Italian Meat Loaves

My amazing friend, Betsy, brought these little meat loaves to us after the birth of our son.  We have made them often since then, and I always appreciate the yummy meal as well as the sweet memory of my thoughtful friend.

By the way, that son Betsy helped us celebrate is making this recipe for supper tonight.  He’s (gasp!) fourteen now and will eat more than his share of these tasty meatloaves with multiple helpings of the peas and mashed potatoes he’s making to accompany them.  I asked him if he wanted to make the loaves in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day; he declined.

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. cracker crumbs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely-chopped onion
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 t. salt
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 lbs. ground beef, pork or turkey (or a combination)
1/4 c. ketchup or barbecue sauce

In large bowl, combine eggs, crumbs, milk, cheese, onion, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and Italian seasoning.  Add ground meat and mix well.

Shape into 10 mini loaves; place on rack in a shallow pan.  (A broiler pan works great!)

Drizzle ketchup or barbecue sauce over mini loaves.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes, or until no pink remains.

These little guys freeze beautifully both before and after baking.

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Blue Cheese Dressing

Years ago, when Dave and I were in college, we occasionally took advantage of some of our long weekends to head over to see his aunt, Mary, who lives in a log home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  There is always lots of beautiful sunlight streaming in through the windows, and her front porch offers a perfect place to chat while inhaling the pungent fragrance of the dozens of evergreens that fill the property.  Although I don’t have the opportunity as often as I’d like, Aunt Mary’s house is one of my favorite places to visit.  It’s a little piece of heaven with its beauty and tranquility.  Even more amazing than the mountain setting is Aunt Mary herself.

From the moment I met this tiny, independent woman, I knew she loved me.  Her acceptance of me was made immediately apparent by the warmth in her eyes and the smile on her face.  She was genuine and comfortable, and I count her among the great benefits of marrying my husband.

Along with Aunt Mary being an all-around delightful person, she is a gracious hostess.  Her homemade crescent rolls and hot cross buns were such a treat for Dave and me.  She was the first person I ever knew to serve fresh, minced garlic in her tossed salads–which was quite a surprise to me the first time I tried it!  Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I agreed to also try her homemade blue cheese dressing during our first visit.  I was pretty sure that I did not like blue cheese dressing, but she seemed so sincere in her offer that I didn’t have the heart to refuse.  Let’s just say that I was an immediate convert.  I have been enjoying blue cheese ever since.

I was recently gifted with a 5-lb. bag of blue cheese crumbles.  My first thought was, “Yum!  I’m going to treat myself to some of Aunt Mary’s blue cheese dressing!”.  I’ve made it three times since then, because I keep sharing it with other people who find they like it as much as Dave and I do.  Just in case you want to give it a try, I’m passing Aunt Mary’s recipe along to you.  It’s not as amazing as she is, but I think you’ll like it just the same.

1/2 c. blue cheese crumbles
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
2 T. finely-diced green onion (or regular onion)
1 T. wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. sugar
I also often add a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Mix well, cover and chill.

Use it as a vegetable dip, a salad dressing, a topping for your burgers or whatever else suits your fancy. This recipe is very forgiving, so don’t worry about getting all of the measurements exact.

Beef Burrito Filling

This recipe can not only be used for burritos, but is perfect for taco salads, enchiladas, nachos, chimichangas and more.  This is one of my favorite homemade convenience foods to pull from the freezer.

2 lbs. ground beef
1 t. salt
2 t. minced garlic or 1 t. garlic powder
2 t. cumin
2 t. oregano
1 small can chopped green chilies
½ c. taco sauce or enchilada sauce
½ c. sour cream
¼ c. apple cider vinegar

In medium skillet, cook beef, salt, garlic and spices until meat loses its pinkness.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve inside tortillas, on taco salad or in taco shells with whatever other fixin’s you like.

NOTE: When re-heating after frozen, allow to simmer on stovetop about 8-10 minutes in order to allow the sharpness of the vinegar to mellow.

Zucchini Pizza Pie

Since our summer months are usually inundated with zucchini, I try to prepare it in a wide variety of ways.  Most of my family agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Once the crust in established, the rest of the dish is very flexible, so it’s a great option when trying to use what you already have on-hand.

4 c. grated zucchini
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 c. grated mozzarella or provolone
1 c. grated cheddar
1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage or chorizo, or whatever
1 onion, chopped
2 c. marinara sauce of your choice
1 c. bell pepper, chopped (or mushrooms, black olives, more zucchini, tomatoes, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Put grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand 10 minutes, then squeeze out moisture.

Combine zucchini with eggs, Parmesan and half of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Press into greased 3-qt. baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes.

In large saucepan, cook ground meat and onion over medium heat until done.  Add marinara sauce.

Spoon sauce/meat mixture over baked zucchini crust.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with veggies of your choice.  Bake another 20 or so minutes, or until heated through.

NOTE:  This casserole freezes really well.

Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

Need a new idea for a pound of ground beef?

This is a fun, easy twist on the standard sloppy joe.  You can even make a big batch and tuck some in the freezer for another night.

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. ketchup
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
1/2 c. beef broth, tomato juice or even water
1/4 c. chili sauce or salsa
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground beef with onion until meat is cooked through.

Add remaining ingredients; allow to simmer 15 minutes or so.

Lasagna

Always welcome around my table.  And, if I’m going to make one, I might as well make two and tuck one into the freezer for later or to share with a friend.  Two meals for one round of dishes!

1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage
½ c. chopped onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning mix
½ tsp. pepper
1 jar spaghetti sauce ( or 2 ½ c. sauce)
½  c. water
1 (16-oz.) container ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese
1 egg
¾ c. grated parmesan cheese
2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c. sour cream
1 box lasagna noodles

Brown meat with onion, garlic powder, basil and pepper.  Add spaghetti sauce once meat is cooked.

In medium bowl, combine all cheeses, sour cream and eggs.

Layer into 9×13″ pan in the following order:

1 c. meat sauce, 1 layer lasagna noodles, 1/3 cheese mixture.  Repeat twice, putting remaining meat sauce on top.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 60 mins., or until sauce is bubbly.

Shepherd’s Pie

My second daughter made this for us one night with some leftover mashed potatoes and brown gravy, and it was pretty yummy.   Since the mashed potatoes and gravy were already made, it came together very quickly.  You can almost throw in whatever kind of filling you want.

4-5 potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 T. butter softened
¼ to ½ c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. ground beef
1 tomato, chopped
6 mushrooms, sliced (If you have them)
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. brown gravy
2 c. peas, green beans, corn, carrots, lima beans (or any combination)

Mash potatoes, butter, milk, salt and pepper together; set a side.

Brown beef in a skillet over medium-high heat; drain. Add tomato, mushrooms, parsley, tomato paste, Worcestershire and gravy; mix well.

Add peas and simmer 5 minutes; pour into an ungreased 9×13 baking pan.

Spread mashed potatoes over the top; bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.