It’s the holiday season. Usually this means holiday gatherings and covered dish dinners, but in 2020 … not so much. Yet I am always gathering ideas and recipes for easy, make-ahead mealsfor a crowd or a few.
Today I made one I call Philly-Cheese Casserole. You can modify this versatile dish in many ways to suit your tastes. Just follow the basics: Layer potatoes, ground meat, aromatic vegetables, and top with cheese. Bake covered at 350°F for 70-75 minutes.
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4”
1 pound ground Chuck*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pepper, thinly sliced
1 large can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Optional: parsley for garnish
*Don’t go too lean on the ground meat. The fat contentworks to flavor the casserole. There is no added fat or liquid in this dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a casserole dishlayer potato slices on the bottom. Salt and pepper.
Add the ground Chuck. Salt and pepper.
Layer peppers and onions atop the meat. Salt and pepper.
Spread the canned diced tomatoes.
Top casserole with the shredded cheese.
Cover and bake for 75 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Remove casserole from oven, uncover, and allow it to cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Casseroles like this one canbe made ahead a day or even frozen. Just give an extra 5 minutes baking time.
I’ll admit I’m a kitchen geek. I love my Vitamix, my Kitchen Craft and Americraft Cookware, my Instant Pots, and my KitchenAid stand mixer. I didn’t need a Cuisinart. I just wanted one.
So this year I asked Santa for the 14 cup model, rated the best by America’s Test Kitchen for 2017. Christmas came early for me this year. Yippee!
What makes me want a food processor? I’ve had two, neither of which did what my Kitchen Cutter does (and without electricity!). Not abandoning my Kitchen Cutter, either. But there are food processors and then there is the Cuisinart. My new Cuisinart slices tomatoes! I kid you not. It grates cheese, cuts butter into brown sugar or flour, and blends creamy sauces.
Here is my lightened version of Scalloped Potatoes using my Cuisinart and a stainless steel cake pan. You can make it without a Cuisinart or cake pan, of course, but my way is fun and easy.
Lightened Scalloped Potatoes
2 Russet potatoes, peeled
2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese
1 cup fat-free chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using the slicing blade to the food processor, slice potatoes and onions. Set aside.
Switch to the grating blade. Grate mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
Switch to the mixing blade. Combine Neufchatel cheese with the chicken broth. Process until creamy smooth.
In a square or round baking pan, layer half the potatoes and onions. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese.
Repeat with a second layer. Then pour the Neufchatel cheese sauce over all.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes turn slightly golden.
Remove pan from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
We don’t eat much red meat, but when we do, I splurge. I buy only meat from grass-fed livestock that has no added hormones or antibiotics. We enjoy pot roast, but a traditional recipe cooks hours. I’m about “hasty” meals, so here’s my version. I promise it’s just as yummy as the slow-cooker version. Using a packet of soup mix saves time with your spices. It’s all there, including salt and pepper. You need only an hour total for this Hasty Tasty Meal.
Easy Weeknight Pot Roast
I use a pressure cooker to reduce cooking time. Since so many of you have asked for Instant Pot meals, I used my 6-quart Instant Pot. However, the recipe works in any pressure cooker, electric or stovetop.
1 – 2 pound beef roast, any cut
cooking spray (I prefer Pam®)
1 packet dehydrated (low-sodium if available) onion soup mix
2 medium russet potatoes, quartered (or 6 whole baby Yukon golds if you prefer). Peel if you want, but after cooking, the skins slide off easily.
2 yellow onions, quartered or roughly chopped
2 sweet peppers, sliced (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth (Yes, chicken broth* not beef broth) or water
½ pound carrots (I prefer Bunny Luv Organic)
Slurry of 1 Tbsp. corn starch mixed in 2 ounces cold water
Preheat the pot using the sauté setting. When the display reads Hot, spray generously with cooking spray and add onions.
Using the dehydrated onion soup mix, dry-rub the meat thoroughly.
Slice meat into 1½ to 2 inch pieces. Add meat to the pot to brown.
After a couple of minutes, turn off the Instant Pot. Add garlic and tomato paste. Stir.
Pour in the broth. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pot, incorporating the flavors into the broth. Add sweet peppers if using.
Place the potatoes on top the meat.
Seal the Instant Pot and program (using either the meat or manual buttons) for 30 minutes. If your model has two pressure settings, select high (which is the default).
While meat cooks, prepare the slurry, and slice carrots into 1″ pieces.
After 30 minutes, hit Cancel and allow pressure to drop on its own for 10 minutes. Then release remaining pressure and carefully open the pot.
Add the carrots, replace seal, and return the Instant Pot to pressure for 0 minutes. Allow pressure to drop on its own completely before opening the pot.
Using a large spatula, lift the meat, potatoes, and carrots onto a platter. Tent with foil to keep warm.
Using the sauté button (Never cover the pot with the lid while using the sauté function), bring cooking liquid to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. As soon as the liquid begins to thicken, turn off the pot, remove it (careful! Use your silicone mittens for this) to a heatsafe trivet or folded towel, and gently pour it into a measuring cup or gravy boat to serve.
Serve platter with a drizzle of the gravy and a dinner roll.
Why use chicken broth instead of beef? Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a store-bought beef broth that tasted good. There’s an artificial, almost “tinny” taste to it. Yet chicken broth or stock is mild and actually brings out the umami flavor of the meat. If you have neither, use water. It’s only a cup and it’s better to go plain than bad-tasting for your cooking liquid.
NOTE: I recently revised my method after trying This Old Gal’s method. If you aren’t familiar with This Old Gal, check out her blog at https://thisoldgal.com. The author Jill Selkowitz calls herself an old gal, but she is younger than I, incidentally. 😉 Although my recipe differs, I’ve adopted her method of cooking potatoes and eggs simultaneously. It’s a real game changer in making potato salad. Thanks, Jill!
My mother-in-law Rachel taught me how to make tasty potato salad. The only changes I’ve made is in using a pressure cooker for the potatoes and eggs. Here are the step-by-step instructions for her recipe. Try it for your next potluck dinner or picnic.
Hasty Tasty Potato Salad
6 large potatoes
1 onion, chopped (sweet onion is best)
4 ribs celery, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish (optional)
Cut potatoes into quarters or 2″ sections. No need to peel. Place in a steaming basket or trivet over 1 cup water in a pressure cooker. Place the 4 eggs on top the potatoes.
Secure lid to pressure cooker and cook for 5 minutes stovetop or 6 minutes electric.* Allow pressure to drop on its own for 5 minutes before releasing.
Meanwhile, prepare dressing in a large bowl by whisking together mayonnaise, mustard, salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.
Dice the celery and onions.
Carefully release remaining pressure and open pressure cooker.
Remove eggs from pot and place in cold water.
Carefully remove cooked potatoes from the pot and remove peels (they’ll slip off easily). Cube potatoes and add them to the dressing. Gently toss.
Peel and chop or slice eggs. Gently toss with the potatoes, onions, and celery.
Sprinkle with pepper and paprika, cover, and refrigerate. (Flavors are best if potato salad is made a day ahead)
*Electric pressure cookers do not reach the pressure levels of stovetop pressure cookers, so you need to adjust the time for many recipes.