Category Archives: Entree

Spaghetti Marco Polo

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Now here is a spaghetti dish with lots of earthy flavor, but not tomato or milk based. And it is easily expanded for a large crowd.

We originally got this recipe from the 1972 Julia Child television show on PBS. Since then, I have searched a lot of recipes called Marco Polo, but never found this exact recipe. It is again a case that you really can’t improve on the classic base.

When I made this recipe the other day, I was surprised at how much “sauce” it made, and how it totally covered the spaghetti. From that experience, I have a couple suggestions. One would be to not be afraid to double the amount of spaghetti to a full 16 ounces, and the second would be to not be afraid to stir the “sauce” into the spaghetti instead of leaving it on top. My memories of when Marlys made the recipe is that the spaghetti showed through on top, and wasn’t completely covered with “sauce”, and since there were four of us eating, she might have doubled the amount of spaghetti anyway.

My personal choice is not to sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the serving dish, but to put it on the table and let each person sprinkle the amount they want on their serving of the dish.

Spaghetti Marco Polo

(Julia Child, TV Program 1972)

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 1/2 cup red pimento (no vinegar flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, pureed

Directions

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the spaghetti.

Make the sauce by mixing together in a bowl the walnuts, olives, pimento, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the cooking pan put the olive oil and garlic. Stir over moderate heat. Return spaghetti to pan and toss with the oil & garlic.

Transfer to serving plate and top with the “sauce”. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serves two generously.


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Ham Casserole

Ham Casserole 005

Here is another simple-to-make casserole that is filling, and has a few options.

Ham Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (about 10-12 oz.) diced (leftover) ham
  • 8 oz cooked noodles or macaroni (cook as label directs, drain)
  • 5 oz. frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper(optional)
  • 2 cups milk
  • poppyseeds for garnish

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix together in a large bowl the ham, noodles and peas.
  • In saucepan cook the onion in the butter. When onion is soft, add flour, salt and both peppers. Stir to cook roux. Do not brown.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and add the milk. Return to heat and cook over medium heat until thickened.
  • Pour over ingredients in bowl, Stir together to mix well. Pour into a greased 8″ x 8″ baking pan. Sprinkle generously with poppyseeds.
  • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. If made ahead and refrigerated, bake for 45 minutes.

First, while the ham can be leftover from another meal, I find that I can buy ham steak and generally get a couple good recipes from the steak. I try to get steaks that are about 1/4 inch thick so that the diced chunks are a good size.

Second, I have marked the cayenne pepper as optional. I really like a good shot of it in this recipe; I will use almost 1/4 teaspoon. But that might be a bit much for some people, or children, so you might want to reduce or eliminate that heat.

Finally, I added the word large to the description of the bowl in the second step of the directions. I started with too small of a bowl, and had to change midway to my large 4 quart bowl. What with the ham, noodles and peas, you need to have enough space to mix it all before putting it in the cooking pan.

When I first pulled this recipe out, I got nervous because it requires making a roux, and I have never done that. I stirred a lot of things for Marlys,- soups and rissoto, but she always made the roux. I do remember her saying a couple things about making a roux; first, the amount of flour is equal to the amount of fat, and second, you have to make certain that the flour is cooked. I must say, I was successful, and the whole operation was easier than I thought. I just didn’t rush the cooking of the flour, or the thickening of the milk.

I used Farfalle pasta- that is what I had- and the bow-ties ended up sticking up in the air so they got slightly over-cooked because they were not down in the sauce. I guess that is why the ingredients say to use noodles or macaroni; they probably lay down better.

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Three Bean & Rice Casserole

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This is an easy to throw together casserole that has a wonderful taste. I like the olives in the casserole; they bring an earthiness to the dish. Mostly, you will be opening cans and draining the content in making this casserole. It all comes together in a very short time. There is a close-up photo of the plate down below,in which most of the ingredients can be identified.

The recipe comes from long ago, before inflation reduced the size of most cans of food. So while the ingredients are given in nominal size, you will probably find the 16 oz cans are now just over 15 ounces, and the 4 ounce can is more like 3.8. I think you just need to go with the flow- I did. It was interesting that I had all the ingredients in the pantry except for the onion. Where the ingredients call for a dash of a spice, I used about 1/8 teaspoon, but I think you could easily use more- perhaps 1/4 teaspoon.

Three Bean & Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can (16 oz.) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (16 oz.) garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (16 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies (ortegas), drained
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • dash cayenne
  • dash hot sauce (Tabasco)
  • dash cumin powder
  • dash black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup pimento stuffed olives
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced

Directions

  • In a 5 quart heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven (treated with cooking spray or 1 Tablespoon olive oil), over medium-high heat, saute the onion and garlic until tender.
  • Add the water, all the beans, tomatoes, chilies, rice, cayenne, hot sauce, cumin, black pepper and salt. Heat to boiling, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the peas, and both types of olives. Stir and replace the lid. Turn off the heat and let stand for about 20 minutes

This recipe can be separated into smaller casseroles, and refrigerated for storage.
The original recipe shows this as making 8 servings of less than 300 calories each, with about 5 grams of fat each.

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Baked Eggs

In my post about Christmas in Seattle, I mention that we had Baked Eggs for breakfast at Serious Biscuit. I have been experimenting with making them myself, and I think I have a good recipe now.

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I think one of the interesting things about the baked egg dish is that it has all of the capabilities that you find in an omelet but the eggs are not dried out and hard cooked; the eggs of a baked egg dish are more like poached eggs; the yolk is still separate and is cooked soft. And the flavoring of the dish can be anything you like with your eggs; I will be using a small amount of meat and cheese. At different times, I have used both diced ham, and crumbled bacon as my meat. I have used both scallions and yellow onion at different times. And I have used both straight shredded cheddar cheese, and a mix of cheeses with success. Again, your imagination is the limit to what you can do.

Perhaps the most difficult issue with this recipe is finding the right oven-safe dishes to use. They need to be about 10 ounce capacity for 2 eggs plus toppings. I have some small Corning casserole dishes that I like to use because they have a detachable handle I can use to move them into and out of the oven. I also have another set of Corning dishes with handles that work. Some people have ramekins that are large enough, but my largest ramekin is only 8 ounces.

So here is your base, starting recipe.

Baked Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz. ham, diced
  • 1 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 oz. green onion, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is heating, prepare the eggs and topping.

Break the 2 eggs into a small dish ready to use.

Chop and dice the topping meat, cheese and onion into a second small dish; mix the topping so it is ready to use.

When the oven is at heat, place the butter in the cooking dish and let it melt in the oven and warm the cooking dish. When it is melted, empty the eggs into the cooking dish, and then empty the toppings on top of the eggs.

Bake the eggs for 8 minutes.

I find that I need to let my eggs cool for about 5 minutes before I try to eat them; they are hot! But they are so enjoyable with the soft yellow yolks all in one piece, and the white also seems to be fluffier than any fried cooking style.

Tortilla Crepes

This recipe came to us through Auntie Evelyn. Peg Watson was her friend.

crepes 002Tortilla Crepes with Salsa

The two tortillas on my red plate almost look like a pile of mashed potatoes; it isn’t. The plate has two tortilla crepes and salsa.

When I was making the recipe, the hardest part was making the white sauce; I don’t remember watching Marlys do it, and so I was unfamiliar with the various stages the sauce would take. And I was nervous because of the note to not brown the sauce. When you start out, the sauce takes on a brown tone due to the color of the butter, and the cooking of the flour; I was afraid that this was the brown color I was to avoid. But it wasn’t; I kept stirring and trying to get the flour cooked so the taste of raw flour wouldn’t be in the sauce. When I started adding the milk, the white color for which I was looking came through.

While Peg calls the recipe crepes, I almost see it as a white sauced enchiladas. The technique is similar to the making of the rolled enchiladas, except we are using flour tortillas which don’t need to be softened. But, we fill the tortilla, roll it and put it in the baking dish. Then we top the rolled tortillas with a sauce and cheese.

One thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t have tomato in the sauce. I have always been partial to white sauces- like Alfredo sauce for my pasta; maybe that is one reason I am drawn to this recipe as an alternative to the Enchilada sauced recipes.

Tortilla Crepes

(Peg Watson, 1980

  • 12 flour tortillas
  • 12 thinly sliced ham pieces (or leftover ham, turkey or chicken sliced thinly)
  • 12 slices thinly sliced monterey jack cheese
  • 12 ortega chili’s (or to taste–about an 8 oz can)
  • 1 large sauteed onion
  • a few dashes Beau Monde seasoning.
  • grated cheddar cheese

Place a piece of meat, cheese and chili on a tortilla. Roll it up. Place in baking pan seam side down. When all are rolled, cover with a thick white sauce (4 cups) (see below) to which has been added sauteed onion and Beau Monde seasoning. Cover with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 1/2 hour and uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve with salsa. (If you increase the amount of white sauce it is softer).

White Sauce

  • 8 Tablespoons butter
  • 8 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • dash of cayenne

(For each cup of milk use 2 tablespoons each of butter and of flour).
Stir together butter and flour, and cook to make a roux—do not brown. Stir in slowly the milk. Add salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook until thickened.


For the meat, I used a couple slices of the ham one now finds in the market- specifically, I used the Land-o’-Lakes Black Forest Ham. I couldn’t find sliced monterey jack cheese, and so I bought a 1/2 pound brick, and used the carrot peeler to slice off strips; I used a couple strips per tortilla.

I decided to go with the hint about serving with Salsa, and made the salsa recipe.

Enchiladas

These recipes were in Marlys’s Cook Book, and are credited to Nannie- who was Marlys’s grandmother. Nannie’s maiden name was Sara Martha Arguello, and she was born in what is now Tijuana, Mexico, so I feel these recipes have some real standing as being authentic Mexican recipes. Nannie married Leo Smith Sr, who was over 93% Mexican; the Smith name is a story in itself.

I know the family has made updates to the recipes; I am certain that enchilada sauce was not found in a can at the grocery store, and even the corn tortillas were probably home made. However, none of that takes away from the authenticity of these recipes.

enchies 008This is a rolled enchilada with filling #1 cut open.

Another aspect of the recipes is inflation; I found it impossible to find a 28 ounce can of enchie sauce, most large cans are now down to about 20 ounces. And the 6 inch corn tortillas are now only 5 1/4 inches in diameter. But we are finding the problem of inflation in a lot of our recipes that come from long ago.

This article contains three different fillings for the enchiladas and shows two different constructions; the normal rolled enchiladas and an enchilada casserole. The casserole is easy and quick to make. I personally like rolled enchiladas, but they are more time consuming, and much more messy to make than the casserole. Rolling tortillas that have been warmed in enchilada sauce is very messy!

enchies 001Enchilada casserole made with filling #2

Enchiladas

Sara Martha Arguello (Nannie 1962)

This recipe contains three different filling recipes, each for a dozen corn tortillas. There are also two construction methods for making the enchiladas: rolling the enchies, and a layered casserole. The enchilada sauce is slightly different for the two construction methods.

  • package 6″ corn tortillas
  • can of enchie (or chili) sauce
  • grated cheese (cheddar)

See the construction methods for the number of tortillas and amount of sauce.

These are the recipes for the enchie fillings. Each recipe is for one dozen corn tortillas. If using the Layered Casserole construction method, you might want to cut the recipe in half.

Recipe 1.

  • 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 10 green onions, chopped
  • 4 oz chopped olives

Recipe 2.

  • 1/2 lb. monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 1/2 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced ortega chili
  • 10 green onions, chopped

Recipe 3.

  • 1 lb. cooked meat, shredded or chopped

    (roast, hamburger, turkey, chicken)
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced ortega chili
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

For recipe 3, saute ingredients in a small amount of olive oil until onions are cooked. Add salt and pepper.

Now you need to choose your construction method

Rolled-up Enchiladas

Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons fat
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 (28 oz.) can (or more) enchie sauce

Make a roux with the fat and flour. Add the canned sauce and cook until thickened.

Construction:

Work one tortilla at a time. Originally, the tortillas were dipped into hot oil to make them pliable and able to be rolled. Now, we find it is enough to dip them into the hot sauce mixture to warm the tortillas so they are pliable. Then, put a small amount of the filling mixture in the center of the tortilla and roll it up; place it seam side down in a baking pan. Only make a single layer in the pan. When it is full, top it with the remaining enchie sauce. See cooking directions below.

Layered Enchilada Casserole

The Layered Casserole requires an oven-proof dish which can hold 6 tortillas. Ours is nearly straight sided, 3 inches deep and 6 inches in diameter sloping up to 6 1/2 inches in diameter at the top.

Since only 6 tortillas are used in a casserole, the Enchie Filling recipes should be cut in half unless two casseroles are being made. In that case, double the amount of sauce.

Sauce

  • 1 (14 oz.) can of enchie sauce. Do not thicken.

Construction:

Build up the casserole as follows:

  • small amount of sauce
  • a tortilla
  • about 1/5 filling mixture
  • about 1/5 sauce
  • repeat tortilla, filling mixture and sauce until dish is full, then:
  • last plain tortilla on top (my pan holds 5 layers +last tortilla)
  • Cover with remaining sauce.

Cooking for Both Constructions

Cover with foil and bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with the cheddar cheese and bake an additional 5 – 10 minutes.


I am not certain why the enchie sauce for the casserole is not thickened. It felt to me that it would hold the casserole together better if it were thickened like for the rolled enchies. The amount of filling in any given layer of the casserole was very similar to the amount of filling in a rolled enchilada.

enchies 011Cut open rolled enchie with filling 3.

Another trick with the enchie sauce that Marlys taught me is to taste it, and if it seems too acidic, add a spoon or so of sugar. I find that I don’t like it as acidic as it comes from the can.

I used ground turkey for my meat in filling #3. I seasoned the turkey just as I would if using it in another recipe.

I was only able to get 8 rolled enchiladas in my 9 x 13 baking dish; I needed a second baking dish for the last four.

I found that the full recipe for each filling made about 24 ounces of filling; then each enchilada, and each layer of the casserole, used about 2 ounces of the filling; after a couple attempts, I discovered that was just about what I picked up with the cooking spoon I was using, making life quite a bit easier.

Pork Chops – Breaded

While normally we think of breaded meat as being fried, and the breading absorbing fat from the frying operation, these pork chops are different. We bake the pork chops with a minimum of fat- it could even be a non-stick spray.

While Pork Chops Evelyn used catsup and lemon, giving them a slight sweet-and-sour flavor, these pork chops are seasoned with your favorite mustard.

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Breaded Pork Chops

(Mother) Catharine P. Crary

  • pork chops
  • your favorite mustard
  • evaporated milk (small can will do for 4-6 chops )
  • fine bread crumbs

Spread mustard on one side of each chop. Dip both sides into milk. Dip both sides into bread crumbs.
Place chops on an oiled baking sheet, mustard side up. Bake 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

I think you can agree that this recipe is very simple, and doesn’t take much work. And you can have the chops ready on the table in less than 60 minutes from when you start.

Pork Chops Fairly Plain

While cooking the different pork chop recipes – Pork Chop Evelyn and Pork Chop Breaded– I felt my understanding of cooking the meat still lacked something. Yes, the recipes are good and flavorful, and I strongly recommend them. Herein, I am going to look at cooking pork chops with a minimum of flavor. And did they ever come out moist! And yes, I am sorry that I didn’t take any pictures of the cooked pork chops.

Pork Chops Fairly Plain

Ingredients

  • an Oven Safe skillet
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 inch thick pork chops

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

On a plate, mix the spices and spread them for dipping the pork chops. Dip both sides of the pork chops into the seasoning.

Spray a skillet with non-stick spray. Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side.

Place the skillet with pork chops in the oven and bake them for about 20 minutes; the internal temperature of the chops should be about 150 degrees.

Remove the skillet from the oven and tent the chops while the meat relaxes and stops losing moisture- about 5 minutes. Then serve.

If you lack an oven-safe skillet, you can move the pork chops from the skillet to a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

I actually used my thermometer that I introduced you to when I published my Dilly Bread recipe in the center of a pork chop to establish the time it took for the internal temperature to get to 150 degrees. In my oven, that was only about 15 minutes. I strongly suspect with the times I give in the other pork chop recipes that we might be over-cooking the chops. That could be because the recipes come from my parents’ generation when pork was cooked well in all cases.

Pork should be cooked from 145 degrees (rare) to 160 degrees (well done) in the center of the meat. If at all possible, I would recommend using an oven safe thermometer the first time you try this recipe; then you will have knowledge of your ovens heat transfer characteristic. Also, the thickness of the chops will make a big difference- thicker taking longer and thinner taking less time. As I noted, my chops were about 1 inch thick.

Once you develop this technique for cooking your pork chops, you can try other seasonings. Almost always you will find that garlic as one of the flavors. I believe that rosemary is also quite common. I have noted soy sauce and ginger are also common in marinating pork, so they might be flavors to include.

I hope that this recipe can give you a starting point for understanding pork chops and how to cook them with a minimum of flavoring to go with the other dishes of your meal.

Chili Beans

This was one of Marlys’s favorite recipes; she made it as a Halloween dinner just about every year. It is very rich in meat and flavor. There are plenty of options for adjusting the heat of the chili, from the amount of cayenne or hot sauce to add, to whether you add fresh peppers. I will discuss what I did below the recipe.
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Chili Beans

(Betty Smith, 1968)
(Altered by Marlys Crary)

  • 2 lb. hamburger, ¾ – 1 lb. sausage – combined
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder (or more)
  • 3 (16 oz) cans kidney beans
  • 3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 16 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 24 oz. water
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumen
  • cayenne, to taste
  • hot sauce (Tabasco), to taste
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch or masa harina (optional)

Optional

  • 3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded, de-veined, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh poblano pepper, seeded, de-veined, finely chopped

Brown meats. Add onion and garlic (and optional fresh peppers). Add chili powder, beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, 24 oz. water, salt, pepper, cumen, cayenne and Tabasco. Bring to a boil and simmer at least 1 hour before serving. Longer is better, and leftover better. May thicken with cornstarch mixed with an equal amount of water or masa harina .

When I recently made this recipe, I put in the jalapeno peppers but not the poblano pepper. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne, and 3 Tablespoons of hot sauce. (My hot sauce is Cholula brand). This was more than enough heat for me, and I put a dollop of sour cream on the top of my serving to help me control the heat. I think the cayenne heat was what I was feeling because it was like an after-taste effect in the back of my throat. I have not had a problem with that amount of jalapeno pepper in a large amount of soup or chili.

For thickening, I used the masa harina option.

There seems to be a pattern in the recipe for the number 3; 3# meat, 3 cloves garlic, 3 Tablespoons chili powder 3 cans of kidney beans and 3 small cans of tomato sauce. It was this latter item that caught my eye- I buy a total of 24 oz. of tomato sauce, but in a 16 oz. plus an 8 oz. cans.

Pork Chops Evelyn

The other week, I decided I wanted a pork chop for supper. I remembered that Marlys had some good recipes for pork chops, and went looking for them. This recipe comes from her Aunt Evelyn Sheehan. Auntie gave us lots of good recipes; she was very active socially, and when her different groups would have a lunch or dinner, she was certain to pick up a new recipe or two.

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This recipe is very simple, and yet it has a nice taste. I could taste the lemon, and felt the texture of the onion slice; the onion is not cooked so hard that it is only a taste with no texture.

Pork Chops Evelyn

(Evelyn Sheehan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Pork Chops
  • Onion, sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • Lemon, sliced about 1/8″ thick
  • catsup
  • brown sugar

Place on each chop (laid flat in a baking pan) an onion slice, a lemon slice, a tablespoon of catsup and a tablespoon of brown sugar.
Cover pan with foil and cook for 1 hour.

After cooking the pork chops a couple times, I made a modification to the recipe; it originally called for uncovering the baking pan after an hour and continuing to cook for another half hour. I felt that dried the pork chop out too much; cooking covered captures the moisture and leaves the pork chops more moist.

I also have a couple suggestions for this dish. First, since you need to cover the dish, you need a deep baking pan so the cover doesn’t squish the topping on the pork chop. I would say that the pan should be 2 -3 inches deep. Second, I found that the brown sugar didn’t splatter and burn so much if it is placed under the catsup rather than on top. When I placed the sugar at the top of the stack, I had quite a bit of burned sugar in the baking pan. (I still recommend Bar Keepers Friend for getting the burn out)