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Hunk of Meat Monday: Lasagna Soup

I don’t know if it was the cold weather or all the cheese or the cold, rainy weather. Either way, this lasagna soup was a welcome sight at supper time.

Lasagna SoupBegin with two pounds of Italian sausage. I had ground pork, so I add seasonings to the pork to make it Italian.

ground pork with Italian sausage seasoningBrown pork till it is no longer pink. Then return the pork to the pan. Add a finely chopped onion along with four cloves of minced garlic.

ground meat with onions and garlicContinue to saute the meat and onions for about five minutes or onions are soft and translucent. If you have a large amount of grease, drain most of it off, but do not rinse the meat. Then add tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and Italian herbs.

browned porkSaute for another few minutes getting tomato paste Incorporated into the meat. Then add two 14.5 ounce cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes.

Fire roasted diced tomatoesPour six cups of chicken stock into the tomato and meat mixture and bring to a boil.

lasagna soup baseOnce it begins to boil,

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turn down and simmer for 30 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Then it is pasta time.

Campanelle pasta for soupAdd 8 ounces of mafalda or campanelle or another kind of pasta that will catch all the flavors of the soup.

cooking pasta in soupCook the pasta for a minute or two less than package direction to get the pasta to just al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste while the pasta is cooking as well. While the pasta is cooking prep your cheesy goodness.

cheesy goodness for lasagnaMix together a cup of ricotta with a 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Add some fresh cracked pepper and mix together. Add a dollop of the cheese mixture to each bowl and then pour the soup over top. If you are cheese obsessed, sprinkle some shredded mozzarella over top.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup
A great soup to enjoy all the flavor layers of lasagna without all the work and bake time. It is hearty and rich and will fill you up on a cold, dreary day.
  • 2 pounds of ground Italian pork sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried Italian herb mix
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 c. chicken stock
  • 8 oz. mafalda or campenelle pasta
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cheesy Goodness
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • ½ cup parmesan
  • ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Brown pork sausage till no longer pink, breaking apart while it cooks.
  2. Add onions and garlic, cook until softened.
  3. Add tomato paste, Italian herbs and red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute or two, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.
  4. Add diced tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth.
Cheesy Goodness
  1. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, and pepper.
  2. To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, ladle the hot soup over the cheese, and sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top.

With the rain drizzling down this morning, it would be a good soup for today. Link up your favorite meal from this week.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Cheese and Bacon Pizza

There is this pizza that I have dreams about. It is at Bazbeaux in Indianapolis, and they have Pizza Alla Quattro Formaggio. Since we live just far enough from Indy, I decided I could make my own at home version.

Homemade Cheese and Bacon PizzaSince bacon makes every thing better, start by frying up 6 pizza of bacon.

Indiana BaconI cut up the bacon before frying it. I think it is easier to fry it up in little pieces than long pieces.

cut up bacon frying

While the bacon is frying get the dough and

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cheese ready. I am a lover of Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough. I used the thin crust for this pizza. I of course started by drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic powder over the bottom of my jelly roll pizza stone and wiping it around with a paper towel.

extra virgin olive oil and garlic powder on panThen spread the crust out in the pan. I would bake the crust for about 7 minutes on 400 degrees at this point. I didn’t do this, but felt the crust was a little doughy still.

pizza crustNow the hard part. Picking the cheeses. Stressful.

cheese choices for pizzaYou obviously want mozzarella because what is pizza without it. But, have you tried using fresh mozzarella instead of the harder type?

fresh mozzarella cheeseI start though with using slices of provolone cheese instead of a tomato sauce.

provolone cheese slicesNow it gets tricky. Here are a few recommendations…

fontina cheese

romano cheese

Parmesan cheeseYou definitely don’t need to use all of them, but feel free to use all of them. I would recommend the Fontina and then the Parm or the Romano. The final cheese, is ricotta. Yes, trust me, you will love it.

ricotta cheeseOnce you have your cheeses shredded, start layering. Begin with slices of provolone.

crust then provolone slicesThen follow with your shredded Fontina, Romano or even cheddar if you don’t have fontina or another Italian cheese. Follow the shredded with slices of fresh mozzarella and then dollops of Romano. Then grab that bacon and sprinkle over the cheeses. I put a bit more Parmesan over top at the end.

Cheese and bacon pizza before baking

prebaked cheese and bacon pizzaBake the pizza for 10 minutes on 400 degrees if you baked the crust for 7 minutes earlier. If not, bake the pizza for about 15-17 minutes. Watch carefully so you don’t burn the cheese.

Bacon and cheese pizzaLet it set a few minutes before slicing into squares and diving into this cheesy bad boy.

slice of cheese and bacon pizza

Quattro Formaggio Pizza with Bacon

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Do you love cheesy pizza? This bacon and cheese pizza is cheese lovers dream come true.
  • 1 tube refrigerated thin crust pizza dough
  • ½ pound bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1 cup each of Fontina cheese and Romano or Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1, 8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 8 oz of Ricotta Cheese
  1. Drizzle olive oil and garlic powder on a jelly roll pan. Spread oil and garlic powder around pan with a paper towel.
  2. Spread pizza crust out on pan.
  3. Bake for 7 minutes on 400 degrees.
  4. Remove from oven and lay provolone slices on crust to cover completely. Spread the Fontina and Romano/Parmesan cheese over the sliced cheese.
  5. Place slices of mozzarella over top followed by dollops of Ricotta betweens mozzarella.
  6. Sprinkle with bacon to cover evenly. Top with additional Parmesan cheese if you wish.
  7. Bake on 400 for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Let set for a minute before slicing.

Got a good recipe to share this week? Be sure to link up one of your favorites from this past week.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Bruschetta Pizza

Well, I dug into my Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I am making 10 recipes out of over the next 3 months along with some of Real Farmwife pals. If you remember, the people voted over on for me to cook out of and give away the Farmers’ Market Favorites. My first recipe…Bruschetta Pizza!

I will also be honest. I added chicken to the recipe. After seeing the Bruschetta Chicken Pasta

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over at Crumbs and Chaos from last weeks linky, I knew it would be delish.

Now, back to the pizza. Start with 8-10 roma tomatoes and chop them up.

Then grab 5-6 garlic cloves, 1/2 onion and 2 tablespoons of fresh basil and chop them all up.

Toss in bowl and add 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/3 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir to blend and set aside.

Grab a 13.8 oz tube of refrigerated pizza dough and spread out on a cookie sheet. Spread 1/2 cup of pizza sauce on top of dough.

Drain your bruschetta mixture and the put about 2 cups on top of pizza.

Next comes the chicken. I am glad I had thrown some cooked cubed chicken in the freezer a while back because after a quick thaw, it was pizza ready.

Top with a cup and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese or Italian mixture of cheeses, dried oregano to taste and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over top of it all.

Bake according to the pizza crust directions.

It was so good. I put more than 2 cups of bruschetta on the pizza, so the crust was a little soggy, so I should have cooked it a bit longer than package directions.

So what are you cooking this week? Link on up your favorite meaty recipe and be sure to let your readers know where you have shared the recipe.

Hunk of Meat Mondays

Hunk of Meat Monday – Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.One of the most popular recipes on Beyer Beware is Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe. So, what was the first thing I made in Casserole Crock Pot Slow Cooker. The results, perfection. People, I don’t know if I love the recipe or the crock pot more.

I was tempted to not precook the pasta for this but before I start screwing with the recipes, I decided I should make it once the regular way. Especial since I was going to be using favorite gluten free pasta when I made it. Gluten free pasta can sometimes do weird things. So I made it very similar to the original recipe.

I started by frying up some bacon.

Bacon frying for chicken bacon ranch pizza casseroleNow that I have your attention, let’s get the bacon crispy and then remove from the pan, drain all but about a tablespoon of bacon grease. While the bacon was frying, cut up four chicken breasts into cubes and coat and ranch dressing seasoning mix. You can use this ranch seasoning and salad dressing mix which should be able to be found in most grocery stores. I used my Penzey’s ranch dressing mix. Add the chicken to bacon grease reserved frying pan along with diced onions and peppers. I always have frozen onions and peppers on hand. It makes prepping casseroles like this go so much faster. Cook the chicken and veggies till the chicken is fully cooked.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.While the chicken is cooking, it is time to transfer attention to the pasta. Like I said, I used gluten free pasta. Otherwise I would have used bow tie pasta. And yes, I have subscribe and save deliver my pasta to me each month. I didn’t cook the pasta fully. I cooked it to a little before al dente. In other words, if it says to cook 10-12 minutes, I cooked it about 8 minutes. Drained and returned to pot which was no longer over heat. Then stirred in the Alfredo Sauce, evaporated milk and 2% milk.

Now, it gets real. Start layering the ingredients by starting with half the pasta and sauce in the bottom of the crock pot.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.

Follow with half the chicken, onions and green peppers. Sprinkle with diced tomatoes and then one cup of Italian blend cheese. The repeat with the remaining pasta, chicken bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and then keep a little bit of bacon to top it off. Now, just cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.

Did I mention the family loves this recipe? Even my non-chicken eating husband had two helpings. Yes, two helpings. But he did mention wanting to try it with sausage. Now, I have another idea for a casserole this week. This Casserole Crock Pot Slow Cooker is going to get the workout at our house. Be sure to get more recipes over at Recipes That Crock.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole


Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Casserole recipe is always a favorite around our table. And now that I can make it in the crock pot, it is one of my go-to recipes.
  • 1 pound of bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound of bow tie pasta, cooked 75% of the time
  • 1, 15 ounce jar of Alfredo Sauce
  • 1, 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ounce of ranch seasoning and salad dressing mix
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups Italian blend cheese
  1. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces, coat with 1 - 1.5 tablespoons of ranch seasoning. Saute in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of bacon grease along with bell peppers and onion. Cook till chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Combine Alfredo sauce, evaporated milk and milk with the partially cooked pasta. Stir in one teaspoon of ranch seasoning.
  3. Begin layering casserole with half the pasta and sauce combination. Then layer ½ of each of the following chicken and tomatoes. Use ⅓ of the fried bacon. Spread 1 cup of cheese over top and repeat one more time.
  4. After the cheese the second time, cover with 1 cup of cheese and remaining bacon.
  5. Cook on low for 2-3 hours till casserole cooked through and cheese is melted on top.

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Hunk of Meat Monday

Hunk of Meat Mondays was started as my way to find more recipes with meat in them. It seems the new fad, trend, brand is meatless, especially on Monday. I am not sure if this is because people really believe they are helping the global warming or they think all farmers are mean to animals. It doesn’t really matter why, but I am into balanced diets with meat in them. Everyday. I also think meatless Mondays aren’t helping anyone or the planet. Just making it hard for livestock farmers to make money.

So, if you like to eat meat and blog about it, link up to Hunk of Meat Monday. Posted by 11 pm every Sunday night.

Feel free to share the link on your post or somewhere else on your page.

If you tweet about the linky, be sure to use the hashtag! #hunkofmeatmonday

View all the Hunk of Meat Mondays by clicking here: Hunk of Meat Mondays

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Hunk of Meat Monday: Calzones

We are pizza lovers. I am a crust lover. I do not have time to make homemade pie crust. I do not always want cardboard pizza and who do you think delivers to the middle of no where? So, I developed my own pizza dish that I call calzones for lack of better name.
Now, this again is one of those recipes that can be doctored to meet your needs and likings. Normally this is a great dish to make when you are feeding a crowd. I make a jelly roll pan size calzone most of the time. But the other night I knew there was no need for enough calzone to feed the entire neighborhood. So, I experimented with my calzone making.

I started with these basic items and grabbed a pound of ground pork sausage out of the freezer.

Yeah, I use pizza sauce and petite diced tomatoes in my calzones. Gotta get those local ‘maters in!

I brown up the sausage and make sure it is tiny pieces thanks to my pampered chef mix and mash. Feel free to throw in onion and garlic if you so desire. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Then I prep my pan. Now, I am making this calzone in my metal 9 x 13 pan rather than my stone jelly roll. The key to a good crust for me is in the crispiness. So I start by pouring some olive oil in the bottom of the pan and sprinkling a generous amount of garlic powder on top.

Then, I grab a paper towel and spread the oil and garlic powder all over the bottom and sides of the pan.

Then I grab my tube of Pillsbury thin crust piece dough. Normally I would put the entire crust on the bottom of a jelly roll pan and use an additional tube for the top of the calzone. But this time, I use just one tube. Spread it out in the pan with half hanging over the edge to flip over wants it was filled with my pizza stuffing.

Once the sausage was browned, I drained the fat off and got the rest of my stuffings ready. I rough chopped some pepperoni.

Tossed it in the skillet right on top of the sausage.

Then did the same with some mushrooms and onions. I really like the taste of onion, so I tend to wait till now to throw in the onion. Gives it a stronger raw onion flavor.

Then I poured in the pizza sauce.

Followed by the tomatoes. Now remember to drain the water off of the tomatoes. Someone might have forgotten to do that very important step. Not sure who, but I heard someone did. I also threw in a few pinches of oregano and some salt and pepper.

While your stuffings simmer a few minutes, grab a two cup package of shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle half on the bottom crust.

Once the fillings are thoroughly heated, it is time to start filling your calzone.

I use a slotted spoon to transfer the filling from the skillet to the crust. You don’t want too much liquid in the mixture. It makes the crust more doughy and harder to get done.

Once you have the filling all piled onto the crust, finish off by sprinkling the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.

Then fold the remaining half of crust over top of the filling.

I sprinkled the top with garlic powder. But, I have an obsession with garlic. Put into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the top is done to your liking.

I let it sit about 10 minutes to cool slighting before cutting and serving.

Tasty, quick dinner. Always a family pleaser.

So, what do you have cooking this week? Let us know by entering your link below. Grab the button and let your readers know where you go to find great recipes.

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Quick Spicy Beef Burritos

We can all pretend that we are always ready to whip up a meal for our starving kids. But, after being on the road or on a plane for a month straight, I would rather everyone just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

When I came across the recipe for quick spicy beef burritos in my latest Gooseberry Patch Cookbook I am reviewing on the way home from a week on the beach, I knew even my kicking and screaming bad attitude towards cooking right now could handle it.

Quick Spicy Beef burritos on corn tortillasThe great thing about this recipe is Beyer pantry friendly ingredients.

Quick Spicy Beef Burritos Recipe

Don’t we all have refried beans, diced tomatoes and chilies and taco seasoning in bulk? Or just me?

Taco Meat add ins

Of course, I always have literally hundreds of pounds of meat just laying around in one of my two chest freezers. I get the frozen pound of ground beef going with a quarter cup of diced onions.

Browning beef for burritosOnce the beef is browned, drained of any excess grease, add those tomatoes, beans and seasoning.

Quick Spicy Beef Burrito FillingsStir to combine and let simmer for several minutes. And I dare you not to steal a bite.

Beef Burrito FillingYou will notice my spoon is missing from my awesome Fighting Illini spoon rest.

Quick Beef Burrito filling with Illini spoon restNow, stop sneaking bites and start assembling. For a healthier option, grab whole wheat tortillas. If you are gluten free, go for the corn. If you are me and you are going with what you have, you will use run of the mill flour tortillas for the family.

Quick beef burritos

Add shredded cheese and roll up tortillas and serve.

Quick Spicy Beef burritos on corn tortillasNotice, I have some corn tortillas in the mix. And if you like more filling in your burritos, go for it. Add some guacamole. It’s healthy!

Quick Spicy Beef BurritosLooking for healthier ideas for any night of the week? Come back tomorrow and register to win this Good-For-You Everyday Meals Cookbook from Gooseberry Patch. Or go buy it now!

Quick Spicy Beef Burritos

Serves: 5

Serving size: 1 burrito

Lovers of Tex-Mex food looking for a change of pace from regular tacos will fall in love with these quick spicy beef burritos.
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ¼ c. diced onion
  • 1-1/4 ounce package of taco seasoning
  • 16 ounce can refried beans
  • 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, brown beef with onion.
  2. Drain off any excess grease and stir in the taco seasoning, beans and tomatoes and chilies. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Warm up flour tortillas or crisp up corn tortillas and fill with beef filling.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese and then roll up and serve immediately.

This recipe is from a cookbook given to me by Gooseberry Patch. The recipe commentary and opinions are mine.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Crock pot italian chicken is so good and easy.

School is back in full swing and I am back having my love affair with my crock pot. The Italian chicken was easy to make and a hit with the kids.

Crock Pot Italian Shredded ChickenAnd this time, I have a new favorite that can easily be used in “other” dishes to freeze or to eat later in the week. Especially since the husband still consider chicken to be a vegetarian meal. Start of course with the basics…

I use a combination of chicken breast and thighs for anything I do that is “slow roasted.” I think white meat is so dry. Place a pound of breasts and thighs in the bottom of the crock pot.

chicken breasts and things in crock potThen the remaining ingredients are two items you can buy at Aldi’s. A jar of pepper rings and two envelopes of Italian seasoning mix.

Jar of Pepper RingsItalian Salad Dressing and Spice MixDump the pepper rings, juice and all on top of the chicken followed by the Italian mix. Pour both envelopes on and around the chicken.

Chicken with pepper rings and Italian seasoningThen let it cook on low for 8+ hours or high for at least 4 hours. When you remove the lid there will seem like a lot of liquid/broth, especially if you put frozen chicken in the crock pot. This isn’t a bad thing.

Cooked pieces of Italian Chicken in the crock potIf you used chicken with bones still or skin, remove bones and skin now. Then shred the chicken at put on low till you are ready to eat. If there was not a lot of liquid, add a little chicken broth or water.

Crock Pot Italian Shredded Chicken

Serve on buns or or by itself. It would be great on a bed of romaine with feta cheese, peppers and olives too. Or even on top of Italian nachos. The list goes on and on for how I am going to use this chicken.

Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Prep time: 

Total time: 

A simple chicken recipe with three ingredients and let's the crock pot do all the hard work.
  • 2 lbs of chicken breast, thighs, or combination
  • 1, 12 oz jar of pepper rings
  • 2, .7 ounce envelopes of Italian Salad Dressing and Spice Mix
  1. Put chicken in the bottom of a crock pot. Pour pepper rings with juice over chicken. Sprinkle Italian mix over chicken. Cook on low for 8+ hours or on high for 4+ hours.
  2. After chicken has cooked, remove any bones or skin and shred. Keep on low till ready to eat. Add chicken broth or water if chicken seems to be drying out.
  3. Serve on buns.

What do you guys have cooking this week? Happy Labor Day!!

Hunk of Meat Monday: Crock Pot Bacon Wrapped Italian Chicken

I am telling you some days I want to lick my crock pot clean. The day I made this meal was one of them.

slow cooker bacon wrapped italian chicken

Please meet bacon wrapped Italian Chicken. You will not regret meeting. Trust me. No run to the grocery store and buy bacon and skinless, boneless chicken thighs.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs and Bacon

I wrapped each chicken thigh with a slice of bacon. I cut a part one of the thighs to make two smaller pieces for the little people in my house.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs

Then place the chicken in the bottom of your crock pot. I of course use crock pot liners.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs in the Crock Pot

Then gather a few of the other ingredients you need for the sauce.

I used 1/2 cup of sour cream, but cream cheese could also be used, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and one envelope of Itaian seasoning mix as well as 1/3 cup of flour.

Mix together completely.

Since I used cream of mushroom soup I added a handful of whole mushrooms to the crock pot.

I then spread the Italian seasoning mixture over the chicken and mushrooms.

I cooked on low for 4-6 hours.

I cooked up some pasta right before dinner time.

I spooned the chicken  over the pasta.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs in the Crock Pot over Pasta

It was so good that our non-meat eater even had two helpings. I think it was the bacon. The chicken was so tender it fell apart as soon as the fork touched. Mouth watering…

Hunk of Meat Monday: Crock Pot Bacon Wrapped Italian Chicken
A great crock pot recipe for bacon wrapped chicken. Yes, I said bacon wrapped.
  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4-5 pieces of bacon
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 envelope of Italian seasoning mix
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 4 oz. button mushrooms (optional)
  • Cooked pasta, such as fusilli
  1. Wrap each piece of chicken with a strip of bacon and place in crock pot.
  2. Mix together the sour cream, soup, Italian seasoning mix, flour and mushrooms if using.
  3. Spread mixture over the chicken.
  4. Cook on low 4-6 hours.
  5. Serve over hot pasta.









What do you have cooking this #hunkofmeatmonday? Can’t wait to check your recipes out!

Hunk of Meat Monday: Pork Ragu

Anybody sick of turkey yet? I am sure you have had turkey casseroles and turkey sandwiches and turkey salad. How about some pork? This may be a new favorite dish for me. Not sure if the rest of the family was as excited as I was, but maybe it because I braised this pork in apples and wine and honey and smokey goodness.

Pork Ragu

Start with a pork loin. I had one that was around four pound. If you pulled it out of the freezer, make sure it is thawed out completely.

pork loinThen get it seasoned with some Adobo seasoning and salt. I had some pinot noir salt. So, of course I used it.

salt and adobo seasoningSeason the loin liberally on all sides and brown over a medium heat in a cast iron skillet with olive oil coating the entire skillet.

browning pork loinBrown on all sides for 2-3 minutes per side till the the entire surface has been browned. While it is cooking, dice up onions, apples, carrots, celery and garlic. Then pour over top of the meat to saute. Sprinkle with Spanish Thyme and salt.

vegetables sauting with pork loinWhen the veggies have just begun to brown and soften, pull the meat out of the pan and place into a dutch oven to cook in the oven. Set aside and began making your roasting sauce. Start with adding a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.

Red Gold tomato pasteMix the tomato paste into the apples and veggies and then begin adding liquids. The normal kinds of liquids can be used: wine, broth, balsamic vinegar, honey. Make it worth it…

liquids for pork raguStir to combine and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.

simmering apples and veggies for pork ragu braise

Then it occurred to me, it needs smoke. And my oven isn’t a smoker. So, I used some of the artificial kind.

liquid smokeLet it simmer a minute or two longer and then pour over the pork loin that you put in the dutch oven.

pork apple braiseNow it is time to braise. Put the lid on and put it in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours. That is right, 3 hours. Go to swim practice, ballet, the store, get a pedicure. Do whatever, but give it three hours. And then start boiling pasta.

campanelle pastaRemove the pork from the juices and veggies. And let it rest.

braised pork loinPour the juices through a strainer, reserving the juices in a bowl. Then smash what veggies and apples you can through the strainer. Then go back to the pork and shred it up.

shredding pork loin I love using my salad chopper to shred meat. I know, sounds crazy, but do not knock it till you try it. Trust me.

shredded porkCombined the pork with the pasta that is cooked and drained. Then pour the reserved juices over top of the pork and pasta. If you want a slightly creamier sauce, add some cream cheese. Stir to combine completely.

Pork RaguPure pork bliss. You will love it.

Pork Ragu
  • One 2-4 pound boneless pork loin or shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
  • 1 apple, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 carrot or 4-5 baby carrots, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 celery rib, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • ⅓ cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 5 dashes of liquid smoke
  • 4 ounces of cream cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound pasta
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Season the pork with 1 tablespoon of salt and Adobo seasoning. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil until shiny. Add the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned on all sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a dutch over or plate if you are using a dutch oven on the stove top.
  2. Add the apple, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, teaspoon of salt and thyme to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it deepens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken stock, vinegar and honey and bring to a simmer. Add liquid smoke to the sauce. Pour over the pork, cover and transfer the dutch oven to the oven. Braise the pork for about 3 hours, turning once halfway through, until very tender.
  3. Transfer the pork to a plate. Strain the sauce into a large bowl, gently pressing on the solids. Pour the sauce back into the pot. Using 2 forks, shred the pork; discard any large pieces of fat. Transfer the shredded pork to the sauce and stir in the cream cheese. Cover and keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and transfer to the casserole with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and pork.

What do you have cooking this week? Link up your goodies from Thanksgiving!

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Hunk of Meat Monday: Cuban Quesadillas

Who is sick of turkey? Yeah, me too. So bring on the pork people. Ham and pulled pork brought together for a match made in Cuba. Or at least I assume Cuban sandwiches are eaten in Cuba. But I don’t have a panini press, so I improvised and bring you Cuban quesadillas.

I was really just winging this. So, I made these without Swiss cheese, but was really craving a Cuban so I went for some co-jack to fill in for the Swiss. I would recommend using Swiss cheese if you want the true Cuban sandwich flavor. I also couldn’t decide if I should put cheese down first or ham down first.

Turns out cheese down first is the way to go. So, Start by heating up your skillet and spraying with some cooking spray. Put a six-inch flour tortilla shell in the pan. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese and then put a slice or two of ham.

Then, I had heated up some previously made pork so it wasn’t ice cold when I put it on top of the ham.

I then put some mustard and dill pickle relish on top of the shredded pork.

Then topped with another slice of ham and shredded cheese.

Then top with another tortilla. I let it cook for 2-3 minutes on a medium low heat and then flipped it over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes till tortilla shells are crisp.

Now, I have one kid who doesn’t like pickles and another that doesn’t like mustard. Or at least so they think. So, feel free to leave off any of the mustard or pickles for picky eaters. The cheese with ham and pulled pork could also be very good, just not Cuban good:)

What do you have cooking post turkey hangover? I bet a few you of you have some great leftover recipes. Looking for some other recipes to use leftover ham you might have had for Thanksgiving? Check these recipes out!

Hunk of Meat Monday: Beef Stroganoff

My IRL friend over at FenceRow to FenceRow made beef stroganoff a while back for HOMM. It sounded so yummy, I decided I needed to feature it on HOMM! Thanks Jeanette!

I started with the leftover browned meat and onion I had made an extra pound of for the crock pot lasagna.

Because I love onions, I added another half of diced onion. Then tossed in a four ounce can of mushrooms.

Added a can of mushroom soup.

And a about a cup and a half of sour cream.

Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Mix together and serve immediately over buttered noodles or rice.


What are you making tonight for dinner? Anything good? Do share!

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Hunk of Meat Monday: Italian Beef

Sometimes you go to the old, tried and true recipes. Because your tired. Because you know it will be effortless. Because your gonna be busy in the days to come and want the leftovers. I bring you…Italian Beef. Crock pot style of course.
Italian Beef Sandwiches
The three ingredient gourmet dinner!

Start with your hunk of meat. Grab a roast. Any roast. It can be an arm roast, round, rump, sirloin. Doesn’t matter. Grab some Italian dry seasoning mix and a beer. Don’t have a beer, try a jar of banana pepper rings, juice and all!

Put the roast, frozen or thawed, into the crock pot. Pour the entire beer over top.

Pour one to two packages of Italian seasoning mix over top and into beer.

I usually do one packet per two pounds of meat. Walk away and let cook over night or for several hours on high.

It should look something like this when you come back to it. Cut, rip, tear apart then.
Remove any fat or bones that may be in the roast now. Make your dog happy. And then let it do it’s thing for a little longer. If you cooked it overnight and this is where you are at before you left for work, put the crock pot on low. If you want to eat in three hours, keep it on high.
And when you come back to it once more, give it a good stir and enjoy. There are no rules on how to eat it. My kids like it very different.
 With cheese.
crock pot italian beef
And loved by the kids!
 Makes the Princess happy.
 On Hawaiian bread.
For my Boo.
Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches
A zesty pulled beef that creates one of the best Italian Beef sandwiches you have had!
  • 1 3-5 lb beef roast (rump, chuck, arm, etc)
  • 2 packets of Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Bottle of beer or jar of Banana Pepper Rings
  • Provolone Cheese Slices
  1. Place beef roast in the crock pot.
  2. Pour packets and beer over the beef roast.
  3. Cook on low for 8+ hours.
  4. Serve on Hawaiian rolls or hoagie rolls.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Chicken Ravioli

Last fall, I got a whole cookbook worth of recipes from a friend of mine from college. Boy, have they become a regular part of my life. One recipe she sent was Chicken Tortellini. I have of course changed it up a little to our tastings and staples. I love it so much that I prepare one to eat right away and one to throw in the freezer for later. Or for when we have friends who have a need for a home cooked meal.
It is pretty simple. Start by cutting up chicken into bite size pieces and tossing with flour, salt and pepper.

 Toss the chicken into a hot skillet with butter and some chopped up garlic.

 While the chicken is browning, layer ravioli in two 8 x 8 pans. I use a 25 ounce bag of frozen most of the time. I have also used fresh ravioli. Use what you have access to.

On top of the ravioli, layer four slices of cheese. I use provolone, but Monterey Jack is what the original recipe called for.
Once the chicken is browned, layer it on top of the cheese.

Saute onions in drippings left from cooking the chicken. If you use fresh mushrooms instead of canned, saute them with onions once onions are almost cooked.
Add broth, bouillon, sugar and bring to boil for five minutes. Add shredded cheese. When cheese is melted add sour cream.
Pour over chicken.
If you are making this to eat right away, bake at 275 for 45 minutes. You may prepare up to 2 days in advance and store covered in the refrigerator. Freezer for up to three months. Put in refrigerator night before you want to bake to thaw. Bake cold at 300 for 45 minutes.
So, do you have a killer freezer recipe to share. Or just a great Hunk of Meat recipe. Grab the button, link up and visit other great bloggers with recipes to share.
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Hunk of Meat Monday: Creamy Italian Sausage Soup

There is only one reason I can appreciate old man winter. ONE. And it is soup. I love soup. And I love eating soup when the weather is cold outside. This cream Italian sausage soup is officially my new favorite soup.

Creamy Italian Sausage Soup is a twist on chili or lasagna soup. So good and feeling. Plus easily low carb and gluten free.This soup is one of those things that just leaves you wanting to clean up the bowl with a crusty piece of bread. Or lick it clean. Whatever you prefer. And, honestly, you can have this soup on the table in 30 minutes or let it simmer in the crock pot all day long. Your choice!

bowl of creamy Italian sausage soup

The most important thing about this soup is the pork. I used ground pork and added Italian sausage seasoning. I added a tablespoon of seasoning to a pound of ground pork. Plus a teaspoon of And these days I don’t make any soup without two pounds of meat. Don’t have ground pork at your grocery store? You can also buy Italian sausages or brats and just remove the casings. Either way, you are bound to get the flavorful Italian pork sausage base.

Italian Sausage Soup Base makes the soup full of flavor. If you want to cut calories, the soup at this point is delish without the added creamy, cheesy goodness.

Once the pork is browned you can start adding the sauces. I used a big 24 ounce can of garlic and herb tomato sauce. Then added a can of diced tomatoes. I added fire roasted tomatoes because that is what I had. Again, add whatever kind of tomatoes you have on hand. I then added The combination of just the pork, sauce and tomatoes makes an amazing soup base full of flavor. You honestly could stop now. But why would you want to stop now. Keep going. It just keeps getting better.

Creamy Italian Sausage Soup has five ingredients and endless flavors.

If you want to cut calories, the soup at this point is delish without the added creamy, cheesy goodness. But, how about you add the block of cream cheese now. Stir the cream cheese into the tomato and meat base till completely melted. So, now the secret ingredient comes to play… Wait for it…

Two tablespoons of brown sugar. Yep. Suuugggaaaaarrrrrrrrrr. Trust me and add it.

And again you have choices. I ate a bowl without pasta. But I am feeding a bottomless pit, so I added pasta to the soup. I would recommend a bow tie or another wide type noodle to catch sauce easily. Add the al dente pasta when the cream cheese is melted. Add more water if you want the soup to be thinner. I sort of like my soup to be more stew like. Stoups are my favorite.

Big Pot of Creamy Italian Sausage Soup is my new go-to recipe for cold, winter days.

Creamy Italian Sausage Soup

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6 servings

This cream Italian sausage soup recipe is simple with just a five basic ingredients with a super sweet secret ingredient.
  • 2 pounds of ground Italian Sausage or ground pork with 2 tablespoon Italian sausage seasoning
  • 1- 24 ounce can of garlic and herb tomato sauce
  • 1 -15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1 - 8 ounce block of cream cheese
  • 8 ounces of bow-tie past cooked till al dente
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes - optional
  1. Brown the sausage or pork with seasonings. Drain any excess grease. Return to soup pot
  2. Add red pepper flakes, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes along with salt and pepper. Add one cup of water. Simmer till just starting to bubble.
  3. Stir in cream cheese into the tomato and meat base. Add the brown sugar. Continue to simmer on low heat.
  4. Add pasta. Stir to combine and serve with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Get other great recipes over at The Country Cook’s Weekend Potluck!

Hunk of Meat Monday: Bacon Burgers

I am keeping the pork farmers in business with the amount of bacon we are consuming at our house. We have BLTs once a week. I add bacon crumbles to salads. I always have at least two pounds of bacon in the fridge and who knows how much I have in the two chest freezers we have moved twice in six months. Naturally, I was drawn to these bacon burgers that Gooseberry Patch‘s latest cookbook, Garfield…Recipes with Cattitude!Bacon BurgersNow, for those of you have a debate at your house on if beef burgers or pork burgers are better, this burger uses both! It also uses fillers that actually help the burgers stick together and fill them with flavor.

Bacon Burger RecipeNotice one of my new favorite sauces from my North Dakota bestie is used in this in place of steak sauce!

Ingredients to add the meat for bacon burgers

In a large bowl mix the ground beef and pork together. Add the Parmesan cheese, steak or barbeque sauce, garlic powder and pepper. Mix well. This means get your hands in the meat. Don’t think you can mix ground meat with a spoon!!

Mixing flavors into burgersOnce you have the meat ready, you will be ready to make the very thing patties that you will press together around bacon crumbles and then onions and mushrooms you sauted in the bacon grease. It is dripping with pork juiciness.

stuffed burgers processThe key is very thin patties that are about an inch bigger than your bun. Thin people. when you have them sandwiched, get them on the grill. We started them on aluminum foil in fear that I would have a burger that fell apart.

grilling bacon burgersBut no burgers fell apart. No aluminum was needed. We add slices of provolone to ours. We like to support dairy farmers. And I am also guilty for having every kind of cheese imaginable in my fridgeBacon burgers with cheese We love onion buns at our house and add a little melted butter and then grill them for a few minutes. Absolute perfection with these stuffed bacon burgers.

Bacon burgers on onion bunsPerfection. The kind of perfection you want on a Hunk of Meat Monday. Now share what you are craving from your blog!!

Bacon Burgers

Serves: 4 burgers

Serving size: 1 burger

Everyone loves burger. Add bacon, onions and mushrooms to the middle of the burger, and this take a plain burger to an amazing bacon burger.
  • 3-4 slices of bacon
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 4-5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 2 T grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T steak or barbeque sauce
  • ¼ t garlic powder
  • ¼ t pepper
  • 4 slices of Provolone cheese
  • 4 Onion Buns
  1. In a skillet over a medium heat, cut bacon into ½ inch pieces and fry until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve dripping in skillet to fry onion and mushrooms till tender. Set aside with bacon.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, cheese, sauce and seasonings. Mix together with hands and form eight thin patties that are slightly larger than the buns.
  3. Place bacon, mushrooms, onions on four of the patties. Top with remaining patties and seal edges. Cook burgers on the grill for 5-8 minutes on each side. Do not flip more than once to prevent the burger from falling apart. Add cheese to burgers with a minute of grill time left.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Pizza Casserole

We love pizza. It is that staple go to, ready in 20 minutes, meal. And when it is eaten out of my kitchen, it many times comes out of the freezer in shrink wrapped plastic. But, now I have an easy casserole that I can make that is as quick as spaghetti to make and then just requires a little baking time to melt all the cheese together.

Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza CasseroleThis might look a lot like the chicken bacon ranch pizza casserole I made a while back. Well, it is much like that casserole, just the red pizza sauce version. Start with your ground meat of choice. I used ground pork and added a diced onion to skillet as I browned the meat.

browning ground pork and onionsGet a pound of pasta boiling while the meat is cooking. I used bow tie pasta because I think it is great at catching sauce. Then, when the meat is completely cooked, drain any excess grease and return to the pan. Then add the red sauce.

pizza sauce, spaghetti suace and diced tomatoesYou basically need two jars of spaghetti sauce. I can’t seem to keep anything simple or in stock. So, I compromised with a jar of pizza sauce and a can of diced tomatoes as a substitute for another jar of spaghetti sauce. I poured the sauces and tomatoes into the cooked meat, and simmered while I added a dash of balsamic vinegar, tablespoon of brown sugar and some pasta sprinkle or oregano. When the pasta is done, it is time to get assembling. Start by putting 1/3 of the red meat sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan followed by 1/3 of the pasta.

layers of pizza casseroleThen if you are wanting to add 1-1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella or pizza blend cheese.

cheese pizza casserole

Then you can add any additional “toppings” you would put on your pizza. We added pepperoni. But if you like mushrooms or peppers or onions or ham, add it all. The more the merrier. Then repeat the layers two more times. My casserole ended with pepperoni on top.

Pepperoni pizza casseroleThen bake time! Bake on 375 for 30-40 minutes till the casserole is bubbling.

Pepperoni & Sausage Pizza CasseroleThen, let it rest for a minutes and enjoy!

Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza Casserole

Pizza Casserole
A simple pasta recipe that embraces all of the things you love about pizza.
  • 1 lb bow tie pasta
  • 1 lb ground pork or beef
  • 1 large onion, medium size diced
  • 2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce or equivalent of pizza sauce and diced tomatoes
  • ½-1 lb of sliced pepperoni*
  • 4-5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pasta sprinkle dried oregano
  • *Any additional toppings can be used that you normally put on your pizza. You will need about a cup of each topping.
  1. Cook pasta till el dente while you begin browning meat.
  2. Brown ground meat with chopped onion. When completely cooked, drain grease and return meat to the pan.
  3. Add sauce to the meat and simmer as you add the balsamic, brown sugar and pasta sprinkle.
  4. In a lightly greased 9x13 pan, pour a small amount of meat sauce to lightly coat bottom.
  5. Begin layering with ⅓ of the pasta, 1-1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese, 2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, pepperoni or any other toppings followed by ⅓ of the sauce.
  6. Repeat layers two more times. On the last layer, pour the sauce over the pasta instead of cheese and toppings.
  7. Cook on 375 for 30-40 minutes.

It was a big hit along side the chicken bacon ranch pizza casserole.

baked chicken bacon ranch pizza casseroleCan’t wait to see what everyone has prepared this week for Hunk of Meat Monday!

Hunk of Meat Monday: Pizza Muffins

Well it is probably obvious by now that this post is late. Let’s chalk that up to a five day trip to NYC for Blogher and school starting 15 hours after I stepped into the house. Which is why I am now on a mission to find the meals we can make quick and on the go. My son’s favorite are these pepperoni pizza muffins.

Pepperoni Pizza MuffinsThis is quick thanks to a few items I make sure I always have on hand: biscuit mix, mini pepperonis, eggs, herbs, and mozzarella cheese.

Pantry must haves for pizza muffinsI used fresh herbs but, dried will work just fine as well. Cut the herbs in half if you use dried ones. Start by mixing together 2 cups of biscuit mix, 1 teaspoon of fresh parsley, oregano and basil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

dry ingredients for pizza muffinsThen mix together 1 and 1/3 cups of milk with 2 eggs.

eggs and milk whisked together for pizza muffinsPour the milk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk together.

Mixing wet and dry ingredients for pizza muffinsOnce the dry ingredients are just combined add two 5 oz packages of mini pepperonis or 1 pound of browned sausage along with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese.

pepperoni and cheese mixed into pizza muffin batterOnce the ingredients are combined, grease and fill 24 muffin tins or 48 mini muffin tins 3/4 full with batter.

pizza muffin batter

muffin tins filled with pizza batterBake on 375 for about 20 minutes, till golden and springy.

Pepperoni Pizza MuffinsThese are great to freeze and pop in the microwave for a quick snack. If you just want to make one pan, simply split the recipe in half.

Pizza Muffins

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 24 large muffins or 48 mini muffins

Serving size: 3 muffins

A quick and easy recipe for pizza muffins that are great for meals on the go.
  • 2 cups of biscuit mix
  • 1½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp each of fresh parsley, oregano, and basil (1/2 if dried)
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2, 5 oz packages of mini pepperoni or 1 lb of browned sausage
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  1. Combine dry ingredients. In a two cup bowl whisk eggs and milk together. Pour the milk and eggs into the dry ingredients and whisk together till just incorporated. Add pepperoni or sausage and cheese. Mix together and let set for 10 minutes. Then fill 24 greased muffin tins or 48 mini muffin tins. Bake on 375 for approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Serve with warm pizza sauce or ranch dressing for dipping.
  3. Cooked muffins can be frozen and warmed in the microwave.

Got a great meaty recipe? Link it on up!


Hunk of Meat Monday: Ravioli Lasagna

I am lucky enough to not be coming up with my own kitchen ideas for a week or two as I review a new cookbook from Gooseberry Patch. And the first recipe was not a disappointment. It is going to become a regular weeknight meat in this house! I am pretty sure you will love this Ravioli Lasagna since it only has five ingredients too.

Baked Ravioli Lasagna

The new cookbook I am reviewing is 101 Cozy Casseroles. It has a ton of great recipes that are going to become staples for weeknight meals in my house.

101 Cozy Casseroles cookbook from Gooseberry Patch

The ravioli lasagna was quick and easy to make since I had browned up several pounds of ground beef and pork in the crock pot earlier in the week. The recipe is super easy.

Ravioli lasagna recipeI warmed up the ground meat to make sure it didn’t impact the baking time. Then got the rest of my ingredients together.

Ravioli lasagna ingredientsThen began the process of making the casserole by putting 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of an 11 x 7 greased baking dish followed by half of the frozen raviolis.

Sauce and raviolisThen layer half of the browned meat and onions and half of the shredded mozzarella.

ground meet and cheese layersThen repeat the cup of sauce and remaining raviolis and beef. Then cover with the remaining spaghetti sauce.

ravioli lasagna before bakingBake for 30 minutes on 425 degrees. Pull out of the oven and add the remaining cheese and bake for five more minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

baked ravioli lasagna

Cheese topped ravioli lasagnaWhen you pull this finished casserole out of the oven you will want to tear into it immediately. It looks amazing.

Baked Ravioli LasagnaThis is a kid friendly casserole that is a nice change up from traditional lasagna or even baked spaghetti.

serving of baked lasagnaDo I have your interest peaked into this cookbook? Come back later this week to enter for your chance to win this cookbook. You know you want to!

Ravioli Lasagna
  • 1 lb ground beef or pork, browned
  • 1 onion, diced, browned with meat
  • 1, 26-28 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 1, 25 ounce package of frozen ravioli
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Grease an 11 x 7 pan. Layer 1 cup of spaghetti sauce, half of the ravioli, half of the browned meat and onions, half of the cheese.
  2. Repeat sauce, ravioli, meat and then remaining sauce.
  3. Bake on 425 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes till cheese is melted.

In the meantime, link up your recipes. I can’t wait to see what you have cooking for #hunkofmeatmonday!!

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Hunk of Meat Monday: What’s in a brine?

I don’t know about you buy I am loving this June weather in March we are having. And with this great weather comes a jump into grilling season.  I know some of you diehards grill all through the winter, but I hate being cold.

As everyone fires up their grills I thought I would share some of my favorite tips for making your grilling season successful. And my favorite tip – use brines!

Let’s face the facts, meat loses 20% of it’s weight in water when we cook it. Brining, the sister to marinade, adds 10% of more moisture to the meat before cooking. Which hopefully will lead to only a loss of 10% of the moisture from cooking.

So, you are already thinking, this sounds tough. But no fear, you need three base ingredients for a brine: Salt, sugar and water.

Now if all you do is dissolve salt and sugar in hot water, ice it down and add the meat, you will still have tons of moisture in your meat. But you can also add so many flavors in the brine with herbs, spices, and garlic.

Sometimes I even add a little vinegar for extra tenderizing.

Heating water up with vinegar helps dissolve the salt and sugar. I also like throwing in some smashed garlic in the boiling mixture too.

Cooling the hot water back down with some ice water is also key to making sure you don’t heat the meat up too much when you combine the meat and brine. Then let it soak for at least 45 minutes per pound of meat. I have let a brine work for 2 days but cut the salt down by half when I do let it sit that long.

Let’s talk about meat. I would say the most typical purchased pork piece of meat for grilling are pork chops which come from the loin of the pig. It is a great piece of meat. Easy to prepare, lean meat.

But many times you can get pork roast, boston butts which is really the front shoulder, picnic, shoulders and other cuts of meat at a lower price per pound. These cuts of meat usually come from the front end of a pig. They aren’t quite as lean, but that’s what gives these cuts tons of flavor. The cuts of meat also may be a little more tough in texture so then brines with vinegar help tenderize these cuts.

The same is true for beef. Many people make steaks and burgers on the grill and that is it. But so many parts of the beef are great in a brine and then grilled over a low, slow heat. In the summer you can get so many of the unpopular grill cuts on sale. These cuts tend to freeze well and are great in the crock pot in the winter too.

Chicken seems to be dried out and overcooked a lot of the times too. One tip to not having dried out tough chicken is by not going straight for the boneless, skinless chicken breast. No offense to the breast, but the dark meat, legs and thighs with skin are so much more moist. Again to the higher fat content. Once the chicken is cooked feel free to peel the skin away if you are trying to save on calories. You will also notice that the dark meat runs cheaper than the white meat and also comes in boneless options.

Once the meat is picked, brined is made and you are ready to grill, you want to rinse your meat off. Then put it on the grill. Most of the time you want to avoid direct placement over the heat. This will cause it to cook faster and dry it out as well. The key is letting your meat cook and flipping once.

The other key to cooking meat is knowing what your goal is for internal temperature as well as remembering to let your meat rest once it is taken off the grill. I always take my meat off when it is five degrees away from the goal temperature and let it rest on the plate for 5 minutes before cutting into it. For quick reference on goal temps, here is a quick chart.

Ready to grill yet? I sure am ready to fire it up! Can’t wait to see what you all grill up this spring.

Chicken or Pork Brine
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 5-6 shakes Tabasco
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 pounds meat of choice
  1. Heat 4 cups of water up till boiling.
  2. Add salt, sugar, Tabasco, paprika, and cayenne to water. Dissolve.
  3. Add other 4 cups of water and ice to mixture to cool down to room temperature.
  4. Place meat into ziploc bag and pour solution over meat.
  5. Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 2 hours. If you want to set longer, decrease your salt to keep meat from getting too salty.
  6. Remove meat from brine and rinse meat. Cook meat as planned.
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