Baked Potato

Baked potatoes are a cheap and easy side dish or main meal. However, I especially like a baked potato with the skin slightly crunchy. It was only about five years ago that I figured out how to get the skin crunchy instead of steamed and soggy.

First, clean your baking potato with a vegetable brush. Place the baking potato directly on the oven rack. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Baking potato–cleaned and oven ready

It is not necessary to preheat the oven before placing the potato in the oven. I happen to have a husband who indulges me with the best kitchen equipment I’ll use. I refer to my oven as a “magic oven” because I can set the baking temperature, cooking time, and delay the start time. Usually, I will place the potatoes in the oven before I leave for work in the morning. I set the oven to start baking about an hour before I anticipate dinner time.

If I’m home around 30 minutes into the baking time, I turn the potatoes over. If not, I don’t worry about it. Remove your potatoes from the oven after about an hour. They will be be soft if you squeeze them. Load them up with your favorite toppings. I usually top mine with steamed broccoli or asparagus and cheese.

Baked potato with broccoli and queso

My husband likes LOTS of bacon and butter. In reality, the choice of toppings are endless–pulled pork, taco meat, cubed chicken, chili…

Baked potato

Pasta in a Hurry

When I know I’m going to be pressed for time getting dinner on the table (because of a meeting that will undoubtedly last longer than scheduled), I go to the freezer for help. On this occasion, I found a package of tortellini, some pesto and a chicken-feta sausage. I took it out of the freezer the night before.

tortellini, chicken-feta sausage, and pesto
tortellini, chicken-feta sausage, and pesto

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Stick the sausage in a skillet and brown it. Toss the tortellini with the pesto.

Pesto Tortellini with Sausage
Pesto Tortellini with Sausage

Serve with the sausage.

Baked Meatballs

Meatballs are wonderful to make because if you make lots of them, you can freeze some for later use. Therefore, the reward for your effort continues for a long time. This recipe is a slight variation from Alton Brown’s recipe. Alton coats them a final time in bread crumbs before baking them. However, I decided that last step didn’t add enough pizzazz for me to put out the effort.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 10 oz of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze out the excess liquid from the spinach. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Knead the mixture until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Baked Meatball mixture
Baked Meatball mixture

Using a spoon, shape the meatballs about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Raw Meatball
Raw Meatball

Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.

Baked Meatballs--ready for the oven
Baked Meatballs–ready for the oven

Then turn the meatballs and bake for another 15-20 minutes until they register 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Baked Meatballs
Baked Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

I really love Alton Brown’s knowledge of food and food chemistry, so I encourage you to use explore his website. This is one of 3 recipes that I use from him. His recipe includes directions for making the gravy. Of course, I’ve made a few adjustments, but not many. This is a recipe that you should double and freeze all your extras. Remember, meatballs can be easily thawed for a quick dinner on hectic evenings.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Place the bread in a small bowl and pour the milk over the bread.

Soaking the bread in milk
Soaking the bread in milk

Let the bread soak in the milk while you saute the onion in the butter and olive oil.

Sauteing the onions
Sauteing the onions

Mix the soaked bread until it is a mushy glob.

Bread soaked in milk
Bread soaked in milk

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

Swedish Meatball ingredients
Swedish Meatball ingredients

Knead the ingredients until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Swedish Meatball mixture
Swedish Meatball mixture

Use a small spoon to help you shape the mixture into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Raw Swedish Meatball
Raw Swedish Meatball

Place on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.

Swedish meatballs
Swedish meatballs

Drain the meatballs on a paper towel. Serve with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce or lingonberry jam.

Swedish Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans, and a Dinner Roll
Swedish Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans, and a Dinner Roll

Basil-Balsamic Pork Chops

This recipe is an attempt to recreate a recipe from the days when I went to Super Suppers for many of my meals. This recipe is intended to be enough to stick in your freezer and pull out when desired to defrost for dinner. However, since this is the season for grilling, you might just want to have friends over and stick these on the grill.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 lbs pork chops
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  •  2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

DIRECTIONS

Place the pork chops in a shallow dish.

Pork chops
Pork chops

Mix together, remaining ingredients for the marinade.

Basil-Balsamic marinade
Basil-Balsamic marinade

Pour the marinade over the pork chops.

Pork chops with marinade
Pork chops with marinade

Refrigerate overnight or store in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Grill until the pork shops have an internal  temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Or bake in the oven at t 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes until the  internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Middle Eastern Stuffed Squash

This recipe is inspiration from a vendor at the farmers’ market. He had some small round zucchini and yellow squash. Well, maybe they are called something else, but they look like zucchini and yellow squash. In fact, a zucchini or yellow squash could be cut lengthwise and stuffed with this same filling. He told me his wife hollowed them out and stuffed them, so I decided to give it a try with a  Middle Eastern flair. Feel free to substitute some browned extra-firm tofu for the ground beef to make this vegan.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 lb cooked ground beef  or 7 oz. extra-firm tofu, browned and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  •  3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup zucchini center
  • 4 round squash
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

NIGHT BEFORE

Place the bulgur in a small sauce pan with the 2/3 cup of vegetable broth.

uncooked bulgur in vegetable broth
uncooked bulgur in vegetable broth

Bring to a boil. Simmer for about 1-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Brown the ground beef. Cut the tops off the squash.

squash with tops removed
squash with tops removed

Hollow out the center of the squash using a spoon.

Hollowed out squash
Hollowed out squash

In a skillet saute the onion, bell pepper and about a cup of the squash flesh that was scooped out.

sauteing the vegetables
sauteing the vegetables

Add the ground beef bulgur, allspice, cumin, salt, and pepper.

ingredients for stuffing mixture
ingredients for stuffing mixture

Mix together for the stuffing.

stuffing mixture
stuffing mixture

Place the squash in a casserole dish. Fill the squash with the stuffing mixture. Mix together the tomato paste, cup of vegetable broth, and garlic powder.

tomato paste mixture
tomato paste mixture

Spoon the tomato paste mixture over and around the squash.

squash with tomato paste mixture
squash with tomato paste mixture

Cover the casserole dish. Refrigerate until ready to bake.

BEFORE SERVING

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the covered casserole dish in the oven and bake for an hour.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Squash
Middle Eastern Stuffed Squash

Serve hot.

Black Bean Patty

Here’s a veggie burger to serve your vegetarian or vegan friends at your next cook-out. My husband, the meat-eater, even said he’d like this if I don’t call it a burger. For him “burger” implies meat. Therefore, it’s just a patty and you can choose whether or not it becomes your “burger.” Since these freeze well, you need not be afraid of making too many.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup TVP
  • 1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • dash hot sauce
  • dash Worcestershire sauce (Read the ingredient list carefully or make your own if you are a strict vegetarian. Most brands contain anchovies.)

NIGHT BEFORE

Place ingredients in a food processor and blend until it becomes the consistency of a thick batter.

Ingredients for bean patties in the food processor
Ingredients for bean patties in the food processor

Spoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in circular shapes about the diameter of a hamburger bun.

Bean patties ready for the refrigerator
Bean patties ready for the refrigerator

Place in the refrigerator overnight.

BEFORE SERVING

Remove the bean patties from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the patties and return to the oven to bake another 15-20 minutes.

Bean patties coming out of the oven
Bean patties coming out of the oven

Let rest for about 10 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

Black Bean Patty--ready to serve
Black Bean Patty–ready to serve

Tacos

Tacos are a quick easy meal if you keep some cooked ground beef in your freezer. I found this recipe for taco seasoning that I like. I actually have not only used it with ground beef, but I also used it for vegetarian tacos. I’ll describe both versions below.

TACO SEASONING INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix ingredients together and store in an air tight container. Shake the mixture before using.

BEEF TACOS

  • 2 pounds ground beef, browned
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning

OR

VEGETARIAN TACOS

  • 1-14 oz. package extra firm tofu, browned and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup TVP soaked in 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth for 5 minutes
  • 2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet over medium heat, heat all of the ingredients until most of the water has evaporated.

Beef Taco Mixture
Beef Taco Mixture
Vegetarian Taco Mixture
Vegetarian Taco Mixture

Serve in flour tortillas or crunchy taco shells with your favorite taco toppings.

Taco
Taco

Jambalaya

This is a Southern Living recipe I received with the jambalaya mix as a present from a PTA group. My opinion is that you can never go wrong by giving food to a teacher. It gets used immediately and doesn’t take up space nor collect dust. I have made only a few changes to the original recipe. I use brown rice; I use less water; I use bouillon cubes instead of granules; I usually bake it in the oven.

MIX INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon green pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 -8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chopped smoked sausage
  • 1 cup chopped ham

NIGHT BEFORE

Put the mix ingredients in a 3 quart sauce pan or oven proof casserole dish.

Jambalaya mix ingredients
Jambalaya mix ingredients

Chop the sausage and ham.

BEFORE SERVING

Bring the water to a boil. Add the water, tomato sauce, and meat to the mix.

Mix with other ingredients ready for the oven
Mix with other ingredients ready for the oven

If you are using a sauce pan, simmer for about 40-45 minutes until the rice is tender. If you are using an oven-proof casserole dish, cover and bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour or until the rice is tender.

Jambalaya
Jambalaya

Fluff and serve hot.

 

Shrimp ‘n Grits

INGREDIENTS

Shrimp

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heady cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  •  1 pound large shrimp, peeled, uncooked
  • Tabasco Sauce to taste

Grits

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 1/2 plus 2/3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup old fashioned grits
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese

NIGHT BEFORE

For the shrimp, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the flour and stir constantly over medium heat until you have a dark roux.

roux
roux

Chop the peppers, onion, garlic, and celery. Saute vegetables in the tablespoon of cooking oil.

Sauteed pepper, onion, and garlic
Sauteed pepper, onion, and garlic

Add the vegetables to the roux.

Adding the vegetables to the roux
Adding the vegetables to the roux

BEFORE SERVING

To make the grits, bring the milk and chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.

evaporated milk and chicken stock in a saucepan
evaporated milk and chicken stock in a saucepan

Slowly whisk in the grits.

adding grits to the milk and broth
adding grits to the milk and broth

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until thickened.

Cheese Grits
Grits

Stir in the cheddar cheese.

Continue making the shrimp by slowly whisking cream in the roux over a medium heat.

whisking cream into roux
whisking cream into roux

Then, whisk in tomatoes and chicken broth.

adding diced tomatoes and chicken broth
adding diced tomatoes and chicken broth

Add salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Simmer until this begins to thicken. Add shrimp and cook about 5 more minutes.

Shrimp 'n Grits
Shrimp ‘n Grits

Serve over grits.