Category: Dinner

I love macaroni and cheese, but had never made a good one from scratch. I know there are lots of recipes online, and several of them claim to be “the best” ever. I’m sure I’d enjoy trying some of them, but maybe another time. I love the classic macaroni and cheese and wanted a “tried and true” recipe.Classic Macaroni & Cheese

We were talking about food at work and somehow the subject landed on macaroni and cheese. My friend Stephanie said her Grandmother McNeil in Topeka makes great mac & cheese, and she offered to share the recipe. Well I jumped on that offer and I’m glad I did!

This is the classic macaroni and cheese. No foo-foo here. No bacon, peas, pickles, truffles or other creative ingredients. Just a basic white sauce, elbow macaroni, and lots of delicious, gooey, sharp cheddar cheese.

Bottom line: this is exactly what I was looking for!

I served this with a nice ham when all the kids and grandkids were home Thanksgiving weekend. I made a double-batch to make sure there was enough, and was very happy to find I had leftovers! Note: If you’re re-heating your leftovers, you might want to add a little milk before you heat it up so it’s still creamy.

A huge Thank You to Stephanie and Grandmother McNeil for sharing this recipe! It’s delicious and will be one of my favorites for years to come.

Grandmother McNeil’s Classic Macaroni & Cheese

Stuff you need:

2 cups uncooked macaroni (I used the classic elbow macaroni)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Now what?

Cook macaroni according to directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until the consistency is smooth.

Slowly pour the milk in while stirring. Continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently.

Once the milk mixture is thick enough (to your liking), add the shredded cheese and stir until fully melted.

Add the drained macaroni to the pan and stir until nicely coated.

Pour mac & cheese into greased casserole dish.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30+ minutes until golden brown. Can take up to 45 minutes if you like it really brown on top.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers with QuinoaThis is my first try at making stuffed peppers, and if I do say so myself… I nailed it!!

I think I’ve only had them one time before today, and my impression was of a bunch of ground beef and rice stuffed into a pepper. I don’t remember much flavor, but I do remember I didn’t care to have them again.

The Pretty One’s friend made stuffed peppers for dinner one evening and he told me how good they were. I was surprised, and started thinking there must be more to them than beef and rice. When I found a couple of recipes this summer, I bookmarked them so I could try them when TPO went back to school.Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa

After looking at a few recipes, I chose a vegetarian quinoa and black bean stuffed pepper recipe for the base. We like a little heat in our food so I added a jalapeno and pepper jack cheese, and we eat meat so I added ground turkey.  Basically, I made a filling that I thought was tasty, filled the peppers, and voila! Delish Mexican Stuffed Peppers that are high in protein. I’d say they’re low fat, but that would just be wishful thinking because I used a lot of cheese. I love cheese!

If you want to cut the fat, use 2% cheese or a smaller quantity of cheese – or even eliminate it altogether. Skip the meat, add extra peppers, whatever sounds good to you. This is a very forgiving recipe, and doesn’t require you to make it exactly like I did. With some experimenting, you’ll find the perfect combination for your taste!

I made these up and put them in the frig for a couple of hours before I baked them. The only adjustment needed if you want to do that is to bake them longer since you’ll be starting with cold food in a chilled dish.

These stuffed peppers have rewritten what I thought I knew about the dish, and I know I’ll make them again!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Stuff you need:

6 bell peppers [any color, but multi-colors are more fun!], sliced in half stem-to-tip, seeds removed
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1 packet taco seasoning for 1# meat
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
1 (4oz) can diced green chiles (do not drain)
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, minced [optional]
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup picante sauce – whatever heat level you prefer
6 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated or diced into small cubes
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated, divided
15 ounce can red enchilada sauce

Now what?

Add quinoa to a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes, cover, turn off heat and let steam 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

In the meantime, microwave pepper halves 2-3 minutes to soften slightly. Set aside. (Prepared this way, the peppers should come out crisp-tender. If you want them crisper, you can omit this step.)

In a skillet, brown ground turkey and diced onion. Add taco seasoning and cook as directed.

Add quinoa, black beans, tomato, green chiles and their juices, jalapeno, cilantro, 1/4 tsp pepper and picante sauce to the meat/onions in the skillet. Stir in pepper jack cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.

Pour enchilada sauce into a 9×13″ baking dish. [Depending on the size of your peppers, you may need an additional 8×8″ baking dish. If so, divide your enchilada sauce accordingly.]

Divide filling among peppers and set stuffed peppers into the enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and cook about 5 minutes longer. Serve peppers drizzled with enchilada sauce.

Note: If you want to make this vegetarian, use 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Cook the onion with the quinoa. Omit the meat. Follow the rest of the steps.

The first place I had Cuban food was a restaurant called Havana in West Palm Beach, FL. The second place I had Cuban food was Havana in WPB – about three days after the first time.

Boliche & Brown Rice

You can see the roasted garlic in the lower corner of the piece on the left, and the delish ham stuffed in the middle of the piece on the right. Yum!

The Pretty One and I were in Florida visiting relatives and the beach. When we arrived I told my cousin I wanted to try some Cuban food in Miami. I’m not sure where I got the idea I needed to try it, but it was probably from one of those food shows I watch way too often. As luck would have it, my cousin said they lived within blocks of an excellent Cuban restaurant, and plans were made!

I enjoyed the food; The Pretty One enjoyed the view. The young lady who seated us was gorgeous! So when asked where we wanted to eat on our last night in town, I chose Havana and The Pretty One agreed.

Several years later I still remember the ropa vieja, the rice & beans, and the plantains. Contrary to what many people think, Cuban food is not spicy. It’s flavorful, but it doesn’t carry a lot of heat. Cuban food is good, down-home comfort food. Simple ingredients, simply prepared. For the most part, Cuban recipes use ingredients you can find at your local grocery store, although some items you might need to hunt down at a specialty store or online.

I started looking for recipes before I even got back to KC, and couldn’t wait to make some Cuban food in my own kitchen! The first recipe I tried was this Boliche. Click for recipe. I couldn’t resist trying this roast that’s stuffed with ham, studded with garlic, browned, and then cooked in a wine mixture.Boliche I used a pork roast, but in reading the recipe for the 17th time, I realize I could also have used a beef roast.

This turned out to be a really easy recipe, despite the steps of stuffing and studding the roast. Don’t let those steps intimidate you. It’s not hard, and the pay-off is huge! The garlic roasts as you brown the meat, then infuses the broth with a wonderful, mellow garlic flavor. The roast cooks on the stove for close to 3 hours, and the smell will have you watching the clock waiting for it to be ready!

Being cooked in a liquid keeps the roast juicy, even when you reheat the leftovers. I shared the roast with a friend, and we ate it with brown rice. The traditional beans and plantains would be great accompaniments, and if I cook this for a big family meal, I’ll be sure to include those.

Oh, and I should mention the leftovers make a great “soup” if you pile some rice, chunks of roast and broth in a bowl.

I’m certainly glad I ventured out to try a new cuisine, and have got another Cuban recipe in mind to try soon. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

I associate crock pot cooking with cold, winter days, but recently it occurred to me that summer is an even better time for using the crock pot. Kansas City was expected to be in the triple digits for several more days. I didn’t want to turn on the oven or stand over the stove for long, and I surely didn’t want to stand on my west-facing deck next to a hot grill in the late afternoon sun! Yet we need to eat.

For the most part I’m happy with picking at bits from the frig, but The Pretty One really needs a meal to keep him going. Between 40-50 hours a week at his internship and 9 hours of online summer classes, he needs “real” food.White Bean Chicken Chili

The Pretty One eats at the golf course when he’s working, but golf course food typically isn’t very healthy. Menus are designed for speed, not nutrition. Once he’s home, he heads to his laptop to study and take his tests for his online courses, so I like to have something healthy ready for him.

It seems weird to make chili in the summer, but I guess it shouldn’t since we eat hot foods all year round. I found this recipe on Taste of Home. It’s not a thick and creamy white chicken chili, so don’t expect that. I followed the recipe closely, but added a bit more pepper since I wasn’t feeding anyone who is spice-challenged. The flavor is great! It had just enough pop without being too much. The consistency, though, wasn’t what I expected. It’s more like a soup than a chili, so I took one of the reviewers’ suggestions and add a cup or so of cooked brown rice to it. I think the rice made it a more filling dish that was still somewhat light. Click for recipe.

I’m happy with this recipe and think it’s a nicely-spiced, healthy meal that didn’t heat up the house. The crock pot may become one of my go-to kitchen tools this summer. In fact, I’m already looking for more recipes to try!

Every good Chicagoan knows that while deep-dish pizza may be the first Chicago food that comes to the minds of out-of-towners, the TRUE Chicagoan’s favorite food is the Italian Beef Sandwich! Luscious garlicky sliced beef baked with Italian seasonings, dipped in au jus and piled high on a warm Italian roll, topped with sweet or hot peppers (and sometimes ooey-gooey Mozzarella or Provolone cheese)….. YUM!

Chicago-Style Italian BeefAlthough recipes on the internet abound for Italian Beef sandwich “clones,” most use a crock-pot method which yields a mushy, stringy, sub-standard beef sandwich.

I found this recipe quite by accident while Googling recipes for my favorite foods on the internet (what can I say—food obsession runs in the genes!) This one really piqued my interest! No all day cooking in a crock pot? No stringy chuck roast imposter? A true roasted beef with Italian seasonings? I just HAD to give it a try!  Click for recipe.

Oddly enough, the roast was on sale at my local market: buy one – get one free! A sign from the Chicago gods, perhaps?

Quite excited, I baked up the roast per the instructions above and… Viola — the BEST home-made Italian Beef Sandwiches EVER!!!  These were almost as good as those we Chicagoans know and love!

Although I don’t have a meat slicer to get my slices paper-thin, I do pretty good with a sharp knife! [Uh huh. Is this where I tell everyone she sliced off the end of her finger once?] I would even consider purchasing a meat slicer for home use just for this recipe!!

My husband, who will tell you exactly what he thinks of a recipe when asked [yeah, he’s not really shy], was so impressed with these, he actually bragged about how good they were to friends and family!Oven Ready Italian Beef

Now I double the batch, freeze the meat for 15-20 minutes to make it easier to slice, and put dinner portions in zip top bags for the freezer. I also portion the beef “gravy” and freeze this, as well. When we need an easy dinner, I just pull out a bag of sliced Italian Beef and a container of gravy and thaw for dinner! (You can make an extra batch of gravy by bringing a can of beef broth with the seasoning mixture to a soft boil. This will yield more gravy if you, like me, like your sandwich completely dipped and sloppy!) [That’s called “wet” when you order in the restaurant.]

Try this recipe and enjoy a true Chicago favorite!

~Kitchen Kween (Munchie’s sis)

[Munchies’ Note: I LOVE Italian Beef sandwiches, and it’s one of the things I miss most about living in Kansas City. I used to eat at Luke’s regularly when I was in high school, and have been known to stop at Luke’s on the way to Mom’s when we drive into town. Portillo’s is another favorite for Italian Beef, Chicago dogs and cheese fries. I’ve found a pretty good Italian Beef sandwich at The Pizza Man in Lenexa, and they’ve got the good Chicago dogs as well.

I made these for dinner recently but wasn’t sure what to expect. The Pretty One didn’t like the beef when he tried it in Chicago years ago, so I didn’t know if he’d like my version. I used a crispy French bread loaf and made the extra gravy, as KK suggested but skipped the peppers (I don’t care for them) and the cheese (I prefer mine without). They were FANTASTIC!! All the flavor of Chicago, and leftovers too!! After eating his sandwich, The Pretty One asked what I had made for dinner. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I’d eat more, but I’m going out to run.” I’d say that’s a pretty good endorsement, wouldn’t you? I’ll definitely be making this again!]

Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

Stuff you need:

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoons salt

1 small sirloin tip roast, about 2-1/2 lbs [I used eye of round roast because it was on sale. Be sure to use a tender roast for this, not one that requires long and slow cooking.]

1 can or 2 cups beef broth

8 Italian rolls, warmed and split [I used a loaf of French bread cut into sandwich sized portions and split.]

Giardiniera and / or sautéed green peppers, optional

8 slices Provolone or Mozzarella cheese, optional

Now what?

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place meat fat side up in a shallow pan that’s just large enough to hold the roast. Rub half of the seasoning mixture over the meat.

Roast for 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook 20 minutes longer.

Remove from oven; pour beef broth and remaining seasoning mixture into pan. Return to oven. Cook just until the meat registers about 135 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 20 – 25 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK the meat!

Remove the meat from the pan and let rest / cool for 20 minutes. (Temp will continue to rise, reaching 145F – medium rare.) [This is an important step, so don’t skip it!]

Meanwhile, stir the juices in the pan to loosen the spices if necessary, and transfer them to a saucepan.  [There’s a lot of pepper in there, so if you want it really mild, don’t stir up all the spices!] Cook over medium heat until heated through – about 3 minutes.

Slice cooled meat paper-thin. For each sandwich, dip meat slices briefly into juice then layer meat and juices onto the warmed, split rolls. Serve immediately with giardiniera or peppers on top. (If using the cheese, put cheese on bottom of warmed roll before piling beef and juices on.)

I’ve been staring at my The Best of Clean Eating cookbook for a bit now, and while several recipes looked good, I hadn’t made anything from it. Paging through, a simple-looking Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry caught my eye.

Easy Orange Stir-Fry

Because I don’t care for broccoli (I hear that makes me a weirdo), I swapped out fresh green beans which I love! And because I already had tenderized pork steaks in the freezer, I swapped those for the steak. I made a few other tweaks to the original recipe to accommodate what I had on hand, but I don’t think they affected the flavor.

Because I didn’t think to look for reviews online, I didn’t know how good the dish would be. I cut back the meat to 1/2 pound, but used the called-for amounts of the rest of the ingredients. I really liked the flavor of the sauce, and The Pretty One and I ate it up! I wonder, though, how it would have been if I’d used the whole pound of meat, the soba noodles, and added the flour to the sauce. I don’t think it would have been a very successful dish because there was very little extra sauce even without those ingredients. That might be OK with you, but I like a lot of sauce to flavor the rice or noodles.

Next time I will use the whole pound of meat, quadruple the sauce, and maybe squeeze a fresh orange on top. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect that, so keep that in mind when you try this out. Click for recipe.

Happy & healthy eating!

Easy Orange Stir-FryEasy Orange Stir-Fry

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine’s Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry (Original Recipe & Reviews)

Minutes to Prepare: 30

Minutes to Cook: 15

Number of Servings: 4

Stuff you need:

Olive oil cooking spray

1 pound pork steak or pork tenderloin, lean round steak, or boneless chicken, pounded to 1/4 inch thick and sliced thin in strips

1/2 cup white onion, diced

2 cups fresh green beans, broccoli florets, cauliflower, or a combination, separated/cut into bite size pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, julienne cut

¾ cup low sodium tamari soy sauce

3/4 cup orange juice or juice of 4 medium oranges

¼ cup dried orange zest or zest from 4 medium oranges. [If using dried zest, rub between hands while dropping it into the bowl to bring out the oils.]

8 cloves garlic, minced or 1 Tablespoon minced garlic from the jar [You can find this in the produce section.]

3 Tablespoons honey

3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour (optional) [Use some or all if you want a thicker sauce. You can use all purpose flour instead of whole wheat flour.]

1 fresh orange [Optional]

Prepared rice or noodles

Now what?

Heat large nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 min. Reduce heat to medium-high, mist pan with cooking spray and saute meat for about 2-3 minutes to desired doneness. Remove meat, leaving juices in the pan.

Mist same pan again with cooking spray. Add onion, green beans and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through. [Green beans may not take 5 minutes, so keep an eye on them.]

In a medium bowl whisk together soy sauce, orange juice, zest, garlic and honey.

Add meat back into vegetable mixture and pour in soy sauce mixture. Sauté over medium high heat for about 2 minutes then whisk in flour to thicken [if using], about 4-6 min. squeeze fresh orange over mixture, remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.

This guest post comes from my sis, the Kitchen Kween and my niece, Abs. If you ever get invited to their home, go. The food alone will be worth the trip!  KK and Abs teamed up to share one of their family’s favorites.
Polish Sausage Skillet from Kitchen Kween

This is the version Munchie would make — it’s spinach-free!

Having been married to a Polish man for 22 years, I am always looking for a way to put a new spin on his childhood favorites.  When I saw this dish which uses a Polish staple – Kielbasa – I knew I had to give it a try.

What a surprise!  It went together quickly with little fuss, and didn’t use any “weird” ingredients I didn’t already have in my pantry. Click for recipe.

We polished (or is that “Polish-ed”) off the entire skillet in about 10 minutes!!  Surprisingly, the girls LOVED it, and even my husband had to admit that it was pretty darned good!

The sauce reminds me a bit of the dressing used on a Spinach salad, but compliments the sausage and potatoes perfectly.   We have made it both with and without the spinach (depending on if I remembered to pick it up at the market or not!)   Either way works, but I prefer to sneak the leafy greens in when possible!

This has become a staple in our house, although I usually have to DOUBLE the recipe to make sure we all get enough!  We’re sure you will love it too!

Kitchen Kween (Munchie’s sis)

Kitchen Kween Polish Sausage Skillet

Everyone wants Abs’ dinner!

I got this recipe from my friend, Stacy. It’s not the typical white chicken chili that I’ve had before, but it’s really good. And its super-simple. You put everything in the crockpot and turn it on. That’s it!

Making a double batch!

I made a double batch so I could have some for myself and sent the rest with The Pretty One. If you make a double batch, make sure you have a large crock pot – mine’s a 5-Qt. and you can see how full it was.You can start with frozen or fresh chicken. If you don’t like corn (you know who you are, NM!), you can leave it out. If you do that, I suggest adding more beans – probably navy beans or white kidney beans. Rinse and drain them, and add about 1/2 a can of water to replace the corn liquid.

While I found the chili to be nicely seasoned, if you like a hotter chili use the hot Rotel instead of mild, or add some chopped fresh jalapenos to the mix. Click for recipe.

Don’t worry about putting the cream cheese in with everything else – it’ll be fine. However, if you’re going to leave this to cook much more than 8 hours, you might want to wait and stir it in right before serving.

Load up the crock pot before you leave for work, and when you get home, dinner’s ready. Simple, right?

Maybe the best thing about The Pretty One going to college is that he learned to eat spicy food. He’s much more fun to cook for now!

I always cooked fairly bland food for the family because I had a child who didn’t explore foods and didn’t enjoy spice. Having been raised by parents in the food service industry he was used to eating in restaurants too often and choosing his meals from boring kids menus, as opposed to eating a variety of food served at home. Not a smart way to raise a gourmet, but nevertheless, that’s how it was. The Pretty One was an expert at ordering chicken fingers, cheeseburgers and baby back ribs. That all changed with a Mexican Meatloaf!

One year he spent spring break in Tulsa with his roommate’s family. Being a guest at someone’s home means eating what they serve, so there was no way to avoid the spicy meatloaf, peppers and all. And there the love affair with “flavor that kicks me in the mouth” began! I was shocked one evening to hear that the meal I served needed more spice. Who was this child?

I’d been wanting to try a Mexican Meatloaf. This recipe looked good and pretty easy, so the next time I wanted to send dinner home with The Pretty One, I surprised him with my version of a Mexican Meatloaf. The recipe calls for ground beef, but I used part ground beef and part ground pork. I think you could use any combination of ground meats that you want. If I was making it for myself, I’d probably use ground turkey. I think I’ll give it a bit more zip next time by using fresh jalapeno peppers instead of canned green chilies. Click for recipe.

The Pretty One stopped by tonight to pick up a batch of chili. And some money, of course.  😉  It was the first chance I had to ask what he thought about the Mexican Meatloaf. Rave reviews! He loved it!

He especially liked the picante sauce on top, and said he ate it all in 2 meals. Sheesh – a whole meatloaf in 2 meals? I guess he did like it!

So like chili (his favorite) and the Chicken Alfredo & Rice Casserole, I’ll be adding this to the Mama Love rotation.

Mama Love: Mexican Meatloaf


Stuff you need:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef [or any combination of ground meats. I used 1# ground beef + 1/2# ground pork.]
3/4 cup mild picante sauce [I used medium. Use whatever spiciness you prefer.]
1 (4 ounce) cans diced green chilies, drained [Next time I’ll use fresh jalapeno peppers for more heat.]
1/2 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 -2 teaspoons chili powder (to your preference)
1 teaspoon salt

Picante sauce [Whatever spice level you prefer.]
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese or 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese [I used a shredded Mexican blend]

Sour cream
Chopped cilantro
Additional picante sauce

Now what?
Combine first 9 ingredients and place in lightly greased loaf pan.
Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until done.
During last 10 minutes of baking, spoon desired amount of picante sauce over loaf and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until meatloaf is done.
Garnish with sour cream, cilantro or picante sauce, if desired.


I made this soup in response to cravings for a hearty vegetable soup. I know I’m not usually a veggie advocate, but I do like a good vegetable-based soup.

The flavor of this soup was just what I was looking for – hearty, tomato based, and well-balanced with the spices in it. I made this while I was trying to cut my meat consumption, so I cut the meat in half and doubled the beans. You could easily add more vegetables such as green beans for even more veggie goodness. Click for recipe.

A sprinkling of parmesan cheese tops this off nicely. Serve it with some crusty bread from the bakery department at the grocery store, and it’s a nice, hearty meal on a chilly day!