Category: Ground Beef/Turkey

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 šŸ™‚

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


“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.


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:Ā 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 panĀ (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.


*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.Ā A year!!Ā 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 šŸ™‚

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. Ā 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 šŸ™‚


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.


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.


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.


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…


…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 šŸ™‚

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.


So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ā¤

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ā¤

I’ve certainly made no secret of my love for Autumn here on this blog and in life in general. However, that love doesn’t carry over to the sports that come with it. Well, one sport in particular: American football. It’s not that I’m against sports entirely; I’m not. Rugby is awesome, soccer is pretty damn cool, and jai alai just rocks. But American professional football… BLECH!! I despise it. The players are GROSSLY over paid and mostly they’re a bunch of thugs in tight pants made into (undeserving) idols. Thankfully I can pretty much ignore football season. I have several die hard football fan friends on Facebook, but I can either just ignore the posts or hide them if they get too numerous. In fact, I did such a good job of ignoring football the last couple of years that I didn’t even know who was playing in the Superbowl until a day or so before the game! HOWEVER, all that being said, I do have to admit that I like cooking for people who watch football. Cooking fun, comforting food for a group of people is always right up my alley and football watchers definitely require that! So while I know (and care) very little about the rules of the game, I certainly know what the game obsessed like to eat and I enjoy supplying the food they’ll eat and providing a fun atmosphere šŸ™‚

One of the best football watching/fall foods is chili… well, anything really. Chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili nachos, chili mac, the list goes on. You can put chili on just about anything. But this isn’t chili such as you would eat out of a bowl with some cornbread on the side. Actually, I don’t care for that chili much. I think it’s the cumin- I’ve never really liked cumin as a defining flavor. That’s the version of chili you find in the Western US. What I like is the Eastern US’s version of chili: no beans, no cumin, and it’s usually served over spaghetti (look up “chili 5 way” and you’ll find an interesting meal!). This chili is more of a condiment than a meal in itself. And it’s incredibly easy to make. (You can also make this in the crock pot, but I’m doing the stove top version. I’ll put the crock pot directions below.) We’ll start with what you probably already have on hand…


See? I bet you don’t even have to run to the store for any of that, do you? I love it when that happens! Oh- and I can hear you now “The Humble Food Snob is BUYING garlic in a jar?!?! Isn’t that contrary to what you’ve been saying all along about knife skills and economy?!” Sigh… Yes; it is. Under normal circumstances, I disdain jarred garlic. But under normal circumstances I have access to great garlic at one store or another. Large heads of garlic with nice big cloves and no green shoots in the center… what a fond memory. And that’s all it is; a memory. Because in my current locale, all that’s available at the 2 grocery stores are tiny heads of garlic about 3/4 the size of an egg with pathetic little cloves that are more work than they’re worth to peel. AND every head I’ve purchased so far has been growing already, which means I have to dissect the tiny cloves to remove the bitter shoots. So until I can grow my own garlic, I will be buying jarred garlic. Thankfully they offer it at a decent price here.

Anyway… You may notice that the amounts in this picture and the amounts in the recipe below don’t jive. I know that. I went from a normal sized freezer plus a stand alone freezer to store things in at my last residence, to just a tiny freezer in a small, 30 year old fridge. That means it’s also got an inch of frost taking up room. Is being in our own home and away from the awful situation we were in worth it? A thousand times YES!! Does it mean I have to change the way I do some things? Yes again. And that’s ok. So instead of the full batch I’m making a half batch. (And incidentally, a recipe I found that helped inspire this makes double what’s below! šŸ˜® )

So brown your ground beef. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, but you’ll need to make sure there is about half a cup of fat of one kind or another to soak up the flour to make the roux. It can be olive or vegetable oil, or you could use bacon fat- that would be a great addition! While the meat is browning, dice your onion. Don’t drain your meat. Like I said; you’ll need the fat. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft- about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. You want the flour to cook but not burn. It should look almost like there is no flour:


Now you can add the water and the tomato sauce. I usually add the sauce first and then put the water in the can and swish it around to get the last traces of the sauce out of the can. Why waste it? Along with the water and tomato sauce, add the spices. Give it a good stir, and you’ve got this:


Put a tight fitting lid on this and bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, lower the heat until it’s at a slow simmer, replace the lid, and go do something else for awhile. You’ll need to come back and stir the pot about twice an hour, but other than that you’ve got 2 hours to kill. I’d suggest watching something with Robin Williams in it. Never forget what it feels like to laugh with your whole body and soul- the world needs more of that. The Birdcage is my particular favorite of his šŸ™‚

Once 2 hours have ticked by, take the lid off, give the pot another stir, and let the chili simmer for about an hour without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes or so. It may take a little more or less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it. You want to end up with a chili that is very thick.


I know; it doesn’t LOOK a whole lot different. But it has reduced by about two thirds to half. Go ahead and give it a taste and adjust the salt and/or pepper. Don’t add too much pepper though- now is when you add the red pepper flakes if you want a milder chili. If you’re looking for spicy chili, add the red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices before you simmer the pot.

I was supposed to have a wonderful money shot for this post: A plate with hot dogs smothered in chili with melty cheese on top. But then I went and landed myself in the urgent care. I’ll be ok. But it cost me my blog picture. So sadly, I do not have a great shot of this tasty chili in action. But I do have a tip for freezing the leftovers. Here you go:


I prefer to have thinner, wrapped packages of food that I can stack several packages high instead of plastic containers that limit my storage and break when I inevitably drop one. So I line plastic food storage containers with plastic wrap and divide the (completely cooled) food into them. Each of these containers will make one meal’s worth of chili dogs.


Put these in the freezer, come back in a couple of hours, lift the sides of the plastic to remove, wrap the food, and you’re good to go! I usually do 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, like so:


Make sure you mark the package with the contents and the date it was made. That way you don’t have to unwrap your packages and try to guess what’s in them.

So there you go: a jumping off point for lots of hearty recipes to get you through the fall and winter; from watching sports on TV to tail gating to coming in off the slopes or the sled hills.

As promised, Here is what you need to do to make this chili in a crock pot (slow cooker):

– Brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, and add/cook the flour as described above.

– Transfer the mixture to the crock of the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.

– Remember to not add the red pepper flakes until after cooking unless you want SPICY chili.

– Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

-Here’s the caveat to making this chili in the slow cooker: you need to let it cook with the lid off for about the last hour, just like the stove top version. And you need to stir it a few times. When it’s the consistency you want you can take it out. This is a deal breaker for some, because they want whatever is in the slow cooker to be ready when they get home from work or wherever. If that’s the case, I’d advise making it on a day off and reheating what you have set aside. You can’t tell it’s been reheated, so it’s not a problem.

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Ground Beef

2 Onions, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 C + 1 T All Purpose Flour

29 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce

8 Oz. Water

2 t Salt

2 t Seasoned Salt

2 t Pepper (Black or White, doesn’t matter)

1/4 C Chili Powder (don’t let the amount scare you- it’s not really spicy at all)

1/3 C Sugar

1 t (or to taste) Red Pepper Flakes (this is what will make it spicy)

The Method:

*In a large soup or stock pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain!

*Add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes, until the onions are fragrant and soft.

*Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cooking 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the roux burn!

*Add the tomato sauce and the water, swishing the water in the sauce can to get the remnants out.

*Stir in the spices (adding the red pepper flakes now only if you want spicy chili).

*Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.

*Stir, lower the heat to a slow simmer, replace the cover and cook 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times per hour.

*Uncover the pot and continue to slowly simmer for about an hour, until the chili is very thick.

*Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed.

*If you haven’t added them before now, stir the red pepper flakes in.

Edited on September 2, 2013 to correct the measurement for red wine vinegar. It was brought to myĀ attentionĀ that the measurement I had down was incorrect and too much for the recipe. I am more sorry than I could ever convey for this mistake. I take cooking incredibly seriously and this is paramount to treason against my readers. Please forgive me.Ā 

“American” food is, for the most part, a myth. Every summer you hear the cliche “as American as apple pie” and people start drooling over “American” foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries. I’m sorry, but apple pie started out as the French apple tarte tatin, hot dogs and hamburgers are both German, and french fries are Belgian. And that is just the tip of theĀ icebergĀ when it comes to foods we’ve turned into what Americans recognize and claim as our own today. However I’m not saying this is a bad thing. My favorite pie is apple, I love fresh french fries (dipped in roasted garlic aioli), and burgers & dogs on the grill- count me in! My point is there are precious few things that we, as Americans, can trulyĀ claimĀ as our own. To find something truly American we have to look at BBQ. Yes, it started with buccaneers andĀ barbacoa over a fire on the beach in theĀ Caribbean.Ā Ā But really that’s only related to our BBQ in a very vague way. (Kind of like you and your 4th cousin, twice removed; you’re related but it takes pen, paper, and an hour to figure out exactly how.) I can think of nothing else that is so ingrained in- and defining of- our culture and yet has a culture all it’s own. You can go anywhere in our country and invite someone to a BBQ and they not only know what you’re talking about but they will have a preconceived notion of what will happen and how it will taste. Everyone loves BBQ- some so much so that they makeĀ theirĀ living doing it. So while we can’t legitimately claim most of our “American” foods, we can claim one of the most popular activities/food categories/cultures in the world. And the most important part of that culture- the thing that is most highly prized and guarded- is BBQ sauce. There are people crazy enough to injureĀ friendsĀ & family over sauce recipes. I am not one of thoseĀ people… anymore šŸ˜‰ So here is my BBQ sauce recipe. Sauce so good my daughters would eat it on their cereal in the morning if I’d let them. Sauce so good my husband will sit with a hunk of cheese and dip slices in it. Sauce so good my dad would happily eat it with a spoon if my mom would let him. Sauce so good that your friends and family will beg for the recipe. Whether or not they survive that encounter I will leave up to you šŸ˜‰

Do not let the somewhat large collection of ingredients scare you! It’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks! Most of these things you probably already have in your pantry. If you don’t, buy them for this recipe and you will be amazed at all the uses you will find for them. But even if you don’t find another use, you’ll have them on hand for this sauce and that’s all that matters! A note: I didn’t realize the brown sugar was going to look like that until after I was done with the recipe and I was going through the pictures. Sigh. So the little plastic corners that are sticking out behind Kroger spices is the brown sugar. Pitiful. Lesson learned. Moving on!


Yes, there is aĀ fairĀ number of ingredients. But all you have to do with most of them is dump them in a pan. This recipe is so ridiculously easy that you will kick yourself for having ever bought BBQ sauce. You may even be mad that the major companies have the nerve to charge so much for bottled sauce with an obscene list of ingredients that you may or may not be able to pronounce. But it’s ok- that’s all behind you now because you’re making your own from now on!

The only real prep work in this recipe is the garlic. The first couple of times I made this sauce I tried mincing the garlic very fine with my chef’s knife. It worked, but I did still end up with a few little hunks of garlic. Not a bad thing really, but I was going for a nice, smoothĀ consistency. So I now use the garlic mangler- known to most of you as a garlic press. Normally I hate garlic presses. They do nothing for your knife skills and they are a nightmare to actually get clean unless you have a brush that can get into the holes. But for me the mangler (press) works best for this recipe so I’ll let go of the anger for now šŸ˜‰ So mangle your garlic and cook it over low heat in about 2 teaspoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Cook the garlic for about a minute- you only want to get the raw strongness (ha- I just made up a word!) out of it. After a minute add the tomato sauce and the ketchup to stop the garlic cooking. Then you can add the rest of the ingredients as you open the containers. It really is that simple. You end up with something that looks nothing like BBQ sauce:


Yeah. Nothing like BBQ sauce. But not to worry! It will get there! Yes, there are clumps of spices. Those will work themselves apart, I promise! Take note of where your sauce level starts out. Put the pan over medium low heat (maybe aĀ scoscheĀ lower) and simmer until the sauce reduces by half. It will be thick, rich, smooth (mostly), and glossy. Like this…



Aside from the tinyĀ chunkĀ of garlic, does that not look like the sauce you get from theĀ store? The taste though… it’s out of this world. Truly. You will never go back to store bought sauce after this. I know I never will!

A tip: Make this sauce at least 24 hours before you need it.Ā TechnicallyĀ it’s edible the same day but the vinegar flavor will be very strong and the spices will not have had enough time toĀ permeateĀ the sauce. The longer this stuff sits the better it tastes!

The Recipe:

2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced

2 t Oil of Choice

1 C Ketchup

1 C Tomato Sauce

1/2 C + 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/3 C + 1 T Red Wine Vinegar

Ā¼ C Unsulfured Molasses

2 t Liquid Smoke

1/4 t Garlic powder

1/4 t Onion Powder

1/8 t Chili Powder

1/2 t Paprika

1/8 t Celery Seed

1/4 t Cinnamon

1 t Salt

1/2 – 1 t White Pepper (I use the full 1 teaspoon and honestly the sauce isn’t that spicy)

The Method:

Mince the garlic extremely fine or put through a garlic press. Saute over medium low heat for one minute. Add the ketchup and tomato sauce, then the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over medium low or low heat until reduced by half, stirring frequently.

I always double this recipe and it fills a quart canning jar with a little bit left over. The measurements here will fill a pint jar with some left over. Store in the fridge. (Since I perfected this recipe I’ve only made double batches because everyone loves it so much it neverĀ lastsĀ long!)

*Note* If you look at the date of this post and read the post itself you may be confused. I posted this around the holidays (the post’s original date was 12-14-11) and have moved it here from Blogger. Hence the discrepancy. Sorry for any confusion*
One of my favorite things to do while grocery shopping has always been to walk the aisles looking for prepackaged foods I can make better myself. In fact my husband makes a point of looking for prepackaged foods that look really good in the picture and letting me know so I can recreate them for him with results that will NEVER come out of the box at the store. This paid off big time about 10 years ago in the form of my Taco Bake. I walked into the “ethnic” section and found, advertised in an obnoxious box, a Taco Bell meal kit for a kind of taco casserole. I thought “I cannot believe anyone would pay that much for this crap. I can do that WAY better and much cheaper”. As it turns out I say that at least 2 or 3 times every time I walk into a grocery store. However, I digress. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made in the 17 years I’ve been cooking. It’s almost as easy as making a PB&J sandwich so anyone can do it- seriously. That being the case I realized this morning while I was putting it together for Ron to put in the oven this afternoon while I’m gone that this is a great recipe for the holiday season. No- not for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table, but for the dinner table on those nights that you’re exhausted from all the holiday hubbub. Those holiday times where you’ve just baked 12 dozen cookies and don’t want to spend more than an extra 30 minutes in the kitchen making dinner. Or those days that you’ve spent the last 6 hours battling other shoppers for the items on your Christmas list and just want to come home & do the least amount of prep possible but still enjoy a hot, filling, wonderful dinner. Those are the days this casserole is best for. You can even make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge or freezer to pop in the oven. This is also one of those times that I told you about that I will use canned, prepared ingredients to make something wonderful :.) You can also add whatever you like to it. You like black olives? Throw in some sliced black olives. Green chiles? Sure! (But be careful because you’ve already got the salsa and the Salsa Con Queso.) Corn kernels? Sounds lovely! I make the plain version because that’s what we like for this dish. But feel free to jazz it up however you like.
Now, the idea of this dish being good for the holiday season occurred to me while I was already in the assembly process so I don’t have that great of a shot of the ingredients but I did my best.
The empty baking pan is in this shot to remind me to tell you that you HAVE to spray, grease, or otherwise lubricate the baking dish before you assemble everything. If you don’t you will NEVER get the food out of the dish. It will stick so bad you may have to contemplate just throwing the baking dish away. I know this from experience. Trust me. So when you think you have enough cooking spray in the dish, spray it a little more & move on to assembly. And in the bowl is a mixture of refried beans and salsa. Once again, sorry- I didn’t think of blogging this particular recipe until I was ready to put everything together in the pan.
Spread 2 of the tortillas with enough cheese sauce to create an even layer- about 2 tablespoons. Spread 1/3 of the bean/salsa mixture over that. Sprinkle 1/3 of your taco meat over the beans and finish with about half to 3/4 of a cup of cheese. There should be a decent layer of cheese but you should be able to clearly see the ingredients below it. I like cheese as much as the next person but this is a lasagna. If you put too much cheese between the layers you’ll just end up with a mess when you go to serve it. Now, make 2 more layers like this one and you’re done. That’s it. It’s ready to go in the oven. It really is the easiest Mexican you’ll ever make. And after about half an hour in the oven this is what you’ll end up with…
Oh-and a house that smells absolutely AMAZING! And the leftovers taste just as good as when it came out of the oven. I’ve actually made this just to have the leftovers in the fridge for lunches. It’s THAT good!
The recipe
6 Large Flour Tortillas (you can use any flavor you like but I just use the plain ones I buy at Sam’s)
About half a jar of Salsa Con Queso (you may not need that much but make sure you have it)
1 Can Refried Beans (any fat content you like. Any variety works)
3/4 C Salsa (any kind you like)
One 1-pound batch of prepared Taco Meat (I use the reduced sodium seasoning mix)
2 1/4 C Shredded Cheese (any kind you like. I use the Mexican Blend for just about everything)
The Method
*Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish.
*Spread 2 of the tortillas with about 2 T on each of the Salsa Con Queso, place in the bottom of the dish.
*Spread 1/3 of the bean & salsa mixture over the tortillas.
*Sprinkle 1/3 of the taco meat over the beans.
*Sprinkle about 3/4 C of the cheese over that.
*Repeat, making 2 more layers, 3 total.
*Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the bean mixture is bubbly and cheese is starting to brown on top.
*Let sit for at least 10 minutes before you serve or you may end up with burns to the mouth!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years! I’m hoping to get our Christmas cookie recipes on here before Christmas but it may or may not happen. So if not, may you have a beautiful, blessed Christmas!