Main Dishes


When we lived in Indiana, my husband had a meeting in the northern part of the state in a little town called Whiting, IN. Whiting sits right on Lake Michigan. Chicago is a stone’s throw away. The part of the meeting he remembers the most was the potluck, or as they say in Indiana, pitch in. The tables and tables of delicious casseroles and desserts were breath-taking. It wasn’t until a fella brought out four huge pans of mostaccioli that my husband thought he had died and gone to heaven! The man had a heavy Chicago accent, so it wasn’t mostaccioli, it was MAStaccioli.

In case you were unaware, the Chicago Cubs won the world series!!!!

cubs-win-the-series

We are Cubs fans here at our house–not bandwagon fans. We have loved the Cubbies for a long time!

When they made it to Game 7 I figured I needed to make something Chicago-ish for dinner. I thought about deep-dish pizza. I thought about brats. Then I remembered the Whiting experience and decided to make mostaccioli!

I didn’t, however, make four huge pans of mostaccioli. One huge pan was plenty!!

Cheesy Mostaccioli

This recipe comes from an old Pampered Chef fundraiser cookbook. My sister bought it for me when she was in college. (By the way, The Pampered Chef company is based in the Chicago area–Bonus points!)

Pampered Chef cookbook

We barely made a dent in that pan!

Hooray! Leftovers!

Easy Weeknight Dinner

Enjoy!

Cheesy Mostaccioli

1 package mostaccioli pasta (16 ounces) cooked according to package directions

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained

1 jar (28 ounces) of your favorite  spaghetti sauce

1 can condensed cheddar soup (11 ounces)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella, divided

***cook’s note***You could replace some of the ground beef with some ground Italian sausage. I’m not a fan, so I stuck with the ground beef. I think next time I will add just a little more Italian seasoning-not too much more though.


*Once your meat is cooked and drained, add spaghetti sauce, soup, pepper and seasoning.

*Stir in pasta and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese.

*Transfer everything to a  4 quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

*Sprinkle last cup of cheese over the top.

*Bake in a 350˚ oven for about 40 minutes.

Critics’ Corner

Chip-I LOVE this dish. I once enjoyed it at a “pitch in” (Indiana for “pot luck”) at Whiting Baptist Church in Whiting, Indiana. It was so good I almost made myself sick. This batch is like being “back home again in Indiana.”

Katie- I thought that it was sooo tasty! The soft cheesy noodles at the bottom were my favorite. I felt so “Chicago” eating it! Go Cubs! 🙂 

Megan-off at college

 

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a set of Rook cards for my birthday. I never played. The cards looked weird. They were different from standard cards. I could never get anyone to play with me, probably because they didn’t know how. The instructions were long and confusing.

rook cards

Last weekend, we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner and a Rook tournament. Yikes!

Dinner I was excited about-but Rook?!

It did help to learn that none of the other folks attending knew how to play either. (At least that’s what they said! I think John and Leta had played a time or two!)

We knew, of course, that we would have fun regardless of the game.

I asked what I could bring (I took Carrot Cake) and didn’t bother to ask what we were having for dinner.

Boy, was I excited to find John in the kitchen making Petitzas! Leta has mentioned John’s Petitzas several times. Always saying “Oh, we’ll have to make them for you!” Finally that day had come!

chef in action

If I had known it was a Petitza Party, I would have brought the good camera! Thank goodness for smartphones!

John has been making Petitzas for YEARS! He learned from his brother when he was seeing this Italian girl.

frying pizza dough

The Petitzas don’t seem too hard, just a little time-consuming.

I’m sure you have to get a feel for exactly how long to leave the dough in the pan before flipping it.

Don’t those pizza shells look yummy?!

pizza shells

petitzas

Leta and John have the serving of Petitzas down pat!

Check out those crock pots! Homemade pizza sauce-Italian Sausage-Hamburger

crockpots

Leta also had a sectioned Tupperware dish for all the other toppings–ham, cheese, pineapple, olives, peppers, mushrooms-whatever you like!

This was how Leta showed us to assemble a Petitza. Sauce-Meat-Toppings-more sauce

Leta's Petitza

John goes a little more extreme with his toppings!

loaded pizza

Mine was rather conservative.

meat lovers

Nice air pockets!

air bubbles in pizza dough

John said the record Petitzas anyone had eaten at one of their Petitza Parties was seven. Ugh! I ate two.

We had a great time eating Petitzas AND playing Rook. Thanks, John and Leta!

By the way, the girls won!

Petitzas
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
3 ½ cups flour
1 cup water (warm)

Dissolve yeast in very warm water.  Stir in sugar, salt and oil and 2 cups flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn out on lightly floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl; brush top with oil.

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. When doubled, punch down; divide in half.

Shape into hand-size shells and deep-fry.

Toppings include:

Your favorite marinara sauce
Cheeses
Onion
Sausage
Ground beef
Bell pepper
Pineapple
Mushrooms
Jalapeños

John’s Pizza Sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato paste for every 16 oz. can tomato sauce
Oregano, basil, garlic salt, onion flakes, salt, pepper, honey, Parmesan and Romano cheese.

 

Little Meats?

Sounds like something from a Chevy Chase movie–but no!

little meats

I credit my sister with the invention of Little Meats. She made them for us about 13 years ago while we were visiting from out-of-town. We all loved them! Megan loved them so much, she asks for them every year for her birthday dinner.

Little Meats are simply Chicken Fried Steak nuggets.

Never had Chicken Fried Steak?! Bless your heart!

(You can check out the wiki-history of Chicken Fried Steak if you are interested.)

There are hundreds of ways to make Chicken Fried Steak. I’ll walk you through how we make ours, the bite-sized version.

First, you get some cubed steak. Laura, my sister, pounds her meat a bit before doing anything else to it. I never do, mainly because I don’t have a meat tenderizer–mostly because I’m lazy!

cube steak

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. You can make strips if you would rather. We like the little pieces.

cubed meat

Get your prep station ready. Don’t you like my fancy prep pans? I got them from Pampered Chef several years ago.

Organization is really important when frying. It gets kinda crazy, so you need to have everything ready!

What you see here is the meat, flour with a little salt and pepper, and milk.  You can use buttermilk. You can add an egg. You can use cracker crumbs. You can add different seasonings. Hundreds of different versions!

Plain Jane is easy and everyone likes it.

breading station

The next step can also have multiple versions. You can go flour-milk-flour or flour-milk-cracker crumbs or milk-flour or any other combination you can come up with. A very forgiving recipe-huh?

milk wash

I go with the milk-flour routine.

breading

All of this flouring is going on while the oil is heating up in the pan. You can use a deep-fryer if you like. I just use a pan on the stove with vegetable oil. I have used shortening before and they turned out great!

flour

I always try the one had for wet and the other for dry technique. It never works for me. I end up with globby, flour hands anyway.

two handed battering

flying flour

Into the pan! I always test a little piece to make sure the oil sizzles before adding any extra meat.

frying meat

Don’t cram the skillet full of meat. If you do, you won’t get that yummy crispness that you want. Plus, it makes it harder to turn the meat when it is all crowded in there.

hot oil

Once the Little Meats are golden on one side, turn them over. I don’t know how long-just until they are done.

Put your cooked Little Meats on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Making Little Meats is a labor of love! It takes a long time. It is hot standing over the stove all that time. It makes a huge mess of flour and milk and grease.

prep station

It is so worth all the trouble, though! They are yummy! Plus, I get lots of hugs!

little meats

When I make Little Meats, I make a lot because they get gobbled up so fast. I plan for leftovers (planned overs) because the best way to eat Little Meats is to sneak a cold one from the refrigerator!

leftovers

One time I made white gravy to serve with the Little Meats. No one took the time to use it, so I don’t make it anymore. We do usually have homemade mashed potatoes!

There you have it, our special occasion meal–Little Meats. I’m so glad Laura made these for us all those years ago-thanks!

Do you make Chicken Fried Steak? What method do you use?

 

 

Sometimes two are better than one!

Balsamic Beef with Kale and Edamame

I saw a Martha Stewart recipe that sounded interesting–Poached Egg with Rice and Edamame. However, I was not real sure how my family would react to green stuff with an egg.

Later, I stumbled upon a recipe for Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak. Having just picked up a flank steak on sale, this was perfect! Plus meat helps make up for the fact that there are vegetables on the plate!

So, I cut out parts of the Edamame recipe and pasted in the Flank Steak!

I left out the egg. Maybe I’ll try that another time.

I didn’t have red pepper flakes or purple cabbage, so I left them out, too. Everyone seemed okay with that. I think the pinch of red pepper flakes added with the garlic would be good. I did add some ground red pepper. I added what I thought was a little. It might have been just a little too much.

Edamame and Kale

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame beans, thawed
  • Coarse salt

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic–cook until you start to smell it, about 30 seconds. Add kale and cook, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add edamame and cook until heated all the way. Season with salt.

Balsamic Flank Steak

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound flank steak
  • salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients together and throw it all in a large ziplock bag. Add the steak. Allow the steak to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. You might give it a turn half-way through. Grill until it is cooked like you like. (Some folks prefer a little more pink than others.) Let the meat stand, covered loosely with foil, for about 10 minutes. Cut in thin strips against the grain.

I served it all over brown rice. I’m sure you could serve it without if you wanted. We all like brown rice!

Edamame and Kale with Balsamic Beef

The only issue I had with my frankein-recipe was that it was a little tricky to cut the meat on top of all the other stuff in the bowl. I managed okay though!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: The balsamic marinade on the flat-iron steak gets down into everything for a wonderful blend of flavors and textures.

Megan: I think this is my new favorite way to eat kale. It has just the right amount of kick to offset the green taste.

Katie: I must say, it’s not my favorite thing, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was a new and intriguing idea. I will certainly give it that!

Lasagna Cups

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but….

this was my very first time to use won ton wrappers.

It won’t be my last though!

I don’t know why I’ve never used won ton wrappers before. I guess I thought they were hard to find or use or something.

I was in the big city when I picked up these:

won ton wrappers

I really hope I’m able to find them at my local Supercenter.

I had some ground beef in the freezer that I had cooked up one day.  Boy, was I glad it was there. Now that school is back in session, we tend to meet each other coming and going! The time I spent days ago frying up that meat was definitely recouped when I made the Lasagna Cups!

I also had about a 1/3 of a jar of pasta sauce in the fridge.

Pasta Sauce

The recipe called for the won ton wrappers to be cut into circles. I did not have time for that. I didn’t even have time to get out the good camera. These pictures were shot with my cell phone.

It’s pretty much Lasagna 101–the won tons take the place of the noodles.

Won Ton

Cheese Mixture

Meat Mixture

Layering lasagna

Repeat

Ricotta cheese mixture

Top with Cheese

Bake

Lasagna Cups with melted cheese

I loved these! So did the family. I did miss the noodles a little. However, the fact that the won ton substitute saved a ton of calories made me forget all about the noodles!

Bonus: the leftovers worked well in lunch boxes the next day.

I served these with a Caesar Salad (bagged).

Since these can be fork or finger food, they would work well as appetizers, too.

Lasagna Cups

Ingredients:

24 won ton wrappers

Cheese Mixture

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese

Meat Mixture

  • 1/3 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce

Topping

  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 375˚

•Spray 12 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray

•Line muffin cups with won ton wrappers, one per cup

•Fill cups with half of the cheese mixture. Just enough to cover the bottom.

•Spoon half of the meat mixture on top of the cheese mixture.

•Repeat for second layer–won ton, cheese mixture, meat mixture.

•Top with cheese topping.

•Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden!

Let the Lasagna Cups cool a bit before you try to remove them from the pan. You might even need a knife to help get them started.

If you have basil growing in your garden, grab some for the top to make it look all fancy!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: You really got the flavor of the cheese and meat without all those annoying noodles to get in the way–delicious! Maybe better than lasagna!

Megan: It’s not quite as good as with the noodles, but it’s much more fun to eat. (Plus it tastes pretty darn good!)

Katie: These are amazing little inventions of life!

 

It’s that time of year! Back to School!

school bus

Some folks cheer as they send their little ones back to school–others cry.

I do a little of both. I am glad to have some routine back in our lives. However, I miss my kids when they go back.

When I dropped them off on the first day, I told them it was a very sad day for me–no one to talk to–no one to eat lunch with. My oldest felt really sad for me and sent me a text on her lunch break. THEN the tears came!!!

With regularly scheduled chaos back in play, I decided to do a little preparedness cooking.

This meatball recipe comes from a good old Taste of Home magazine.

Taste of Home

I picked up a large package of hamburger patties from the clearance bin last week. It seems like the patties go on sale more often than the by-the-pound packages. Nobody said I had to keep them as patties though! I didn’t really have a plan for 4 pounds of meat at the time. I just couldn’t resist the $2.97/pound bargain!

bargain meat

As the “best by” date approached, I figured I had better do something with all this meat–either cook it or freeze it. I gathered the rest of the ingredients and went to town! I just so happened that my meatball recipe called for 4 pounds of lean ground beef. You can easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t wan to make as many as I made.

meatball ingredients

Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl. LARGE BOWL. You are dealing with 4 pounds of meat here!

four eggs

I have a large bag of bread crumbs that I keep in my freezer. These are actually left over from this event. When I have leftover bread from dinner or heals that nobody wants to eat, etc. I dry them out in the oven. Then I whirr them around in the food processor. I leave them unseasoned so that they can be used in anything. Seasoning can always be added later.

You will need 2 cups.

breadcrumbs

Add the breadcrumbs, onion, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to the eggs. Mix it all around really well.

breading mixture

Add your meat.

meatball mixtures

This is where it gets messy, at least it did for me. Pull off your rings and start squishing everything together. I guess you could use a spoon. It just seems that hands do better for me. I can feel where the breadcrumb mixture is still in a clump. Squishing the meatball mixture together was rather therapeutic. It reminded me of making mud pies when I was little.

Once everything was mixed up, it was time to make the meatballs.

recycled styrofoam

I had what I thought was a good idea. Reuse the meat tray as my prep board! One less thing to wash!

I took half of the meat mixture on pressed it evenly into the tray.

tray of meat

Then, using a knife, I scored the meat into 36 equal portions. (I wish I could take credit for that idea. It came from the Taste of Home folks.) Roll each portion into a ball. Of course you could use a kitchen scoop if you would rather.

scored meat

rolled meatballs

After rolling a few meatballs, I decided they were too big. I went back and divided them in two.

Repeat the process with other half of the mixture.

My “equal” radar must have been a little off. I ended up with 153 meatballs.

prepared meatballs

At this point you can either cook them or freeze them.

I chose to cook them all. (400˚ for 10-15 minutes) You are supposed to cook them in batches so they aren’t so crowded on the pan. My crowded pan took a little longer than the pan with more space.

cooked meatballs

Use about 30 meatballs to make something yummy like Sweet and Sour Meatballs. Enjoy your dish while the rest of the meatballs cool completely.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

After dinner, package up the rest of the meatballs and put them in the freezer. Now when that school schedule gets a little on the crazy side, you have something easy to fix for dinner. (Meatball Subs, Spaghetti and Meatballs, party appetizers, the list goes on and on!)

freezer meatballs

I ended up with 9 dozen meatballs for the freezer!

Keep your eyes on the clearance bin and have a great school year!

Back to School Meatballs

4 eggs

2 cups dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

4 pounds lean ground beef

-Beat eggs

-Add everything but the meat

-Add the meat

-Shape into meatballs

-Bake on an ungreased baking sheet with sides at 400˚ for 10-15 minutes, turning often,  until no longer pink.

-Drain

-Cool before freezing.

While sitting in the orthodontist’s waiting room with my daughter for what seemed like forever, we flipped through every magazine they had!

Our orthodontist’s office selection of magazines is much better than our dentist’s office. At least the choices are less than a year old!

Megan and I scrutinized the glossy pages for a scrap of something interesting to bide our time.

I believe it was magazine #5 that held our interest. Sorry, I looked at so many, I don’t remember the specific copy.

recipe

If you have been around Pork Chop Tuesday for a while, you have read about our experiences with quinoa. If you are new, you can catch up here and here.

Megan was beyond excited about trying Quinoa Meatballs and asked if we could have them for dinner. Fortunately, I had just picked up some ground pork on sale for $1.81 a pound!

I snapped the picture of the recipe with my iPad.

We finally made it out of the orthodontist’s office and headed home.

Quinoa Meatballs-raw

I had to tweak the recipe a little, not too much though. I used yellow onion rather than shallots. I will be amazed if my little Walmart ever carries shallots. I had my hesitations about the cinnamon. I am ANTI Cincinnati Chili, which uses pumpkin pie spice-yuck! I used the cinnamon anyway. I think I may leave it out next time. Although, the cinnamon gives the meatballs an exotic flavor. I also think it helps mask some of the garlic.

I used my small scoop to form the meatballs. I didn’t round them out in my hand. I just scooped them onto the parchment. Next time I will take time to form them a little better.

I think they look a little weird.

Quinoa Meatballs-cooked

Part of the strange appearance is the quinoa! It looks like my meatballs have the measles or something!

The whole crew was anxious to try this new dish. Check out their comments in the Critics’ Corner.

Quinoa Meatballs for supper

Hopefully, this blog post will serve as your inspiration, and you won’t have to pour over magazines in the orthodontist’s office.

Critics’ Corner

Chip: These are better than good but less than great. I’d certainly eat and enjoy them again.

Megan: I didn’t expect them to be kinda spicy, but they were delish!

Katie: LOVE them! : )

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