Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kelly's Famous Meatloaf (Slow Cooker) w/Cheddar Cheese and Macaroni

Today was work from home day, which means slow cooker dinner day. I love a good meat loaf. There are so many variations on the meat loaf, but I'm pretty much a plain Jane meat loaf kinda gal. Meat loaf is one dish it never would have occurred to me to cooking the slow cooker. One reason is that awesome little crust you get on the outer edges when cooked in the oven. But, this recipe from my Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook is too awesome not to eat over and over.

I decided to make mac 'n cheese with it instead of mashed potatoes, which I would normally make, since we just had potatoes with the CFS on Sunday. The recipe I like to use is one I saw Rachael Ray make years ago on her show. It is probably the best homemade mac 'n' cheese I've ever had--perfectly creamy and cheesy. It also travels well--I've taken it to potlucks with friends and work.

Kelly's Famous Meat Loaf
(Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook, 2006)

Prep: 9 minutes
Cook: 5 hours
Slow-Cooker Size: 3-quart oval

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground round
  • 1 (1-oz) envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 cup ketchup, divided
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 3/4 c. fine, dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c. (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. prepared mustard

Combine ground round, soup mix, 1/2 cup ketchup, and next 6 ingredients; shape mixture into 8- x 4-inch loaf. Place loaf into lightly greased 3-quart oval slow cooker.
Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW, and cook 3 hours. Remove ceramic insert from cooker, and carefully pour grease off meat loaf; return insert to cooker.
Stir together remaing 1/2 cup ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard in a small bowl; spread over meat loaf.
Cover and cook on LOW 1 more hour or until meat loaf registers 160. Remove meat loaf from ceramic insert, and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sissy's Variations:
I try to use ground turkey as much as possible in place of ground beef. We've gotten to where we don't really even notice the difference. But, I still have a small aversion to ground turkey in large "chunks"--burgers (I'm almost over this one), loaves, balls. So, for this dish, I mix half ground turkey with half VERY lean ground beef. This time I also went ahead and used a pound of each for a 2-lb loaf. I just adjusted the cooking time 30 minutes at each level and it turned out fine.
I also use low fat cheese because I have it on hand and it is just one more place to cut back fat and calories.
As I've mentioned before, I have an 8-quart slow cooker, but I don't find that to be a hinderence in this recipe. If anything, it might help in that it keeps too much of the grease from getting on too much of the loaf.

Cheddar Cheese and Macaroni
(Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2, 2003)

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes or al dente to package directions
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil (once around the pan)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. whole or 2% milk
  • 3 c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (a couple pinches)
  • Salt, to taste

Heat a medium-size deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into oil, stir in flour. Gently cook, whisking flour and butter together, until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes. Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, a handfull at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg an cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish, top with remaining cheese, and place under a hot broiler for a minute to brown the top.

Sissy's Variations:
This recipe is way too heavy and fattening for a normal, everyday meal, so I took some steps to lighten it up.
I used skim milk instead of whole. I actually meant to buy some fat free half and half, which I've used in another light mac 'n' cheese recipe, but I forgot, so I used what I had on hand. The trick to using skim milk in something like this is to heat it slower than you normally would. But, I had no problem with it thickening right up.
I also use Smart Balance Whipped as opposed to regular butter. Fewer calories, less fat, less sodium, and good things like Omega 3 added. And you still get the butter taste.
I prefer to use the Ronzoni pastas. I don't really like whole wheat so much, so this is a good compromise. It may still be higher in carbs, but it also has good things like more protein, more fiber, and I think the Omega 3 too.
And, like in the meat loaf, I used low fat cheese. I used a combo of pre-shredded medium cheddar and a block of Cabot reduced fat sharp. The cabot reduced fat is a bit more expensive than a generic cheese, but it's really good. I do use the white cheddar when I'm making this dish for a potluck, but the difference isn't THAT great.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well, that's what it was called in MY house. That would be Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy. I'm a Texas girl through and through--I love warm Spring days, the Dallas Cowboys, and Chicken Fried Steak. Fortunately for me, my daddy happened to make a killer Chicken Fried Steak and he taught me how to make it as soon as I could stand on a chair at the kitchen counter and dredge the meat.

About 6 months ago, I had some time to make a good Saturday night dinner at home and the subject of Chicken Fried Steak came up. I realized that in almost 8 years, I had never made this dish for B. I am not really sure how that is even possible, but it was, so problem solved. That was dinner. I've made it a couple of other times and he says it's the best CFS anywhere. So, last weekend we were having dinner with our friend Scotty P. and we were all eating CFS at a local restaurant. We all agreed it was awesome, but B said mine was better. Now, I'm not bragging, but I had to agree. I have a theory that, like so many other dishes, CFS is better homemade. I don't know what it is--the batter is better, it isn't too crisp (yes, that can be a bad thing), you aren't only tasting the crust. I don't know; just better.

Anyway, we decided that Scott deserved dinner for mowing our lawn (B can't mow right now due to his condition) and that Chicken Fried Steak would the perfect payback--what can I say, I know what the guy likes!

What's going to follow isn't a traditional recipe as I sort of believe this dish is more of a method than a recipe. And, really, no one way is probably right. It's just what you like. Personally, I think there are a few things you absolutely HAVE to do/have to make it just right.

Chicken Fried Steak
  • Tenderized Steak--cubed, round, sirlion; doesn't matter as long as it is tenderized
  • Flour
  • Bread crumbs
  • Seasoning of choice
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Vegetable Oil

Prep batter and "assembly line" first. Place milk in first bowl/pie plate. Crack and slightly whisk eggs in second bowl/pie plate. Mix flour, bread crumbs, and seasonings in third bowl/pie plate. If meat is in large pieces, cut into serving size pieces and salt/pepper each side. Line a baking dish/cookie sheet with paper towels and heat over to warm/low. Put vegetable oil in a deep skillet and heat to high/medium high. While oil heats, batter your meat.

  1. Dredge through flour mixture.
  2. Dip in eggs.
  3. Dredge through flour again, covering competely.
  4. Dip in milk.
  5. Dredge through flour again, covering completely, then shaking off excess.
  6. Place on plate in single layer.

Place meat into hot oil one at a time, not overcrowding the skillet. Cook on first side until you the crust form on the sides. Turn. Cook again until crust forms. Turn again and cook on each side one more time to crisp up the crust. Transfer to towel lined baking dish and put in over to keep warm until ready to serve.

Sissy's Variation:
All amounts will vary based on the amount you are cooking. My seasonings of choice are salt, pepper, garlic powder--and two "secret" ingredients:  ground cumin and ground thyme. I wish I knew how long I cook the meat, but I usually just eyeball it. Next time, I'll time it, I promise

  • Pan drippings from steak
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Spices

Heat drippings in a separate skillet. Whisk in an equal amount of flour to the about of drippings. Season and continue to wisk for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, until gravy boils and thickens. Remove from heat and taste to adjust seasoning.

Sissy's Variations:
All amounts are going to vary based on much you are making. I am so NOT an expert on gravy. It has taken me many years of many failures to "perfect" a white gravy. For me, the big thing was to transfer the dippings to a new skillet, something I didn't do for a long time. 

Of course, you can't have CFS&G without mashed potatoes. I won't bore you with a recipe for that. I also made some green beans loosely based on some green beans my boss makes for Thanksgiving at work every year. One large can of flat, Italian green beans sauted with chopped onions in olive oil and tablespoon of butter (Smart Balance) with garlic powder and pepper. Green beans are the perfect veggie to serve along side this meal.

Weekly Meal Plan (3/28 thru 4/4)

So, here it is once again. I did pretty good sticking the plan last week. Our goal this week is to stick to it even better. My goal this week is also to make some these "heavier" meals a big lighter. B had a big hand in choosing this week's menu items, though had it been up to him, we would be having ALL comfort food.


Sunday:  Chicken Fried Steak w/mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans
Monday:  Chicken Stir Fry w/brown rice
Tuesday:  Tilapia, navy beans, Caesar salad
Wednesday:  Meatloaf, mac 'n cheese, veggie/salad
Thursday:  Baked Potato Soup, BLT/BLA
Friday:  Chicken Pot Pie, salad
Saturday:  Open

In case you missed it, some of last week's meals have been added to the blog and check back on these post for links to the recipes.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lemony Chicken (Slow Cooker) w/Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Chicken is a dish that scares me a bit. I've made it twice before, one unimpressive and one awful. The first was just some Lemon Pepper seasoning, so kind of boring. The second was a recipe from my Biggest Loser cookbook that turned out WAY too lemony and just not good. So, once again, B was pretty skeptical, but he agreed to let me try it.

Lemony Chicken ("The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook; Margaret Kaeter, 2002)
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. sherry
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. crumbled dry oregano
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
4 to 6 quart slow cooker.

Wash the chicken breast; do no remove the bone or skin. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet. Saute the chicken until brown. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chicken to the slow cooker. Add the sherry to the skillet and stir to lossed the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet (deglaze). Pour the sherry mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the oregano and garlic. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Cut the lemon peel into 1/8-in. squares. Add the lemon juice and bits of lemon peel. Cook covered on low for 1 additional hour.

Roasted Potatoes:  Nothing special here. Just 2lbs. baby red potatoes cut into pieces. Toss with olive oil and whatever you like. This time I used garlic and onion powder and dried, minced onion and garlic. Put in sprayed baking dish. Cover and cook at 400 for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes until slightly crispy.

Sissy's Variation:
I do not ever cook with chicken breast on the bone or with the skin. So, I just used 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I always have on hand.
I did use one extra clove of garlic because I love it so.
I did not have any sherry on hand, so I used a bit of white wine that I had in the fridge.
Because I used BLSL chicken, the browing step was a bit different. I couldn't let it get too brown or it would have cooked all the way through, so I just barely let it get brown. The BLSL chicken also does not give out good "bits" for deglazing, but there were some and I did want to utelize the butter flavor, so I still did that step.
Once I poured the wine mixture over the chicken, I didn't think there was quite enough liquid in there to keep the chicken from drying out--even knowing I would add the lemon later. Two things made me add some additional liquid in the form of chicken broth:  I have a larger (8 qt.) slow cooker than the recipe called for and chicken not on the bone tends to be a bit drier, especially in the slow cooker.
We were unable to eat the chicken the night I made it, so I stuck it and the juice in the fridge for the next night. Even reheated, it was so good. B ate it on sandwiches. I ate it with the juice drizzled over and for dipping. Yum!

Mexican Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker Meal)

I love tacos. And I love experimenting with different kinds of tacos. So, when I came across the Mexican Pork Carnitas in my "Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook" (Margaret Kaeter, 2002), I really wanted to try them. One little problem:  B is not a fan of pork or non-basic tacos. But, I showed him the recipe and asked what he thought. I equated it to something you might get at Chipotle. He took the bait and, as luck would have it, Pork Butt Roast was on sale at a local store, so were in business.

This was a perfect meal to throw in the slow cooker on a Sunday for Sunday night dinner and there were PLENTY of leftovers for later meals. As a matter of fact, we've already had two dinners out of it and still enough for one more. What I do NOT have, however, are pictures. Two meals and I didn't manage to grab the camera either time!

Mexican Pork Carnitas
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 4-pound pork butt roast
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (12-oz.) can or bottle of lager beer
1. Peel and slice the garlic cloves about 1/8-in. thick. Using a sharp paring knife, cut slices into the butt roast and insert the garlic cloves, one slice in each opening. Place the butt roast in the slow cooker.
2. Chop  the cilantro into 1/4-in. lengths. Place the cilantro and jalapeno pepper on top of the butt roast. Pour the beer over the top and cook on high setting for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the meat and shred it. Discard the jalapeno pepper and cilantro.

Serving suggestion: Steam corn tortillas by placing them in the microwave with a cup of water and cooking on high for 20 seconds. Ladle meat into the tortillas and top with chopped tomatoes and onions.

Sissy's Variation:
So, remember how I said the pork butt roast was on sale? Yeah, such a good sale that they were sold out by the time I got there. Because I needed to hurry and get the meat in the slow cooker in order to actually eat it that night, I could not go to another store. So, I bought another type of pork roast (sorry, I originally cooked this nearly two weeks ago and B went into the hospital three days later for a week, so I've completley forgotten what kind). I knew when I bought it that this roast would turn out a bit different, and it did. It was more dry than it was supposed to be, but still really good. I cut the roast in half because it was pretty big. I also used two jalapenos and a bunch and a half of cilantro because the called for amount seemed too little to me for the amount of meat. I think it worked out for the best--good flavor.

Also, I did serve it as tacos, but not just with tomatoes and onions. I added a small amout of salsa verde (not homemade this time), sour cream, and Monterrey Jack cheese. For the second dinner, I had avocado instead of sour cream. I think I liked the avocado better!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekly Meal Plan 3/21 thru 3/27

Some of these meals will seem like a repeat from two weeks ago. If you don't follow my other blog or know me in real life or on Facebook, the reason for that is most of the meals are "repeats" is that they did not get cooked last time around. The hubby was in the hospital for a week, so cooking at home just didn't happen. So, I have all this food in the house to cook now!

  • Sunday:  ribs (slow cooker), roasted red potatoes
  • Monday:  pork carnitas tacos, rice, black beans (frozen leftovers from two weeks ago)
  • Tuesday:  leftover three bean chili and/or chicken chili (I have both in the feezer from a few weeks ago)
  • Wednesday:  Lemony Chicken (slow cooker), rice, veggie, Out
  • Thursday:  tilapia, navy beans, salad/veggie, Lemony Chicken and roasted red potatoes
  • Friday:  Open
  • Saturday:  chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes

Recipes to follow throughout the week.

Have a great one!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Meal Plan 3/7 thru 3/13

Trying a little something new to get the blog back up and running. It's a new goal for me. I've meal planned in the past, but never very strictly. That is something I'm trying to get better at for so many reasons:  structure, money saving, healthy diet.

The plan is to have this post up on Sundays as that is when my meal week starts. I go Sunday through Saturday since I do my grocery shopping on Sundays. As should be obvious, I'm a bit behind this week. So, I'll save some of my long-winded explaination for next week. Simply, this post will contain my meals for the week and posts during the week will give recipes when I think the recipes warrant posting. I will continue my baking posts too.

Meals for 3/7 thru 3/13
  • Sunday--Pork Carnitas Tacos, rice, black beans
  • Monday--Turkey burgers, mac 'n cheese
  • Tuesday--Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
  • Wednesday--Grilled tilapia, navy beans, salad
  • Thursday--Lemony Chicken, brown rice, veggie
  • Friday--Open/leftovers
  • Saturday--Ribs, oven-roasted potatoes, veggie/salad
See you tomorrow night for some recipes!