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Today you all are going to get a tiny glimpse here and there of the mess that can be the Humble Food Snob’s kitchen. I was sick with a cold when I made this food last month. And, naturally, I didn’t get sick until the ribs and steaks for Ron’s birthday dinner were already thawed past the point of safely refreezing. We all know that I’m not super fussed about my photography here on the blog, but that day I seriously had zero f*%$s to give and yet I REALLY wanted to share this recipe with you all. I even had a request some time ago for my rib recipe to appear here, so I couldn’t just let this occasion slip away since I don’t make ribs often. I said all that to say this: the photos in today’s post are… “hyper real”, you could say. Those are dirty dishes under that tray of ribs. My kitchen was so trashed that the ONLY space I had to work was at my sink. I tried to crop the dishes out, but they’re there. Welcome to my world 😉

I’ll continue being honest (“real” if you prefer) and tell you that you don’t HAVE to use a rub on your ribs. You could just hit them with some salt and pepper on both sides and let the sauce you finish them with do all the work. They won’t be as awesome, but they’ll still be nice and tender. I’ll include the recipe for my wet rub at the end of the post.

So get out a full sheet pan. If you don’t have one, buy one- it’s a fantastic investment. If you can’t right now, use what you’ve got. Either way, make sure every inch is covered with heavy duty aluminum foil.

You can get your ribs from anywhere you trust for meat. I get mine from Sam’s because they are a good price for 3 full racks of baby back ribs, but I also have a butcher shop I love too.

Take your ribs out of the package and lay them on the pan so that they all fit and will be covered easily by foil:

You have two choices: 1) cut away the layer of silver skin which is the connective tissue on the back of the ribs or 2) leave it where it is and don’t worry about it. For this method we will be slow cooking the ribs and the silver skin has never been a problem; it’s broken down by the slow initial cooking.

Now take a small amount of your rub (about 2 tablespoons for each rack with my recipe) and put it on the backs of the racks. Rub it on until you have the entire back portion covered:

You don’t need very much on the backs because there isn’t any meat to flavor- you just want the seasoning to be even throughout. Flip the racks over and divide the rest of the rub evenly between them, rubbing to coat completely:

With that done, get another huge piece of heavy duty aluminum foil for the top and crimp the top and bottom pieces together so that nothing can get in or out. Seal that baby!

This will need to be refrigerated for, at the very least, 2 hours and up to about 8 hours before baking. As I had a fridge full of groceries and cheesecake (Ron’s favorite for his birthday), I had no room for a gigantic tray of ribs. However, one of the great things about living in northern Wisconsin in the winter is that when you don’t have room in the fridge all you have to do is walk outside and the entirety of the outdoors is yours to utilize:

Once your ribs have marinated long enough, turn your oven to 300 degrees, put the tray in, and walk away. For how long depends on how big your rib racks are. If they are smaller than full size, you might get away with 2 hours. I say “might” because I have no idea. There are 5 of us in my family, so I’ve never done anything less than the 3 big racks. For these you will need to leave them alone in the oven for 3 to 3 & 1/2 hours. Don’t even open the oven door for 3 hours. Seriously. I let them go the full time and they are literally fall off the bone tender.

When the ribs are almost done in the oven, set up your grill in whatever way is normal for you. We use a regular grill with hardwood charcoal and absolutely love it. And yes; we grill even in February after having gotten more than a foot of snow. We needed to get the grill out of the garage, so…

My dad (driving) and Ron (waiting his turn to drive) got the snow blower out and facilitated awesomeness 🙂

Once your grill is ready, carefully transfer the ribs to the grill. This will be tricky because they are so ridiculously tender, but it can be done. Slather both sides with whatever BBQ sauce you prefer and get a little charring going. Alternatively, you could just put the sauce on the ribs and use your broiler. Either works just fine. If you go to this link, you’ll find my recipe for some seriously fantastic sauce, but it has to be made at least a week in advance and it requires a good chunk of the afternoon to make. I used a super simple Dr. Pepper based BBQ sauce for these ribs, the recipe for which I will include along with my wet rib rub.

So you’ve rubbed, baked, slathered, and grilled your ribs- you’re ready to eat! You end up with this:

Ribs that will melt in your mouth and feel like velvet on your tongue. I didn’t have to cut any of these ribs apart to make portions; they separated themselves because they were so tender. They are worth every penny for the meat and every minute of prep. And here’s a last little bit of reality for you: I don’t even like ribs.

The Recipe- Wet Rub for Ribs:

3 T Brown Sugar

2 T Salt

1 T Seasoned Salt

1 1/2 t Chili Powder

3 t Paprika

1 1/2 t Cumin

3 t Oregano

3 t Cinnamon

1 Small Onion, Diced Fine

8-10 Cloves Garlic, Minced

2 t Liquid Smoke

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until all ingredients are uniformly wet.

The Recipe- Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce:

12 oz Dr. Pepper

2 C Ketchup

1 C Brown Sugar

1 1/2 T Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 t Liquid Smoke

1-2 t Kosher Salt (Start with 1 t and add more to taste)

1 t Chili Powder

1 1/2 t Garlic Powder

1/2 t (heaping) Onion Powder

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

*Lower heat and simmer until reduced by about half, stirring frequently.

*Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

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Here we are, halfway through the school year, and this is where things in the food department tend to grind to a crawl- if not an all out halt. I don’t know about you and yours, but in my house weekday breakfasts and lunches are getting to be an unpleasant chore. I ask the kids what they want and the answer is usually the same: “I don’t know”.  What started out with good intentions of fresh, homemade meals somehow devolved into cold cereal and the same sandwich every single day. Frankly, I’m as sick of dishing it as the kids are of eating it. So I did what I always do: I hit up my recipe sites and cookbooks. What I found was a small stash of good ideas that I can integrate into our food routine and at least get through the rest of the school year. This recipe for breakfast oat bars is one of the little nuggets of delishness I found.

**I did it again: I went my merry way, happily baking these bars, and forgot to take pictures. My mind is in a thousand different places right now, so please forgive me! I’ll do better next time 🙂 ** 

The original recipe called for bananas as the fruit. I’ve found that I can use not only bananas, but also applesauce (homemade works like magic!), or pumpkin. This batch is a mixture of applesauce and banana and it’s fantastic! These bars are also super cheap to make since they use basic ingredients. If you’re like me and buy in bulk, the cost is even less still. I double the recipe to fill a 13×9 inch pan because there’s 6 of us in our house currently, so making a single batch would be kind of pointless.

All you need is oats, flour, an egg, baking soda, salt, fruit puree, oil, and vanilla. You can also add in a few other fun things like nuts, chocolate chips (whichever flavor strikes your fancy), cinnamon chips, caramel bits… whatever you like! Just don’t go overboard; the bars won’t hold together if you add too much of your mix-ins. Combine the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, mix it all together, put it in the pan, and bake. That’s it! You could even make this first thing in the morning, bake it while the kids are getting ready, and give them a serving fresh out of the oven for breakfast. To be honest, I have no idea how long these bars will last in a container; they’re gone within 2 days and I have to make a new batch. They’re just that good!

One of the great things about these bars is that, while they aren’t as sturdy as store bought oatmeal bars, they can still be wrapped up and tucked into a backpack or purse for an on the go snack or meal. I made these bars more meal sized, but you can certainly cut them smaller to make a great snack. These also freeze super well, so you can make a huge batch and have a stash for mornings you just can’t stand the thought of yet another bowl of cereal 🙂

The Recipe:

2 Ripe Bananas, Mashed (or whatever kind of fruit puree you like)

1/4 C Oil (Use what you like)

1 Egg

1 t Vanilla Extract

1/2 t Salt

1/2 t Baking Soda

1/2 C Flour

1 C Old Fashioned Oats (NOT quick cooking)

Up to 3/4 C Mix-ins

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

*Spray an 8×8 inch baking pan with cooking spray or line with foil and then spray the pan.

*Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.

*Whisk the fruit in with the other wet ingredients and add to the dry mixture.

*Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated, then spread into the prepared baking dish.

*Bake 18-22 minutes, or until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

*Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled. If aluminum foil was not used, slide a knife around the outer edges of the bars, invert the baking pan onto cooling rack, and let gravity do its job. Then remove the pan and let the bars cool completely.

I’ve never been the type to be squeamish about handling raw meat. I’ve always enjoyed getting truly hands on when cooking meat because it’s the best way of determining the quality of the cuts and if things are progressing properly. When I’m cooking steaks I use my (clean) finger to check doneness and when I’m mixing meatloaf I absolutely insist upon using my hands to mix it all up. How else can you feel if you’ve gotten all of the ground beef worked into the rest of the ingredients? How else can you tell if you need to add more crackers or bread crumbs? When you use a spoon you lose touch with a mixture that is rarely exactly the same as the last batch you made. It’s an organic recipe; depending upon fat contents, moisture levels, and humidity. And if you get those things right, magic happens. Your reward is a plate of hot, hearty, comforting goodness that can make the coldest night cozy or the worst day seem just a little brighter around the edges. What’s that? Your meatloaf isn’t that good? Then you’re using the wrong recipe! Allow me to share my rock-your-socks-off meatloaf recipe 🙂

Here we have your fairly standard meatloaf ingredients with the addition of carrots and bacon:

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“What on Earth is in the blue bowl??” you ask? Well… my kids still don’t care for pieces of onion in their food, so I grate the onion I need on the fine holes of my box grater. That’s what’s in the blue bowl. Now is the time to get a skillet out and and put some olive oil into it- about a tablespoon or two, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set the heat to medium and once the oil shimmers, add in the carrots and onions.

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Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are fragrant and beginning to go translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Take the pan off the heat and set it aside.

I have never used this particular bread before (from the bakery of a grocery store I shop at), so I didn’t know how it would react to the milk. Turns out, I had to double the milk and rip it into pieces to get it properly soaked. But that’s ok; you can just add some crackers later.

You could try to assemble the meatloaf and have it ready to go in the oven before you send it to chill, but it would likely just turn into an exercise in frustration. It’s best to let the mixture firm up in the fridge for a few hours (up to 8 hours) and then assemble the actual loaf. **Note: I don’t usually put the whole amount of salt in that’s called for in the recipe (1 t) because I almost always add crackers, which add to the salt already found in the soy and Worcestershire sauces as well as the salt that the bacon adds to the finished product.**

Make sure both the baking pan and the plate you’re working with are either sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil very well; that’s the only way you’re going to get the meatloaf to slide out of and then back into the pan and not have it stick to the plate either.

Use thick cut bacon bacon that’s long enough to line your pan. I use Farmland thick cut bacon and it’s a perfect fit. I tried Oscar Meyer bacon once because it was on sale and it was WAY too short- and I got the regular bacon, not the center cut. I couldn’t use it at all for this meatloaf.

When lining the pan, stretch each piece of bacon gently to lengthen it just a little so that when it shrinks while it’s cooking (which is inevitable) it continues to surround the meat mixture. Also, place the bacon strips so that you have the wide and narrow ends alternating; you’ll get better coverage that way.

Once you have the pan lined with the bacon, you’ll have to get the meatloaf mixture in. You can do that one of two ways: 1) press the mixture into the pan in handfuls or 2) shape the mixture in your hand and put it in all at once. I normally choose the latter, and it isn’t as hard as it sounds…

And it’s done! The mixture holds together very well because of the bread and eggs that bind it. You’re almost ready to put it in the oven. Fold the edges of the bacon,

Put your platter or plate over the top of the pan,

Flip the whole thing over and set it back down,

and wait for gravity to do it’s thing…

Here’s the “hard” part. It’s not technically difficult, you just have to be careful (but quick) and confident. You can’t stop in the middle or lose your nerve at the last second. Gently ease both hands under the meatloaf, supporting the length on both sides. Pick the whole thing up and carefully set it down in the same pan you used to wrap the meatloaf to begin with.

This is going to take awhile to bake, so don’t try to make this on a busy weeknight when you only have a little bit of time to cook. It makes amazing leftovers, though, so you could certainly bake this meatloaf on the weekend and reheat it during the week. I usually bake this recipe for over an hour. The bacon will be thoroughly cooked and a thermometer stuck into the center will read 165F-170F. Once the pan comes out of the oven, tent it with foil and let the meatloaf rest for 15-20 minutes- and please don’t skip this step! The mixture is very tender and needs some time out of the oven to set properly.

After the resting time has passed, carefully slide a spatula under each end and lift both up at once. The first couple of times you make this meatloaf you just might tear the hell out of it. I did. Don’t worry; it will still taste fantastic, it just won’t be as pretty as a picture:

Cut slices with a serrated knife and serve with whatever you fancy. After your main meal you can refrigerate the leftovers (if there are any), slice them whatever width you like, and makes sandwiches on some nice, soft bread. Mmmmm…. meatloaf sandwiches….

  • Difficulty: intermediate
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The Recipe:

1/2 Medium Onion, diced or grated

2 Carrots, grated fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

2 T Butter or Oil

1 LB Ground Beef

1/2 t Dried Thyme

1 T Brown Sugar

2 T Worcestershire Sauce

2 T Soy Sauce

1 t Salt (or to taste)

1/4 t Pepper

Pinch Nutmeg

4 Slices Stale Bread

1/3 C Milk

2 Eggs

8-12 Crushed Crackers (Optional)

6-10 Slices of Bacon

The Method:

*In a frying pan, melt the fat over medium heat.

*Add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently.

*Add the garlic and cook another minute then put the pan aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

*In the meantime, put the slices of bread into a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients (except the bacon, of course), sprinkle the brown sugar over it, and pour the milk over it all. Let it sit until the milk is absorbed.

*Add the ground beef, veggies, eggs, herbs, spices, sauces, and crackers (if using), and mix thoroughly. Your hands work best for this!

*Cover the mixture and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour, but not more than 8 hours.

*Preheat the oven to 375F. (350F for a nonstick or dark loaf pan)

*Spray a 9 inch bread pan (I prefer glass) with cooking spray or brush with oil.

*Line the pan with bacon, leaving the tips hanging over both sides.

*Put the meatloaf mixture into the pan and fold the bacon over the top.

*Spray or oil a platter and put it over the loaf pan. Flip them both over and set on the counter to let the meatloaf fall onto the platter.

*Remove the loaf pan and carefully put the meatloaf back in, bacon tips down.

*Bake 1 hour or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 165F-170F.

*REST  THE MEATLOAF FOR AT LEAST 15 MINUTES!

*Gently slide a spatula under each end of the loaf, remove it from the pan, and place on a serving platter to slice.

 

Good grief, it’s been almost a year. A year!! SO MUCH has happened in that year, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to come back. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t been in the cards until now. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even care at this point if I came back. But I’ve heard from a few loyal readers (I have loyal readers! I had no idea!) and they’re asking for more. That is so incredibly gratifying, you guys. Seriously. It almost made me cry. I’ve always said that if my blog helps one person enjoy food a little more, I’ll keep going. So here I am, in the kitchen again, with recipes to share. I have some truly amazing food to show you, starting next week 🙂

Depending upon where you happen to find yourself in the world, the cold weather is upon us- or will be soon. Now is the time to get your arsenal ready- to have your comfort food ducks in a row. And if you have someone in your household that works outside for a living- even in the bitter cold of winter- like I do, then it’s vitally important to have a strong repertoire of hot, filling foods. This dish definitely fits the bill! It even makes fantastic leftovers and can be packed into a hot food jar (thermos) and taken for lunch or dinner. Oh- and as an added bonus, this will make your house smell amazing! Bake it on the same day as you do a maple apple pie (keep an eye out for the recipe) and you could sell tickets for people to come and smell your living room  🙂

The ingredients for this casserole are pretty straightforward. If you don’t have any tomato paste on hand you can use ketchup, but don’t skip it completely. I used to because I couldn’t fathom using tomato anything in gravy. I was sorely mistaken! Even the small amount that’s called for in this recipe adds a layer of flavor and richness that will be lacking if you leave it out. There will be a flat note in an otherwise beautiful composition. And it doesn’t taste of tomato at all, so don’t worry about that.

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Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees so it’s waiting for you. Then get out a skillet or frying pan that is big enough for all of your filling ingredients plus the 4 cups of gravy. So you need a BIG one. Heat the olive oil or bacon fat (adds a touch of smokiness that is awesome!) over medium high heat. Put the chicken in the pan and cook until it’s no longer pink. Add in the ham and carrots and cook them all together until the chicken browns, about 5 minutes.

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Transfer those to a bowl and set aside, then lower the heat to medium. In the same pan, melt the butter and cook the onions until they’re soft. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to incorporate. Congratulations, you’ve just made a roux! Let the roux cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, to get rid of the raw flour taste. Break out your whisk and add the chicken broth and milk to the roux. Whisk while you’re adding the liquids so you don’t end up with huge lumps of roux. Once all of the liquid is in the pan, whisk until there are no lumps except onions and garlic.

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Now you can add the meats and carrots back into the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and peas and bring to a boil. Taste the filling to check for seasoning. Add salt and white pepper to taste. You CAN use black pepper, but I prefer the flavor of white pepper and it eliminates having black specks in a light colored sauce.

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Once you have the filling seasoned to your liking, start on the topping. I usually get the dry ingredients put together while the chicken is cooking. If you didn’t, that’s fine too- just do it now. The filling can sit for a little while. Once you have your dry ingredients mixed (including the Parmesan cheese), grate your butter into them. I just stick the box grater at an angle in the bowl to save on dishes.

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See how nice and small those pieces of butter are? They make it SO MUCH easier to incorporate into the flour! I do this just about every time I have to incorporate cold butter into flour. You could cube the butter and work it in, but why??

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So evenly (and easily) mixed! Yay! Add the milk and stir to make a sticky biscuit dough. This isn’t the type of biscuit dough that you can roll out and have pretty biscuits for sandwiches. This will form a craggy topping of biscuits (looking not unlike the topping of apple crumble dessert, hence the name) that are perfect for eating with stew.

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**There’s a lesson here, boys & girls: if you need to add more liquid to biscuit dough, DO NOT start pouring from the jug, lest the dog bump into you and you add more than you were planning on. Sigh… the dough should be less wet than this; it should look almost like a slightly dry cookie dough at the wettest.**

Spread the chicken filling evenly into a 13 x 9 baking dish and drop the biscuit dough in gobs of about 2 tablespoons (I’m totally guessing!) all over the top. I usually get about 12 gobs (technical term) out of this batch of dough.

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Bake this in your preheated oven, uncovered, for about half an hour. You want the filling to boil for about 10 minutes and the topping to be nice and browned. If your topping gets too brown before the filling boils, turn your oven down to 400 degrees and cover the dish with foil. You may also want to get your oven calibrated, or at least get an oven thermometer so you can make sure it’s at the right temperature. Once the filling boils you can take the foil off and finish the dish. Just don’t let the topping burn.

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**Had my biscuit dough not been too wet, this would look MUCH closer to an actual crumble top. It still tasted wonderful, it just looked differently than it was supposed to. So be careful when adding extra liquids to mixtures!**

This recipe originally came from another blog site, and it was pretty good. But it was overly complicated and the result wasn’t, personally speaking, worth the effort. It also had a few ingredients that we don’t really care for, so I started playing and this is what the dish morphed into. I hope this helps inspire you to start planning for the cold weather to come 🙂

The Recipe:

For the Filling:

About 2 T Bacon Fat or Oil- enough to cook the chicken and onions

1 1/2 Lbs. Chicken, diced (white or dark meat, either is fine)

8 Oz. Ham, chopped (just about any thicker sliced ham will work- just don’t use shaved)

1 Medium Onion, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

4 Medium Carrots, diced small

6 T Butter

1 t Tomato Paste

1/2 C Flour

3 C Chicken Broth

1 C Milk

1 1/2 T Dried Parsley

3 Splashes Worcestershire Sauce (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 C Peas (fresh, frozen, or canned and drained well)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

For the Topping:

2 C Flour

2 t Baking Soda

3/4 t Salt

1/2 t White Pepper

6 T Butter, frozen and grated

1/2 C Parmesan, grated (fresh is best, but canned works too)

1 C Milk

 

The Method:

*Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

*In a large skillet, heat the bacon fat or oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken, adding the ham and carrots about halfway through.

*While the chicken is cooking, combine the dry topping ingredients, including the cheese.

*Grate the butter either directly into the bowl or onto a chilled plate (if using a box grater; a chilled bowl will work for using a flat grater).

*Gently mix the butter into the dry ingredients. Set aside in the fridge.

*Once the chicken is brown, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

*In the same pan, lower the temperature to medium and melt 6 T butter in the same pan.

*Cook the onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir well. Cook the roux, stirring every minute or so, for about 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.

*Whisk in the chicken broth until no lumps remain, then add the milk. Whisk together to ensure there are no lumps.

*Add in the Parsley, Worcestershire sauce, peas, and the chicken & veggie mixture. Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.

*Retrieve the bowl of biscuit ingredients from the fridge and pour the milk over the mixture, stirring gently until incorporated. Get the biscuits well mixed, but don’t over work the dough or the topping will be tough.

*Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish lightly with butter or spray with cooking spray and then pour the filling into it.

*Drop the biscuit mixture evenly over the filling in 2 T gobs until you’ve used it all.

*Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the biscuits are a deep golden brown. If the biscuits brown too quickly and the filling isn’t boiling yet, cover the pan with foil or an inverted baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

 

 

 

Ridiculously enough, the Super Target in Duluth (Minnesota, about 40 minutes North of us) has already cleared out their summer seasonal section and is in the process of building their back to school displays and stock. Last week’s ad already had back to college/school deals, even. It’s July for crying out loud! As cringe inducing as it may be, it’s almost time for a new school year to start. Not only does that mean buying school supplies and clothes but it also means, hopefully, coming up with ideas for lunches for your kids. With the new school lunch guidelines (unrealistic demands) firmly in place and making lunch miserable for the majority of schoolkids, it’s often better to feed kids a home lunch anyway. The school my kids go to is extremely small (only about 300 kids total and it’s PreK-12 in one building), so the lunch team makes a lot of their foods from scratch. Their hearts are certainly in the right place but, thanks to the aforementioned dictates, their food still isn’t my kids’ preference a lot of the time. To say the least, it’s a challenge to come up with interesting ideas sometimes; sending lunch 5 times a week can seem an impossible task. Thankfully, there are SO many easy, tasty ideas that can be packed into a lunchbox! One of the simplest lunchbox items out there are the infamous-yet-wildly-popular Uncrustables; the little round, crustless PB&J sandwiches that can be found lurking in the freezer section. These tiny sandwiches are chock full of unpronounceable ingredients- including high fructose corn syrup- and are insanely overpriced. With one simple gadget, your own ingredients, and about a minute and a half you can make your own homemade uncrustables! And they are every bit as tasty as the ones from the store- even more so because you can fill them with anything you want. PB&J or honey? Of course! But how about ham and cheese, turkey and guacamole, or even Nutella and strawberries? When you make your own you can get creative and end up with something WAY more interesting than what you can get pre-made and the price tag is far more manageable.

To get started, you’ll have to make a small investment: at least one pocket sandwich cutter (as opposed to cutters that just cut shapes). You’ve probably seen them at the store, jumping out at you from hangers in the condiment or bread aisles. Or perhaps you’ve seen them on bento or home chef sites. Here are the two I have:

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The metal cutter is a gift from my BFF and will run anywhere from $4.00 (on EBay) to about $20 (from Pampered Chef on Amazon). This has lasted me about 3 years so far and I expect to be using this for years to come. The plastic square cutter was $1.00 from Dollar Tree. It works well, but is starting to curl along the edges from being pushed down to cut the crusts off of sandwiches. I use fairly sturdy wheat bread instead of mostly air white bread, so the cutter has some work to do. It will probably only last another year or two. It’s up to you which you use, but I would recommend getting the best quality cutter you can manage.

Let’s make some sandwiches! Zachariah is still staunchly against cold meat sandwiches, so he gets PB&J or PB&H. **This is important: if you’re going to make a PB&J or PB&H sandwich that’s going to have to sit for more than about 20 minutes, you need to put a protective layer on both slices of bread or the jelly or honey will seep through. That’s terribly unappetizing! You can use either a thin layer of peanut butter on the top slice or, even tastier, a thin layer of softened butter. (Trust me on this: try the butter!)

The classic Uncrustable combination:

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Liliana & Gloriana love them some ham sammiches, but Liliana has to have cheese but no mayonnaise and Gloriana has to have hers with mayonnaise but no cheese. They’re twins but definitely their own people 🙂

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To make pocket sandwiches of any kind you’ll have to be careful that you put all of the ingredients within the shape that will be made after you’ve used the cutter. If it helps, you can press the cutter very lightly into the bottom slice of bread to get a faint outline to use as a guide. Also, make sure you don’t over fill the sandwich or the top slice of bread will burst open when you press down on the cutter. As you can see, these sandwiches didn’t turn out perfect like they usually do. I tried a different brand of bread and it obviously isn’t going to work for these because it isn’t quite as soft as it needs to be. But that’s ok; you live and learn. I’ll go back to the bread I was using 🙂 Once you’ve made a few pocket sandwiches you’ll have a feeling for where things need to be placed and in what amounts.

These are just the super basic models; use whatever your kids love or get creative and have some fun. And happy new school year, ready or not!

I haven’t published since November. That is just astonishing to me. On one hand, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. But on the other hand, some pretty huge things have happened since then and it feels like an eternity. My husband was furloughed from the railroad (temporarily laid off and waiting to be called to return) which nearly cost us our house and came very close to ruining us financially. The kids started going to public school again, which was a very good thing but was also a blow to deal with because we had wanted to homeschool for SO long and it just didn’t work for us. In early February I was hospitalized for 3 days with what was thought to be Multiple Sclerosis. I had been having problems for 2 weeks before that and for a month after coming home I had to deal with issues. Ultimately it was decided I don’t have MS yet but we’ll watch it and my symptoms eventually went away on their own. Those are just the big things that have happened since my last post. That’s not even mentioning all of the smaller things that piled up. I wanted to blog, but the give a damn just wasn’t there. That, and I just wasn’t properly cooking as much. Life was kindof in this awful limbo where we all wandered around, waiting to see what would happen.

Then in April my husband was called back to work after 4 months of furlough and it was like the world became light again. We were able to start living again and planning again and looking forward to getting up in the morning again. We all had purpose once again. But blogging still just wasn’t happening. I suppose I felt like there wasn’t really any point because I wasn’t a “famous” blogger. I felt like I didn’t make any difference in the blogoshpere at all and no one really cared about or noticed my little space. But recently I’ve had a few people ask me when I was going to start up again because they missed me. They missed me! Me- the small time hack! That’s when I remembered that I always said I would keep doing this even if it helped just one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen. So here I am, back in the saddle. But I’m starting with a trail ride instead of a fox hunt 🙂

I’m sure that, despite my extended absence, most of you will recall my preference for homemade pudding over the boxed stuff (like here and here). But I found this little gem a few years back in one magazine or another while waiting for the kids at the dentist’s office (it might have been the family mag that Disney puts out) and knew I had to try it. It’s insanely easy and who doesn’t seem to always have a box of pudding or two hanging out in their pantry? Here is the very basic group of ingredients:

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That’s it! This recipe can be as simple as just 4 ingredients. I like to add kiwis, grapes, and apple, but I had none of those on hand when the kids asked me to make this last week. The bananas were also about 1-2 days too ripe, but it still worked out fine.

I don’t have step by step photo directions for this one because there’s only three steps: chop anything that needs chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, drain the mandarin oranges (but NOT the pineapple!!), and then mix all the ingredients. That’s all there is to it! I do have some tips that the original recipe didn’t include though:

  1. To be able to eat this salad at it’s best, make sure you give it at least 2 hours to sit in the fridge because the pudding mix needs time to soak up the pineapple juice and get smooth. It will be grainy for awhile and tastes fine, but the texture isn’t great. So give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Mix the pineapple and pudding mix together before adding the rest of the fruit. For some reason if you try to just stir everything together the pudding mix will get lumpy.
  3. If you want to eat this the same day and have it be cold like it’s supposed to be, make sure the pineapple and the oranges are cold before you mix everything.

Once you’ve got everything mixed up and chilled this is what you get:

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Is that a cheerful looking bowl of fruit?! It’s a little on the saucy side because I didn’t have the kiwis, grapes, and apples to add, but the kids didn’t mind a bit 😉 This is also a great fruit salad to make during the winter when the majority of fruits aren’t in season and you can only get your hands on canned fruit.

So there it is: my first post in half a year. It feels good! I may not be famous, and I may not have thousands of followers across the world, but I do have those that like what I do and enjoy stopping by my little corner of the internet. To those who fit that description, thank you- from the bottom of my heart.

The Recipe:

1 Small (3.4 ounce) Box Vanilla Pudding (Lemon works nicely too)

1 Can (20 ounces) Pineapple Tidbits WITH the juice

1 Can (15 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained

2 Medium-Large Bananas, Ripe (but with only a few spots of brown), Peeled and Diced to 1/2 Inch Dice

Optional Fruits, all diced to about 1/2 inch and in a quantity to match the bananas:

Apples

Kiwis

Grapes

Strawberries

The Method:

*Chill the canned fruits.

*In a bowl big enough to hold all the fruits, combine the pudding mix and the undrained pineapple tidbits until no lumps remain.

*Add in the rest of the diced fruits and stir to coat.

*Cover the salad with plastic wrap actually touching the surface to prevent the bananas from browning too much.

*Chill at least 2 hours.

*Eat within 2-3 days.

This week’s recipe is rather a show stopper. Especially when you tell people what it is. I have to smile at people’s reactions when I tell them I’ve made a FIVE POUND apple pie. There’s always the stop-to-make-sure-they-heard-that-right face and then the “Wow!” as they let it sink in. I have fun “wowing” people with my food 🙂 Yes; a full 5 pounds of apples go into this pie. It’s my special pie. The one I make when I want to perform a true culinary labor of love for someone. This pie takes the better part of half a day to make- more if you make the pie crust yourself. DO NOT let that put you off! The majority of that time is cooking, cooling, and baking time. Making the pie is really easy; it’s just that the preparation takes time. But sometimes the very best things take a lot of time…

Start with a whole bunch of apples and a few other ingredients:

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Now, the original recipe that this idea came from had a whole convoluted list of steps- most of them unnecessary. I’m not sure if the lady was just trying to make it sound like she was positively slaving away over the pie to get a pat on the back or if she really, truly thought that making a pie had to be that difficult. People tend to think that pie making is complicated, but it really isn’t. In fact, a pie is one of the very simplest things to bake. There’s no raising of dough or tiptoeing around the house because  you don’t want what’s in the oven to fall. You make the filling, make the crust if you don’t want to buy one (another process that’s touted as difficult, but that’s another post), put the former into the latter, and bake until done. So, while this particular recipe has a couple of extra steps compared to a “regular” apple pie, I’ve simplified this process to be as easy as it can get. In that vein, let’s get started!

The first step is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Make sure you have a big bowl of acidulated water for your apples to go into so they don’t rust (turn brown). All that means is water with acid in it. If you have lemon juice, use that. Orange or lime juice works too. If you don’t have any of those, you can use apple cider vinegar. For 2 liters of water use a tablespoon of whichever acid you happen to have on hand. So, I peeled and cored my apples- cutting them into halves so I could use a melon baller to cut the core out…

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But I totally cheated with the slicing part. I’ve wanted a food processor for YEARS. As in, since I left home at 19. I’m 36 as of this writing. So when I found an insanely wonderful deal on the food processor I’ve wanted since I first saw it, I went to my husband and asked pretty please. Being the wonderful man and biggest fan of my food that he is, he said yes! So today, for the first time, I used my beautiful, brand new Kitchenaid food processor!

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That is absolutely a dream come true. Yes; I’m a food nerd. I accept that. 🙂

So now that the apples are sliced and ready, the hardest part of making the filling is over! Drain the apples well and put the whole batch into a frying pan or pot big enough to hold them along with the butter, sugar, and spices.

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Cook them until they are just beginning to soften. You want them to have plenty of crunch left, but they should be partially cooked.

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Once the apples are cooked enough, turn off the heat and take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Make sure you drain as much of the liquid off of them as you can. Put the apples slices into a colander over a bowl (or, in my case, the pasta insert that goes into my stock pot) and set it aside while we deal with the leavings in the pan.

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We’re going to cook this down into what amounts to caramel. Don’t panic; this step is very easy, it just takes some time. Turn the burner back on and bring the apple liquid to a fast boil.

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Give this a stir every couple of minutes and continue to cook at a fast boil until the liquid begins to thicken. Check the bowl that the apples are over a couple of times to add any more collected liquid into the pan. Thickening the liquid can take upwards of 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

This is pretty much there:

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At this point you should stay with the pan, stirring continuously. Lower the heat a bit so that you get a steady boil instead of a fast boil. You’re looking for larger bubbles that are a little slower to pop. Keep cooking and stirring until you end up with the consistency of the caramel topping you would put over ice cream.

Now you can turn the heat off (so the caramel doesn’t burn) and add the vanilla and heavy cream…

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Turn the heat back up to medium low and boil the caramel until it’s nice and thick again. You should be able to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan and leave a nice clean path:

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Add the apples back into the pan and discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl under them. Stir the apples to coat them in the caramel and let the pan sit until the apples are at room temperature. You’ll need to stir them every 4 or 5 minutes to keep the cooling process going. You’ll notice that the apples have quite a bit of liquid in them again and that’s ok. We can fix that:

IMG_20151117_122356142Cornstarch to the rescue! Once the apples are at room temperature, sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespooons of cornstarch. Stir the apples well to mix the cornstarch into the liquid and you’re set! The sauce will be very cloudy, but that will clear up once it’s cooked.

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Do not, I repeat: DO NOT try to add the cornstarch while the apples are hot!! Anyone who has tried to make gravy by adding cornstarch directly to the hot drippings and broth can tell you that doing so will only end in gluey lumps of cornstarch. So do yourself a favor and wait until the apples are cooled to add the cornstarch.

Before the pie is assembled, mix up the egg wash. This is what you’ll brush over the top of the pie to give it that nice, shiny top crust that you find in restaurants. You can mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, but using heavy cream instead will give you a slightly thicker, and much richer wash. Take my advice: use the cream.

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Mix the cream and the egg VERY well; you don’t want streaks of egg white on top of your pie.

Now put your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the apples to it. I like to mound them slightly in the middle; it gives the pie a very classic shape and, since the apples are already cooked, you don’t have to worry about them getting cooked all the way through or the apples shrinking as the pie bakes, leaving a disappointing hollow cavern under the crust.

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Take your top crust and put it over the pie pan, crimping the edges to seal the top and bottom crust together.

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I do a simple roll under and crimp, but if you want to do something fancier, have at it. The pie will be all the more impressive for it!

The next step is to brush on the egg wash. You don’t want it pooling all over the place, but do brush the egg wash on with a fairly heavy hand.

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With a sharp knife, cut some vents into the top. You could cut shapes, but I stick with simple, classic slits. Just make sure you vent the pie somehow, or the top crust won’t survive and the steam won’t be able to escape and you’ll have runny filling.

Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or put a pie shield on it and into the oven it goes at 400 degrees. My pies usually take a total of 70-80 minutes, but that will vary by oven. After the first 40 minutes, check the pie. It should still be fairly light but beginning to brown. Go ahead and uncover the edges and continue baking it. At the one hour mark check it again. It should be browning well now and you should be getting a little bit of bubbling from the filling. For the pie to be done, it needs to be uniformly browned and the filling needs to boil for at least 10 minutes.

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Isn’t that a beautiful color?! That deep, rich, glossy color comes from the egg wash. The crust would be dull and pale without it- not unlike the pre-egg wash photo above. My crust buckled a bit, though, and I can tell you why: I made the mistake of making the top crust too tight. I know; it sounds funny, but it’s true. I didn’t make sure the middle had enough dough before crimping the outside. I should have laid my crust over the top, run my hands over the mound in the middle, and then crimped the edge. The crust shrank as it baked (naturally), so it separated. It really doesn’t matter though; I’m not entering it into a beauty contest and the taste far outweighs any homeliness the pie may posses!

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This is not a super sweet, gloopy, apple-esqe flavored pie. The sauce to fruit ratio is very nearly perfect and the flavor is absolutely, without a doubt APPLE. At least 95% of the filling you see above is actual, honest to God fruit- not some fruit flavored, sugary gel with a few pieces of apple in it. This is a prime example of everything an apple pie should be. And once you’ve tasted it, you may never want a piece of any other kind of apple pie again. And that’s ok; you know how to make your own now! So go ahead; make this pie and wow your family and friends. I think you’ll find it just as fun as I do 😉

The Recipe:

5 Lbs Apples (Honeycrisp or similar firm fleshed, sweet-tart apple)

6 T Butter (salted is preferred, but unsalted will work too)

1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 White Sugar (add extra if the apples are too tart)

1 t Cinnamon

Large Pinch Nutmeg

1/4 C + 1 T Heavy Cream, Divided

1 t Vanilla

3-4 T Cornstarch

1 Egg

2 Ready Made Pie Crusts or Enough dough to make a double crust pie

The Method:

*Fill a very large bowl about halfway with cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon, lime, or orange. OR add 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar.

*Peel, core, and slice the apples to about 1/8 inch, keeping them in the water as much as possible to prevent rusting.

*In a pot or frying pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium high heat.

*Add the apples, sugars, and spices and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. The apples should be starting to cook through but still have plenty of crunch.

*Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a colander or other strainer set over a bowl.

*Bring the liquid from the apples to a fast boil and hold it there, periodically adding any accumulated liquid from the bowl under the strainer.

*Once the liquid begins to thicken, lower the heat until you get a moderate boil; the bubbles should be a bit larger and pop more slowly than before. Hold this boil until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of the caramel sauce that goes over ice cream.

*Shut the burner off at this point and add the vanilla and the 1/4 C of heavy cream.

*Turn the burner back onto medium low and boil the caramel until it is once again thickened as in the last step.

*Take the pan off the heat and stir in the apples.

*Cool the mixture to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Sprinkle cornstarch over the filling and mix well to incorporate.

*Whisk the egg and 1 T heavy cream very well and set aside.

*Prepare a 10 inch common depth or 9 inch deep dish pie plate with a bottom crust.

*Pour the filling in and place the top crust over it, making sure to secure it (run your hands over it to smooth it) from the middle outwards before crimping the edges. Make sure the edges are sealed.

*Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the pie. Don’t skimp on this step.

*Cut steam vents into the top crust.

*Wrap the outer edge of the pie plate with foil (make sure it doesn’t rest on the crust) or cover with a pie shield.

*Bake the pie until beginning to brown.

*Remove the foil or shield.

*Bake until uniformly brown and the filling has bubbled for at least 10 minutes. May take 70-80 minutes total bake time.

 

 

 

I’m not really one for food fads. I was tired of the make-every-food-rainbow-colored fad in super short order, the macaron fad got boring pretty quickly, and if I see one more carb dish “made over” with cauliflower (yuck!) I swear I’ll scream. However, I have to say that I am totally on board with the pumpkin trend. Every year I look forward to pumpkin season. Not because I can finally have pumpkin flavored things, because I make those year round. No; I look forward to it because canned pumpkin gets cheaper and I can stock my pantry for the year. And, now that I have my own basement with my own pantry shelves, I plan to go a little stock up crazy. It’s already begun; I have eight 15 ounce cans and three 29 ounce cans of pumpkin on my shelves. And these pancakes are a prefect way to use some of them up!

Start with your basic pancake ingredients, plus pumpkin and spices…

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Basically, all you’re doing is mashing the recipes for pancakes and pumpkin pie together! So combine all of your wet ingredients, including the pumpkin. Oh! I’m hoping that by now you know that you should NEVER crack eggs on the side of a bowl, dish, or pan. Not only can it make a mess, but you’re almost guaranteed to end up with shell in your finished product, and when you bash the shell into the inside of the egg you’re also introducing any bacteria or debris that was on the outside of the egg into the inside- of the egg and then of you! So please; ALWAYS crack your eggs on the counter or another flat surface and pry them apart to empty them.

Ok- you’ve got your wet ingredients well mixed, now combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. The amounts I’m working with here make a large batch- enough to have leftovers to freeze. I got 24 pancakes out of this batch, using 1/3 of a cup of batter for each pancake. You could halve the amounts, but you’d end up with half a can of pumpkin in your fridge and unless you already have an idea of what to make with that, it’s easier (and less wasteful) to just make the full batch. So get your biggest bowl and combine the dry ingredients completely. Make a well in the middle, like so:

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That will make mixing in the wet ingredients easier. You want to make sure everything is incorporated, but not perfectly smooth. If you wanted to add something like nuts or chocolate chips, now is the time to do so. You’ll end up with a big bowl of orange…

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Now drop the batter onto a hot griddle or pan using a 1/3 cup measure. (By the way; that will make nice, big pancakes that are about 3-4 inches across. To make smaller cakes, use a 1/4 cup measure. Or you could make mini pancakes by using a tablespoon measuring spoon.) This is a very thick batter that will result in beautiful, thick, puffy pancakes…

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Cook the pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep golden brown. Remove them to a platter or baking sheet and repeat until you’re out of batter. Then you can serve them up with whatever strikes your fancy! We’re pretty old fashioned in our house;

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Plenty of butter and maple syrup for us! Well, for 3 of us. The girls prefer theirs the way their grandmom taught them to eat pancakes: lots of butter and a light sprinkling of sugar. Either way, these are some of the best pancakes we’ve ever eaten! And if you make the full batch (and your family doesn’t devour all of them at once), you’ll have some left to freeze for later. These warm up easily in the microwave in just a couple of minutes- perfect for busy week day mornings! Even the coldest, dreariest day brightens up a bit when you get to eat pumpkin pie pancakes for breakfast 🙂

The Recipe:

4 C Buttermilk

1 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling)

8 T (one stick) Butter, Melted

4 Eggs

5 C Flour

2/3 C Sugar

2 T Baking Powder

1 t Baking Soda

1 t Salt

4 t Pumpkin Pie Spice (OR a combination of 2 t cinnamon then ginger, nutmeg, and/or cloves to equal 4 t total)

The Method:

*Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Set aside to cool a bit while you see to the other wet ingredients.

*Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, and butter in a small bowl. Stir until completely mixed.

*In a very large bowl, combine the dry ingredients until mixed completely. Make a well in the middle.

*Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the middle of the dry and mix until well blended but not completely smooth (that would overwork the batter).

*Heat an electric griddle to 325 degrees or a pan or stove top griddle over medium heat.

*Drop the batter by 1/3 cup measures (or 1/4 C for smaller cakes, or 1 T for mini cakes) onto the griddle and cook for about 3 minutes.

*Flip the pancakes over and cook another 3-4 minutes or until a deep golden brown.

*Remove the finished pancakes to a platter and continue until you run out of batter.

*Serve immediately or cool completely and freeze in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 2 months.

 

I think most of us know that every region of America has it’s own “signature” dish. Texas has barbecue, New England has clam chowder, California has Mexican in the South and wine country in the north, and the Mid West has fried foods and roasted corn. But how many of you know about the “signature” dishes of the far Northern part of our country? Before I moved to South Dakota I had no clue at all. But I learned quick! South Dakota has chislic: small bites of marinated beef, lamb, or venison, grilled or fried and served with toothpicks and hot sauce to dash on each piece. It was on EVERY menu that didn’t belong to a national chain restaurant and everyone thought theirs was the best, naturally. Minnesota, being heavily Scandinavian, is big on lutefisk (pickled white fish) and other northern European treats. And, of course, Wisconsin has it’s cheese; specifically, fried cheddar cheese curds.  But there’s also a wider ranging dish that is ubiquitous throughout the eastern Dakotas, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin: Hot Dish. Much like any other regional dish you’ll find, every person who makes it has their own rendition of it, all are a favorite of someone, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. The ingredients have surprising variation; some people use ground meat, some use cubed. Some use mashed potatoes on top, many use tater tots, and some even use white or wild rice in their hot dish and forgo the potatoes all together. But they are all known as hot dish because they all consist of meat in some sort of sauce, possibly with veggies mixed in, with some manner of starch, and without fail the dish is in casserole form. It shows up at every single pot luck function in at least one iteration because it’s expected to; it’s not a pot luck if there isn’t hot dish.

Being short on time and ingredients one afternoon, I set out to make my own version. I got the basics together and just started adding things as the ideas came to me. I do that a lot. We were pleasantly surprised with the results and it’s a regular feature in the cold weather menu rotation. Thankfully, I was able to remember what I put in the pan!

The ingredients are very basic and very inexpensive. If you can find a really good deal on ground beef or turkey, it’s even cheaper to make, so it’s also a really good broke food dish 🙂

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Yes; that’s canned cream of mushroom soup. This is a super easy dish that is very budget friendly. If you want to make condensed cream of mushroom from scratch, it will work really well in this recipe and the taste will be phenomenal. But for now, canned is fine.

So brown your ground beef, drain it well, and put it back into the pan you used to cook it. Add the white pepper, onion & garlic powders, the soy & Worcestershire sauces, then the soup. Stir everything together and see what you’ve got. It will be super thick, so we want to thin it out a bit. How much varies; add milk or water until the mixture is the consistency of a stew. I usually end up adding about 1/3 cup of milk but sometimes it’s a little more. Once you have the right consistency, heat the mixture to a boil and then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish. Since I have all stainless steel cookware (which means it’s oven safe) I just spread the mixture evenly in the same pan. Now you can spread the tater tots over the top of the beef mixture. I prefer to use mini tater tots, but use whatever you like or can find.

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Ready for the oven! Put the dish or pan in the oven, uncovered, at 400 degrees until the tater tots are golden brown and crispy on top. Usually that takes about 30 minutes in my oven.

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See how the sauce bubbled up between the tots? That’s how you know it’s cooking properly. If your tots are brown and crispy but the sauce isn’t bubbling, the dish is cooking too fast. Cover it with foil, cook until bubbly, then you can take the foil off and crisp up the tater tots.

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Hearty, tasty goodness that comes together fast! The whole thing is done in about 45 minutes and most of that is baking time. My favorite way to eat this is…

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…with ketchup. This is basically a burger & fries casserole, minus the cheese soup that usually goes into it, so ketchup goes perfectly with it. The rest of the family prefers theirs with BBQ sauce on top; the smoky, sweet flavor it adds is great! Add a salad or some fruit to this and you’ve got a complete meal. Make a double batch and you’ve got an easy offering for the potluck table 🙂

The Recipe:

1 Lb Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 t Onion Powder

1 t Garlic Powder

1/4 t Pepper (I use white for just about everything, but black will work fine too)

1 T Soy Sauce

1 T Worcestershire Sauce

1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/3 (+/-) Milk or Water

Half of a 28 Oz Bag Frozen Tater Tots, or however many it takes to to completely cover the top of the meat mixture (I use mini Tots, but use what you like or can find)

 

The Method:

*Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

*In a medium skillet or high sided oven safe pan, brown the ground meat then drain it well.

*Put the meat back into the pan and add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the milk and the tater tots.

*Mix very well and add milk or water until a stew-like consistency is reached.

*Heat the mixture to boiling then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish (unless you are using an oven safe pan or skillet- then you can leave it where it is).

*Layer the tater tots over the mixture evenly, making sure there are no large gaps.

*Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the tater tots are golden brown and crispy.

*Serve with condiments you would eat on a hamburger, or it’s also quite good plain.