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Mini Italian Meatloaves

I have had an interesting relationship with meat loaf during my life. When I was younger, I hated when my mom would make it for dinner. When I was about nine or ten, she finally stopped making it and I was content to completely deny meat loaf’s existence forever. I figured I would never have to be faced with having to eat it again.
I was wrong. A little over a year ago, David and I were talking about foods we hated as a child. I of course mentioned how much I hated meat loaf. He told me that he hated lima beans but actually liked meat loaf and would like to have it for dinner sometime. I ignored this for a while hoping that it would never be brought up again. But, after hearing him mention it a few more times, I agreed, but said that he would most likely be alone in eating it for dinner and that I would eat something else. I made a meat loaf for dinner that night and agreed to taste it. I was shocked when I ate a bite. I actually like meat loaf! The next time I made it, I came up with my own recipe that I now use. I am so glad that David convinced me to make it.
This past week I wanted meat loaf again, but instead of my usual recipe (hopefully that will be in a post in the near future), I decided to make a version of the Mini Italian Meatloaves that I saw in Chelley’s blog and in Amber’s blog. It was a nice change of pace from the typical meat loaf, and I really liked it and would make it again. I like the way the spices tasted together and the combination of the sauce and cheese on top. I like to bake meat loaf on a roasting pan to let the grease drain to the bottom. Good sides to make with this are field peas (David’s favorite), salad, rice, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

Here is the recipe (Source: Sugar & Spice and Amber’s Delectable Delights)
1 pound ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1 cup marinara sauce, divided (I used my own homemade version)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (I used kosher salt)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon parsley
3/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Gently mix 3/4 cup marinara sauce and remaining ingredients together. Divide into 4 or 5 equal size pieces and form into desired shape. Place on greased roasting pan. Pour remaining marinara sauce over top of each loaf and top with desired amount of extra cheese.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (It took 40 minutes for me).


Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I came to the conclusion that David and I were in a food rut. We always have good dinners, but we were too restricted to the same foods in our rotation. We couldn’t think of what we wanted or didn’t look for new ideas. I decided that it was time to get out of our rut, so I went through my Cooking Light magazines from the past year and tore out pages of recipes for us to try. We both decided that it was time to try something new. We are going to make it a goal to try as many new recipes as possible. The first new recipe I decided to make was Shrimp Fra Diavolo. According to Cooking Light, “fra diavolo” is Italian for “brother devil.” It is a sauce that is usually tomato-based and always spicy. It does not traditionally have mushrooms, but the mushrooms really add to the flavor and texture of the dish. I liked the spiciness of the dish, but if you like really spicy food, you can definitely add more red pepper. David loved this meal and declared it his new favorite shrimp dish. We are big shrimp lovers, so this comment meant a lot to me. I will most definitely make this again. I’m glad our first new dish was a success. Here’s the recipe from the October 2007 issue of Cooking Light:

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups cremini mushrooms (about 10 ounces)- *I used portabello mushrooms
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (I used my own homemade version)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
Parsley sprigs, optional (I added dry parsley to the sauce)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan; saute 6 minutes. Add marinara, red pepper, salt, and black pepper (and parsley if you add it here like I did); bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Serve over pasta. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

YIELD: 4 servings (serving size is 1 1/4 cups shrimp mixture and 1 cup pasta)
439 calories and 8.5 grams fat per serving

Chicken Stuffed Shells

This is a popular dish with David and me. We are both huge fans of any kind of Italian food, and we eat pasta pretty often. These stuffed shells are pretty easy to put together and it’s so good! I got the recipe from Amber’s Delectable Delights, but I did make a few changes after making it for the first time. It’s also a great way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken. I used the chicken from my roasted chicken a few posts below. The rotisserie chicken adds a lot of flavor to the dish. This dish also freezes well. Here’s my version of the stuffed shells:

18 to 20 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 teaspoons olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups cooked chicken (I use leftover rotisserie chicken)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
Marinara sauce (I always do a homemade version)
salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, and basil to taste
Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cook pasta shells according to package directions and drain. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine chicken and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in ricotta, chicken, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, and basil. Spread about 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. Fill cooked shells with chicken mixture and place filled sides up in baking dish. Pour desired amount of sauce over shells (I always use a lot of sauce). Bake covered with foil for 18 to 20 minutes; remove foil and bake until filling is lightly browned, about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with desired cheese toppings and serve.

I always make homemade marinara sauce to go with these types of dishes. I never measure, but here is my “recipe” for marinara:

Saute 1 large onion and about 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add 2-3 cans tomato diced tomatoes (If I buy these from the grocery store, I use 15-ounce cans, but often David’s grandmother gives us canned tomatoes from her garden so I use those). Add 2 (15-ounce) cans of tomato sauce and 1 (8-ounce) can of tomato paste. Then add spices: oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.

This makes a ton of sauce. I like to freeze it in small containers to bring out when I need it.

Homemade Pizza


I love pizza. I think I could eat it every day and not get sick of it. David and I love to go to a local Clemson pizza place called Columbos, but I wanted to be able to make my own pizza for us to enjoy at home. I used Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust from allrecipes.com. The crust was soft and chewy, which was exactly what I was looking for. When kneading the dough, I had to add more flour because the dough was a bit sticky. I baked my pizza on a pizza stone. It took about 15 minutes to bake. I did not realize how much the crust would puff up in the oven, so next time I will roll out the dough a bit thinner before baking. Some people choose to prebake their crust before adding the toppings, but I baked everything at the same time. I used mozzarella cheese and pineapple for my toppings. Here’s the recipe:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2 ½ cups of the flour.

Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well-oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until doubled; this should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball. Allow dough to relax for a minute before rolling out. Use for your favorite pizza recipe.

Preheat oven to 425. If baking on a stone, place toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If baking on a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping and baking it.

Bake pizza in preheated oven, until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.