Archive for the ‘Main Course’ Category


Chili Pie

February 17, 2013

chili pie iiWe went the Chicago Auto Show over the weekend.  It’s always a great way to look at all the new cars without the hassle of the salesman.  Of course, if you go there because you’re in the market for a car, you can always find someone willing to contact you.

On the way home we stopped at a bakery.  Now you may be wondering why we would stop at a bakery when I seem to always be baking.  I love a good bakery.  I love the smells, the display case, the happy people behind the counter.  Unfortunately, a good bakery is hard to find these days.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice bakeries out there, but not all of them are good.  The one we went to has been around for a while, so they know what they are doing.  We bought some fabulous turtle cookies there, but when we were about to leave I noticed something.  It was chili pie.  I asked the girl behind the counter about it, and once we got in the car, my husband said “please, you have to make that pie.”

Turns out, I had just made chili a few days prior and I’d been waiting to try a new pie crust recipe.

I’m not going to share my chili recipe.  I think that most people feel that their chili is the best chili.  Maybe that’s true.  Regardless, everyone has their go to recipe.

This pie can be eaten as an entrée or leave the top layer of pie crust off and serve it with tortilla chips at your next get together.

I have to mention, though, that this is by far the best pie crust I’ve ever had.  Tthe vodka prevents cracking when you roll it out.  It also makes a very flakey crust that browns evenly.  I like to make pie crust, stick it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer.  This recipe makes 1 9-inch pie crust, which translates into two crusts, the top and bottom.

chili pie iiiPie Crust

  • 2 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1 C cold Butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices (or 12 T and 1/2 C cold vegetable shortening)
  • 1/4 C Vodka, chilled
  • 1/4 C Water, ice cold

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the flour, salt and sugar and pulse a few times

Add the butter (or butter and shortening) and process until the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides and pulse again until pea-size pieces to start to form.

With the machine on, slowly add the vodka and water until it just comes together.  Dump the contents onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Divide the dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap, or a place in Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate at least 45 minutes or place in the freezer.

Chili Pie

  • Pie Crust (one for the bottom and one for the top)
  • 4-5 C Chili  (I didn’t actually measure, I just filled the pie plate)
  • 1 C Shredded Cheese, divided
  • 1/2 C Onion, diced

Line the pie plate with pie crust.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, making sure to line the crust with weights.  (Remember that once you’ve worked the crust into the plate, put it back into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes before placing into the oven.) Remove the crust from the oven.  Layer  shredded cheese onto the crust, add the chili, add another layer of cheese, sprinkle with diced onion and place the crust on top.  Cut slits into the crust and place the pie back into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve warm.



Civil War Mac and Cheese Revisted

September 10, 2012

I’m revisiting some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had.  This is my go to recipe.  I love that it’s unique.  I also love that depending on what you boil the  noodles in, this dish can be a one pot casserole.  I say that because I’ve been making it in a wonderful deep skillet that I picked up on vacation this past summer.  It’s a Le Creuset 12″ cast iron skillet.  (Thank you outlet mall.) It’s perfect for a one pot casserole.

The other reason I love this recipe is that it’s simple.  Most everything you need is already in the house, well it’s in mine anyway.  It’s a fairly quick recipe that reheats well, if you have any leftover.  It can be made with cheddar, the sharper the better, but you can also make it with Gruyère, or a combination of both.  I’ve also made it with cheddar and gouda.  I like gouda because it melts so well.

I’ve also made this with shells instead of elbow maccaroni.  Or better yet, I’ve also made it with wagon wheel pasta.  Who doesn’t like wagon wheel pasta?  It’s the perfect complement to melted cheese.  Crumple up some crushed Cheese-Its on the pasta instead of breadcrumbs.  This is perfect for this time of year.  Make it as a side, or just enjoy it as a main dish.

Civil War Mac and Cheese

  • 4 C Milk
  • 2 C Elbow Macaroni
  • 2 C- 3C, packed, grated cheddar cheese
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 C Cheese-Its, crushed
  • Salt, for the macaroni

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat the milk and salt in a large saucepan until steamy. Stir in the dry macaroni and let the milk come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer.  Pay attention while the macaroni is cooking in the milk as the milk may foam up and boil over.  Cook the macaroni for about 15 minutes or until done, the macaroni will absorb most of the milk.  Make sure that there is still milk left in the pan.   As soon as the macaroni is done, add the grated cheese, pepper and nutmeg and stir.  Sprinkle with Cheese-Its and bake for 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Here’s my original post.  As you can see, I’ve stop using the butter because I leave enough milk in the pot to help melt the cheese.


Kathy’s Shrimp Dish

April 29, 2012

Here’s a great recipe from my friend Kathy.  She posted it on Pinterest.  I know I still don’t get, but I’m becoming slightly addicted.  I love going on there and seeing what my friends have pinned.  When I asked Kathy about the recipe she suggested that using the Good Seasonings packet would really bring out the flavor of the shrimp.  She’s probably right, but I didn’t have any and I used the dried Italian seasoning instead.  I think that the way they preserve those bags of frozen shrimp, along with the butter had plenty of salt.  I wanted to use the entire lemon, but my husband is not a fan of lemon in his entrees.  Baked goods on the other hand are an entirely different matter.

This dish is so good.  I could easily make it every week and not tire of it.  I also think you could easily substitute scallops and have a great meal.  I love that it served with pasta, but I think brown rice could also be good.  Thanks Kathy and keep pinning!

Kathy’s Shrimp Dish

  • 1/2 C Butter, melted
  • 2 lb Raw Shrimp, deveined and shelled
  • 1/2 -1 Lemon
  • 1 package Good Seasonings Italian Seasoning packet or 1 t dried Italian Herb Seasoning
  • Pepper to Taste

Layer a baking dish with the shrimp, making sure they are in a single layer.  (I used a quarter sheet.)  Sprinkle with the seasoning, pepper, butter and the juice of 1/2 to one whole lemon.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  When the shrimp change color, they are done.  Serve over pasta.  Kathy said angel hair pasta, I made it with whole wheat linguine.


Another Perfect Winter Meal

January 22, 2012

We had more snow on Friday.  I’m not sure how much.  Maybe six or eight inches.  I honestly don’t keep track.  To me snow is more of an inconvenience than anything.  I lost that gleeful feeling toward snow a long time ago.  I think it may have coincided with getting my driver’s license.

I don’t hate driving in snow, but I don’t like it.  Friday’s snow added 30 minutes on to my commute home.  That’s not too bad.  I’ve been stuck in snow longer.  The problem with the snow by me is the drifts.  The snow drifts a lot.  So even if the roads have just been plowed, you can’t tell.  I actually got stuck going up my driveway.  It took four attempts before I could park in the garage.  The ironic thing was that the snow wasn’t wet.  Do you know what I mean?  It wasn’t good packing snow, which usually causes me more trouble in the car.  Or truck.  I don’t have four-wheel drive on the mammoth vehicle I drive, so stopping and starting are always an adventure in the snow.

The upside of the snow was that Meeshie went sledding with a few of her friends yesterday.  It was her first time.  I know.  I’m a bad mom, but I wasn’t aware of any great snow hills near me.  Until yesterday, that is.  I was invited too, but I needed to stay home and make dinner.  I’m hoping to join in next time.  I made them some cinnamon cider to keep them warm.  Meeshie had a great time, thanks Maribeth and Carol for taking her.  Is it still considered sledding if you sit in the warm car with a hot spiked beverage?  Because I can do that.

I stayed home and made this pasta dish.  I love baked ziti and yesterday was a perfect day for it.  This dish feeds a large crowd.  I’ve made it for past Superbowl parties.  I love that you can make the cream sauce a couple of days ahead.

Baked Ziti with Mushrooms

  • 3 Yellow Bell Peppers
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 2 C Half and Half
  • 1 1/2 lbs Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 2 Orange Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 1 lb Ziti ( I actually used Mezzi Rigatoni)
  • 8 Scallions (green part only)
  • 2 C Parmesan, freshly grated
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg

Chop the yellow peppers, onion, and mince the garlic.  Add all three to a heavy saucepan lined with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally, until the peppers are soft; about 15 minutes.  Stir in the half and half and nutmeg.  Allow to cool and add to a blender and puree in batches.  If you don’t allow the mixture to cool be aware that blending hot liquids:  use small batches and vent the blender.  Use a towel over the blender, this will help prevent any heat explosions.   Set this mixture aside.

In a large skillet, add the remaining olive oil, mushrooms and red and orange peppers.  Season with pepper.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Set aside.

Cooke the pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 C of pasta water.  Drain the pasta.  Combine the pasta, half and half mixture, mushrooms and peppers, pasta water and 1 1/2 C of parmesan.  Place in a 3 or 4 quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until hot and begins to brown.

If making ahead, combine the sauce and prepare the mushroom mixture.  Set in the fridge for up to two days ahead.  Make sure the sauce and mushrooms are at room temperature before proceeding.  Adjust your cooking time in the oven accordingly.

Makes 8 to 10 servings!

Serve with your favorite bread and salad.

Ekat’s Kitchen.


Something Spicy

January 17, 2012

It’s been cold around here lately.  We had snow last week, a little more today and now we are gearing up for some cold weather.  Ah, winter in Chicago.  It’s days like today that makes most Chicagoans smile during the hot, humid summer.  Or at least I do.
A cold day like today makes me want to enjoy a hot dish.  Orange chicken is just that dish.  What I love is that I can control the heat level.  So, even though my husband and I love spicy food, the dish can be less hot for Meeshie.  And let me tell you Meeshie is a big fan of orange chicken.  She’s also a big fan of sweet and sour chicken.
This dish uses the same technique as the sweet and sour chicken:  the egg wash/corn starch dip before the frying.   It’s a messy step but worth it, just make sure to keep one hand dry and one wet, it’ll still be messy but not so bad.  I also prep everything the night before, just like the sweet and sour chicken, to let the sauce soak into the chicken.
The first time I made this, I used 1 T of crushed red pepper.  It was spicy (not too spicy), and Meeshie commented about it but still ate it.  Since then, I’ve made it with less red pepper and she always asks about the heat level.  Once she realizes it isn’t that spicy she digs right in and enjoys!
Orange Chicken
  • 2 Whole Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T Cornstarch
  • 1 C Orange Juice
  • 1 C Water, with 2 T reserved
  • 1 Lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 T Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 t Ground Ginger
  • 1 t Garlic Powder
  • 2 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 t-1 T Crushed Red Pepper, depending on your heat level

Cut the chicken up into chunks, season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken in the 1/2 C cornstarch then the eggs.  Fry in a little oil until browned and place in a 9×13 baking dish (I use my Pyrex).  Mix the orange juice, water less the 2 T, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and soy sauce together.  Mix the 2 T cornstarch with the 2 T water, mix into the sauce and add the red pepper.

You can then let it sit in the fridge over night or cook immediately.  I usually prep it all and place it in the fridge overnight.

Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve with white rice or fried rice.

I’m linked to Ekat’s Kitchen today.


Italian Meatballs Revisted

January 4, 2012

I’m reposting this awesome recipe.  We’ve been talking about meatball sandwiches for the last few days.  I’m going to make these this weekend to enjoy.  That way we’ll be ready for the big game too!

I got this great recipe from my girlfriend who in turn got it from her MIL.  Her in-laws owned a restaurant at one time.  These are some serious meatballs.  So easy.  So versatile.  They pack a ton of flavor too.

I actually double this recipe, freeze them and then take out what I need when the mood strikes.

Meeshie loves them with pasta.

Not me.  I love these on a sandwich.  A meatball sandwich, with provolone on a toasted bun.  Heavenly.  The key to keeping them in the bun is to remove a small amount of bread from the bun.  That way the meatballs will stay in the divot in the bun and there won’t be a mess because of a lost meatball.   There will be a mess, but it will be so heavenly!

When I make these, my husband and Meeshie just pluck them off the plate while they drain.


 Italian Meatballs

  • 1-½ pound Ground Chuck
  • 1-½ pound Ground Pork
  • 1 C Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 3 whole Eggs Beaten
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 C Grated Imported Romano Or Parmigiano Cheese
  • 1 T Garlic Powder
  • 1 bunch Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • 5 cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 T Butter
  • Oil, For Frying

Sauté the fresh garlic and onion in the butter until onion is tender. Add the chopped parsley and sauté for a minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, pork, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic powder. Add the sautéed onion mixture and mix everything together by hand.

In a deep skillet, heat about 3 inches of oil. (I actually use my deep fryer for this part. That way I can fry about a dozen meatballs at once.) I use a medium-sized cookie scoop so that the balls are uniform. If you prefer to make them larger, go for it, but I find that the medium size is perfect for sandwiches.  Scoop the mixture into the hot oil frying for about 3-4 minutes a side. The meatballs will be a nice dark golden brown color. Let them drain on a paper towel.

Once they drain and cool, I place them on a cookie sheet to freeze.  I put them in the freezer for about a half an hour or so and then put them in bags.  This way they wont stick together when you’re ready to heat them up.  When ready to eat, place them in your favorite marinara on a low heat. The longer you let them cook the more tender they’ll be.

I’ve served them when we’ve had people over for the Superbowl.  But you don’t have to wait to have friends over to eat these.


Pefect Finger Food or Main Event

December 8, 2011

I have a recipe for an appetizer that I’ve been making forever.  So long in fact that I don’t remember where I got it, much less what to call it.  It’s also a perfect entrée.  Do you have a recipe like that?  One that you can easily transition from side dish to main dish?

I think the reason that it’s so popular is because it’s a perfect finger food.  I mean that it’s a perfect finger food to serve a room full of hungry men.  Don’t get me wrong, ladies love it too.  And did I mention that it transitions into a great entrée?

This recipe uses Pillsbury crescent rolls and I make one tube of rolls per meat choice when I’m serving it to a crowd as an appetizer.  I’ve scaled it back so you can use it as a meal instead.  When I was first given this recipe, I was putting the sauce inside the crescent roll.  I stopped doing that because the process can become very messy and it’s hard to seal the rolls.  I like serving the sauce on the side much better.

I love that the combination for this is as endless as your imagination or what you have in your fridge.  You can make ham and swiss; chicken and cheddar, roast beef and mozzarella.  I’ve even made this with a combination of cheeses and left out the meat.  Don’t be afraid to try your favorite lunch meat with your favorite cheese.

When I make it for an entrée, I serve it with soup or chili.  Then I’ll give the leftover to Meeshie to enjoy in her lunch.  And that’s another thing I love about these.  They are a hot dish, but the still taste good if they been out of the oven for a while, perfect for a large get together.  Let’s face it, this time of year we are always looking for a dish like that.

Mini Sammies

  • 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1/2 C of your favorite lunch meat: turkey, ham or roast beef
  • 1/2 C of shredded cheese to accompany the lunch meat: cheddar, swiss, mozzarella
  • 1/4 C Green Onion, diced
  • 1 T Butter, melted
  • Sesame Seed, for garnish
  • Barbecue Sauce, for dipping
  • Mustard, for dipping
  • Ketchup, for dipping

Take the crescent rolls out of the tube, separate them and flatten the triangles on your work surface.  I find that if you flatten the crescents, it will give you a larger area of dough thereby making it easier to stuff.  Place a small amount (about 2 T) of meat, a small amount (1/2 T) of green onion, and a small amount (about 1 T) of cheese in the widest part of the crescent.  (You want enough filling in each to enjoy the sandwich, but not so much that you can’t get the sides together to seal.)  Take the sides and close the crescent, making sure to seal completely.   Place the sandwich on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush the sandwiches with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 375 degrees oven.

Serve with barbecue sauce, mustard and ketchup.  Makes 8 mini sandwiches per roll.


A Great Chicken Dish

September 30, 2011

We love chicken, most people do or there wouldn’t be so many ways to prepare it.

I have a great honey soy recipe and when I saw this one I was on the fence.   My family loves honey, but the recipe, at first glance, seemed too similar to the one I use.  Then my friend Allison posted about it.  That’s when I knew that I had to make this dish.  Allison used chicken thighs, but since I’m not a fan of dark meat, I decided to use the whole chicken as the recipe suggests.  I was going to keep the chicken whole, but decided to quarter it instead.

We loved this dish.  It was simple, tasty, crunchy and not too sweet.  Any leftover chicken would be great in a pot pie or a salad.  I actually poured some of the honey mixture on to the chicken and used a brush to spread it that I didn’t allow in the mixture.  There was some extra of the honey mixture that I then served with the chicken as a dip.  If you do contaminate the honey mixture, you can follow the directions that Allison suggested on her post.

This is also a great recipe that translates well from the oven to the grill.  It’s a perfect all year dish.  It’s chicken after all.

Honey-Glazed Chicken

  • 1/3 C Honey
  • 1 T Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t Dried Thyme
  • 1 1/2 t Course Salt (I used truffle salt)
  • 1/2 t Ground Pepper
  • 1 whole Chicken

Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together honey, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Place 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs), cut into 8 pieces (or quartered), on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil; brush with honey mixture.  Roast until chicken is deep brown and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes, brushing twice with honey mixture (do not brush during last 5 minutes of cooking).

Serves 4


Yes! Pasta!

September 13, 2011

Can I share something with you?   Here’s the thing about me, I’m a seasonal eater.  In the summer I love to barbecue and eat all the fresh fruits and veggies I can.

But when the season starts to turn cooler, I get excited.  I love to make pasta, and soups, and bake with yeast.  Yeah, that’s what fall means to me.  All the wonderful things I didn’t want to eat in the summer because of the heat are now my favorite things to enjoy once the temperature dips.

Right now the weather isn’t sure what it wants to do, it’s been in the 90’s and then a few days later it’s dipped down to the 60’s.  Ah, the midwest is awesome, right?   There’s a saying here:  Don’t like the weather?  Wait 15 minutes and it will change.

I love pasta.  It’s so simple to throw together and done right it’s pretty healthy.  Oh, except if you live with a diabetic, then it’s not a good idea to eat it everyday, even if he wants to.

Penne with vodka sauce is one of my favorite dishes.  There’s a place that my friend Angel and I go to that has one of the best versions of this dish.  It’s a dish that is so simple.  Unfortunately, it’s also a dish that can be bad if made incorrectly.  I’ve made a version that was so bland that I had a mutiny.  But this, this version is heavenly.  The key is cooking the tomatoes down to a thick sauce.  It allows for a great intense flavor.

Heaven.  Here’s the post that reminded me how great this dish is.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

  • 1/4 C  Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves Garlic-minced
  • pinch crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 t Sea Salt, divided
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 pound Penne
  • 2 T Vodka
  • 1 C Heavy Cream
  • 2 T Parsley-roughly chopped (optional)

In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later, combine the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and salt, stirring to coat with the oil.  Cook over low-moderate heat for 2-3 minutes.  Do NOT brown the garlic.  Add the crushed tomatoes.  Stir to blend, and simmer, uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 15-25 minutes.  This step is super important.  The sauce needs to thicken for the flavors to intensify.  So the amount of time you cook it is less important than  the consistency.   Taste for  seasoning.

In a saucepan, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil, add the penne.  Stir to prevent sticking and cook until  al dente.  Drain thoroughly.  Add the drained pasta to skillet with the  tomato sauce. Toss. Add the vodka, and toss again, then add the cream and toss.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


A Garden Find

September 1, 2011

I’m re-posting a great recipe from last year.

I was finally able to make this wonderful tomato pie last night for dinner.  When I looked at the post from last year, I noticed I had tomatoes about a month earlier.  Mother nature was not kind to my garden, but now that I have a tomato harvest I’m enjoying every minute of it.

We love the fresh tomatoes and I had almost forgotten how much we loved this dish.  It’s perfect as is or served with a great salad.

Also, since posting and making it last year, I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly.  Either way you make it, tomato pie is a great summer dish.  I make my own pie crust, but you can use the store bought kind just as easily.

Oh, regarding the pictures.  I was so excited about the pie that I took some pictures before I stuck it in the oven and I forgot the cheese.  Luckily, I remembered the cheese before I cooked it or we would have had a mutiny.

Tomato Pie

  • 1 Pie Crust
  • 4 whole Tomatoes (peeled, Cored, Seeds Removed)
  • 8-10  leaves Fresh Basil, chopped
  • A sprig of Fresh Oregano, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 C Chopped Green Onion
  • 1 pinch Truffle Salt To Taste (or Sea Salt)
  • 1 pinch Pepper To Taste
  • 1 C Grated Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 C Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 C Mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line the pie crust with foil or a coffee filter and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake until the edges are golden, 15 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Once the pie crust is out of the oven, set the temperature for the oven to 350 degrees.   Clean and slice your tomatoes and arrange the slices in the crust, overlapping them.  You must make sure to seed and peel the tomatoes otherwise you’ll have tomato soup not tomato pie.   Add basil, oregano, and onion, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.   Mix cheeses and mayonnaise in bowl.  Spread over tomatoes.   Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly brown.  Cool about 10 minutes before slicing.

This is a great way to use up those garden tomatoes and that fresh basil growing like a weed in your garden!

Here’s the original post.

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