Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

Anyone else have fond memories of Hamburger Helper growing up? Yeah. Me too. So when I came across this from-scratch recipe on Pinterest I was so, so, so excited. This is a super simple weeknight dish – it’s a one pot meal that takes 20 minutes start to finish. It was also a crowd pleaser… Brogan shouted, “Mommy, this is the best dinner ever! I want you to make this again!” Now it’s not the first time he’s flattered me with such a compliment, but regardless, he really liked it. Even the adults around here went back for seconds. I ate it as leftovers for lunch today and it was great reheated. I stuck really close to the original recipe, except that I added some diced onion to the ground beef, and used black pepper instead of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes (it would have been too spicy for my boys). Hope you enjoy!

Cheeseburger Macaroni

Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

1 1/3 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1.) In a large skillet or dutch oven, add onion and brown meat over medium-high. Drain off any fat.
2.) Add milk, water, macaroni, corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, paprika and pepper. Stir well, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until macaroni is done. Stir occasionally to make sure the macaroni does not stick to the bottom.
3.) When macaroni is finished, remove form heat, and stir in cheddar cheese.

Cheeseburger Macaroni1

 

Adapted from Farmgirl Gourmet’s Homemade Hamburger Helper

Tuna Casserole

I feel like folks either love or hate tuna casserole… I love it. Turns out my little guys love it too. This is a pretty easy weeknight recipe… it took me a little over 45 minutes, but 30 minutes of that was “casserole in oven” time. It’s pretty classic comfort food, from scratch. Hope you enjoy!

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole

12 ozs egg noodles (I used medium width)
4 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen peas
2 cans chunk light tuna
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (for topping)

1.) Heat a large pot of salted water to boil, add egg noodles and cook according to package (probably about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside.
2.) Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over onions and mushrooms, stir and cook for about 1 more minute. Stir in chicken stock and half and half. Cook for a few minutes longer until sauce has thickened and then remove from heat. Add parmesan, peas, tuna and cooked egg noodles and stir until well combined.
3.) Transfer to a 9″x13″ casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Tuna Casserole1

Tuna Casserole2

Tuna Casserole3

Shepherd’s Pie

I am a meat and potatoes kind of girl, so Shepherd’s Pie is right up my alley. I grew up eating it and have made it dozens of times, but never before like this. This is the kind of Shepherd’s Pie I’ve enjoyed at authentic Irish pubs. And while I’m not knocking what I grew up on (which was ground beef, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and cheese all served with ketchup), the Shepherd’s Pie I’ve been craving as of late is of the meat with gravy, peas and potatoes variety…. this Shepherd’s Pie.

It took me about an hour to prepare (cooking time included). I served it with drop biscuits and sliced tomatoes and it was really a great meal. The kids (and hubs) enjoyed it, and I’m thrilled to have come up with a solid go-to Shepherd’s Pie recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Meat Layer
1 1/3 lbs ground beef
1 stalk of celery, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
1/2 a large sweet onion, diced small
8 oz mushrooms, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup frozen peas

Potato Layer
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (to top, not mix in)

1.) Place potatoes in a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) While potatoes are cooking, brown ground beef in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When meat is almost browned, add celery, carrots, onion, mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and continue cooking until meat is fully cooked. Sprinkle flour over meat and stir well, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef broth and stir again. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and simmer for about 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in frozen peas.
3.) Once potatoes are fully cooked, drain and return to pot. Add butter, heavy cream, salt, pepper and onion powder. Use an electric mixer to whip until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Add egg yolk and whip for about a minute longer.
4.) To assemble, use a deep dish pie plate and place the meat mixture in the bottom. Next add the potatoes and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

As I mentioned, I served with drop biscuits. They are from my Chicken Pot Pie recipe, but do great on their own. I mixed them up after I put the Shepherd’s Pie in the oven, and then cooked them along side it (at 400) for about 15 minutes.

Shepherd's Pie1

Shepherd's Pie2

Shepherd's Pie3

Shepherd's Pie4

Shepherd's Pie5

Shepherd's Pie6

Shepherd's Pie7

Shepherd's Pie8

Drop Biscuits

Fried Okra

One of the gems of Southern cuisine… fried okra. My mom made this for me growing up, and so it has a nostalgic quality for me. It’s one of my favorites – because I’m pretty sure that when you fry a vegetable, all the bad things associated with frying gets canceled out… right?? Oh, and it is definitely Brogan’s favorite. He also associates this with my mom (aka Gigi), and even made me call her when I made this for him last week.  This recipe is pretty basic, but I assure you the flavor is not. If you’ve never tried it, you should. Enjoy!

Fried Okra

Fried Okra

1 lb fresh okra, stems removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup self rising corn meal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Vegetable or canola oil (enough to fill your pot 3/4″)

1.) Place cut okra in a gallon Ziploc bag. Add egg, close bag and shake until okra is evenly coated.
2.) In a small bowl, combine corn meal, salt and pepper. Pour corn meal into bag with okra. Close and shake until okra is again equally coated.
3.) Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or dutch oven (I used a dutch oven to reduce the grease splatter). Test oil by dropping a little bit of the corn meal and see if it bubbles. Once it starts bubbling, reduce heat to medium and carefully add okra in with a large slotted spoon. Be careful to not add too much of the corn meal when adding the okra.
4.) Fry okra for 12 to 16 minutes (depending on the heat). Stir occasionally to ensure all sides are browning. Remove and place in a paper towel lined bowl. Sprinkle a little (extra) salt when they’re still hot (think French fries here) and enjoy!

Okra

Okra chopped

Okra breaded

Okra frying

Fried Okra2

Good ‘ole Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I get so excited when Brogan wants to cook with me, so the other evening when Brogan asked if we could make chocolate chip cookies, I said sure! So I changed dinner plans and made beanie weenies so that we’d have time to bake… it’s just fun to mix it up every once in a while!

I got brave with this recipe and decided to make it up on the fly. You see, I started really baking about a year ago, and I had always been curious about the science of baking and unconfident in my abilities to wing it like I can when I’m cooking. But a year’s worth of baking made me feel like I had a better understanding of what all the elements do, and so here you have my original chocolate chip cookies. They ended up being a nice mix of crunchy and chewy and we all enjoyed them. I took the leftovers to work and my co-workers approved too. I even had one co-worker tell me I should go sell my recipe to Publix LOL – now, I don’t think I’ll be doing that, but these are some darn good cookies. Hope you enjoy!

DSC_0143

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.) Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
2.) While mixer is set to low, add salt, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly add flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until flour is completely blended in*. Add chocolate chips and mix just until they are equally distributed.
3.) Using a tablespoon, spoon rounded balls onto a baking stone, about 2-inches apart. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 14 to 17 minutes.**

Yields 3 dozen cookies.

*I know a lot of recipes have you mix the dry ingredients together first, but I didn’t and they turned out just fine! Save yourself a bowl!

**Using a Pampered Chef stone, it took mine the full 17 minutes to brown on top. If you’re using a metal cookie sheet, it will probably be closer to 14 minutes, so watch them closely.

DSC_0133

DSC_0134

DSC_0137

DSC_0151

DSC_0153

DSC_0144
A little boy’s way to get cookies off the stone..

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

I decided to take my new mini-loaf pan for a spin this morning with a new recipe. The three browning bananas on my counter have been calling my name but I thought I’d go for something other than your standard banana bread. And as I was thinking about bananas, old memories of peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches came to me, and so that was my inspiration for this bread. I added chocolate chips, because well, I like chocolate, so why not?

The bread turned out really good. It’s moist, it’s heavy, and rich, and the peanut butter makes it stick to the roof of your mouth. My little taste-testers (Brogan and Beckett) also approved.

Peanut butter banana bread2

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

3 (really) ripe bananas
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.) In an electric stand mixer on the lowest setting, add bananas, butter, brown sugar and peanut butter and beat until smooth. Then add egg, vanilla, honey and buttermilk.
2.) In a medium size bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. Mix together and then slowly pour into the liquid mixture. Beat until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.
3.) Pour into 8 buttered mini loaf pans or 1 standard loaf pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven; about 30 minutes for the mini loaf pans and about 1 hour for the standard. Insert a toothpick in the center of the bread to test if it’s done.

Peanut butter banana batter

Buttered mini loaf pans
To butter the pans, I placed a little bit of softened butter in each loaf pan and then rubbed it around with a paper towel. The loaves slid out very easily.

Peanut butter banana bread

Peanut butter banana bread baked

Peanut butter banana bread1

My little photo shoot helpers… can you tell they were ready to eat?

Photoshoot helper Brogan

Photoshoot helper Beckett

Meatballs and Marinara

So I actually made this a while ago… I even typed out the recipe, uploaded the pictures and everything, but apparently I forgot to post it! Well, it’s too good to not share, so here it is!

My boys love, love, love meatballs, so this goes over really well in my house. I’ve played around with this recipe a lot over the years – sometimes with pork and/or veal – but I really just like it best with a high quality ground beef. The parmesan cheese and fresh herbs add a lot of flavor, and overall, they’re pretty easy to throw together. I made these along with marinara, so the instructions below are how I did both in about 45 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

DSC_1089

Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinara

3 14-oz cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2.) Add onions and garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. While onions are sautéing, in a large bowl,  combine all ingredients for the meatballs.
3.) Add tomatoes to onions in the dutch oven and reduce heat to medium; simmer while you form meatballs into 1 1/2″ – 2″ balls.
4.) Place meatballs on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (depending on how big you make the meatballs).
5.) To the sauce, add red wine, mushrooms, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar. Sauté for 30 minutes.
6.) With an emersion blender (or by using a normal blender to blend in batches), puree sauce to desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky, so I didn’t totally puree).
7.) When meatballs are done, add them to pot and coat with sauce. Serve over pasta.

DSC_1077
I was able to make 15 meatballs at this size.

DSC_1081
The sauce after simmering, before blending.

DSC_1088
The finished sauce – yum!

DSC_1097