Friday, January 31, 2014

Bev's Famous Meatloaf (Miranda Lambert's mom)

I've been feeling under the weather for a few days and for a person who likes to stay busy and be productive as much as possible, being forced to rest in bed or on the couch is NOT fun! When I'm in the mood for some chill time with a fantastic book or maybe some Pinterest, or some of my DVR'ed shows like (guilty pleasure) The Bachelor, The Walking Dead, Person of Interest or Glee…that's a whole other thing. But when I'm forced to rest, it's ridiculously challenging. I always think of so many more things I "should" be doing than I do when I'm imposing relaxation time upon myself just for the sake of vegging out. Um, anyway, rabbit trail much? My point is that yesterday I finally felt much more like my usual self and to celebrate, I decided to make some delish comfort food for dinner. So, what made it on the menu? Miranda Lambert's mom's famous meatloaf, steakhouse-style baked potatoes, fresh steamed broccoli and homemade creamed spinach. Can we say "Oh my yum!"? So on to the meatloaf.

Serves 6

2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork sausage
18 saltines or Ritz, crushed into crumbs
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl using your hands until well mixed. Form into a loaf and turn into a greased casserole dish, shaping as needed. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and pour off grease. Stir together ketchup and brown sugar and spread evenly over meatloaf. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 15-20 minutes. 

So to be honest, the original directions say to mix half of the brown sugar into the meatloaf, but I'm not a fan of the sweetness in the actual meat part of it, so I just mix it all into the ketchup for the glazed part. I'm weird, I know. To the rest of the world it probably tastes the same on top as it does mixed in, but to me, it tastes fine in the glaze on top, but not fine when mixed in. Also, if you're like me and your meatloaf tries to exit your pan while you're pouring off the grease, you can either a) remove the loaf to a dish temporarily, or b) do the more complicated route that I usually do and use a spatula to hold that sucker in place while you pour the grease out. Why keep things simple when you can over-complicate them? Reminds me of that meme of the person performing all sorts of acrobatics to reach the TV remote without leaving their chair/bed. Yep, that's me! I don't think I've made the same exact meatloaf more than 2-3 times each because I am constantly trying new meatloaf recipes, but I must admit this one is probably my new favorite. I loved the addition of the green peppers. I might try adding those to one of my other recipes too--so good! 
Hope you have a great Friday!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sunshine's Hot Cocoa Mix

I loooove hot cocoa. I mean. It's so yummy. And warm. And chocolatey. And with my formerly-known-as-the-Sunshine state having SNOW days lately, I figured it's pretty appropriate to post this recipe now. But don't worry, we'll be back to beach weather in no time flat. This is Florida, after all, and she is one indecisive state. (Don't judge me for the rough looking marshmallows…)

Makes about 2 dozen cups of cocoa

2 cups dry milk
1/2 unsweetened regular cocoa
2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered coffee creamer, any flavor
2 tablespoons chocolate milk powder (Nesquick, etc.)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 - 1/3 cup 60%+ cacao chocolate chips


Place chocolate chips in food processor and process until they are a fine powder. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth and well combined. Store in airtight container. To make cocoa, stir 2-3 tablespoons of mix into a cup of warm milk, water or a combo of both. 

I like to keep a big container of this on hand at all times during the colder months, and I usually have a couple of different varieties going also. (This makes a GREAT gift. All six of our teachers as well as one of my besties received big jars of this for Christmas last year.) You can change the flavor based on what flavor powdered creamer you choose. My favorite of course, is hazelnut, because I am a total hazelnut addict. My "usual" at Starbucks is a grande hazelnut mocha. Soooo good. My kids like peppermint (I'm not a mint fan at ALL so when I make it peppermint flavor, I make sure I'm not making any more batches after that one since everything will taste like mint after that…) and the hubs likes French Vanilla. Really, you can't go wrong with any of the flavors. And if you don't have a food processor, a blender will work just fine. (And if you don't have that either, you can always leave out the chocolate chips and just mix it all by hand or shake it in a ziploc.) You can use regular chocolate chips if you want, just know you will have "floaty bits" (technical term there…) in your cocoa. You may have them with the higher cacao content chips also, but typically the higher quality the chocolate, the smoother it melts. I've made this hot cocoa with and without the chips and I like it both ways. I just love how much more decadent it feels to have "real" chocolate in my cocoa. Hope you enjoy. :) Stay warm, friends! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chicken Stuffed Shells

So this was absolutely delish, but if I could have my way, it would've had spinach in it. Since I have a couple picky eaters and we'd been out of town for several days prior, I knew everyone was starving for some good home-cookin'. So I decided to be nice and leave out the spinach. Next time though, [Annabelle] better put her game face on and be ready to ingest some spinach. ;) 

Makes 24 shells

1 box jumbo pasta shells
4 cups cooked, chopped or shredded chicken
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cans cream of chicken soup (I use my homemade substitute)
2 8oz packages of cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened
1 cup evaporated milk
2-4 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar this time but will def try mozzarella next)

Preheat oven to 350.

Boil pasta in salted water 12 minutes; leave in the pasta water to avoid sticking. Meanwhile mix chicken, ricotta and seasonings until well mixed. Taste and add additional seasonings if desired. In medium saucepan, heat cream of chicken soup and cream cheese over medium heat until cream cheese has fully melted and incorporated. Stir in evaporated milk. Taste and add seasonings if desired. (My homemade cream of chicken substitute had plenty of flavor, but if I used the canned stuff, I'd want to add some salt, pepper, garlic, onion and oregano for sure.) Spread about a cup of the sauce in the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking dish. Fill shells with chicken mixture and lay evenly on top of sauce in pan. (Squish those babies in there if you need to!)  Sprinkle 1-2 cups of shredded cheese on top of shells, then pour sauce evenly over the top of all the shells, making sure it delves into those corners and hard-to-reach areas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly. 

This recipe took me about 45 minutes from start to finish. Not bad at all! I put chicken breasts in the crockpot all day to cook so I'd have those ready by dinnertime. A rotisserie chicken would save some time and be delicious in this dish as well. Next time I want to stir in some shredded cheese and chopped, cooked spinach into the filling because I think it would be dynamite! This was a good, quick weeknight meal that our family loved. Those four remaining shells in the photo were taken by my older three kids for their school lunches the next day. Two birds, meet stone! Yes!! :)