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Category Archives: Entrees

Chicken, beef, pasta, and pork as well as some vegetarian options.

Eggplant Parmasan

A traditional Italian entree, eggplant parmasan is one of my favorite meals. I was inspired to learn how to cook it when I first started dating my boyfriend Jason who is part-Italian and may like eggplant even more than I do. We often order eggplant parmasan when we go out to eat as well, so this dish has become a culinary theme in our relationship. 🙂 My BFF and former roommate Michelle taught me how to make it and her version beats many I have tasted in fancy restaurants.

The proportions below are for a casserole. If preparing one or two servings, I recommend using a small serving dish for each and cutting the ingredients in half. While this does take a long time and is very messy, it’s totally worth it! Serve with pasta and/or a green salad. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 16 oz. (2 large packages) shredded mozzarella cheese (I like Sargento brand the best)
  • Freshly shaved parmasan cheese (enough to cover the top of the casserole)
  • 2 large bottles of marinara sauce (you may make your own sauce from scratch or if short on time, buy a high quality one-I like Newman’s Own)
  • Extra virgin olive oil for frying
  • Salt (enough to sprinkle on eggplant)
  • 6-8 eggs
  • Flour (enough to coat eggplant)
  • Large box of breadcrumbs since you will run out of these faster than you expect (I like Italian breadcrumbs the best- do not use Panko breadcrumbs- although they are healthier, they do not fry well)

Instructions:

Preparing eggplant before cooking:

  • Remove skin from eggplants (optional)
  • Slice eggplants horizontally into very thin slices and lay the slices side-by-side on a cutting board.
  • Sprinkle salt on both sides of each slice and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Remove salt with paper towels. (The salt soaks the water out of the eggplant so that it doesn’t get soggy when you fry it later).
  • In 3 separate bowls, place flour, beaten eggs (start with 3) and breadcrumbs. You will coat each slice of eggplant with these ingredients in turn.

Frying eggplant:

  • Coat the first slice of eggplant in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs. Make sure you completely cover every corner of the eggplant. Place in a pan with olive oil and fry until each side is golden brown. (About 3-4 minutes per side). Repeat for each slice of eggplant. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably fry up to 4 slices at once. Leave at least 1/2 inch between slices and move them toward the center of the pan so that they cook evenly.

Layering eggplant, sauce and cheese in casserole dish:

  • As you finish frying the first few slices, begin layering them with marinara sauce and cheese in a casserole size (9×13 inch) baking pan. Begin by coating the bottom of the pan with marinara sauce, then place a layer of eggplant slices and cover with cheese. Repeat until the pan is full. Your top layer should be marinara sauce covered with cheese.
  • Cover the top layer of mozarella with freshly shaved parmasan cheese.

Cooking time:

  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and the top layer is golden brown.
  • Allow to cool before slicing and serving. (Otherwise it will be runny).

Did You Know?

The name of this recipe is deceptive because many eggplant parmasan recipes do not actually contain parmasan cheese, only mozzarella. My recipe is unique because I add freshly shaved paramsan on top of the casserole before baking it.

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Twice Baked Potatoes

Nana

Twice baked potatoes were a delicious treat my mother made for dinner when I was growing up. Mom used her father’s recipe, but this recipe from my maternal great-grandmother seems very similar. Mom added melted cheddar cheese to her potatoes. Twice baked potatoes are very filling, so they can be an entree or side dish depending on how hungry you are.

Ingredients:

  • Large white baking potatoes (1 potato per serving), or if very large, 1 potato per 2 servings
  • Butter or margarine to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Milk as needed

Instructions:

  • Scrub potatoes and bake until soft when pinched (about 1 hour at 400 degrees, depending on size).
  • Cut off top of potatoes (at least 1/4 inch) and carefully scoop out insides.
  • Add considerable amount of butter or margarine and salt and mash until bumps are gone. Add milk as needed, but keep on the dry side.
  • Heap mashed potatoes into shells (skins).
  • Dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika for color.
  • Re-bake for 30 minutes.

Chef’s Tips:

  • A slicer is very helpful for mashing potatoes.
  • These can be made well in advance.
 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Potatoes, Potatoes

 

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples

I concocted this recipe for Christmas 2011, knowing I wanted to make something with sweet potatoes and apples to go with my homemade cranberry sauce and green beans. After some Google searching, I found a recipe I liked, but thought it was too bland. So, I doubled the measurements for the non-sweet potato ingredients and it was a hit!

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 5 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I suggest Granny Smith because the tartness of the apples offsets the sweetness of the other ingredients)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Dash of cinnamon to taste

Instructions:

  • Prepare Sweet Potatoes:
    • Add sweet potatoes to boiling water and cook until tender. You know they are done when the skin starts to fall off in the pot).
    • Place sweet potatoes in metal strainer. Run cold water over them for a couple minutes to cool them off.
    • Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, gently peel skin off with your fingers.
    • Mash in a large bowl using a potato masher or large fork. Set aside. (Be sure to measure potatoes before mashing to confirm you have enough).
  • Prepare Apple and Butter Mixture:
    • Melt butter in a large saucepan.
    • Add diced apples and cook until tender.
  • Combine Ingredients:
    • Add apple and butter mixture to the mashed sweet potatoes and stir until well blended.
    • Stir in apple juice, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
  • When ready to serve, heat over low heat until hot.
 

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Barbie’s Beer Chili

Serving suggestion

This recipe is from Barbie Carson of Franklin, Virginia who I had the pleasure of meeting on Facebook. She is a friend of my Aunt Pam and Uncle Vernon on my dad’s side. Barbie’s beer chili can be modified to fit your favorite chili recipe. For that reason, I have listed two recipes below. Use the first one if you want to add beer to your own recipe. Use the second one if you need a complete recipe. For the second recipe, Barbie added beer to my Aunt Gail’s beef chili. Barbie says that “the magic of the beer is working to take the music right out of those beans and adds a great flavor!”

Recipe #1 (Beer added to your own chili recipe)

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2-3 hours
Serves 6-8
Freeze any leftovers.

Instructions:

  • Fry your beef and onions together as usual.
  • Add kidney beans and one regular beer. (Not light beer, nor Lager beer, just regular cheap beer). It will foam up briefly.
  • Add the remainder of your regular ingredients per your favorite recipe and let it cook as usual. (Barbie’s cooks for at least 1 hour).

Recipe #2 (Beer added to Aunt Gail’s Beef Chili)

Barbie’s ingredients are highlighted in blue font below.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2-3 hours
Serves 6-8
Freeze any leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs (or more) lean ground chuck (ground beef)
  • 1-2 large sweet onions
  • 1 can of beer (not light beer or lager). The cheaper the better
  • 2 regular size cans dark red kidney beans inc. juice
  • 1 can light red kidney beans inc. juice
  • 1 large can petite diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 envelopes of Frenches Original Chillo Mix
  • I large can, maybe 2 tomato paste
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • Pepper to taste
  • Water if needed to thin it ( I like thick chili)

Instructions:

  • In a large Dutch oven (this is a large pot), brown the ground chuck with the onions, stirring constantly until the meat is no longer pink.
  • Drain all of the fat from the mixture.
  • Add all the beans and their juice (get it all now)!
  • Add the beer! All of it! None for the cook! Let it foam (for 2 minutes at most)
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a full simmer.
  • Reduce heat to low or medium low, depending on how your stove cooks and cook for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally, tasting frequently on a cracker just because you cant wait for it to be done.
  • Mixture is done when the meat is tender and and the texture of the sauce is thick.
  • Salt if you must.
  • Enjoy! Serve with saltines and grated cheddar cheese.
Barbie’s Tips:
  • Left overs freeze well.
  • Always freeze a little container full for chili dogs later on. Just add a few shakes of Texas Pete Hot sauce to the mix!
Danielle’s Tips:
  • Use an extra large pot for cooking. Otherwise, the beans will bubble over and it can get VERY messy.
  • Stir frequently to prevent the bottom from burning.
 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Beef, Entrees, Meat

 

Meat Lasagna with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Creamed Spinach

I conceived this recipe when I needed a dish to prepare for New Year’s Eve, 2010. I was at Trader Joe’s and felt like making a lasagna with eggplant, but couldn’t figure out what else would go well with it. Luckily for me, I came across a very helpful employee who gave me suggestions for how to construct my own lasagna!

My lasagna is unique in that it contains both meat and vegetables, but you can easily omit the meat or use a substitute.The frozen creamed spinach and eggplant/zucchini mixtures can only be found at Trader Joe’s, but you can use fresh vegetables instead.

Ingredients:Lasagna

  • 1 package Lasagna noodles
  • 1 large jar tomato sauce
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s frozen creamed spinach
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s frozen eggplant and zucchini
  • 1 package sausage
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 large container ricotta cheese
  • 1 large package mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large container parmasan cheese

Instructions:

  • Cook noodles according to directions on package.*
  • De-frost creamed spinach and eggplant/zucchini mixtures. Set aside and allow to cool.
  • Cook sausage in a frying pan with oil over medium heat until it is no longer pink. (If using pre-cooked sausage, you may skip this step).
  • In a large bowl, combine sausage and jar of tomato sauce, reserving some sauce for later.
  • In another large bowl, combine beaten egg, ricotta cheese, and parmasan cheese. Stir until thoroughly blended.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pour a layer of plain tomato sauce into a large rectangular baking dish so that the entire bottom of the dish is covered.
  • Cover with noodles.
  • Add a layer of sauce with the sausage mixed in. (If not using sausage, you may skip this step).
  • Cover with noodles.
  • Add a layer of the creamed spinach mixture, spreading evenly on top of noodles.
  • Add a layer of the eggplant/zucchini mixture, organizing vegetables so that they fit neatly in the direction of the noodles. (This will make it easier to cut the lasagna later).
  • Cover with noodles.
  • Add layer of egg and cheese mixture.
  • Cover with noodles.
  • Add layer of plain sauce and generously cover with shredded mozzarella.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until done.

*Some noodles do not need to be pre-cooked. If you are using “no boil” noodles, simply lay the uncooked noodles in your baking pan. They will cook with the rest of the lasagna.

Chef’s Tips:

  • If you know ahead of time that you will need to cut your noodles in order to fit your pan, do not use “no boil” noodles! These are difficult to re-size.
  • Allow lasagna to cool for 15 minutes prior to serving. Otherwise it will be too runny.

Lasagna serving suggestion

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Beef, Entrees, Lasagna, Pasta

 

Beef Chili

Aunt Gail

This chili recipe is originally from my paternal grandmother, Inez who died long before I was born. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her, I have enjoyed many of Inez’s recipes through Aunt Gail’s cookbook, No Matter What, Just Keep On Cooking!

Below, is the story behind this recipe as told by Aunt Gail: 

“[My mother] made the best chili I have ever eaten and when years later I gave the recipe to my friend, Joe Sluder, he won a Chili Cooking Contest in Atlanta, GA! This also used to be my ‘just in case’ meal. That meant just in case my kids brought home two or three unexpected friends for dinner (which often happened), I could pop this on the stove in a hurry and be sure they would be happy!”

Preparation Time:
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6-8
Freeze any leftovers. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs lean ground chuck (ground beef)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 regular size cans dark red kidney beans (drain juice from one of the cans)
  • 2 (14.5 oz. cans whole tomatoes with their juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 lbs. chili powder (add more if you are brave enough, but taste first)!
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. cumin (add more to taste in last 15 minutes of cooking if desired- Aunt Gail usually needs to do this)
  • 2 tsp. sugar

Instructions:

  • In a large Dutch oven (this is a large pot), brown the ground chuck with the onions, stirring constantly until the meat is no longer pink.
  • Drain all of the fat from the mixture.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, squeezing the juice from each whole tomato and breaking the tomatoes up in your hands before adding them to the pot. (Be sure your hands are clean)!
  • Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low or medium low, depending on how your stove cooks and cook for 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Mixture is done when it has become rather thick. You don’t want runny chili.
  • Taste for seasonings and add more salt, chili, or cumin if needed. Some people can take it hotter than others.

Serving Suggestion:
Aunt Gail suggests serving with corn bread and turnip greens if you like “soul food.” Be sure to cook your turnip greens with a little fatback!

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Beef, Entrees

 

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All-American Lasagna

Aunt Jaymie

This is not the healthiest recipe in the world, but it is oh SO good! (Everything in moderation, right)?If you are trying to lure people to come over to your house, tell them you are making Aunt Jaymie’s lasagna and company will be knocking at your door. It certainly works for Anni and Roman.

Preparation Time:
Cooking Time:

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. package lasagna noodles
  • 1lb. Italian sausage
  • Large bottle of spaghetti sauce such as Prego
  • 16 oz small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 12 slices American cheese
  • 2 cup package shredded mozzarella

Instructions:

  • Cook noodles.  Drain & rinse.  Put a little water back in the pot & straighten out the noodles until you’re ready to use them.
  • Remove sausage from casing & brown, pouring off fat.  Reserve 1 ½ cups of sauce in a bowl & pour the rest into the pan with the drained sausage.
  • Add cottage cheese and egg.  Mix well.
  • Grease a 13 x 9” pan.  Pour in ½ cup of reserved plain sauce, saving the rest for later.  Place a layer of noodles over this.  Depending on the size of your pan, it may take 3 noodles & sometimes half of another for the width, plus part of a noodle at the top of the pan.  Just cut up noodles to fit until you’ve covered the pan.
  • Add half of sauce with sausage, etc.
  • Cover with 6 slices of American Cheese.
  • Cover with another layer of noodles, piecing to fit pan.
  • Add rest of sauce.
  • Cover with 6 more slices of cheese.
  • Cover with another layer of noodles, piecing to fit.
  • Spread remaining reserved plain sauce over the top.
  • Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, if you’re baking it right away.
  • You can bake this now, or refrigerate it, covered with foil.  If you decide to bake it later, don’t put on the mozzarella.
  • When ready to serve, bake it at 350, covered with foil, for about 30-40 minutes, until it starts to bubble.  If it’s been in the refrigerator, it will take about 10 extra minutes to bake.
  • Remove foil.  Sprinkle mozzarella on top & continue baking until bubbly & cheese is melted, about 15 minutes more.
  • Take out of the oven & let it sit for 15 minutes or longer before you cut it.  Otherwise it is too runny.
 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Beef, Entrees, Lasagna, Pasta