Homemade Hamburger Helper

As the third-trimester winds down, and we get closer and closer to the due date – I’m getting tireder and tireder of just about everything, cooking included. So, a go-to easy meal like this one is a lifesaver on those nights when I’m just exhausted.

I’ve always secretly loved a bowl of Hamburger Helper, but hated the fact that I couldn’t pronounce half of the things on the ingredients label. Not to mention the astronomical sodium content…and, the fact that you feel like you have a lead pellet sitting in your stomach for hours afterwards. I knew I could do better at home!

So I set out to make a homemade version, and I tried a few before I finally settled on one that I really loved. It takes the same amount of time to bring together as the box you buy in the store, and is about a million times better – both on the health front as well as taste. Ingredients like basic spices in your pantry, milk, pasta, and lots of freshly shredded cheddar cheese are the only things on my ingredient list.

You could easily pre-mix a few batches of the spices and pasta together and store them in a resealable bag to have them ready to go – making this dinner even quicker and easier. It always feels great to kick yet another boxed processed mix to the curb!

Source: adapted from Food.com via Iowa Girl Eats

Red Beans & Rice (Slow Cooker)

I’m convinced that I was Cajun in a previous life. Maybe it’s just something about the land and the lifestyle that reminds me so much of my life here on the Eastern Shore – but I definitely feel a connection to those bayous in Louisiana. Even though I’ve never stepped foot in one…

I was shocked when I realized I’d never made red beans and rice. Sausage isn’t my favorite thing on the planet, but after feeding my three guys – who love it – for a couple of years, I’ve started to come around. The flavor that it gives to whatever it is you’re cooking it with can’t be attained by any other means, and it holds up well to cooking in a slow cooker. Yesterday I had a really busy day running errands and spent most of the afternoon in the dentist chair, so I threw this together in the morning before I left to head out the door. By 4:30 PM when I was finally heading home I was so thankful to know that dinner was ready and waiting for me when I returned.

I used andouille and kielbasa, for a double wallop of smokey porky flavor. Combined with tender and creamy red beans, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a thick tomato sauce – it was the perfect meal at the end of a long day. I served it over rice to soak up all of those delicious juices, but served it with a salad and homemade cornbread for good measure. The boys both wanted seconds, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest for lunch this week. With Mardi Gras coming up next Tuesday, it would be a perfect meal to put together in the Crockpot while you’re at work.

Giving you more time to pour yourself a Hurricane, and laissez-les bon temps rouler when you get home! This one is definitely a keeper in my book, I hope you guys enjoy it too.

Source: adapted from My Biscuits are Burning

Short Rib Lasagne

A really delicious lasagna is one of the most comforting meals in my book. It’s tough to beat tender pasta, rich tomato sauce, and multiple kinds of Italian cheese all packed into a single casserole dish. But when two of my friends, both Josie and Katie were raving about this version that’s made with short ribs – I had to give it a try!

It doesn’t use any ricotta, which I was worried about. But, you really don’t miss it. The short ribs are braised in the tomato sauce all day long – creating more of a “Sunday Gravy” than a marinara. Then the dish is also layered with a creamy bechamel sauce, another Italian trick to a great pasta dish that many of us haven’t had the opportunity to try. So, that in itself adds a layer of creaminess and richness that replaces the layer of ricotta.

I did go ahead and add more mozzarella cheese than the recipe called for, just because I happened to have a surplus in the fridge. The recipe also called for the addition of porcini mushrooms – which, I didn’t have as many as I’d like. They’re one thing that I always try to have on hand, just because they add such a ton of flavor and keep well in the pantry. My stock has dwindled down, and I have a hard time finding them out here in the Boonies. So, I used what I had which was only about 1/2 cup – but it still turned out delicious. But you could double the quantity of mushrooms if you like.  I’ve got to order some more from the internet this week!

The short ribs are shredded down and layered with the pasta, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese…then baked to a browned and bubbly perfection. I served with classic accompaniments to any Italian meal – a nice green salad and crusty garlic bread. It’s also a great place for a glass of nice red wine, where you have to open some for the sauce anyways!

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking via Pink Parsley and So Tasty, So Yummy

Short Ribs and Grits

We have been eating a lot of short ribs lately. They’re always a delicious comfort food that can be thrown together in the early afternoon, then braise away in the oven for a few hours while you go about doing other productive things in the house…or maybe, take a nap – then wake up to the smell of a delicious meal bubbling away.

This is another recipe I sent over to my friends at Avalon Winery, along with the red wine cupcakes. It was a spin off my first short rib recipe, but I chose to braise them in a delicious Cabernet and a bit of coffee too – for some added richness. The gravy that came out of the bottom of that pan was pure deliciousness. I served them over a bed of grits, as kind of a nod to our trip to Charleston. Grits are the perfect vessel to soak up delicious flavors from gravy, and it’s a nice change from the standard mashed potato that I usually find myself turning to in these kind of applications.

This would be a perfect meal for Valentine’s Day – especially where so many of you guys are buried under a bunch of snow. Just throw the meal together and let it do it’s thing, then go about your business preparing a beautiful table setting. I served with some roasted Brussels sprouts (I have a recipe for that coming soon!) and it really was a delicious and impressive meal that we all enjoyed. Plus, there’s plenty of wine left in the bottle to enjoy with that someone special. Win-win!

Source: short ribs adapted from Anne Burrell