Category Archives: main dish

Soup Mix in a Jar


Soup Mix in a Jar
Your friends and family will love this pretty soup mix in a jar that makes a nice, easy supper!
Use different colored ingredients for a festive look.

Layer in a pint jar, as listed (top ingredient at the top
of the jar):
1/3 cup uncooked pasta (to fill the jar) (we used whole wheat mini-shells)
1/4 cup dry lentils (orange)
1/4 cup split peas (yellow)
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup dry split peas (green)
2 T. pearl barley
1/4 cup lentils (dark green or brown)
1 bay leaves
2 T beef, chicken or veggie bouillon granules (or two cubes)
2 T cup dried onion flakes
1/4 t. black pepper
1 t. dried garlic powder or flakes
1/2 t. dried Italian seasoning

In a pint jar, layer the ingredients as listed. Using a jar funnel will help keep messes to a minimum. At the top, wrap the pasta in plastic wrap, and place in the jar. Add enough pasta to completely fill the jar all the way to the top (this will help keep the layers from shifting). Seal tightly. You can cover with decorative cloth and tie with a ribbon or string (Use a rubber band to secure, then remove the rubber band after the ribbon is tied).
Attach an instructions label to the jar.
Include the tomatoes, sauce, and some cornbread mix, if you like!

INSTRUCTIONS (tie this label to your jar)

How to make Soup in a Jar
1 half pound ground beef, turkey, pork, ham, or Italian sausage, or leave out the meat for a vegan version!
8 cups water
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

TO PREPARE SOUP: Remove pasta from top of jar, and set aside. In a 6 qt pot over medium heat, brown beef; drain excess fat. Add soup mix, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer 1 hour. Stir in the tomato sauce; bring to a boil, add pasta. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Serve with fresh cornbread. The person who finds the bay leaf gets to do the dishes! (serves 4-6)


Smoked Pork Ribs

smoked ribs
Baked beans, grilled corn, fried squash and smoked pork ribs for dinner. Mmmmmmmm nomnomnom. Loving our new smoker!!

We bought a propane smoker this summer and we set it up in a shady area out back.  I love filling the thing up with meats and monitoring their progress from the pool.  It’s wonderful when we have a group of guests and a counter full of side dishes to go along with the smoky meats.  Potato or macaroni salad, baked beans, deviled eggs, fried squash or potatoes, grilled corn, and something cool and delicious for dessert.  They should make plastic plates a lot bigger.

Smoked Pork Ribs

Select meaty Baby Back pork ribs or St. Louis style ribs. Prepare and trim the pork ribs if the butcher didn’t it already.  I have to confess, I do not enjoy butchering meat, and so I really prefer to pay the extra money and buy the ribs already trimmed.  But, if you want to trim the ribs yourself, It is not that hard.  You go for it.

This is a good explanation of how to trim ribs: (Except: I would NOT use my fingernail to loosen the membrane of the meat.  I use a table knife)

One more thing before we start.  I use a ton of heavy duty foil when making these things.  I tried regular foil one time.  It’s too thin, holes get in it, and it makes me cuss.  I tried those disposable foil pans one time.  They are flimsy, hard to transport, make you think you’ve got a pan when really you don’t.  I hate them.  Use. Heavy. Duty. Foil.

3-2-1 method: Smoke 3 hours, wrap in foil and cook 2 hours, unwrap and cook 1 more hour. This method produces fall-off-the-bone smoky ribs with a textured surface crust.

Up to three hours before cooking:
Wash ribs with cool water, remove the tough membrane on the back, and trim off any big hunks of fat. I like to cut the racks in half to make them easier to handle.
Brush the ribs on both sides with orange juice or apple cider vinegar, or use a very thin layer of mustard. This will help the seasonings stick to the meat. (I prefer the orange juice)
Sprinkle a generous layer of seasonings all over both sides of the meat. (Use your own recipe or a prepared meat rub) (I prefer my own recipe because I have not bought a meat rub that isn’t overly full of salt.)
Turn on your smoker (or make a fire on one side of your grill). Preheat to 225-250 degrees (use a thermometer if your smoker or grill doesn’t have one). Check your temperature periodically to keep it in that range throughout the process.
Use hardwood chips or pieces to produce smoke. (hickory, apple or pecan). Our smoker has a little container for those, but if you don’t, you could wrap them in a foil packet with holes punched in it, or place a hunk of wood on your charcoal.
Fill the drip pan with water or another liquid such as apple juice.
Place ribs, bone side down, on the racks, (or to one side of the fire on your grill), close lid, and smoke 3 hours, maintaining the temp between 225-250. Remove from smoker.
Brush a little of your favorite BBQ sauce on each side of the ribs, or leave plain. (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s). Wrap ribs in heavy duty aluminum foil, seal, return to smoker bone side up. Bake for 2 hours. If you prefer to do this step in your oven, that is just fine.
Unwrap ribs and finish in oven or smoker 30 minutes to 1 hour, basting with sauce if desired during the last half hour.
Let rest 10 minutes, then cut ribs apart with a long, sharp knife.

Ribs freeze very well.  I wrap them in heavy duty foil and write RIBS on the outside of the package with a Sharpie.  Then heat up in oven or on the smoker, and unwrap again for the last half hour.

Seasoning mix:
6 T. dark brown sugar
1 T. paprika
1 T. salt
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. ground ginger
1 T. onion powder
1 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1/2 T. cayenne
(this makes enough for about four racks of ribs)

Best Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppers green and red

I have made this recipe dozens of times, and it always turns out wonderful and everyone loves it.  I love the red peppers best, but each color of pepper has its own appeal.  I have also made this recipe in other types of peppers, such as poblanos.

I really suggest serving the peppers in bowls, because you will want to spoon the delicious sauce over it.

Unfortunately, this is not a recipe that freezes very well.  The peppers lose a lot of texture in the freezer.  However, leftovers can be reheated from the refrigerated state and it’s as good as the first time.

Best Stuffed Bell Peppers

For the sauce:
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup beef broth
2 cups prepared marinara sauce, or other tomato sauce
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 t. red pepper flakes

For the peppers:
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced very fine
1 can 10-oz diced tomatoes
2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne

4 large green, red, yellow or orange bell peppers, or mixture

In a large skillet, sauté onion in the oil until translucent. Transfer half the sautéed onion to a large mixing bowl and reserve for filling. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and pepper. Pour half the sauce into the bottom of a large, deep (9X13) baking dish.

In the mixing bowl, add filling ingredients to the onion, reserving some cheese for the topping. Mix gently to combine.

Cut bell peppers in half LENGTHWISE and remove stem, ribs and seeds. Pack peppers with stuffing mixture and top with remaining cheese. Place peppers into the pan with the sauce, and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Seal with foil; bake 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 15-25 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and peppers are tender. Spoon some sauce over each pepper. Serves 4-8.

Poppa Paul’s Chicken Spaghetti

Poppa Paul's spaghetti

Poppa Paul’s Chicken Spaghetti
Definitely a five-star dish.  Poppa Paul makes a big pot of this rich spaghetti almost every time friends or family come over.  It’s an old-fashioned country style plate of food that fills you up and makes you feel loved.

Poppa Paul uses a whole chicken, de-boned and cut up, and cooks the spaghetti in the broth from the chicken. The amounts aren’t exact; Poppa never measures any of this. You can add another whole can of soup if you like it saucier, and if you’re in the mood for more veggies, then add more. Traditionally served with purple hull peas or butterbeans, cornbread, and iced tea.
1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped green and/or red bell pepper
1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped green or yellow onions (or mixture)
2 T. olive oil or butter
1 quart or more chicken stock
1 small box Velveeta mild Mexican cheese
1-2 cans cream of celery, mushroom or chicken soup
2-3 cups cooked, cut up chicken
1 pkg. cooked, drained spaghetti

In a very large, deep skillet or pot, sauté vegetables in oil until tender. Gradually add chicken stock. Stir in soup, cheese and chicken. Simmer over low heat, stirring until completely mixed and hot.

Makes a big pot, enough for at least six hungry people. Freezes well. Can be reheated in a large oven-safe dish.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

chicken lettuce wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
You can add any fillings you like to these.  Serve with lots of napkins!

Prepare the sauces (recipes below).

Sesame Ginger Sauce

1/2 cup water
2 t. cornstarch
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 T. oil
2 t. sesame oil
2 t. sesame seeds
1 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. minced ginger
Dash parsley

Combine water and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add other ingredients. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer till thick.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup water
2 T. vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 t. minced ginger
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
3 T. white sugar
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. minced garlic

Combine ingredients in a pan over medium low heat. Heat while whisking until sauce becomes smooth. Remove from heat when done.

Chicken filling:

1 T. oil
4 chicken breasts, cut into very small strips (they will cut more easily if partially frozen)
Salt and pepper
3 green onions, sliced into sticks
1/4 cup minced water chestnuts (rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1-2 heads butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup cellophane noodles, optional

Optional ingredients:
Red cabbage leaves
Bean sprouts, washed and dried
Finely shredded Chinese cabbage
Basil, mint or cilantro leaves
Lime and orange wedges

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry about 2 minutes, until no pink remains. Add water chestnuts; stir 1 minute. Add 5 T. Sesame Ginger Sauce and heat for 2 minutes, stirring often, until bubbly. Stir in the sliced green onions; remove from heat.
Transfer chicken to a bowl. Arrange on a large platter with lettuce, fillings, and sauces. Serve fillings in purple cabbage leaves if desired.
To eat, spoon some of each ingredient into a lettuce leaf and fold like a little burrito.
6-8 appetizer portions