Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Peas and Carrots in Parsley Sauce (A Meatloaf Dinner)

The star today is not the meatloaf or the mashed potatoes, but the peas and carrots in parsley sauce.

     When I was a little girl, my dad did most of the cooking. Mom was more than capable, but as a school principal, Dad's schedule brought him home earlier and he loved to cook anyway. One of his favorite meals has always been meatloaf. As a Danish boy, his mother (who had also been a cook for a family at one point) often made bof (I can't put the symbol on this- imagine a "/" through the "o"). Pronounce the "o" like the "oo" in book. I can still remember the savory smell of bof in Granny's kitchen whenever she made this for us. Bof is basically a fat rather than flat hamburger patty covered with dark gravy and onions (Granny eventually began using crunchy onions).  She always served it with boiled potatoes and what was called "peas and carrots in cream sauce".
   Granny also made a fabulous meatloaf.  She was the one who actually taught my mom to make it by forming the meat loaf into a jello mold and baking it into a ring.  She would then serve the circular meat loaf with the peas and carrots in the center. I think my dad's love for ketchup made him gravitate more toward meat loaf when he cooked for us, but he continued to serve it with potatoes and the peas and carrots for as long as I can remember. We also make mashed potatoes instead of just boiled ones. We add lots of butter, salt, milk and dill weed (a Polish thing for when we don't make gravy.) When he comes to visit, he usually requests that I make this meal for him. If I dared to serve meatloaf with anything else, I fear there might be a mutiny.
   When I researched the authentic Danish method of making the peas and carrots, I made two observations: 1)fresh peas and carrots are used and the vegetable stock created by the water is used as the liquid for the sauce and 2)a little sugar is added in addition to the salt. I'll have to try the sugar thing. Mom says that Granny didn't do this, but I might try it.
   Our version uses canned peas and carrots and the liquid used for the sauce is the water from the cans. It is so simple and so tasty. I have always served meatloaf with these two sides and it is the only time I actually purchase canned peas and carrots. (When Hayden saw the cans on the counter the other day, she said, "Yay, we're having meat loaf!" )The other "must" my granny insisted upon was fresh (not dried) parsley. I have to confess, I have used the dried before and it still tasted fine, but there is more of a parsley flavor when it is fresh. For some reason, this meal seems to get everyone excited. I figure that most folks have their own recipe for meat loaf, but I put ours at the end of this post in case you're curious.

Peas and Carrots in Parsley Sauce
This is probably a lot for most families - you may want to cut this recipe in half
4 cans peas and carrots
fresh parsley (you'll need a handful)
3 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
sugar (?) try it with a little first and see if you like it! (Since this post, I have tried the sugar and I LOVED it. I will now do this from now on!)

My favorite brand is Le Sueur, but this was all our grocery store carried. I can taste a difference, but my family can't.

The parsley is rinsed and ready for chopping. After chopping your parsley, open the cans of peas and carrots, but leave the lids on to help you drain the liquid into the pot when needed.

Melt the butter.

Add the flour.

Carefully drain the liquid into the pot while keeping the peas and carrots in the can. Throw in your handful of chopped parsley, some salt, pepper, (and sugar if you want to try it), and bring to a boil.
Mom said that sometimes Granny would add a splash of milk.

The color will lighten when it thickens.

Turn down the heat to med. and dump your cans of peas and carrots into the sauce and heat it 
2 Meat Loaves
4 lbs. ground beef (I frequently add other meat to this like ground turkey)
A large or two small diced onions
A large or two small diced green peppers
4 eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
a palmful (size of a half dollar) dried parsley

*Make sure there is plenty of ketchup in the house or the meal will be pointless.

Mix with clean hands and separate into two loaves. You can see my second one behind this one if you look carefully. I don't use loaf pans because I think the sides get too slimy.  I prefer crispy edges. Bake both together, uncovered at 350 degrees for an hour. Crank the oven up and broil for five minutes when timer goes off to get a nice crust around the edges before serving.

A finished loaf.

Sammy enjoys his dinner.

Harrison enjoys his meatloaf sandwich the next day.
We have the mayonnaise camp and the ketchup camp when it comes to meatloaf sandwiches.
Harrison puts both on his.

Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hot Dog Casserole and A Game Night

 Game night at the Dykemas

     As a home schooling family, we are used to spending a lot of time together and we like it that way! We also love spending time with our friends, and a family game night is one of our favorite ways to get together. The Dykemas graciously invited us to their home to share dinner, laughter, and lots of fun. Beth made her hot dog casserole and biscuits, while we supplied a veggie tray, chips, and dessert. Her bean dish is so much more than "pork and beans". When you see all the ingredients she adds, you'll see why. The beans are zesty rather than spicy, and if you prefer them milder, you can leave out the Tony Chachere's and pepper. I thought they had a LOT of flavor (and had seconds)! I will definitely be making this at home!

See the end of this post for Beth's recipe.

Beth makes the biscuits.

The kids line up for food.

A close -up of the big 'ol pot of beans 

Beth had crunchy onions as a topping.

Yummy biscuits.  She also had homemade strawberry jam.

Our veggie tray with Ranch dip (1 packet of Hidden Valley seasoning mix with a 16 oz. container of sour cream is my favorite)

Munchies and drinks.  The orange drink in the back is one of Beth's varieties of homemade "kefir".  She also had sweet iced tea. We brought some soda. Trust me, there were a lot more cups than these.  We always label the cups with a marker. Somehow I failed to take pictures of dessert.  Hayden had baked chocolate chip cookies. We made ice cream sandwiches out of them and then rolled them in mini M&M's. It was probably a good thing not to have evidence.......

Scott and Jeff wait for the food.

Harrison! He kept trying to mess up my picture.

The Recipe
Beth's Hot Dog Casserole (in a pot)
Served 14 including hungry teenage guys (who I know HAD SECONDS - maybe thirds) with some left over

2-3 lbs. browned and diced thick bacon
1 large diced onion
2-4 packages sliced and browned hot dogs
1 #10 can of Bush's baked beans
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 cup Worcestershire
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Tony Chachere's (cajun seasoning)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 tsp. maple extract

Crunchy onions

Chop and brown the bacon. Beth sautes the onions in with the bacon.
Add in all remaining ingredients except for hot dogs.

Add in bacon.

Chop and brown hot dogs.  Add to beans.

Thank you Dykema family!

A friend loves at all times, 
And a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

~Jennifer and Beth

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Baked Ziti or How to Cheat at Lasagna

A yummy, easier alternative to lasagna

         Sundays after church, my family is usually in a big hurry to eat. I try to make Sunday's meal on Saturday, or make something in the slow cooker so we can walk in the door after church and have lunch without delay. For more strategies on making your Sunday more stress free, click here.
         Baked Ziti (pronounced zee tee) has everything lasagna offers except for the tricky long noodles. Lasagna noodles need to be handled delicately or they'll rip or stick together. They are also a little more challenging to serve. Ziti noodles are smaller little tubes of goodness. They are fatter, straighter, and heartier than macaroni noodles. You can make your own spaghetti sauce, or use store bought for this recipe; and instead of spreading the sauce and ricotta cheese over the longer noodles (tricky as well), you mix most of it together. The ingredients that are spread can be done so without accidentally moving or tearing the heartier noodles.I pre-baked this ziti on a Saturday, let it cool, covered it, and refrigerated it for Sunday's lunch. Because my husband only had an hour between church and going to work, I used this strategy to enable my husband to easily and quickly scoop out a serving and zap it in the microwave. He didn't have time to wait for it to bake!  The rest of the family followed his example before gathering in the dining room for our Sunday lunch. A salad and some garlic bread made the meal a little more special.

1 pound box ziti pasta
1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
2 jars of spaghetti sauce (or homemade)
1 16 oz. container of ricotta cheese
four cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (and a little extra to shake on top at the end)
2 eggs
teaspoon salt
diced peppers, onions, or mushrooms
1/4 cup parsley (dried or fresh)
I have also skipped the parsley and added a handful of chopped, thawed frozen spinach

I chopped up a green pepper from Emily's garden and an onion to cook in with the ground beef.  You might also add some chopped Italian sausage or mushrooms. This time I used jarred spaghetti sauce that had Italian sausage already in it. Get your pot of water started for the ziti pasta.

While the meat cooks and the water heats up, combine ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, parsley (or spinach), two eggs, and a teaspoon of salt.

When the ground beef is finished, drain, add jars of sauce, and set aside. 

After pasta is finished (boil about ten minutes), drain, rinse with cool water, and combine with cheese mixture.

Add in 3-4 cups of meat sauce into your pasta mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 if you plan to bake immediately. Spread half of pasta mixture into a casserole dish.

Top with a layer of meat sauce.

Sprinkle top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Repeat with the rest of the pasta mixture, sauce, and the last cup of mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle the very top with a little extra Parmesan. This one is ready to go into the oven!

Bake for 30-40 minutes and serve. You could also bake it, let it cool, and cover for the next day (like I did) or cover it before baking and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. 
If you choose to freeze this, it will need a couple hours to thaw before baking. If you choose to refrigerate it, don't let it wait more than two days.


A quick meal with the family and then off to work for Scott!

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families, He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious will dwell in a dry land. Psalm 68:5-6


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chicken Tostadas, Guacamole, and Mock Margaritas

Another family favorite!

     Tostadas are a fun, economical option to feed a large family. I regularly purchase tortillas for fajitas, tacos, and even breakfast burritos, but after eyeing these strange looking packages again and again, I finally decided to give them a try.

     Basically, tostadas look like giant nacho chips and are a little over $2.00 a package. There are approximately 28 in a pack, so they are actually less expensive than most packages of tortillas. After warming the tostadas in the oven for a few minutes, simply top with your favorites.  The recipe I am showing you today is how we usually serve them, but the options are endless!
    I said the meal is economical, but the expense can grow with more indulgent toppings. We have a few tricks to make this more of a belly filler......

4 large chicken breasts (or meat of your choice)
2 packets taco seasoning
1-2 packages of tostadas (located by the tortillas in the grocery store - look carefully at package to avoid broken ones)
large can of refried beans 
shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever you prefer)
sour cream

Topping options:
shredded lettuce
chiles (in a small can)
diced tomatoes
diced onions
sliced black olives
taco sauce
guacamole *simple recipe at the end of this post

Some of our ingredients......

    We usually use chicken, but ground beef or ground turkey would also be delicious (if you are a fish taco fan, I suppose you could use that as well). After cutting the raw chicken into large chunks, I place the chunks into a slow cooker for several hours.

You could boil the chicken, but you would lose some of the chicken flavor. Baking the chicken is another option. After slow cooking the chicken, I remove it from the cooker and pour the liquid into a fat separator.

The fat floats to the top and the spout pours from underneath it. If the drippings are so low that the fat gets into the spout area, add a little water until the fat floats above the spout. There really wasn't much fat in mine since I used skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, so after measuring my drippings, I ended up using everything plus a little water. After chopping/shredding the cooked chicken, place it back into the slow cooker and add the taco seasoning packets.

Instead of adding water like the package directions state, use the same amount of chicken drippings for a richer flavor. If you don't have enough drippings, add water to make up the difference. If capturing the drippings is too much trouble, just drain the chicken and add water according to the seasoning packet directions.


Keep the meat filling on low until ready to serve! We always warm a can of refried beans (in the microwave) to spread onto the tostada first. The beans are delicious and make the meal more filling. Another "filling" topping some of us love is guacamole. This can make the meal a little more expensive depending on the cost of avocados, but it sure does taste good! Avocados were on sale for a dollar each, but that that still added an additional $4.00 to the total for our big batch. When I consider the leftovers will contribute to lunch the next day, it makes me feel better.

Once everything is ready and on the table, the first batch of tostadas go into the oven at 350 for about five minutes. Use any broken/leftover ones in the package as nachos to dip into leftover toppings for a snack or lunch later!

I've added an extremely fast and simple guacamole recipe at the end of this post as well as one for a fun, child-friendly mock margarita drink.

 Joey keeps his toppings pretty simple: beans, chicken, cheese and sour cream
Emily, on the other hand........

This version of guacamole isn't the most decadent, but it will satisfy those who enjoy a faster, less chunky version.

four avocados
one lime
garlic powder
onion powder
ground cumin
one cup of sour cream

 Slice, pit, and empty four avocados (you can cut this recipe in half for a smaller batch) into a large bowl.
 Mash with a potato masher.

Squeeze in the juice of an entire lime (I slice mine into smaller pieces first). Sprinkle in a generous amount of onion powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Sample and add more to taste.  The longer it sits, the more the flavor will intensify.

Mix in one cup of sour cream, taste again and adjust seasonings as needed, and serve.

Mock Margaritas
ginger ale

sliced limes

For mock margaritas, simply combine 1 part limeade and 1 part ginger ale over ice. You can "rim the glasses" for a fancier version by rubbing a slice of lime around the edge of the glass to make it sticky, and dipping the upside down cup into a small saucer of salt (or sugar for the kiddies) before filling with ice and the drink.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Revelation 7:9-10