Sweet & Spicy Mini Meat Loaf (Loaves)

Becky’s Sweet n Spicy Mini Meat Loaves

(Becky, the Mama)

One of my longtime friends and I share private joke between us: “I’ll bring the meatloaf.”

It all began when a major crisis dropped into my friend’s lap one day, and on my way out the door to meet her at a restaurant, I looked in my fridge and grabbed what I had on hand – some leftover meatloaf.  Others might have stopped to pick up flowers, or a card, or perhaps a book to encourage their hurting friend. Leave it to me to grab leftover meatloaf.  Someone is hurting? My auto-response is to feed them.  When people are in pain, I turn into a character not unlike the mothers from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “You no feel happy?  No worry, I make you meatloaf.”

I listened emphatically as my dear friend shared her heart-wrenching dilemma, hopefully creating a soft, safe space for her pain to land.  As we were parting, I reached down in a little bag and pulled out a Tupperware container.  “I’m so sorry you are going through this. With all my heart, I wish I could fix everything.  But since I can’t, and I brought you some meatloaf.”

We both laughed, even through the misty tears.  And that’s how “meatloaf” became a symbol of tangible caring between us.  As in most friendships, my friend and I have taken turns being in crisis, so it wasn’t long before something tough happened in my life, and I was the one in emotional agony. This time she brought the “meatloaf”—which evolved to mean comfort food in any form: from a bottle of wine, to a home-cooked meal, to guacamole and chips at a favorite Mexican joint.

When words fail me, giving gifts of home-cooked food has always helped fill the gaps.   And when it comes to sharing a dinner of comfort, few dishes hit the mark like my homemade sweet n’ spicy mini meat loaves.  The great thing about meat loaf is that it is one of those meals that keeps on giving. There’s nothing like a meatloaf sandwich for lunch, the day after its debut as dinner’s entree.  It’s tasty hot, warm or cold.

This meat loaf is a take-off on the best Old School Meatloaf Recipe in America’s History:  the one on the back of the Lipton Onion Soup Mix box.  I tweak it a bit, using soft bread, and less water.  I am not normally a big fan of packaged mixes, but there’s something about the Lipton soup in this recipe that makes it taste like the best meatloaf of my childhood memories.  It is never mushy, always firm, flavorful and slices beautifully.

To me, most meatloaf never has enough sauce.   So I am generous with the rich sweet and spicy topping, and by cooking it in an oblong Pyrex pan, rather than a loaf pan, you get a more generous sauce-to-meat ratio.  When you separate the seasoned meat into small sections before baking into mini-loaves, it also cuts the cooking time in half and the meat is cooked uniformly, all the way through.

This is a meal that stays on permanent rotation at our house, one of our top favorite dinners.  I make it at least once a month, year round. Twice, if a friend is in crisis.

Sweet n’ Spicy Mini Meat Loaves

Becky’s Sweet n’ Spicy Mini Meat Loaves

Serves six to ten people


1 package of dry Lipton onion soup mix

2 slices of soft wheat bread

2 eggs

¼ c. water

1/3 c. catsup

2 lb ground bison or lean beef (preferably organic, grass-fed, no antibiotics)

Sauce Ingredients

2/3 c. catsup

1/3 c.  chunky bottled chunky style salsa

1/3 c. brown sugar


Into a blender or food processor, put the first five ingredients.

Pour this mixture into a big bowl along with 2 pounds of ground beef.

Using your hands (I put little disposable sandwich bags on them), work the seasoning-bread mixture into the beef.

Pat into a large, oblong Pyrex pan.

Using the side of your hand or end of a wooden spoon,  “cut” the flat loaf into equal “mini loaves.” It will look like little irrigation ditches alongside the  mounds of meat.

Bake twenty to thirty minutes or until loaves are cooked through, draining off any grease as the meatloaves cook.

While meat is cooking make the sauce: put catsup, brown sugar, and salsa in sauce pan; heat and stir until sugar melts

When meat loaves when they are done, ladle the sauce over the top.  (If you have some leftover, save it and serve with the meal for those who want extra.) Put loaves-with-sauce back in oven and turn to broil. Broil until sauce is thickened caramelized.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
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The Title: Sweet & Spicy Mini Meat Loaves
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis: Fit for Royalty

BBQ Tenderloin with Green Chilis

I gave my mom and dad the DVDs  to Downton Abbey, which they apparently enjoyed as much as Greg and I did.  (Though she calls it Downtown Abbey, which I think is adorable so I’m not going to correct her.) The PBS Masterpiece Theater upper crust soap opera has taken America by storm.  But it should come with a warning, one that my mother put so well in an email the other night.  “Your father and I can hardly speak plain English anymore.” Alas, ’tis true.

Downton Abbey characters….we are royally hooked

Greg and I also got bit by the Downton Vocal Bug as we watched two hours of the DVD series night after night. It grew apparent as we were readying for bed one evening and I heard a loud  “whack” in the walk-in closet followed by my husband announcing, in a victorious British accent, “I have vanquished a moth!” I paused in the middle of applying my night cream to comment dramatically, “How terribly brave of you, Darling.”

We are fascinated with the servants from the show, called valets (“t” is pronounced), whose sole job it was to help rich people get into and out of their  clothes, shoes, and jewelry, along with keeping the garments washed, pressed and ready to wear at a whim. How I would love a valet, if only to keep my clothes off the closet floor and clean underwear in our drawers.

My father asked about our 4th of July plans yesterday and I told him, “We are just enjoying down time today.  Or as we like to call it, ‘Downtime Becky.'”  And I have to say, the meal I produced for the two of us was worthy of royalty. Especially the steak.

I am not a big ‘hunk of meat’ fan, as a general rule. I prefer meat as an appetizer with veggies and fruits taking up the bulk of my plate.  But a petite tenderloin steak, cooked to medium rare perfection and topped with bar-b-que sauce and green chilis, a tender cut of meat that is incredibly juicy and slices like butter… well, this is hard not to love.

So I bequeath this recipe to you,  to be cooked and served and savored on special occasions when you want to feel rich, and pampered and spoiled.  And if you haven’t seen the two seasons of Downton Abbey,  do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or buy them. You are in for a royal treat.

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis


Two tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick, brought to room temperature

1 T. grill or steak seasoning

2 t. Worchestershire sauce

2 T.  olive oil

2 T Bar-b-que sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)

2 T. chopped green chilis

Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Montreal Grill or Steak Seasoning, roasted chopped green chili peppers (In a jar! Love this new product)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour oil into an oven proof skillet, or preferably,  a grill pan.  Let the pan and oil get “screaming hot.”  In the meantime, pierce one side of the steaks with a fork in several places; turn the steaks over and pierce the other side as well.  Sprinkle both sides generously with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it in a little with your hands.

Put the steaks into the grill pan on high, and sear until the meat is golden brown with dark grill marks, just a few minutes.  Turn the steaks over and repeat.

Put a tablespoon of bbq sauce and a tablespoon of green chilis on top of each steak, then put the skillet of steaks in the oven for five minutes to let finish cooking in the middle.

Putting steaks with BBQ sauce into the oven, right before also topping with green chilis

I like our steaks medium rare so this amount of time is usually perfect for us, but of course, cook the steaks to your desired temperature.  A digital meat thermometer is a wonderful thing for this job.  Pull the pan out of the oven and tent the steaks loosely with foil for at least three minutes to let them sit and juices distribute. Serve to oohs and ahhs and applause.

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis

Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Meat Sauce over Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle

Now and then I get a hankering for something that tempts all the senses: salty/briny, sweet, garlicky, rich and tomato-y. And when I do there there’s nothing like Puttanesca sauce to satisfy.

There are hundreds of variations on Puttanesca, but basically, it is a rich marinara sauce with a touch of something salty and briny (capers, olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and or pepperocinis) to give it an extra tangy zip.  I also like to balance the zip with something sweet — chopped sun-dried tomatoes and/or brown sugar.

I recently served this dish, innocently, to a lovely group of female friends, many of them involved with some sort of Christian ministry.  They loved it, scraped the skillet clean!  In attendance that night was my good friend Lucille Zimmerman who is a writer and a therapist who loves to research little known facts with the passion of Curious George. She went right home and researched the meaning of the word, “Puttanesca.” She wrote to tell me that it means — oh, how shall I say this delicately? –“prostitute, whore, ladies of night, harlot,” just choose your favorite wanton woman term.  Probably not a “word of the day” you’d choose to teach your kids over pasta.

Apparently the potent aroma of this dish from Italy was so powerful that the scent lured in potential customers off the street, serving as an appetizer for, well, the other “desserts” on the menu.

Oh, well. There’s nothing I can do about the origin of this dish, but I can tell you there is something powerfully seductive about it!

Below is how I make my Puttanesca, but don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list: it is what I had on hand in the fridge. Just pull out whatever you have in your fridge or pantry — and as long as you have something salty & briny, and something sweet, to balance the basic marinara, you’ll probably love the results.

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce Over Pappardelle Lemon-Pepper Pasta

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Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Into a medium high skillet (I love my cast iron for this) saute:

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 chopped onion in 2 T. olive oil

Throw in any mixture of the following that you have on hand, stirring after each addition. (I do highly recommend that you use the chopped artichoke hearts, to me they are the most essential ingredient!)

1/3 – 1/2 c. chopped marinated artichoke heart
1/2 c. to 1 cup, any roasted or left over vegies, diced.
1 T. capers
2 T. olives, chopped, any kind
2 T. pesto sauce (if you have it on hand… no worries if not)
2 T. chopped pepperocini peppers
2 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, preferably)
1 – 2 T. brown sugar (this will depend on your taste and also how many “sour” ingredients that you put in your sauce that will need balanced by sweet)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like the ones with basil and garlic)
1 t. Italian seasoning or oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Simmer until sauce is thick and chunky, then season with salt, pepper, and Italian spices to taste.

You can dress up the recipe from here and add some flavorful meat of your choice. It is delicious with ½ lb of ground beef sauteed with ½ pound Italian sausage (chicken or turkey sausage is great) tossed in.  Or you can go vegan and roast garbanzo beans (see recipe below) and serve over your favorite pasta,  or spaghetti squash (see instructions for this below as well).  My daughter and I made this vegan version together (she suggested we try it with roasted garbanzos),  and it was AWESOME.

I personally adore this sauce served over Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta (which is a wide ribbon-like pasta). I looked up the root meaning of “pappardelle” and to my great relief, it simply means “to gobble up.” Whew.  Much better  “Italian word of the day” for little ones.

A light sprinkle of Parmesan (Vegan Parm if you are going dairy-free) and it is ready to serve.  The aroma should draw hungry folks to your kitchen in no time.

puttenesca sauce 007

Roasted Garbanzo Beans ( Chick Peas )
Drain, rinse and pat dry a can of garbanzo beans. Pour them evenly on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with olive oil, then roll them around. Sprinkle with salt or your favorite spiced salt. Roast at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are browned and crisped. (Shake them once or twice while baking so they can brown on two sides.)

Spaghetti Squash
Take a spaghetti squash and cut it in half length wise. Scoop out seeds. Put 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a big microwave proof bowl. Put one of the squash halves in the bowl, hole side up. (If it wobbles, trim a thin piece of the squash off the bottom so that it sits more level in the bowl.) Put the other squash half on top of the squash in the bowl. Don’t cover it. Just put in microwave for 10 minutes. Test done-ness by squeezing the top squash with a pot holder. If it squeezes easily, it is done. Take a fork and scrape “strings” of squash in spaghetti-like fashion.
Lightly salt, then top with sauce and roasted garbanzo beans. (You can also serve leftover spaghetti squash with butter and pepper and nutmeg for a side dish.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
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The Title: Seductive Puttanesca Sauce
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The BEST, Easiest , Juiciest Tri-Tip with Oodles of Au Jus

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This recipe for tri-tip is so lip-smacking good, that our pastor Hugh Halter once asked me to do a little cooking demo of it before a church service. I have no idea how he tied this into the sermon, but if Hugh is anything, he is creative.

Last week I made it again for our pastor and his wife and some friends.  As we sat on the back porch enjoying the meal, Hugh said, “I just don’t know how you make a piece of beef this juicy and tender!”  I reminded him that I had  once done a cooking demo on how to do it, in front of the entire church.   Another attribute of our beloved pastor is that he has a memory like Swiss Cheese and had totally forgotten all about it.

Another one of the men at the table that day, leaned back, patted his stomach and said, “Becky this tri tip has ruined me.  My father in law takes us out to the best steakhouse in town about once a year, and no steak I’ve had there is as good as this roast.”

Seriously, this tri-tip recipe will change your life.  Your IQ will raise, you’ll be more beautiful, your charm quota will hit an all time high.  At least in the eyes of the people to whom you serve this meal. They will look at you as if you are the Cooking Angel.

The best part: it will be the easiest roast you’ll ever make.  I typically pop this roast in the oven before church – a la our mothers and grandmothers of the past – and 3 hours later, we walk into a home filled with a heavenly fragrance, lunch practically done.

I serve this roast alongside mashed potatoes and a salad the first day.  But the second day is my favorite, because the  I take the thinly sliced marinated leftovers and put them atop thick slices of buttery garlic toast, then top this with grilled onions and peppers, and finally the au jus.  Au man, it is amazing.

I’ll first give the recipe for the Tri Tip, followed by the recipe for the Tri Tip Dip Sandwiches.   Prepare to amaze yourself.


Tri Tip Dip Open-Faced Sandwich (Before pouring on au jus)

Becky’s Tri Tip

Serves 8-10

Heat oven to 325 degrees


Two tri-tips (if you go to Sam’s Club, ours sells them two to a package)

Large Reynolds Cooking Bag

2/3 c. teriyaki sauce

1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup

3 ½ c. water


Take a large cooking bag and holding it upright like you would a grocery bag, fill it with teriyaki sauce, onion soup mix and warm water.  Carefully squish it around.  Then, put both tri tips in the bag (you may want to call for some help on this),  tie the bag with the twist tie that comes in the package.  Then carefully lay the tri tips into a large rectangle pan. I do not poke holes in the  cooking bag, and this seems to keep the roast juicier.

Two tri-tips in cooking bag with marinade, tied up and ready for roasting

Thus far, I’ve not blown up a bag and I’ve probably made this recipe 30 times.  (I use my biggest Pyrex.)  Pop in the oven at 325 and bake for 3 to 3. 5 hours.

When the tri-tip is done, carefully cut a slit in the bag and pour the juices into your biggest, deepest skillet.  Slice the roast (I use an electric knife) across the grain.  Then put the slices into the au jus in the skillet and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the roast with juices. Test to see if it needs additional salt and pepper.

Delicious served alongside or atop mashed potatoes.

Becky’s Tri Tip Dips & “Pouring on of Au Jus”

Tri Tip Dip Open-Faced Sandwiches

Serves 2

4 slices of French bread

1 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half

1 onion, sliced thin

1 large red or yellow pepper slice

Leftover Tri-Tip, sliced and Au Jus


Put 4 slices of French bread on a cookie sheet and spread with butter, then sprinkle with olive oil. Broil until golden brown and then rub each slice with the cut end of a piece of garlic.

Toasted garlic bread

Saute onions and peppers until soft.   Put two pieces of garlic bread on a plate, followed by several slices of warmed tri-tip, and generous portion of onion and peppers.   Serve warm au jus in a small bowl on plate.    Just before eating pour au jus over all and eat open-face style with knife and fork.

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie

Homestyle Iron Skillet Pot Pie

My daughter is usually somewhat appalled at the disorganization in my refrigerator, along with the occasional discovery of leftovers-turned-science experiments lurking in its dark recesses.

On her last visit to Denver, her husband Jared was hungry and I told him, “Just look in the fridge and see what looks good to you. You never know what you might find.”  To which Rachel immediately deadpanned, “Or what might jump out at you.”

So before I accidentally create new life forms from my leftovers,  I really do try to use them up in more timely fashion these days. There are certain recipes I  go-to when I need to use up the food I have on hand at the end of the week. This easy version of pot pie is one of the most successful and  requested ones.

It is a little slice of flaky, creamy, hot home-style goodness. I don’t know why pot pie tastes so much better in an iron skillet than in a pie pan, but it does. And you’ll be amazed how easy it is, how fast it cooks up and comes together. (However, if you don’t have an iron skillet,  it is still pretty darn amazing in a deep dish pie pan.)

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie

Serves 4 to 5


1 pie crust, your favorite recipe, or refrigerated version or vegan version. (Click link for a great flaky vegan recipe!)

1/4 c. flour

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter or Earth Balance (vegan)

1 1/2 c. chicken, veggie, or  beef broth

2 potatoes, peeled and  diced

4 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1/4 c. teriyaki sauce

1/2 t. grated garlic

1/2 c. frozen corn

1/2 c. frozen peas

Any other bits of leftover cooked veggies you have on hand. (I had about a 1/2 c cooked mushrooms to toss into the mix tonight, along with some leftover sauteed onions & peppers.)

Leftover diced cooked meat: chicken or beef, or any combination to make 1 1/2 to 2 cups, depending on how much you like and how much room is left in the skillet! (I diced a large cooked chicken breast and a cup of diced leftover roast. I often use leftover Rotisserie chicken meat for this dish.)

For Vegans: Use 1 can drained kidney beans and 1 can drained butter beans in place of meat. The kidney beans add a nice firmness and color and the butter beans are big and creamy and well, buttery. The combination makes a very tasty veggie pot pie.  If you have a favorite vegan meat substitute, this could also be used.

Salt & Pepper to taste


Preheat to 400 degrees.

Cook diced potatoes and carrots in about two cups water with dash of salt, turning  burner to high to get a boil going, then down to medium heat to let them simmer.

While potatoes and carrots are cooking, mix 1/4 c. flour with 2 T. oil and 2 T. butter (Earth Balance for Vegans) in bottom of  10 inch iron skillet. Cook and stir constantly on medium heat until  a paste forms (happens quickly), and while stirring with one hand (use a whisk),  pour 2 1/2. cups veggie, beef or chicken broth slowly into skillet to make thickened gravy. (If you are new to gravy-making it helps to have a partner do the slow pouring of broth while you whisk.)


To the simmering gravy add:

2 T. teriyaki sauce

1/2 t. grated garlic

1/2 c. frozen corn

1/2 c. frozen peas

Any other leftover veggies you have on hand. (I had about a 1/2 c cooked mushrooms to toss in to the mix tonight, along with some leftover sauteed onions & peppers.)

To this add the drained, cooked carrots and potatoes. Gravy should be pretty thick and creamy (about consistency of heavy cream);  adjust to desired thickness by simmering more to thicken, or adding a little more broth to thin. (You can add a splash of half-in-half or cream if you want a more creamy gravy.)

At this point, add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Remove from burner.

Place uncooked pie crust over the top of the hot gravy-veggie mixture and carefully (that skillet is hot!) tuck the edges of the pie crust just inside the cast iron pan as pictured.  Cut decorative slits in pie crust with a sharp knife  to allow steam to escape.

Transfer skillet (using potholders) to 400 degree oven  for 20 minutes or until crust is flaky and golden.

Serve pot pie at the table in the skillet, with big spoon to let each person dip out what they want. (Be sure to wrap a tea towel around handle of iron skillet so nobody burns themselves touching it.)   Best served and eaten in bowls to catch every drop of goodness.  Serve with a simple side of sliced fresh fruit and you’ve got dinner!

Variations: Some people prefer more “crust” with their pot pie. I love pie crust, too, but too often the bottom of pot pies can be soggy. So I will simply cook an extra round of pie dough, flat, on a cookie sheet,  break it up in about 2 inch pieces, and serve in a bowl at the table, allowing “pie crust” lovers to add more crispy crusts to their bowl if desired. No soggy bottoms!

Jalapeno Jelly & Gorgonzola Burgers

Jalapeno Jelly Gorgonzola Burgers

I am married to a man who appreciates a good meal like you wouldn’t believe.  He enjoys the gourmet fare I occasionally serve, but one of his favorite suppers is a simple hamburger patty, a side of corn and a tossed salad.  I served this meal to him not long ago, on a day when he must have been really hungry because as I handed Greg his plate, he looked up gratefully and said, “You saved my life!”

“Really?” I asked.  “Just by cooking a hamburger patty?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

Wow, I had no idea I welded that much power with a quarter pound of ground round.

Tonight I decided to jazz up his patty a bit, by mixing the meat with mustard, Worcestershire and jalapeno jelly, then stuffing it with Gorgonzola cheese and topping it with a bit more jelly and chopped jalapenos.

He loved it.   I loved it.  Lots of happy flavors did a salsa in my mouth.

I now share it with you,  as my small part in helping to save lives.

Jalapeno Jelly Gorgonzola Burgers

Becky’s Jalapeno Jelly Gorgonzola Burgers


Makes 4 juicy patties, serves 2 – 4 people, depending on how hungry they are!

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

* 1/4 c.  jalapeno jelly, divided (you’ll use some for topping)

1 T. mustard (I prefer stone ground, but use what ever kind you like)

1 large clove garlic, grated

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

4 one inch cubes of Gorgonzola or blue cheese  (you can use any cheese you prefer)

4 t. chopped pickled jalapenos (you may also use fresh jalapenos, too, just expect  an extra kick of heat)

* Alternate substitute for Jalapeno Jelly: Mix 3 T. of your favorite jelly with 1 T. oickled jalapeno juice, Tabasco or buffalo sauce


In a large bowl, use clean hands to mix hamburger meat with 2 T. of the  jalapeno jelly (or substitute), and the next 4 ingredients. Divide into 8 equal size hamburger patties, making them a bit on the thin side. Crumble each 1 inch cube of cheese in the middle of 4 hamburger patties as shown in the picture below.

Top the cheese covered patties with the remaining 4 patties and press to seal the edges.

Place four patties in a hot skillet (may use a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking) and brown until nice  caramelization takes place on one side.  Flip and turn stove temp down to medium,  cook about a minute to let the other side get good and brown as well. Then lower temp to low, cover and cook until burgers are cooked all the way through,  to your liking.

Remove from skillet to plate lined with paper towel to let excess fat drain off.  Spread a teaspoon of jalapeno jelly over each burger before serving, then garnish each patty with about a teaspoon of chopped jalapeno.

Wonderful with corn and a green salad made with tomatoes and avocados.   Or make into gourmet hamburgers with a dollop of guacamole between the burgers and buns.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Jalapeno Jelly Gorgonzola Burgers
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/03/21/jalapeno-jelly-gorgonzola-burgers
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved