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‘Knock Your Socks Off’ Tailgate Burgers

Rich, Creamy Mushroom Sauce. Pepper Jack Cheese. Juicy Hamburger. Soft, Fresh Pretzel Bun.

Are you drooling yet? It’s ok, your secret’s safe with me. These burgers, with their amazing mushroom awesome-sauce deserve nothing less. It’s the highest compliment this recipe could hope to achieve. That and plates licked clean. Just one bite, and you’ll see. And trust me, these will definitely ‘knock your socks off!’

Seriously, what more could you want in a burger? This is totally indulgent and just screams ‘GAME DAY’ or ‘dude’ food. Just be careful not to indulge in them too often, or they might just ruin a burger for you if it’s served up any other way.

‘Knock Your Socks Off’ Tailgate Burgers

 Pepper Jack Pretzel Bun Burgers with Mushroom Cream Sauce

1 lb ground beef
6 full-size of 12 mini pretzel rolls
6 slices pepper jack cheese, cut in half to make 12 pieces if using slider-sized buns
mayonnaise to spread over the inside of the rolls

Mushroom sauce
8 oz thinly sliced mushrooms
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic or 4 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup diced white onion
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream, or half and half
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp cold water, mixed together

Topping
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Divide the ground beef into 6 patties, or 12 small patties if using rolls instead of buns. In a large skillet or dutch oven, cook the patties until browned on both sides and cooked completely through. After they’re cooked, set them aside, and discard excess grease.
    2. In the same skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add in the mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, cream, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and then stir in the cornstarch mixture. Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and set it aside.
    3. Slice open the pretzel buns and spread some mayo over the top and bottoms of each bun. Place the cooked patties on the bottom of bun and add the pepper jack cheese on top. Spoon a generous amount of the mushroom sauce over the top of each patty and replace the top of the bun. Put the assembled burger in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Melt the 1/2 cup of butter for the topping and stir in the poppy seeds and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon the melted butter over the top of the sliders. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

recipe adapted from Knock Your Socks Off Tailgate Sliders

Ooey, Gooey Cheesy Meatballs

So you wanna know how we know school’s almost out for summer around these parts? When Mom makes two batches of Jello pudding pops for you to have for breakfast, that’s how! In my defense though, they do have milk in them (an essential part of any breakfast. am I right??) and they are sugar free (because I both like and pity their teachers). I’ll currently be accepting ‘Mom of the Year’ award nominations. Breakfast isn’t the only thing we slack at when the school year draws to a close. There’s too much to do, and too many hours in the day to waste slaving away in the kitchen every night.  Helllooo snack suppers!

Ooey, Gooey Cheesy Meatballs

Usually these involve several plates on the table featuring various crackers, nuts, cheeses, veggies, and some oh-so-yummy dips. BUT … There are nights when snack suppers mean totally yummy, not necessarily good for you, we just needed an excuse to eat this and call it a meal, things. I’m pretty sure these meatballs speak for themselves. They’re ooey. They’re gooey. They’re cheesy. And they are friggin delicious!!

Ooey, Gooey Cheesy Meatballs

Ooey, Gooey Cheesy Meatballs 2

1 slice bread
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with foil; then lightly coat the foil with nonstick spray. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread until they resemble crumbs.
2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the toasted bread crumbs and milk; let stand until all of the milk is absorbed.
4. In a large bowl, add the breadcrumb mixture, ground beef, grated onion, sour cream, egg, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or clean hands, stir until well combined.
5. Roll the mixture into 1 1/4-to-1 1/2-inch meatballs and place on onto prepared baking sheet.
6. Drizzle a small amount of mayonnaise on each meatball. (A squeeze bottle or Ziploc bag is perfect for this.)
7. In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella and Parmesan. Sprinkle each meatball with 1 tablespoon cheese mixture.
8. Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese has melted and is slightly golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Broil for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until the cheese has crisped up.

recipe originally from Damn Delicious

Sous Chef Sunday: Big Mac Pizza

Wanna add some ‘wow’ into your family’s next pizza night? Our Big Mac Pizza is sure to do the trick. The sons could not gt over the fact that it tasted just. like. the sandwich. It’s pretty epic. The whole concept combines two of their most favorite things: fast food & pizza. And Mom’s actually letting them have both? IN THE SAME NIGHT?? They were on cloud 9, and I’m pretty sure if they’d floated any higher they would’ve floated away.

Big Mac Pizza

You don’t have to go super fancy just to change things up a bit. This pizza is a fun twist, but it’s still family friendly, and easy to assemble. And I’ll let you in on a little secret I discovered during the making of this dish. You wanna get the kids in the kitchen fast? Want them to actually want to help you fix dinner? WITHOUT complaining? Put the words ‘big mac’ in the name of whatever you’re having. Problem solved 🙂

Big Mac Pizza

Big Mac Pizza 2

pizza dough, homemade, store-bought, or pre made will all work
Olive oil (if you’re using fresh dough)
Thousand Island salad dressing
6-8 slices of yellow American cheese
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
grape tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized skillet, brown the ground beef. Season the meat with salt and pepper, to taste. Drain the cooked beef and set aside.

2.For pizza dough, lightly grease a pizza pan or large cookie sheet. Pat or roll the dough out into pan and lightly drizzle some olive oil over the top of the crust and then bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

3. Top the pizza crust with Thousand Island salad dressing and just like you would with sauce, use a lade or the back of a spoon to evenly spread the dressing out over the crust all the way up to the crusts edges. Top the spread dressing with the American cheese slices, and don’t worry if they don’t completely cover the entire pizza. Top the cheese with the ground beef. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese evenly over top of the beef.

4. Bake the pizza at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

5. Remove from the oven and allow the pizza to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, before cutting it into slices.

6. To serve, top the cooled pizza with shredded lettuce, tomato and additional Thousand Island, if desired. Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Love Bakes Good Cakes

Grilled Onion Bombs

Virginia weather is weird. Friday it was warm enough for sun-bathing. The next morning? We woke up to freezing rain and whipping wind. It’s nuts. Like welcome to the state where you can get sunburn and frostbite in the same week, nuts. But now that we’re at least ‘officially’ in Spring, the weather should trend on the side of at least moderately higher temps, and around these parts that’s all we need. We’ve got two wardrobes, winter and summer. First warm day? Pull out the tank tops and shorts. But it’s only 67 degrees out you say? That’s ok.

Another thing that makes its debut with the first Spring-like day? Our grill! Not to say we ever actually put it away, but it’s a lot easier grilling out at a cloudy 67 than in sleet or snow.

So, sun’s out … Grills out! And onion bombs are one of our favorites. They couldn’t be any easier to throw together and they taste incredible. These could just as easily be called meatloaf stuffed onions, and they’re easily adapted. I know the warmer weather hasn’t reached everywhere yet, but that’s cool. These can just as easily be baked in the oven, at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes in a covered casserole dish, without any sacrifices in the flavor infusion dept.

Onion Bombs

Do you enjoy camping? We do, and usually we stick to the easy realm of hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and cans of soup. But guess what makes a perfect meal cooked up over a camp fire? Yep, that’s right, onion bombs! Stuff em just the same, wrap em up in tin foil, and cook em over the hot camp fire coals for about 45 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Onion Bombs

Onion Bombs 2

1-1.5 lbs lean ground beef ( or you can do half ground beef and half ground pork )

1 large white onion, peeled

1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup of shredded cheese (any kind of cheese you like)
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of bread crumbs, or pulverized oatmeal, & 1 slice of bread torn into small pieces

Directions

1. Cut, from the top to the bottom right down the middle, a large onion in half. You want to cut from top to bottom, right down the middle, not sideways. Then take each layer from each one and pair them together making sure to match each side with it’s mate. Be careful when pulling the layers apart because they can tear easily.

2. Add all of the other ingredients to a large bowl. Mix all of this up with your hands, squishing and kneading everything together, as you would with meatloaf until all the ingredients are . You want almost the same texture like meatloaf too. If it seems too dry, just add a bit more ketchup or a tad more mustard. If it feels too wet, add a few more bread crumbs.
3. To assemble the onion bombs, start with the largest pair of onion halves. Make a large meatball and place it in one side of the onion half and place the other onion half over the top, filling up the onion cavity and squishing the meatball in between both halves. Continue to fill the rest of the onion halves up with the meat mixture.
4. Here, were grilling them, so wrap each onion bomb in aluminum foil. You want to have enough room so that you can leave a little twist at the top so you can easily pick them up off the grill because they’re these things get hot! Now it’s time to grill them. Put them on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Flip them over on their opposite side and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.

NOTE: Grilling times will vary based on how high you have your grill set.

French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

In our home, meatloaf is and has always been a stand-out family fav. Usually, I just make my Grandma’s meatloaf. It’s simple, no-fuss, no-frills, but it’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. It’s a relatively short list of ingredients, and it’s fairly simple to throw together, but whenever I’m asked for the recipe I have to explain that there actually isn’t one.

Do you have any idea how long it took for me to learn how to make my Grandma’s meatloaf?! There was no. recipe. This meant that any time I wanted to make meatloaf, or she was making up a batch for the freezer, I would pack up my Costco-sized packages of ground beef, and the other ingredients I needed, and go over to her house and stand in the kitchen for hours watching her ‘eyeball’ ingredients as she casually threw everything together into a giant bowl. The only part I was allowed to partici[pate in was getting my hands dirty and smooshing ans squishing everything together. I was an excellent meatloaf masher 😉

After several months of ‘eyeballing’ she must have seen something that told her I was ready for the next step. The next meatloaf day I showed up energized, packing my lean ground beef, and ready to finally give it a go. This lasted through like two ingredients before she ended up taking over and just doing it herself. She said it was easier. This happened every time. Every. time. Do you have any idea how frustrating this was? Yes, I’d end up taking home several great meatloafs, but I couldn’t make them at my own house or by myself. It was beyond me (and totally out of my comfort zone at the time) to experiment by throwing various amounts of food stuffs into a bowl full of hamburger meat and hoping for the best, or knowing when to add more liquidy stuffs and when you needed more dry crap. I thought it was hopeless, and resigned myself to my Grandma making, or taking over making, my meatloaves for the rest of my life. But, Grandma’s been gone for almost 6 years now and it turns out, that unbeknownst to me, she knew what she was doing. Even without a recipe, I can whip up a kick ass meatloaf, and I cherish all those memories of us in her kitchen that I might not have had as an adult without all our meatloaf days. Somewhere along the way, I observed enough to interpret and absorb her secret meatloaf makin’ ways 🙂

While Grandma’s meatloaf will always be our  ‘put-up-on-a-pedestal’ favorite, we do enjoy trying other versions, especially ones that incorporate some of our favorite flavor combos. I like to think Grandma would be proud of our ingenuity and of pushing the recipe boundaries– something that would have been way out of her much more traditional kitchen comfort zone 😉 We’ve enjoyed bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, Mexican meatloaf, and even several Chicken versions. This recipe here though, is one of our most often enjoyed variations.

 French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

Think of your favorite meatloaf, then imagine that stuffed with your favorite french onion soup. And cheese. CHEESE! In our defense we usually stuff ours with mozzarella, but here Swiss is the perfect companion to the tender caramelized onions tucked up in our savory, prepared ground beef. This gourmet version is sure to wow the socks off of the family, and is a perfect option for those night’s when company’s coming.

French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

French Onion Soup Au Gratin Stuffed Meatloaf

recipe adapted from Cupcakes & Kalechips

For the onions:
1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium-large onions, halved & thinly sliced
½ tbsp fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ cup beef broth
¼ cup red wine, or red cooking wine
For the meatloaf:
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ cup bread crumbs or quick cooking, ground oats
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups mozzarella, or Swiss, cheese, shredded, divided
For the sauce:
2½ cups beef broth
½ cup red wine, or red cooking wine
3 tbsp cornstarch
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

For the onions:
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium. When the oil’s hot add in the onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until they’ve caramelized.
2. Next, add the thyme and sauté for a minute or two, then add in the wine and beef broth.
3. Give everything a stir, and allow to continue cooking while the liquid reduces, until very little liquid remains in the skillet. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the meatloaf:
1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs or oats, parsley, pepper, salt, and eggs. Using your hands (you can wear latex gloves if you’re squeamish) squish everything together until evenly incorporated.
2. Lay the meat mixture out onto a piece of wax paper and press it out into a roughly 10×12-inch rectangle.
3. Set aside ½ cup of the cheese and ½ cup of the onions. Sprinkle the remaining 1½ cups cheese and onions evenly over the ground beef. Roll up like a jelly roll, starting from the short end, lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap as you roll. Seal the end completely, and place the loaf seam-side down into a 9×13-inch baking pan.
4. Place the meatloaf in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. While the meatloaf is baking, prepare the sauce. For the sauce: Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small pot, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside
5. Remove the pan from the oven, pour the prepared sauce over the meatloaf, and sprinkle the top with the reserved onions and cheese.
7. Return the meatloaf to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink on the inside. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
8. Remove from oven and allow to stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Poor Man’s Beef Wellington

Once upon a time I thought beef wellington was just for rich people (and snobs). Those pricey cuts of beef were certainly out of my budget, even if puff pastry was not. I mean, I’ve got four kids and one income. Fancy cuts of beef are reserved for special occasions. Heck, who am I kidding? Even our anniversaries are more economical than that. But, over the years and with lots of trial and error, I’ve learned that cooking in a frugal kitchen and staying within your budget doesn’t mean we have to give up fancy meals. Sometimes, a little creativity is all you need to turn a gourmet favorite in a budget-friendly dish.

 Poor Man's Beef Wellington

Then I stumbled across this wonderful recipe. This revolutionary idea for Poor Man’s Beef wellington. Subbing ground beef for expensive cuts and adding in a healthy helping of veggies, it makes it doable, and delicious, for all of us. It’s like this fantastic hybrid that crosses the classic flavors of Shepherd’s Pie with all the delectable texture of a traditional Beef Wellington.

Hooray! Beef Wellington for everyone!!

Poor Man’s Beef Wellington

Poor Man's Beef Wellington 2

recipe adapted from Oh, Sweet Day

1 onion
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
4 sprigs of rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup of frozen peas (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 package of store-bought puff pastry
flour, for dusting and rolling
salt and pepper

Directions

1. In a large skillet, gently saute all the veggies, garlic, and the herbs, stirring occasionally, until your vegetables are tender and the onions are translucent. It will take about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the cooked veggies into a large bowl and allow them to cool completely.
2. Once they’ve cooled, add in the beef and peas. Here is your chance to play with your food! Get into the bowl with your hands, really dig in, and start kneading everything together, including salt and pepper and half of the beaten egg, reserving the other half for the pastry crust. Make sure everything is good and mixed up and evenly incorporated.
3. Dust a clean work surface with a handful of flour and roll out the puff pastry to a 1/4 inch thickness.
4. Shape your beef mixture into a log (as close as you can get) and place it in the center of the rolled out pastry sheet, finish shaping into a log if necessary, and brush the edges with the reserved egg. Roll it up, tucking the ends inside like a giant burrito, brush the sealed pastry log with beaten egg everywhere you can see, place it on a baking sheet seam down, and lightly brush the top with the remainder of the beaten egg.
5. Bake the Beef Wellington at 350 degrees for 45 min to an hour, depending on your oven, until golden and crispy on the outside.
6. Allow the Beef Wellington to cool for about 5 minutes. Use a serrated bread knife to gently slice the wellington into the desired portions. Serve and enjoy!

To round out the meal, you can serve your Wellington with a simple green salad or, if you’re looking for a heftier meat and potatoes kind of meal, even roasted potatoes.

Crockpot Lasagna

I love a good classic.

A classic novel. {i.e. Pride & Prejudice}

A classic movie. {i.e. Roman Holiday }

And I most definitely love a classic lasagna recipe. {i.e. this one!}

Let’s keep it real though. On top of it being an all-out yummy classic comfort food, lasagna is a busy mom’s secret dinner weapon. It’s such a great option, especially when we’re talking about a crockpot, not oven, version because it’s so easy to throw together and it’s really filling, so a little goes a long way.

Crockpot Lasagna 5

Plus, this recipe usually makes enough for leftovers, which is a bonus because lasagna is one of those foods that almost always tastes even better the next day. Lasagna also keeps well in the freezer, so if you have the carb-resisting strength, you can freeze the extra for another meal. Maybe a lunch or light dinner? It’s safe to say that given the sheer number of lasagna recipes out there, the secret to making great lasagna is finding a recipe with ingredients that you love. For us, the trick comes down to quality meats (that’s right, meats, plural), quality cheeses (again, plural), and a top notch sauce.

 crockpot lasagna 3

Just look at that? Does it get anymore perfect than this, cooked to bubbling perfection? I was always so tired of getting it wrong when I would bake them in the oven. We love a few crispy edges, but not throughout the whole thing! And, then… voila!

Crockpot Lasagna 4

 This is a no-fail recipe that guarantees you won’t end up with hard, crusty noodles or a totally dry dish. Just layer the ingredients in the crockpot, sit back, and relax!

Crockpot Lasagna 2

Three different cheeses simmer right along with delicious ground meats and perfectly herbed pasta sauce in this easy, no fuss, delicious lasagna.

Dinner is serrrved!

Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna

recipe adapted from Creating Through Life

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
29 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese + 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Directions

1. Brown the ground beef and ground sausage. When they’re about half way done add in the garlic and onions. When the meat is browned drain and return to the pan or skillet.
2. Stir the tomato sauce in with the cooked meat.
3. Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of a prepared (sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray) crock-pot.
4. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce, breaking them up to fit better as you go.
5. Combine the 4 cups of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Gently spread it out to form a layer that covers the noodles.
6. Repeat these layers twice.
7. Top with the remaining meat sauce.
8. Cover and cook on low for 4 hrs.
9. Let the lasagna stand in the crock-pot with the lid off for at least 10 minutes. 5 minutes before serving sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.

Do you love these classic Italian flavors? Need some more easy meal inspiration? Check out these other similar recipes.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

Italian Drunken Noodle

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

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