Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Down Home Meat Loaf

Meatloaf is something I loved as a kid.  Oddly enough, I mostly remember eating the school’s meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I don’t recall my mom ever being a big on making meatloaf for dinner.  The fact that I remember the school lunch meatloaf is also weird because the meatloaf was one of the only edible school lunch meals that they served in public school.  LOL 
Once I started watching the cooking shows and such, I experimented with the more fancy meatloaf recipes and even turkey meatloaf.  Those turned out ok, but I always come back to the good old meatloaf recipe that used to be on the Lipton Onion Soup Mix box.  I was able to find the actual recipe from the Lipton box on the internet and it is so simple and delicious that it is my go-to meatloaf recipe…..always!  I’ll save the more fancy ingredients for other dishes. 

One thing I did learn from watching cooking shows is that ground pork imparts delicious flavor to the meatloaf and the pork  alsoensures that the meatloaf will be super moist and juicy.  So, instead of two pounds of ground beef (as stated in the original recipe) , I combine 1 pound of pork with 1 pound of ground beef.  Serve this meatloaf with some garlic mashed potatoes and some green beans and plenty of ketchup on the side……..wow, this meal really takes me back!  Cheers!


Lipton onion soup mix- 1 pouch 
Eggs 2 
Ketchup (1/2 cup) 
Bread crumbs (1/2 cup) 
Ground beef, (1 lb) 

Ground pork, (1 lb)
More ketchup for topping the meatloaf – about 1 cup…..or more if you like!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
 In a large bowl, beat the eggs. 

 Add the onion soup mix, ketchup and *bread crumbs. Mix well. Add ground beef and pork and mix well.

   *Here’s a tip for making homemade bread crumbs that I learned from a friend: If you don’t have store-bought bread crumbs, you can make your own from day-old bread or even regular sliced wheat or white bread.  If using sliced bread to make bread crumbs, place about 2 slices of bread (for ½ cup bread crumbs) in the toaster or oven and toast well. 

When the bread is toasted and nicely brown, turn off the oven or toaster, but leave the slices in the oven so that they can dry out in the middle.  You want really crusty and dried out bread to make bread crumbs.  After the interior of the bread slices seem nice and dry, crumble the bread into a spice grinder, blender or food chopper and blend.  Voila!  You have home-made bread crumbs!

 Shape the meat mixture into a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.  After 30 minutes, pull out the loaf and spread ketchup over the top according to your preference.  Put the meatloaf back in the oven for 30 minutes more.  After 60 minutes total cooking time, let the meatloaf sit for about 10 minutes and then enjoy! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beefy Mushroom Stroganoff

I love a good mushroom and beef stroganoff with some egg noodles and a crusty slice of garlic bread. 
After testing out a couple of recipes, I created this recipe of my own with some elements from each of the different recipes.  This recipe is my favorite, with the perfect balance of garlic, beef and fresh ground pepper in a creamy mushroom sauce.  It’s easy and you probably have the ingredients right in your pantry ……….try it for dinner tonight!

If you want to give a go at making egg noodles from scratch, I have provided the link to the Pioneer Woman’s website.  I used the recipe on Pioneer Woman to create my first from-scratch egg noodles.  They need a little tweaking, but overall, the noodles were really good for my first attempt! 
If you are not up for the challenge of homemade egg noodles, just grab a package from the store and boil ‘em up.  It’ll be delicious with the creamy mushroom sauce! 
1 pound thin, boneless Ribeye steak
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
½ cup beef broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 cup milk
Fresh ground pepper and salt
dried Parsely flakes for garnish (optional)
1 (16 oz) package egg noodles

Prepare the Ribeye steak by thinly slicing it on a diagonal angle.  The slices should be about ½ inch in length for best results.  Heat the 2 tsp vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté the steak in the oil for about 3 minutes.  Before the steak is fully browned, add the 2 cloves minced garlic and a few grinds of black pepper and salt.  Also, add the sliced mushrooms at this time, turn down the heat a bit and sauté with the other ingredients until soft.  

Now to make the creamy stroganoff sauce!
Move the meat and mushroom mixture to a separate plate while you make the sauce in the same skillet.
To the skillet, add the butter and turn up the heat to medium high.  When the butter is melted, add the flour and stir with a whisk just until the flour is golden in color.  Whisk in the milk with the butter and flour, making sure there are no lumps.  Then, add in the cream of mushroom soup and Worchestershire sauce and whisk until blended.  If you find that the sauce is too thick at this point, simply whisk in a bit more milk until you achieve the desired consistency. 
Now, add the mushroom and meat mixture back into the sauce and stir well to combine.  Taste the sauce at this point and then add in more salt and pepper to your taste preference. 
Serve the sauce over cooked hot egg noodles** with a side of crusty garlic bread and enjoy! 
**A side note about the egg noodles I used in this dish…. I made my first try at making egg noodles from scratch and they turned out pretty good, but I still found them a bit too thick.  I think I need to roll the noodle dough out thinner next time and maybe add a bit of water or something to thin them out.  Interestingly, my husband actually like the heavy, thicker egg noodles a lot!  J
I have provided the link to the recipe that I used for the egg noodles, courtesy of Pioneer Woman, (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/homemade-pasta/) but I need to do a couple more tries before I post the entire egg noodle shebang on my blog.  They do make a pretty picture if I do say so myself! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy....with a Kick!

It's Saturday morning after a long week....two 12 hour days at work with parent teacher conferences.  I roll over in bed....don't want to get up this early (it's 8:00.... lol) but the dogs are getting increasingly impatient to be let outside and Juno kitty is in my face purring loudly..... staring at me from his perch on my chest.  I curse the animals under my breath and then I remember.......oh wait!  I bought stuff to make biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast!  Well, now I'm up, with a spring in my step......gotta feed the animals so I can get my biscuits and sausage gravy on!

I grew up in the South where biscuits and gravy is a breakfast staple but, quite frankly, I was never a big fan.  Then one day a friend made me some homemade sausage gravy with Jimmy Dean HOT sausage..... Eureka !  That's the missing element.......some spicy sausage to give that pile of SOS (sh!t on a shingle) some bold flavor. 

I have been making this recipe for breakfast ever since on a regular basis.  It's especially good on a Fall or Winter lazy morning at home with a mimosa or two!  I hope you try it and enjoy.....it's really easy so don’t be intimidated.  It goes perfectly with some fluffy scrambled eggs and homemade biscuits!

Sausage Gravy
1 lb Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage (bulk roll)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
1 cup milk to 1 ½ cup milk (use more milk if you like your gravy thinner)
Salt and pepper to taste

Gravy Preparation –
Place the sausage in a pan over medium heat and cook until browned and no longer pink.  Make sure to break up the sausage as it cooks, breaking it up into crumbles.   After the sausage is browned, push the meat to the side and tip the pan to get all the delicious grease over to the opposite side of the pan so that it can be used to brown the flour.    Once you have the grease on one side and the meat on the other (more or less) place the butter or oil in the pan and turn the heat up to medium high.  Put the flour in the oil when it is hot and brown the flour with a fork or a whisk . 

Turn the heat down to medium and when the flour is a nice golden color, then whisk in the milk until you achieve the desired thickness.   At this point, stir the sausage into the gravy mixture to combine everything.   You can still add more milk if the gravy is too thick…….just whisk it good to keep it nice and smooth.
I like to add lots of fresh ground pepper when the gravy and sausage are all combined and then a little salt until it’s perfect!   

Drop Biscuits

To make 18 biscuits, you will need-
2 cups self-rising flour
½ cup shortening (I used Crisco)
¾ cup milk

I halved the biscuit ingredients and ended up with 7 biscuits.
To make 7 biscuits, you will need –
1 cup self-rising flour
¼ cup shortening
1/3 cup milk

Drop Biscuit Preparation:  
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place the flour and shortening in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender (pictured), or two knives, cut the shortening into the flour until a coarse meal is formed. 

Stir in the milk just until blended.  Don’t over-stir the mixture…….your biscuits will turn out like tough hockey pucks..lol.  Been there, done that!  Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 

Next, cut a biscuit in half, put it on your plate with some fluffy scrambled eggs and pour the sausage gravy over your biscuit.  Top it all off with a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper!  Cheers!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crockpot Ham and White Bean Soup

 This ham and white bean soup is an adaptation of a recipe I got from my mother-in-law for chicken and white bean soup.  I adapted the recipe for the slow cooker and then added some lovely, smoky ham instead of chicken for a hearty dish of awesomeness!    Ham is one of my favorite meats and I just love the slightly smoky and salty, savory flavors that the ham added to the recipe.   Of course, I had to add a healthy dousing of Louisiana Hot Sauce to my serving…………..ooooooh my, that’s good!!
To make for a faster prep in the morning before work, I chopped all the vegetables the night before and then stored then together in a bowl in the fridge overnight.  Then, the next morning, I just had to dump everything in the crockpot and turn it on!
Make this on a brisk winter day and when you come home, the aroma will carry you straight into your PJ’s and onto the couch with a blanket and a piping hot bowl of this hearty and soul-warming soup!  It’s sure to make a bad day ………or just plain old any day better! 

1 lb dry Great Northern Beans
6 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
2-3 stalks carrots, finely chopped
1 (4 oz. can) diced green chilies, or 4 fresh roasted green chilies, diced and seeded
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, or a combination of black and red pepper blend
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground ginger (powdered)
1 ½ pound ham chunks or 1 meaty ham bone
Ingredients to add at the end of 10 hour cooking time:
1 tsp lime juice
1 cup cream or whole milk
Rinse beans in a colander and set aside.  Place the chicken broth in a 6 quart crockpot and mix in all the spices, salt and pepper to combine.  Next, add in the beans, ham, onion, garlic, bay leaves, celery, carrots and green chilies.  Stir and make sure the liquid just covers all ingredients. 
Place lid on crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours.  When you get home from work all you have is a few more steps and then it’s dinner time! 
Take a handheld potato masher and mash the soup mixture to break up some of the beans and add thickness to the soup.  I like to leave about half of the beans whole so that the soup will be somewhat chunky. 
Add the lime juice and 1 cup of milk or cream to the soup mixture and stir.  Turn the crockpot on high and replace lid, cooking until the mixture is thick enough to your taste.   I only cooked mine about 20 minutes more after adding the milk and lime juice.  That’s just enough time to make some delicious garlic bread (or 45 minutes to make beer bread-* see below) to go on the side!  So delicious and comforting on a cool fall or winter day! 

*When I made this recipe the first time, I made some quick homemade beer bread and man-oh-man was it the perfect compliment to this hearty dish! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Natchitoches Meat Pies

The pies on the left were baked in the oven and the ones on the right were deep fried.
Fried is definitely better! 

Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-uh-dish), Louisiana, located in Northern Louisiana, is the birthplace of Natchitoches Meat Pies.  The original Natchitoches meat pies were created at Lasyone’s restaurant in downtown Natchitoches.  These pies are filled with ground beef, pork, onions and spices and go perfect with a side of Cajun dirty rice! 

They are definitely not health food (as they are deliciously deep fried)………but they are so yummy!  Down South, you can find frozen Natchitoches meat pies in your local supermarket, but here in Denver……..not so much!  So, I tried this recipe from the cookbook: Best of the Best from Louisiana: Selected recipes from Louisiana’s favoritecookbooks.  Although the original meat pies in Natchitoches are hard to beat, this recipe turned out to be a great substitute…….until I can get down there to enjoy the real deal!  Cheers!  I hope you enjoy these!

1 ½ lbs ground beef
1 ½ lbs ground pork
1 cup chopped green onions (tops and bottoms)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse-ground red pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour

Combine ground beef, ground pork, onions and seasonings in large skillet or Dutch oven.  Cook over medium heat, until the meat is just browned and onions are tender.  Sift flour over the meat mixture, stirring until well combined with the meat.  Drain meat in a large colander to remove excess grease.
Allow meat to cool to room temperature.

2 cups self-rising flour
1/3 heaping cup of Crisco, not melted  - Told you they aren't health food.  :)
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup milk

Sift flour and cut shortening into flour.  If you don’t have a pastry cutting tool, you can use two knives and this works fine.  Add beaten egg and milk to the flour.  Form the resulting dough into a ball.  Roll out about 1/3 of the dough at a time on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth.  Cut dough into 5 to 5 ½ inch circles…..you can use the top of a coffee can or a biscuit cutter.  Cut out the circles for the pies and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. 

Assemble the pies:
Place a heaping tablespoon of meat filling on one side of the pastry round.  Dampen edge of the dough with water and fold the top over the meat.  Crimp edges with a fork dipped in water.  Using a fork, prick each pie twice before cooking. 
Fry ‘em up! :
Fry in deep fat fryer at 350 degrees until golden brown.  I no longer own a deep fat fryer, so I used a large deep skillet filled with about 1 inch of vegetable oil.  These meat pies will freeze beautifully if enclosed in plastic sandwich bags.  When frying frozen meat pies, there is no need to thaw before frying. 
I don't recommend baking these in the oven.  I baked the lighter colored ones pictured on the left and they were nowhere near as good as the fried ones.  So, just do an extra workout and enjoy the deep fried goodness! 
Makes 26-28 (5 to 5 ½ inch pies).