Salisbury Steak with Brown Gravy

Salisbury Steak with Brown Gravy is a dish that you can’t help but serve with mashed potatoes. That way, you can pour the brown gravy over your entire plate. Can you tell that I’m a gravy lover? This recipe is attributed to Sandra Lee. Since we make Semi-Homemade nothing, it is unusual for us to even try one of her recipes. It came via her short-lived budget show, though, and so it calls for more real ingredients than her recipes typically do. I still feel like I should apologize, though. We do this recipe pretty much as-written. The ground beef we use has a bit more fat, and we use Better than Bouillon roasted beef base instead of prepared beef broth. A dinner with a casual feel, it is still delicious enough that I picked it for my latest birthday dinner.


Beef Stroganoff over Buttered Noodles

Beef Stroganoff over Buttered Noodles first existed in our house as a list of ingredients handwritten on a sticky note that my husband had jotted down while watching Tyler Florence make it on television. After a quick trip to the grocery store, my husband used that sticky note to reproduce the same recipe in our kitchen. This sticks in my mind as a long-term memory because it prompted one of the first and most significant friendly arguments we have ever had about food and cooking. Simply put, the recipe calls for cognac, and since we didn’t have cognac, (we still don’t) he decided to use beer instead. I thought he was crazy and told him so. I figured there was no way he could substitute beer for cognac given their different attributes. Beer is darker, I reasoned, and bubbly while cognac is not etc. He insisted it would work. Of course, it was delicious made with beer. After this experience, I learned to trust his cooking instincts. He’s usually right.

If you want to make this and use beer instead, just use half the bottle. The other half, of course, goes to the chef. We try to avoid cooking with IPAs, chocolate stouts and Guinness, but pretty much anything else will work and be great. The original recipe only calls for a couple of tablespoons of cognac, so you would want to use a bit less beef stock as well to avoid the sauce being too watery.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Spaghetti

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Spaghetti is the spaghetti sauce of my childhood. Less acidic, more sweet than most, it wasn’t the only spaghetti sauce that I liked, but it was special. The only time spaghetti had this taste was at my grandma’s house. I couldn’t have told you when I was a child that she used canned tomato soup. Even though I rarely use processed ingredients in my recipes, one bite of this spaghetti and I’m eight years old again, eating spaghetti on Grandma’s blue and white china plates.

Of course, Grandma didn’t really hand me the recipe, so what I’ve written here is my interpretation of her description of making the dish. She started out, “Well, first you fry up your celery and your onion . . .” Enough said. She told me that she uses Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil and garlic powder for the seasonings, but I found similar recipes online that suggested the oregano and basil in place of the Mrs. Dash.


1 Tbs olive oil
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, fresh ground
1 pound hamburger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
2 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup
1 Tbs Worchestershire Sauce
1/2 C of the pasta water, reserved
1 pound of dry spaghetti noodles


Fill a large pasta pot with water and place on the stove, covered, on high heat.

Put olive oil in a large, wide skillet, turning to coat, and put on another burner on medium. When the olive oil is heated through, add the celery, onion and fresh garlic, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook for a few minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the hamburger and a bit more salt and some fresh ground black pepper and continue cooking. When the hamburger is cooked through, add the garlic powder, oregano and basil.

Keep the sauce covered on low heat while you finish the pasta. The sauce should always wait for the pasta; the pasta should never wait for the sauce. When the pasta water is boiling, add kosher salt until the water tastes like the ocean. Then add the dry spaghetti noodles. Cook according to package directions. When finished, reserve 1/2 cup of the water before you drain the noodles.

Once the noodles are drained, return them to the now empty pasta pot, without the pasta insert. Add the Worchestershire Sauce and the 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce. Taste, and add salt or black pepper as needed. Pour all of the sauce over the pasta in the pasta pot and toss with tongs to combine.

Serve immediately. Makes about 6 servings.

No Waste Tacos de Carnitas

When I find an on-line recipe that I want to use, I print a hard copy, put the copy into a page protector and file it in a 3″ binder. I now have 11 binders, all full of recipes. This recipe is a perfect example of why I do this. No Waste Tacos de Carnitas has changed since I originally printed it and put it in my recipe binder. The author has added a salsa verde to the recipe, but the ingredient list and the directions are now mixed together, just assuming that you are going to want to do both. However, any number of accompaniments are appropriate, such as a mango salsa like the one from Avocado Mango Chicken. All that said, this recipe is a great weekend or holiday dish. It calls for boneless pork butt, which tends to be a pretty affordable cut of meat, to say nothing of tasty! We have also done this method with boneless skinless chicken thighs for friends of ours who don’t eat pork, and it worked really well.

Because the recipe has changed from how I know it, I am going to reprint the recipe that I use here. I have linked to the page of the original author. Everything that follows were the author’s original words. If you are interested in a salsa verde, by all means, click on the link. Based on how much I like this recipe, I’m betting the salsa verde is delicious as well.

No Waste Tacos de Carnitas
by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Carnitas can be prepared through step 3 up to three days in advance. Pork can be crisped up straight from the refrigerator.

Serves 4 – 6, active time 45 minutes, total time 4 1/2 hours.


1 small onion, quartered
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1 medium orange (or a lime)
4 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
1/4 C vegetable oil
24 corn tortillas


Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Season pork chunks with salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole or large Corning Ware dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is pull-apart tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Set a large fine-meshed strainer over a bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork and discard. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of fat. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Add fat back to the pork, and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Liquid can be reserved for another purpose.

To serve, place casserole dish with pork 4-inches under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 6 minutes. Remove pork, stir with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat tortillas. Preheat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip tortilla in a bowl filled with water. Transfer to hot skillet and cook until water evaporates from first side and tortilla is browned in spots, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook until dry, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer tortilla to a tortilla warmer, or wrap in a clean dish towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas

Maple Glazed City Ham

Maple Glazed City Ham is hands down our favorite ham recipe, and really, our only go-to for the couple of times a year that roasted ham is on the menu. It’s sweet and savory and just as important, super simple and easy. If you aren’t a mustard fan, don’t let the 2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard scare you. My husband hates mustard and he still loves this ham. The mustard mixes well with the other ingredients in the recipe. As far as ham recipes go, we’ve stopped looking.

Classic Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Classic Slow Cooker Beef Stew is the perfect recipe for me. My mother, her mother, and my father’s mother have always been able to make a fabulous beef stew with no recipe. Through the years, it has become clear that in order to be successful in the kitchen, I really have to have a real recipe, one that has been tested after being written down. My problem with recipes is that every new cook is trying to put their own “spin” on classic dishes. So when what I really want is just plain ole beef stew, that’s exactly the recipe I just can’t seem to find. This one fits the bill, however. The only change I make is that rather than using a bottle of the nut brown ale that the recipe calls for, I use whatever I happen to have on hand. I have used hefeweizen and oktoberfest ales for sure. You want something middle-of-the road to use in a beef stew. Save the chocolate porter, I.P.A. and Guinness for drinking. If you happen to be snowed in, like I am today, you can also totally leave out the potatoes if you don’t happen to have any.

Slow Cooker Peppered Beef Shank in Red Wine

Slow Cooker Peppered Beef Shank in Red Wine is a rich, comforting dish, and a fantastic way to get rid of the errant bottle of cheap red wine invariably left at your house after parties. We have trouble collecting enough affordable beef bones to consistently make our own stock, but we do have good luck with Better Than Bouillon, a grocery store product that makes higher quality instant stock. The recipe recommends serving with polenta or pasta, but this is also fantastic with mashed potatoes.