Layered Polenta Casserole

Here’s a simple recipe for an Italian casserole with robust spaghetti night flavor. Polenta is an easy, tasty side dish that’s strong enough to support a casserole.

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I created this recipe as a way to offer the ease and robust flavor of spaghetti dinner in a fresh form. It relies on a couple ready-made grocery store items, but those items can be replaced with an equal amount of the homemade version if you have time available to make those components yourself.

Serves 4

  • 1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth (either is good in this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 8 oz sliced white or mini portabella mushrooms
  • 1 T butter
  • 14 oz jar or 15 oz can pasta sauce, traditional or mushroom flavor
  • 14 oz bag frozen meatballs
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried parsley and oregano (or 1 T fresh chopped herbs)

You will need a 2 qt saucepan, a 10″ skillet and a 2 qt covered round glass baking dish. This recipe can be finished in a microwave or in the oven. Using the oven option requires preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium high heat and cook the sliced mushrooms for 10 minutes or until mushroom are browned.

Make the polenta: heat the water and broth in a saucepan over medium high heat and slowly whisk the cornmeal into the pan, stirring constantly. In a few minutes, the mixture will reach a boil, and the polenta will thicken quickly. Remove from heat and spread the polenta in the bottom of the glass baking dish.

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Next place the frozen meatballs on top of the polenta.

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Now pour the spaghetti sauce over the polenta and meatballs and layer the mushrooms on top. For the top layer, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese, parsley and oregano.

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The final step is baking. The baking time is short because the hot polenta helps thaw the meatballs while the casserole is assembled. The casserole may be finished by cooking covered in the microwave for 10-12 minutes or baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy.

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Big Daddy Meatloaf

My local independent grocer runs specials on freshly ground beef, but these sale packages average three pounds. Big Daddy Meatloaf was born from my wish to use all three of those pounds in a single recipe. Chili and spaghetti sauce can easily be adapted to a three pound range, but I wanted another simple recipe that would make a large batch that yields easy leftovers from the fridge or freezer.

As an aside, I will tell you that every time I have tried to type meatloaf in this post I have accidently keyed in meatload. I suppose this recipe does make a load of meatloaf.

Big Daddy Meatloaf

  • 3 lbs 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 oz packet meatloaf seasoning
  • 2 oz packet onion soup mix
  • 3/4 cup ketchup, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a rimmed cookie sheet with foil. Combine oats, milk, egg, seasonings and 1/4 cup ketchup in large mixing bowl. Add ground beef to bowl and gently fold into other ingredients, as if you were slowly kneading bread. Mix just until combined; overmixing will result in a tough, dense loaf.

Empty meat mixture onto cookie sheet. Shape into large oval that is 2″ thick. Cover the top with the remaining 1/2 cup ketchup.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the center of the loaf reaches a temperature of 160 degrees.

Corn and mashed potatoes are good dishes for this meatloaf. I think the meatloaf is rich enough that no gravy is needed for the mashed potatoes.

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Chrystal at The Smallwood Parsonage.

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Ham and Cabbage Dinner

I value simplicity when I cook. Although I enjoy reading many recipes, I typically cook without one. Often there are ingredients in recipes I can’t tolerate due various food intolerances and aversions, so I improvise based on culinary reading and past cooking experiences. I cooked this meal a couple days ago, and I was pleased that something so simple had a satisfying result.

  • 1 2lb presliced boneless quarter ham
  • 1 medium head cabbage, chopped
  • 2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 8 oz can mushrooms, undrained
  • Cornbread for serving with meal

Place chopped cabbage into dutch oven over medium low to medium heat. Empty undrained tomatoes and mushrooms into pot and stir gently into cabbage. Place the ham on top of the cabbage so it looks a bit like a bird sitting on a nest. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. You may wish to lower the heat if the pot starts steaming out of the lid to prevent having a home perfumed with cabbage. For each serving, use a meat fork to pluck out a few slices of ham and then fill most of the rest of your plate with the cabbage mixture. Serve with cornbread.

 

A Recipe for Cheap Diet Soup

I have a few recipes for inexpensive, diet-friendly dishes. Back when I was broke (not so many years ago), I made a goal of seeing how little money I could spend on cooking and still create something nutritious. This soup was part of that quest. The butter can be omitted, but I think adding a little fat helps with flavor and nutrient absorption. Of course, this recipe can be varied. I’ve found that mushrooms and a 1/2 cup of cooked barley are nice additions.

  • 8 cups chicken broth (boullion may be used)
  • 1 lb carrots, sliced
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced (include the leaves if you love celery)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb dried kidney beans, cooked
  • 1 bay leaf (optional, really enhances the flavor of the soup)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 T butter

Melt the butter in a dutch oven and cook the onion over medium heat for five minutes. Next add the celery and carrots and cook for fifteen minutes more. Adding the remaining ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

I plugged this recipe into a recipe calorie calculator at caloriecount.com and these were the results if the recipe were divided into 12 servings:

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