Monday, December 31, 2012

Orange You Happy It's New Year's Eve?

We're toasting in the new year with family and friends in Michigan tonight. From all of us to all of you...we're wishing everyone health, happiness, love, prosperity and blessed peace. Happy 2013!!!

Pomegranate Orange Bellini

·splash orange simple syrup
·splash pomegranate juice
·champagne or asti spumante
(gingerale for the kiddies)
·sugar or orange-infused sugar
·candied orange peel

Dip rim of champagne flute in juice. Dip into sugar. Gently add simple syrup and juice. Stir. Top off with the bubbly. Garnish with candied orange peel.


NOTE: Remember the Gingerbread Figgy Pudding Triffle recipe? This is how I'm using everything from making the candied orange peel! The candied orange peel makes a beautiful and delicious garnish, too!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Black Bottom Macaroon Cupcakes

Looking for a casual, showstopping dessert for a special occasion? Isn't everyone? Look no further, friends. These fancy cupcakes are so easy you won't have to save them for a celebration. No kidding!

The brownie bottom is a mix and the macaroon topping is a from-scratch recipe that's a snap to make.  Two simple parts that together make a really special dessert.  Let's get to's the recipe!

Black Bottom Macaroon Cupcakes

  • 1 brownie mix, prepared as directed - For gluten-free prep, I like Gluten-Free Pantry brand the best or use your favorite regular brand if you don't have to worry about gluten

  • 14 ounce bag of coconut flakes
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cupcake liners in cupcake tins - I usually get about 14 or so out of a batch.  Be depends on how high you fill the cups.
Divide the brownie batter evenly among the liners.
Prepare the macaroon batter:  In a mixing bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and salt on high until they come to a medium peak. Set aside. 

In a separate large bowl, mix coconut, condensed milk and vanilla until well combined.  Fold the egg white mixture into the coconut mixture combining lightly, but completely.
Spoon the macaroon batter evenly on top of the brownie batter in the cupcake liners.
Bake 25 - 30 minutes until the macaroon topping is browned and gorgeous!  Cool completely on a racks.
NOTE:  These can be done in small tassie-size liners in a tassie pan to make little bites for cookie trays.  Very nice for a wedding or party. YES!  You CAN make these for a special occasion, too!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gingerbread Figgy Pudding and Dark Rum Trifle

There are flavors that send me time traveling back to the Christmases of my childhood. Christmas dinners back then always started with orange sherbet in gingerale (fancy!) and ended with traditional desserts - usually more than one

Aunt Anna and Uncle Bert, PapPap, the cousins, my sister, mom and dad were all seated around the big old dining room table swapping jokes (occasionally even a slightly naughty one!) and telling stories until long into the night. Sometimes we'd play cards around the same old table...Flinch, 500 Rummy, Canasta...good old-fashioned games those were. 

It's the nose-tingling scent of warm spices in the air - ginger, clove, allspice, cinnamon - that I think triggers those wonderful memories.  We always had a mincemeat pie or a plum pudding with those very same Dickensian notes - rum or brandy, dried fruits and spices. I was on a quest to recreate the flavors of Christmases of old. But with a twist. What to do, what to do.

So I decided a trifle would lighten up somewhat heavy flavors with a fluffy vanilla cream.  Fresh pears came to mind to add a little crunch and brightness. Thus the dessert came together. 

It was beautiful! Even better, it was just what I had in mind.  Gingery, spicy goodness all together with creamy mousse and lovely dark rum...and just a glimmering of zesty orange. 

Maybe it wasn't the simple, easy days of the 1950's again, but that's okay.  Back then we didn't have our kids and grandkids to make brand new memories together and to share some of the old stories with.  You know, that's what special family dinners are all about...remembering the past and making memories for the future. 

Wishing you all nothing but the sweetest of your own warm remembrances...and to making some of the best stories ever!

Gingerbread Figgy Pudding and Dark Rum Trifle

  • 2/3 of an 8"X8" pan of gingerbread, cubed - I used the recipe from "The Cake Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free" by Ann Byrn using a Hodgson Mills Yellow cake mix.  (If you are using a normal, NON-gluten-free mix, make an 8"X8" pan and make cupcakes out of the rest of the batter.) Snack on the 1/3 that's left!

  • 2 oranges, Cut the peel off with a sharp knife and make strips 3" X 1/8".  Cut the oranges in half and juice.  Reserve.
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, diced
  • 1/2 cup dark rum, or more if needed, I used Kraken
  • 2 Bosc pears, cored and diced

  • 1 package French vanilla mousse mix, prepared. I used Dr. Oetker brand - gluten-free
  • 8 ounces Cool Whip Lite®, thawed

  • candied orange peel, see recipe below - use peel from above

Bake an 8" X 8" pan of gingerbread a couple of days ahead of when you want to serve the trifle. 

You're going to make the trifle the day ahead of when you want to serve this - quite nice for a more relaxed party, yes?  The morning you're making the trifle, put the diced figs into a 2 cup measuring cup.  Add the reserved orange juice and the rum.  If the rum doesn't cover the figs completely, add more until it does.  Set aside for several hours before making the trifle.

Later in the day, make the French vanilla mousse according to package directions.  Let sit for a few minutes and then gently fold the Cool Whip into the mousse.  Set aside.

Assembly:  To the bottom of a nice trifle dish or other tall, pretty bowl, make a layer of 1/2 the gingerbread cubes.  Strain the liquid from the figs - RESERVE!  Scatter half the figs over the gingerbread, drizzle half the reserved OJ and rum over the that, layer half the mousse mixture over top and repeat layers ending with mousse.  Refrigerate overnight loosely covered with foil.

Before serving, decorate the top with candied orange peel and serve in beautiful goblets.

Candied Orange Peel:

  • the orange strips from above

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the orange strips, bring to boil again.  Boil gently 15 minutes.  Pour through a strainer and rinse while gently stirring the strips to rinse thoroughly. Set aside.

In the same pot, bring 
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour.  Let cool.

Pour the orange strips through a strainer and collect the liquid in a large container.  THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL ORANGE SIMPLE SYRUP!  It would be a shame to waste it.  Use it for cocktails or to drizzle over yellow cakes or...well, just use your imagination.  Refrigerate it.

Okay, back to the candied orange spread 
  • 1 cup of sugar 
on a baking sheet.  Toss the orange peel with it until the strips are totally coated with sugar.  Let sit like that overnight. 

Use what you want for garnishing the trifle and save the rest for something else.  Wouldn't the orange simple syrup and candied orange peel make a lovely Christmas morning Bellini?  Maybe with a little cranberry juice for color?  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chorizo, Poblano & Smoked Gouda Breakfast Strata

Merry Christmas!  

Here's a quick little post for today's quick and easy breakfast casserole. We put together a strata last night to just pop into the oven this fuss whatsover on this busy and bustling morning.   

Of course, we added a Christmas-y red Bloody Mary to start off the day right.  Cheers!

Chorizo, Poblano & Smoked Gouda Breakfast Strata

  • 2 chorizo links, removed from casing, crumbled and fried.  Drain and set aside.
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted or grilled until blackened all over, popped into a plastic container immediately.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Rub off the blackened peel, remove seeds and cut into 1/4" dice. Reserve 2 T. for garnish.
  • 2 large poblano peppers, roast as above & pop into the same plastic container.  After removing skin & seeds, sliver.  Reserve several slivers for garnish.
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, Toast in a little olive oil in a very hot skillet until beginning to brown.  Remove.
  • 7 ounces gouda cheese, be sure it's SMOKED gouda.  Shred.
  • 8 slices white bread, gluten-free to make this GF (I used Whole Foods Light White) or a good French bread or challah if you're not dealing with GF issues

  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus extra to grease casserole dish

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

Beat the eggs and milk together.

In a buttered 2 1/2 quart oval shallow casserole dish (or equivalent), layer half the bread, half the mixed poblanos and red pepper, half the corn and 2/3 of the smoked gouda. Add the rest of the bread, the peppers, the corn, the last of the smoked gouda and top with the crumbled chorizo.

Pour the egg mixture evenly and slowly over the top.  Cover with saran wrap or if you have a lid for the dish, use that - I did.  (Love that CorningWare French White baking stuff!) Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, set oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the casserole for an hour or until the casserole is puffed, browned and beautiful.  Top with the shredded cheddar, bake another 10 minutes and remove.  Let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.  Garnish with the reserved red and poblano peppers.  Serve!

This is easy to cut in half.  Use half of everything and make it in a 1 1/2 quart oval shallow casserole dish.  This is the smaller of the set of 2 CorningWare French White set.  The 2 1/2 quart size is the larger of the 2. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday Sauerkraut-Making at The Butterjoint

Here's a math problem for you:  
        1 huge batch of thinly sliced veggies
        + salt
        + time = ?
The answer is sauerkraut! 

Butterjoint, the new cocktail lounge that is part of Legume restaurant on N. Craig Street in Oakland tweeted recently they were holding a FREE sauerkraut making class -  first come, first served who responded to the Tweet. I hopped right onto that German heritage, and perhaps the spirits of my frugal German ancestors, wouldn't let me pass up that deal!
Tyler (left) and Trevett (right)
Six sauerkraut making neophytes gathered in the gleaming, pristine stainless steel kitchen that serves both Butterjoint and Legume. Trevett, Executive chef, and Tyler demonstrated the technique involved in the proper preparation of the soon-to-be fermented produce. Then the hands-on fun began. 

We each got our own cutting board and selected a damned sharp knife. Cabbages were plucked from plastic tubs on the counter to give our own amateur knife skills a whirl. Cabbage wasn't the only veggie waiting to be shredded...rutabagas, celeriac, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, onions and parsnips waited to make a delightful melange of flavors. No plain Jane stuff going on here, this was going to be sauerkraut with pizzazz!  

As our busy, but careful (sharp knives, you know) group sliced and slivered our way through pounds of veggies, we deposited the fruits (veggies?) of our labors into a giant rectangular plastic bin. Slowly, but surely, the mound grew until it weighed enough to be able to end up with a quart jar of goodies for each person in the class. 

Three tablespoons of salt for each five pounds of shredded cabbage and vegetables was sprinkled over the jumble of veggie confetti. Then the muscle power kicked in. 

Developing both sauerkraut AND muscles!
Each of us took our turn mixing, kneading and squeezing the mishmash with salt until there was a bin of vegetables that had exuded liquid to become the wet mass we were looking for.

Layer by layer we tightly packed and tamped salted, wet veggies into into our own quart jars. Trevett and Tyler used a wider mouth jar and a wine bottle for the compression process - more efficient than our small ladles or muddlers.

Taking the mixture to the very top of the container and being sure to have enough liquid to cover it all, the jars were capped and the waiting began. We were cautioned to "burp" our jars regularly and not to tighten them too much.  

How long until we finally get to enjoy our very own, good-for-you homemade (okay, restaurant kitchen-made) fermented veggies? That depends on you. Trevett recommended you taste it in a couple of days to see how you like it and occasionally after that until it suits your own tastes. His advice was to refrigerate it until used once it reaches the sourness you like.

Why go to all this trouble? For starters, anything homemade tastes better than canned or store-bought and the canned variety

Then there's the health benefit. Just like live-culture yogurt, the fermentation process develops beneficial bacteria that's good for your body and for your gut. Store bought sauerkraut kills the live bacteria in the canning process.  It might taste good, but the health benefit is lost. 

Another big positive is being able to ferment whatever veggie selection strikes your fancy at the moment...and whatever is in season at the time. Probably the best reason of all is that it just tastes good.  Well, that and it was a hell of a lot of fun.          

Will I do this again?  Already I'm making a list of the combos I want to try....cabbage, onion and apple with caraway seeds is next on my list! That should be perfect for my Winekraut from last fall.  

Winekraut Casserole with Bratwursts and Dumplings

I've already checked into buying my very own sauerkraut crock. Ace Hardware has a great one at a very reasonable price.  You hear that Santa?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas-y Candy Cane-tinis

Ho! Ho! Ho! Do I have a Christmas cocktail to make your spirits bright!  Candy Cane-tini anyone?

How do you concoct this cocktail? First you start with a homemade candy cane vodka.  And that is as simple as could be. Take a bottle of vodka - not the most expensive, but not the cheapest on the shelf either. Add 20 mini candy canes, shake and wait patiently for the candy to dissolve.  

Oh, get that mournful look off your's usually done in a couple of hours. Not quite instant gratification, but the next best thing to it. And does this pretty bottle make a lovely gift. Actually the recipe makes 2 bottles...a gift for someone special and one to keep!

How about the martini...what else do you need to serve this up to all your holiday guests? I'll give you the full details below along with the recipe for the cocktail, but for starters you'll need White Creme de Cacoa, simple syrup or agave syrup, heavy cream and just a little club soda or seltzer to make some serious Yuletide yummy-ness. What are we waiting for? Let's make some cocktails!

Candy Cane Vodka

  • 1 - 1.75 liter bottle of vodka (that's the big one with the handle or equivalent)
  •  40 mini candy canes
  • 2 wine bottles (I get mine at the wine making store along with corks and plastic sleeves that shrink and make them look all pretty)

Snap the candy canes so they fit through the opening of the bottles and put 20 in each bottle.  

Using a funnel, pour vodka into the bottle up to where the neck narrows at the shoulders of the bottle. Cork the bottle, turn upside down and move it around a little to dislodge the candy from the bottom and set on a kitchen counter or someplace else out of the way. That's it essentially. When you pass the bottles occasionally, check to see if the candy is dissolved and turn them upside down to agitate and help dissolve the candy.  

If you want to get all fancy (I did), you can put plastic sleeves on the neck and shrink them down to seal so they look all pretty.  It's easy.  Ask at the wine supply store. 

You don't have to stop the fancy-ness there, you can get bottle labels to print out on the computer and really do them up! Just ask the wine peeps at the store - they'll be happy to sell you anything and everything you can imagine to make the prettiest gifts this side of the North Pole.  

Christmas-y Candy Cane-tinis

  • 2 1/2 oz. Candy Cane Vodka (yep! The stuff YOU made!)
  • 2 1/2 oz. White Creme de Cacao
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 oz. heavy cream
  • splash of club soda or seltzer
  • mini candy cane for garnish

Add vodka, Creme de Cacao and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker.  Add ice 3/4 of the way up the tin. Cap tightly and shake until the tin frosts over and is very cold.  

Strain into a martini glass (if you wish, you can crush candy canes and rim the glass with them ahead of time - fancy!), add a splash or so of soda or seltzer and float the cream over the surface of the liquid in the glass. Garnish with a mini candy cane.  

Cheers everyone!     

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stout-Hearted Beef Stew

In my life of cooking stews of all variety over these many years, Sunday's pot of meat, stout and veggies was proclaimed, "The BEST stew you've ever made!" by the hubster.  He's had a lot of experience sampling stews, I can say that!

What made that mixture so wonderful? My guess is it was the stout and beer that made Mark grin from ear to ear...and go back for seconds. Beer does that. 

I was lucky to find Green's gluten-free stout at the local store. Hearty notes of stout added depth and richness and a subtle sweetness, the addition of beer lightened both the intensity of the stout AND the impact of GF stout on my wallet.  $7 for a pint of stout...whew! But it was worth it.   Just ask Mark.

One more little touch added a surprise to the mix. Gingersnaps.  Cookies in stew?  Yes!  German cooks frequently use gingersnaps to add a touch of subtle spice that also thickens while it flavors the dish. You'll find German Sauerbraten takes advantage of these little flavor bombs of if it works well there, why not in stew?  

By the way, Trader Joe makes a terrific gluten-free gingersnap at a very reasonable price. Reasonable enough to make up for the cost of the GF stout? No, but maybe it help balance things out a little...just maybe. 

Stout-Hearted Beef Stew

  • 3 pounds stew beef, cut into large cubes
  • 3 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut into 1/2" lardons
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste - quite liberally

  • 1 pint stout or dark ale, gluten-free to make this gf - I used Green's Gluten-free Stout, you can use their Dubbel Dark Ale, too.
  • 12 ounces beer, gluten-free to make this gf, I used Red Bridge Gluten-free beer
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled,  3/4" dice, parsnips about the size of 3 large carrots each
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into 3/4" pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 large red potatoes, 3/4" dice, leave skins on - potatoes the size of your fist
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, 3/4"  dice, leave skins on - potatoes the size of your fist
  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1 pound pearl onions, frozen - SO much easier than peeling those fresh little suckers!
  • 32 ounces beef broth (be sure it's gluten-free to make this GF)
  • 18 gingersnaps, crushed, gluten-free to make this GF

Fry bacon in the bottom of a large Dutch oven or enameled pot.  Remove bacon & reserve for another use. (Snack time for the cook is perfectly acceptable as another use.)  Add canola oil to pot.

Season beef cubes with salt & pepper liberally.  Add beef to pot in two batches, browning each batch well on all sides.  Remove from pan.

Add the stout to the bottom of the pan and stir up all the browned bits.  Add the beer.  Add all the veggies except the Brussels Sprouts.  Add beef back into the pot and mix well.  Add the beef broth.  Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer about 2 hours until veggies and beef are tender. 

Add Brussels sprouts to pot and crumble the gingersnaps into the pot as well.  Stir well.  Cover and simmer another 15-20 minutes.  The gravy should be thickened and sprouts tender.  Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary and serve!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dark Rum Cranberry Apple Mincemeat Squares

Finally!  The very first batch of Christmas cookies are done. Honestly, I didn't think it was ever going to happen.  

Just so much going on with work, Christmas shopping, a fun trip to Cleveland last weekend, sauerkraut making class yesterday (more on that SOON!) and just all the everyday stuff we all have going on. How do any of us do this?!

One way I am doing it this year is to simplify.  Instead of a fussy cookie, this super easy bar cookie was what I managed to fit in between everything else today. Bar cookies are a busy cookie baker's best friend, you know.  

In this case, it was a simple matter of throwing some ingredients into the food processor and pulsing a few times, chopping an apple to mix with store-bought mincemeat and a couple other items and then layering the two before baking.  Cool, cut into squares and there you have it.  Almost instant, deliciously Christmas-y cookie bars.  

Yep, all the cookies this year are going to be just as easy....don't we ALL need a little break?!

  Dark Rum Cranberry Apple Mincemeat Squares
  • 2 cups oats, gluten-free to makes these GF or regular if gluten isn't an issue
  • 2 cups flour, Jules gluten-free flour or regular all purpose flour if gluten isn't an issue
  • 1 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 sticks butter, cold, cut into small dice
  • 1 cup pecans

  • 1 jar mincemeat, Crosse and Blackwell brand
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, fine dice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum, I used Kraken - use your favorite

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" X 13" baking dish with 2" sides.  Butter all the way up and well.

Using a food processor, add oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter.  Pulse until the butter is well incorporated.

Press 2/3 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the buttered pan.  Press firmly and evenly into place.

Add the nuts to the flour mixture in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the nuts are chopped into the mixture.  Set aside.

Mix the mincemeat, diced apple, cranberries and rum together well.  Spread evenly over the flour mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Using your hands, evenly spread the flour and nut mixture over the top of the filling.  Press down firmly and evenly.

Bake 60-70 minutes until the top is browned nicely and the filling begins to bubble up around the edges.  Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack.  I like to wait until the next day to cut this into squares. 
NOTE:  This could be even easier if I didn't go to the bother of adding fresh apple to the mixture.  Why do I do it then?  Because my mom always added fresh apple to her mincemeat mixture.  She said it gave a fresher taste.  I agree.  That's why I add cranberries and rum, too.  Well....maybe the rum is just to make it a little boozy tasting.  Nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bacon Roasted Green Beans & Shallots

Roasted veggies, I love you. Your crispy golden bits and crunchy pieces on the outside, sweet and caramel-y roasty toasty blasted EASY you are to make! You're just about perfect.

Back when I first began roasting vegetables, I started with basic roasted cauliflower and garlic.  Who knew cauliflower could be elevated to such dizzyingly gustatory heights?!  I progressed to butternut squash with just an occasional little tickle of dark brown sugar.  Oh my.  Next I think was broccoli....another winner.  Then green beans...which became my favorite.  Just a simple drizzle of olive oil, a scattering of garlic clove halves, a sprinkle of Kosher salt.  Voila!  

And then one day inspiration struck.  In the form of bacon.  (No surprise there, huh.)  If oil keeps veggies from drying out, wouldn't BACON serve the same purpose?!  Thus the grand experiment was born.  

I lightly sprayed the pan with a little olive oil and scattered the beans.  Bacon was cut crosswise into 1/2" lardons and distributed evenly across the beans followed by chunks of beautiful purple shallots and it was all crowned with a hefty grinding of black pepper.  It felt like it was a recipe for success...and it was.  You might even call it a triumph.  Yeah....I think I just did.

We serve these frequently now, sometimes finished with a little splash of balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I roast small cubes of potatoes in the same pan along with some garlic cloves, too.  When that's finished off with a little vinegar it becomes a lovely bacon-y roasted potato and green bean salad.  Do some of your own experiments,  see what delightful creations emerge from your oven. I think you'll be quite pleased.  Speaking of please....please share your success stories here...I'd love to hear them!

Bacon Roasted Green Beans & Shallots

Serves 4

  • 6 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut across into 1/2" lardons
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed - my favorite kind is the haricot verts (tiny thin green beans) from Costco!
  • olive oil spray (I have a Misto filled with my fave olive control the quality that way)
  • 1 shallot, a large clove of it, cut into big pieces so they don't burn - maybe 1/4 cup more or less
  • freshly ground black pepper, lots

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a large rimmed baking sheet lightly with olive oil.

Spread out the beans evenly on the baking sheet.  Scatter the shallot pieces over the beans and the bacon evenly over the top of everything.  Grind lots of black pepper over the top and roast.  

Close up!

Halfway through roasting - maybe 15 minutes - stir well.  Continue roasting until the bacon is cook and the beans are crinkly.  


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pastitsio...A Kind of Greek Lasagna!


I'm still in the midst of cozying into the comfort food time of year.  Yep, that period where long remembered family favorites still gratify our souls and warm us from the inside outLike long lost friends, we're happy they've come to call again.

A craving has been building for a good old fashioned casserole for quite a while now.  My first thought was the same macaroni, ground beef, cheese and tomato casserole that my family's been enjoying since my mom made it so many years ago.  Everybody has a recipe for that one...I transformed our version over the years to incorporate more veggies (especially fresh spinach) into the mix - fool the kids, you know?  You don't have a recipe for that?  I'll post it another time.  

The family favorite casserole this time is a beloved Patitsio.  You've never heard of it?  The components of this dish are similar to the macaroni casserole described above...but oh so different.  Pasta?  Check.  Cheese?  Check.  Beef?  Check. Tomatoes, onions? Check and check.  

Only this is more like a Greek lasagna with layers of cheese-enveloped pasta, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg-scented ground beef, onion and tomato and topped with a layer of a rich, cheesy cream sauce that browns to perfection. Once cooled, it cuts into beautiful squares lasagna-style. Oh yeah.

Those unexpected warm fall spices add such a subtle flavor that you can't quite put your finger on...yet gives the recipe it's uniqueness...its essential Greek-ness.  What it makes me think of is Cincinnati Chili or a great hot dog chili...cinnamon is the secret special ingredient in both of those faves.  Those Greeks sure know how to spice their beef dishes!

When we first moved back to Pittsburgh...back in 1986, this became one of our favorites.  I don't make it often, all the cheese, eggs, beef, pasta and half & half make it a special occasion dish only.  So we had a special occasion.  It was Monday.  Everyone deserves to make Monday special!  You too!


Serves 8
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour (or cornstarch to make this gluten free)
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 8 ounce can tomato paste (little one)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 pound small penne pasta (gluten-free to make this GF)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese plus extra for top
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Cream sauce:  In a small saucepan, melt butter then stir in flour (or cornstarch).  Cook over medium heat until sandy.  Lower heat.  Gradually stir in half and half and broth.  Cook, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened.  Whisk in parmesan, salt and pepper until cheese is thoroughly melted. 

Meat:  In a skillet, melt butter and olive oil.  Saute onion until translucent.  Add beef and brown, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, tomato paste and wine.  Cook until slightly thickened.

Pasta:  Cook pasta according to directions, undercooking slightly. Drain.  Beat eggs, 1/2 cup of parmesan and butter in small bowl.  Mix thoroughly with pasta.

Assembly:  Pour half of the penne into a deep, buttered 9 x 13 baking dish and press down firmly all over.  

Spread 1 cup of the cream sauce evenly over the pasta.

Spoon all the meat on top evenly, spreading to edges.  

Add another cup of cream sauce and top with remaining pasta.  Press down firmly again evenly over the top.  Pour the remaining cream sauce over all and top with the remaining parmesan cheese.  

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Cool 15-20 minutes and cut into squares. 

NOTE:  Feel free to cut this in half and bake in an 8 X 10 baking dish or something similar.