Category Archives: Beef

The Greek in me!

Ok so I don’t actually have any Greek in me since I am all Italian but I am a big fan of most things Greek, especially their cuisine! Pastitsio is one of my favorite things to eat, especially if it is from the Greek Islands Restaurant! (others have been known to overwhelm me with nutmeg and/or cinnamon….spices I feel are better left for dessert)! For those that are unfamiliar, pastitsio is a Greek lasagna, with layers of hearty meat, a rich tomatoey sauce and luscious, creamy, cheesy bechamel (my favorite part). My mom’s good friend Diane, one of the Real Housewives of Glen Ellyn as the ladies are commonly referred to by us kids, gave me a recipe a while back which I have been dying to try out! Diane is Greek and gave me her mother’s pastitsio recipe months ago and I finally got the opportunity to try it out last Sunday when I was home for more than an hour on a weekend day (how nice that was by the way….so rare it’s sad)! Good thing I had all the time in the world to make it too because it was definitely time-consuming…not so much that I won’t make it again, but enough to know to really plan ahead! The tricky part is that you are essentially preparing three separate items that get combined together; the chunky tomatoey meat sauce, the pasta portion and saving the best for last, the rich, velvety bechamel part. Another heads up, this makes a very large portion, we have been eating it for dinner since Monday and lunch yesterday and today, and I brought a few good size portions home for my mom and grandma to try last night…and I still have nearly a third of the pan left! So be aware, up to your ears in pastitsio with this recipe!

View from above!

Pastitsio:

Meat Sauce:

  • 1.5 pounds ground lamb (can use ground beef but I was trying to be ‘traditional’)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 small-medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can filled with water
  • 1 t rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pasta:

  • 1 pound penne
  • 2 T olive oil (I used garlic infused olive oil that I had made myself just to add a little more flavor)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup Kefalotyri (can use Parmesan but again, I was attempting to be ‘traditional’)

Bechamel:

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 glasses milk, warmed
  • 3/4 cup Kefalotyri
  • 3 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper to taste

For meat sauce: Brown ground lamb in a butter with onion until onion is soft and meat is browned. Add in garlic. Let cook a minute more. Deglaze pan with white wine. Add in rosemary, bay leaves and tomato paste diluted with water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook about 15 or so minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaves.

For the pasta: Cook pasta until al dente (undercook by at least a few minutes). Once done, strain and return to pot. Toss with olive oil and let cool a few minutes. Once relatively cool, add in Kefalotyri cheese and egg whites, toss to coat.

For the Bechamel: While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour, and let cook a minute or two, do not let brown. Whisk in milk, slowly, whisking the entire time, so no clumps remain. Once no lumps remain, remove the pan from the heat and add in the cheese, salt, pepper and egg yolks, in that order while continuing to stir the entire time. Set aside when smooth and fully mixed.

Assembly: I mixed half of the meat sauce with the pasta and poured half of the pasta mixture on the bottom of a greased, large casserole pan. Then the other half of the meat mixture, then the other half of the pasta. Lastly, pour the bechamel over top and cover with more Kefalotyri. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on how brown you like it. We did not eat ours Sunday night but let it sit in the fridge overnight then reheated pieces for dinner Monday which I was told really escalates the flavor. Josh ate a small piece Sunday night and said that it was a slightly stronger taste the following evening but not terribly noticeable or obvious! Also, next time I would try to find smaller pasta noodles, even the true Greek number 2 ‘traditional’ noodles if possible and use a little more tomato sauce or make extra tomato sauce to drizzle over top like they do in the restaurants! And there will be a next time, that’s for sure!

Good view of the layers!

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Nutella, ella, ella

After this past weekend, even though it was filled with delicious food and all the pastries in the world, I was craving something super chocolatey and rich! I was settled on basic brownies with my favorite peanut butter frosting when I realized how much peanut butter and overall nuts I had eaten recently so decided to switch to something with Nutella. It seemed perfect; still satisfy that nut butter craving while also accomplishing the chocolatey goodness I desperately wanted! Also, I knew last night was going to be a super late one at work so I wanted to utilize the crock pot so we’d have dinner ready as soon as we got home! I saw a recipe on (my new fav) Pinterest for a Balsamic Pot Roast type thing….and since I loooove balsamic so much, I figured I’d give it a try! Not gonna lie, the brownies turned out to be amazingly delicious however the roast, not so much! It was just so greasy and lacking something. I did use a beef brisket which I know is a fattier cut of meat, but the grease was almost inedible (although sadly didn’t stop either of us, but definitely gave us stomach aches all night)!

Nutella Cream Cheese Brownies:

Brownies:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    1 t salt
    2 T cocoa powder (I used dark to enhance the chocolate flavor)
    11 oz dark chocolate, chopped
    1 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 t instant espresso powder (optional but really brings out the chocolate flavor)
    1½ cups sugar
    ½ cup brown sugar
    5 eggs, room temp
    2 t vanilla extract

Nutella Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 T butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

For the Nutella Cream Cheese layer: Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in Nutella, until smooth and incorporated. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until no lumps and all is smooth. Pour over brownie batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

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Balsamic Roast with Onions:

  • 2-3 pound beef brisket or eye of the round roast
  • seasoning salt
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions, sliced thickly

Season beef with salt, garlic, onion and pepper. Heat cast iron skillet with olive oil until hot. Sear meat on both sides. You want a really nice brown crust, so give it time to brown, at least a few minutes each side. Meanwhile, cut onions into thick slices and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Also, heat beef broth in saucepan, boiling until reduced from 1 cup to 1/2 cup liquid. Once reduced, remove from heat and add in balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce. When meat is done, transfer to crock pot, on top of sliced onions. Deglaze pan the meat was seared in with 1/4 cup water, scraping all the flavor crystals from the bottom of the pan. Add pan drippings to balsamic mixture. Pour over beef and onions in the crock pot. Cook on low 7-8 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes if you like!

As I mentioned, this was not my favorite recipe. If I ever make it again, I would definitely use a leaner meat and add in more veggies to soak up some of the juices.  The mashed potatoes helped, but not all that much! I plan on using the leftovers for a sandwich, melting some cheese on the top and using some of the caramelized onions….I am hoping that this might be the way to eat this, rather than over potatoes! We shall see!

On the Wagon…

Here is one wagon to get onto my friends! My family has this recipe they call ‘Chuck Wagon Mac’ that is so simple yet so tasty at the same time! It is basically a fancier, home-made version of a cheesy hamburger helper. And my favorite part about it is how versatile it is! You can literally add anything you like or change it up any way you like to suit your tastes. I made a version of this Sunday night, with more of a Mexican flair and it turned out to be, well in my opinion at least, the best one yet! I’ll give you the basic recipe first and then the one I made up on Sunday:

Original Chuck Wagon Mac

  • Box of macaroni & cheese, prepared
  • 1 can tomato paste, with a few tablespoons of water to smooth it out
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 onion, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish. Cook ground beef with onion, green pepper and celery until cooked through. Mix together with the corn, tomato paste and macaroni and cheese. Pour all together into casserole dish and bake 45 minutes – 1 hour, until heated through.

Honestly, how simple is that?! And this variation alone is incredibly delicious, it used to be a favorite of mine growing up! (I must admit though, I’ve never made this using a boxed mac & cheese, I always make my own or at least do my own with chopped up velveeta and butter)! But it is good even with the box! I just like to have control of the amount of cheese, since I loooove cheese and am able to add as much as I want!!

Mexican Chuck Wagon Mac

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni, shells, rotini, whatever
  • 20 ounces velveeta cheese, cubed (at least 20 ounces)!
  • 3-5 T butter (add as much or as little as you’d like to reach desired creaminess…you can use milk instead or also but butter gives a much better flavor)!
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (I kept the ribs and seeds because we love spice)!
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 – 2 T cumin
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor to make tomato sauce
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • bag of shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Cook pasta to al dente. While cooking, cook ground beef with onion, peppers, celery and cumin until cooked through. Drain if necessary. Once the pasta is cooked almost through, drain and add back to the pan with the velveeta and butter. Stir over low heat until velveeta is melted. Mix everything together, with a cup of the shredded cheddar and put in casserole dish. Top with remaining shredded cheddar and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

I really liked the spice the jalapeno added and the flavor the cumin added! I think this combination worked great and am going to try more and more…after all, ground beef with mac and cheese could never get old in my book! Hell, mac and cheese with anything will never get old, Josh and I still eat it at least once a week, but usually a few times a week! Enjoy and let me know of any variations you guys try out and like or dislike!

Also, on a side note, I posted about home-made pasta we tried the other day and how well it turned out. Not surprising, I’ve been playing around with it and have made home-made noodles a few times now and Friday we made our own lasagna noodles and they were amazing! And the entire process took less than 45 minutes, including the 30 minutes for the dough to rest! I highly suggest giving your own a shot, it was much easier and tastier than  I imagined it would be!

 

Cafeteria Make-over!

I can still remember the disappointment and lack of excitement when my mom would tell me we were having meat loaf for dinner! I was just never a big fan, and came to find out neither is Josh! We share (or I suppose I should now say shared) the same feelings about meat loaf….boring, same-old same-old, and just overall blah! That was until Friday night when I decided to re-invent meat loaf and make it something we’d want to eat and look forward to eating! Having never made a meat-loaf before, this was quite the challenge! The project was a definite success and now meatloaf is something to get excited about!

Stuffed Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1.25 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 egg
Stuffing
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 container mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • velveeta cheese, 8 thick slices
Sauce (Adapted from Alton Brown)
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1 t cumin
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 dashes Siracha
  • 1 T honey

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. For the filling, heat the olive oil and butter in large skillet. Add the onion and mushroom, season to taste and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and saute a few more minutes. Set aside. In the meantime to make the meat loaf, combine the bread crumbs and all seasonings. Combine the ground meat and veggies with the bread crumb mixture. Add the egg until combined thoroughly. For the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients.

Place half of the meat mixture into the loaf pan. Top with 4 of the slices of Velveeta, the mushroom mixture then 4 more slices of Velveeta. Top with remaining meat mixture. Place in oven for 50-60 minutes, topping with the sauce about 10 minutes into the cooking process.

For dessert, I decided to combine two of my favorite things together: raw cookie dough and fudgy brownies! I made the mistake of concocting edible cookie dough that is absolutely delicious! Delicious enough that I ate the entire thing and had to make more for the brownies! Here’s how it goes:

Brownies (best brownie recipe ever by the way…adapted from King Arthur)

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t espresso
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Once melted, stir in sugar until dissolved. Return to heat, but do not let boil, just heat up. While the sugar is heating the second time, whisk the four eggs with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso and vanilla. Add the butter mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add in chocolate chips and flour, stir until chocolate melts. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes for an 8X8 or 9X9, and about 30 for a 9X13.

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I let it cool about 1 hour, stirring occasionally)
    2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
    1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
    3 tablespoons milk
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place all in a food processor and blend until smooth and thick. Set aside.

While the brownies are baking, mix together one can sweetened condensed milk, 8 T softened butter, 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 t vanilla and 1 cup chocolate chips. Store in fridge until ready to use!

Once the brownies are completely cooled. Spread with chocolate frosting and then spread cookie dough on top. If there is remaining frosting, throw another layer on top of the frosting!

These are incredibly rich and decadent…not for the faint of heart!

Enjoy, and get excited about meat loaf Mondays!

Savor the Moment!

Usually, I opt for the sweet breakfast choice over the savory, any day of the week…I’m talking 9 out of 10 times…give me a muffin or chocolate croissant please! Yesterday was an entirely different morning, for some reason I decided to make an uber rich and savory breakfast and it turned out fabulous! Josh and I went out to a steakhouse Friday night and ended up, through quite a mishap of giving our entrees away to another table, etc, with 3 large entrée steaks…so for once, we ended up having leftovers, a rare event in our lives! I was trying to think of something fun to do with the steak because re-heating a steak doesn’t sound too appetizing to me! I got the idea from a combination of  the ever popular dishes ‘chicken and waffles’ and ‘steak and eggs’ and came up with ‘steak and waffles!’ We both absolutely love anything mushroom or Marsala so I decided this would be the ‘syrup’ for the waffles. We made savory herb waffles and topped them with steak slices, Marsala sauce, and a fried egg. I just might swing towards the savory breakfast club if they could all be this good!

Waffles (makes 6):

  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Marsala Mushroom Sauce:
  • 1 container Portobello mushrooms
  • 1 small onion or shallot, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup Marsala
  • 3-4 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion and mushrooms in some olive oil and/or butter until softened, add in garlic. Cook a few more minutes, then add in Marsala, scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan, add in herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cook a few more minutes. Uncover, add cream and cook, stirring until desired thickness (took me about 8 or so minutes). To assemble: top the waffles with the steak slices, then the Marsala sauce, followed by a fried egg!
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My favorite part about this was the fried egg, when you cut into it, the yolk from the egg oozed out all over the steak, mushrooms and waffle. I contemplated adding in a different cheese with the waffle batter or using blue cheese with the Marsala sauce but I think it would have been too rich, this was a very hearty and savory dish already. It was a great way to use leftovers instead of throw them out, that’s for sure!
On another note, I made the stuffed pumpkins again last night, however I substituted ground lamb for the ground beef, added in carrots and peas with the mushrooms and used fresh rosemary and thyme from our garden…they were even better than the first time! They had a Shepard’s Pie feel to them but were stuffed in a pumpkin! I am really loving this recipe, not only because of how amazingly delicious it is but because of how versatile it is and how you can play around with it! Had to get one last round of pumpkins in there before the season officially ends! My next task is going to be to make enough baked mostaccioli and meatballs for Josh’s family’s Thanksgiving of 75+ people! I am going to have to channel my inner Gram for help with this one!

Stuffed Up!

As mentioned last blog, I bought a few pie pumpkins with the intention of stuffing them for dinner and finally did so last night! I modified one of Josh’s family recipes and they turned out perfectly! I tried to make these once last year and neither Josh nor I liked them very much, so we were skeptical going in…very happy with the way they ended up! Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic of them before diving in….it’s ok though, just an excuse to have to make them again soon!!

Here is the recipe we used:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed/diced
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1-2  T Worcestershire
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t cayenne
  • dash or two of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used the Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice that you microwave for 90 seconds)!
  • 1 (8-oz.) can water chestnuts, diced
  • Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 pie pumpkins
We got home kind of late last night and these usually take 45 minutes – 1 hour to bake so to speed up the process, I threw the cleaned out, cut pumpkins in the microwave for about 12 minutes to soften them up and decrease the baking time (I also sprinkled some salt and pepper on the inside of the pumpkin). While the pumpkins were in the micro, I sautéed the onions and mushrooms in some olive oil until they began to soften, then added in the garlic. Let that saute until fragrant and added the ground meat and cooked through. Depending on how lean the meat you use is, you can either drain the meat or leave the fat for extra flavor…I used 90% lean meat so I didn’t drain off the fat. Once no longer pink, I added in the cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper and let that simmer for about 10 minutes. I then added in the rice and cheese and let the cheese melt down before scooping the meat mixture into the pumpkins and topping with more cheese before baking at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. I only had two pie pumpkins so I baked the extra meat casserole in two ramekins topped with cheese.
The result was very flavorful and moist. The meat casserole part was very good on its own however, it was especially delicious when scooped with some of the pumpkin! Here is where I really wish I had a picture to share with you guys…but I promise to make them again soon and post one! Better late than never right?!
I stole the pic from my brother, he made these the other night with a few tweaks of his own! He omitted the mushrooms (he’s ‘allergic’) and used carrots and celery instead and used cream of mushroom and chicken instead of cream of mushroom. He said they were absolutely delicious and he’d definitely make them again!

Gravy Train!

I realize it has been a while since my last post but luckily I’ve been really busy! And sadly we didn’t have internet at work this week…which forced me to do actual work, blah! No seriously though, I do have a new recipe I’d like to share with everyone! I saw an episode of Giada over a year ago that I’ve been wanting to make but never did, until last Friday! It is for a lamb ragu….I used her recipe, omitting the mint leaves and using a smidge more garlic and lamb meat…and used my mama’s gravy recipe for the ‘marinara sauce’ part! The lamb added such a unique, peppery flavor and the ricotta added an unexpected creaminess. It was well worth the wait, and was easier than anticipated to make which was a definite bonus!! So here it is:

1 lb Pasta (rigatoni, shells, rotini: any that hold on to a hearty meat sauce)!

2 T olive oil

2 lb ground lamb

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup red wine

4 cups marinara (Gram’s gravy recipe to follow)!

1/2 cup ricotta

Heat large pot of water to boiling, add salt, and add pasta….cook until al dente. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the shallots and garlic, cook until softened. Add the ground lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and juices have evaporated. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the marinara sauce and cook over low heat until flavors meld, at least 15 minutes. Add the ricotta and mix through. Add the pasta (I chose shells, mostly because that’s what I had in my pantry but also because the shells would hold on to the meaty chunks in the sauce). Top with some fresh parsley and of course, serve with parmesan and a big glass of red wine!!

Picture of Lamb Ragu with Mint Recipe

This is the pic of Giada's with the Rigatoni! Unfortunately I do not have a pic of my own to share!

Mama’s gravy recipe (and I apologize in advance for not having exact measurements of any sort, but I had to learn how to make this through watching):

Heat enough olive oil  and vegetable oil (more olive than vegetable) to coat the bottom of a deep, large pot. Add a lot of chopped garlic and little chopped onion and soften for a few minutes. Add pork neck bones and fry until browned. Add a large can of tomato puree. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a lot of oregano, a little basil, a dash of red pepper flakes and a few splashes of red wine. Let that come to a boil, then simmer. Mix a small can of tomato paste with a can of water and add that to the gravy.  Add a bit of parmesan cheese and let simmer for a few hours. Be sure to stir occasionally, making sure to scrap the bottom and sides of the pot. (Sidenote: you can use any combination of pork neck bones, beef shank, Italian sausage, meatballs, etc for the beginning part)!

Peppery!

We picked a few ripened hot peppers from our lovely garden Tuesday morning and didn’t want them to go to waste so Josh requested chili for dinner last night! I decided to let it simmer all day in the crock pot to give the flavors a chance to really meld together and let the spice come through. Tuesday night I prepared the meat, browning it with some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno and Habanero peppers (all peppers courtesy of our patio garden). Once cooked through, I added a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce (and about 3/4 full can of water), a can each of red and black beans, 8 tablespoons of chili powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons of each cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper (and obviously all of these can be tweeked to personal preferences). I also added in about a teaspoon of cayenne for extra kick (probably completely unnecessary in retrospect, but oh well)! This was for two pounds of 85/25 ground beef. After it cooled down, I left it in the fridge over night and then threw everything in the crock pot the next morning and let it cook on low for about 8 hours. Traditionally in my family, whenever we ate chili, we always put it over spaghetti noodles and topped it with cheddar cheese. I know, I know, us Italians and our breads/pastas, having to be present somehow at every meal of the day! It seemed very strange to me whenever I’d eat chili anywhere else and there would be no pasta, now I realize we were in fact the odd ones! My husband is now a huge fan of this though and also won’t eat chili any other way, so it’s worth giving it a try! I guess it’s our take on good ole fashioned chili mac, chili over mac and cheese…never a bad choice! Anyways, the chili did turn out to be quite spicy, so our garden produced some very useful peppers as we loooove spice in our house! Coming home to an already prepared, ready to eat meal is always a bonus in my book!

And of course, as is the norm, every meal must include dessert to be considered a full meal! So I tried my hand at a German Chocolate cake, something new and different! The inspiration came from my best friend Emily’s birthday party back in May…she had requested a German Chocolate cake and it was absolutely delicious (and ginormous to boot)! There’s a good chance she still has some stashed away in her freezer…she has a bit more restraint than me!

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Not too shabby for a first attempt!

Shepherd’s Pie

Ever since our honeymoon, I have a new found love for Shepherd’s pie! I know how crazy that sounds since our honeymoon was in St. Lucia! But they had this authentic Irish pub in one of the resorts we stayed at that made the most delicious creation I’ve ever had! I’d only had Shepherd’s pie a few times prior to this experience though, so it may not be the best ever by any means but it sure was damn good! Last night was my third attempt at making my own, but it is never as good…it tastes somewhat bland. This time I even made my own mashed potatoes and used ground lamb instead of ground beef and it was the best I’ve made so far, but am still looking to improve. I am writing this blog asking for anyone that has a recipe they’d like to share? Here’s the recipe I came up with:

2 T olive oil

1.25 lbs ground lamb 

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T thyme, dried

3 large carrots, diced

1/2 bag frozen peas, thawed

2 T butter

1 cup red wine

2 T flour

1 cup beef stock

3 T ketchup

3 T worchestire sauce

Frank’s Red Hot, quite a few ‘dashes’

I sauteed the carrots in the oil until softened, added in the onions, garlic and eventually the lamb, seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme. I drained the fat, added the peas and butter and then the flour once the butter melted. I let the flour cook for a few minutes, then added the red wine, ketchup, worchestire and Frank’s and let that reduce down a bit before adding the beef stock, then just let it simmer and thicken into a gravy type sauce. Once thickened, I dumped it into a casserole dish and topped with the homemade mashed potatoes and sprinkled them with a little parmesan cheese for browning and baked at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

On a side note, the homemade mashed potatoes came out deliciously! While waiting for 6 cubed Russet potatoes to come to a boil and soften, I heated a half cup of milk and 1/4 cup butter over low heat in a small sauce pan with a clove of minced garlic. Once the potatoes were done, I mashed them with a fork and added in the milk/butter mixture, salt, pepper and a touch of cream. I would have been happy eating these alone!

So for next time, I think I’ll make a few more changes…I think I will use tomato paste or puree instead of ketchup, use fresh thyme (figures, the only herb that is not in our patio garden) and reduce the wine a little. There was a very strong wine taste, even from only using 1 cup. I am also toying with the idea of adding in some cheddar cheese, either into the meat mixture and/or into the mashed potatoes. This is unless of course someone has their own recipe they’d like to share, in which case, I’ll try theirs instead!

Deep Dish Throwdown!

While watching Food Network Sunday  (as I tend to do at least once a day), I caught a new Throwdown with Bobby Flay…where he challenged Mark Malnati (son of the famous Lou Malnati) to the ultimate deep-dish pizza challenge! I am not a super huge pizza fan, unless it’s deep dish! Regular thin or thick crust pizza does nothing for me! From the show, I learned a few important tips to making the best deep dish pie which I tried out for myself Sunday night. Apparently the secret is all in the dough, deep dish pizza dough has more fat in it (be it butter or oil) to make the dough extra soft and flaky. This is not the type of dough you toss up and twirl into the air, it is fragile and would probably rip, which was exactly what happened to Bobby on his first try. Secondly, the layering of ingredients completely surprised me…the order goes: dough, cheese (Malnati’s uses slices, not shredded mozzarella), toppings, then sauce. The slices melt so much better than shredded cheese, giving it that signature ooey, gooey, melty goodness that makes deep dish pizza so damn irresistible! Instead of picking up the phone and calling in a delivery, I opted to give making my own a try!

Lou's pizza!

I will admit that I cheated on the dough and used store bought Trader Joe’s dough. I didn’t think it was the right consistency but I figured I’d give it a shot anyways! I did however make my own sauce with fresh basil, oregano and parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, Parmesan and olive oil. There’s a pizza place in Battle Creek, Michigan that my husband is in love with, called Sir Pizza that makes one of the only thin crust pizzas I truly enjoy and he always orders hamburger, ham and mushroom. This was my inspiration for my filling! I fried up some diced pancetta (also courtesy of Trader Joe’s), set it aside and sauteed portobello mushrooms in the grease from the pancetta. Meanwhile, I browned some ground sirloin in olive oil, drained it and set it aside. To make the pizza, Josh rolled out the dough enough to fit into the deep dish pizza stone (if you don’t have one, a cast iron skillet or even a pie pan would work just as well), worked it up and over the sides of the pan. I then added two full layers of mozzarella cheese slices, the more cheese the better in my opinion! After that, I spread out the ground beef, pancetta and mushrooms. Finally topping that with the homemade sauce and a large sprinkling of Parmesan,and rolling the edges down to form a nice crust to hold in all of the luscious ingredients! I melted some butter and painted the edges of the crust and sprinkled them with Parmesan for a little extra dose of deliciousness! We baked it at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes and it came out perfectly! Tonight, I am going to make this again, however this time, I am going to make my own dough!

Our pizza...and sadly this was all that was left!

Considering we almost ate the entire thing, I would say it was yet another success! Hopefully it will get even better with homemade dough tonight!!