entrees, etc

main dishes, one dish meals n’more

nana’s new mac ‘n cheese
I’ve been making Macaroni and Cheese for about forty years now. It’s always been a staple for times when the cupboard is almost bare at our house. The thing is… I’ve really never enjoyed preparing it using the recipe my mom and auntie did. You know the old cream sauce, laced with cheddar, then baked routine? It works; tastes enormously better than anything out of a box ever could; but somehow doesn’t quite live up to my expectations for a main dish. That’s probably why it’s been relegated to the bottom of my “what to fix for dinner” list. That is until recently. I’ve learned something new. I enjoy watching the Food Network, when there’s time for TV, and I especially enjoy Ina Garten’s show The Barefoot Contessa. When I watched her make “Penne with Five Cheeses” I was intrigued. And inspired to do two things.

First I added a couple of shallow 2-cup gratin dishes to my cookware collection. Then I set out to modify her recipe to suit our tastes and cut the quantity in half. The results are exactly right for the two of us. To quote Ina: “easy enough to make for your family but elegant enough to serve to company.

(NOTE: The original recipe can be found at www.foodnetwork.com under the Barefoot Contessa, or in her New York Times best selling cookbook Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Family Style.)  

Nana’s New Recipe for Mac ‘n’ Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Monterey Jack
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
1/2 cup large curd Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil.Combine the cheeses and cream, mixing well, then season to taste. Drop 1/2 package of pasta – roughly a cup into boiling water and cook according to package direction until just slightly underdone then drain well in a colander and add to the cheese.

I’ve used elbow macaroni, penne, and shells, all with good success.
Butter two or three shallow gratin dishes and divide the mac ‘n’ cheese between them. Bake until bubbly and brown on top. 10 to 15 minutes.
It’s great! Crunchy on top and creamy inside. Served alongside a green salad and crusty bread it’s really, really dinner.

I’ll bet your family will love it, too
A number of words -
Pythagorean theorem: 24 words.
The Lord's prayer: 66 words.
Archimedes' Principle: 67 words.
The 10 Commandments: 179 words.
The Gettysburg Address: 286 words.
The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.
The US Government regulations on the sale of cabbage:
26,911 words. author unknown

Kraut Runza

and speaking of cabbage… it’s the stuff that makes up one of our very favorite comfort foods.  

In Colorado’s German-Russian communities it’s known as Cabbage Pockets, Beroks, Cabbage Buns or Krautburgers. In California it appears on bakery menus as Bierocks. My husband’s family, who immigrated to eastern Colorado from near Frank, Russia at the turn of the last century calls them Kraut Runza. It helps if you hold your mouth right and try to impersonate “Klink” when you say it. No matter how you say it, they’re delicious, comforting and a nourishing quick lunch or supper when the kitchen is not at its best. Judging from my antique cookbook collection each cook gave the recipe a personal twist. No two are exactly the same. Here’s mine:  


Coarsely shred 1 medium head cabbage
Dice a small onion In a large Dutch-oven,
brown 1 lb. lean ground beef.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the cabbage and onions.
Cover and slowly cook the filling down until the cabbage just starts to caramelize, stirring often.
Salt and pepper again.
Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Place the filling in a colander and set it aside to cool while you prepare the

bread dough:

4 cups flour
2 packages or 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast  
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar   
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup scalded milk  
2 tablespoons butter
Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water. Allow it to stand about 10 minutes to “proof”the Yeast.
Scald milk and butter until butter just begins to melt. (1 minute 30 seconds in the microwave will do it exactly)
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Add the milk and butter. Add the yeast and water.  Beat well.
Add enough of the remaining flour to make a firm dough. 
Knead on a floured board  until elastic. (I make the bread in my food processor which speeds the operation up considerably without diminishing the quality of the bread. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for bread making.) 
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease the top. 
Cover and let rise in a warm oven.  (Warm the oven by turning it on the lowest setting for a minute or two, then turning it off, BEFORE putting the dough in.)
After 15 minutes remove the bowl, punch the dough down and turn out on a lightly floured surface.
Working with half the dough on a lightly floured surface: roll out to about 1/4 inch in thickness and cut into 8 squares.
Using a large slotted spoon, put about 1/3 cup of well drained filling on a square.
Lift up the corners of the dough and pinch to form a tightly closed pocket. Put the pocket on a lightly greased baking sheet and repeat the process with each square of dough.
Repeat with the second half of the dough and the remaining filling.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve them hot. Serve them cold. Freeze them to re-heat later, but don’t be surprised if there aren’t any left over to freeze. And always, expect to have requests for more. I’ve never found anyone who didn’t like them.  

Grilled Tri-Tip Nana Style

One of our all time favorite Bar-B-Q’s is Tri-Tip – a marinated cut of beef that is locally popular but may be unfamiliar to our friends outside of California. Never mind if you’ve never heard of Tri Tip — beef tri-tip roast is a boneless cut of meat from the bottom sirloin. It also is called “triangular” roast because of its shape. If you don’t see Tri Tip in your local market – ask for it. It is worth the time and effort, I promise you.  

At least two days before barbecue time, put the tri-tip in a gallon size freezer bag and cover with:

Nana’s Special Marinade

1 1/2 cups salad oil (I use Mazola)
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1/2 cup wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients; stir to blend. Pour over one Tri-Tip and marinade for at least 48 hours, turning occasionally. We like the savory, slightly sour, flavor when it sits for at least 3 days. You’ll have to decide what your preference is.

When you’re ready to grill, sear the meat on both sides over very hot coals to seal in the juices. When browned all around, move the meat to a cooler spot on the grill and finish to the desired degree of doneness – using a good meat thermometer. Remember it will continue to cook a bit as it rests. And it should rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes to reabsorb all those wonderful juices. To serve, slice across the grain, and pile it on plates with Nana’s Penne & Basil Salad and sliced fresh tomatoes. P.S. This Marinade also works wonders on Flank Steak. Just give it at least 2 hours or overnight rather than two or three days.

Super Bowl Sammies

1 Beef Round Bone Roast – cut about 2.5 inches thick with bone in
1/4 cup butter
1 large sweet onion
3 cloves whole garlic
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Red Wine Vinegar
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons Coleman’s Dry Mustard
1 tablespoon dry Parsley Flakes

In a deep, heavy dutch-oven melt the butter, sprinkle the salt over the meat, then brown both sides.  Add the thickly sliced onion and continue cooking until they just begin to caramelize, then add the peeled and smashed garlic cloves, the mustard and parsley, stir together and cook another couple of minutes.    Turn the heat down and add the liquids. 

Cover and slow cook for about 5 or 6 hours, until the beef can be pulled apart with a fork.  Remove the beef from the liquid, cool enough to handle easily and shred it.  I use two forks, and remove all the extra fat and unappetizing bits as I go.  Return the beef to the liquid and refrigerate overnight in a non-reactive (glass or stainless) container.

To serve: Reheat the shredded beef and liquid just before serving. Using the best Hoagie Rolls you can find – butter and toast the cut side of the rolls.  Pile on a generous  helping of drained beef and a thin slice of your favorite cheese.  We like Mozzarella or Monterey Jack. (note: if the beef is not warm enough to melt the cheese I stick it under the broiler for a bit.) Put the hot Sammie on a plate with a handful of chips and a bowl of the cooking liquid and a big pickle spear for garnish. We love this sandwich and it honestly presents just like the best restaurant French-Dip you ever tasted. I divide what’s left-over in two serving portions in zip top freezer bags and serve ‘em again later.  They freeze great and make an easy meal next time we don’t feel like cooking dinner.  

Country Baked Beef Pie

1 pound stewing beef, cubed
1/2 tomato chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 small carrot, diced
1/2 tsp. chopped lemon thyme
Clove of garlic
Worcestershire Sauce
A-1 Sauce
Salt and pepper
Pastry crust

Dredge cubes of beef in flour and braise in the oven in an uncovered pan. Sauté tomato, onions, carrots, and clove of garlic in a skillet; add with chopped fresh thyme, to the braised beef. Cover with water and stew until tender. Season to taste with salt, pepper, A-1 Sauce and/or Worcestershire Sauce. Place in a pie dish and cover with pastry crust. Bake until golden brown. Serve piping hot.

Shells with Tomato Basil Sauce

For 4 Servings you will need:

3 cups shell macaroni
6 ripe tomatoes (about 2 lbs.)
1/2 cup chopped sweet white onion
1/4 cup each chopped FRESH basil and parsley
1/4 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Cook shell macaroni according to package directions (10 or 12) minutes.
While the shells are cooking, discard stem ends of the tomatoes and chop into 1/2″ pieces. There should be 2 to 2 1/2 cups. Mix chopped tomatoes, herbs, oil and garlic together in a large bowl. Season with approximately 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. (to taste) Add macaroni to sauce. Toss to blend. Serve at once with a green salad and Crusty Bread.