Elbow Casserole

One time when I was a teenager, my Aunt Terry came to visit us for a few days, and we had so much fun cooking together with my mom. It was fun to try out a few new things together, and I still make the recipes from that weekend all these years later! She made the first version of this casserole with ground beef, and she baked the assembled casserole to melt and brown the cheese. Now that I’m in such a rush to get dinner on the table, I do a cheat version by doing everything on the stovetop and quickly broiling the cheese to brown it. And judging by my photo, sometimes I just toss the cheese on top and that’s the end of it! I also omit the beef because my boys seem to prefer it that way, but by all means, add a pound of browned ground beef and enjoy! It’s such an easy, cheesy, creamy way to enjoy some vegetables.

 

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Caramelized Onion Dip

This past weekend, we celebrated my baby brother’s graduation from college. Allow me to take a moment and get all sappy about it. Since Dan is 10 years younger than me, I remember so vividly the day he was born and when he was a baby. I was so excited and thrilled for him to finally be here that I cried as much as he did the day he was born. Oh, and my brother Rob cried too, but only because I was crying. That’s what he says. My mom would take pictures of baby Dan among our stuffed animals while Rob and I were at school, and when I got up the courage, I would babysit us and my parents could get a much deserved few hours away from our chaos. One time we thought it would be the best idea to take all of our pillows and blankets and pile into my parents’ bed. So they came home from date night, and, surprise! They got to sleep on the couch! 

Time flew much too quickly and I went away to college when Dan was just 8 years old. After I graduated and moved to Philadelphia, Dan came to stay with Mike and I for a long weekend. He had already turned into a great cook at this point, and we had so much fun going to Striped Bass for a fancy brunch and walking around Reading Terminal Market. Looking back, I was as protective of him then as I am of my sons now, and I wanted him to have so much fun and for none of the city harshness to touch him. Well, it turns out he’s all grown up now. He’s a city person. He’s been to London, Barcelona, Paris, New York, and I know he has many more on his list. And he’s still an amazing cook. When he finished school–by the skin of his teeth since he is brilliant but brilliantly creative at avoiding work–my mom and I were thrilled to throw him the party. And this recipe is one that he requested. Congratulations Dan!

Invest the time in caramelizing the onions slowly and you will have a sweet, creamy, salty dip that gets devoured every time, maybe even right from the pan! I found that you can easily use lowfat cream cheese and sour cream, but should stick with regular mayo, since lowfat mayo is just too sweet. I serve this with plain rippled potato chips.

In trying to photograph the dip, my son Dylan couldn’t resist. Not staged!

 

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Black Bean Soup

For my older son’s second birthday party, I wanted to do something heartwarming and cozy. It was the end of January and the Boston weather that year had been brutal. Piles of snow had been capped with a thick sheet of ice, leaving people trying to figure out how to chip ice blocks off of their roofs. I remember my mom saying that five stores in her town were out of ice-melt on one particularly depressing day. We were all in need of a comfy party. Plus, I needed to go simple–because I was pregnant (and sick!) with my second baby. The moral of the story is, black bean soup cured all! Well, maybe not. But people really seemed to like it. And I am (almost) ashamed of how easy it is to make. 

I served it with guacamole and a simple cheese quesadilla.

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Fresh Tomato Sauce-The Easy Way!

So after three years of belonging to our farm, Powisset Farm in Dover, MA, they finally wore me down with the abundance of tomatoes! I started by trying to use the pounds and pounds of tomatoes in regular salads (literally, we just got 3 weeks in a row of 7 pounds or more each time!). Then came the Caprese salads. And now, I just need to use these guys up!  Forget salads, it’s time to cook them into sauce and use them in every last thing I can think of: pasta and meatballs, tortilla soup, chili, eggplant and chicken parmesan, or just dunk a hunk of bread into it. Before you dismiss this recipe for fear it’s difficult or time consuming, I can assure you it’s really not bad at all, and think of the acclaim you’ll receive! You’ll just smile and say, “Oh, that’s fresh tomato sauce.” And you can also reclaim some of your counter space that previously housed tons of tomatoes…

Our abundance of tomatoes from Powisset Farm

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Turkey Bean Chili

My mom made me a big fan of chili growing up. I used to sneak into the kitchen while it was simmering and steal bites from the pot. Then she would say, “Oh babe! I didn’t even put the beans in it yet! Let me do that now.” Then, voila, time to eat! Now I make chili in all sorts of weather, generally once a week. I have made white chicken, beef, three bean and even zucchini chili, but this recipe is my favorite. Of course, adjust the seasoning to your preferred spice level. You can add cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder or other chili powders you love. This recipe makes a mild chili, which works for my family right now with the young-uns.

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Asian-y Pan Noodles

This recipe is one that my husband forced me to write as we were eating the dish! It is super easy and only takes as long as it takes for spaghetti to cook. It’s salty, peanutty and utterly non-authentic to any specific Asian cuisine, so it’s not Pan-Asian Noodles, it’s Asian-y Pan Noodles! Enjoy some homemade takeout, I made this one at 9 pm after our boys were finally both asleep and we had a minute to think…I mean, cook!

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