We haven’t been eating a lot of beef recently. I usually only buy steaks and roasts when they are on sale, and it’s been a while since I’ve come across a good deal.  Beef can be so expensive, but it’s something everyone in the house really enjoys and looks forward to. Enter, the eye of the round roast. At around $3.00 per pound, it’s a very affordable cut. I love a beautiful tenderloin as much as the next person, but they’re very pricey!

This is a great option for nice dinner of roasted beef, that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Would also be great for entertaining for the Holidays (roast beast, anyone?). It requires a bit of forethought, with the salt marinade overnight, but otherwise it’s pretty effortless. If you don’t have a digital probe thermometer, I highly recommend getting one. To achieve proper medium-rare results with beef, it’s an essential piece of kitchen equipment. Makes roasting meats of any kind a “no-brainer”. I served it sliced, as is. But, it’s also wonderful with a bit of horseradish – or, a jus made from the pan drippings. Leftovers make a fabulous french dip or roast beef sandwiches the next day. Put this on your menu for Sunday dinner this week!

My mom used to make something she called “Chicago Beef” sandwiches when I was growing up. It was a chuck roast that was simmered in the crock pot all day. Then served over crusty Italian rolls with melted cheese on top. It was one of my favorite dinners! I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Googled recipes and came up with a ton. Evidently, most people refer to it as “Italian Beef”. I suppose it’s also known as Chicago Beef because the place that “put it on the map”, Al’s Beef, is in Chicago. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a great sandwich!

I knew I wanted to cook it in the dutch oven, and not the crock pot. While I love the crock pot, I think you get a better flavor from roasts from cooking in the oven. I’m sure it would be great prepared in a slow cooker, but I’d definitely deglaze the pan with the beef broth – then add that to the pot with the beef and peppers.  If you’re worried about it being spicy because of the peppers – don’t be! Pepperocinis are very mild peppers. They just have a great, zippy flavor. I love the addition of these to the beef! Totally make the sandwich in my opinion. I used provolone cheese, but mozzarella would be wonderful too.

It’s traditional to dunk the whole sandwich in the braising liquid before serving. But, I have “issues” with soggy bread. I think the sandwich has plenty of juiciness without any dunking. You could always serve a small dish of the jus on the side as well. I also topped my sandwich with some sliced banana peppers, just because I wanted a little extra crunch. They were a hit with everyone in the house, and an easy dinner that pretty much takes care of itself. Will definitely be on our menus in the future!

In the past, I haven’t been a huge fan of Swedish meatballs. The only rendition I’d had of them was from a frozen microwavable meal, and certainly left something to be desired. A couple of years ago, while we were on travel with my husband in DC, Andrew and I were looking for something to do. We’d been to the museums, the National Zoo, and all the upscale grocery stores in the “big city” to stock up on provisions to take home with us. I’d noticed that there was an Ikea about 5 minutes from the hotel, and thought that could be a fun activity to spend some time waiting for “Dad” to get out of work.

Andrew was confined to the stroller at the time, but was a trooper as I investigated ever nook and cranny of the store. I loved the bright colors and patterns of all the textiles, the organization options- a place for everything, the clean simple lines of the furniture. Oh yeah, and the Swedish Meatballs! Halfway through our journey Andrew and I stopped at the cafeteria for a bite to eat. We shared an order of the meatballs, with a side of mashed red potatoes and lingonberry jelly. A far, far cry from the dreaded microwave meals! I knew this dish had to be even better made at home as well. Their meatballs are okay, but they’re still frozen, mass-produced, and chock full of fillers.

I Googled recipes and bookmarked a few, but finally decided on Elise’s version after a recommendation from my best friend. They were absolutely delicious. The rich, beefy, creamy sauce en robes the tender bites of the beef/pork mixture. I was always of the school of the beef meatball, but I think this recipe has made me a convert. They literally melt in your mouth, a different texture completely from a beef meatball.  The recipe makes a lot of meatballs. I think they’d be delightful for a party as an appetizer instead of the traditional red sauce meatballs. The meatballs and sauce would be fine in a Crock-Pot on low for a few hours. I did change the spice combination in them, as I diddn’t have cardamom, and had no problems. I stock up on Lingonberry jelly (and the drink concentrate too!) when I’m at Ikea, but if you can’t find it then I think boysenberry jam or cranberry jelly would be a good alternative.

I’ve always been a firm believer in pork cuts in a tomato sauce. It adds an unbelievable richness and depth of flavor that cannot be attained with simply beef. But, to make a proper “gravy”, it’s an all day process. Browning the sausage, beef, and pork. Sauteing the onions and tomato paste, reducing down the sauce for-ever. Delicious, but time consuming.

My mom always made spaghetti sauce to use up leftover ham. Apparently, her mother opted to use ham in her sauce as well. It’s delicious, easy, and a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill spaghetti sauce using ground beef. Since I’ve got a house full of boys, I opt to add ham as well as ground beef. But, feel free to make the recipe using exclusively ham. Great way to use up those Easter leftovers!