Baked Ziti

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Do you know what today is? It’s 10k day for those of us participating in NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated)  is a project to write 50k words of a novel in 30 days. It’s a little crazy and a lot fun. This is my 7th year participating in NaNo and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past attempts, it’s that you need to plan ahead.

As part of my NaNo prep this year, I stocked our freezer with dinners. I’ve never really done much freezer cooking, but spending less time in the kitchen and more time writing sounded like an excellent idea. This is one of the meals we’ve got in the freezer for this month. The recipe makes two pans – so we ate one when I made in and froze the other. This is a pretty basic, no-frills baked ziti, but it’s a really good one. We’re really looking forward to enjoying the second pan.

I’ve got a whole lot of freezer meals on the menu this month. I’m planning to share the hits and include freezing instructions on some already-blogged recipes. Keep your fingers crossed this goes as well as planned!

Baked Ziti
(from Six Sisters’ Stuff)
Makes 2 8×8″ trays

1 lb. penne pasta
1 onion, diced
1 lb. lean ground beef, seasoned with pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and minced garlic
2 (26 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce
8 slices provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions.

In a large skillet, cook the onion and ground beef over medium heat until the meat is browned and onions are translucent. Drain off any excess fat. Add in the spaghetti sauce and simmer for fifteen minutes.

If cooking it now, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Spray two 8×8-inch pans with non-stick cooking spray. Layer in each pan: 1/4 of the ziti, 1/4 of the sauce, 4 slices of Provolone cheese, 1/2 of sour cream,  1/4 of ziti, 1/4 mozzarella cheese and 1/4 of sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, until cheeses are melted. Or, cover and freeze.

To cook from frozen: bake at 350F degrees, covered, until heated through and bubbly.


Roast Beef and Parmesan Pita

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This has been one of my favorite lunches recently – it’s been making near weekly appearances, which is practically unheard of around here. It’s really not terribly fancy, but all together it’s absolutely delicious.

I’m also loving it because the individual ingredients all fit perfectly into the sections of my bento box. It makes it so much easier to take to work and solves the usual soggy sandwich issue.

For those of you that take lunch to work, what are you favorite things to pack? I’m always looking for new ideas.

Roast Beef and Parmesan Pita
(from Self Magazine)
Makes 1

1 6-inch whole wheat pita
4 oz. lean roast beef
1/2 cup arugula
1/4 cup sliced cucumbers
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
Fresh pepper
Oregano

Fill the pita with roast beef, arugula, cucumbers and parmesan. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with pepper and oregano. Drizzle over the pita.


Chili Braised Beef with Cornbread Dumplings

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Sometime back in August (or, July maybe?), I made a list of football food. Dishes I could cook up on Sundays while Mark and I were hanging out and watching the game. I had grand visions of lazy days and indulgent food.

What happened, you ask? Well, we’re Giants fans. I think that explains it well enough.

Still, there were a few things on that list that I couldn’t wait to make – whether we were footballing or not. This is one of them. Chunky, spicy beef topped with cornbread? I don’t think you could dream up a better meal for a chilly fall night.

Chili Braised Beef with Cornbread Dumplings
(slightly adapted from Donna Hay)
Serves 6

For the beef:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. stew beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
2 chipotle chilies in adobo
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 32 oz. can cherry tomatoes
2 cups beef stock

For the dumplings:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup instant polenta
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown, about three minute, cooking in batches if needed. Remove the beef to a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the paprika and chipotle chilies and cook for 1 minute. Return the beef to the pan along with the brown sugar, tomato paste, cherry tomatoes, and stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 3–3½ hours or until tender.

Preheat oven 400F degrees.

Place the flour, baking powder, polenta, buttermilk, salt, pepper, cheese and cilantro in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon onto the beef and bake, uncovered, for 15–20 minutes or until cooked through and golden.


Spicy Sausage Pasta

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I’m very fortunate. Even though I love cooking, there are nights that I just don’t want to spend time in the kitchen. When that happens, Mark is always happy to step in and take care of things. He’s a great cook.

This is one of the dinners he cooked up recently. Its a one-pot meal – you don’t have to cook the pasta separately, just keep adding things to the pan and in the end you have a creamy, spicy pasta dish. It was awesome.

 

Spicy Sausage Pasta
(from A Bitchin’ Kitchen)
Serves 4

1 T. olive oil
1 14 oz. package smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1/2 c. heavy cream
8 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne pasta (about 2 1/2 c.)
1/2 t. black pepper
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced scallions
Salt, to taste

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil until smoking.  Add the sausage and onion to the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the broth, tomatoes, heavy cream, uncooked pasta and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice while cooking.

While the pasta cooks, preheat the oven broiler. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Add salt to taste. Top with the scallions and remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.


Steak Sandwiches with Blue Cheese Sauce

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Happy birthday to me! I love having a mid-year birthday – it’s like a mid-year reset button. New Year’s resolutions not going well? You can start over as you turn another year older.  Which is exactly what I’m going to do.

I’ve been on an on-going quest to eat better and cook more from scratch. It’s a process and a challenge – and the last few months I haven’t been doing so well. We’ve been eating out or getting take out more than I would like.

I’m not ready to give up my favorite junk foods, cheesesteak included, but I’m going to make more of an effort to cook them at home so I can better keep track of exactly what I’m eating. This recipe was sort of the test – could I really make something at home that could squash my takeout craving?

Absolutely.

Steak Sandwiches with Blue Cheese Sauce
(from Cook This, Not That!)
Serves 2

2 T. plain Greek yogurt
2 T. mayonnaise
1/4 c. crumbled blue cheese
8 oz. skirt steak or flank steak
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 sandwich rolls
Caramelized onions

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise and blue cheese until well combined.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Cook on a hot grill for about 8-10 minutes, turning half way. Allow to rest five minutes and then slice into thin strips.

Cut each roll in half lengthwise and spread the blue cheese sauce inside. Divide steak and caramelized onion between rolls.


Beef Teriyaki Kebabs

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This is the last of the recipes from our Soy Vay House Party I’ll be sharing. These are a super simple use of teriyaki sauce, but I really loved the Soy Vay Teriyaki on these! I chose such an easy dish for the party because we were out at a street fair for most of the afternoon – I set up the marinade before we left and then came home, threaded the kebabs and cooked. It worked perfectly!

Now that we’re officially, unofficially into the summer season, easy grilled dinners like this will be in our regular rotation. I’m sure these will be making repeat appearances this summer!

Beef Teriyaki Kebabs
(from Soy Vay)
Serves 4-6

1½ lbs. top sirloin, cut into 1½-inch cubes
½ c. teriyaki sauce, plus more for basting
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 small red onion
3 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the beef and teriyaki sauce. Refrigerate and let marinade for about 4 hours. While the beef is marinade, soak your wooden kebab skewers in salted water to prevent them burning on the grill.

Chop the peppers and onion into large pieces. Toss them with the olive oil.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Thread the beef, peppers and onions onto the soaked skewers.  Spray the grill with non-stick spray or brush with olive oil and then add kebabs to grill. Cook, turning as needed, until reaching desired doneness, basting with additional teriyaki sauce every 2-3 minutes. (Ours took about 10 minutes to cook.)


Horseradish-Crusted Beef

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This was another one of our Sunday dinners. It was also the first time I’ve made a beef roast.

Unless it’s ground beef or in the slow cooker, I don’t cook beef that oven. Usually, the task falls to Mark – and nine times out of ten that means steaks on the grill. I’ve wanted to try a roast but they’re fairly expensive and, honestly, I was afraid of screwing it up.

When they were on sale Easter week, I decided it was time to tackle making one – and to my surprise it was really easy. I’d go as far as to say this recipe is relatively fool-proof. Not to mention, absolutely delicious.

Horseradish-Crusted Beef
(slightly adapted from Women’s Day)
Serves 8

1/4 c. prepared horseradish
1/4 c. whole-grain mustard
1/2 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 (4-lb.) boneless beef rump or rib roast, at room temperature
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the horseradish, mustard and parsley.

Place the beef in a large roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Rub with the horseradish mixture.

Roast for 80-90 minutes, or until reaching desired doneness, 130F degrees for medium-rare.

Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 15  minutes before slicing.


Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

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I always start my meal planning for the week by taking inventory of what we have, and what needs to be used up. Often, that means re-imagining leftovers. This dish got added to the menu, though, simply because we already had guacamole in the fridge.

Whether the guacamole is really important to the sandwich is debatable. I’m not a huge guacamole fan and could have easily left it off and not missed it – my husband, on the other hand, was a big fan. Guacamole or not, though, these sandwiches are delicious.

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes
(from Smells Like Home, adapted from Homesick Texan)
Serves 6

1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
1 chipotle chile in adobo
2 t. oregano
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 lbs. ground chicken, turkey, or beef
1 t. canola oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. beer, such as a light ale or lager
2 T. ketchup
1/4 c. cilantro
1 T. lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
Hamburger buns, cheddar cheese and guacamole, for serving

In a food processor, combine the tomato sauce, chipotle chile, oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Puree until smooth.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground meat, stirring occasionally until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.  Drain off the fat.  Add the canola oil to the pan with the browned meat then stir in the onions. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato mixture, along with the beer, ketchup and cilantro until well combined.

Let all ingredients come to a low simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 15 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on warmed buns with guacamole.

 


Bloody Mary Steak with White Cheddar Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

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The latest recipe swap hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking was themed “special occasion”, which naturally meant I was going to make it for Valentine’s Day. Obviously, it was a bit more time intensive than our usual Thursday dinners but, hey, hubby deserves a nice dinner for dealing with all of my crazy!

This recipe comes from Cheese Curd in Paradise.  She also has a mushroom topping for the steak – since we’re not mushroom fans I skipped it, but if that’s your thing it’d be a great addition. We were especially fond of the mashed potatoes!

 

Bloody Mary Steak with White Cheddar Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
(from Cheese Curd in Paradise)

Bloody Mary Steaks
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
2 T. sliced green olives
3 T. chopped pickles
1 T. pickle juice
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. hot sauce
5.5 oz tomato juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. cumin
1 T. celery salt
1/2 t. dill seed
2 lb. beef tenderloin, cut into individual steaks

 

Whisk together all ingredients besides steak. Place the steaks in a large ziplock bag and pour in the marinate. Allow the steaks to marinate 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Flip the bag at the halfway through.
 
Pre-heat your grill. Remove the steaks from the bag and discard the marinate.  Grill steaks over medium heat until the reach desired temperature.
 
Horseradish & White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 T. prepared horseradish
3/4 c. grated sharp white cheddar
2/3 c. milk
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 t. black pepper
1 T. salt
 
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes and cook until they are easily pierced with a fork. Drain water and move the potatoes to a mixing bowl. Add milk, butter, cream cheese, horseradish, cheese salt and pepper. Mash together until well combined.

Check out the other dishes featured in the Special Occasion Swap in the linkup below!




Beef & Red Wine Stew

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This is one of those times where I wish scent-o-vision was a thing, because if you could smell this stew, you’d be running off to make it. It smells – and tastes - fantastic.

I really liked that this was so simple – the broth is made from just red wine, water and tomato paste – and the orange added  a nice, freshness that made it seem less heavy than most stews. It also didn’t hurt that it was served over mashed potatoes – my husband was particularly fond of that part!

 

Beef and Red Wine Stew
(from Katie at the Kitchen Door)
Serves 8

3 lb. stew beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 (750-ml.) bottle red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 orange, washed well and cut into 8 wedges
1 large onion, peeled and cut into rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Olive oil
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
4 1/2 c. water
3 1/2 oz. pitted black olives

Season the beef with salt and pepper and add to a large bowl. Add the red wine, thyme, bay leaves, carrots, orange, onion and garlic. Cover and refrigerate, letting marinate for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours.

In a large stockpot, heat some olive oil. Remove the meat from the marinade and add to pot, browning pieces on all sides. Add the marinade to the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and skim any foam off the top.

Lower the heat to a simmer. Stir in tomato paste and water. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Fifteen minutes before it’s ready, stir in the pitted olives. Cook, uncovered, on medium heat to let thicken a little.

Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.