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What’s your favorite?

Send us meals fit for a visit from the president of the United States

How many ways do you have to cook a roast beef dinner? How many recipes do you have – in the cookbook or in your head – for meatloaf?

There are dozens of ways to cook most meats, and we all have our favorites. They may change from time to time: We see a new recipe, or someone tells us how they cooked something, and that may become a favorite for a while. Then the new wears off and we get tired of the dish, maybe move it to the “keeper” file.

Roast beef and roast pork have been on my keeper list since I was first learning to cook. They were something I could count on, tried and true. In the years when I was learning to cook, roast beef was always what I made for company: Nothing could ever go wrong with the recipe I used.

I put the meat in a heavy Dutch oven, scrubbed or peeled potatoes and carrots, cut them in half, and tossed them into the pot along with an onion and about a cup of water, and put them in the oven at 325 degrees. Four hours later (no peeking) and it was hard to imagine a better dinner. Even the gravy it made was delicious.

Then, the slow cooker hit the shelves. It did everything the oven did, without heating up the kitchen.

A few years ago, although I still leaned toward the roast beef and pork dinners, I found new ways to cook them. They’re still my favorite company meals.

This beef and soda recipe is an easy dinner.

Roast beef

and soda

1 (3 to 4 pound) roast beef (or pork roast)

1 jar beef gravy

1 package dried onion soup mix

1 cup of ginger ale or other soda

Place meat in a roasting pan with a lid. Mix the gravy, dried onion soup mix, and soda. Pour over meat. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 4 hours. You will have delicious beef and a flavorful delicious brown gravy.

Slow cooker

pulled pork

I discovered another great recipe last year. It is also in my keeper file now. I was buying a piece of fresh pork when the butcher asked me what I was making and I said probably pulled pork or Italian pork. He followed me around the store and tossed a bottle of barbecue sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s, of course, in my basket, along with a good-size jar of salsa. He said that was all I needed to make a big pot of pork or beef, no salt and pepper or other spices needed.

Another keeper for my files! It comes out perfect every time, in the oven or in the slow cooker.

Perfect every time ribs

I have a new best recipe for ribs – actually, a simple recipe for any kind of pork. I bought about 3 pounds of country ribs, mostly because they looked good and fresh, and the price was right. And I had just seen a recipe in a magazine in the doctor’s office, and it looked good. I jotted it down and made it last week and it was fit for a king. The ribs were spicy, just right, with plenty of sauce.

I cook them in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours, until they’re tender enough to shred with two forks, and I serve them with French buns – or no buns.

Pork ribs, meaty, about 3 pounds

1 cup ketchup

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup honey

1 sliced onion

Place ribs and onions in slow cooker. Mix ketchup, brown sugar and honey, pour over ribs. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours.

Who is coming to dinner?

I am sure you also have your “tried and true” meals that you can depend on. Ask yourself, “What meal would I prepare if the president of the United States was coming to my house for dinner?”

That would be fun to know. I think I would serve my jambalaya, with jumbo shrimp, with what we call corn stuff on the side, and a pretty fruit trifle for dessert. I might even include a favorite, pretzel fooler, with cool strawberry Jell-O, and iced tea.

I would love to hear what you might be planning if you were expecting the president. How about emailing us the menu? And include any recipes we don’t have.

Or, if you have any longtime favorite recipes you rely on, please share them. We would love it!

Fall foods

Here are a few fall foods that go so well with the chill in the air.

Double-decker pumpkin bread

A cream cheese, sour cream, and crystallized ginger filling sets this holiday favorite recipe apart from the others.

Servings: 32

Prep time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

1/2 of an 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

8-ounce carton dairy sour cream

1 egg

2 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized (or ground) ginger

3 cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking soda

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar 

4 eggs

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1 cup cooking oil

1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a medium-size bowl, combine cream cheese and the 1/4 cup sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add sour cream and 1 egg; beat until combined. Stir in the crystallized ginger; set aside.

In another medium-size bowl, stir flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, add sugar, 4 eggs, pumpkin, oil, and water. Beat on low until combined, scraping the sides of bowl occasionally. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until combined.

Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the pumpkin batter into each of the prepared pans. Divide the cream cheese mixture between pans, spreading evenly. Spoon the remaining pumpkin batter onto cream cheese mixture, spreading evenly.

Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans. Cool completely on racks.

Wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight before slicing. Store any leftover bread in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Big biscuits herb monkey bread

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Makes: 40 appetizers

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cans big buttermilk biscuits (5 biscuits each) 

2 1/2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening, or use cooking spray.

In small bowl, mix melted butter, dill weed and garlic powder. Separate each can of dough into 5 biscuits; cut each biscuit into fourths. Coat half of the biscuit pieces in butter mixture; arrange in pan.

Sprinkle 2 cups of the cheese over dough. Coat remaining dough pieces in butter mixture; place over cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Run knife around outside edge to loosen. Place heatproof plate upside down over pan; turn over plate and pan. Remove pan; invert onto serving plate. Pull apart to serve.

Slow cooker brisket stew

Butternut squash and crushed tomatoes bring color to a beef stew cooked in a robust, red wine broth.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Total time 8 hours, 40 minutes

Makes: 14 servings

1 fresh beef brisket (about 3 pounds) cut into 3 pieces, lengthwise

1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds) peeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (1 cup)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, not drained

2 cups beef broth

1 cup dry red wine or beef broth

14 cups uncooked wide egg noodles (28 ounces)

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, arrange brisket pieces, fat side up. Add remaining ingredients except noodles and tapioca in order listed.

Cover; cook on low 8 to 10 hours. 

Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. Meanwhile, remove brisket from cooker and place fat side up on cutting board. If necessary, scrape off any fat from brisket and discard. Using two forks, coarsely shred brisket.

Stir tapioca into liquid in cooker. Return shredded brisket to cooker. Increase to high; cover and cook about 15 minutes or until thickened. Serve stew in soup bowls over hot noodles.


-- For added color, sprinkle with chopped curly parsley

-- Instead of squash, try using another root vegetable.

Smoky three-bean chili

A spicy skillet dinner.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

1 pound ground beef

1 cup chopped onion (1 large)

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cans (15 ounces each) beans (great northern, kidney, black and/or pinto), drained, rinsed

1 can (18 ounces) fire-roasted tomato cooking sauce

2 cups chicken broth 

In 4-quart saucepan, cook bacon, beef and onion over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until beef is brown and onion is soft; drain.

Stir in chili powder and cumin. Stir in beans, cooking sauce and broth. Heat to simmering, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cook about 15 minutes or until thickened.

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