(5 Ingredient) Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef

Happy Monday! How was everyone’s weekend??

I was happy to see the return of Shamrock yumminess.

On Saturday morning, I took my first spin class in like 10 years. Can someone PLEASE tell me why do they make the most uncomfortable seats for spin bikes??! I mean, it took me a good 20 minutes to get over the fact how much pain my hiney was in. I looked around the class to see if anyone had any remedies, like a seat pad or a towel, and no one did. Looks like I have a wimpy butt.

And then on Saturday night, my car battery died when we went to pick up take out pizza…Oh, and I parked illegally in a tow zone. Luckily we have AAA — but it was going to be a 90 minute wait. So the hubby & I ate pizza in the car and then went into Forever Yogurt to wait for the AAA guy to come save us. I was happy to eat this while we waited and people watched…and prayed not to get a parking ticket.

I’m happy to report Sunday was a drama free day. We went out for brunch, wandered aimlessly through the hardware store and sat on the couch judging other Big 10 basketball teams. (“other” meaning all teams except Indiana. :) )

My favorite part about Sunday is dinner. Growing up, we would always have a home cooked meal on Sunday nights. It was usually something meaty – like hamburgers, meatloaf or steaks. These days, I still love staying in and making a hearty dinner. It’s way better than sorting through take out menus at 6pm trying to figure out what to eat.

Five Ingredient Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef  I  thetastyfork.com  #5ingredients #slowcooker #dinner

A Sunday meal doesn’t get any easier than this – (5 Ingredient) Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef. It would be great to eat like a pot roast with some potatoes or you can shred the beef and serve it as a sandwich. I decided to go the sandwich route…mainly because I wanted to top it with cheese. YUM!

The Tasty Fork  I  5 Ingredient Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef  #crockpot #slowcooker #recipe

The marinade for the beef is super easy and you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry. To make this slow cooker meal, all you need is an onion, distilled white vinegar, a Hidden Valley Ranch Packet & 2 garlic cloves. Mix everything together and pour over the beef. Cook on low for 8 hours.

I loved how flavorful this beef tasted! The vinegar helps to break down the meat to make it tender and gives the beef some tang. And of course, Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning is the best thing ever invented. I decided to use the seasoning packet to cook with the beef so every bite was infused with a ranch kick!

photo (16)

Since this meal is so easy, it would also be a great week night meal! Just put everything in the slow cooker before heading off to work and when you’re home, dinner is ready.

I like my Sunday’s to be pretty effortless, and that includes making dinner. I wish all of my meals only required 5 ingredients!

5 Ingredient Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef  I  The Tasty Fork  thetastyfork.com

(5 Ingredient) Slow Cooker Ranch Seasoned Beef


  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 3lb Chuck Pot Roast, Boneless & seasoned with Salt & Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1 Hidden Valley Ranch Packet (1.0 oz)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 French Rolls, sandwich size (optional)
  • 6 slices of Mozzarella (optional)


  1. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Add sliced onions and place beef on top. Mix vinegar, ranch packet, garlic and water. Stir and pour over beef. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. To make sandwiches – shred beef and place in french rolls. Add cheese on top of beef. Broil in the oven until cheese is melted.
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meghan sig

Four Cheese Risotto with Bacon & Caramelized Onions

A few weeks ago, my husband & I went to a very popular burger bar in Chicago. It’s called Kuma’s Corner — maybe you’ve heard of it…?? It’s known for it’s award winning heavy metal themed burgers, loud music and long wait times. The description I just gave doesn’t give it justice — Kuma’s has serious burger street cred. Just google to see the endless reviews and famous guests they’ve served. (It’s Lady Gaga’s favorite burger joint!)

Besides having the best burgers, they’re also known for their “killer mac n’ cheese.” I think the killer comes from how sinfully delicious this little dish can be. It’s very cheesy and you have the option of picking two toppings. I looked right past the calorie content and picked two of my favorite – bacon and caramelized onions. There are no diet options when eating at Kuma’s…or when ordering mac n’ cheese.

Four Cheese Risotto with Bacon & Caramelized Onions. Recipe on thetastyfork.com

Weeks have passed since eating at Kuma’s. And guess what I can’t stop thinking about?? Killer mac n’ cheese. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought making a rich pasta dish using the inspiration from Kuma’s would be a great recipe to share with you. I said last week, there is something about Valentine’s Day which makes me crave Italian food. Mac n’ cheese doesn’t scream romance, but risotto sure does.

I’m not sure what kind of cheese Kuma’s uses for their recipe, so I picked a variety that would go great together. Sharp White Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Cream Cheese and Parmesan Cheese. (FYI – There are no calorie restrictions on special occasions.) The sharpness of the white cheddar could easily stand alone… but by pairing it with monterey jack and cream cheese, the dish is transformed into a creamy and decadent flavor bomb. And of course, by topping the risotto with Parmesan cheese, bacon and caramelized onions, you’ve got a fancy restaurant style meal made in your own home.

Four Cheese Risotto with Bacon & Caramelized Onions. Recipe on thetastyfork.com #cheesy #risotto #recipe

Making risotto is a labor of love (and a great arm work-out!). I can’t think of a better way to show someone you care than by making an amazing dinner. This Four Cheese Risotto with Bacon & Caramelized Onions fits the bill. It’s special occasion worthy!

Are you making a special meal or dessert for Valentine’s Day? I’d love to hear about it!

Four Cheese Risotto with Bacon & Caramelized Onions


  • 6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 6 cups of stock or broth
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 12 oz arborio rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine, at room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish


  1. In a large skillet, cook and brown bacon slices. Remove from skillet and place on a paper lined plate. Set aside. Add onions to same skillet and cook in bacon fat. Cook low and slow to caramelize onions. This will take 20-30 minutes. Add a little water if the skillet gets dry. When onions are brown, remove from heat and place on a plate. Set aside.
  2. In a sauce pan, bring stock or broth to a boil. Lower heat to low and cover with a lid.
  3. In the same skillet used for bacon and onions, add a splash of olive oil, rice and garlic. Stir until rice turns a light brown. Pour white white in skillet and stir until all liquid is absorbed.
  4. Using a ladle at a time, pour warmed stock/broth into the rice skillet. Stir until all liquid is absorbed. Repeat this step until rice is cooked to al dente. (can take up to 30 minutes.) If you run out of stock/broth, just add warm water.
  5. When the risotto is cooked, add cheddar, monterey jack and cream cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and is well combined. Add 1/2 of the onions and bacon to the skillet. Stir into the risotto.
  6. Taste and add pepper. (you won’t need salt, trust me!) Top each serving with shredded Parmesan cheese, bacon pieces and onions. Serve warm.
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meghan sig

Lasagna Bolognese Pasta Toss

Lasagna Bolognese Pasta Toss @ The Tasty Fork  #valentinesday #dinner #recipe

Hi Everyone!! What is the first thing you think of when someone says – Valentine’s Day. I’m sure a lot of you think chocolate, flowers or romance…but for me, I think Italian food. I’m not sure why but I’m guessing it has to do with a certain spaghetti scene from a dog loving Disney movie…. And I guess there is something about Italian food which is kinda sexy. (I blushed when I typed that!) Twirling pasta, drinking wine, low lighting….meow! :)

Since I love to cook, my hubby & I will celebrate Valentine’s Day by staying in. In Chicago, if you don’t book your reservation weeks in advance, good luck at getting something that isn’t super early or late.

Lasagna Bolognese Toss @ The Tasty Fork #valentinesday #dinner #recipe

Making a special meal is a great way to show someone you love them, but you don’t need to stay in your kitchen all evening to prepare a spectacular meal. Lasagna is amazing, but it takes FOREVER to actually eat it. You have prepare everything, assemble the lasagna and then bake it for 60 minutes. There is a time and a place for lasagna, just not on Valentine’s Day.

To give you more time with your honey, I created a Lasagna Bolognese Pasta Toss. It has all of the elements of a lasagna — meat sauce, bechamel sauce, cheese and pasta — but you don’t have to bake it in the oven. And that means you’ll get to eat a lot sooner!

Bolognese sauce is one of my favorite meat sauces. It’s filled with veggies, garlic, pancetta, ground pork, red wine and tomatoes. This meat sauce recipe is doubled. I like to let it sit for a few days, so the flavor even builds and toss it with spaghetti. Or freeze the sauce and use it at a later date.

Lasagna Bolognese Toss @ The Tasty Fork #valentinesday #dinner #recipe

If you’re still scanning the Internet for the perfect Valentine’s Day meal, give this Lasagna Bolognese Pasta Toss a try! You can make a sexy Italian meal and spend more time with the one you love. :)

Lasagna Bolognese Pasta Toss

Serving Size: 6 people


  • * 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • * 1 Onion, diced
  • * 3 Celery stalks, diced
  • * 4 Carrots, diced
  • * 5 Slices of Pancetta, sliced
  • * 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • * 1 lb Ground pork
  • * 2 tbsp Parsley
  • * A few dashes of Red Pepper flakes
  • * 1 cup Red Wine
  • * 28 oz canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • * 28 oz canned Diced Tomatoes
  • * Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • * 13.25 oz Whole Wheat Penne Pasta
  • * 2 tbsp Butter
  • * 2 tbsp Flour
  • * 1 cup Skim Milk
  • * 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • * Salt & Pepper, to season
  • * 1 1/2 cups of your favorite Italian Style Cheese Blend
  • * Shredded Parmesan Cheese, garnish
  • * Parsley, for garnish


  1. Pour oil into a warm large skillet. At a medium heat, add onions, celery & carrots. Stir and cook until soft. Stir in pancetta and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes and keep stirring. Add pork and break it up with a wooden spoon. Cook until pork starts to brown. Stir in parsley and red pepper flakes. Cook for an additional minute.
  2. Pour wine into the skillet and cook until wine is evaporated. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan and get the brown bits. Add both cans of tomatoes. Bring to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and add salt & pepper, if needed.
  3. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
  4. To make bechamel – In a sauce pan, add butter and flour. Stir consistently and cook until the color turns to a deep blonde color. Stir in one cup of milk, using a whisk. When sauce starts to thicken, add Dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Turn off heat and add in the 1.5 cups of the cheese blend. Stir until there are no clumps.
  5. Remove half of the meat sauce and set aside. (Use at a later date!) Add drained pasta & bechamel sauce to the meat sauce. Stir until well combined.
  6. To serve, top each portion with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley.
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Red Curry Yogurt Chicken

The Tasty Fork - Red Curry Yogurt Chicken

Sorry this post is a little late. I like to have a new recipe up on Monday but my weekend got away from me. Does that ever happen to you??

When I attended culinary school, I’d always get super excited when Yogurt Chicken was for dinner in the cafeteria. Yogurt Chicken sounds kinda gross, so I steered clear of it until one of my friends told me it was delicious and a must try. So with hesitation, I tried it. I was expecting I’d try a bite, spit it out and get something else to eat… but I was wrong. Yogurt Chicken was amazing! The yogurt kept the chicken breast from drying out and there was a Parmesan cheese crust on top which I could’ve eaten in spoonfuls.

Red Curry Yogurt Chicken @ The Tasty Fork

It’s been awhile since my culinary school days. I found myself thinking about that Yogurt Chicken, but I wanted to make it my own way. To give the yogurt base more flavor, I mixed in red curry paste, garlic powder and lime juice. As much as I loved the Parmesan cheese crust, I wanted something a bit healthier. I made a panko bread coating, which still gave the crusty topping I was looking for but with less calories.

Having a side of sauteed vegetables is the perfect way to round out the meal. I boiled and blanched green beans & then added them to a hot pan with red peppers and garlic. I love the burst of color! (and the taste was on point, too!)

French Green Beans & Red Peppers. Side for Red Curry Yogurt Chicken  I  The Tasty Fork

Yogurt Chicken is something I never would of eaten if I wasn’t told to try it. Is there something you were pushed to taste and you loved it??

Red Curry Yogurt Chicken


  • 1 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Red Curry Paste
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
  • 2 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • 12 oz French Cut Green Beans
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Red Peppers, sliced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • Red Pepper Flakes, a dash
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cilantro, for garnish


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, add yogurt and the next 4 ingredients. Stir until well combined. In a shallow dish, combine panko bread crumbs and red pepper flakes. Dunk one chicken breast into the yogurt mixture, both sides of the chicken should be covered. Next, place chicken in the panko. Press chicken into the panko to cover the chicken. Put chicken in baking dish and repeat steps with each chicken breast. Bake for 35 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.
  3. In a sauce pan filled with water, add french green beans and bring water to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Immediately drain green beans then plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and toss and stir for about 1 minute. Add the beans and saute for 1 minute longer. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Season with salt if needed. Turn off heat and sprinkle cilantro. Serve immediately.
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Sriracha Turkey Meatloaf

Sriracha Turkey Meatloaf recipe from The Tasty Fork

For all of my Sriracha and spice lovers, you’re gonna love this recipe…

I’ve been making my version of this meatloaf recipe for a couple of months. Sorry I’ve been greedy and not sharing it with you. This isn’t your everyday meatloaf recipe but trust me, it’s really good!! It’s a bit healthier — I used ground turkey instead of beef & pork. I know ground turkey can get dry pretty easily but I’ve added sauteed onions and mushrooms to the meatloaf mixture to keep it juicy. By adding soy sauce and sriracha to the mixture and the glaze on top, it gives this meatloaf a great Asian flare.

sriracha turkey meatloaf I the tasty fork

If you don’t like spicy foods or can’t find sriracha, you can leave it out. I think the recipe will still provide a lot of flavor and you won’t have many leftovers. :)

If you do have leftovers, it warms up great! I can only imagine what a wonderful spicy turkey meatloaf sandwich this would make. I would’ve tried that for lunch today but we’re all out of bread in our house. DOH!

Tomorrow’s blog post will be back to my usual Friday thing — #followfriday. I can’t wait to share with you one of my favorite blogging buddies recipes AND crafts. (Yes, crafts!!)

If you haven’t subscribed yet to The Tasty Fork, you’re going to want to so you won’t miss my 1st giveaway!! It’s going on next week, so sign up to get my blog updates via email or like me on facebook to stay up to date!

meghan sig

Sriracha Turkey Meatloaf

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1.5 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • Cooking spray

Glaze Recipe

  • 2 cups ketshup
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 .5 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saute pan, add oil and when it’s at a medium heat, add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. Saute until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Let the  veggie mixture cool off for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the veggie mixture, ground turley and the next 6 ingredients to a bowl. Mix the meatloaf with your hands. Spray a medium size casserole dish or broiler pan with cooking spray. Form meatloaf into a 9×5 inch rectangle.
  4. To make the glaze, add all of the ingredients and stir until smooth. Taste and add more sriracha or soy sauce if needed. Top glaze over meatloaf. Cook in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatloaf is 180 degrees. Let the meatloaf set for 10 minutes before serving.

The Tasty Fork Sriracha Turkey Meatloaf

Inspired by Cooking Light

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

Chicken Tenders. Chicken Fingers. Whatever you wanna call it, I LOVE them.

I created this recipe to find a healthier option. Most chicken tenders are breaded & fried. I’ve seen recipes which are oven baked, but the crust of the tender is covered in breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese. No thanks.

I’ve been eating a lot of hickory smoked almonds lately. It’s the perfect combo of smokey & salty. Did you know if you’ve got a food processor or a good blender, you can grind nuts so they have a consistency of breadcrumbs? It’s true!

I made these chicken tenders for dinner, but I think they would be a great appetizer for a holiday party! I threw in some fresh rosemary, which is a perfect herb for the holiday season. Have some dipper options, like bbq sauce or honey mustard, and you’ll be all set!

I added about 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, but if you can’t find panko or wanting a gluten-free recipe, just cut them from the recipe.

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

  • 1 cup smoked almonds
  • 1/4 panko bread crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 chicken tenders
  • Cooking Spray


  1. In a food processor (or strong blender), put in almonds. Grind until the texture is very fine, like breadcrumbs. Heat skillet to medium heat and toast panko until it’s slighty brown. In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, almonds and rosemary. Mix well.
  2. In a bowl, stir buttermilk, Dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Dip chicken one by one into the butter milk and then into the almond coating.  Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet; coat rack with cooking spray. Arrange chicken on rack; coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Loaded Beef Chili Verde

I woke up on Tuesday morning to ice on my car. ICE. What??!! I now have to start getting up a little earlier just in case I have to clean off my car?? I’m sooo not ready for this. I just got used to idea that I have to blow dry my hair because summer is gone. Umpf.

My office at work is always cold. The facility usually stays around 50 degrees. That’s the best temperature for herbs. I have a space heater snuggled up against me, but it’s never enough. By the time I got home from work, all I wanted was to be warm. Like overly warm. Fuzzy socks, yoga pants, sweatshirt – check! And nothing warms me up more than a bowl of hot chili.

I like to call this recipe green chili because it gets a lot of its flavor from salsa verde. You don’t need to make this, it should be available if your grocery store. It could be called a few names — salsa verde, tomatillo salsa or green salsa. It’s not a spicy salsa, so don’t be scared to try it.

But since I am a spicy girl, I added some serious spice to this chili. Hot chili powder, cumin and paprika. Go easy on the spices if you don’t love heat like me. Chili gets hotter the longer the chili sits. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

The BEST thing about chili is it’s easy to make it your own. If you don’t want ground beef, try using ground turkey or chicken. Add more vegetables, like a variety of beans or frozen corn. Have a toppings bar.

This is a great weekday recipe. It comes together quick and full of flavor. When you need some extra warming up, this Loaded Beef Chili Verde recipe should do the trick!

Loaded Beef Chili Verde, makes 6 cups

  • 1 pound 93%-lean ground beef
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Up to 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Up to 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 16-ounce jar green salsa
  • 1 14 oz can beef broth
  • 1 10 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes and chilis), drained
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Toppings – diced avocado, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, chips. Pick you favorites!


  1. Cook beef, bell pepper and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat. Meat will take about 8 to 10 minutes to cook. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and paprika. Stir frequently to distribute seasonings.
  2. Stir in salsa and broth. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in canned tomatoes and beans. Cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Taste — add salt & pepper if needed. Top with your favorite topping for chili.

Roasted Pear & Portobello Quinoa Salad

Isn’t funny how your cravings for food change along with the weather??

After Labor Day, I feel like everything Fall was pushed upon us. Pumpkin Lattes! Boots! Halloween candy!

But Chicago was still enjoying 70-80 degree weather days and I just wasn’t ready. Now that Halloween has passed, stores are already putting up Christmas decorations. (Thanksgiving is totally getting the shaft.)

50 degree weather leaves just enough chill in my bones to accept winter is right around the corner. So much chill that I was craving a warm salad. This isn’t a normal thing for me. Fruits or vegetables (that don’t require to be cooked to eat) must be stored in the fridge. Cold, crisp produce tastes so much better!

But there are times I manage to surprise myself. I came up with a Roasted Pear & Portobello Quinoa Salad on Monday night.

I cranked up my oven to 400 degrees and loaded a baking sheet with sliced pears, Portobello mushrooms, onions and garlic. 10 minutes is all you need. The pears are cooked but still firm. Portobello slices have softened just enough. And of course, the smell of roasting garlic and onions is just heavenly. As long as the quinoa is cooking by the time the pear mixture is in the oven, this salad will be on your table in 15 minutes. Quick & Easy!

This isn’t a salad I would be eating in the dog days of summer, but as long as it’s cold, a roasted warm salad isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Roasted Pear & Portobello Quinoa Salad, serves 6

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 pears, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups quinoa, uncooked
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • Baby Spinach
  • Goat cheese crumbles


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix vinegar & oil to make salad dressing. Season with salt & pepper. In a large bag, add pears, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Add half of the salad dressing. Close bag and distribute salad dressing.
  2. On a lined baking pan, add marinated pear mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. When done cooking, let the mixture cool for 2 minutes.
  3. In a sauce pan, bring quinoa and chicken stock to a boil. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes.
  4. Place baby spinach in a large serving dish. Place quinoa on top of spinach. The spinach will slightly wilt. Layer pear & Portobello mixture on top of quinoa. Sprinkle goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle the rest of the dressing.

Cheesy Meatball Lasagna

Sometimes I think of a recipe and it won’t leave my mind. It’s in my mind all day. While I’m driving to work, I’m thinking about my grocery list. During lunch, I’m dreaming of dinner.  At the gym, I’m trying to burn extra calories because I know what I’ll be eating later. Seriously, I think I have a one track mind for food.

I’m not sure what the weather temperatures are like in other cities, but in Chicago, last Thursday night it dropped 20 degrees in less than 2 hours. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last of 70 degree days until 2013. Kind of sad, but I think I’ll get over it. I’m ready for comfort food which warms me up and hugs me from the inside… things like this Cheesy Meatball Lasagna.

This is probably the 2nd time in my life I’ve made a lasagna…but I knew I wanted to do something a little different. Enter Smoked Gouda Cheese. I put it in the meatballs and layered shreds of it throughout the lasagna. I think it gave the lasagna such a O.M.G. quality. I’m thinking I might need to add Smoked Gouda to everything I make. It truly has the effect of making everything that’s already awesome even better.

My only complaint is it took sometime to put together and cook to cheesy perfection in the oven. One of my favorite things to say is, “Drink some wine to kill the time.”  Trust me, I had a big pour…but I was still checking the timer every 10 minutes to see how much longer I had to wait. It was total torture.

But I was rewarded with this delicious dinner. Oh so totally worth it.

This lasagna was meaty, extra cheesy, smoky and has a deliciously easy tomato sauce with fresh basil. I’d make this dish for anyone. Well, anyone who loves meat and isn’t lactose intolerant.

So go ahead, day-dream about this lasagna and drink some wine while time stands still.. I mean while it’s cooking in the oven. :)

Cheesy Meatball Lasagna, inspired by Family Circle


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 bag (8 oz) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make Meatballs. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, sausage, bread crumbs, egg, milk, and cheese.  I used a medium-sized cookie/ice cream scooper to shape meatballs. You can also use your hands. Size of the meatball should be around 1 tablespoon.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook for 5 minutes, shaking pan to turn meatballs while maintaining their shape. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining meatballs. Reserve drippings in pan. (FYI – Meatballs don’t need to be cooked all the way through.)
  3. Meanwhile, to make Lasagna, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles, 1 at a time, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  4. Place skillet from meatballs over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in both crushed and diced tomatoes. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half the chopped basil. Set aside 3/4 cup of the sauce.
  5. In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, remaining basil, the egg and 2 tbsp of the Parmesan.
  6. Begin layering: Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9 2 inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Scatter half the meatballs over noodles. Pour half the remaining tomato sauce over meatballs. Top with 4 more noodles and spread with ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella and smoked gouda cheese. Add remaining meatballs. Pour remaining tomato sauce over meatballs. Top with final 4 noodles. Spread with reserved 3/4 cup sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella, smoked gouda and remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo Risotto

Have you ever had one of those days where everything is thrown at you and you’d really like to hide from the world? This has been my Monday…and a majority of last week. At my place of employment, I’ve been running the warehouse, which isn’t what I normally do. My counterpart who handles this has been out on vacation for the past week. During this time, I’ve had to deal with a lot of warehouse headaches which has taken time away from what I should be doing. Here are just a few things I’ve had to deal with..

  • Fix a printer..which included going out to buy new parts and installing them.
  • Handling an email migration since we switched servers.
  • Another printer broke and this one I couldn’t fix… but I spent countless hours talking & skyping with support to try to get everything resolved.
  • Trying to recover a new password for production’s email account because the girl who set the new password forgot it. Aaand since she forgot it, I wasn’t able to access things I needed from that email account.

So, I was very happy to come to work on Monday because my co-worker would be returning and I can get back to my things. Oh but guess what??!! Co-worker’s flight got delayed and wouldn’t be in the office until Tuesday. Just.My.Luck.

Thankfully, I have something to look forward to this afternoon. Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo Risotto. I know gumbo is usually a soup, but I really wanted risotto. I also really wanted gumbo. And I don’t see a reason why I had to pick between the two. Risotto is an italian rice, it just takes a little longer (and a lot more attention) to cook.

If you don’t already have a Cajun spice mix in your spice drawer, do yourself a favor and go get one. I absolutely love Penzey’s Cajun Spice Blend. It provides so much flavor and just a hint of spice. I can see myself using this blend for more than just gumbo.

I really enjoyed this recipe! It has everything I love — loads of veggies, meat, rice and spice. This is an easy recipe to make your own, too. If you don’t like chicken, replace it with shrimp. Don’t have andouille sausage in your grocery store? Try a spicy turkey sausage instead. Hate okra? Green beans would work.

The highlight of my afternoon will be this risotto. I’m planning on shutting my office door, turning off the light and hiding under my desk in hopes no one will approach me with, “Meghan, we have another problem…” Wish me luck for some solitude!

Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo Risotto

  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 okra, sliced
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1 lb andouille sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 tbsp Cajun Spice Blend
  • 1/2 cup wine (could use water or chicken broth)
  • 5-6 cups of warmed chicken broth
  • 1 14.5 oz diced tomatoes, drained
  • Salt & pepper
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. Put some olive oil in a warm skillet and saute green peppers and celery. Saute till tender crisp. Take off heat and set aside.
  2. Add okra to warm skillet. Okra cooks up fast, so be sure not to over do it. If you do, you will know. It gets slimy. (Gross!!) Once it’s done, remove it from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Cook chicken and sausage. Set aside when done.
  4. Add olive oil to the skillet. Saute onions and red pepper flakes. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste. Cook and stir for another minute. When all of the tomato paste is incorporated into the onion mixture, add rice and Cajun spice blend. Add salt &  pepper. Cook and stir for a minute. Add wine. Stir the rice mixture until all of wine has been completely absorbed.
  5. Are you ready for a little arm work out?? Add 1/2 cup of warm chicken broth. Stir constantly until the broth has been absorbed. Repeat this task until risotto is cooked. It took me about 25 minutes. If you run out of chicken broth, just use warm water.
  6. Once rice is cooked, add the cooked veggies, meat and diced tomatoes. Continue to stir and make sure the added elements are warm. You may need to add some broth or water to make everything come together. Season with salt, pepper and additional cajun spice blend if needed. When you’re ready to serve, garnish with parsley.