blessed to be in our forever home, it has been a continuous work in progress and it always seem like something is going wrong or breaking. We have both dealt with unemployment, secondary infertility, pregnancy losses, and the death of our first dog, Daisy Mae. During all of those times, I always turned to cooking as my therapy. Family and cooking have been my one constant through all of these ten years. 

So take a trip down memory lane with me as I share my most popular and/or favorite recipes. These are recipes that have been shared the most, liked the most, and recipes that have been favorites of my family. 
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My top post of all-time comes from May of 2008 - Time for a Party. In this post I shared a menu for a party including this recipe for tortilla pinwheels, and now I see them pinned all over Pinterest. They are a hit! I take them to every party and get asked for the recipe several times at each party. Sometimes simple is the best! 
The perfect party appetizer - tortilla pinwheels
My husband has contributed several recipes, desserts, and wine reviews to this blog. Two of his recipes are in my top searched, pinned and shared recipes! 
He loves making this Maine Lobster Stew, has made it for the last 2 years on Christmas, and is always looking for excuses to make it again. I'll take credit for helping with the plating and taking the photos. 
Maine Lobster Stew - decadent and creamy with sherry and lobster meat
Another recipe of his that sends a lot of people to this blog through searches is his Beef Negimaki. After ordering it several times at our local sushi place he decided to make it on his own. We both agreed it was even better than the restaurant's! Since this post is from 2009 the pic isn't great, but what I do love about this post are the step by step photo instructions for cutting and rolling the beef. 
Beef Negimaki - rolled flank steak with green onions. Japanese food made at home
My top breakfast post of all time, and one that I make often, is a grab and go breakfast - Egg Muffins for Breakfast-on-the-Go
Breakfast on the go - egg muffins. Egg muffins with vegetables, egg muffins with sausage. Grab n go breakfast
I'm so happy that this next recipe is in my top ten of all time because it is one of my favorites - Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with a Lemon-Garlic Aioli.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with a lemon garlic aioli. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes. "Too hot to cook" and "grilled chicken salads" are both so commonly searched, and lead my followers to this post for Yakitori Chicken with Cold Veggie and Soba Noodle Bowls. This is one of my top chicken recipes as well as a top salad recipe. 
Grilled yakitori chicken with cold veggie soba noodle bowls. Too hot to cook! Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
With close to 200 chicken recipes in this blog, it was really, really hard to narrow it down to my favorite. I have so many, from this French Onion Braised Chicken and this Gruyere Chicken with Mushrooms, to Shredded Chicken with Chiles and Chicken and Dumplings. I finally chose a popular recipe, and it is fitting that it is a bone-in recipe - Garlic Herb Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Garlic Herb Roast Chicken Breasts with vegetables. Bone in chicken. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
Soups are cooked in my kitchen once a week over the cool and cold months, so with over 80 soup recipes in this blog it is hard to choose a favorite. This Potato and Corn Chowder with Bacon is one of my most popular, and it is one of my favorites because it is so hearty and well, bacon!
Potato Corn Chowder with Bacon. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
It's funny that ten years ago I had never made risotto, and now I have over 20 risotto recipes on this blog. Risotto is in my top ten search words, so I picked one of my favorites for this anniversary post - Three Garlic Risotto. I have been making this one for years (it was probably one of the first risotto recipes I ever made!) but finally just blogged it recently. 
Three Garlic Risotto - Roasted garlic, toasted garlic, sauteed garlic. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
Still, after ten years of doing this, I only use my crock-pot for shredded/pulled chicken, pork or beef. My top slow cooker and top pulled pork recipe is this amazing Guinness Pulled Pork. I'm so happy it gets so much love because it definitely gets a lot of love in this house! 
Korean Pulled Pork Tacos
Guinness Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Crock pot slow cooker cooking. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
My personal favorite pulled pork recipe is the pork for these Korean Pulled Pork Tacos. These are pretty popular on Pinterest, too! 
Korean Pulled Pork Tacos with a Creamy Sriracha slaw. Crock pot slow cooker cooking. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
And sticking with the pork theme, this Stuffed Pork Loin with a Mushroom Wine Gravy is one of my most popular posts. It is a great recipe, perfect for holidays or entertaining, and the tutorial for cutting and rolling the pork is spot-on. This post, and the picture, are from 2008 - 
Stuffed Pork Loin with a mushroom wine gravy. Great recipe for Christmas or Easter or entertaining. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
This is a newer recipe and it quickly became my second most popular appetizer - Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos, and it is easy to see why. Look how yummy! 
Creamy and cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos. BLT Jalapeno Poppers - perfect appetizer or party food. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
Let's finish this off on a sweet note! I don't bake that often - my husband is actually the baker in the house. This cake recipe has become a favorite of both of ours, and is my most popular dessert recipe on the blog - Philly Fluff Cake
Philly Fluff Cake. Philly cream cheese cake with chocolate swirl. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.
Thank you to all of my readers and followers for making the last 10 years possible. I have enjoyed sharing and learning with all of you, and I appreciate all of your comments, likes and shares. I look forward to continuing this journey in my kitchen and with this blog, and hope you will be there with me! 
Thank you!
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Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Beef and Bean Burritos



Ground beef, pinto beans and salsa fill this crispy, oven-baked burrito. Personalize them with your favorite toppings for a great dinner everyone will enjoy! 

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


I crave the flavors of Mexican food (or at least Tex-Mex) at least weekly. Some of my favorite things include jalapenos and cilantro! And then there's the cheesy dishes and dips you get with Tex-Mex - I cannot resist!

Last week's package of ground beef was begging to be turned into an amazing Tex Mex dinner, and I just happened to be craving it, so this happened - ground beef, pinto beans, and salsa all stuffed in an oven baked burrito and personalized with out favorite toppings.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


Usually when I make tacos I just brown the meat, add the spices and let it simmer for a few minutes until I'm ready to start assembling. With some extra time to spare last week, I let this meat mixture simmer for 45 minutes to give it some really amazing flavors.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


When stuffing the burritos it is really important not to include the liquid from the meat. You'll naturally get some in there, but use a slotted spoon so most of it drains. Once stuffed, I placed them on a rack on a foil lined baking tray and sprayed them with cooking spray. 20 minutes in the oven and they were perfectly crispy.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


The best thing about build-your-own meals (things like pizzas, tacos, baked potatoes, etc.) is that everyone can top their food with their favorite things.

My husband chose salsa, cheese, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno slices and avocado slices with some sour cream on the side.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


I love creamy and cheesy sauces, so I made a creamy cheese sauce with a kick from a special spice blend that my friend makes. It has so much heat and the best flavor! I also topped mine with jalapenos, tomatoes and cilantro.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.


I was so excited to cut into these. The meat had such a robust flavor from simmering in the salsa and spices, and the cheese sauce combined with everything for such an amazing, flavorful bite.

Oven Baked Beef and Bean Burritos for a weeknight or celebration. Great dinner for Cinco de Mayo! Ground beef, beans, salsa, and toppings in crispy, oven-baked burritos.

Give these a try and let me know how you like to top yours!

Beef and Bean Burritos
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of lean ground beef (I prefer 96%)
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 24-oz jar of your favorite chunky salsa 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 can pinto beans (or black beans if you prefer)
  • 6 burrito sized tortilla shells
  • Cooking spray
  • Toppings: cheese (cotija or queso blanco would be my choice), tomatoes, lettuce, jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, cheese sauce (recipe follows)
Directions
  • Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a rack. A cooling rack works perfectly for this. 
  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add your ground beef and brown, breaking it up into smaller pieces. 
  • Once browned, add the onions and garlic; stir 1 minute. 
  • Add the salsa, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, for 15-45 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Stir occasionally.
  • Place a tortilla on a flat surface. Spoon 2 spoonfuls of the meat mixture below the center of the tortilla. Fold in the bottom to cover the mixture, fold in the 2 sides, roll away from you. Roll in the sides again and roll until everything has been tucked in. Place seam side down on the rack and spray quickly with cooking spray. Repeat to make all of the burritos.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last 2 minutes. 
  • Plate and top with your preferred toppings. Serve immediately.
Creamy Cheesy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp of your favorite chili/spicy spice blend OR chili powder/salt/ground cayenne pepper/black pepper mixture
  • A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
  • 1/2 c shredded Mexican blend cheese
Melt the butter and oil in a small pot. Whisk in the flour until completely combined. Slowly whisk in the milk and add your spices and hot sauce; continue to stir. Once the milk comes to a light but steady simmer, remove it from the heat and add in your cheese. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over the baked burritos. 







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