Paula Dean’s Amazing Pot Roast

Pot Roast cr

This pot roast was amazing!  I love the other pot roast recipes on here, too.  This one was easier to put together since it uses a canned soup (I don’t normally have this ingredient, but it was free with a deal I bought few months back).  I will have to figure out a substitute for cream of mushroom, but in the meantime, here you go.

Most roast recipes ask for boneless chuck roast.  This cut of meat is on the expensive side here and I end up throwing half of it away because I trim the fat before cooking the meat.  I use bottom round roast almost always.  Though not as fall-apart tender, the meat is much leaner and always less expensive on sale.

Paula Dean’s Pot Roast
yield 6-8 servings

3-4 lb. boneless chuck roast, or bottom round roast
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tb. olive or vegetable oil
1 cup onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
2 bay leaves
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup red wine, or water
2 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb. beef bouillon granules (I didn’t have any and omitted)
3/4 cup water

1.  Preheat oven 350.  Take a big skillet and heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Have a roaster pan ready, too.  I use the one I cook my turkey in.  Have your roll of foil ready, too.
2.  In a small bowl, mix spices:  salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Rub this on the meat.
3.  Now, put the meat in the hot skillet and sear on all sides.
4.  Put the seared meat in your roaster pan.  Keep the skillet hot.  Add your onion and cook until soft – about 2-3 minutes.  I add the garlic just before it is ready to come out.  Dump the onions and garlic on top of the meat.
5.  In a medium bowl, mix the mushroom soup, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, beef bouillon if using all together.   Pour that onto the meat.  Pour the water on top of all this.
6.  Cover with a big sheet of foil and crimp the sides.
7.  Bake 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours.

To make gravy:
8.  Remove roast and bay leaves from the roasting pan.  Cover the meat a little to rest.
9.  Pour your juices into a pot on the stove.  Add a slurry mixture of 2 Tb. cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water to the pot.  Boil for about 5 minutes.  It’ll turn into some yummy gravy.  Serve with meat.

Adapted from Paula Deen

Taco Lasagna

Mexican casserole_3CR

After making the Mexican Beef Casserole, I was reminded of this classic that I have made over and over again since  2003 when “Quick Cooking” originally published the recipe.  It was published again in “Taste of Home’s Most Requested Recipes”.  I can see why!  This is a pretty fast and easy dish that is great for a crowd.  If I make this for my family – like many 9×13 casseroles – I split it between two 9″ rounds or two 8×8 pans, then I freeze the second one.

Taco Lasagna
yields about 12 servings

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup water
1 envelope of taco seasoning (or substitute favorite)
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 14.5 oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes, not drained
6 flour tortillas (burrito size, 8″)
1  – 16 oz. can refried beans
3 cups (12 oz.) shredded Mexican cheese or Cheddar cheese
optional:  Garnish with pretty sliced scallions or chopped cilantro for a little color on top.  Sometimes, I sprinkle paprika for a little red color on top.  You could serve this with sour cream and/or salsa.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Over medium heat in a large skillet, cook your beef, green pepper and onion.
2.  Add in the water and seasoning.  Boil and simmer for 2 minutes over medium-low.  Kind of like regular taco meat.
3.  Add in the beans and tomatoes.  Simmer 10 minutes.
4.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, or line with non-stick foil.  Layer 2 tortillas – overlapping in the middle of necessary.  Sometimes if I have enough tortillas, I use 3.
5.  Now spread 1/2 the beef mixture on top.  Spread 1 cup of cheese.  Add 2 or 3 more tortillas.  Spread the rest of the beef mixture.  Spread 1 more cup of cheese.  Add 2-3 more tortillas and the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
6.  Bake covered for 25 minutes.

Making Steak… in the Oven


This may be sacrilegious for some, but it was pretty cold outside on my husband’s birthday and I wasn’t about to go grilling outside.  There’s a reason why I got fleece PJ’s for Christmas that included a hood AND footies!  🙂  So, I researched and researched and found a way to make a sirloin steak inside.  I don’t like to use the broiler as some suggest because it tends to overcook my steak and/or set my oven on fire.  Well, it didn’t catch fire, but it did smell bad.  So, according to a chef I found online and my cooking experiments, here is what I did.

If you need a special birthday menu (at quite a discount), then here was the meal we had:

1.  Sirloin Steak select – $6  ($3.99/lb. sale)
2.  Roasted Asparagus – $2 (tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper; roasted at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.)
3.  Baked potatoes -($.75)
4.  Chocolate Cake with chocolate glaze (glaze recipe is coming later.  I didn’t use frosting because this was less calories)
5.  Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Pan Seared Sirloin Steak
4 servings

olive oil
1.5 lbs of sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 4 large pieces
freshly ground black pepper

Tools you need:  Cast iron skillet – I used my 12″, tongs and a good oven mitt

1.  Prep the steaks:  Let them sit out for about 30 minutes to bring closer to room temperature.  Season generously with salt (preferably kosher) and pepper.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3.  Prep the pan:  Pour a little olive oil in the bottom of the cast iron skillet to coat it.

4.  Preheat cast iron skillet to medium-high heat.

5.  Sear steak on one side for 2 minutes.

6.  Flip with tongs and sear on the other side for 1 minute.

7.  Put the steaks and skillet all in the oven until desired doneness.  Here I usually stick a temperature probe in one of the steaks to go off when the temperature is right.  It took about 10 minutes for medium rare and 15 minutes for medium well.

8.  Remove skillet from the oven and set onto the stove.  Take the steaks out and let them rest.  While resting, you could… heat the skillet back up (well, it’s already hot, but turn on the burner) and deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Add some chopped shallots, cook a little.  Add some pepper and parsley perhaps.  Get the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.  Stir in some butter and reduce the liquid in the pan – voila, you gotta pan sauce.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Well, we are back from Las Vegas.  Actually, we went to the Mexican restaurant there and these fajitas tasted BETTER than theirs.  I kid you not.  These fajitas are awesome and I can’t wait to have people over for dinner because this will definitely be one of my go-to recipes.

Notes:  What I learned while grilling.  Don’t grill whole wheat tortillas, or at least the homemade ones from Trader Joe’s.  They turn to cardboard when grilled.  And they also crack a lot when I use them for burritos, so they are getting frustrating.  Better for you… but not very functional.

Also, as with most Mexican type food, don’t make a lot of extra food unless you need it.  I find reheated Mexican food just isn’t as good as before.
Freezing Directions:  Make the marinade in one baggie and put the chicken in another.  Freeze.  Thaw and marinade for 15 minutes before grilling.  You can also freeze any of these veggies, but they will be soft once thawed out.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
yield 4 servings

6 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil, divided
1/3 cup lime juice (or lemon juice in a pinch), you’ll need about 3 limes if you go the fresh route
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced (wear gloves if you are sensitive like me!)
1 and 1/2-2 Tb. minced fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper
1 and 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast – pound to 1/2″ thick
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2″ rounds but don’t separate them!
2 large bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2″ rounds
8-12 flour tortillas (6″) or about 4-6 medium sized ones (don’t use whole wheat ones if you choose to grill them!  They will turn to cardboard.)

1.  In a ziplock bag or a container you can cover, mix up 4 Tb. of the oil, all the lime juice, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. pepper.
2.  Put 1/4 cup of that marinade in another small bowl to set aside.   Put the chicken breasts and 1 tsp. of salt in the rest of the marinade and allow to sit 15-30 minutes in the fridge.  Flip them to redistribute  the marinade about halfway through the time.
3.  Meanwhile…. brush 2 Tb. of oil on the veggies (onions and peppers).  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
4.  Heat the grill on high for 15 minutes.  Clean your grates.  Now put the center burner on medium-high and the sides on medium.
5.  Grill the veggies on the medium side for about 12 minutes – flip every 3 minutes.  Grill the chicken – smooth side first- on the hot middle until grill marks form – about 4-6 minutes.  Flip and cook about 4-6 minutes or until the chicken is 160 degrees.  After 12 minutes on hot if my chicken is still not done, then I put it on the empty medium side of the grill and continue to grill until cooked.  Tent with foil once finished cooking.

6.  Grill the tortillas about 30 seconds on each side.  Keep warm in foil or a kitchen towel.

7.  Now that you have everything cooked, take that 1/4 cup reserved marinade and pour half over the veggies and toss.  Cut your chicken into strips (on the bias) and pour the other half of the marinade into the strips.
8.  Add the meat, veggies into the tortilla.

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Beef Tacos – my new fav taco recipe

My husband is out of town this week.  Either I’ll bake everything under the sun, or be too busy to post.  I’m not sure!  It will probably depend on if I get a part in “South Pacific” that I auditioned for yesterday.  I’ll be depressed or elated.  Only time will tell….

Back to food…

My mom taught me to make tacos by adding packets of stuff from the store to ground meat.  Out on my own and trying to make more things from scratch, I made a taco seasoning based on the non-weird ingredients found in taco seasoning packets and posted it here.  Recently, I started reading the “America’s Test Kitchen” book which goes through a few common, popular and solid dishes that people like to make.  Taco seasoning packets always make you add water to the meat with the seasoning at the end.  I never stopped and thought… water doesn’t add any flavor, so why use it?  Exactly!  “America’s Test Kitchen” solves this problem.   Next time I might tweak some of the seasonings and add garlic powder and onion powder.  But I really really like their method for cooking this dish.

Beef Tacos
serves 4

1-2 tsp. vegetable, canola, corn or olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (I prefer pressed because minced leaves chunks …)
2 Tb. chili powder (I fed children and used 1-1.5 Tbs. to cut the heat)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander (this stuff is nice, if you don’t have it, increase the cumin or omit)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or omit for a milder flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb. 90% lean ground beef
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. vinegar (cider vinegar would be ideal)

The rest: taco shells, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced avocado, sour cream, etc.

1.  In a large skillet, turn the stove to medium heat and add the oil.  Once hot, add the onion and cook until soft (4 minutes).  Next, add garlic and spices (chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cayenne and salt).  Stir constantly about 1 minute.
2.  Stir in the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
3.  Stir into the ground beef mixture: tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and vinegar.  Simmer, not covered, for 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Include this in your favorite taco shells and top with toppings!

Recipe from “America’s Test Kitchens”

Apple Butter BBQ Pulled Pork – for the Freezer and Slow Cooker

What is easier than cooking in a crock pot?  Putting something already made from the freezer into the crock pot!  Great for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

When I had my second baby, I would often go to the “make your own meal” freezer place in St. Louis.  Time for Dinner even made my meals for free after I had my baby which was a great time saver.  This meal is an adaptation of the freezer method they used for the pulled pork.  Yes, it cost a little more than going to buy the ingredients at the grocery store, but it eliminated meal planning time and the countless hours it would have taken to total the calories of the meals.  That was when I was losing weight and calorie counting.  I went from 200 lbs.  to 168 lbs (after the ten pound baby was removed) and now down to 134 lbs.  So I think it worked!

Lately, I have been substituting apple butter for butter/oil like banana bread and Morning Glory Muffins.  The muffins were awesome.  The bread was okay… so I’m not posting it.  It was good, but not great.  Something fun to try!

Apple Butter BBQ Pork
yield 12 sandwiches

3 lb. pork butt/shoulder  (my package said both.  You want pork butt for pulled pork)
2 Tbs.  of your favorite BBQ seasoning for pork (I used Pampered Chef Smoky Barbecue Rub)
16 oz. of your favorite BBQ sauce (if watching calories, you can use half)
1/2 cup apple butter**
3 Tbs. apple juice or apple cider

1.  Take a large piece of foil and spray with cooking spray.  Trim your pork butt if you wish.  Place pork butt onto the foil and sprinkle your rub to taste.  Wrap the foil around the pork to seal.  Try to leave the seam on top – you want to be able to easily access the hot pork butt at the end.
To make from frozen:  Take your wrapped pork and place in a freezer bag.  Try to remove as much air as possible.  Place in the freezer.
2.  Take the wrapped frozen or fresh pork and place it in the crock pot.

From Frozen: Cook 8-10 hours on HIGH
From Fresh: Cook 8 hours on LOW

3.  About a half hour before the end of the cooking time or even at the end depending on time, mix the BBQ sauce, apple butter and apple juice in a medium bowl.

4.  Take the lid off of the crock pot and carefully open the foil packet up with a fork.  Use two forks to shred the meat.  Pour the BBQ mixture into the meat and stir until combined.

5.  Let finish cooking (if done early) or warm through (if done after cooking time over) and serve hot.

**I know apple butter is not extremely common.  I get my no sugar added apple butter from my produce co-op.  You can easily use this same method and add more of your BBQ sauce, add add half BBQ sauce/half beer, or whatever your favorite is.**

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

Off of desserts for just a little bit.  Here is a simple, easy recipe for Roast Beef.  I just love it on top of a slice of bread and drenched in the juices.

The cut of meat is up to you.  The traditional beef cut would be chuck roast.  I find chuck roast to be absolutely delicious – but also marbled with lots of fat.  I tried this recipe also with Top Round Roast and it was still delicious.  It didn’t taste quite like mom used to make with the leaner cut, but it tasted good for me and that is what matters.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef
yield 6-8 servings

3 lbs. chuck roast (see note above regarding cuts)
1 envelope of dry onion soup mix
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh black pepper

1.   Dump your roast into the slow cooker.  Add soup mix and soy sauce.
2.  Sprinkle pepper on roast.  Pour enough water on top to cover the roast until 1/2″ is poking out.
3.  Set on low for 11 hours.
4.  Remove and serve.  Add salt and pepper to taste!

If you would like to add potatoes and carrots to the party, add those 5 hours before serving.  For example, put the roast beef on at 7am, add the veggies at 1pm, and then turn off the slow cooker at 6pm to serve dinner.

Enchilada Lasagna – Easy and Inexpensive

I loved looking at Alton Brown’s Enchilada Lasagna, but I just didn’t have the time to make the sauce and I don’t normally have cumin seeds laying around to toast.  Therefore, loosely based on the method he used,  I came up with a easier and inexpensive method of making this dish.  Everything can be purchased at Aldi except for the enchilada sauce…. I don’t think ours carries it.  And no rolling up those tortillas!

Enchilada Lasagna
yields 12 servings

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 lbs of chicken breast, cubed (about 4 of them)
1/2 onion, diced
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
9  flour tortillas, (or could use 16 corn tortillas)
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack  (I used the 8oz. block of it from Aldi and hand shredded then divided into thirds)
2 – 10 oz. cans of Enchilada Sauce (El Paso makes it in mild, medium and hot.  Because of the kids, I got the mild)

1.  In a skillet, heat the oil and add the chicken until cooked through.  Remove chicken.  Decrease heat to medium low.  Add onion and salt to the pan and allow to sweat 4-6 minutes.  Add oregano and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pan and remove it from the heat.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line it with non-stick foil.  Pour about 1/2 of a can, or 1/2 a cup or sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Dip 3 tortillas in enchilada sauce or brush them instead.  Layer that on top of the sauce.  Top with half of the chicken mixture.  Top with 1 cup of cheese.  Repeat layers with 3 more tortillas, half the chicken, 1 cup of cheese.  Then 3 more tortillas.  Pour remaining sauce on top.  Last, 1 more cup of cheese!
3.  Cover the pan with foil and bake 30 minutes.   Remove foil and cook another 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Cost Breakdown:

flour tortillas at Aldi – $.99
2 cans enchilada sauce – $2
2 lbs. chicken breast – $4 (on sale often for $1.99/lb.)
1/2 onion – $.25
Cheese – I can’t quite remember what the block of cheese cost at Aldi.  Maybe $3 at most
Total: $10 for 12 servings or less than $1/serving

Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Cook a Good Turkey

This recipe heralds from Alton Brown.  If you are tired of the same old dry turkey that requires a cup of gravy just to get down your throat, this one is for you!  It does require a little time and effort, but what good recipe roasting an entire animal wouldn’t?  Lots of flavor and lots of moisture.   I have used this turkey recipe every year for 4 years and it never has failed me.

(Photo side note: I’m sorry, but this savory recipe like many others I have doesn’t get a great photo.  We are usually ready to eat and the contents are hot.  With children running around sometimes I either take a not so great photo, or don’t get the photo at all.)

Tips:  Walmart carries a fresh herb mix called “poultry mix”.  So instead of spending $4 on separate fresh herbs and not using half of them, buy the poultry mix which already as the sage and rosemary in it!  The crystallized ginger and other whole spices last a long time, so you will get your money’s worth from those.

Roast Turkey
yields 1 turkey to feed about 10-12 people

For the Vegetable Stock: (you could buy it to save time)

4 large potatoes, thickly sliced
4-6 onions, quartered
6-8 carrots, thickly sliced
2 celery stalk, chopped
2 apples, quartered
3-4 bay leaves
12 peppercorns
20 cups (5 qts.) water
Optional ingredients (because you can use whatever you have on hand really): garlic cloves, winter squash, zucchini, whole parsley, leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, scallions

This will yield 1 gallon of vegetable stock


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

For the aromatics:

1.  3 days before roasting, begin to thaw turkey.
2.  On one of these days, make the vegetable stock (if not purchased).   Or make the day before roasting the turkey if you don’t have room to store this AND a huge turkey in your fridge.  Scrub the unpeeled veggies and cut into chunks.  Place everything in a big stockpot.  Bring to boil and simmer for over 1 hour 15 minutes.
3.  Take the vegetable stock already in the stockpot and mix it with the brine ingredients: salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and candied ginger over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Cool and refridgerate.
4.  Night before cooking:  Remove innards from turkey.  Combine brine, water and ice in a large bucket or plastic storage bin.  Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine.  Cover and refridgerate or put in cool area (like your cold garage) for 8-16 hours.  Turn the turkey over once halfway.
5.  Cooking the turkey:  Move rack to lowest level in oven.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove bird rinse with water inside and out.  Dump the brine.  Place turkey in roasting rack and pat dry with paper towels.
6.  Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and 1 cup water in microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Add to the turkey’s cavity with the rosemary and sage.  Tuck wings underneath the bird (to prevent drying out) and coat skin with canoli oil.  Using a square piece of foil large enough to cover the turkey’s breast, fold one side down and mold this around the turkey’s breast.  (For the video, click here.)  Remove from the turkey and set aside (germ side up of course).
7.  Roast turkey on lowest rack in the oven for 30 minutes.  Insert electric probe thermometer into thickest part of breast.  Place the foil shield over the turkey.  Reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Set thermometer to 161 degrees.  (Yes, this is well worth the purchase.)  Turkey will take about 2 hours to roast.
8.  Cover loosely with foil and rest for 15 minutes.
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