Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

The tenderest, juiciest seasoned pot roast ever is cooked in the crockpot before being piled high on crusty baguettes with melted provolone cheese. Served with their own yummy au jus, these Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches are dippable perfection you just can’t get enough of.  

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Meat Lover’s Pizza Casserole

I think it’s safe to say that we all look forward to pizza night every other Friday. Some nights, it means placing an order on the computer and having it delivered about 45 minutes later. Other nights, it means Mom thawing out the pizza dough the night before and getting busy with a variety of toppings. It could be your traditional pepperoni, or even as funky as Mac & Cheese pizza. We love pizza. Period. But then, naturally, you’ve got those ‘oops’ moments. You know the ‘pizza night’s come up again, and even though you told yourself multiple times, posted sticky notes, and tied a ribbon around your finger, you still forgot to thaw the dough out’ moments. And it’s 30 minutes until you told everyone to be at the table. See, an ‘oops’ moment. Luckily for me, one of my guys favorite pizza flavor combos will forever be meatlover’s.

Meatlover's Pizza Casserole

And what’s not to love? Especially for a meaty, hearty kind of appetite. Where else are you going to find beef, pepperoni, sausage, ham, and occasionally bacon thrown together into one incredible dish? This is my pizza night savior on those no-dough nights. Instead of a traditional pizza crust, I opted to mix there favorite flavors with some pasta. And man, oh, man is it good! All their promised favorite flavors, mixed with some fun pasta shapes.

meatlovers pizza casserole 2

And it’s customizable. Use whatever pasta is your family’s favorite shape. I didn’t include them in the recipe, but add in some ground beef, or swap it for something else. The sons consider it a real treat when I sprinkle some crispy, crumbled bacon over top the pepperoni and cheeses. So whether you forgot to plan ahead like moi, you don’t want to do delivery, or it seems like too much work, with this meal you won’t have to let that stand in the way of you and your family enjoying your next pizza night.

Meatlover’s Pizza Casserole

 1/2 lb bow tie pasta
1 lb mild pork sausage
2 (26 oz) jars spaghetti sauce
1 large onion, diced
1 lb cooked ham, cubed
sliced pepperoni
3 (8 oz) bags of shredded mozzarella
6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano

Directions

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions, or until al dente. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process, drain and set aside.
2. Add the sausage, onions, garlic, and oregano until the sausage has cooked through and the onions are translucent. Remove them from heat, drain if necessary, and set aside.
3. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Add some sauce to the dish, just enough to lightly coat the bottom when spread out.
4. To create the first layer, add 1/3 of the cooked pasta and spread it out evenly into the dish. Cover the pasta with 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle one bag of cheese out evenly overtop. Sprinkle two tbsp of Parmesan out evenly over the mozzarella. Add the cooked sausage mixture and spread it out evenly.
5. For the second layer, spread half of the remaining pasta into the dish. spread half of the remaining sauce out over the pasta. Sprinkle another bag of mozzarella and two tbsp of Parmesan evenly over top. Sprinkle the diced ham out evenly to finish the layers.
6. To prepare the final layer, add all the remaining pasta, the rest of the pasta sauce, the last bag of mozzarella and the rest of Parmesan, and finally top with all the sliced pepperoni.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Onion Bombs

Virginia weather is weird. Friday it was warm enough for sun-bathing. The next morning? We woke up to freezing rain and whipping wind. It’s nuts. Like welcome to the state where you can get sunburn and frostbite in the same week, nuts. But now that we’re at least ‘officially’ in Spring, the weather should trend on the side of at least moderately higher temps, and around these parts that’s all we need. We’ve got two wardrobes, winter and summer. First warm day? Pull out the tank tops and shorts. But it’s only 67 degrees out you say? That’s ok.

Another thing that makes its debut with the first Spring-like day? Our grill! Not to say we ever actually put it away, but it’s a lot easier grilling out at a cloudy 67 than in sleet or snow.

So, sun’s out … Grills out! And onion bombs are one of our favorites. They couldn’t be any easier to throw together and they taste incredible. These could just as easily be called meatloaf stuffed onions, and they’re easily adapted. I know the warmer weather hasn’t reached everywhere yet, but that’s cool. These can just as easily be baked in the oven, at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes in a covered casserole dish, without any sacrifices in the flavor infusion dept.

Onion Bombs

Do you enjoy camping? We do, and usually we stick to the easy realm of hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and cans of soup. But guess what makes a perfect meal cooked up over a camp fire? Yep, that’s right, onion bombs! Stuff em just the same, wrap em up in tin foil, and cook em over the hot camp fire coals for about 45 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Onion Bombs

Onion Bombs 2

1-1.5 lbs lean ground beef ( or you can do half ground beef and half ground pork )

1 large white onion, peeled

1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup of shredded cheese (any kind of cheese you like)
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of bread crumbs, or pulverized oatmeal, & 1 slice of bread torn into small pieces

Directions

1. Cut, from the top to the bottom right down the middle, a large onion in half. You want to cut from top to bottom, right down the middle, not sideways. Then take each layer from each one and pair them together making sure to match each side with it’s mate. Be careful when pulling the layers apart because they can tear easily.

2. Add all of the other ingredients to a large bowl. Mix all of this up with your hands, squishing and kneading everything together, as you would with meatloaf until all the ingredients are . You want almost the same texture like meatloaf too. If it seems too dry, just add a bit more ketchup or a tad more mustard. If it feels too wet, add a few more bread crumbs.
3. To assemble the onion bombs, start with the largest pair of onion halves. Make a large meatball and place it in one side of the onion half and place the other onion half over the top, filling up the onion cavity and squishing the meatball in between both halves. Continue to fill the rest of the onion halves up with the meat mixture.
4. Here, were grilling them, so wrap each onion bomb in aluminum foil. You want to have enough room so that you can leave a little twist at the top so you can easily pick them up off the grill because they’re these things get hot! Now it’s time to grill them. Put them on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Flip them over on their opposite side and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.

NOTE: Grilling times will vary based on how high you have your grill set.

French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

In our home, meatloaf is and has always been a stand-out family fav. Usually, I just make my Grandma’s meatloaf. It’s simple, no-fuss, no-frills, but it’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. It’s a relatively short list of ingredients, and it’s fairly simple to throw together, but whenever I’m asked for the recipe I have to explain that there actually isn’t one.

Do you have any idea how long it took for me to learn how to make my Grandma’s meatloaf?! There was no. recipe. This meant that any time I wanted to make meatloaf, or she was making up a batch for the freezer, I would pack up my Costco-sized packages of ground beef, and the other ingredients I needed, and go over to her house and stand in the kitchen for hours watching her ‘eyeball’ ingredients as she casually threw everything together into a giant bowl. The only part I was allowed to partici[pate in was getting my hands dirty and smooshing ans squishing everything together. I was an excellent meatloaf masher 😉

After several months of ‘eyeballing’ she must have seen something that told her I was ready for the next step. The next meatloaf day I showed up energized, packing my lean ground beef, and ready to finally give it a go. This lasted through like two ingredients before she ended up taking over and just doing it herself. She said it was easier. This happened every time. Every. time. Do you have any idea how frustrating this was? Yes, I’d end up taking home several great meatloafs, but I couldn’t make them at my own house or by myself. It was beyond me (and totally out of my comfort zone at the time) to experiment by throwing various amounts of food stuffs into a bowl full of hamburger meat and hoping for the best, or knowing when to add more liquidy stuffs and when you needed more dry crap. I thought it was hopeless, and resigned myself to my Grandma making, or taking over making, my meatloaves for the rest of my life. But, Grandma’s been gone for almost 6 years now and it turns out, that unbeknownst to me, she knew what she was doing. Even without a recipe, I can whip up a kick ass meatloaf, and I cherish all those memories of us in her kitchen that I might not have had as an adult without all our meatloaf days. Somewhere along the way, I observed enough to interpret and absorb her secret meatloaf makin’ ways 🙂

While Grandma’s meatloaf will always be our  ‘put-up-on-a-pedestal’ favorite, we do enjoy trying other versions, especially ones that incorporate some of our favorite flavor combos. I like to think Grandma would be proud of our ingenuity and of pushing the recipe boundaries– something that would have been way out of her much more traditional kitchen comfort zone 😉 We’ve enjoyed bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, Mexican meatloaf, and even several Chicken versions. This recipe here though, is one of our most often enjoyed variations.

 French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

Think of your favorite meatloaf, then imagine that stuffed with your favorite french onion soup. And cheese. CHEESE! In our defense we usually stuff ours with mozzarella, but here Swiss is the perfect companion to the tender caramelized onions tucked up in our savory, prepared ground beef. This gourmet version is sure to wow the socks off of the family, and is a perfect option for those night’s when company’s coming.

French Onion Soup Stuffed Au Gratin Meatloaf

French Onion Soup Au Gratin Stuffed Meatloaf

recipe adapted from Cupcakes & Kalechips

For the onions:
1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium-large onions, halved & thinly sliced
½ tbsp fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ cup beef broth
¼ cup red wine, or red cooking wine
For the meatloaf:
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ cup bread crumbs or quick cooking, ground oats
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups mozzarella, or Swiss, cheese, shredded, divided
For the sauce:
2½ cups beef broth
½ cup red wine, or red cooking wine
3 tbsp cornstarch
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

For the onions:
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium. When the oil’s hot add in the onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until they’ve caramelized.
2. Next, add the thyme and sauté for a minute or two, then add in the wine and beef broth.
3. Give everything a stir, and allow to continue cooking while the liquid reduces, until very little liquid remains in the skillet. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the meatloaf:
1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs or oats, parsley, pepper, salt, and eggs. Using your hands (you can wear latex gloves if you’re squeamish) squish everything together until evenly incorporated.
2. Lay the meat mixture out onto a piece of wax paper and press it out into a roughly 10×12-inch rectangle.
3. Set aside ½ cup of the cheese and ½ cup of the onions. Sprinkle the remaining 1½ cups cheese and onions evenly over the ground beef. Roll up like a jelly roll, starting from the short end, lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap as you roll. Seal the end completely, and place the loaf seam-side down into a 9×13-inch baking pan.
4. Place the meatloaf in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. While the meatloaf is baking, prepare the sauce. For the sauce: Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small pot, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside
5. Remove the pan from the oven, pour the prepared sauce over the meatloaf, and sprinkle the top with the reserved onions and cheese.
7. Return the meatloaf to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink on the inside. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
8. Remove from oven and allow to stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Sloppy Joe Tacos

Did you ever start to make sloppy joes and halfway through realize you didn’t have hamburger buns on hand? Yep. Totally happened to me you guys. (And, sadly I can’t say this is the first time either. Don’t get the sons started on how many nights we’ve had to have bunless hotdogs and hamburgers.) And so sloppy joe tacos (what??!) it was. I was weary that this would just end up tasting funky, but it didn’t. It is everything you love about a sloppy Joe along with the comfort of taco shells and all the fixins.

Now: calling all napkins!!! Who am I kidding?! Forget the napkins. I just need a hose. Especially with all four sons in the house eating these. For real! Seriously though… they rock. Grab a bib (and a hose) and dig in!

Sloppy Joe Tacos

Sloppy Joe Tacos

1 lb ground beef, or ground turkey
half a medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce

Directions

1. Brown and drain ground beef (or turkey). Place cooked meat back into skillet and saute the onions and pepper until onions begin to turn clear. Add in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and garlic powder. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Line taco shells in a 9×13 pan and evenly divide the meat mixture in the shells. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and place it in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and shells are warm.
Divide lettuce evenly between taco shells.

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

Although it only requires three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), grilled cheese is one of the most popular comfort foods in the world. The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese sandwich, but many cultures have invented their own take on this ‘classic’ dish. In France, people enjoy Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) while in Switzerland it is customary to melt the cheese and toast the bread separately before combining them. The American grilled cheese sandwich emerged in the 1920s when inexpensive cheese and affordable sliced bread became available. It is now a staple in cafés, diners, and school cafeterias across the country.

Despite this noteworthy past, and it’s longevity, today, it’s a sad world for the grilled cheese sandwich. Somewhere along the way it has been demoted from a classic comfort food to the dismal realm of the kid’s menu; thus, making it ‘socially’ off limits to the older-than-15-crowd. And when you’re an adult who just wants some melted cheddar between two buttery, toasty slices of bread…that’s a sad, sad thing. Being that I have the four sons, I jsut don’t care. Social norms be damned. If I want a grilled cheese, I’m having grilled cheese. Even if the waitress looks at me funny when I place an order for not 4, but 5, kid meals.

Still, being that April is ‘grilled cheese month’ and all, and I saw that waitresses’ questioning arched eyebrow,  I thought it was time for a revival. An upgrade, if you will, to make it worthy of a place in the world of socially acceptable adult fare. I know I’ve mentioned this in several posts before. I will never be to old for grilled cheese! At it’s most basic, it’s totally awesome. At it’s fanciest adaptation? It’s still freakin’ awesome!!

This is a far cry from your typical grilled cheese sandwich. Kick things up a notch with the salsa and chiles. If you happen to have a babysitter, enjoy it out on your patio with a margarita to make it REALLY good!

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

recipe adapted from Julie’s Eats & Treats

1 lb ground beef
1 packet taco season
1/2 c. salsa
1/4 cup diced, canned green chilies (optional)
12 slices bread
1 tbsp butter
1 lb Velveeta

Directions

1. Brown ground beef in medium sized skillet. Drain fat. Mix in taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add salsa & green chiles.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Cut Velveeta into 6 pieces.
3. In a large skillet place two pieces of bread, buttered side down. Top each piece of bread with one slice of Velveeta. On top of Velveeta spoon 1/6 of hamburger mixture. Place another piece of bread on top of beef with the buttered side up.
4. Cook over medium heat until bread is golden brown. Flip sandwich and repeat on other side. Repeat until all sandwiches have been made.

Creamy Taco Pasta

Better for you hamburger helper — that’s what we decided this recipe was. Reminiscent of hamburger helper, but without all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Creamy, cheesy, and delicious! If I haven’t sold you on it yet, where can you go wrong with a combination of two family favorites? Tacos & pasta?!  A perfect quick and easy, busy weeknight meal. Be prepared though. Dinner will be silent. Everyone will be too busy eating, or in my case, scarfing down their first helping so they can call dibs on whatever is left in the pot. 

Creamy Taco Pasta

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Taco Pasta

recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 pound ground beef or turkey
8-12 ounces medium pasta shells or other small dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, drained, or 1 cup salsa
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp dried cilantro leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
3. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit if it is still too thin.
4. Toss in the dried cilantro right before serving for some added color and flavor. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

The World’s Easiest Cheeseburger Sliders

I’m definitely a foodie at heart. I come from a long ling of women who love good food, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done my job of instilling that same feeling in my boys. While normal sized food is always great, there’s just something about food in miniature that I just can’t help but adore. It’s just so cute and fun. Not to mention, with four growing boy, two growing teenage boys who inhale food like vacuums, it’s often a whole lot less messy. With those things combined, sliders are a huge hit with this mom. Still, it was a wee bit time consuming to have to shape each petite patty by hand. Then I stumbled on this genius kitchen life-hack, and BAM! Mind.Blown. This recipe, literally, is for making the easiest sliders ever. Ever.

Easy Cheeseburger Sliders

4 Sons 'R' Us: The World's Easiest Cheeseburger Sliders

1 1/2 pounds, 93% lean ground sirloin
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (12-count) Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls (or slider buns)
6 slices cheddar or American cheese

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.   In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt.  Gently press mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness.  Use the tines of a fork to poke holes throughout the meat.  Bake for 30 minutes.  As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan.  2. When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.
3. Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese; return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.
4. Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used), making 12 mini- hamburgers.  Serve with dill pickle slices and ketchup.  Serves 6 at 2 sliders each.

Hamburger Steak with Onions & Gravy

I’ve had Hamburger Steaks (aka Salisbury steak) before, but I’ve never really liked it. I thought I just ‘wasn’t a fan’, but then I got to thinking. I love meatloaf. I love gravy. Something was always missing for me…flavor. On a whim, I decided to try my own hand at this classic dish. It still seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’. After my family’s first bite, we all agreed: Mission Complete! Not only were the ‘steaks’ jam-packed with flavor, but so was the simple gravy. And where can you go wrong with caramelized onions?! Take it from me, serve these juicy ‘steaks’ with mashed potatoes. You won’t want to waste a drop of gravy.

Hamburger Steaks with Onions & Gravy

4 Sons 'R' Us: Hamburger Steaks with onions & gravy

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp seasoning salt, divided
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth & 1 tbsp cooking sherry

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and steak seasoning. Form into 8 balls, and flatten into patties.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties and onion in the oil until patties are nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the beef patties to a plate, and keep warm.
3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and drippings in the skillet. Stir in flour with a fork, scraping bits of beef off of the bottom as you stir. Gradually mix in the beef broth and sherry. Season with seasoned salt. Simmer and stir over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the gravy thickens. Turn heat to low, return patties to the gravy, cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!