Rotini Lasagna…

Everybody loves lasagna but they don’t always have the time to put one together. Let’s be frank- it’s a slight pain in the butt. Not hard. Just a little time-consuming. I ran across this problem last week while trying to think up a quick dinner; lasagna sounded SO delicious, but I just didn’t have the time to whip one up. That’s where this pasta comes in. It’s totally quick and easy (we’re talking under 30 minutes to make!) and has all the delicious components of lasagna…without any of the trouble! The most time-consuming part is browning the beef and boiling the pasta – easy peasy! This is another extremely weeknight-friendly dish, and I think we could all use a few more of those! Try this next time you’ve got a craving for lasagna but don’t have the time! It won’t disappoint!

Rotini Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound (16 ounces) rotini pasta (any short pasta you have will work)
1 28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce (of course homemade is great too)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown and drain beef in a large skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce, water, salt, ricotta cheese and parsley.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Stir into beef mixture. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish and top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Top with additional parsley, if desired and serve.

Recipe source: inspired by a recipe seen on The Pioneer Woman via Tasty Kitchen

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Thick and Hearty Beef Stew…

Well, Christmas is over (sad…) and I hope that everyone enjoyed a safe, happy and joyous time with friends and family. We certainly did! It would have been just about perfect except I caught a terrible 24 hour stomach bug that’s been going around and it really put a damper on our Christmas Day- no worries though, we still had a wonderful, joyous holiday! My sweet, thoughtful husband put 4 kinds of aged cheese in my stocking this year, along with a BIG bottle of Mexican vanilla! He also got me a new set of pots and pans- bye-bye 4 year old, scratched up non-stick pans! Woo!

But now, it’s back to blogging and I’m so excited to share this stew with you! The weather is cold and rainy here (and blizzard-y pretty much everywhere else in the US!), so we need a good, hearty stew that will help to melt away the cold! This one is absolutely delicious- I saw it on Jamie’s blog, My Baking Addiction and was intrigued by the use of A-1 sauce, so I immediately made it. Normally when I make stew I like lots of liquid, so I guess technically what I’ve always made is ‘soup’. After trying this one, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back! It really exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to make it again.

Thick and Hearty Beef Stew
-adapted from My Baking Addiction

1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth (I like to use reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 or 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
9 or 10 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon A-1 steak sauce

Toss the beef and flour in a bowl until the beef is coated. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat; add the beef and cook until nicely browned. Set aside.
Deglaze pot with red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Pour in the beef broth and add in the beef, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Stir in potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onion, Worcestershire, ketchup and A-1. Cover and simmer 1 hour more.

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Easy Mexican Casserole…

Here’s another one of my mom’s recipes. She’s made this one for as long as I can remember and my family has always loved it! Mexican Casserole. It’s super easy to make and always a crowd-pleaser. If you ever need a dish for a large crowd, I’d recommend this one- you can double or triple the recipe and even make it ahead of time. My mom makes a big one and freezes the leftovers- it keeps beautifully! Perfect for potlucks, Mexican-themed dinner parties or even Sunday Night Football!

My Mom’s Mexican Casserole

1 pound lean ground beef
1 can Ranch Style beans
1 10-12 ounce bag tortilla chips, crushed
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 package taco seasoning
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup water
sour cream and salsa for serving

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large skillet, brown meat and drain off fat. Stir in beans, tomatoes, onion, taco seasoning, soup and water. Simmer over medium-low heat until everything is well combined and heated through.

Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Put down a layer of crushed tortilla chips, followed by a layer of the meat/bean mixture, then half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly.
Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream and salsa. Enjoy!

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Game-Day Mexican Cornbread Skillet Pie…

The weather is (slowly) changing from boiling hot to cool and crisp, every Saturday from here until Thanksgiving will be taken up with us either road-tripping to College Station, Tx or glued to the T.V., there’s an obscenely large, menacing maroon and white flag flying proudly in our front yard, and my husband has turned from being a mature, respectable man into a squealing 8 year-old child. This can only mean one thing: it’s Aggie football season, indeed. Yes, friends, my husband and I are Aggies. Big ones. My hubby went to school there and even though I didn’t (there’s no music program to speak of, hardly), I come from a family of proud Aggies. Therefore, every September, we get serious about Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football.

This is our “Aggie shelf” in the living room- these were my granddad’s belongings from his days at A&M – yearbooks, (very old) stuffed animals and lots, lots more. We’re so proud to display his things in our home; Joel, especially.

Football food is SO good (which, by the way, if you love it as much as I do, check out my “Football Food” tag! Lots of game-day goodies in there!). There’s nothing better than having some friends over to watch the game and eat good food – like this pie! It’s an old family favorite that gets made a lot around football season. I love the layer of spicy beef and cheddar cheese- it has SO much flavor! The good news is, this keeps really well in the fridge- just pop the leftovers back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes and it’s just as moist and flavorful as it was the first day- maybe even better!

Game-Day Mexican Cornbread Skillet Pie

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
1 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 can cream style corn
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 small can green chiles

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In a medium pan, saute the onions, garlic and peppers over medium-high heat until soft. Add in the ground beef and cook through. Drain off grease and stir in the tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat.
Grease a cast iron skillet (or any oven-safe skillet) and sprinkle the bottom with a little cornmeal. Spread half of the cornbread mixture, followed by the beef mixture. Top with the cheddar cheese, then spread the remaining cornbread mixture over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy in front of the T.V. while cheering for your favorite football team! Serves 4.

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original (though technically I guess I can’t take credit since my mom has been making it for years!)

Gig ‘Em and God Bless! ;)

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Creamy Taco Mac…

I need to come clean about something. A dirty little secret. Please don’t judge me…..I, Amy-the-food-blogger, like Hamburger Helper. (GASP!) Yep, it’s true. We both do, actually- of course, I would expect hubby to- I think HH was pretty regular in his house growing up. My mom hates it though, and never bought it when we were kids. Maybe once in a blue moon if I begged for it (which, I don’t really think I ever did)- so I didn’t really develop a fondness for it until college, where my roommate Courtney and I ate it quite often. Every now and then I’ll buy a box and make it for dinner – you gotta admit it IS pretty quick and easy when you’re in a pinch! However, recently, a fellow food blogger (and all-around awesome gal!) Ashley, of Delish posted her recipe for Creamy Taco Mac- pretty much exactly like Hamburger Helper, except much better for you (and just as quick and easy!)! I made it immediately and we both loved it! Hubby especially thought it was great (woo hoo!). I’ll never need to buy the boxed stuff again! Thanks, Ashley!

Creamy Taco Mac
– adapted from Delish

1 lb. lean, ground beef
8 oz dry pasta + 1 cup reserved pasta water
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes
4 Tbsp mild taco seasoning (one packet)
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
salt & pepper
cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta per directions. Reserve one cup of pasta water.

Over medium heat, brown ground beef and drain off fat. Add taco seasoning and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta, reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream. Give it a good stir until cheese is melted and incorporated.  Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, as desired. Top off with cheddar cheese for extra cheesy goodness.

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Nana’s Lasagna…

Ok, say you want really delicious, hearty lasagna for dinner but you don’t have hours and hours to spend on it – this one’s for you!  This is my Nana’s recipe for lasagna and it’s been a family favorite throughout the years. It’s just perfect for busy moms and hard-working people who don’t have the luxury of spending lots and lots of time in the kitchen for dinner. Since you don’t have to cook the noodles beforehand, you can whip it up in practically no time and put a really delicious meal on the table for your kids or your hard-working man (I know my hard-working man really appreciates this- he loves a good lasagna!)! This was perfect for us because I was able to make it for dinner one night, then hubby could have the leftovers for his dinner on the nights I was gone for opera rehearsals (it makes a big ‘ol pan full!). If you don’t like the thought of using store-bought tomato sauce, by all means, use homemade. This is a perfect meal because it’s really comforting, simple and hearty- a real comfort meal in half the time! Give it a try!

Nana’s Lasagna

1 lb. lean ground beef
32 oz. spaghetti sauce (I used one 16-oz. jar Prego Traditional and one 16-oz. jar Prego Basil and Garlic)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for the top)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz. pkg. lasagna noodles- uncooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat and drain off fat. Add spaghetti sauce and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic and set aside.  In a greased 9×13 pan, pour approx. 1/2 cup meat sauce; cover with a layer of lasagna noodles. Cover with approx. 1 1/2 cups meat sauce; spread half of cheese mixture over the sauce (don’t worry if the layers mix a tiny bit). Repeat layers. Top with the remaining meat sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 55-60 minutes. Remove foil and top with remaining mozzarella cheese; bake for an addition 5-10 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Quick, Creamy [Cheater] Bolognese…

Ok, I know this picture is slightly less-than-appetizing (I discovered that no matter what color of plate I tried, this dish just wasn’t very photogenic), but trust me, this sauce is seriously good. And quick. And easy. Got store-bought marinara? Cream cheese? Ground beef??? Then you’ve got creamy bolognese! There’s an “Italian” restaurant in our hometown that my family would eat at practically every Sunday after church. Without fail, I would always order their pasta bolognese (actually not bolognese at all, but it was still really good!); basically, it was a really creamy, slightly spicy meat/mushroom sauce. The other night, while throwing this dish together, I happen to end up with a sauce almost identical to their “bolognese” completely by accident- yay! Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is real bolognese. And it’s good. Really good.

Creamy [Cheater] Bolognese

1 pound lean ground beef
1 jar of your favorite store-bought marinara sauce (I actually used the canned kind)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
freshly ground pepper to taste (I like lots!)
pinch Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

In a large skillet, brown and drain the beef. Stir in the marinara sauce, mushrooms, black pepper, cayenne pepper and sugar; mix well. Add the cream cheese and stir constantly until it melts into the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Toss with the cooked pasta and serve immediately.

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Best. Chili. Ever.

I’ve found my purpose. No really; now I see why the Good Lord put me on this earth…to make this chili. For everyone. I can’t believe I’ve only ever made chili with ground beef and a spice packet…that’s no way to live. Now that I’ve tasted real chili, there’s no way I’m going back. Ever.

chili1

You’ve heard me talk about my Uncle Steve many times – well here’s another tribute to his culinary genius. He gave me his chili recipe…no, let me rephrase that- he gave me the chili recipe; because as far as I’m concerned, this is the only one I’ll ever need. Of course I won’t post it exactly how he gave it to me (I can’t just go ’round giving away a man’s chili recipe, now can I?) – I made a few changes, since I didn’t have 8 hours to spend on it. But lemme tell ya – it’s thick, it’s meaty, it’s spicy, it’s bold, it’s…..beautiful. Hubby and I were in hog heaven after one bite. I can safely say, this chili is henceforth…THE chili.

Chili

2 lb. Chuck roast (or any cut you have on hand), cut into small cubes
1 lb. Flank steak, cut into cubes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 chipotle chilis in Adobo (you can find these in the Latin section of your grocery store), seeded
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1 quart beef broth
1 bottle beer (I used Sam Adams)
salt to taste
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Uncle Steve doesn’t believe in tomato in his chili, but I like it!)

Place beef in a large dutch oven with the beef broth (if the broth doesn’t cover the beef, add some water), cover and boil for 30-45 minutes or until the beef is tender. Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the onion, garlic and chipotle peppers. Add to beef along with spices and salt. If there is too much liquid, simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced down a bit. Alternatively you can add a little flour or masa to thicken. Add beer and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low for 3-4 hours stirring occasionally.

chili2

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Spaghetti and Meatballs…

Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of meatballs in my spaghetti.  Something about them bothers me, but I can’t really explain what it is.  After a few weeks of wanting to try Ina Garten’s marinara recipe, I decided to make some for dinner. Then I thought I might as well throw some meatballs in the mix too, just to see if I could come up with a recipe I liked.  Of course (no surprise whatsoever) Ina’s marinara was totally delicious – I love that she uses red wine! It’s a little tangy and really hearty and thick.  I decided to just wing it on the meatballs – I mixed ground beef with fresh bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, an egg and salt and pepper.  Very simple and straight forward.  And since I hate standing over a skillet turning splattering meatballs every 2 minutes, I just threw them in the oven for about 25 minutes and they came out perfectly!

meatballs1

Hubby and I really enjoyed our spaghetti and meatballs!  Since the sauce is so robust and full of flavor, I didn’t spice the meatballs up too much – I just let the sauce take care of it.  I’ll most definitely be using this marinara recipe again and again…it’ll most likely be my stand-by marinara in the future!  This was a really (really!) yummy dinner – I’m glad I finally found a meatball that I’d actually want to put in my spaghetti!

Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (3 slices white bread ground up in the food processor)
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until combined. Roll meat into 1 1/2-2 inch balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and cooked throughout.

Marinara Sauce
-Ina Garten

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.

*I also added about a tablespoon of brown sugar to add a little sweetness

meatballs2


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Delicious Stuffed Peppers…

stuffedpeppers1

Here’s a cute story:

Once upon a time, when my parents were newly married (and I mean “newly” – they probably hadn’t even been married a week yet!) and just home from their honeymoon, my mother wanted to cook my daddy one of his favorite meals for their first married dinner at home- stuffed peppers.  She worked hard in the kitchen and came out with a big platter of beautiful looking stuffed peppers.  As they sat down and started to eat, they both noticed something wasn’t quite right – the peppers were crunchy! It was then my  mother realized she’d neglected to cook the rice before adding it to the filling! She was so embarrassed, but my daddy kept on eating and said he thought they were great anyway – what a great husband!

Here’s another story:

Once upon a time, when Joel and I had just been married and had just gotten home from our honeymoon, I wanted to cook a nice meal for our first married dinner at home. I picked out a nice noodle  casserole recipe and went to work.  As my new husband and I sat down and started eating…lo and behold, the casserole went, crunch! crunch! and immediately I knew I had flubbed up somehow. Just as my mother had done years before when she was a young bride, I had neglected to boil my noodles before putting them in the casserole.  Just like my sweet daddy had done, my hubby kept right on eating and said it was delicious and that he liked it crunchy, while I sat there blushing. Like mother, like daughter, I guess!  Lucky for our husbands, we’ve both grown quite a lot since our first married days!

stuffedpeppers2

Believe it or not, when I was a kid, I hated these things.  I hated peppers, I hated onions…I hated most things, it seems like.  I didn’t even try these until I was almost married – my mother coooked them and I finally decided I’d give them a try.  I ended up really liking them and getting the recipe from her.  Finally, last night, I decided to make them myself – I did them exactly how my mother does them and WOW, these are SO much better than I remember!!  They’re hearty and filling and have tons of great flavor! We both ate like pigs and cleaned our plates! Luckily, there’s one left and I get it for dinner tonight since hubby is going to a boys’ night! Yee haw!!

My Mom’s No-Bake Stuffed Peppers

2 medium bell peppers (any color – I used yellow)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon basil
1-15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups rice, cooked
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, drop the peppers in and boil for 5-6 minutes. In a small bowl, mix tomato sauce, basil and sugar and set aside. Brown meat and onion in a large skillet; drain. Stir in 1/2 the tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of the rice and the salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in cheese. Spoon meat mixture into peppers and place into skillet. Pour remaining tomato sauce around peppers; cover and simmer. Top with additional cheese, if desired. Serve on top of remaining rice.

stuffedpeppers3

These really are SO good – do yourself a favor and try them out soon! I promise you’ll love them! Just don’t forget to cook the rice first! ;-)  Enjoy!!

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