Show Me The Beef!

Sorry mom , but I love a good steak sandwich! And this one was made by my husband so I love it even more!

He started by marinating a London Broil cut overnight in one of those “flavor injector” packaged marinades. It must  a “guy thing” to use those, it just sounds masculine and impressive!

To prepare the sandwiches, he fired up the grill, cooked it perfectly, sliced it thin and added some grilled mushrooms as well before piling it all onto some toasted, cheesy-topped “scali” bread!

open face steak sandwich

The only way this sandwich could be better is with some juicy sliced garden tomatoes

Grilling Versus Braising

I have to admit that although I have enjoyed a classic Texas-style BBQ beef short rib many times, I never really made the connection that this was the same/similar beef “short rib” (sometimes just shorter I think and possibly called “English cut” sometimes) that we all like to cook during the New England wintertime in a slow braise of flavorful, red wine liquid served over something creamy like Polenta or garlic mashed. You can see my version of this here.

I still didn’t make the connection when I was at the store shopping for meat and thought to myself  “boneless short ribs on the grill, why not – it could work!” I thought I was breaking new grilling territory here.

So I brought them home and considered myself all clever by whipping up a little dry rub concoction of ground black pepper, kosher salt, ground cumin and ground ancho chili powder. After a suitable time I grilled them over high heat on my backyard grill till a perfect medium. (medium rare for the next time might be better as these were pretty lean cuts)

Served with grilled mushrooms, zucchini and onions, they made for a perfect “new” adventure on the grill!

(until I googled it and realized this was not “breaking new ground” stuff!)

grilled beef short ribs

These happen to be boneless and fairly lean, but on the bone would be delicious too and could benefit, I would imagine, from a wet marinade.



Dinner For Dinner

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that my husband and I share a common love of “dinner for breakfast.”

But lots of times we just have “dinner for dinner” and this basic pot roast is one of his favorites. (mine too!) Simple and tasty – this can be made in one pot and put into a slow oven until you are ready to eat and if you are using one of those heavy cast iron dutch ovens like I do, it will stay hot for a long time in case you have family or friends wandering thru at different times to be fed.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips to really help make the dish shine.

1. Add lots of seasoning to the meat and make sure to brown it. I really think being generous with your spices and seasoning sets up the meat for not only a flavorful crust but tasty “au jus.”

2.Sauté those carrots. Take the time to really cook those carrots a bit along with the onions – it makes a difference!

carrots and onions

For the record… this picture was taken as soon as I threw in the carrots, so they were still raw, but they did get a nice saute in the pan!

3. Potatoes on the side please!

I used to put the potatoes right in with the roast but they were never as good as I wanted them to be, so when a TV cook from Oklahoma once suggested serving the pot roast on a mound of yummy, rich mashed potatoes, I have been doing it that way ever since! (plus this gives opportunity for extra flavor – like “garlic mashed potatoes!”)

dinner plate
My husband made these delicious mashed potatoes!

Production Notes

My basic spice blend for the meat contains sea salt, course ground black pepper, garlic powder and celery seed. In addition to this I can change the flavor profile depending on what else I add. For example…ground cumin, paprika and a tiny bit of cinnamon for an “exotic” pot roast. Or  crushed red pepper flakes for a “spicy” version.  Let your imagination run wild.

My basic “go to” for liquid is water mixed with a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce to de-glaze the pan and become the cooking liquid for the pot roast meat and veggies. But you can use stock, cider, beer or wine too. Each of this will add/change the flavor profile.

I usually add a small can of tomato paste (or a couple squirts from the tube) to the pan after I have browned the meat and veggies but before I de-glaze to add a real depth of flavor to the pot roast liquid and because I love tomatoes!

If you want a thicker consistency for the “Au Jus” than add a tiny bit of cornstarch or an arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving.

Jumping On The Bandwagon!

or maybe I should say…Jumping on the “meatwagon!”

FAIR WARNING: Vegetarians you may want to avert your eyes now!

I finally decided to tackle beef short ribs. The universe seemed to be calling to me to cook them, as I kept seeing them being prepared on TV and on blogs lately.

They always seemed so fancy and maybe just a tad bit hard to cook but I am here to announce – they are delicious and easy, I don’t know why I waited so long!

Behold the lovely subject….(cue “angel music”)


I broke out the “special occasion” bacon fat and got these beauties browning in a hot pan.

browning the meat

Next up was the “mire poix” of veggies. (celery, onion, carrots) Don’t judge me -I used shredded carrots!

the mirepoix

Now it was time to put the meat back in for its long slow braise!

adding the meatback in

Two and half hours later, I took an immersion blender to the pot of yummy goodness and behold…

A life changing meal…

Braised beef short ribs with roasted cauliflower and carrots

Braised beef short ribs with roasted cauliflower and carrots

The Recipe

I was cooking for two but still ended up with more than enough sauce, you could double the meat and not anything else and still have enough sauce for 4.

2lbs +/- (4 ribs) Beef short ribs, bone in

Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp bacon fat or fat of choice that can withstand high heat.

1 cup each, finely diced onion, carrot, celery

2-3 cloves garlic finely minced

1 dried bay leaf

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cumin

3-4 springs of fresh thyme

1 can ( 6oz) tomato paste

1 cup unsweetened apple juice

1-2 cups of water

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Coat the ribs in salt/pepper and brown patiently on each side in the hot fat. Remove meat, set aside and turn heat down. Add onions, celery and carrots to pan and cook down for a few mins. Add the garlic and cook a few mins more. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add the dried spices and the fresh thyme. Add the tomato paste. Stir and kinda “toast” everything for a few minutes. De-glaze pan with the apple juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add the meat back in – nestle it among the liquid and veggies. Add enough water until liquid and veggies are about a 1/4″ under the top level of meat. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven ( preheated) for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Remove the meat carefully and set aside for a few minutes, while you discard the thyme springs. Use an immersion blender to blend the remaining liquid and veggies into a thick sauce. Add a little hot water if it needs to be thinned. If you don’t have an immersion blender (why not?!) transfer the pan contents to a blender and carefully blend. Meat can be added back into the pan/sauce and kept warm or reheated after coo0ling and storing.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Food

Yup. Chinese food in the slow-cooker!

I was inspired by Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry to try my hand at this crazy mix of flavor and easy cooking method.

And it was easy. She was doing chicken – but I had stew beef in the freezer so that is what I went with. I added some water chestnuts and fresh broccoli florets in the last 30 mins and cooked some rice on the side in my trusty rice cooker and voila! Beef and Broccoli. A fine staple of any Chinese-American restaurant around.

It was "sauc-ier" than it looks the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

It was “sauc-ier” than it looks, the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

Production Notes

1.5 +/-  stew beef

2 Tb finely minced garlic

1 Tb rice vinegar

2 Tsp brown sugar

2 Tsp ginger (fresh, minced is nice; I used dried, powdered)

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 Tsp +/- grated orange zest + the juice of the orange

1/2 Tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

1 Tsp Chinese 5-spice

2/3 cup chicken or beef stock

1 small onion sliced

1 Tbsp Cornstarch or Arrowroot dissolved into 2 Tbsp water

Several “crowns” of fresh broccoli chopped into bite size or 1 small bag of frozen (defrost but don’t cook first)

Combine garlic, vinegar, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, orange zest/juice, black pepper and Chinese 5-spice with a whisk. Pour over meat and onions which you have already placed in the slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours or so OR low for 6-8 hours. Whisk in the cornstarch or arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving and add the broccoli about 30 mins before serving.

If you wanted a thicker sauce and was feeling like the extra work – you could remove the beef from the slow cooker (without adding the slurry and broccoli yet) strain the sauce and heat it to a boil in a sauce pan. Than you could add the slurry to the sauce, cook for a bit  and make it thick and rich. Add everything back in (beef, sauce and now add the broccoli) and serve once the broccoli is cooked to your liking – just keep any eye on the heat so you don’t burn. ( i.e. turn slow-cooker down) This would be great to bring to the office potluck!

Holy Mole!

Corny title but I couldn’t resist!

The title really should have been something like “holy mole that is spicy chili!”

As usual I misjudged the spice-level of those nifty little Chipotle Peppers packed in Adobo Sauce. Such a powerful thing in such a small can. And yet I didn’t even use the whole can – just 1/2. Conveniently frozen from the last time I used half a can. (note to self: freeze in 1/4 can increments next time!)

I also utilized another pantry helper – Mole sauce from a jar. This is the complex, dark, nutty, vaguely chocolate sauce that is usually served over enchiladas. But really you can use it for lots of things. Like giving lots of flavor and complex depth to your chili.

At my husband’s request I made a “beefy” chili. I choose to use some inexpensive stew beef, cutting it into even smaller pieces and doing the “sear and braise” method that is always so successful with beef stew.  I figured I would take the stew approach with different key ingredients. The small bite-size pieces would ensure no one would have to use anything but a spoon to eat it.

Unless you are a spice-loving household, definitely serve the “1/2 can version” with sour cream.

Lots of it.

The recipe:

Canola oil to brown the beef. 2-3 tablespoons

1.75 lbs stew beef. I trimmed and cut it much smaller than the picture shows.

2 medium onions diced. 1 large would work too.

1 each of sweet red bell pepper and sweet bell green pepper. Seeded and diced.

1/4 or 1/2 can (7oz) Goya Chipotle Peppers in Adobo. Freeze what you don’t use.

1 jar (9oz) Goya Mole sauce. Use more or less as desired.

1 can (28oz) of tomato puree. I like my chili on the tomato-y side.

1 tomato can of water.

4 cups of cooked red kidney beans. Use 3 (15.5oz) cans or soak/boil if you have the time.

In a large, heavy-bottom pot (cast iron is always nice) brown the beef in batches in the oil. Once done, return all to the pot. Turn the heat down. Add the onions and salt/pepper to taste. Get the onions soft and golden. Add the mole sauce and kinda “toast” it for a few minutes. Break up and add the Chipotle peppers and also “toast” for a minute. De-glaze the pan with the tomato puree and water. Stir thoroughly and add the diced red/green peppers. Lower the heat and simmer partially covered for 2 hours or so. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the beans and simmer for another hour. If using the soak/boil beans add them in earlier with the peppers.

Serve with lots of sour cream and some shredded cheese. Maybe with some corn chips or sweet cornbread on the side.

Grind Your Own!

Yep- I grind my own burger.

For a wedding gift, my husband’s family was kind enough to give us a KitchenAid stand mixer. I can’t recall ever using it for dough, frosting or batter. But I promptly purchased the meat grinder attachment and started grinding my own meat.

I buy larger cuts of meat and grind them up into hamburgers, meatloaf etc.Shown below is 2 1/2 lbs of chuck roast and 3/4 lb of boneless short rib.

This time around I put the meat through the bigger grind attachment first. (This size is often referred to as the “chili grind”)

Than I put it through a second time on the finer grind.

Than it’s time to break out the trusty “patty maker.”

I have no idea where it came from or how it got into my kitchen.

Probably bought it at a yard sale or maybe a hand me down from some roommate’s mother.

All I know is the patties cook perfectly. No dimple needed.

After this, package them up for the freezer and you have patties ready to go anytime you want one!

Season opener below:

Burgers with avocado, Asiago cheese and a dash of horseradish cream – all served up on an onion-poppy bun.

(Full disclosure: Burgers a tiny bit overdone due to forgotten grilling skills over the long winter.)

Count Stroganoff

Think back to the last time you had Beef Stroganoff.

Maybe in the 70s, maybe last week or maybe never.

I think it is making a comeback. Really. I think this because recently The Boston Globe featured a recipe for it in the Wednesday food section. As I turned the pages and came upon it, I had an “AHA” moment as Oprah would say. Why have I never made Strogonoff? I love all things creamy and saucy. I love Beef. And any chance to have egg noodles…I knew immediately what I would be making for dinner that night! And I could do it in about 30 mins!!

Now if you would like a little history lesson about “Count Stroganoff,” his family and more information you ever thought possible about such a dish then check out the link at   National dish of Russia – who knew!

I had to make a few changes from The Boston Globe recipe. First off, it was part of a “use it twice” ingredient feature – shop once, make two meals – that kind of thing.

Since I didn’t have the already-made mushroom sauce from the day before on hand; I turned instead to “mother’s little helper” – Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Low sodium of course.

I did use the recommended cut of beef. Steak Tips. A little pricey but guaranteed good in a quick cook kinda way. Besides I got 4 hearty servings out of it so I could justify the $9 bucks in steak tips. ($2.25 a serving for the beef.)

What puts the Stroganoff in Stroganoff?

Mustard powder, sour cream and parsley.  This is what sets it apart from other similar dishes with mushroom sauces. For example “Salisbury steak.”  (BTW Salisbury steak is another unsung hero of the weeknight dinner world and a favorite of mine!)

The recipe:

1 & 1/4 lb  +/- steak tips cut into 1″ cubes

2 tb canola oil for browning beef

1 small onion chopped

16 oz sliced fresh mushrooms (we love them, you may want less)

1/4 cup of water OR low salt beef broth OR as I use: 1/4 cup water with 2 Tb of A-1.

1 10.75 oz can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (low sodium)

1 tb of Coleman’s Dry Mustard Powder

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz  sour cream (I used low-fat,no one knew) (Greek yogurt or Creme fresh would be very nice too)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 bag (3/4lb – 1lb) of Egg noodles, boiled and drained according to directions

In large heavy bottom pot (cast iron is nice) brown the beef in hot oil to sear sides and create a crust. Add onions halfway through. Add mushrooms and brown them up. De-glaze the pan with the water or broth or water/A-1 mix. Add the soup. Mix in the dry mustard, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for a few minutes while you get your noodles boiled. Take off heat to cool a minute while you drain noodles. Mix in the sour cream before serving over the hot noodles (buttered if you’re feeling splurgy) and garnish with plenty of fresh chopped parsley.

I think my picture looks as good or better than the globe photo!

Happy Evacuation Day

Today is a big day in Boston. (And many other cities and countries.) Not just because of  St. Patrick’s Day. It is also “Evacuation Day.” What? You have never heard of that one?! Well you are not alone. Until I started working and living in Boston I had no idea either.

Evacuation Day is holiday that commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War. Big stuff around here. Most importantly it falls on the same day as St. Patrick’s Day. Very convenient. So schools and government offices are closed. Also if March 17 falls on a weekend, than schools and government offices are closed on the following Monday or preceding Friday in observance. Also very convenient.

But I don’t mind. I think letting state workers have the day off to celebrate the kicking out of the British is as important as St. Patrick’s Day. Who knows, maybe that is what everybody is actually celebrating this morning in the streets of Boston at 8am. (Yes – they get started early around here!)

However my Irish husband would be very disappointed if I didn’t post an Irish recipe today.  So here goes….

Irish Stout Beef Stew

1-2 lbs of lean stew beef or lamb cubed into 1″ or 2″ chunks

1 lb +/- of turnips peeled and cut into large chunks (2″ and up)

1 lb bag of carrots peeled and each long one cut in half to fit into pot. If really thick, cut the width once or twice.

2 large onions, peeled and sliced into thick slices.

1 can Guinness© Stout Beer (14.9 oz)

All purpose flour to coat meat

several tablespoons of vegetable oil for browning meat

plenty of salt and pepper

To make:

Coat the meat with a light dusting of flour, salt and pepper. Add the oil to the bottom of a LARGE  heavy-bottom pot and heat till almost smoking. (Best to use a large cast iron enameled pot or dutch oven for this dish.) Add the coated beef and sear each side. Adjust heat as needed. Make sure you get a good sear and meat un-sticks itself before you turn pieces, but don’t let them burn either. Add onions just after final turn of meat pieces and turn heat down. The onions should get a little “quick fry” on them from the high heat of the meat searing. That is good. After the heat is lowered add all the other veggies to the meat and onions. Add the can of Guinness© to de-glaze the bottom and toss everything gently. Fill the can with water and add to the pot. Repeat until water level is just at the top of the meat and veggies. Adjust heat to keep contents at a simmer, cover. Check in 1 hour: taste, add salt and pepper as needed. Add more water if too dry. Cook 1 hour more and enjoy anytime after that as long as the turnips are soft enough.

Serve with buttered mashed potatoes and a little boiled cabbage if you like.

production notes:

My husband is typical Irish guy who likes plain food. But if you wanted to boost the flavor of this dish, a bay leaf would do wonders and some garlic would be delicious too. A dash of malt vinegar might just brighten the pot.

Also: amounts don’t have to be exact – it is stew after all, so a little less or little more of anything won’t be a big deal.

Dinner “In a Bag”

This past Thanksgiving I was listening to one of those call-in satellite radio programs where they were giving turkey advice. One of the callers commented how her husband cooks the turkey in an oven bag. You know one of those oven roaster bags that your mom used back in the 1970’s. Anyway she swore it came out moist and delicious. I would expect that.  She also swore that it was browned and crispy on top. I didn’t expect that and neither did the radio show. The radio show (from the Martha Stewart empire) discussed the possibility of re-visiting the whole “oven bag” idea for turkey cooking.  It got me thinking about it too.

So this week when I was on a vacation day from work and wondering what to make for dinner I decided to produce the classic “all-American pot roast dinner in the oven bag from my youth.” I figured if this went well I would try out the turkey in it too.

I wanted to get ahead of the trendsetters and be ready for next year!

I had used the slow-cooker liners that Reynolds invented recently and I find them to work really well. Even though the slow-cooker liners and the oven bags are made of the same material, Reynolds does recommend you use the right product for the right application.

First the directions recommend you shake a tablespoon of flour inside the bag. I didn’t remember that from the 1970’s but I did it anyway. Then I put some peeled and halved potatoes, carrots and onions into the bag. Next I added a 3.5 lb beef roast (cheap cut) into the bag. I had already coated the roast in my favorite “English Prime Rib Rub” blend from Penzeys Spices and garlic powder. I was hoping to add a bit of class to my inexpensive cut of beef!

The directions call for 2/3 cups of water to be added. I just used a 14.5 oz can of low sodium beef broth. I did not add the recommended additional flour to thicken the gravy so I had more of an “au jus” at the end. Worked great! The bottom part of the roast (in the liquid) was all moist and delicious. The top part of the roast (above the liquid) was crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

Next time: the turkey! or maybe a small chicken!

Leftover Dress Rehearsal

A 4lb roast for 2 people is going to create a leftover situation.

Here is what I made last night in 30 mins or less with stuff I had on hand.

I cubed up the leftover beef and threw it into a casserole dish.

I dumped the leftover peas from the dinner in.

I quickly cut up one of those pre-washed, pre-peeled half butternut squashes that I had bought and stuck in my fridge a couple of days ago.

I put a couple pats of butter on top. (think pie.)

I poured in the leftover mushroom gravy/pan sauce from the dinner that I had saved.

I opened one of those rolled pie crusts that come in a box and lay it on top of all this.

I wrapped it, made a note with cooking instructions for my husband. Since he is home first tonight, he will be starting dinner. I like to make it as easy as possible to be successful.

Dinner. Done.

Tonight after dinner I will try to post a “beauty shot” as we say in the business ;-

Here it is…….

“Dress Rehearsal”

Christmas is coming up and we are not sure the ham will arrive!

It is a long story but  for many years we have been given a beautiful spiral cut ham as a gift at the holidays, which we enjoyed as our Christmas day dinner. Sadly current circumstances indicate that we may have eaten our last ham.

Before the Christmas ham deliveries and the current restaurant thanksgiving tradition; and as soon as I was old enough to lift a whole roast; I was producing all of the holiday cooking. Don’t get me wrong Mom was and still is a great cook but as soon as she taught me – I took over!

So this year, with the ham crisis looming, I have decided to return to my formative years and plan on cooking Christmas dinner.

I haven’t produced the “big show” in a while and things have changed over the years. The folks are older and have some health concerns. Everybody is dieting. Some new friends come to the table and some no longer attend. I thought about what to cook. Something everybody likes, something reliable and not too exotic. Something reasonably sized that could be purchased in “feed under 10 people” size.


I will admit that I was inspired the other day when I sat down to watch some DVR’d Food Network. I found out that I could take an economically priced cut of beef and make it magical.

AND this would give me a chance to cure my husband of his childhood phobia of putting garlic into the slits of a roast beef. Seems there was an incident with a ruined beef one holiday in his house. Very traumatic apparently.

Another bonus: he has never had roasted chestnuts and/or chestnut stuffing. So I could use this as an excuse to perform the ridiculously time-consuming task of buying, slitting, roasting and peeling of actual chestnuts. I have to put these in the same category as pomegranates and pistachios – yummy but lots of work and willing to pay extra for someone else to do all that!

Roast beef with mushroom pan sauce, chestnut stuffing on the side and peas! That was the menu I cooked today – 2 weeks before Christmas – to practice.

A full dress rehearsal!

(oh don’t worry my husband and I will gladly eat the same thing 2 weeks later!)

Learn from my dress rehearsal….
  • I put a peeled and sliced potato under the roast to raise it up a bit as my rack sits quite close to the pan bottom but I am going to change it next time to thick sliced onions.
  • Also I added some broth, water and wine to the pan to keep the roast drippings from burning up and to provide flavorful pan drippings for a sauce later. I think a slice of bacon would really ramp things up.
  • I will bury the garlic deeper next time as some of the exposed tips of garlic did get a bit charred and a tiny bit bitter.
  • I will make the effort to create a thicker pan sauce next time using a flour slurry.

Pesto Pastichio

Historically Italy and Greece are intertwined. You almost can’t study one without studying the other. Culinarily some consider Italy and Greece worlds apart from each other; while others (just a few) may consider them related. I think it really just comes down to which kind of pizza you prefer.

However, I say combine the best of both worlds! And that is how I came up with this idea for a fusion of Greek technique with Italian flavors. That and the fact that I had just processed loads of fresh pesto for my freezer; made from the bumper crop of basil in my garden.

Pesto: Everybody probably knows this one even if they don’t eat it often, if at all. Usually it is made from grinding fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and olive oil. Toss on pasta, sandwiches and everything in-between.

Pastichio: A luscious, lasagna-like dish made with ground meat, noodles and creamy Bechamel sauce. There is a Greek restaurant up on route 1 that makes the best I have ever had. It is probably 500 calories a bite but it is so worth it!

I love both things so why not combine them. Besides it was kinda chilly the other night with a fall nip to the air and a Monday Night Football double-header on TV. Who could resist a hot dinner with pasta, cheese, meat and garlic. I also had some various things hanging around to use up: a random 1/2 lb of ground beef, a can of mushrooms, some tomatoes harvested before the chilly night set in and some freshly made pesto just dying to be used!

I have never made Pastichio, so I took a look at my cookbook collection and realized that I was lacking in the Greek department! So I turned to the internet for inspiration and was overwhelmed by the millions of variations! It seems that everybody has their own version. Some out there even consider it an Italian dish! Yikes. Could this be the Johnny Marzetti of the Greek household?

As for pesto I make that every year and I have to thank my friend Melissa for showing me how easy it is to just put it all in the Cuisinart and hit the button. I used to be a purchaser of pesto but now I am a maker of pesto! Sometimes I make it with pine nuts and sometimes almonds and the other night I made it with walnuts and the most delicious freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

So here is the fusion!  After I made the bechamel sauce I added the pesto to it.

I thought I was clever and it pretty much turned out delicious. I do need to perfect my Bechamel-making skills, mine turned a bit grainy as I wasn’t patient with my mixing. Also I think the ratio of Pesto could be up’ed for even more flavor impact. Don’t underestimate the amount of salt and pepper to use. Also I left out some of the warm spices from the bechamel sauce that are traditionally used in Greek Pastichio like cinnamon and nutmeg because I thought they would be lost among the pesto; but maybe you would want to try it that way?

Also any kind of veggies you wanted to add would be great – I think cubed zucchini in the browned meat would be spectacular!

Here is how I made it:

1/2 lb ground beef – more if you have it. Ground lamb would be fantastic and traditional!

1 small onion, diced

1 4 oz can mushroom, drained or use fresh!!

1 tablespoon dried oregano

3 small tomatoes diced – just because!

Brown all together with salt and pepper- if meat is very high fat content, brown first and drain some fat off before adding other items. Add tomatoes in last 5 mins to keep their shape. Layer at bottom of casserole pan.

1 box of penne pasta – I used a 13.25 oz box of Dreamfields brand. Boil in salty water as package indicates, drain and layer on top on beef mixture.

Bechamel – you may want to look this one up as I improvised.

2 Xtra large eggs or 3 reg size

2 cups half and half

1 cup milk (we use whole in our house but you could use low-fat I am sure)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter and 4 tablespoons flour for the roux

1/2 cup homemade or store-bought pesto

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese – save out a couple of tablespoons to sprinkle on top.

Start a traditional roux with the butter and flour. Meanwhile whisk the eggs, milk and half/half together and warm gently in a separate pot. After the roux has “cooked” for a few minutes add milk/egg mix in slowly while whisking. Once totally incorporated, keep whisking over medium temp until it starts to thicken. Add grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add pesto and mix through.  Pour on top of noodle layer.

Layer a couple of thin tomatoes slices along top for taste and decoration. Sprinkle the bit of Parm cheese set aside and maybe a hefty shake of dried oregano.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 mins. Let it cool significantly before cutting and serving as it will be too hot and drippy to serve right away.