Cream Bread

Sometimes you stumble upon something so unique that you immediately and without any hesitation need to try it.

That’s how it was one Saturday morning when I wandered into D’Amici’s bakery. “what’s that round loaf of bread all about?” I asked. ‘cream bread’ was the answer. Apparently made with cream instead of eggs?? I am no bread maker and my mind was already racing with possibilities. I just had one wrapped up for me and ran home, stopping off only at the store to pick up a few ingredients…I had the perfect sandwich in mind.

cream bread

The bread has a really even, dense but tender “crumb” and a mild flavor. It’s like a really good quality white sandwich loaf.


…please meet the BEST patty melt you ever had:

patty melt


Caramelized onions, griddled beef patty, swiss cheese, griddled bread….. I can’t go on…

I have to go recreate this meal again, NOW!

Sully’s Sauce

My husband always said “Sully made the best sauce!”

“Sully” (a nickname for his last name of “Sullivan”) was good friend of my husband’s father and a central figure from the neighborhood back in the day, so when my husband mentioned that Sully’s daughter Karen had recently come across the recipe card for his sauce, I knew immediately I had to make it.

What better way to pay homage to fathers who are no longer with us then by recreating something so special and lost in time?

sullys recipe

I just love the “here’s what’s cookin” part of this card – don’t you?!

I asked if there was a “back-side” to the card that might give away his technique but no such luck. Only Sully knows how it all went together originally, but I took my best guess and here is how I did it…

I used 85/15 blend ground beef and started it browning in a hot, dry pan so that I could decide how much fat I wanted to leave in the pan. I got the meat browned and decided to spoon off most of the fat. I chose to re-hydrate some fat back in the meat in the form of the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I am not sure at what point in the process Sully would have used the olive oil, perhaps right at the beginning while browning the meat? or maybe he used it to get the onions and garlic started first? Wish I knew.

Anyway after the olive oil went in, I added in a dash of salt/pepper, onions (2 cups!) and garlic and let those soften a bit before I added in the dry spices to toast a minute. After that I added in the tomato paste and gave that a minute to cook a bit. I de-glazed the pan with the wine. (1 whole cup!)

Next up: the tomatoes. I am certain that by Sully noting that these were “imported” he meant the famed “San Marzano” tomatoes so that is what used and I do think it makes a difference. Also I know that everybody has their own texture technique – some squish the canned tomatoes in their hands, some break them up with a spoon, some use scissors. I broke up 4 of the 6 cups with kitchen scissors, cutting up the whole canned tomatoes into small chunks right in their own sauce from the can. For the last 2 cups I actually used my immersion blender to puree it (not too much) so the whole 6 cups I added in ended up being saucy but with small chunks. I hope Sully would approve.

By now the whole creation was thick, yummy and begging to be tasted, so I did and adjusted the salt and pepper and turned the heat down to barely a simmer. I let it simmer with the lid on tight for about an hour. (keeping the lid on keeps things from drying out, but if it looks too dry, just add in a little water) I let it simmer another hour with the lid slightly off to allow it to actually thicken up a bit as mine was pretty juicy.

By then the delicious smell wafting through the house was more than we could take, so we boiled up some pasta and it was time…

sullys sauce

A special thank you to daughter Karen for letting me have the privilege to re-create her father’s famous sauce! And a happy father’s day to all the dads out there – the ones with us and the ones who have left us.


Interested in more ‘Irish-Italian” cooking?? Me too… read more about it here!


Author’s note: If you don’t want to use the Chianti wine – I would recommend using a cup of low sodium beef stock with a generous splash or two of red wine vinegar to give it that tangy richness that the wine adds.


Let It Rest

Isn’t that the title to a Beatles song?

Oh wait that song is actually “Let It Be” – still… both are words of wisdom!

In my case “let it rest” usually refers to some big cut of meat like a roast or chicken or something, but in this case it refers to lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned "All American" Lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned “All American” Lasagna!

Letting lasagna rest is a must for a clean, neat cut and so you don’t burn the roof off your mouth!

This lasagna was inspired by the green baking dish it was made in. I received it for Christmas this year from Aunt Barbara and I have been cooking in it a couple of times a week ever since! Mac and cheese, lasagna, you name it!  How did I ever live without this perfectly sized dish with handles!!

Production Notes

I used standard lasagna protocol here – nothing crazy or exotic. 3-4 layers of regular meat sauce, ricotta and noodles.  This time I used standard “boil first” noodles, but I have done it both ways… here and here.

From Hungary With Love…

hot paprika

hot paprika

My parents traveled quite a bit and although I was the lucky recipient of many of these trips, I did not accompany them on a trip to Hungary a couple of years back. But they did bring me back some of Hungary’s possibly most famous souvenir… Paprika.

I keep it sealed tight in a dark cabinet and it has continued to keep its bright, pungent, hot flavor.

And what better to make with Hungarian paprika than “Hungarian goulash” of course!! Now if you grew up in the northeast than surely you know this dish as “American Chop Suey” or perhaps as a form of “Marzetti” or maybe you have no idea at all what I am rambling about!

Just brown up some beef, diced sweet green pepper and onion. Add the spices: I used a liberal amount (3 heaping tablespoons to my pound of beef) of SWEET smoky paprika and about a teaspoon of my HOT smoky paprika. Use more if you like it spicy! I also added some black pepper and salt, ground cumin and garlic powder – just a 1/2 tsp or so of each.

along with a few other spices...goulash often contains browned ground beef, sauteed green peppers and onions with chopped tomatoes and of course plenty of paprika!

along with a few other spices…goulash often contains browned ground beef, sautéed green peppers and onions with chopped tomatoes and of course plenty of paprika!

De-glaze the pan with a hefty splash of Worcestershire sauce and 1 can ( 28oz) of whole tomatoes with juice that I broke up first. Add in a 1/4 cup of ketchup for sweetness and tang. Let it simmer for 20 mins if you want to serve right away over hot buttered egg noodles or rice. I like to mix mine with a box of pasta cooked “al dente” and then top the oven-proof dish with a bit of cheese and bake in the oven (350 degrees) for 30 mins.

It gives it that nice crusty top and edges that everybody loves! Kinda like the crispy lasagna edges!

Anyway if you have never explored the wide world of paprika, you should. It goes way beyond just a sprinkle onto deviled eggs! A specialty spice store ( online or actual) would be a great place to start.

ready for the oven with cheese on top!

ready for the oven with cheese on top!

Production notes

You can adjust the amount of noodles or beef according to your budget and desires. “Stretch” this dish with lots of pasta for a big family or a local potluck event. “Make it meaty” with lots of ground beef or even ground turkey or pork.

The Master of Gravy

THE masterYup that is the one we are talking about.

I know what you are thinking…

… “who uses that product and who uses it in meatballs?!”

Well my Father-in-law did and since he made some great Italian meatballs for a learn-to-cook–later-in-life Irish guy, I use it too. Unfortunately we never accurately got his recipe before he passed away.   (readers take note… this is important stuff to do before it is too late!) So I am always fiddling around with my meatballs to see if I can capture his essence. will tell you that the product has “NO chemical preservatives, artificial color, flavors or additives are ever used.”  I am not sure it is health food but it doesn’t seem terrible – check out the website and you can make your own decisions about this.

As for my meatballs – they turned out great, even if I say so myself. I took the time and care to chop and use fresh herbs  (makes all the difference) and I also measured everything and wrote it down so you could try them too. And they are baked, so they are just a tad easier and healthier than the pan-fried ones!

The recipe

1 lb ground pork

1/2 lb ground beef (80/20 blend)

2 garlic cloves, super finely minced/mashed (use 1 clove if you are not a huge garlic fan)

pinch hot chili flakes ( don’t leave this out – it needs it)

yah I know I use a fork - I just don't like getting all messy!

yah I know I use a fork – I just don’t like getting all messy!

1/2 TB dried Oregano

1/4 cup fresh, finely minced fresh basil

1/4 cup fresh, finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley

plenty of salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 TSP Gravy Master®

2 cups freshly ground bread crumbs (about 1/3 of a day-old Italian loaf) mixed with 3/4 cup of milk to form a thick oatmeal consistency.

Gotta test the first one!

Gotta test the first one!

Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. Mix it all very lightly in a bowl. Heat a small skillet on the stove and cook one up real quick as a tester for flavor. If it needs anything more, make the adjustments, and start forming the balls.

I personally like small ( 1″ diameter) balls. They cook quick, fit nice on my sheet pans, and tuck perfectly into leftover meatball subs. They can also be pressed into action out of the freezer ( fully cook, then freeze) as perfect little reheated  appetizer with toothpicks stuck into them for dipping!

Take the time to make them even size. rounder is nice too but hey... sometimes they are gonna be a little "square"

Take the time to make them even size. rounder is nice too but hey… sometimes they are gonna be a little “square”

Line them up in even little rows on parchment lined sheet pans and if you are paranoid like I am about them sticking anyway, spray the parchment with a little cooking spray first. Bake them  for 14 mins. Feel free to turn them halfway thru if you think you can manage not to break them apart in the process. You may want to add another minute or two to cooking time to make up for time spent outside of oven turning.

This general cooking time assumes that you will be putting them into red sauce for a little further cooking and heating. And although the baking in the oven yields them fully cooked – they are just so.. kinda like al dente pasta… so if you are not going to simmer them any further in some sauce – feel free to leave them in an extra 2 mins or so.

Cool and freeze any that don’t go into the sauce. Yields 36 balls. (including the tester)

Enjoy over a heaping mound of pasta with some extra cheese on top!

dinner is served 2

Snow Day Chili

Chili and a blizzard go hand in hand. So that is what I made this past weekend when the “blizzard of 2013″ hit our Boston area!

After hours of digging out, (but kudos to the neighbors with snowblowers for doing most of our heavy lifting!!) coming in to chili to warm us from the inside out was perfect!

Chili is such a great thing to eat in general but it is always good on hot dogs, burgers, tortilla chips,salad and my favorite: baked potatoes! I remember when the “Wendy’s” restaurants arrived in New England with their salad bars and baked potatoes. (Yup Wendy’s had salad bars and a good ones too at that time.) My dad and I would sneak down there on the night it was his turn to make dinner and get the salad bar with a cup of chili and the chips. We would crumble up the chips and pile on the cheese. Sometime we got the baked potatoes with the chili and extra fresh chopped raw onion of course! They still offer a “taco salad” and the baked potato with chili but somehow it is just not the same.

My version is fancied up with a little sweet Italian sausage and a can of “Ro*tel” to keep it easy. It is also not crazy spicy (like some of my other chili’s – Holy Mole!) so everybody can enjoy and add their own level of heat with hot sauce of their choice.storm day chili

Production Notes

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of casing and crumbled

1 lb ground beef (leaner is nice)

1 onion, chopped small

1 lg garlic clove, minced

1 can (10oz) original “Ro*tel”

1 can (13oz +/-) red beans or black beans or whatever bean you like

2 Tb ground cumin ( less if you don’t love as much as me)

2 Tsp ground chili powder

2 Tsp smoked paprika (sweet not spicy- or spicy if you like it)

2 Tsp ground Ancho Chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 Large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes

2 Tb brown sugar (you can omit or cut in half if you don’t want it too sweet)

1/2 a can ( the 28oz one) of water

Brown the meats (no extra oil needed) in a heavy bottomed dutch oven, until done. Scoop meat out and set aside. Pour out about 1/2 the fat. In the remaining fat in the pan add the onions and garlic and saute a few minutes. Add all the dry spices and kinda toast for a minute. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes and Ro*tel. Add the meat back in, stirring to combine everything. Add the water – you may want less for thicker chili or more for thinner chili – also depends on how long you want to/plan to simmer. Add additional hot sauce at this point – I like a good vinegar based one like Tabasco or Texas Pete but you can use your favorite. Add the beans (drain them first) and simmer on low for anywhere from 1- 4 hours to let flavors develop and deepen.  This could be transferred to a low slow cooker for the day too.  Serve with all the fixin’s! Freeze the extra until the next snow day! It makes a lot!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Meatloaf # 225

Fair-warning: This is a tomato-lovers meatloaf.

I consider meatloaf the ultimate in “cabinet stews.”   You can hide put anything into them; use up all kinds of odds and ends!

My plain Irish husband secretly wishes I would just stick to one boring, plain meatloaf recipe but over the years he has learned to be a good sport about my experimentation and many versions. I can’t help it – I am all about variety!

Someday I am going to compile all my versions into a book titled: 365 days of meatloaf!

really it is just another version of “corn and tomatoes!” 

The recipe

Based on crazy odds and ends that I had in my kitchen at the time

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs -The loaf was a very moist and but not very firm – perhaps more bread crumbs for a firmer loaf?

1 tsp seasoned salt ( I like Penzey’s brand)

3 springs of fresh basil, leaves only – chop fine (about 2 tablespoons)

3 springs of fresh oregano leaves – chop fine if leaves are large (about 2 tablespoons)

small onion grated (yes GRATED)

1 6oz can of tomato paste

1/2 cup of  tomato juice (you could use a V8)

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mix lightly but thoroughly and put into a loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 45mins or so until done. It should smell good and the edges will be a little crispy. Use a meat thermometer to be sure, and remember it will be pink in color no matter what because of the tomato juice and paste!

I served it with oven roasted potatoes and corn. Simply tossed with oil, S&P, and some dried herbs of your choosing. Start the potatoes with the meatloaf and add the corn in about halfway. Toss a couple of times during cooking.

Pan Fryers

If you know anything about me by now, you know that my mother was ahead of the curve in the “healthy” department. So in my childhood, hamburgers were enjoyed as a rare, fast-food treat supplied by my dad when my mom wasn’t looking or at backyard barbecues, mostly hosted by neighbors or extended family. I can’t recall ever making hamburgers, grilled or pan-fried, growing up.

My husband, however, will tell you that his father would whip some hamburgers up on an almost weekly basis. His dad would pan fry to perfection the juicy patties and they would serve them up on toasted white bread if no buns were available. Cheese was an option but most of his family just enjoyed a plain hamburger. (The thought of no cheese just gives me an anxiety attack!)

The choice of beef in a “pan fryer” is important. You really can’t use any diet techniques here. You have to have enough fat to keep the burger juicy. So use a high-quality 80/20 blend or grind your own. Forming uniform-size patties helps to keep cooking times consistent. A little dimple/divot in the middle of the patty keeps it from puffing up.

Toppings are important

I don’t put the same toppings on a “pan fryer” as I would a grilled burger. Maybe it has to do with the weather…grilling + outside = summer toppings. When I pan fry, I just feel the need to go old school and replicate the diner-style burgers my father-in-law made.

A thick slice of tomato, raw onion rings, cheese, ketchup or A-1 (or both) and some pepper rings are all you need. Tip: soak the onion rings in white vinegar for a few minutes to take some of the “raw” off the onions. Drain and use right away.

Do I even need to mention that you always toast the bun – buttered too.

Are you craving a “pan fryer” yet?

Midweek “Put-Together”

In the spirit of Cabinet Stew and my continued obsession with meatballs, I threw together this dinner one night using things from the freezer and the fridge. My husband deemed it good enough to be repeated someday and so here it is…

And here is what’s in it….

About a dozen tiny meatballs that I made a bunch of one day and froze for times just like this. I reheat them in a covered dish in a 350 degree oven because we don’t own a microwave (GASP!) but you could use yours. A good quality packaged brand would probably work too but then again if you are reading this it means you enjoy cooking and wouldn’t dream of buying pre-made anything.

Boil a box of your favorite pasta – use a big chunky one like penne, rigatoni,etc. I used about 3/4 of the cooked pasta. Tip: lightly oil and store the rest of the cooked pasta for another meal or you can even freeze it for about a month. It will be fine and defrost in no time for a quick meal or add-in to soups and stews.

1/2 a bag (maybe 4oz?) of pre-washed baby spinach. I threw this into the very-hot, “just drained” cooked pasta so the spinach would cook a bit. If you like your spinach cooked a bit more you could probably steam it in the microwave, but I wouldn’t know how.

Before I started any of the above I took a minute to mix together 10-12 oz of sour cream (lowfat works, I used it.) 1/3 cup grated romano cheese, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp sweet/smoky paprika, pinch each salt and black pepper. I let the chill come off the sour cream while heating the meatballs and boiling the pasta.

So mix the spinach with the hot cooked pasta, add the sour cream mix and add a couple of tablespoons of butter if you want it a little richer. Add the hot meatballs, toss gently and serve it up with salt and pepper to taste.

James Henry Salisbury

He is the guy who invented the Salisbury steak!

Long before Salisbury steak was served up in those packaged dinners, he was promoting his invention as “health food.” Yup, you read that right. Health food.

According to the almighty internet and more specifically our friends at,  James was a very, very, very smart upstate New Yorker and also a doctor in the civil war. He invented this “meat pattie” to cure the ailments of the soldiers. He prescribed them daily with black coffee. He also insisted that the meat be procured from disease-free cattle. He was ahead of his time. A food pioneer indeed.

A few years back when I had the “Salisbury steak epiphany” I started researching recipes. The only one I knew came from a “hungry man.” Among the many Google entries I found a recipe titled “The Very Best Salisbury Steak” and tracked down the can of elusive Campbells French Onion Soup to make it. It was delicious and I think the “very best.”

However I don’t always have the time and energy to search the East coast for a can of that very special soup; so sometimes, like the other night, I just wing it.

I made mine with lean ground beef, diced green bell pepper from my garden, minced garlic, dried celery seed, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and an egg to hold it altogether. I pan-fried my rather thick oval-shaped patties but broiling it would have been more traditional. By the way – they have to be oval. That is what makes them different from hamburgers- that and the fact they are served on a plate and not on a bun.

I whipped up a quick gravy using sautéed mushrooms and onions with a “A-1 and Ketchup de-glazing liquid.”  I served it with steamed cauliflower.

Now that is health food!!


A perfect set of “bookends” for summer. It’s been a little over six months since I made my last meatloaf – It was april 14.  I know because I posted about it.

As I re-read the post I realized how similar April and October weather can be in New England  – both months can be a roller coaster of temperatures. 75+degrees, not a cloud in the sky last weekend. 48 degrees, cloudy, windy and chilly this weekend.  As the saying goes around these parts, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

Meatloaf #288

It was a winner according to my husband. Because if you read my other post you know that meatloaf is always an adventure with me – never made the same way twice. I know there are recipes to follow and I own many of them – but I just use them for inspiration. A jumping-off point. I think meatloaf is really about using what you have and making it stretch. And anybody who grew up with a parent trying to “make it stretch” will tell you that meatloaf also means comfort food. And any cook can tell you that it is the best thing to whip up in a few minutes and throw it in the oven to cook while you clean up from a long afternoon of leaf raking. (6 bags !!!!!)

The recipe. (I am writing these creations down now so they can be re-created.)

3/4 lb ground pork – cause it is cheap, delicious and available around here

1/4 lb ground beef – to add a little fat and flavor

1/2 cup plain or seasoned breadcrumbs – I personally don’t think seasoned crumbs are very “seasoned tasting”

1 egg lightly beaten

2 tsp Penzey’s English Prime Rib Rub – why save it for prime rib!

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce – my secret weapon

1 small onion grated – or chopped VERY fine

1 tbs olive oil – pork is not as fatty as you think these days. If you use all beef – eliminate the oil. If you use all ground turkey I would double it.

6oz can of tomato paste – I like a tomato-y meatloaf but 1/2 the can would be plenty for most. (Freeze the extra 1/2 !)

Salt and pepper to taste.

You know the drill…mix it all up and bake it in a loaf pan at 375 degrees for 50-60 mins. Serve with baked potato, peas and some easy mushroom gravy if you feel like making it.

Cook’s Confession:

I don’t like to use my hands to mix it all up! I know, I know… but I just can’t bring myself to get all sticky. I use a potato masher very gently to mix it and then when it goes into the pan I pack it down and make the groovy design on top! This design holds a glaze really well too!

Chasing Meatballs

I am always chasing the perfect meatballs. Could be Italian style with red sauce. Could be Swedish style. Could be even more basic with brown gravy. I just love them in all forms and I am chasing perfection in meatballs.

I can’t seem to master the cooking of them. They are always falling apart no matter if I bake them or saute them. Or I burn them in the skillet. ( I swear I don’t step away but…) Or sometimes they just come out rather square-shaped instead of round. I favor small ones because the giant ones seem more like a small meatloaf to me and I firmly believe that meatballs, meatloaf and the filling of stuffed peppers are all the same. It is the shape and vehicle that makes these three things different, when really, they are not. But I digress and that topic is a post for another day.

So the other night I had 1/2 lb of ground chuck hanging out in the fridge. Some really delicious home-grown celery. (Not by me, but by someone in the neighborhood.) Some leftover mushrooms, and some of my mini carrots from my garden. (that is what happens when you don’t thin the seedlings – mini carrots)

So of course I thought “meatballs!”

Here is most of the stuff I put in the meatballs and their pan sauce. (That is the rice cooker in the top right corner  – you gotta have something to soak up all that sauce.)

I went really basic on the meatballs: ground chuck, bread crumbs, crushed garlic, chopped fresh sage and parsley, some steak sauce, S&P and of course an egg to hold it altogether.

This is how many meatballs I made!

For the pan sauce I went with: chopped onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms. More fresh chopped sage and some beef broth. A tiny bit of milk or half & half gives a little creaminess and of course I won’t tell if you want to finish with a pat or two of butter!

I browned the meatballs first in the pan with a little olive oil. Than after I inevitably burned one side of them, I removed them from the pan – added all the veggies and spices to saute a bit, deglazed the pan with stock and added the milk. I then added the meatballs back in and let everything cook through for a bit.

They came out pretty good but, as you can see, slightly misshapen and a little burned on one side.

Still chasing the dream!

Slop, Sloppy Joes

Thank you Adam Sandler.

Now whenever we make Sloppy Joes for dinner we sing a chorus or two from his song “Lunch Lady Land.”

This timeless classic seems to have fallen out of favor with the average household and who knows if they even serve it for hot lunch at school anymore. But we like it around this house and honestly it is a great way to use up and stretch ingredients.

We often have partial pounds of ground beef hanging around due to the fact that my husband likes to pinch off enough from a package to make a quick burger for lunch sometimes. Okay a lot of times. So that leaves odd amounts; like not quite a 1/2 lb.

That was the case recently one late night. I opened the fridge and saw the burger. Noticed we had some buns on the counter. Celery and onion in the crisper. And of course a can of my favorite brand of Sloppy Joe sauce in the pantry.

We were in business.

But then I saw the mushrooms and decided to chop up 4-5 of those rather large baby bellas. That would kinda stretch the burger with substance and flavor. Than I decided “why open that can when I have the stuff to make it from scratch.” I would rather keep that can of Sloppy Joe sauce on hand for an emergency batch of my favorite childhood recipe: American Chop Suey.

So I browned the beef, the peeled and diced celery, some diced onion and chopped mushrooms together. I added a hefty dose of smoky paprika, Emeril’s Essence, salt and pepper. I added in a 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and a wallop of ketchup for good measure and a little sweetness. I let that simmer and thicken while I toasted the buns with butter and garlic powder.

And of course…isn’t everything better with cheese?

Who needs a bun…

…When you have a Panzanella salad?

This fancy side dish (A big favorite with me.) was made with crusty leftover stale baguette, sliced Campari tomatoes, vinegar soaked shallots, Extra virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, shredded Parmesan and lots of course salt and pepper.

Anybody who knows me or reads this probably knows by now that I have a tomato addiction. And a shallot addiction.

Oh yeah and we didn’t need ketchup either.

I found it again…


This time I found it in my own freezer instead of the flea market.

I was rummaging through my freezer drawer and came upon a note to myself in the form of a frozen container.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time or inclination to make a leg of lamb. But I did have some ground lamb in the freezer. I know, I know – who has that in their freezer? What can I say, we love lamb in all forms (only American never New Zealand) and it is cheap and readily available in my urban area stores.

Plus I was feeling more cozy and comforting rather than fancy upscale for dinner. Everyone knows that cozy + comforting = PASTA!

So I had my inspiration.

I would make a kind of  “lamb baked ziti” or maybe you would call it an eggplant-free Moussaka! No matter what it could be called – it was good!

The amount of ground lamb I had was 1/2 lb so I wanted to “beef it up” (pun intended) and I added 1/2 lb of ground beef to it. Since the red sauce already had some lamb juices in it, the dish would still scream lamb even with the use of just a 1/2 lb.  TIP: Going half and half is also a great way to stretch a can-be-expensive ingredient or to introduce it to someone who may not think they like lamb.

The frozen red sauce had been created with the pan drippings from a past roast lamb dinner + tomato paste + brown sugar + spices and the veggies used as the roasting rack. All blended together and the leftovers frozen for a rainy day.

I mixed my al dente cooked pasta with 2 large egg yolks, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and a jar of pre-made Alfredo sauce. (Not everybody wants to whip up a roux every time – that is a lot of pressure.)  I laid that down as the first layer. Then I browned my meat together, drained the extra fat and mixed in the red sauce. I layered this on top of the pasta and sprinkled it with some shredded Romano before giving it 20 mins in the oven to come together and get toasty on top.

Served with sautéed zucchini.

Yiayia would have approved.

Pizza Night

Pizza night is a great opportunity to use up random things around your kitchen. You can put almost anything on a pizza shell, bake it and enjoy. I don’t have to tell you that pizza is a great, quick week night dinner.

Tonight I browned a 1/2 lb +/- of ground beef that was hanging around my fridge and a chopped up half of a small onion. (Save the rest for Western omelets!) I added a hefty dose of cumin and some salt/pepper.  After it was all brown and delicious looking – I added in a small can of chopped green chilies and let that saute for a couple of minutes. I spread the whole thing on a thin pre-baked pizza shell. I added plenty of shredded cheese – extra sharp.

I also had the last of the cherry tomato harvest on hand so I sliced up a few of those and dotted them on the top. I finished with an extra sprinkle of salt, pepper and cumin and squirted a bit of fresh lime juice on top for sparkle.

Into a preheated 425 degree oven on the pizza stone and 8-10 mins later a crispy, delicious, cheesy pizza emerged.

I call it: “green chilie cheeseburger pizza”

Tourtiers (French Pork Pie)

Last week I finally realized that the heat wave wasn’t going away because it is actually summer and it is supposed to be hot. I am a winter person who would be happy if it never went above 72 degrees.

Wednesday night I pulled open my freezer drawer and looked around. I found a package of frozen ground pork. Hmm… what to do with this? Meatloaf? nah – I have one frozen – ready to go. Another time.

I looked in the fridge. I have 1 roll of pie crust, having used the other one for a Quiche a while back. I had some mushrooms. Onions.

I see a plan for Thursday night’s dinner coming together.

Pork Pie! Now there is one you don’t see too often on the family menu and certainly not in mid-July! But why not! Besides there was nothing else calling out to me and I am all burger’d and dog’ed out for the moment.

Meat pies have a long culinary history. Many countries have versions. (You can google that!) but here is an interesting tidbit I found that will save you the trouble…

The first pies, called “coffins” or “coffyns” (the word actually meant a basket or box) were savory meat pies with the crusts or pastry being tall, straight-sided with sealed-on floors and lids. Open-crust pastry (no tops or lids) were known as “traps.” These pies held assorted meats and sauce components and were baked more like a modern casserole with no pan (the crust itself was the pan, its pastry tough and inedible). These crusts were often made several inches thick to withstand many hours of baking.


Okay who would want to eat that pie!

What separates a Canadian pork pie from any old meat pie?

Cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Most recipes involve some amount of at least 2 of those.  Without those spices you would just have a very plain meat loaf trapped in a pie!

My Aunt Yvonne and my “Aunt” Lucille all had recipes. More recently, I have been soliciting recipes for a family cookbook and I received a pork pie recipe to add in. From poking around my family, other people’s families and the internet I learned there are many variations. (Obviously right?) Most were made with pork, some with beef and some with a combo. All “stretch” the meat by adding either cooked/mashed potato or breadcrumbs. All variations I have seen are double crust.

The Recipe: Here is how I made Thursday’s cabinet stew….

1 1/4 lb ground pork, 1 med onion chopped, 1 tb unsalted butter, 4 ounces button mushrooms rough chopped, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 nutmeg, ( I didn’t have any allspice that I could find at least) 2 tb Worcestershire sauce, 3 potatoes boiled and mashed, salt and pepper to taste. One pre-made pie crust – rolled and inserted into a glass 9″ pie plate.

“Dock” the crust and pre-bake it 8 mins in a hot 425 degree oven. Take crust out and turn down oven to 375 degrees. Add butter, onion and mushrooms to saute pan. Brown on med-high heat for about 4-5 mins.  Add the spices and let them kinda “toast” for a minute in the high heat of the pan mixed in with the onions and mushrooms. Add the pork and finish browning everything together. Pork these days is very lean so you won’t need to “drain any grease off” – but if you feel you must, then go ahead and do it now. Don’t overcook. Meaning the pork should be brown but not dry; as you are going to bake it again in the oven anyway. Add Worcestershire sauce.  Mix well and add to the partially baked crust bottom.

Normally you would add in the cooked, mashed plain potatoes before putting mix in the bottom crust but I didn’t have a top crust so I decided to make the mashed potato the topping –  Shepard’s pie style! I used 3 potatoes because I wanted a nice fluffy top – if you were doing a crust top then just mash in 1-2 medium cooked potatoes to the meat mix before filling the crust.

Sprinkle plenty of paprika on top and dot with butter. I also mixed in a tiny bit of Lawry’s seasoned salt into the mashed potatoes because I can’t leave well enough alone.

Bake 30 mins  – cool slightly before serving. Nice with green salad or vegetables such as brussels sprouts. All the pork pie I have eaten was served with gravy.

Also note: this can absolutely be made with ground beef!