Everyday Mom's Meals: March 2022

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Copycat For Lent

 We are smack dab in the middle of Lent...so have you run out of meat-free ideas on Friday yet? You've done cheese pizza, tuna sandwiches, fish sticks...what's next? How about a delicious copycat of a favorite restaurant pasta, that can be done faster than it takes the Doordash driver to deliver it?

We love Olive Garden (well, let's be honest, we love pasta, period) but with the rising cost of everything it isn't a place that is on our regular restaurant rotation. Don't get me wrong, we love to eat out, but we have our places that we know we can feed all 4 of us without breaking the bank; and Olive Garden is more of a "special occasion" place, like for my birthday last month! 

Nobody can get enough of those fresh baked bread sticks and unlimited salad (Oh, I have a great copycat recipe for that famous salad too! Click here to see it!) but their pasta is definitely what keeps everyone coming back over and over. Let's not forget their amazing soups too! I have a terrific slow cooker version of their Zuppa Toscana which is my favorite they serve. 

My husband's favorite Olive Garden pasta is their Fettuccine Alfredo, so that was the next copycat recipe I needed to conquer. I have been making a homemade alfredo for years, but theirs definitely tastes different. But just like mine, it is super easy and can be done while the pasta cooks! That's right, you can have this delicious homemade pasta supper on the table in about 30 minutes! 

If Olive Garden is one of our favorite restaurants too, but reserved for extra special days, now you can satisfy that craving any time you want! Plus, if you need some extra dinners for the next few Lent Fridays, problem solved!

Copycat Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo

1 lb. fettuccine pasta, cooked to package directions

6 TBS butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

1 TBS minced garlic

2 TBS flour

1 cup grated Parmesan Romano cheese

Parsley, for garnish

Salt and Pepper

While pasta cooks, melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook garlic for 1 minute until fragrant. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and milk a little at a time, whisking the entire time, until well combined. Bring to a gentle bubble and then reduce heat to simmer. Stir in cheese, in a figure 8 pattern, until thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. When pasta is cooked, drain well and add to skillet with sauce. Using tongs, gently toss to coat. Garnish with parsley and serve.


Shared at Weekend Potluck




Sunday, March 13, 2022

Easy As The Can

Two. Years. Some days it feels like March 2020 was yesterday. Other days it feels like it was sooooooo long ago. This pandemic has messed with so many things, my sense of time included. 

There will be times I mention something about school and my oldest has to remind me "Mom, that was Freshman year!" He's a Junior now- and the school year is more than half over. In that way time has flown. 

But in other ways the past two years feel like they have dragged on far too long, and I think we are all ready to breathe again and find what normal looks like now.

How many time in the last 24 months have we heard the words "supply chain issues"? I can honestly say before March 2020, I don't know if I ever heard them before, let alone uttered them.

From the beginning days when there was no toilet paper or hand sanitizer to be found, to fast forward to present day and grocery store shelves are still empty in some areas and you never know week to week what you will be able to find. 

What things are still hard to find in your area? Here in northern Indiana, as of late they include jarred gravy, fresh chicken tenderloins, frozen french fries and potatoes, some frozen vegetables, juice boxes, and canned sloppy joe sauce...leading us to this recipe!

Ironically, I just saw the canned sloppy joe sauce yesterday at the store, but last month when I needed it, there was none to be found- name brand or generic!

No biggie. Believe me I know what a small problem it was; and let me say this too. I realize the supply chain issues we've been dealing with over the last 2 years are very minor to what others face around the world daily. I do. But that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to be frustrated when we are standing in the grocery store trying to re-do our menu plans because we can't find an ingredient we needed. For someone like me, those situations can be stressful and bring anxiety- and when it happens almost weekly it can become exhausting. 

 Anyway, not being able to find the canned mix forced me to make some sloppy joes from scratch. I used to do it a lot when Alex was little, but over the years I got lazy. Yep, I admit it! 

If you've never made them like this, it's super easy, and having control over the ingredients is always an added bonus! 

These sammies are great for a weeknight supper, game day food or even camping take along! They are made stove-top, but could easily be kept warm in the Crock Pot. You could even make the meat mixture, freeze it and reheat it when it was time to serve! Very versatile!

Supply chain issues are now part of our every day vernacular. One way to lessen the stress when they arise is to have some simple recipes ready to go when those convenience ingredients are no where to be found!

If you are serving a crowd, set everything out and let everyone build their perfect Joe. You could always prepare the recipe as is, and then put it in a slow cooker on warm to last the whole party. That tip is also great for when the kids are coming and going from sports and after school activities and everyone is eating at different times!

Homemade Sloppy Joes. Everyday Mom's Meals

Homemade Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

2 TBS brown sugar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cups beef broth

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

 Whisk ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce together in a bowl. Set aside. Brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet or Dutch oven until no longer pink. Drain if needed Add garlic and mix well. Add one cup beef broth, scraping the bottom of pan. Add ketchup mixture and remaining cup of beef broth. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is slightly thick. Be sure to stir a few times during cooking to avoid scorching. Serve on buns with cheese, pickles, peppers, etc.


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Easter Planning

Have you started to brainstorm your Easter menu yet? I am well on my way to being done with mine, but I realize not everyone is totally OCD  when it comes to planning like me. Regardless if you've begun, or just groaned at the thought, I have a terrific recipe that could easily be added to your menu...or be a tasty side dish this week for supper! 

I have mentioned before my boys are mac and cheese connoisseurs. They like it any way they can get it, from the blue box to my homemade no-boil baked version passed down from my grandma. But when it comes to restaurants, the #1 choice for my oldest has always been Cracker Barrel's. Since he was little, he has proclaimed it to be his favorite and the best one he can find when we go out to eat...and believe me he has tried many! 

He loves the thick, creamy texture, but hands down, his favorite part is the little bits of browned edges that you get with every portion. While others might think these crispy pieces are burnt or a mistake, he has always coveted them like they were gold! "Mom! I got extra brown pieces!" 

I don't know why it took me so long to make a version at home, but I was a rock star with this one! The funniest part is I had never had it myself, so I had to wait for the teenager to taste it to tell me if it was right. According to him I nailed it!

I use extra sharp cheddar in my baked mac and cheese recipe, but this one calls for Colby, giving it a milder flavor. Cooking it both on the stove top and then baking it produces that creamy texture plus the browned edges he loves. I scored some major mom points the night I made this! 

I know so many families who love to have macaroni and cheese on their Easter table, specifically if ham is served,  and this Copycat Cracker Barrel version would be perfect! This recipe is perfect for 4, but could easily be doubled or even tripled! Honestly, if it was me, I would make 2 or 3 batches, but in separate 8x8 pans for even cooking. 

I can taste the cheesy goodness next to a slice of sweet and savory glazed ham right now. I *might* be starting to drool at just the thought of it!

I would be honored if you add this to your Easter menu, making it a new tradition. Or if you just need another idea for a simple weeknight supper, I'm totally here for that too! 

Oh, and if you really want to get a big jump on that Easter menu, I've got a great collection of 100 side dishes perfect with ham over on Parade you should check out! 


Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac & Cheese

1 lb. elbow macaroni

3 cups shredded Colby cheese, divided use

2 cups milk

5 TBS butter

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 8x8 baking dish. Cook macaroni to al dente. In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook for 2-3 minutes until a light roux forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Cook for 3-5 minutes until thickened. Add 2 cups cheese in small batches, stirring constantly until smooth cheese sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. When macaroni is cooked, drain well. Add to skillet and stir well. Transfer to baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned.  

Shared at Weekend Potluck