weeknight gourmet

Category : Beef

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

photo(1)I’ve made this wonderful and quick Bolognese from the Barefoot Contessa before.  But in an attempt to be lighter on carbs, served it over spaghetti squash on Monday night.

I love pasta and nothing will ever truly be a substitute but this was a pretty delicious meal!  Spaghetti squash is so easy to prepare and pairs wonderfully with a tomato-based sauce.   Will definitely be moving this into our fall / winter meal rotation.


Spaghetti Squash

  • 2 whole spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.Split the squashes in half and scrape out seeds. Line an oven tray with aluminum foil. Season the spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place flesh side down and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.When squash is cool enough to handle, using a large kitchen spoon scrape the strands of squash from the inside of the skin.
Weeknight Bolognese
Copyright, 2010 Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

  • 2 TB good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ¼ cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • ¾ pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells (
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat until the meat is no longer pink and has started to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 TB salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Finish the sauce while the pasta cooks. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining ¼ cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Serves 4-5.

High Five for Muffin Meatballs

highfive copyWhen I was a kid, I loved Highlights Magazine!  Doesn’t everyone remember the hidden pictures?  The publishers of Highlights now have High Five for the preschool set.

Charlotte adores this magazine.  We read each issue cover to cover multiple times!  She loves the stories, the hidden pictures, and the RECIPES!  Each issue has a recipe you can made with your toddler.

One of our favorites has been Muffin Meatballs.  The meatballs are baked in a muffin tin and taste almost like a mini meatloaf.

I serve the meatballs with ketchup for dipping along with some veggies for a tasty dinner.

Muffin Meatballs
Highlights High Five

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (we used 90/10; you could also use meatloaf mix)
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Spray muffin tin with Pam or some kind of vegetable oil spray

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Form medium sized balls and place them in the muffin tins. Cook approximately 35 minutes. Let the meatballs stand for a minute or 2, and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon.


Fall Comfort Food: Beef Stew

Unfortunately because I was entertaining I didn’t have a chance to take a photo of this very tasty beef stew.  But it was delicious and, while it says serves 6, 4 of us devoured it.

The beef was so tender and everything had a delicious flavor.  The veggies were tender but not mushy because you only add then for the final 40 minutes.

I made a few changes.  Instead of using the 2 cups of water, I used low sodium beef broth.  I had some sliced mushrooms and one potato on hand so I added those at the same time I added the carrots and celery.  The potato added a bit of starch and thickened the sauce so I did not need to add the cornstarch at the end.

Overall super flavorful.  I served with a simple green salad.  And, make sure to have some crusty bread on hand.

Old Time Beef Stew
Paula Deen

• 2 pounds stew beef
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 cups water
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• 1 or 2 bay leaves
• 1 medium onion, sliced
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• Dash ground allspice or ground cloves
• 3 large carrots, sliced
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Brown meat in hot oil. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add carrots and celery. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes longer.

To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with a little hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly.

Fall Fare: Hearty Meatball Stew

Here’s a delicious dish for the cooler weather!  The stew wasn’t what I expected — it was much earthier and less tomato-y.  But we loved it!  Giada rarely steers me wrong.

The mushrooms (I used baby bellas) added a really nice flavor.  And, the meatballs were a delicious combo of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage.

I served it with some crusty bread.

Hearty Meatball Stew
Giada De Laurentiis

• 1 slice white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
• 8 ounces 20-percent-fat ground beef (about 8 ounces)
• 2 sweet mild Italian sausages, casings removed
• 1 egg
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hearty Meatball Stew:
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
• 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 pound large white mushrooms, quartered
• One 8 to 10-ounce russet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/3-inch slices
• 4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
• One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
• 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

For the meatballs: Place the bread and 3 tablespoons water into a medium bowl. Mash to a paste with a spatula. Add the beef, sausage, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend the mixture thoroughly with your hands or a flexible spatula. Form the mixture into 10 to 16 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until ready to use.
For the hearty meatball stew: Sprinkle the meatballs with the flour and turn to coat with any flour still on the foil. Heat a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Drop the meatballs into the skillet, spaced apart. Cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes. Using a flexible thin spatula, turn each meatball onto an uncooked side and cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes longer. Turn and cook a third side, until set and brown, about another 2 minutes, so the meatballs are browned and set all over. Transfer the meatballs to a large plate.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook until soft, 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Giant Meatballs (aka Sicilian Meatballs with Fresh Basil Marinara)

Who doesn’t love meatballs?!  I also love any excuse for tomato sauce.  I could eat pasta everyday but I don’t think any of my clothes would fit if I did.  This recipe caught my eye b/c they are big delicious meatball without the pasta!

The meatballs were super hearty and the quick tomato sauce was very tasty!  1 to 2 meatballs per person depending on your sides should suffice.  I served the meatballs with sauteed spinach.  So delicious!

Sicilian Meatballs with Fresh Basil Marinara
Fine Cooking

  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Sugar, as needed
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment or a nonstick liner and set aside.

Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a large mixing bowl, stir to blend, and set aside for 5 minutes. With your hands, squeeze and mash the breadcrumbs so that they make a smooth paste. Add the egg and whisk, then add the Parmigiano, ketchup, parsley, oregano, thyme, half the onion, half the garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to blend.

With your hands, break the beef into small chunks and add to the bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly; overmixing will make the meatballs tough and dry. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape the mixture into 6 balls and arrange on the baking sheet.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F at the center of a meatball, 40 to 45 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining half onion and 1 teaspoon salt and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining half garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick sauce, 
10 to 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add a pinch or two of sugar if it seems too tangy, and season with more salt if necessary. Stir in the basil and keep warm until the meatballs come out of the oven.

Spoon the sauce generously over the meatballs and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano.

Enchilada Casserole

This Mexican-style lasagna will definitely be a crowd-pleaser.

You make a tomato-based sauce with taco seasoning that is similar to an enchilada sauce.  Whole wheat tortillas are layered with a beef mixture tossed in the enchilada sauce and then topped with pepper jack cheese.  YUM!  You can tone down the heat by using Monterey Jack cheese instead of pepper jack.

To lighten the dish, try using ground turkey instead of the sirloin.

I served the dish with avocado and some simply prepared black beans.  Judging by the leftovers (or lack thereof) I would say this recipe was a hit.

Enchilada Casserole
Cooking Light

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon 40%-less-sodium taco seasoning mix (such as Old El Paso)
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 4 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and onion to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring to crumble.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Sprinkle with flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth, taco seasoning, and tomato sauce to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 cups tomato mixture to beef mixture; reserve 1/2 cup tomato mixture.

Place 1 tortilla in a 9-inch pie plate. Top with 1 cup beef mixture. Repeat layers, ending with tortilla. Spread reserved tomato mixture over tortilla. Top with cheese. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Cool slightly. Cut into 4 wedges.

A Taste of Havana: Slow-Cooker Ropa Vieja

Here is a delicious slow cooker recipe!  There is nothing better than coming home after a long day to a fully prepared dinner.

Cuban-braised beef, more commonly called Ropa Vieja, is shredded flank steak in a tomato-based sauce base.  The steak slow cooks in the sauce with the oregano and cumin giving it a great flavor.  The normally tough flank steak shreds easily after 7 hours in the slow cooker.

While some slow cooker recipes require you to sear the meat or cook some ingredients before adding to the pot, this recipe is so quick.  The only real prep is slicing the red peppers!

I served the ropa vieja with yellow rice and avocado.  It was a delicious meal.  The only disappointment was that it did not keep well.  The leftovers just were not as tasty.

(And, I must thank Real Simple yet again!  This is another recipe from Real Simple’s: Dinner Done Right.)

Slow-Cooker Cuban Braised Beef
Real Simple

  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Nestle the steak among the vegetables. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

25 minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

Using two forks, shred the beef and mix it into the cooking liquid. Serve with the rice and top with the avocado and cilantro.

Meatloaf with a Kick!

Who doesn’t love meatloaf?!  It’s a perfect dinner as the cool fall weather arrives.  The Barefoot Contessa Turkey Meatloaf is my go-to but I decided to try a beef – pork version and came across this Emeril recipe.  Looked up my alley with the added kick from the chorizo, chili sauce and creole seasoning!

I forgot my shopping list at home so I ended up making a fair number of substitutions.  I used a meatball mix (beef, pork and veal); seasoned breadcrumbs with some red pepper flakes added because I did not have any creole seasoning; whole milk instead of the heavy cream; and, hot Italian sausage instead of chorizo because I could only find smoked chorizo.

I served the meatloaf with pureed cauliflower for a great fall dinner.  The meatloaf was delicious even with my multitude of changes!  I will definitely make it again and am curious how it will turn out if I am more faithful to the recipe.

Mr. John’s Meatloaf
Emeril Lagasse for Everyday Food

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 green bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril’s Creole Seasoning
  • 8 ounces fresh chorizo sausage (not smoked)
  • 1/2 cup bottled chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, bell pepper, cream, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and Creole Seasoning. Gently mix to combine (do not overmix).

Place half of meat mixture on prepared sheet; form into a 9-by-4-inch loaf. Using a paring knife, remove casing from chorizo (keeping the shape intact). Place chorizo lengthwise down center of loaf. Cover with rest of meat mixture, enclosing the chorizo and patting to adhere.

Brush chili sauce over meatloaf. Bake, basting occasionally with pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps

Here is a tasty weeknight meal inspired by Vietnamese cooking.  The beef has a great sweet-savory flavor with a nice kick from lots of black pepper.

The sauce is comprised of fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and light brown sugar.  If you are not familiar with fish sauce, it is a staple in Southeast Asian cooking, especially Thai and Vietnamese.  It is made from fermented fish which sounds disgusting but lends a great salty flavor to recipes.  You can buy it at an Asian grocery or a gourmet food store.  Fish sauce keeps for two years in a dark cabinet.

I actually made the recipe using some leftover ground beef I had defrosted as well as some pre-cut “stir-fry” beef.  I preferred the ground beef but Tim liked the strips of beef better.  You can’t go wrong with either.

I served the beef with the chopped peanuts, scallions and shredded carrots.  We used Boston lettuce leaves as wraps but the beef would be delicious over rice.

If you are a bit lighter with the black pepper, I think kids would find this dish quite tasty as well!

Vietnamese-Style Beef with Garlic, Black Pepper, and Lime
Fine Cooking

  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. peanut or canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb. beef tri-tip steak or tenderloin,cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
  • 3 Tbs. chopped salted peanuts, preferably toasted
  • 2 scallions, both green and white parts, thinly sliced 5 cloves garlic, minced

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce; stir until the sugar dissolves. In another small bowl, stir the garlic, 1-1/2 tsp. of the oil, and 1-1/2 tsp. pepper.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1-1/2 tsp.of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Swirl to coat the skillet. Add half of the beef in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until well browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the pieces over and brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add 1-1/2 tsp. oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining beef, adding it to the bowl with the first batch when done.

Put the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil in the skillet and heat until shimmering hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pan and stir to combine. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the beef and onions are coated and the sauce thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the peanuts and scallions.

Fall Meals: Beef & Black Bean Chili with Chipotle and Avocado

I love chili!  It is such a satisfying fall and winter meal.  Plus, it usually packs some heat which I love.  And, it usually only requires a single pot!

I was looking for a new chili recipe using ground beef so I could use the remaining ground beef from our half steer.  This Fine Cooking recipe was quick enough for a weeknight meal and had a unique method of pureeing black beans, diced tomatoes, and chipotles in adobo sauce to thicken the chili and provide a wonderful hot smoky flavor.

The red onion, avocado and lime relish that is served on top of the chili is a great addition to the dish (or to any chili or taco recipe).  I used two avocados rather than the one called for in the recipe since Tim and I both love avocado.

I will definitely be making this chili recipe again this fall!

Beef & Black Bean Chili with Chipotle and Avocado
Fine Cooking

  • 3 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes (I used whole tomatoes which worked well)
  • 1 medium chipotle plus 2 Tbs. adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut in a medium dice

Put one-third of the beans into the bowl of a food processor, along with the tomatoes and their juices, chipotle, and adobo sauce. Process until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or similar heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering hot, about 2 min. Add the beef, season with 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it loses its raw color, about 3 minutes. Transfer the beef to a large plate using a slotted spoon. Add half of the onion and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown and soften, about 3 min. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook for 20 seconds. Add the remaining black beans, the puréed bean mixture, and the beef to the pot and simmer for 10 min., stirring frequently. Add half of the lime juice, half of the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. If the chili is thicker than you like, it may be thinned with water.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining lime juice and onion with the avocado. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve the chili topped with the avocado mixture and remaining cilantro.