Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

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Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)

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Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?

 

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Meal Plan: February 2013

Everyone has a hard time figuring out what to cook.  I was talking to a co-worker this weekend and she told me that, while she was going back to school, she asked her husband to cook dinner on Thursday nights as it was her busy day.  He replied that he would cook, but she needed to tell him what to make.  She exclaimed that that was the hardest part!

I completely agree.  I love to cook, but sometimes I just really don’t know what to make.  My husband is no help because he never has any ideas for me.  I asked him the same question each week.

What do you want for dinners this week?

He responds one of two ways:

Meatloaf. 

Or

I don’t care.  Whatever you make.

Ugh!  Finally, I got smart.  A few years ago I started meal planning.  I must say…when I do it and stick to the plan, it really makes a difference in my day!  I don’t have that dreaded feeling hanging over my head of what to make.  I typically am more prepared and have the ingredients on hand.  I don’t have to try to figure out how to pick up the ingredients I’m missing and still make it home in time to have dinner on the table by 6p (Jake’s dinner time).

I realize many of you feel the same way, which is why I’m hopefully starting a new series on this blog.  I’ve tried in the past to post menus and failed miserably, so take that as your warning.

Jake eats most anything we eat aside from fish, shellfish, and nuts of any kind (though I did slip and give him some peanuts with my Thai food the other day.  Whoops!).  Some of the dishes are spicy (like the Cajun Chicken Alfredo and the Spicy Chicken Tortilla Rollups).  I figure I’ll just make a couple without the spice or he will have leftovers that day.  In any case, this may help lots of you moms out there!

I also plan to lighten up some of the more calorie dense meals to make them more Weight Loss Goal friendly.  Stay tuned for more on that later.

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Here’s the key to reading the calendar.  The light green recipes are from my Pinterest account.  The light blue ones are either from my blog or from my personal collection of recipes.  Here are the links to the recipes you can find online:

Burgers
Cajun Chicken Alfredo
Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
Chicken Cassoulet
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Chicken Taco Chili
Cilantro Lime Chicken
Cream Cheese Chicken
Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps
Forgotten Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken
Honey Garlic Pork Chops
Meatloaf
Mexican Lasagna
Mini Corn Dog Muffins
Mushrooms Pizza Bites
Pad Thai
Pizza Casserole
Pork Chops au Poivre
Proscuitto Panini
Quick Coq au Vin
Spaghetti with Chicken and Thai Peanut Sauce
Spicy Chicken Tortilla Rollups
TJ (Trader Joe)’s Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice
Ultimate Chicken Fingers

You probably notice there isn’t any room for leftovers.  Most of the time, we either eat the leftovers for lunches, or I try to make a single night’s portion instead of a whole family’s worth.  The food gets eaten, don’t you worry.

I hope you guys enjoy this post!  If this is something you enjoy seeing, please let me know by leaving me a comment on my blog.  You can also show your support by liking my Facebook page!  I’d love to hear from you!

Calendar of Eats

It’s so secret that I love to cook.  I like being able to make my family dinner on a (somewhat) regular basis.  With my crazy work schedule, that takes planning.  See, on any given week, my schedule could look like this:

Sunday:  7:30a-5p
Monday:  1p-10:30p
Tuesday:  OFF
Wednesday:  4:30a-2p
Thursday:  1-10:30p
Friday:  OFF
Saturday:  7:30-5

So you see how challenging dinner making can be?  On days I’m off or early, it’s not a big deal as I’m at home for dinner.  On days I close (work til 10:30p), it’s a little more tricky.  I have to plan meals that my husband can make like a casserole, crock pot meal, or something that’s already cooked and just needs to be reheated.

I used to have a spreadsheet that listed the day of the month, my schedule, and what meal I would make.  This was a pretty good system, but I could only plan a couple weeks at a time because I needed my work schedule.  I only get it a couple weeks in advance, you see.

For some reason, I got away from this meal plan.  I think it was because every day was a free for all.  By that I mean I didn’t have a set cuisine type for each day.  I just filled in the meals with what I had a taste for.  This is a fine way to do things, but I found myself always picked the same meals.  Meatloaf, beef stroganoff, and sloppy joes were big hits and always found their way into the plan.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a new way of meal planning.  With this new way, I took a calendar and assigned a cuisine or meal base to each day of the week.  It looks something like this:

I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but I quickly found myself actually following the plan!  I would grocery shop for the week on one of my days off, then prep any meals I needed to.

The nice thing about this meal plan is I can switch days around if necessary.  For example, you’ll notice in the first row I had Steel Drums Chicken on Monday and Chicken Spaghetti on Tuesday.  Steel Drums Chicken has to be grilled and Chicken Spaghetti is a casserole.  Since I closed on Monday, it was easier for Jeff to reheat the casserole than it was to watch the baby and grill chicken.  Who are we kidding?  Jeff doesn’t grill.  Well, not much anyhow.

One thing I have run into, oddly enough, is having too much food!  If you look at my original post, you’ll see there are no days for leftovers.  My plan, initially, was to have the leftovers for lunches or to only make enough for one meal.  Well, some days I don’t want the same thing I had for dinner.  My plan for August incorporated a leftover day.  Know what happened?  Yep, we ran out of meals for leftover day and I ended up having to order pizza, something I was trying to avoid with this whole plan!

It’s a work in progress.

For the most part, however, the meal planning has been a great project.  It has allowed me to make some of Jeff’s favorite meals (read: meatloaf) as well as try out some of my pinned and cookbook recipes.  I have more cookbooks than I have shoes.

I am still perfecting the system.  I am trying to get healthier meals included instead of just ones that sound good (like Paula’s Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken which we had last night…YUM!).  I am also trying to put the meals I make into My Fitness Pal so I can just add them when I eat them.  That is a big downfall for me…eating dinner and then not logging it because I don’t want to put each ingredient in my log.

Some of the meals I have tried out with this new meal plan are Chicken Stir Fry, Swiss Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Glaze, and Pulled Chicken Quesadillas.  What are some meals you have pinned or bookmarked lately that you most want to try?

 

Single Serve Twice Baked Potato Casserole

One of my go to side dishes (especially when I’m closing at work) is a “baked” potato with Philadelphia Low Fat Onion and Chive Cream Cheese.

I usually buy a huge bag of small potatoes and take one with me to work, scrubbed and ready to go. When I want to eat it, I pop it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes depending on the size, then cut it open and serve with a few tablespoons of the cream cheese.

Today, after watching the Pioneer Woman make twice baked potatoes on her Food Network show, I decided I wanted that for my side dish. I had already started thawing some marinated chicken breast and I thought I had all the ingredients for the potatoes, so I went to work.

First, I baked my potatoes in the microwave. Once cooked, I scooped the flesh into a bowl, added a bunch of stuff, mixed well, and threw it into buttered ramekins. Then I baked them in our convection oven. They were so good!

Quick, easy, and delicious. I couldn’t ask for a better dish!

Single Serve Twice Baked Potato Casserole
2 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sour cream*
1/4 cup Mexican cheese, divided
2 slices proscuitto, cut in thin strips (chiffonaded if you will)
1 clove garlic, grated
salt & pepper to taste

Scrub your potatoes and cook them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from microwave and scoop the flesh into a small bowl, discarding the skin. Add butter, sour cream, 1/8 cup of cheese, proscuitto, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well. Divide between two medium sized buttered ramekins. Top with remaining cheese and one more slice of proscuitto if desired. Bake in a 400º oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is heated through.

I think you could definitely make this ahead and store in the freezer. I’m thinking you wouldn’t even need to thaw them first, just put them in the oven frozen!

*Plain Greek yogurt would work wonderfully here and I would have used that if I’d had any on hand.

 

Pantry Staples


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I am a creature of habit.  When I look for new recipes to make, I typically find myself making note of recipes that are very similar to dishes I have made in the past.  I can’t tell you how many different oil based pasta dishes I have dog-eared in my food magazines.  I mean, how many different ways can you make a sauce with olive oil, tomatoes, and garlic?

This got me thinking…what are my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer staples?  What do I keep on hand so, at a moments notice, I can whip up something quick and easy for dinner without having to go to the store.  One of my favorite pantry staple recipes is my Dad’s Spaghetti.  Below, you’ll find my list of must haves:

Pantry:
Olive oil
Peanut butter
Pasta
Canned diced tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes
Pesto
Garlic or garlic paste (Trader Joe’s has a great garlic paste!)
Balsamic vinegar
Soy sauce
Chili garlic paste
Salsa
Chicken/beef broth
Rice
Pasta sauce
Potatoes
Onions
Loaves of bread
Canned tomato soup (my favorite is Progresso High Fiber Tomato)
Assorted mustards (yellow, Dijon, spicy brown, Chinese hot, honey)
Sesame oil
Apple cider vinegar
Bread crumbs
Instant potatoes (Idahoan Loaded Baked Potatoes are our favorite)
Baking products including flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, cornstarch, salt, brown & powdered sugars, and chocolate chips
Oats
Lawry’s 30 minute marinades (Kroger’s version of this is pretty good too)
Canned Corn (Thanks, Gretchen!)
Canned Black Beans (Thanks, Gretchen!)

Refrigerator:
Butter
Milk
Eggs
Parmesan cheese
Assorted shredded cheese (cheddar/mozzarella)
American cheese slices
Beer & Wine  (I like to buy individual bottles of red and white wine for cooking)
Proscuitto and/or bacon
Yogurt
Flavored light cream cheese (Philadelphia Light Chive & Onion cream cheese is phenomenal on top of a baked potato)

Freezer:
Boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs
Pork roast
Ground beef
Veggies (corn is a favorite side dish of ours)
IQF* Rolls and Breads
IQF Fruits
Lean Cuisines…for those nights where I just can’t bear to chop a single thing!
Ice Cream…who needs a reason for this?
Filled pastas (ex: Buitoni Chicken & Proscuitto Tortellini)

Spices:
Salt
Pepper
Cinnamon
Italian Seasoning
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Smoked Paprika
Dorothy Lane Market Steak Seasoning**
Cumin

*IQF=Individual Quick Frozen
**For those of you who are unfamiliar, Dorothy Lane Market is a gourmet grocery store in Dayton.  They have a steak rub that is to die for!  I put it on everything from steaks to chicken to roasted veggies to scrambled eggs.  It is just a yummy mix of spices that adds a little pop of flavor to any dish.  It is heavily salted, however, so if you use it, use it sparingly.

As I said above, I like having a plethora of items at home in case I don’t want to stop at the store after work.  I also try to keep frozen homemade casseroles and soups in my freezer at all times so I can thaw something quickly.

Question:  What go to items do you keep in your house that I didn’t mention above?
New items I forgot will be included above in red!

“Dump” Chicken and Other Such Things

In my quest to become the “perfect” (ha!) mom, I have stumbled upon a little thing known as “dump” chicken.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up, shall we?  (Oh…it’s too early for shall we!...Anyone??)

You all know I like to make a healthy, home cooked meal for us for dinner.  We don’t always get a healthy, home cooked meal for lunch, but I can control dinner most of the time so I like it to be as wholesome as possible.  I’ve also dusted off my britches and climbed not so gracefully back on that wagon of healthy eating.  I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds of the weight I gained when I was pregnant, but unfortunately I had gained about 30 pounds between my healthy weight and my second pregnancy, so I have to re-lose that 30 pounds now.  It was a struggle then and I’m sure it will be even  more of a challenge now considering my time is even more cherished than it was before.

The problem?  When you have a 5 month old who goes to bed around 7p every night and a husband who gets hungry for dinner around 6p, your time is limited especially considering I don’t want to spend those precious few hours between day care and bed time cooking.

The answer?  Freezer meals.  It’s not a new notion.  In fact, it is one of the most pinned topics on pinterest!  I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get on board, but once I did, I never looked back.  Here are just a few ways my freezer has saved me in the past few weeks:

Dump Chicken:  This website has tons of seemingly great recipes.  In less than 10 minutes, I “made” three different recipes from this site.  The concept is simple…take a gallon freezer bag, add chicken, veggies, and sauce.  Seal and throw in the freezer.  When you’re ready to make it, pull it out the day before and put in the fridge to thaw out a little.  The next day, either put it in the crock pot in the morning or bake in a casserole dish that night.

I tried the Caribbean Dump Chicken and I have mixed reviews.  I’m not sure if it was because I used the crock pot or I just didn’t like the recipe, but something tasted off.  I’m thinking I just don’t care for chicken in the crock pot though, to be honest.  I also have Citrus Ginger Dump Chicken and Chili Maple Glazed Dump Chicken in my freezer, but haven’t cooked them yet.

As a bonus meal, I emptied one bottle of Lawry’s Sesame Ginger marinade over two extra large chicken breasts and froze.  I thawed, then grilled them up last night and they were fabulous!  So moist, tender, and flavorful!  Definitely trying that again!

Chicken Enchiladas:  If you read this post, you know I’ve made enchiladas for the freezer in the past.  The only problem?  When you freeze them with the sauce and then thaw them to cook, they can become soggy.  I’m not sure how I came up with the solution, but I decided to make up the enchiladas and freeze them without the sauce!  Genius!  I bought burrito tortillas, filled them with chicken, refried beans, black beans, and corn, and wrapped them up, tucking the ends in so the filling didn’t fall out.  Then I froze the burritos in a freezer bag.  When I wanted to serve, I pulled out a couple burritos, put them in a small baking dish, covered with sauce and some cheese and baked at 400º until heated through.  I even put them in the oven frozen!  Love this.

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce:  I love the recipe I affectionately call Dad’s Spaghetti.  I could eat it every week.  The problem?  If you want to do it right, the sauce has to simmer for approximately 3-4 hours.  How did I solve this?  I made a huge batch and let it simmer all day.  I dumped 4 cans of diced tomatoes in a large pot, added some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and some more spices and brought it to a boil.  I then reduced the heat to simmer and let it sit there for several hours, stirring occasionally.  Once I thought it looked done, I turned off the heat and let it continue to sit on the stove until it was cooled.  Then I split the recipe up into four separate containers and froze them.  Now, when I want a quick dinner, I’ll defrost the sauce, cook up a batch of pasta, and toss to combine.  Add a side salad and maybe some rolls and you’re done!  Easy peasy Japanesey.

Casseroles in general:  We are a huge casserole family in this house.  We love them!  I asked Jeff if he had any requests for my cooking extravaganza and he said Tater Tot Casserole and Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole.  I love both of those too!  My problem is I don’t have enough casserole dishes to prepare them ahead of time.  I have two solutions to this.

The first is lining the casserole dish with aluminum foil, making the casserole, and then wrapping the foil around the dish.  You then freeze the entire thing and pull it out of the dish once frozen.  When you want to serve, you pull the foil wrapped casserole out of the freeze and put it back in the dish you used to freeze it.  Then bake, eat, wash, etc.

The second way I found was to implement those trusty freezer bags again.  Let’s use the chicken cordon bleu as an example.  In this recipe you make a white sauce, then combine it with diced chicken, ham, and swiss cheese.  Then you top it with a mixture of crackers, cheese, and butter.  YUM!  I put the chicken, ham, and cheese in a bag.  I then made the white sauce and let it cool to room temperature.  I put the sauce in the bag with the chicken mixture, sealed it, and rolled it around to cover everything with sauce.  Then I put the crushed crackers and cheese in a separate sandwich bag.  I added the butter, unmelted, to the bag.  The day I wanted to serve, I put the chicken mixture in a dish.  Then, I melted the butter, added it to the sandwich bag, and tossed to coat.  Finally, I put the cracker mixture over the chicken mixture and baked in the oven.

I can’t decide which way would be easier for me.  I like the dump method of using freezer bags, but it may be more economically friendly to use the foil as opposed to the bags.  Either way, I would recommend leaving anything you want crispy or crunchy out of the mix until the day you serve, otherwise it could become soggy.

These are just a few of the ways I have started implementing freezer cooking in my life.  I also made a few meatloaves to store in the freezer.  Jeff loves my meatloaf and has requested to have it once a week.  When I make it, though, he eats it for dinner, then for breakfast the following day, and if there’s enough left he eats it for lunch.  I have to hide some if I want leftovers!

For more tips and tricks, check out the following posts from other bloggers:
Freezer Meals on the Cheap by A Turtle’s Life for Me
Dump Cooking by When the Dinner Bell Rings
101 Spring Freezer Meals to Make Your Life Sane by Once a Month Mom

Also, Natalie at A Turtle’s Life for Me recommends the book Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer.  She says it’s where she gets a lot of her recipes.  I just bought the book and will be hopefully putting it to good use in the next few weeks.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

So, I want to know…what is your favorite recipe to make ahead?

Baked Penne with Chicken & Sundried Tomatoes

Say what you want about Martha Stewart, but you gotta give the woman credit.  Girl knows how to cook.  And bake.  And decorate.  A while back I was on her website looking at various one pot and slow cooker meals, when I found this little gem.

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Penne pasta in a cream sauce mixed with chicken, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes? Oh, and cheese?  Uh, YUM!  I immediately pinned it on one of my Pinterest boards to make later.

Later came and I found myself perusing my boards for cooking ideas.  I saw this picture and decided it was time to test it out!  I made a batch to freeze and a couple small ramekins for Jeff and I to try out. (BTW, these ramekins make a great holiday gift!  I have a set of two and I use them all. the. time.  They work perfectly in a toaster oven to sample dishes as I did here!)

The verdict?  Great same day meal!  Frozen, the noodles can get a bit mushy, so make sure you don’t overcook them as I did this time.  Using the correct noodle cooking time, I’m sure this recipe would freeze beautifully!


I also used a Garden Vegetable penne instead of a regular penne as it was the only thing I had on hand at the time.  I think the regular penne would be much better in this dish.  But you decide!  Get Martha’s recipe here!

 

Brown Sugar Meatloaf 2.0

You may remember my original post for my Brown Sugar Meatloaf.  Well, it’s been upgraded.

The past few times I’ve made this meatloaf, it has been a little…different.  And not good different.  I have tweaked it a lot (omitting the red pepper, grating the onion, increasing the amount of sauce, etc).  I finally think I’ve perfected it!  Here is the new, updated, more tasty version of my meatloaf.  Commence salivation now.

Brown Sugar Meatloaf 2.0

For the loaf:
2 pounds ground sirloin
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1.5 sleeves Saltines, crushed

For the sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the loaf, start by combining the milk, eggs, salt, pepper, onion, ginger, and Saltines in a mixing bowl.  For convenience, I used my stand mixer.  Once everything is well mixed, add your meat and mix slowly until well combined.

In my previous post I demonstrated how not to squeeze the meat as it would compact it, resulting in a much denser, therefore drier meatloaf.  When using the stand mixer, you don’t have to worry about that as much and you keep your hands clean!  Bonus!

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients above and mix well.
Complicated, right?

To assemble your loaves, start by putting a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Then, to prevent sticking, I cut some foil to the approximate size I wanted our loaves to be.  I then sprayed them with cooking spray.

The reason I used a cooling rack over a baking sheet was to encourage the “drippings” to run away from the meet.  The meatloaf is moist enough without it and sometimes when the drippings are allowed to stay close to the loaves, it actually results in soggier meatloaf.  Not very tasty.

After your rack is prepared, form your loaves.  I got three two person loaves from 2 pounds.  Shape them to approximately the same size as your foil.  Cover each loaf with a generous amount of sauce.  I used a pastry brush to do this, but you could just use a spoon.  It’s up to you.

Bake at 400º for about an hour, or until the middle reaches 165º.  The reason I like to use a baking sheet instead of a loaf pan is because you can put the sauce on the top, which creates sort of a crust that keeps the meat tender and juicy.  Plus it gets slightly caramelized which, let’s face it, is never a bad thing!

I will probably continue to fool around with this recipe because I can never leave well enough alone.  I have thought about adding garlic, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, ground sage, etc to the meatloaf.  Maybe in time there will be a Version 3.0!

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What a Crock (Pot Roast)

As you all know, Jeff and I are expecting our first little one in about a month, so I have been scouring the internet for all kinds of easy recipes.  The other day I stumbled (literally…using stumbleupon.com) on a recipe that sounded really good!  Since I was off Friday, I decided to test it out.

This is a quick, simple recipe you can easily throw together in the morning and let simmer all day!  It’s especially good as leftovers, so go ahead and use up that big cut of roast you got on sale the other day.

Marie’s Best Ever Pot Roast

2-5 pound pot roast (any kind)
1 envelope dried ranch dressing mix
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1 envelope brown gravy mix
Desired veg (She used potatoes and carrots, I added sweet potatoes)
1 to 1.5 cups water

Spray your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or use Reynold’s Slow Cooker Liners.  Trust me…it makes clean up so much easier!  Chop your veg into big chunks and place them in the bottom of the pan.

Top your veg with the roast and cover with packets of seasonings and water.  *Last time I didn’t mix the seasonings and water together, but I will the next time I make this.  I found chunks of seasoning on certain parts of the roast and it was just a little overstimulating.  I think mixing all the seasonings and the water together would help distribute the flavors.

Cook on low for 6 hours or until the meat falls apart.

I just picked out what I wanted to eat instead of plating a whole meal (Jeff had already eaten), but if I were to serve this to guests I would probably lift out the meat and veg and place on a serving dish.  Then, I would strain the liquids from the bottom of the pan and turn it into a gravy.  (You can do this easily by combining a tbsp of cornstarch to about 1/2 cup water and whisking it together to remove lumps.  Then add the mixture to the sauce.  Heat the sauce over medium heat while whisking until the gravy is as thick as you’d like.)

One other tip I have for you (and I wish I had taken a picture) is the sandwich I made with the leftovers yesterday!  I had picked up a salted bagel from Dorothy Lane Market, so I turned the bagel into a pot roast sammie.  I cut the bagel in half, topped it with the meat, some worchestershire and provolone, and warmed it in the microwave to melt the cheese.  It was so good!  I think next time I’ll try it with A1 sauce though.  Or horseradish sauce…mmmm…

So, if you’re looking for a quick, easy, crock pot recipe, this one has tons of flavor!  Plus think of all the things you can use the leftover meat for!  Enjoy!

 

Party Food: Spinach Artichoke Wonton Cups

Today was a really fun day.  It was the day of my baby shower!

More on that later.

I was in charge of the food.  I know what you’re thinking…Bethany, it’s your shower!  Why are you making the food?  To be honest, I love cooking for a party!  I love appetizers and trying new things.  What better way to try new things than to host a party with a bunch of guinea pigs at your beck and call?

When I was talking to my friend, Chrissy, she mentioned I should make the Spinach Artichoke dip I had made last year for a game night.  I broke out my favorite appetizer cookbook (thanks, cousin Melissa!) and looked up the recipe.  Well…I thought that’s where I had gotten the recipe.  Instead I found a different recipe that looked even better!  I had to try it.  It was such a big hit I had to share.

BTW, this one’s for you, Sara!

Spinach Artichoke Wonton Cups
(adapted from Favorite Brand Name Appetizers cookbook)

1 package wonton wrappers (found in the organic section of the grocery store)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

For the shells:
Preheat oven to 325º.  Spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Press one wonton shell into each cup.  I found the best way to do this was to lay the shell over the opening, then with my middle and index fingers, I would press down on opposite sides of the cup.  Basically, you want the shell to pucker evenly all the way around the cup.

Some of my shells did not pucker very well and I had to discard them as they wouldn’t hold filling.  Be a little picky when you form the cups.  It will pay off in the long run.  After forming, spray each shell with the cooking spray again (so it browns nicely) and bake until lightly golden.

I ended up cooking mine for about 12 minutes.  Remove shells from pan and let cool.  Repeat with remaining shells.*

For the filling:
Mix the artichoke hearts, spinach, cheese, mayo, and garlic in a medium bowl.  Mix well.  (Yes, I forgot to take a picture of this.  I was kind of busy getting the other foods made at the same time.  Whoops!)

To assemble:
Place the shells back in the mini muffin tins.  I did this so the shells stay standing up.  Fill the shells with about 1/2 tbsp of filling.  I used a mini ice cream scoop to make easy work of this.  The filling doesn’t have to go all the way down into the shell.  Once you start cooking them, they will melt down into the shells.  Bake the cups at 325º for about 7 minutes or until heated through.  Serve immediately.

*This process can be done up to a week in advance.  After the shells are cooled completely, store them in an airtight container until ready to use.

Easy to view recipe available here.