I hope you don’t mind my eking out the last few not-terribly-springy recipes here. I try to post at least relatively seasonal dishes, but sometimes life (or attempting to be handy at home when you’re not, or NHL playoffs, or laziness) get in the way. That said, my kids are meatball and meatloaf-obsessed, so they are more than happy to eat these year-round, and I can’t say I would argue with them.

I mentioned a while back that I’d never made a true meatloaf until fairly recently, but before that I used to make mini meatloaves pretty frequently. It actually started with a Kraft recipe that used Stovetop Stuffing in the meatloaves and then evolved from there. I’d later disguise meatballs as meatloaves (loaf shaped, but with a marinara glaze and stuffed with mozzarella), which allowed me to basically swap out pasta for mashed potatoes. I’ve had these mini meatloaves on my to-make list since I got Deb’s book but, like I said, life.

This is a pretty standard meatloaf/meatball recipe with just enough subtleties to make it a little different. The smoked paprika is a great addition and what is essentially a “pestata” of minced carrots/onion/celery add flavor and moistness to the meatballs. The glaze is perhaps not as sweet as traditional glazes (I actually added a bit more honey and less Dijon, because I don’t like Dijon in large doses)  but pairs well with the meat and is so easy to make. It can be hard to make moist meatballs using just beef (and I am here to admit I used pretty lean beef, on top of it) but these are it.

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I have a new crush, and her name is Lidia Bastianich.

I’ve known about Lidia for a while. I’ve made a bunch of her recipes, though I’ve somehow only managed to blog one. They’re always great. Always. You look at the ingredient list and nothing jumps out at you and says, “this super terrific and rarely-used ingredient will make your meal shine!” Instead, it’s just simple, normal ingredients. And she somehow manages to make them so harmonious and delightful.

We’ve had this meal at least 3 or 4 times. Every time, I ask myself why I’m making it on a Saturday because it’s so quick and easy (those types of meals tend to be reserved for weeknights). It just…I don’t know, seems like a weekend meal? The last time I made this (the photographs in this post), I didn’t even bother pounding and rolling chicken breasts. Tom had accidentally bought tenderloins, so I basically just sandwiched the breadcrumb filling between two, which made the meal even quicker, albeit not as pretty. There is no searing of the chicken before baking it, which is a good thing because me + stuffed/rolled chicken + browning =  a disaster for me (chicken falling apart in the pan as I try to flip it and all that). I’m normally against 100% baked chicken, but it works well in this case (thanks to the breadcrumbs, no doubt).

We’ve had this with baked brown rice pilaf and pasta, but I think my favorite non-vegetable side has been mashed cannellini beans. Once, I assumed parmesan cheese went into the breadcrumb mixture and only realized too late it did not. But cheese is never a bad thing, so clearly that adaptation was juuuust fine and I’m including it as an option below.

 

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We’re big burger fans in our family (who isn’t?!). In fact, for  his birthday (his FIFTH birthday, omg), Zachary specifically requested burgers (which he has done before), and I was happy to oblige. These are not the ones we happened to have that night, but I can tell you that he loved these, too. He even ate the spinach and he can be pretty finicky about cooked/wilted spinach (likes it raw, though).

I, too, adored these burgers. I’ve been making a different version of a sausage burger a lot lately, because, well, sausage is really good. So, the patties were clearly a win. I was unsure about how the texture of the spinach would play out on burgers, but I thought it went really well. The star, though, was the sun-dried tomato pesto, which lent a little sweetness and a bright punch of flavor to these bad boys.

This recipe comes together pretty quickly. I had planned on making the pesto the day before but didn’t, and it wasn’t a big deal to do it the same day (just note, though, if you are using non-oil packed tomatoes, you will need to leave a little time for reconstituting them in water). If you can find ground sausage (not in link form) that makes assembly even easier. You can definitely buy ground pork (or turkey or chicken) and make your own sausage-flavored patties. I’ve actually done that a few times (see aforementioned talk of eating a different version of sausage burgers) and have been tweaking my recipe so hopefully I’ll post it soon.

I’m already looking forward to the next time we have these, because I know it’s going to be soon.

 

 

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My mom likes to give people things. Every time I visit, I somehow manage to get sent home with a box of my childhood stuff, random books, a sponsored tee, a trinket, you name it. One time she tried sending us home with one of those enormous 6′ foot tall Costco stuffed bears until we told her she was insane and we would not be adding what was basically another person to the two bedroom condo we had at the time.

So, it was not at all surprising that when she came to visit us a while back, she brought bulk-sized amounts of quinoa and artichoke hearts. We’re still making our way through the quinoa because, whoa, it’s a lot of quinoa.

I’m not all that crazy about quinoa plain, unless it’s serving as a bed for a burrito bowl or something, but I’m all about it when it’s used in casserole fashion or when it’s cheesy/creamy. This has both of those things going for it and makes good leftovers (I sometimes struggle to have non-pasta leftovers), too.

I ended up adding chicken to this but obviously you don’t need to. It was just a good way to up the protein and increase the servings. Plus, I knew it would go over well with the kids. Quinoa sometimes goes over like a lead balloon with Zachary (to Ian it resembles most carbs, which indicates to him that it is delicious and worth of being shoveled into his mouth). With Z, it really depends on the day, his mood, or which way the wind blows. He did really like this dish, though, which I attribute not only to the chicken but to the copious amounts of cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and olives, both of which he adores.

 

 

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After waking up twice this week with new snow on the ground, I’m sad to report that maybe we haven’t officially reached “salad weather” yet. Sigh.

But, no matter, right? Salads can definitely be eaten year-round, especially when you’re trying to get back to lighter meals after all the comfort foods of winter. And, besides, this is one of my new favorite salads.

It’s based off one at a popular Chicago lunch/sandwich place called Hannah’s Bretzel.  They have really great sandwiches, but when I go I tend to get the small one (wecken) with an Ella’s salad on the side. Not to sound like a Yelp review, but the first time I got it, I was amazed at the size of the salad. Most “side” salads, especially in the Loop, are a few scrawny pieces of lettuces and maybe like 3 bites of other vegetables drowning in dressing. After I got past how miraculously substantial this one was, I loved it even more for the way it tasted.

This salad includes some of my favorite things: asparagus, roasted tomatoes, cashews, mozzarella, and cannellini beans. Definitely not your typical side salad. It comes with a white balsamic vinaigrette that’s a little tangier than normal vinaigrettes (which works for me, as I vastly prefer this to oilier vinaigrettes).  It’s worth going for, even if you don’t eat any of their vast array of fancy schmancy chocolate bars staring at you as you make your way through the line.

Now, if only this salad had the magical powers to bring warmer weather.

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I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while here, because I don’t know how many more times or ways I can tell you that we’re a Tex-Mex loving family and that one-pot meals are highly desirable in our lives right now.

I’m not sure how many more ways I can say, “We loved this” or “My kids asked for thirds” or “Isn’t cast iron the best thing ever?” or “Why is Zachary insistent on eating sour cream straight off a spoon?”

This meal is just…us. It’s quick, it’s pretty healthy, it’s got the flavors and ingredients that we love, and it’s comforting (also, it can be served with sour cream).

There’s not much more to say other than that. Instead of wasting time reading my usual ramblings, go ahead and use time to make this. :)

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I am on a roll with this whole remembering Pi Day thing, guys! This year I decided to make a savory pie, since I’ve already made two chocolate pies and fruit right now is not the greatest. And, hey, this can double as a St. Patrick’s Day post, too.  I’m just killing this whole blogging thing.

So, this pie. It starts with braised beef that gets fork-tender and delicious while cooking in a Guinness-y gravy. Then, you mix in some cheddar, plop it in a pan, top it with more cheddar and then puff pastry. Can we talk about puff pastry for a second? It should be its own food group, right? So good.

(I may have forgotten to put the cheese on the top and then had to peel back the crust to add it, sacrificing a prettier crust. Maaaaybe.)

This is some major comfort food. I know the temperatures are starting to rise (at least for now), but you still have some time to make this pie, and you should. We had it with peas (and salad) to sort of counteract the pastry (and the fact that we ate entirely too much on the first night), but it would be perfection with some mashed potatoes. Or maybe colcannon, to Irish it up? Either way, make it. And happy Pi Day!

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Years back, when I used to be able to walk home from work (the glory days), I would often stop at the Whole Foods near our apartment for whatever random ingredient I had forgotten to purchase that weekend. No matter what I went in for, I had a really hard time leaving without their seeduction loaf or rolls. So good. When I came across this recipe, it instantly reminded me of that bread, which I haven’t had in a number of years. Though different and not a “copycat” recipe, this bread is equally hearty, wholesome, and delicious.

The recipe makes two smaller pointed or round loaves. We killed the first loaf for dinner (and uh, pre-dinner snacking) and then my husband went out after the kids went to bed, leaving me all alone with loaf number two. :-\ FOR THE RECORD,  I didn’t eat it (all) and the next day I wrapped it in foil and reheated it in the oven for a bit and it was every bit as good as day #1,

Now, this is not 100% whole wheat. I will be the first to tell you that I often get annoyed at the moniker “whole wheat” when only about 60% of the flour used is whole wheat. But, the nice thing about that is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep as far as a starter and fermentation and all that jazz (there is a lot of rise time, but not overnight). You do soak the seeds overnight, just to make them softer, so there is a little prep the night before, but it takes all of 30 seconds. The baking stage is a little strange and involves quickly throwing some water into a hot oven, which is always fun.

I loved this bread. Loved it. I was so happy it turned out, especially after a couple brad-flops as of late. It’s delicious on its own, slathered with butter, or dipped into soup or stew (which is how we ate most of it). Now that I have like 46 lbs. of flax seeds, because our grocery store only sells them in gigantic containers, I can make this bread a million times over. And that’s fine by  my family and me.

 

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My youngest son will not eat cheese unless it’s stuck to pizza or pasta. If I hadn’t seen the child come out of my own body, I may question whether he’s mine (did I mention he particularly dislikes feta and despises yogurt?). But man, oh man does that kid love pizza and pasta. Literally every day after he gets picked up from school he asks if we’re having pasta. When that answer is (almost always) a no, he asks if we’re having pizza or bread. If they are all “nos,” temporary hell will ensue. When it comes to eating dinner, he’s basically a garbage disposal no matter what, but he has the typical toddler gene that gives preferential treatment to carbs. (He must be mine after all.)

Obviously, I knew this meal would be a hit. It’s a fairly standard baked pasta dish with a pizza twist. Typical pizza ingredients like sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms (I also added green peppers) are added to a tomato sauce that really is reminiscent of pizza sauce – also, I swear it smells like pizza while it’s cooking.

This is extremely easy to throw together. The pasta cooks in the oven, so there’s no cooking it beforehand. The mushrooms are microwaved to get rid of their moisture, and the sausage is crumbled into the baking dish without even being browned. I was a little leery of that last thing, knowing that browning sausage can add more flavor and uncooked sausage does not look particularly appealing in globs on top of uncooked pasta. But, it turned out fabulously and, hey, if you’re familiar with how Lou’s makes their pizza, which is to put a literal layer of pressed in, uncooked sausage onto the crust before baking, it may make this even more “pizza-like” in your mind. :)

 

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My youngest has taken after his older brother and become food-obsessed. The upside is my kids are not picky. The downside is I’m not sure how we’ll afford to feed these children without taking out a second mortgage on our house in a few years. Ian wants to watch me make dinner but, weirdly, has zero interest in helping. If he had his way I would hold him with one arm while trying to chop and stir with another. It’s not my favorite stage. He’s always in the kitchen asking, “What for dinner mom? Can I see? WANT TO SEE. Chicken in oven? Whassat? Bread? We have pasta? WANT PASTAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” My husband tries to keep him occupied but it’s sometimes futile and he has stuff to do, too.

When you have a near-2-year old clinging to your leg and whining about food, the last thing you want is something that takes a long time to cook. This is one of the reasons I really like marinating food because I can just throw it in the pan when I get home. Roasting yams is hands-off after the first few minutes and I only cook green beans for 3ish minutes, so these types of meals are frequent in our house as of late.

We’ve had this marinade on chicken (breasts and thighs) and pork (chops and tenderloin), and I’m sure it would be good on steak too, if you’re not too much of a steak purist. It reminds me of a not-spicy jerk marinade, but of course if you want some heat you can add a minced habanero, more hot sauce, etc. to suit your tastes. Next time I plan on replacing the brown sugar with honey, which I’m sure will be equally delicious and eliminate refined sugar. Oh, and I’ve also made it without bothering to cook the onion (just chopping it finer), which works too. Laziness wins often around here.

The ingredient list for this is long, but likely contains ingredients you already have in your pantry. Plus, this makes a decent amount of marinade, so you could likely get 2-3 meals from it, depending on how many people you’re cooking for. I like to freeze extras in gallon-sized bags, so that when you’re ready to use it, you have enough room in the bag to place your meat.

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