Tag Archives: ground meat

Making homemade Italian sausage for Thanksgiving stuffing

Making homemade Italian sausage for Thanksgiving stuffing at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

It’s my favorite cooking time of year – Thanksgiving! This year I’m going to have to scale back from my usual extravaganza, since I’m just not up to it due to my follow up brain surgery. That’s why I started prepping for Thanksgiving early, like making my own Italian sausage for stuffing a few weeks ago and freezing it for later. I’ve used Italian sausage in Healthier Cherry Cornbread Stuffing and other stuffing recipes in the past, so I figure I'll probably use it again this year.

We had some ground venison leftover after my husband did some hunting. However, you can make this with ground pork, turkey or beef (or a combination) from the store or your local butcher’s shop. If you’re wondering why you should bother, if you have food sensitivities or allergies, you’re in control of what’s going into your sausage. You can also control the spice mix to fit your personal tastes. Plus, I bet it’s a whole lot cheaper and you can use a nicer quality or leaner cut of ground meat, if you wish.

Feel free to cut back or add more of your favorite spices and seasonings. I loved how using the Holland House Red Wine Vinegar added a special flavor to the sausage. If you can’t find sorghum in your area, you can use maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or even molasses. Also, since you’ll be using this in stuffing, there’s no point in bothering with stuffing sausage casings. After Thanksgiving, any leftover sausage can be used in spaghetti sauce, lasagna, as a pizza topping, or in Stuffed Zucchini.

Don’t forget Holland House cooking wines and vinegars for your Thanksgiving cooking needs this year! Check out their website for money saving coupons and recipes. Follow Holland House on Facebook for Thanksgiving cooking tips and recipes, too!

Making homemade Italian sausage for Thanksgiving stuffing at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Homemade Italian Sausage

Adapted from this recipe at Kitchen Simplicity


  • 3 pounds ground meat – pork, turkey, beef, venison or a combination (I used venison mixed with beef)
  • 3 tablespoons Holland House Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon sorghum syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme (whole, not ground)
  • 1/8 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/8 teaspoon marjoram


  1. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Take an old fashioned potato masher and mix ingredients until well combined. Better yet, use your hands!
  3. Weigh out sausage into one pound portions. Wrap in freezer paper, label, and freeze until needed.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 3 pounds of sausage
  • Serving size: 1 pound of sausage

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Unless we’re having a party, I usually don’t buy chips. However, there are certain people in my household who feel that watching sports on television isn’t fun without a bag of salt and vinegar salt potato chips. (Ahem.) So, when faced with a chips request, I try to find a brand that’s as healthy as possible. That’s why I buy Kettle Brand Potato Chips since they’re as wholesome as you can get for a snack food.

The folks at Kettle Brand Potato Chips cook real, unpeeled potatoes in small batches for a superior taste and a signature crunch. In addition, they use only the finest all-natural, non-GMO ingredients – no trans fats, no MSG, no artificial colors or flavors, and no list of ingredients you can’t pronounce. In fact, they’re the first potato chip to be verified by the Non-GMO Project.

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Taste wise, their chips are delicious and hard to put down! Our favorites of the 24 flavors they make are Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sea Salt, and Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper Crinkle Cut Chips. Kettle Chips also makes four types of organic potato chips: Organic Country Style Barbeque, Organic Sea Salt, Organic Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, and Organic Sweet Chili Garlic.

All Kettle Brand Potato Chips (including Kettle Brand Bakes, Reduced Fat, Organic, and Krinkle Cut Potato Chips) are gluten free and processed in a gluten free environment. They’re also considered to be safe for people with peanut allergies, since they’re processed in an environment free of peanuts and other nuts. The chips are processed on equipment shared with ingredients that contain very small amounts of dairy. Even though they thoroughly clean the lines after each flavor run, there's a slight potential of cross contamination. (See Kettle Brand’s FAQ page for more info.)

Kettle Brand Potato Chips inspired meatloaf

At my house, meatloaf is a popular but challenging dish. For years, I had to make it egg-free due to my daughter’s allergies. She’s grown out of her egg allergies, but now we have to deal with me being gluten free.

Inspired by Kettle Brand, I thought I’d use crushed potato chips instead of bread crumbs in my meatloaf recipe. I also used crushed potato chips on the top of the meatloaf for added visual appeal. To health up the meatloaf, I used shredded carrots and egg whites, and kept it dairy free by using rice milk. (Feel free to use regular milk if you don’t have a food sensitivity to dairy.) I used Kettle Brand’s Sea Salt Potato Chips, but you can experiment with your favorite flavor. I bet Kettle Brand’s Backyard Barbeque, Jalapeño Jack, or Cheddar Beer flavors would be wonderful in this meatloaf recipe, too!

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Since I used one of my favorite Memphis style barbecue sauces, I’ll serve that on the side instead of ketchup. In addition, I’ll be serving this with fresh green beans from the farmer’s market and some Easy Mashed Parsnips and Chives. And don’t forget, leftover slices of cold meatloaf make wonderful sandwiches!

If you double the recipe, you can freeze one loaf for later. Let the meatloaf cool in the pan. Then lift it out and cover completely with foil to freeze.

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Potato Chip and Carrot Meatloaf

Instead of the aluminum foil, you may want to use a two-piece meatloaf pan that has a perforated, elevated insert so fat can drain away as meatloaf cooks. Several companies like Rachel Ray and Wilton make them.


  • 2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed Kettle Brand Sea Salt Potato Chips – divided
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup rice milk
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients (except for cooking spray and 1/2 cup of the crushed potato chips) in a bowl. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. You can use your hands or a potato masher.
  3. Line a 9x5” meatloaf pan with foil. Spray inside with cooking spray.
  4. Place meatloaf ingredients in the pan. Pat down evenly.
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of crush potato chips evenly on top of loaf.
  6. Place meatloaf pan on top of a baking sheet and place into oven.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently remove the meatloaf by lifting up on the aluminum foil. Peel foil off of meatloaf, cut into slices and serve.
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: Makes 6-8 servings
  • Serving size: 1-2 slices

What is your favorite flavor of Kettle Brand Potato Chips?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kettle Brand. The opinions and text are all mine.

Thanksgiving leftovers: Sweet Potato Cottage Pie

Sweet Potato Cottage PieDid you take advantage of the holiday sale on sweet potatoes and buy too many for the Thanksgiving feast? Or are you like me and always have sweet potatoes around to whip up a quick side dish of mashed sweet potatoes or roasted vegetables? Either way, if you have leftover sweet potatoes, try this recipe for Sweet Potato Cottage Pie from North Carolina Sweet Potatoes. It’s a healthy take on Shepard’s Pie. You could also used ground venison or turkey to make this recipe even healthier!

You can find more sweet potato recipes at their website or you can connect with them on Twitter @Sweet_Taters, Facebook or Pinterest.

Sweet Potato Cottage Pie

Recipe courtesy of North Carolina Sweet Potatoes


  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (1 large clove)
  • 1 pound ground beef, 90% lean
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or herbes de Provence, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Oil a 6 to 8 cup shallow baking dish.
  3. Pierce sweet potato skins; microwave until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes; cool.
  4. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute.
  6. Add beef; cook and stir until it just begins to brown.
  7. Stir in tomato sauce, Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon of the thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper; bring to a boil.
  8. Transfer to baking dish; spread evenly. Scoop sweet potato from skins into medium bowl; add butter, milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  9. With electric beater, beat until smooth; spread over meat in baking dish.
  10. Bake until bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Picture courtesy of South Carolina Sweet Potatoes and used with permission.

Mini Lamb Burgers with Blue Cheese

Mini Lamb Burgers with Blue Cheese at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comAre you getting tired of grilling the same old burgers, brats and franks? How about trying healthy lamb burger “sliders” with a little bit of blue cheese? This recipe comes from Cooking Light Way to Cook Grilling: The Complete Visual Guide to Healthy Grilling a terrific how to cookbook that includes techniques on the basics of grilling, setup and food prep.

You’ll learn how to smoke, marinate, brine and more while mastering the art of grilling steaks, burgers, chicken, fish, veggies and even fruit. The cookbook contains over 125 recipes accompanied by full-color how-to photos – perfect for the grilling newbie or just someone who wants to learn how to grill something besides steak!

This mini burgers would make be great to serve at your next party, too!

This Mama’s tips

Mini Lamb Burgers with Blue Cheese at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Mini Lamb Burgers with Blue Cheese


  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 2⁄3 cups thinly sliced onion (about 1 large)
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3⁄8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 13 ounces lean ground lamb
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 (1.3-ounce) mini sandwich buns, toasted
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sugar to pan; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1⁄8 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat; cook 8 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally. Keep warm.
  2. Preheat grill to high heat.
  3. Combine remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and lamb in a large bowl. Divide lamb mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1⁄2-inch-thick patty. Press a nickel-sized indentation in the center of each patty. Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Place arugula evenly on bottom halves of buns; top with 1 patty, 11⁄2 tablespoons caramelized onion, and about 3⁄4 teaspoon blue cheese. Cover with top halves of buns.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes
Servings: 8 servings
  • Serving size: 1 slider
  • Calories: 226
  • Calories from Fat: 10.4g
  • Total Fat: 4.8g
  • Saturated fat: 3.8g
  • Unsaturated fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 347mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 21.2g
  • Fiber: 1.6g
  • Protein: 11.8g
  • Cholesterol: 33mg

Recipe and picture courtesy of Cooking Light and used with permission.

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

The best meatloaf recipe EVER

SONY DSC I learned the secret to making meatloaf that doesn’t fall apart. You have to use a milk product in your recipe

Want the details? Just check out my latest post at the Attune Foods blog - Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Meatloaf Gluten Free Recipe.

Labor Day grilling: how to smoke a meatloaf

 Smoked Meatloaf Hash

What do you do when you cook up a meatloaf that’s delicious, but falls apart when you slice it? Make meatloaf hash! Just chop up the meatloaf with a spoon and add some healthy mix-ins like rice or vegetables or just a bit of ketchup, like I did above.

That’s what I’m making until I’ve perfected my Smoked Meatloaf recipe. It’s almost there but needs a little more work. I want a meatloaf that slices up perfectly when it’s hot out of the oven – or in my case the smoker. I’ve made it twice – and it’s good enough to share – but maybe you can give me some help on perfecting it by commenting your suggestions below.

How to smoke a meatloaf

Well, you find a big pipe and…

Seriously though, I first heard about smoked meatloaf when my husband came home raving about the taste after sampling it at a local restaurant. I did a search and found My Smoked Meat Loaf Recipe from Smoking-Meat.com. (If you own a smoker, you must sign up for Jeff’s Smoking Meat enewsletter.) I liked his recipe but wanted to combine it with my recipe for Boulder Firefighters Meatloaf.

Also, I wasn’t crazy about how Jeff set up his uncooked loaves. The first time I made smoked meatloaf, I didn’t use a loaf pan. I ended up with a flat, squishy meatloaf that was delicious – thus the Smoked Meatloaf Hash.

The next time I made it, I knew I would have to smoke it in a loaf pan. But how?

Preparing your loaf pans

There’s two problems using a loaf pan:

  1. The meatloaf won’t get exposed to the smoke.
  2. It will cook in it's juices and stay mushy.

After discussing it with Paul, he came up with an idea of taking a metal loaf pan and drilling holes in it. He drilled two holes on the ends, three on the sides, and seven on the bottom. Then he sanded off the burs.

You could also do this with a disposable aluminum loaf pan. However, since metal loaf pans were only $6 at WalMart, he went out a bought a couple just to make smoked meatloaf in. (He obviously wants me to make this all the time.) You can pick up few loaf pans for a  buck or two at thrift stores or garage sales, too.

Smoking your meatloaf

Now that the pans will drain, I needed something to catch the juices. I decided the easiest method would be to place the meatloaf pans on the bottom rack of the smoker so it would drain directly into the water dish at the bottom. Easy!

This worked pretty well until we realized that as the ground meat cooked, it would expand and block the holes. About half way into the cooking process, I had to tip to the pans and empty out some of the juices from the top and sides. Maybe we need more drill more holes in the pans. Or maybe just emptying the juices a few times will do the trick.

The other issue was cooking time. If I put all the meat (2 pounds) into one loaf pan, it would take three to four hours to cook. Since I didn’t have time, I opted to divide the recipe in half to cut back the cooking time to about 90 minutes. Smoking food is all about planning, so next time I’ll make sure I have enough time to cook just a two pound meatloaf in one pan. I’ve a feeling a bigger loaf will be more solid and sliceable.

smoked meatloaf hash

Smoked Meatloaf Hash

Smoked Meat Loaf

Nutritional information based on using ground venison.


  • 2 pounds ground venison, lean beef or turkey ((The leaner the beef, themore likely the meatloaf will fall apart. But the lower the calories and fat grams!)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pieces whole wheat or gluten free bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or barbeque sauce


  1. Set smoker for 250 degrees.
  2. Soak the bread in warm water in a small bowl – enough to moisten the bread but not too much so it turns into mush
  3. Place the ground meat in a large bowl.
  4. Add softened bread, onion, carrots, garlic, egg, egg whites, and ketchup. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Put meat mixture into a specially prepared loaf pan (see above).
  6. Place loaf pan on lower rack, just above the water pan.
  7. Add mesquite wood chips and smoke for 3 to 4 hours until the center registered 160 degrees.
  8. If necessary, pour off extra juice that gathers on top of the loaf pan every hour.
  9. You can finish the top with ketchup or barbeque sauce about 30 minutes before the meatloaf is finished smoking. Some people like to use bacon instead.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 - 4 Hours
Total Time: 3:15 - 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: 8 slices
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 190
  • Calories from Fat: 18
  • Total Fat: 2.0g
  • Saturated fat: 0.1g
  • Unsaturated fat: 1.9g
  • Sodium: 393mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 12.7g
  • Sugar: 8.2g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 28.2g
  • Cholesterol: 23mg

Healthy whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce

Everyone has a recipe they make in a pinch out of what's in the cupboard. Mine is spaghetti and meat sauce, since we always have ground venison in the freezer and healthy, whole wheat pasta and canned tomato sauce on hand.

It took awhile to get the family used to whole wheat noodles. (Our two favorite brands are Barilla and Pasta Garofalo.) But now I rarely hear a complaint, especially when I make venison meat sauce from scratch. As my 10-year-old son, Nathan likes to say, "Mom, my compliments to the chef!"

Healthy meat sauce

whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauceThis recipe is loosely based on the homemade sauce my husband made for me on our first date.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground lean meat such as venison, buffalo or turkey
  • 3-15 ounce jars of canned tomato sauce, such as Muir Glen Organic's No Salt Added Tomato Sauce, 15 oz.
  • 3 cans of Muir Glen Organic's Diced Tomatoes No Salt Added, 14.5 oz
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of a hearty, red wine (Cabernet, Shiraz or Merlot)
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  • 3 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium to medium high heat.
  2. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute.
  3. Add ground meat and cook until meat has browned. Break up any large pieces with a spoon as it cooks.
  4. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, wine, basil, and oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer while you cook the pasta and set the table.


This Mama's tips

  • The sauce tastes better the longer you simmer it. It also tastes better the next day.

Food Blog of the Week – Make My Sushi

GreenrollDid you know that 13 pieces of California Roll sushi have only 9.5 Weight Watchers Flex Plan Points? So not only is sushi low in points, fat, calories, and healthy for you but it’s delicious as well. That’s why I love it, and most folks agree.

In the October 4, 2006 Newsday story, Sushi swims into unlikely waters, by Joan Remick, sushi was hailed as a comfort food by Manhattan-based restaurant consultant Clark Wolfe, who after 9/11 noticed that while:

…some Americans turned to comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese and meat loaf, others were seeking culinary solace elsewhere.

"After 9/11, sushi really did enter the vernacular as a comforting food," Wolf said. "A lot of people who wanted something clean and pure perceived sushi as something nutritious that was fun to eat and that was happening all over the country."

In his book The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain mentioned that sushi is the favorite food of many chefs. He also has an interesting take on what he calls the sushi barrier. He believes once Americans accepted that sushi was normal culinary fare, it opened the door to all sorts of different and marvelous food.

TamagoSo with no further ado, I present this week’s Food Blog of the Week, Make My Sushi by Osowakki. O.K. it isn’t exactly a blog. It’s more like a website. Never mind, it’s got some really cool sushi guides using Flash animation, like this one for an inside out roll as well as recipes and tips.

Stop by Make My Sushi and tell Osowakki that This Mama Cooks! sent you.

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Got ground meat? Boy do I have some ideas for you!

Want to know how to make a cake out of ground meat? Check out today’s post, More fun with ground meat at A Readable Feast.

Not only will I share links to Vashti’s and Martha’s recipes, but give you a few recipes from the 1969 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Ground Meat Cook Book as well.

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Going mobile

Big Bad Dad bagged an antelope last weekend. One of the cool things about his hunting trip was the availability of onsite expert butchering. He said the mobile set up was very professional and super clean. I thought it was especially cool because it was cheaper than taking it "in town" to the butcher shop.


Now I have a freezer full of antelope steaks and a dozen plus tubes of 2 lb. ground antelope to cook up. Luckily, I read a terrific article about a unique way to use ground meat in the Denver Post. I hope to elaborate on this concept soon at A Readable Feast, since I think kids would love a hamburger and mash potato birthday cake!

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Cheap. Fast. Good!

CheapfastgoodCheap. Fast. Good! is about planning smart, shopping smart, cooking smart, and eating smart. If you’re interested in saving time and money, and in making dishes that your entire family will like, this book is for you.

Always on the lookout for quick recipes, I really liked their skillet recipes. I especially liked "Lynne’s Mom’s Mince" since it uses ingredients I always have on hand – ground beef (well, in my case venison), rice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and gravy mix.

Lynne’s Mom’s Mince
Serves 4 and takes 25 minutes


  1. Salt for cooking rice
  2. 1 1/3 cups long-grain rice
  3. 1 lb. ground beef, fresh or frozen
  4. 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  5. 1 large onion
  6. 1 clove fresh garlic minced or 1 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  7. 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 envelope (about 1 oz.) brown gravy mix


  1. Bring 2 2/3 cups lightly salted water to a boil in a covered medium-size saucepan. Add the rice, stir, and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, if the beef is frozen, run it under hot water so you can remove the packaging. Place the beef on a microwave-safe plate and microwave, uncovered, on high power for 3 minutes to partially defrost.
  3. While the ground beef defrosts, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop. Cook until the onion starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic to the skillet.
  4. Add the ground beef (fresh or partially defrosted) and cook, stirring often, until the meat is crumbeled and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes more. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
  5. While the beef cooks, pour the gravy mix into a 2-cup or larger glass measure. Add the amount of water called for on the package and whisk well. Set aside.
  6. When the beef has cooked, add the gravy mixture to the skillet and stir well. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until ready to serve. To serve, spoon about 3/4 cup over each serving of hot rice.

Other ideas: serve mince over mashed potatoes with a vegetable, such as frozen peas. Or you can try the mince served over baked potatoes or noodles, with any vegetable on the side to round out your menu.

(For more recipes, go to the Good Morning America website.)

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Muffin tin taco bowls

I really like the idea of using muffin tins to make something besides cupcakes. At a recent B&B stay, we were served breakfast eggs (with cheese and salsa) that were cooked in muffin tins. So when I saw the following kid friendly recipes in the February 2006 issue of Parenting magazine, I was glad to finally have some recipes to try out.

Taco Bowls
Yield: 20 taco bowls


  1. 10 6-inch flour torillas
  2. 1 lb ground turkey
  3. 1.25-oz package of taco seasoning mix
  4. 8-oz. package shredded reduced-fat monterey jack cheese
  5. 8-oz. package shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Trim about 1/2 inch from the edge of each tortilla with clean scissors or kitchen shears. Push the trotillas into nonstick muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, saute turkey over medium heat, breaking apart large chunks and stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add taco seasoning mix and 2/3 cup water and simmer meat about 5 minutes.
  4. Fill each tortilla cup with 2 tablespoons of cooked ground meat and top with a large pinch each of shredded cheeses.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes until the cheese is melted and cups start to brown.
  6. Serve with salsa.


  • Use another kind of ground meat, meat substitute, or shredded pork or beef. This would be a great recipe for leftover meat as well.
  • Use corn torillas instead of flour – better tasting and more fiber.
  • You can also serve with avocados.
  • Try using non-fat refried beans instead of meat.

Pizza Bites
Yield: 16 pizzas


  1. 13-oz can premade pizza dough
  2. 1 cup pizza sauce
  3. 1 cup shreeded reduced-fat mozzarella
  4. 16 slices pepperoni


  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to a rectangle about 10×13 inches. Cut out circles with a 3 inch  cookie cutter.
  2. Press each circle in bottom of muffin tins and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until dough is golden. Remove from oven.
  3. Top each piece of dough with 1 tablespoon each of pizza sauce and cheese. Top with 1 slice of pepperoni.
  4. Increase oven to 400 degrees and return tin to oven for 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.


  • Substitute veggies for pepperoni.
  • These would make great finger food at adult parties, too.
  • Great use for leftover sauce.
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Recipes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

A review and recipes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comEvery slow cooker  cookbook I own has variations on the same recipe, but no new ideas. I was getting tired of making the same old slow cooker variations on chili and roasts. Then I came across Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook [affiliate link] by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.

First, I was sold on it because it has a venison recipe. (My husband, Paul, hunts, and we have a freezer full of Wisconsin whitetail.) Now most of the time I treat venison like very lean beef and haven't had problems with a gamy taste. Well, most of the time, anyway! Even so, a slow cooker venison recipe was rare.

Then my curiosity was piqued when I saw Beef in Guinness and Japanese Curry Rice. I thought, “How unique. How different. How not-another-boring-recipe-for-chili!”

Join me while I make four recipes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and review this fabulous cookbook!

Sloppy Joes

The first slow cooker recipe I made was for Sloppy Joes, a slow cooker classic but much more sophisticated take on it. The results were terrific. I liked the recipe because it was full of veggies, like diced red pepper and celery. It also gave the option of adding more vinegar or sugar depending on your personal tastes. Amazingly, my kids LOVED this. Lucie liked hers with spaghetti squash. And Nathan liked his on the traditional hamburger bun. This could also be served on mashed potatoes.

(Serves 4 to 6)


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon cider vinegar, or more if needed
  • 2 tablespoon firmly packed light or dark brown sugar, or more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • hamburger buns or other soft sandwich rolls for serving


  1. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the beef with the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, stirring to break up the meat.
  2. When the meat is cooked through, transfer the meat and vegetables to the slow cooker.
  3. Add the remaining Sloppy Joe ingredients and stir to combine well.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours.
  5. Taste and add more vinegar or sugar, if desired.
  6. Serve the meat mixture spooned on to the buns.

Braised Beef in Espresso

The second dish I tried was the Braised Beef in Espresso. Yes, a slow cooker roast made with coffee! Don't worry, it really doesn't taste like a tall latte. Instead, the coffee super-tenderizes the meat and gives it a bit of a smoky flavor. Unfortunately, the dish was rather bland because the turnips, carrots and potatoes didn't add much flavor. Also since the cookbook recommends seasoning with salt and pepper after cooking, it needed a healthy dose of garlic salt to make it just right.

(Serves 6)

Cooker: Medium or large round or oval

Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 7 to 8 hours


  • 3 pounds beef site meat trimmed of fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks, and blotted dry
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium-size onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, cut diagonally into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 new red or white potatoes, diced
  • 6 small turnips, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine


  1. In a zippered-top plastic bag or a bowl, toss the beef with the flour, salt, and pepper, shaking off the excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until very hot.
  3. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  5. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef.
  6. Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer to the cooker and add the carrots, potatoes, and turnips.
  8. Add the coffee and thyme to the cooker.
  9. Pour the wine into the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan.
  10. Pour into the cooker and stir.
  11. Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  12. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

Honey and Apple Bread Pudding with Golden Raisins

This was the next slow cooker dish I cooked up. I was intrigued since it was a bread pudding without eggs as my daughter was allergic to eggs at the time. This one wasn't so successful with my family, however, as they thought it was weird. I liked it even though it tasted and looked like turkey stuffing. I think it was the lemon juice and zest. There was just too much of it. Orange juice and zest and possibly more honey would have worked better.

(Serves 4 to 6)

Cooker: Medium round
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 5 to 6 hours


  • 8 slices of your favorite bread
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine, softened
  • 3 cooking apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gala, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/4 cups unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, to your taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg Ice cream, whipped cream, or nondairy whipped topping for serving


  1. Coat the slow cooker with butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Preheat the broiler. Butter the bread on both sides and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and lightly toast both sides; cut the warm toast into chunks.
  3. Put the bread in the cooker, then add the apples and raisins.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple juice, honey, lemon juice and zest, and spices.
  5. Pour into the cooker and stir to moisten the bread evenly. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. If possible, gently stir halfway through the cooking process. Pierce the apples with the tip of a knife to make sure they are soft.
  6. Turn off the cooker and let stand, covered, for about 15 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream, or nondairy whipped topping, if desired.

Beef In Guinness

I made this with Murphy's Irish Stout and not Guinness since Murphy's was on $2 cheaper than Guinness, and the liquor store was donating $1 of the sale towards cancer research. Since there are more vegetables in this than in the Braised Beef in Espresso, this was a much tastier dish. The only drawback on recipe preparation was that you must brown the meat and sauté the vegetables before cooking it in the crock pot. Many cooks feel browning gives the dish a wonderful flavor, but it does add an extra step and another dish to wash, too! If that’s a deal breaker, you may want to look into investing in a West Bend Slow Cooker [affiliate link]  which you can use both on the stove top and as a slow cooker!

(Serves 6)

Cooker: Medium or large round or oval – this is a huge amount of food and it just barely fit in my 6-quart slow cooker. So beware!
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 8 to 9 hours


  • One 2 1/2 pound chuck roast, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks and blotted dry
  • 3 to 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • One 14.9 ounce can or bottle of Guinness stout or any good stout
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 3 medium-size turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium-size (1 pound) eggplant, peeled or not, diced
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • zest of 1/2 of a large orange, cut into strips
  • 1 bouquet garni: 3 or 4 springs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 bay leaf, one 2-inch piece of celery, tied together in a cheesecloth square


  1. In a zippered-top plastic bag or bowl, toss the meat, in batches, with the flour, salt and pepper, shaking off the excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil until very hot.
  3. Add half the meat and cook until browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes total.
  4. Transfer to crock.
  5. Repeat with the remaining oil and meat.
  6. Transfer to slow cooker.
  7. Add the onions to the skillet and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan, until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.
  8. Transfer to the cooker.
  9. Pour in the beer and in layers add the carrots, turnips, eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic on top of the meat.
  10. Nestle the orange zest and bouquet garni into the center of the meat and vegetables.
  11. Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is tender enough to cut with a fork, 8 to 9 hours.
  12. Remove the bouquet garni, then taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

I look forward to making more dishes from  Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook soon!