Ravioli di Portobello Casserole

I guess its my German heritage that gives that love for anything that resembles a dumpling. Whether sweet or savory doesn’t seem to matter, filling between two thin layers of pasta or dough is just plain good to me.

Around the world, Italian ravioli has many culinary ‘sisters’ in other cultures. Kreplach, in Jewish cuisine, is a pocket of meat filling covered with pasta. In India, the dish Gujiya, has a sweet filling, rather than savory. There are many similarities between Italian ravioli and certain Chinese dumplings as well.

Although ravioli can come in many shapes, including circular and semi-circular, the traditional form is a square. The word ‘ravioli’ comes from the Italian riavvolgere, which means ‘to wrap’.

Not being someone who enjoys to eat ‘out’, its a rare occasion (when we do), for me to be really happy with my meal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I cooked a lot of ‘commercial’ meals in the food service industry years back. I guess I just got ‘burn out’ to that kind of cooking you might say.

Nevertheless, whenever we have chosen to go to the Olive Garden Restaurant, there is a meal I really do enjoy. It’s called ‘Ravioli di Portobello’. Today, I am re-creating those flavors in a casserole and adding some ground chicken to make it a little more interesting from Brion’s perspective.

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Ravioli di Portobello Casserole
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Ravioli Filling
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add mushrooms & saute for two minutes. Reduce heat & let simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated & the mushrooms are fully cooked. Add seasonings. Set aside.
Ravioli Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients with eggs. Add water a little at a time, while stirring, until it forms a soft dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 teaspoon of filling about an inch apart in even columns & rows to cover half of your dough rectangle.
  2. Before adding the top layer of pasta to the ravioli, moisten the dough around the filling dollops. Carefully fold the dough (without any filling on it) over the half with the filling dollops. Using the side of your hand, press the dough together between the dollops, accentuating the pockets of filling in each ravioli. This is very important step to ensure your ravioli will not leak while cooking.
  3. Using a pastry cutter (or a pizza cutter), cut straight lines through the pressed down sections between the filling dollops. In a large kettle of boiling water, drop ravioli in a few at a time, being careful that they do do touch the kettle. When the raviolis float to the top, boil for one minute & then remove them with a slotted spoon. Keep warm in a covered dish, drizzling a tiny bit of butter or oil over them to prevent sticking until you are ready for them.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & saute garlic, seasonings, sun-dried tomatoes for a few minutes. Add chicken broth & half & half; bring to a boil & continue to stir until thickened & creamy about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside until ready to use in casserole.
Assemble Casserole
  1. In a skillet, brown ground chicken until no longer pink; drain & place in a bowl. Add salt, garlic powder & pepper. In the skillet, melt butter, add onion & zucchini; saute until tender crisp. Stir in sun-dried tomato sauce.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a buttered 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread 1/4 of sauce, layer 1/2 of the ravioli, another 1/4 of the sauce, half of the chicken & half of the cheese.
  3. Repeat again except OMIT cheese. Cover & bake for 35 minutes. Uncover & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If you wish to garnish, chopped green onion & diced tomato are nice.

Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese ‘Gravy’

There is no one way to create ‘meatloaf’ and it is precisely this capacity for re-invention that has allowed meatloaf to maintain a continued place on our dinner tables. The limitations for the iconic dish are none. The criteria is ground meat primarily and whether it is beef, pork, chicken, turkey or a blend of, doesn’t matter. The meat must be cut with a filler or the loaf becomes to dense. Bread crumbs, oatmeal, crackers, Japanese panko crumbs, rice, minced vegetables are all good choices. Egg and/or dairy of some kind is essential to bind and moisten. Seasoning is definitely a personal choice. The loaf shape is classic but the top can be glazed, sauced, as is, or baked with strips of bacon over it.

At one time, trying to find a casual restaurant that didn’t serve meatloaf would have been like an Italian one that didn’t serve pasta. Some believe meatloaf was born during the Depression of the 1930’s. To stretch the small amounts of meat people had, it was ground and mixed with stale bread crumbs. At times, these loaves actually contained more ‘loaf’ than meat.

Whether you love meatloaf or hate it, the fact that it is still around after all these years is incredible. Today’s entree puts another spin on this old classic. This a recipe that was published in a  Better Homes & Gardens  magazine in the 70’s. Interesting!


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Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese 'Gravy'

Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce

Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce


Instructions
Meat Cups
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute onions & garlic until translucent. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, parsley, cooled onions & garlic, egg, breadcrumbs & milk. Combine well.

  2. On 4 squares of waxed paper, shape into 4 patties with a 5-inch diameter. Shape each over an inverted custard cup; discard paper. Chill about an hour.

Mashed Potatoes
  1. Peel & cook potatoes. In a large bowl, combine cooked potatoes, butter, seasonings, Parmesan & a splash of milk. Mash & add more milk gradually until potatoes are desired texture.

Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter; whisk in flour, salt & pepper until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; cook & stir while adding cheddar cheese. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Cook frozen peas.

Baking & Serving
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place inverted meat cups on a shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until meat is cooked. Lift baked meat cups from custard cups & turn upright; fill with mashed potatoes. Place on serving plates, spoon cheese sauce over filled meat cups & top with green peas.

Scalloped Potato Roll

I guess this meal could be classed as making the most of a traditional comfort food. Scalloped potatoes seem to feed both stomach and soul. Maybe that comes from so many of us having childhood memories of this dish. It seems most of the recipes now contain cheese. From what I remember, it was basically thin sliced potatoes and onions placed in a baking dish alternated with flour, butter, hot milk, salt & pepper and topped with buttered bread crumbs. It tasted so creamy and good!

Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes seem to be synonymous with each other. When I saw this recipe for scalloped potato roll on the internet, I felt it certainly kicked the two up a notch. You can use whatever ground meat that you prefer. I like a combo of beef, veal and pork. Beef is necessary for texture as well as flavor, veal contains a high level of gelatin keeping meat tender and the pork adds flavor. Just a little side note for what its worth — if you only have ground beef on hand, add half a teaspoon of unflavored powdered gelatin to 454 gm. The gelatin will act much like veal, keeping the texture softer and moister.

This meal looks like a lot of work but it really isn’t. The combo of roasted potatoes, ground meat, three cheeses and spinach or chard is excellent.

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Scalloped Potato Roll
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 X 7-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese evenly over parchment. Peel & slice potatoes 1/8-inch thick. Rinse & pat dry on paper towels. Place the potatoes over the Parmesan so each potato is overlapping the previous potato both vertically and horizontally. Continue until the entire pan is filled with potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the potatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake 30 minutes, until golden. The potatoes should be slightly crispy & flexible .
  2. In a saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil & saute onions until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add ground meat, scramble fry with onions. Mix in tomatoes, 3 Tbsp parsley, paprika, 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir, cooking until meat is browned & cooked through. Remove from heat & place in a bowl.
  3. Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the saucepan. Add spinach (or chard); cook until wilted. Add 1 tsp of salt & the garlic; stir to combine then remove from heat. Combine ricotta with spinach mixture & spread evenly over potato 'sheet' followed by the meat mixture & then topping all with the mozzarella.
  4. Take one end of the potato sheet, holding the parchment paper begin rolling upward, making sure the ingredients are not coming out the ends. Once the filled potato sheet is completely rolled, arrange it in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet & bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley & a bit more cheese if you wish.

Roasted Beef Stuffed Cauliflower

You know the saying, ‘what’s old is new again‘ is one that seems to fit cauliflower. What used to be considered a boring vegetable, less colorful and less delicious than its cousin broccoli, is now an ‘it’ vegetable. I mean, its everywhere — cauliflower rice, pizza crust, roasted, in sandwiches, main entrees, etc. etc. The versatility of this humble veggie has boosted its popularity to become big business for growers and grocers.

Whole roasted cauliflower is an unusual presentation. Cauliflower’s inherent earthy sweetness becomes more pronounced as the moisture inside is drawn out.

January is always a good month to get creative with oven meals. I love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower with cheese sauce drizzled over it. Although, stuffing it with meat is not a new concept, I, myself have not made it this way. So today’s meal is a nicely seasoned ground beef filling baked inside of a whole cauliflower and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce. The result is real good! 

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Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower with Beef
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
Instructions
Stuffed Cauliflower
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, tomato, egg, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sage, pepper & salt until well incorporated. Set aside.
  2. Remove the whole stem from the cauliflower making sure to leave the head fully intact. In a large pot, boil cauliflower for 8-10 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the boiling water & place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes then carefully remove any remaining stem to make space for the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill the head of cauliflower with ground beef mixture making sure to press the filling into the head. Place inverted head of cauliflower on a buttered, foil lined baking sheet; cover with another sheet of foil & bake about 30 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter add flour, stirring until light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk & allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper & mix until fully incorporated & thickened.
  2. Adjust heat to broil. Remove foil from stuffed cauliflower & cover with cheese sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.

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Classic Beef PLov
Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.

Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.

Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.

Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. 

The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.

Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.

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Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
  4. Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.

Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes

At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.

Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.

Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.

Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.

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Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes
Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
Meat Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Serving
  1. Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.

Turkey Taco Stuffed Avocados

Using creamy avocados instead of tortilla shells puts a healthy twist on tacos.      Most people think guacamole when they hear the word ‘avocado’. True, guacamole is great but that’s just a mere beginning of their potential. Avocados can stand in for mayo, replace butter in baked goods and even become a creamy base for ice cream or smoothies. Beyond that, you can grill, stuff, batter and fry them or turn them into cake frosting. For many people, avocados make everything they just a bit better.

Avocados are a fruit that ripen off the tree so they are often sold unripe. The tree carries two crops on them at a time, and on average an avocado will stay on the tree for 12-14 months.

This versatile fruit is a true Mexican staple, bringing flair to practically any dish its used in.  If you enjoy tacos and avocados, this is just a great, easy lunch or light supper.

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Turkey Taco Stuffed Avocados
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, stir-fry ground turkey & onion until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in spices & add refried beans; combine well.
  2. Top each avocado half with a squeeze of lime juice. Divide turkey mixture evenly into each halved avocado. Top with shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream & cilantro (if using).
Recipe Notes

German Bierocks

With my passion for food history and preparation, there is always a draw that pulls me back to my German roots. A lot of these recipes I recall my mother making but some are new to me that I just can’t resist trying.

In 2016, I posted a couple of recipes ( one in April and the other in August) for Potato Bread that had a meat filling baked inside. These take sandwiches to a whole new level and are so great for picnics — the perfect meal all in one.

The hand held meat ‘pie’ has a worldwide history. The British serve Cornish pasties, while empanadas are found throughout Central and South America. Italians are drawn to calzones (which are often made without meat). That brings me to eastern Europeans with their bierocks.

A bierock is made from a yeasty dough stuffed with ground or shredded beef, cabbage and onions. They were created to be carried by miners and farmers to work so they could enjoy a hearty lunch. What began as a ‘pocketful’ of beef and cabbage eventually led to the Reuben  that we know today. The BIEROCK  is a characteristic food of Germans from Russia.

These bierocks freeze well, so making them ahead of time is no problem. Just take them out of the freezer in the morning to thaw by lunch time. You can warm them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second increments to heat through if you wish.

Print Recipe
German Bierocks
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large bowl, place milk & butter. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until butter has melted. Add sugar & whisk to dissolve. Whisk mixture until it has cooled to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture & allow to stand 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Whisk again, adding in 2 cups of flour, egg & salt.
  2. Stir in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time until dough comes together. On a floured surface knead dough 10-15 minutes until soft, smooth dough forms, adding flour as needed. Dough should be tacky but not sticking to your hands.
  3. Shape dough into a disk; place in a greased bowl, turning dough to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, brown meat until almost cooked, 5-7 minutes. Drain grease from pan, add onions & cook 2-3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add cabbage & cook 7-10 minutes, until cabbage is tender. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Forming Bierocks
  1. Place dough on a floured work surface, knocking it back. Divide into 8-12 balls (about 85 g each). Flatten each ball to a circle 4-5" in diameter. Spoon 2 large Tbsp of filling onto the center of each circle, leaving edges clear. Bring the edges together & pinch them to seal dough completely. Continue with rest of the filling & dough.
  2. Place the shaped 'bierocks' on a greased baking sheet & allow to rise, covered 30-45 minutes until roughly 1 1/2 times the original size. Preheat oven to 375 F. during the last 10 minutes of rising time. Brush bierocks lightly with milk & bake 20-25 minutes or until golden & hollow sounding when tapped. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes

Chili Con Carne with Cornbread

At this time of year, this hearty, easy to prepare meal seems to fit in nicely. Here in northern Alberta, Canada we are still in the midst of those cold winter temperatures.

Since the first recorded recipe, chili has been reinvented to include different spices and ingredients changing basic things like beef to chicken, chili peppers to jalapeno peppers and tomato sauce to chicken broth. The fact remains, it’s a great meal no matter what recipe you use or what the weather conditions are. 

Chili con carne, which is Spanish for ‘chili with meat’,  is a spicy ‘stew’ containing meat (usually beef) chili peppers or spice, tomatoes, garlic, onions and beans. Geographic and personal tastes involve different types of meat and ingredients. There has been much discussion and dispute that the word ‘chili’ applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes.

When Brion and I spent three months in Ecuador, we had rented a furnished apartment. The kitchen was very basic, but I could still enjoy preparing our meals. Being in Ecuador, one would have thought something as common place as ‘chili powder’ would be no problem to buy. After much searching, we finally gave up and I concocted my own version using black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne powder, onion powder, dried oregano and cumin. It actually tasted quite good. Cooking in Ecuador was a real learning curve. Due to the fact that even though you could buy similar ingredients to home, they tasted somewhat different.

Thinking back to my mother’s cooking, I don’t recall much about her chili but the cornbread she served with it was ‘to die for’. Once again, I’m sure so much of it was time and place.

Cornbread is a generic name for any number of quick breads containing cornmeal and are leavened with baking powder. The quintessential late 20th to early 21st century recipe contains baking powder for convenience, sugar for sweetness and flour and eggs for lightness. Cornbread is an interesting recipe to track through the past few centuries. It is such a prolific crop, grown in America, that it was consumed across class, race and regional lines. Corn lends itself to change very easily, giving way to variations of cornbread recipes. Although traditional cornbread was not sweet at all, regional preferences for sweetness in the recipe have developed.

In order to bake some cornbread in Ecuador, we purchased a package of yellow corn meal. Although it seemed to be very finely ground, I was able to make it work and we really enjoyed it. One day, while we were out walking we came upon a street vendor selling something called ‘Humitas’. We purchased a couple to take back to the apartment to try. Humitas are made of ground young corn, seasoned with egg, butter and possibly cheese wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. These had a bit of anise flavor which gave them a real unique flavor. Humitas are one of the most traditional of Ecuadorian recipes. The ingredients can vary by region, town or even in family recipes and can be sweet or salty. They differ from corn tamales in that they are steamed rather then boiled or baked. The corn used in making them is called ‘choclo’, also known as Peruvian or Cusco corn (named for the capital city of the Incas). This Andean corn has extra large, bulbous kernels almost five times larger than North American corn with a creamy texture. Every so often during our stay in Ecuador, we made a point of treating ourselves to some.

My story has got a little ‘long winded’ today, but I hope you have enjoyed it. I am posting my ‘tried and true’ recipes for Chili & Cornbread.  Hope you give them a try and enjoy!

Print Recipe
Chili Con Carne with Cornbread
One of those 'stick to your ribs', comfort food meals!
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Instructions
Chili
  1. In a large skillet, brown beef, onions, green pepper & spices until meat is thoroughly cooked & any liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans & water. Cook over medium - high heat until bubbly. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper or a mini loaf pan. In a food processor or blender, pulse first 5 ingredients for a few seconds. Place in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together melted margarine, milk & egg. Combine wet & dry ingredients, mixing only until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Pour into baking pan(s) & bake for 20 minutes or until test done. Serves 8