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Meatless Monday: Zucchini, Tomato and Cheese Tart

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By Julie · April 28, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

So, if you made those Mini Strawberry Napoleons from a few months ago, you're probably looking for something to do with that second sheet of frozen puff pastry, before it gets lost behind the ice cream or under that sack of buffalo chicken tenders.

Try this Zucchini, Tomato and Cheese Tart.

You roll out the second puff pastry sheet for an easy pie crust and fill it with sautéed onion, zucchini and tomato, plus three eggs and a few handfuls of grated smoked Gouda. Or Cheddar. Or mozzarella. Because one of the great things about being an adult is getting to choose your own cheese.

It's such an easy recipe that if you nail it down now, you can have fun experimenting with it all summer. Add mushrooms, fresh corn, green chiles or diced red bell pepper. Toss in small chunks of ham. Stir in a little cooked bacon or browned sausage.

If you want something easy that can work for breakfast or lunch, unlike those buffalo chicken tenders, this one's for you.

Serves 4 to 6

1 sheet (half of a 17.3-ounce package) frozen puff pastry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can ready-cut diced tomatoes, well drained
3 large eggs
1 cup grated smoked Gouda (substitutes: Cheddar, Monterey jack, mozzarella, Muenster, provolone)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a glass pie plate or a dark 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Set aside.

Remove the puff pastry from the package, and let it thaw at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, Make the Filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is slightly tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the zucchini, and saute just until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with oregano and black pepper.

Mix in the drained tomatoes, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is tender but not mushy and the juices have evaporated. Set the pan off the heat, and let the veggies cool.

For the Crust: Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and rolling pin, and gently roll the puff pastry into an 11-inch square.

Press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of your pan. (Trim off the excess pastry, and discard.) Prick the pastry with a fork, and place a piece of aluminum foil on the pastry.

Add dried beans or pie weights to weigh down the foil. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Remove the foil and weights. Let the pastry cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

To Assemble the Tart:
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the cheese, salt, pepper, and cooled vegetables. Spoon the mixture into the tart pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is brown and a knife inserted in the center of the tart comes out clean. Remove the outer rim of the tart pan, and let the tart cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

Country-Style Pot Roast with Tomato and Red Wine Gravy.

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By Julie · December 8, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

I’ve been craving meat like Jaws on tofu. And not just any meat, but pot roast.

A pot roast slow-cooked for hours with onions, celery, carrots, garlic and the beginnings of a tomato and red wine gravy.

A pot roast that smells so good while it’s cooking, it makes your eyes roll back, and while it’s resting, you can’t keep yourself from pinching a little piece to hold you over.

That’s this Country-Style Pot Roast with Tomato and Red Wine Gravy.

Once the roast is finished and resting, the gravy is made by discarding the bay leaves, skimming the fat off the surface and blending everything else in the pot. So, you’ve got a thick, red gravy flavored with vegetables, red wine, chicken broth, seasonings and juices from the roast. A thick, red gravy just begging to be ladled over the roast and a generous side of mashed potatoes.

I might need to be alone now.

If you cut this recipe in half, be sure to reduce your slow-cooker time to about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

1 LARGE BONELESS BEEF CHUCK ROAST (5 1/2-6 POUNDS), TIED (OR, USE TWO 3-POUND ROASTS.)
SALT AND PEPPER
4 TEASPOONS VEGETABLE OIL
3 MEDIUM ONIONS, CHOPPED
1 LARGE CELERY RIB, CHOPPED
4 MEDIUM CARROTS, CHOPPED
6 GARLIC CLOVES, MINCED
1 CUP RED WINE
1 (28-OUNCE) CAN CRUSHED TOMATOES
2 CUPS LOW-SODIUM CHICKEN BROTH
1/2 TEASPOON HOT RED PEPPER FLAKES
3 BAY LEAVES
1 TEASPOON DRIED THYME
2 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

Liberally season roast with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to slow cooker.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to skillet, along with onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

Increase heat to high. Add red wine to empty skillet, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Add pepper flakes, bay leaves and thyme. Transfer to slow cooker.

Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 hours. Or, cook on low for 9 to 10 hours. (Check the temperature with a meat thermometer about 2 hours before the roast is supposed to be done to prevent overcooking. It will be well done at 160 degrees F.)

Transfer roast to carving board; loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Discard bay leaves. Allow liquid in pot to settle, about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Puree liquids and solids in batches in blender or food processor. (Or, use an immersion blender.) Stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove strings from roast and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to serving platter. Pour about 1 cup gravy over meat. Serve, passing more gravy separately.

Trashy Taco Soup

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By Julie · December 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

A few weeks ago it started raining in San Francisco, and when it rains, it chills you to the bone.

But the rain and all that comes with it have given me a sinus infection that’s starting to inhibit my ability to function as a normal person.

So, since I can’t go around town speaking my mind, I decided to heal myself by making a truckload of soup.

Not a healthy, restorative, vitamin-packed soup, like a minestrone or a country vegetable. Oh, hell no. It had to be something I could eat with Fritos®.

Preferably while watching “The Biggest Loser.”

Thank God and Mama for trashy-good Taco Soup.

Taco Soup, is like chili with palm trees painted on its fingernails. Beef, onions, tomatoes, beans, corn, chiles and magical seasonings. But perhaps the best part is that you’re required by law to serve the Taco Soup on a golden bed of Fritos®, the official snack chip of stuffy noses. Use whatever beans you have in the pantry. Add another can of tomatoes, or finish it with some fresh jalapeno slices or grated habanero cheddar. But don’t leave out the Fritos®.

2 POUNDS GROUND BEEF
1 TO 2 DICED ONIONS
1 (14 1/2-OUNCE) CAN DICED FIRE-ROASTED TOMATOES
1 (10-OUNCE) CAN RO*TEL® DICED TOMATOES AND GREEN CHILIES
2 (15-OUNCE) CANS BLACK BEANS
1 (16-OUNCE) CAN PINTO BEANS
1 (15 1/4-OUNCE) CAN WHOLE KERNEL CORN, DRAINED
2 (4 1/2-OUNCE) CANS CHOPPED GREEN CHILES
1 (1-OUNCE) ENVELOPE TACO SEASONING
1 (1-OUNCE) ENVELOPE RANCH SALAD DRESSING AND SEASONING MIX
GARNISHES: CORN CHIPS, CHEESE, SOUR CREAM, GREEN ONIONS

In a large skillet, cook beef and onions over medium heat until beef is no longer pink. Drain, using a slotted spoon, as you transfer browned beef and onions to a Dutch oven, stockpot or slow cooker.

Add tomatoes, black beans, pinto beans, corn and green chiles. Stir in the taco seasoning and ranch salad dressing mix.

If you’re cooking on the stove, cover the pot and simmer soup over low heat for 30 minutes up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If you’re using a slow cooker, cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.

Garnish individual servings with corn chips, cheese, sour cream and green onions, if desired.

Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy

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By Julie · December 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

The po’ boy was created by Bennie and Clovis Martin, two brothers who worked as streetcar conductors before they opened the Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market in 1922. When the streetcar motormen and conductors went on strike in 1929, the Martin brothers sent the letter quoted above and provided oversized, free sandwiches to those “poor boys.” During the Great Depression, locals could feed their families on one huge po’ boy.

No one wants a sandwich with so much history and sense of place to be erased by a “five dollar foot-long.”

It’s time to break out the baguettes and spread the Po’ Boy Love.

With holiday gluttony on the horizon, I nixed the traditional fried seafood in favor of a Grilled Cajun Shrimp Po’ Boy with Spicy Remoulade. Just toss the shrimp with a little olive oil and a tablespoon of your favorite Creole seasoning, and let them cook in the grill pan for three minutes on each side. While they’re on the fire, you can split your baguette and slather on your condiment of choice. The baguettes made for po’ boys in New Orleans are less moist and doughy than the ones at the grocery, so I like to dig out some of that extra bread and leave it out to stale for breadcrumbs. Less bread makes the sandwich much easier to handle (and bite into), and it makes a nice trench to hold your grilled shrimp and keep them from going rogue.

However, if grilled shrimp isn’t your thing, you could always make a po’ boy with fried catfish, pulled pork, ham and cheese, crab cakes, fried oysters or meatballs. Or, make a vegetarian version with fried eggplant, grilled mushrooms or fried green tomatoes.

Come to think of it, a po’ boy would put a nice twist on that post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Maybe with a little cranberry mayo … I believe the countdown is on.

Makes 2 large sandwiches

1/2 POUND MEDIUM SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED
1 TABLESPOON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 TABLESPOON CREOLE SEASONING
1 FRENCH BAGUETTE
1 CUP SHREDDED LETTUCE
1 LARGE RIPE TOMATO, THINLY SLICED
SPICY REMOULADE SAUCE (RECIPE FOLLOWS; MAKE SEVERAL HOURS AHEAD FOR BEST FLAVOR)

Toss the shrimp with the olive oil and Creole seasoning. Heat a grill pan to medium-high, and grill the shrimp for about 3 minutes each side. Remove the shrimp from the pan, and set aside.

Split the baguette horizontally, scoop out some of the bread (if desired), and spread the Spicy Remoulade Sauce on both sides of the bread.

Place the shrimp on the bottom half of the baguette. Then pile on the shredded lettuce and tomato slices. Place the top half of the bread onto the sandwich, and divide the sandwich in half vertically to make two sandwiches.

Spicy Remoulade Sauce
Adapted from Sunny Anderson (“Cooking for Real,” via FoodNetwork.com)

For the best flavor, make this sauce several hours in advance.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 1/4 CUP MAYONNAISE
1/4 CUP STONE-GROUND MUSTARD (PREFERABLY CREOLE)
1 CLOVE GARLIC CLOVE, SMASHED
1 TABLESPOON PICKLE JUICE
1 TABLESPOON CAPERS
1 TEASPOON PREPARED HORSERADISH
1/4 TEASPOON CAYENNE PEPPER
1/4 TEASPOON HOT PAPRIKA
DASH OF FRANK’S RED HOT HOT SAUCE

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

Sausage Balls

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By Julie · December 5, 2013 · 0 Comments ·
 

If you’ve never encountered sausage balls – potent little nuggets of spicy sausage and biting Cheddar cheese, held together with a blessing of Bisquick – you’ve never been to a Southern party. You can’t have a potluck dinner, bridal shower or tailgate party in the South without sausage balls. You most certainly can’t have Christmas. I’m pretty sure one of the Wise Men was carrying sausage balls.

Why are they so ubiquitous? Well, generally Southerners have a taste for sausage, cheese and anything remotely biscuity, which makes the sausage ball a flavor and texture trifecta most of us can’t resist. You can also make mass quantities of them for just a few dollars. And the process is simple: dump everything into a bowl, mix it by hand, divide the mixture into balls, and bake.

I like to add a few pulses in the food processor, just to make sure the sausage is evenly dispersed, but it’s important to mix the ingredients by hand before you form the balls. Otherwise, you can end up with crumbly balls, which I’m sure your health teacher warned you about.

Sausage Balls

Makes about 40

1/2 POUND GROUND COUNTRY SAUSAGE (MILD OR HOT, PREFERABLY WITH SAGE)
2 CUPS SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE, GRATED, ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 1/2 CUPS BISQUICK® (REGULAR OR GLUTEN-FREE)
1/2 TEASPOON BLACK PEPPER
1/4 TEASPOON CAYENNE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, using a fork or your fingers, mix the sausage, cheese and Bisquick until just combined.

Place the mixture into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the mixture completely comes together.

Transfer the mixture back into the original bowl, add the black pepper and cayenne, and mix one final time with your fingers.

Divide the mixture into 1-inch balls (using a small ice cream scoop or your hands), rolling the mixture between the palms of your hands.

Place the balls on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

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By Julie · December 4, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

But when life hands you a 2-day-old baguette, a freshly opened bottle of Maker’s, you make Bourbon Bread Pudding. With a warm, buttery bourbon sauce. And bourbon-soaked raisins.

It’s the sort of dessert you want to curl up around and savor while you watch the snow fall. Or read a book. Or watch “The Lord of the Rings" trilogy from start to finish in its entirety.

Traditionally, cooks made bread pudding to use up stale bread, but if you don’t have a geriatric baguette handy, you can tear the bread and toast it in the oven. You want the bread to be dry so that it can fully soak in the custard, a magical concoction made up of common ingredients – egg yolks, brown sugar, heavy cream, whole milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and bourbon.

Once the pudding is baked, with a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar and yes-yes sweet butter on top, it’s like a hug in a bowl. Soft and warm and wonderfully familiar. But add the bourbon sauce, and it’s more like a grope.

So, what are you waiting for? Add the bourbon sauce.

1 (18- TO 20-INCH) FRENCH BAGUETTE, TORN INTO 1-INCH PIECES (10 CUPS)
1 CUP RAISINS
3/4 CUP BOURBON, DIVIDED
6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER, CUBED AND CHILLED, PLUS EXTRA FOR DISH
8 LARGE EGG YOLKS
1 1/2 CUPS PACKED LIGHT BROWN SUGAR
3 CUPS HEAVY CREAM
1 CUP WHOLE MILK
1 TABLESPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
1 1/2 TEASPOONS CINNAMON, DIVIDED
1/4 TEASPOON NUTMEG
1/4 TEASPOON SALT
3 TABLESPOONS GRANULATED SUGAR
BOURBON SAUCE (RECIPE FOLLOWS)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Butter 13 by 9-inch baking dish, and set aside.

Arrange the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through and rotating the baking sheet front to back. Let bread cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat raisins and 1/2 cup bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bourbon begins to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the mixture, placing the bourbon and raisins in separate bowls.

In a large bowl, whisk yolks, brown sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup bourbon plus the bourbon used to plump the raisins.

Toss in the toasted bread until evenly coated. Let mixture sit until bread begins to absorb custard, about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. If the majority of the bread is still hard when squeezed, soak for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour half the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with half the raisins. Repeat with the remaining bread mixture and raisins. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl.

Using your fingers, pinch 6 tablespoons butter into sugar mixture until the crumbs are the size of small peas.

Remove foil from pudding, sprinkle with butter mixture, and bake, uncovered, until custard is just set, 20 to 25 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake until top of pudding forms golden crust, about 2 minutes.

Let the pudding cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours). Serve alone or with Bourbon Sauce.

Bourbon Sauce:

1 1/2 TEASPOONS CORNSTARCH
1/4 CUP BOURBON, DIVIDED
3/4 CUP HEAVY CREAM
2 TABLESPOONS SUGAR
PINCH SALT
2 TEASPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER, CUT INTO SMALL PIECES

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoons bourbon until well combined.

Using a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat, and stir in salt, butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon.

Drizzle warm sauce over bread pudding. Or ice cream. Or directly into your mouth.

Sweet and Spicy Peperonata

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By Julie · December 4, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

If you’re vegetable-challenged, like me, it helps to have something like this in the house. A big, beautiful mess of peppers (e.g., bell peppers, mini bells, cherry peppers, hot peppers) sautéed on the stove until they’re nice and soft, along with some shallots, red wine vinegar, a little sugar and a pinch of thyme. It’s the kind of thing you can find a million uses for.

The day I made it, I grilled a few slices of bread on my grill pan, slathered on some goat cheese, and piled on the peperonata. It was so savory and good. The perfect lazy lunch. But if you wanted something more substantial, you could toss the peperonata with some spicy crumbled sausage, pasta and Parmesan. Or, fold it into an omelet. Use it to top a pizza. Serve it as a healthy side with steak, pork or chicken. Mound it on top of an Italian sausage (or brat) in a hard roll. Spoon it onto a big bowl of cheese grits.

I’m definitely going to spoon in onto a big bowl of cheese grits. Holy goodness.

2 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL
1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
2 POUNDS ASSORTED PEPPERS (LIKE MINI SWEET BELL, BELL PEPPERS AND HOT LONG PEPPERS), SEEDED AND CUT INTO STRIPS
6 SHALLOTS, PEELED AND HALVED (ABOUT 1/2 POUND)
3 TABLESPOONS BALSAMIC OR RED WINE VINEGAR
2 TEASPOONS SUGAR
1 TEASPOON CHOPPED FRESH THYME (OR 1/2 TEASPOON DRIED THYME)

Heat a Dutch oven (or another big pot with a lid) over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and swirl it around the bottom of the pot.

Toss in the salt, peppers, and shallots. Cook for 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot, and cook everything for 20 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and tender.

Remove the lid, and increase the heat to medium-high. Add vinegar, sugar, and thyme. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pepper Jack Barrel Bungs

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By Julie · December 4, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

These Pepper Jack Mini Cornbread Muffins are called “Pepper Jack Barrel Bungs” in Lynne Tolley and Mindy Merrell’s “Jack Daniel’s Cookbook,” because they look a lot like the wooden barrel bungs used to seal up whiskey barrels.

Unfortunately, I’m not mature enough to talk about “bungs” without going all “Beavis and Butthead,” so let’s just stick with “muffins.”

These muffins are a snap to make – just stir the ingredients together, spoon the batter into your mini muffin tin, and bake. I added two small cans of chopped green chiles, but you could go with a half-cup of cooked, crumbled sausage. Or a cup of sliced okra (thawed from frozen).

Perfect for a Southern-style cocktail party or any other party, for that matter. And soup. They’re really good with soup.

To reheat, place the muffins on a baking sheet, and slide them into a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins

3/4 CUP SELF-RISING CORNMEAL MIX
3/4 CUP BUTTERMILK OR ABOUT 1/2 CUP MILK
2 TABLESPOONS VEGETABLE OIL
1/2 CUP CHOPPED GREEN CHILES (OPTIONAL)
1 CUP SHREDDED PEPPER JACK CHEESE OR CHEDDAR
GROUND BLACK PEPPER, TO TASTE

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease 24 mini muffin cups.

Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. (The batter should be creamy and pourable. If it seems too thick, add a splash of water.)

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup. (Each one should be about half full.)

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pan, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Family-Style Meatloaf

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By Julie · November 30, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Growing up, meatloaf was a food for comfort or celebration. A great day or the world’s worst is the perfect excuse for meatloaf. But you must know up front that my Mom's meatloaf requires the entire comfort food trifecta: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. They are a package deal.

Everyone has a go-to meatloaf recipe. Mine is my Mom's. It starts with ground beef and chopped onions. To that, I add tomato sauce (although I’ll use ketchup in a pinch), as well as eggs and ground oatmeal to bind it together. The oatmeal gives it a little more texture, and it’s a little healthier than the usual bread crumbs. Then I boost the flavor with Worcestershire and Dale’s steak sauce.

I cook my meatloaf considerably longer than most recipes call for. It makes no difference to the loaf itself, except that it’s much easier to slice, which makes for better sandwiches the next day. That’s assuming there is leftover meatloaf the next day.

Halfway through baking, I top the meatloaf with a combination of tomato sauce, Worcestershire, vinegar and brown sugar. It cooks to a dark red and has been known to negate the need for extra ketchup. At least once or twice.

Along with the meatloaf, I’m attaching my mashed potato recipe. I do not make these particular mashed potatoes every time we have meatloaf, as they contain cream cheese and Cheddar cheese, but for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, you need a little extra momma love.

Family-Style Meatloaf

Sauce:
8 OUNCES TOMATO SAUCE OR 1/2 CUP KETCHUP
1 TABLESPOON VINEGAR
1 TABLESPOON BROWN SUGAR
1 TABLESPOON WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

Meatloaf:
1 1/2 POUNDS GROUND BEEF
1/2 MEDIUM ONION, CHOPPED
2 EGGS, SLIGHTLY BEATEN
1 1/2 CUPS OF OATMEAL, GROUND IN FOOD PROCESSOR (FOR CELIACS, USE CERTIFIED PURE OATS)
8 OUNCES TOMATO SAUCE OR 1/2 CUP KETCHUP (REGULAR OR GLUTEN-FREE)
1 TABLESPOON WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE (REGULAR OR GLUTEN-FREE)
1 TEASPOON DALE’S STEAK SAUCE (OPTIONAL)
SALT AND PEPPER

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the sauce ingredients, and set aside.
Using your hands, mix the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
Place the meat into a 9 x 13″ baking dish, and form it into a loaf shape. Bake for 40 minutes, pour the sauce on top of the meatloaf, and then bake for an additional 40 minutes.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes:

1 1/2 TO 2 POUNDS POTATOES, PEELED AND CHOPPED INTO SMALL PIECES
1 TEASPOON SALT
1 TABLESPOON MINCED GARLIC
5-6 TABLESPOONS BUTTER
1/3 CUP MILK
2 OUNCES CREAM CHEESE
1/2 TO 1 CUP CHEDDAR CHEESE
OPTIONAL: CHOPPED BACON, CHIVES

Place potato pieces in large pot, and add enough water to cover them by 2 to 3 inches. Add salt and garlic to the pot, and boil until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. (The smaller the chunks, the faster they’ll finish.)
Drain, and return the potatoes to the pot.
Add butter, and start mashing the potatoes.
When the butter is about halfway melted, add cream cheese, and keep mashing until it’s combined.
Add milk and Cheddar, and keep mashing until potatoes are creamy and lump-free. Add bacon and chives, if using. Serve immediately.

Mini Strawberry Napoleons

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By Julie · May 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

When you say “yes” to hosting a shower or even just bringing dessert to a party, Party Day always seems so blissfully far away. Weeks. Months! All the time in the world to master macarons or practice piping those frosting bluebirds so it doesn’t look like our cupcakes are covered in piles of Smurf barf. The problem is, we have other things to do. People to see. Laundry to launder. And we really, really need to catch up on “Game of Thrones.”

Besides, how hard could it be to squeeze frosting into recognizable a bird shape?

Take it from your Aunt Julie, it’s crazy-hard, y’all.

So, boom! The Day of Reckoning arrives, and, since we forgot to master macarons, we do the drive of shame to the nearest grocery, grabbing random boxes of frozen appetizers, a plastic-covered cheese plate and whatever looks OK in the bakery section, silently promising to do better next time and praying that the frozen mini quiches don’t come out tasting like day-old grass clumps.

Here’s a simple-but-pretty party idea for you: Mini Strawberry Napoleons. They’re double-decker dessert sandwiches, made with layers of flaky puff pastry, pillowy vanilla filling (a combination of whipped cream and instant vanilla pudding), and as many sliced ripe strawberries as you can pack on without toppling each pastry over. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar, add a few mint leaves (if you’re feeling fancy), and you’ve got a dessert worthy of a special occasion. Something that says “Happy birthday!” or ”Congratulations!” or “Happy Mother’s Day!” instead of “Ooh, sorry about that.”

You could make your own puff pastry for the recipe, but I recommend taking the shortcut and grabbing a box of Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry. It’s quick, it’s dependable, and it comes folded in thirds, so you don’t even have to whip out a tape measure to divide it into the 12 rectangles you need. High-five!

Using the puff pastry as a foundation, you can get as creative as you want with this dessert. Try experimenting with different fruits and fillings. Blueberries with lemon pudding or lemon curd. Raspberries with chocolate pudding. Bananas with coconut cream pudding. Keep the strawberries and trade the vanilla pudding for lemon, cheesecake or white chocolate. Skip the fruit, mix together some peanut butter and marshmallow cream, and create the World’s Fanciest Fluffernutter. Drizzle your pastries with melted chocolate, or plate each one on a pool of hot fudge sauce.

Or, just roll with the original recipe. It’s delicious and pretty in a way that makes people smile. And making people smile is really what dessert is all about.

Let someone else go cake-pop psychotic. Slackers, unite!

Mini Strawberry Napoleons:
Note from Julie: Feel free to play around with this recipe and substitute different fruits and pudding flavors – blueberries with lemon pudding, raspberries with chocolate pudding, bananas with banana or coconut cream pudding, strawberries with cheesecake or white chocolate pudding, etc.

Makes 8 pastries

1/2 OF A 17.3-OUNCE PACKAGE PEPPERIDGE FARM® PUFF PASTRY SHEETS (1 SHEET), THAWED
1 PACKAGE (ABOUT 3 OUNCES) VANILLA INSTANT PUDDING AND PIE FILLING MIX
1 CUP MILK
1 1/2 CUPS SWEETENED WHIPPED CREAM (SEE BELOW) OR THAWED FROZEN WHIPPED TOPPING
1 1/4 CUPS SLICED STRAWBERRIES
CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry sheet into 3 strips along the fold marks.

Cut each strip into 4 rectangles. Place the pastries onto the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

Let the pastries cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Split each pastry into 2 layers, making 24 in all.

Prepare the pudding mix according to the package directions except use 1 cup milk. Fold in the whipped cream.
Reserve 8 top pastry layers.

Choose 8 bottom pastry layers, and spread 2 tablespoons pudding mixture on each. Top each with 1 tablespoon strawberries and another pastry layer. (Note from Julie: I spread a little of the pudding mixture on the bottom of each second pastry layer to help “glue” it to the strawberries.)

Top each of the second pastry layers with the remaining pudding, strawberries and the reserved top pastry layers. (Again, spread a little pudding under those pastry layers so they’ll stay put.)

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Serve immediately or store for up to 4 hours, covered and refrigerated.

To Make Sweetened Whipped Cream:
Beat 3/4 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.