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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

You've Been Cheesy Beefied

When my husband first moved in with me, as my boyfriend at the time, I didn't have a whole lot of my own recipes in my repertoire. I was twenty-two then and my greatest cooking achievement was my reputation as the person who made "damn good mac n' cheese". Yes, I mean Kraft. I always said, "I just follow the instructions on the box!",  all while tooting my own horn for being the best damned boxed mac n' cheese maker around. It might be sad that the only other meal I can recall making outside of my damned good mac n' cheese was spaghetti. With jarred sauce.

That all changed when my husband showed me how he makes his spaghetti. Although the tomato sauce was still out of a can, he added his own spices and touches to make it delicious. Since then, I've really enjoyed developing my cooking skills. I've come a long way in eighteen years. But that's not what this blog is really about. It's about a specific meal he brought into my life.

We call it Cheesy Beefy, or Cheesy Beefy Hot Dish if we are being fancy. It's got all of the elements that make a really good casserole. Beef, many cheeses, and those salty, crunchy, delicious French fried onions. I recently found it out that it was derived from a dish called Beefed Up Noodle Dish and was mostly made in the microwave.


We don't make it like that. I am going to include the recipe we use in this blog but I wanted to tell this story first. Because it made my week last week and right now, we all need these really happy moments!

Ever since this quarantine started, my life has been off kilter. Which is strange considering I'm mostly a home body as it is. It probably has more to do with the homeschooling and change in that daily routine. It probably has something to do with being in a little of a panic making sure my seven person household has enough food. I guess I got spoiled. I could make a family meal plan every week, go to the store, pick out my ingredients and be good to go. It's really not the same right now. The first few weeks, we just tried to pick through what was left of meats and maybe some noodles. Anything we thought we could make meals out of and it was a day to day decision. Last week was the first week I actually made a meal plan and attempted to shop for those ingredients. It was hard. There's still a large shortage of so many things, but I adjusted the game plan on the fly and was able to make my plan work. I felt happy to finally post our meal plan again. So, naturally, I took a photo and put up a post about it.


One of my first comments was from my sister-in-law. She said that my Thursday dish was on her menu for the week too! Which, of course, was Cheesy Beefy. My son suggested we both make it and then post our photos to compare. Challenge accepted!

Come Thursday, we made ours and my sister-in-law made hers.

Ours.


Hers.


Both delicious!

Our photos attracted attention from our Facebook friends and one of my BFF's! We newly became friends in this past year. We have two kids in the same classes. We both have this dark and twisty sense of humor. We both have a love of horse ovaries 😉 and Rap Snacks. She's really one of the first people I've let in in a very long time. Which has been really special for me, especially after losing my best friend early last year.

She jokingly commented on my Cheesy Beefy post that she was on her way over and I should leave some on the porch. I needed some fun and I thought maybe she would stop by. So I grabbed a Tupperware container, put a heaping spoonful inside, put it on my front porch, snapped a photo and said, "Come and get it!" She replied with lots of laughing emojis and texted me saying that she had just stuffed herself with dinner at her house but that I gave her a great laugh.


I looked at my husband and said, "We need to take this to her house." He agreed to be my co-conspirator and we hopped in the car. She only lives a few minutes from my house, so the drive was quick. We pulled up all stealthy like, I got my phone ready to snap a pic and I dropped the container on her front porch. I sent the photo to her with the same caption, "Come and get it!"


It was the greatest moment of my day when she sent a photo of her enjoying a big bite of our Cheesy Beefy!


She commented back, "I've been Cheesy Beefied!" I totally think that needs to be a thing from now on by the way.

We both had such a great laugh from it. I feel with all the stress in everyone's life right now, it's important to reach out to each other however we can and make sure we're continuing to try and brighten each other's days. We all need it! By the way, this totally corrupted her and she made her own Cheesy Beefy Hot Dish this week! Such yummy goodness happening here!


So... that said... here's the recipe. Make it for your family and feel free to "Cheesy Beefy" someone you love!

INGREDIENTS:

1 onion (chopped)
1lb ground beef
1 garlic clove
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
basil (to taste)
2 (8oz) cream cheeses
2 cups of cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1 cup of mozzarella 
1 (6oz) container of french fried onions (or more or less depending on your taste.. we love more!)
1 (12oz) bag of extra wide egg noodles
1 (10oz) box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain


DIRECTIONS

1) Put the beef into big frying pan, brown over medium heat. Add salt and pepper.
Add onion and crushed garlic clove once the juices from the meat start to run out and then increase the heat to medium-high.

2) Get the frozen spinach and put it into a bowl. Microwave for a minute, mix it up, microwave again for 30 seconds, mix it up, repeat until it is mostly defrosted but not hot. Set aside. Don't forget to continue stirring the beef up while doing this step.

3) Get noodle water going. Add salt to the water. Boil for about 5 minutes and drain.

4) While noodles are cooking, keep cooking the beef until it is a uniform brown color and the onions are slightly transparent. Drain beef.

5) Squeeze the water out of the spinach in a colander. Put the spinach into the frying pan and mix it up so it is not too clumpy. Add basil, mix.

6) While noodles are in the strainer, add meat mixture to noodle pot. Add cream cheese. Add noodles. Add the other cheeses. Mix until uniform. 

7) Transfer from pot to large glass or ceramic dish. Top with more cheese and french fried onions.

8) Microwave on high for 10 minutes. 

9) Make sure your kids set the table for you and ENJOY!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Tasty Rigatoni Dish

Hi! I've had a few folks ask me for this super tasty Olive Garden knock-off recipe that I made the other night, so I thought... blog time!

I had a teeny-weeny momcation probably a month ago. I online ordered a dinner for myself from Olive Garden which was pretty local to the hotel I was staying at. I picked out their Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno and it was sooooooooper tasty. Oh my gosh, it was so good! I knew that I just had to figure out how to make it myself. It's actually something I love doing. I mean, I really like to cook, but I also love figuring out how to make my favorite dishes myself in my own kitchen!

Photo Courtesy of Olive Garden - This is their Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno

That's where the Googling began! I came across a blog called 'Dinner Then Dessert' where the author walks you through a copycat version of Olive Garden's tasty dish. I did do a few things differently though! Mostly because I can't ever find all of the ingredients I need at my local stores.

Photo Courtesy of Dinner Then Dessert

I don't care though because my version was bangin'!

Unfortunately, ziti was not an accessible ingredient to me. So I decided to go with rigatoni. It was pretty entertaining explaining that to my daughter who thought I was talking about a character from The Incredibles.

The right "Toni"

The wrong "Tony"

Either way, any like pasta will work for this dish. I really wish I had taken photos while I was cooking. Or at least of the final product. It looked so damn good.

Something to know about this dish is that it involves two different sauces. You'll need an alfredo sauce and a marinara sauce. I've bought jarred alfredo sauces before and they've always been pretty terrible. The author at 'Dinner and Dessert' linked to an alfredo sauce she uses for the recipe and it's the one that I used as well. It comes from a website called 'The Recipe Critic'

For the marinara sauce I would have normally bought Barilla, however, my local store was out of it. I ended up buying two jars of the Prego Farmers' Market Classic Marinara. In the future, I'd definitely like to try and make my own but the Prego option worked out quite well!


Alright... so... the recipe! I'm not good at writing recipes so if you have questions, feel free to ask!

I started out by preheating the oven to 375 degrees and then boiling water for my noodles, a 1 pound box of rigatoni. I cooked the noodles a couple of minutes under their normal doneness time. While that was going, I began working on my alfredo sauce.  Here are the ingredients/directions for that:

Alfredo Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup salted butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 oz. cream cheese
1 garlic clove (minced)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp ground thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan

Cooking Instructions

1) In a medium/large saucepan melt together the butter, heavy cream and cream cheese.
2) Add minced garlic, garlic powder, oregano, basil, ground thyme, salt & pepper. Whisk until smooth and then add the parmesan cheese.
3) Simmer until the sauce thickens

Photo Courtesy of The Recipe Critic


Ziti (Rigatoni) Ingredients

(Pasta)
1 lb Ziti or Rigatoni
2 - 23.5oz Prego Farmers' Market Classic Marinara Sauce
Entire Alfredo Sauce Recipe from above
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Italian Blend Shredded Cheese

(Topping)
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup panko or plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Italian Blend Shredded Cheese
1 garlic clove (minced)

Cooking Instructions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2) Cook pasta two minutes under normal cook time and according to box directions. Drain.
3) In the same saucepan as the pre-made alfredo sauce, add cooked noodles, two jars of marinara sauce, ricotta and 1/2 cup Italian Blend Shredded cheese. Mix well.
4) Add mixture to a large skillet or large baking dish (I used a 10"X 13" glass baking dish).
5) Mix topping ingredients together in separate bowl and add over the top of the pasta.
6) Bake 30-35 minutes uncovered until golden brown and bubbly.

See? Super easy! And SUPER TASTY! I actually microwaved some of the leftovers for dinner tonight and it was still delicious!

One thing to note, I made this meal for 7 hungry bellies. AND there were leftovers. If you aren't feeding as many you can definitely cut this down. You can always make a full batch of the alfredo sauce and jar what you don't use as well

There you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them! I hope you enjoy your friggin' delicious ziti (or rigatoni) as much as we did!!