MRS. MURFREESBORO: Forgotten favorites refresh dinner

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Jeanne Bragg

I write frequently that I tire of the daily dilemma of “What’s for dinner?”

Last week, I told my husband, Tommy, he was in charge.

I said “I don’t mind cooking; I just mind figuring out what to have.” He immediately sat down to write suggestions. Did that ever make life easier!

In many ways, Tommy is not picky. He doesn’t like chicken on the bone, isn’t crazy about fish, loves sandwiches but hates meat-and-threes. I try to accommodate him but truthfully he’ll eat anything I put in front of him and tell me how good it is.

Sometimes he’ll order an item in a restaurant that he would never want at home (mainly salads and chicken dishes).

Go figure.

After 44 years of being married, it is still an adventure.

Among the dishes he requested was tuna niçoise.

When I graduated from college, I moved to Atlanta. Tommy was a senior at University of Tennessee in Knoxville and came to visit some weekends.

I had three roommates who loved to cook.

One of them, Connie, was particularly creative and some of the the dishes she introduced me to are still staples at our house. Beef Stroganoff and chalupas are among them.

We ate chalupas before Mexican food became a craze. In fact in 1968 El Paso, tortillas were only sold in a can and you could only find nacho chips in a box.

Here’s how to make Connie’s niçoise:

Chill a can of french style green beans early in the day and drain all liquid at serving time.

Put beans in a large bowl with one can of tuna (start with a small can. If it’s enough, if not add a second); add about four roma tomatoes cut in chunks (or about two-three cups) and add the same amount (two-three cups) of iceberg lettuce cubes.

Make sure all vegetables are well drained and not “wet.” Add about two tablespoons of onions (optional) and toss this with mayonnaise to coat (* very little mayo is needed because the ingredients are so moist).

Voila. One easy main dish.

Another request was meatballs.

I decided to try meatballs after I saw two chefs, who own several meatball shops in New York, on Martha Stewart’s show. They convinced me there’s a lot of flexibility with meatballs.

I prefer making my own (basically by mixing ground beef, steak seasoning and some breadcrumbs) but you can find frozen ones in the freezer section and the fresh meat section of local supermarkets (12 for $6 at Publix).

I’ve written that one of my favorite all time timesavers is the shredder/slicer attachment for a big Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ($47 on I got my set free when I bought the mixer years ago and loved it so much I bought the food grinder. A food processor can do the trick, too.

I buy lean cuts of meat on sale and grind them in the Kitchen Aid grinder.

I didn’t take long to lear that “lean” can be a little too lean; meatballs need a little fat. But by grinding my own I don’t have to worry about pink slime or whatever additives (including water) may be included.

To make two meatball sandwiches cook four or five large meatballs per sandwich in a skillet until cooked through (about 10 minutes – depending on whether or not they’re frozen). When done, remove them from the pan, scrape the meat bits from the sides and bottom of the pan to the middle, and add eight ounces of tomato sauce. Then add half of a package of dehydrated spaghetti mix (from a 1.5-ounce pouch). I use the package because it has “thickeners” and makes the sauce stick together.

Put the meatballs on a hoagie bun, top with sauce and any amount of mozzarella cheese you desire and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Easy and fast.

Another fast meatball dish is to cook desired amount (four or five per person) until done and remove from pan.

Add about half of a cup of beef broth to the pan drippings (I find a bouillon cube has too much sodium). Stir over medium to high heat until bits are incorporated then add one can of cream of mushroom soup.

Heat until bubbly, stirring together well, add meatballs and serve over rice.

Try asking your family what they might want these days.

Maybe you’ll discover a forgotten “treasure” too.

‘Til next week.

Read more from:
Cooking, Food, Mrs Murfreesboro, Recipe, Relationships
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