Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Meatloaf with Marinara Sauce

I have a very "discerning" (picky) husband and even he really likes this meatloaf recipe so if he likes it, I'm sure that your kids will like it too.  You can also top it with homemade marinara sauce (which I prefer) but he just likes it plain and dips it in ketchup.  Yeah, I know...

2 lbs 80/20 % Hamburger  IMPORTANT: Do Not use lean (anything under 90% lean) because your
meatloaf will come out really dry and this is not good!
1tsp Worchester sauce
1/4 cup Ketchup
1/2 Medium Onion (chopped finely or minced in food processor)
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp Salt
3 twists of fresh Black Pepper
2 tsp dried Parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (yes, from the sprinkle container in the fridge)
2 eggs

Crack eggs into a bowl first to make sure that no shells are left behind and mix lightly with a fork.
Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl in any order.  I used to use to just use my hands to mix everything together but now I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to do most of the work for me.  However, if you choose to use this method I learned after my first attempt that there is a thing called Mixing Too Much (like you could make the same mistake with mashed potatoes).  So, only mix on the 2nd speed for about two minutes or until you see that all ingredients are well combined. 

Using your hands, put into a 9"x12" glass baking dish and shape into a loaf.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 90 minutes.  The internal temperature should read 170 degrees.


Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 32oz can Crushed Tomatoes (or chopped fresh tomatoes with the skins removed)
2 cloves of Garlic (about 1 tbsp minced garlic)
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh Basil
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tbsp dried Parsley
2 tbsp Olive oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, add olive oil and onions.  Stir and cook over medium heat.  Cover and let cook for about five minutes until onions are translucent.  Uncover, stir in garlic and cook for about two more minutes while stirring to make sure to not burn the garlic.  Add all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl.  Reduce heat to medium/low.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.  When meatloaf is done, take it out of the oven and spoon enough of the Marinara Sauce on it to coat.  Return meatloaf to the oven and broil for about 3 minutes until the top is bubbly.  Remove from the oven.  You can serve the rest of the Marinara Sauce on the side in a gravy bowl.  This also is a great sauce over any pasta, with meat or no meat.
Enjoy :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mini-Penne Creamy Chicken Pasta

This time of year when it's so warm outside, I try to limit how much and how long I bake things in the oven.  This recipe could be baked in the oven but also comes out great by just cooking it on top of the stove in a large skillet and won't create lots of extra heat in your kitchen.  Mini-Penne pasta is also called Penne Mezzanine or Ready-Cut Macaroni, depending on the dried brand that you purchase.

1 lb cooked chicken breast in 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp butter
1tbsp flour
8 oz (half a box) cooked Mini-Penne pasta
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk
1/2 minced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 can low fat cream of chicken soup
1tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried sage

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Cook a minute more than al Dente since you won't be baking it in the oven. 
In a large skillet, over medium heat, lightly brown cut up chicken and onion 1tbsp of butter; cover and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove lid and add the garlic about 1 minute before removing from the heat, mix well.  Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm with foil on top.

To make the sauce:
In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 cup of milk and 1 can cream of chicken soup.
In the same skillet, over medium heat, make a rue for your sauce by adding 1tbsp of butter and 1tbsp of flour.  Mix together well with a spatula for about 3 minutes until the flour is bubbly and cooked.
Slowly whisk in sauce mixture until well blended over medium heat and reduce to simmer as it thickens.
Mix in salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika and sage until well blended.  Stir in chicken mixture and pasta.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes until it is warm and bubbling.  Dinner is ready :)

*Optional: could also top with a few sundried tomatoes and a little parmasean cheese.

Happy 4th of July weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farmhouse Cheddar Bow Tie Pasta

This time of year I usually have lots of fresh tomatoes and basil.  I also made my Farmhouse Cheddar in January so now it is sharp, delicious and ready to eat!  Go to for supplies and recipes on how to make your own fresh cheeses.

1/2 box of bow tie pasta (or any pasta of your choice)
8 fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated Farmhouse cheddar cheese
2 roughly chopped fresh tomatoes (skin on)
2 tbsp salted butter
salt and pepper to taste
2tsp minced garlic

Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain.
In a medium sauce pan melt butter over medium heat, add garlic and cook for two minutes while stirring.
Chiffonade cut the basil.  Here's how to:
Reduce heat to simmer and add the pasta and the other remaining ingredients.  Mix well and remove from heat after just barely melting the cheese (about two minutes).  Can serve warm or chilled.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011



Hi everyone and Happy Friday,

I wanted to introduce you to our new and beautiful pup Bella! 

She is a cute little Pomeranian who was rescued from a "Backyard Breeder" (puppy mill) in February by a very concerned family here in Virginia.  They answered an add on Craig's List from some woman posing as a legitimate breeder and drove down to NC to take a look at her.  They were very shocked to see tons of dogs all lined up in cages in their backyard (Bella had four dogs in her little cage) with no protection from the elements.  With the money that they had, they were able to buy/rescue her and two other dogs; they plan on going back for more when they have the cash and have reported her to the authorities.  We brought her home only FIVE DAYS after she was rescued so you can just imagine that she had a few "issues".  She is only 2 or 3 years old but is just like a puppy since she's never been trained to do anything (not house trained, played with toys, walked on a leash, worn a collar, chewed on chew toys, groomed, had her own food dish, you name it!).  Fast foward 4 months, with some training by us and now she's doing great!  She is a very playful and loving dog and now has very few accidents in the house. 

I encourage everyone to seek out rescue sites online for your new pup and PLEASE do not purchase any animals from pet stores because most of their animals come from puppy mills, like the one that I just decribed.  Also, due to their poor living conditions, over breeding and lack of nutrition they can also have major health issues.  You can search online by pet type, breed and your area for local rescue societies and animal shelters.
Adopt a Pet Today!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

This recipe is soooo yummy!

Mexican Lasagna

This recipe makes two 12''-14” pies

Six 12” soft tortillas
1 medium onion minced
1 green pepper medium chop
1tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp dried garlic
½ cup white cheddar cheese
3 cups yellow cheddar cheese
1 package taco seasoning mix
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb hamburger
1 can refried beans
Chili powder to taste (I used 3 dashes per pie)
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes per pie (like the ones you get from your local pizza place)
1 can corn
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tbsp flour
½ tsp butter
1 cup milk
1 cup medium salsa
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes (or blanched fresh tomatoes with skin removed)
1 sliced jalapeno pepper (optional)

Brown hamburger, onion and green pepper in a large sauce pan.  Drain fat and add half of the red pepper flakes, taco seasoning, minced garlic, tomato sauce, ½ cup salsa and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir and simmer covered for 15 minutes; remove from heat and cover.

Transfer hamburger mixture to a mixing bowl.  In the same sauce pan, at low simmer heat, add 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp butter.  Stir well with spatula and cook for one minute to make a rue and remove from heat.

White cheese sauce:
In another bowl, whisk in 1 can cream mushroom soup, ½ cup salsa, ¼ cup white cheddar cheese, 1 cup milk, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, 2 dashes of salt and pepper.  Slowly pour this mixture into the rue and quickly wisk in and cook over medium/low heat until smooth.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on low and remove from heat.

In a 14” ceramic casserole dish, spray bottom and sides with butter cooking spray.  Add one layer of hamburger mixture, 1 tortilla, 1 layer of white sauce, ½ can of refried beans, 1 layer of cheddar cheese and repeat (you only need 1/2 can refried beans for each lasagna pie).  Top layer will be the the 3rd tortilla and topped with the last half of the cheddar cheese.  Can also top with a few sliced jalapenos for more spiciness.

Build your 2nd pie or freeze the left over ingredients in freezer bags and make it fresh again later but with no work!
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until the cheese on top is nice and bubbly.  ENJOY! J


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homemade Pork Sausage

I use my Kitchen Aid mixer's food grinder attachment to make all of my sausages but you can use any electric brand or a hand food grinder.
There are 100's of sausage recipes out there and this one that I've made isn't too mild or too hot, but just right!

2lbs boneless pork sirlion chops or porb rib meat (fat included)
1/4tsp red pepper flakes
3 dashes chili powder
1 egg
1 dash ginger
2 tbsp milk
1 dash dry mustard
1tbsp minced garlic
1tsp garlic powder
1/2 medium minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp parsley
1tsp butter

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat, add minced onion and cover for about 5 minutes.  When onion is translucent add minced garlic, stir for a minute and remove pan from heat.  Cool for 15 minutes before adding to sausage mixture.

Cut up pork into about 2 inch cubes and put into a ziplock bag.  Put into freezer for 20 minutes.  This firms up the meat and helps to keep the fat in the pork from binding up your food grinder.  Remove from freezer and grind pork in mixer on setting #4.  Add all ingredients into pork mixture in the same mixing bowl.  Mix on setting #2 for 3 minutes or until all ingredients are well combined.

In the same small skillet that you used to cook the onion and garlic add a couple of tsps of the sausage mixture and cook until browned.  Taste to see if you need to add more salt (you can always add more salt but you can't take it away!).  If you are in a spicier mood you can add more chili powder too.

Put sausage back into the ziplock bag and remove all air.  Place in fridge for 24hrs so all ingredients can combine well and become really yummy. 

You can make sausage patties, use in cassaroles or stuff into natural casings and cook them on the grill.  There are many manufacturers online that sell sausage casings if you would like to grill your sausage and/or smoke them.

Rest in Peace Beautiful Coco

It still makes me cry just to type this and it's been a few months now since we lost our beloved Coco.  She passed suddenly in late February; Jeff and I were devistated and it hurt like I've never felt before.  We knew that she was a really old dog when we adopted her a few years ago and it was comforting when all of our friends told us that we gave her the best last three years of her life.  Coco was a beautiful toy Pomeranian that was used for years for breeding in a puppy mill in the sticks of Georgia and pretty much left for dead when she could no longer breed.  She passed away suddenly, most likely of a heart problem.  She will be missed by us everyday but happy that she is now able to roam free in Doggie Heaven and we will see her again someday...