Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s because we are stuck inside lately. Or maybe it’s because drive-through dinners, meal subscription services, or leftovers hanging out in the freezer have lost their appeal. Sometimes hearty food that warms our bellies and satisfies our hunger is what we crave.

Italian Beef Loaf

A savory, saucy twist on the family favorite meatloaf, the fresh Mozzarella enhances the overall flavor in this Italian inspired version.

• ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, drained from the oil and chopped

• 1 small onion, finely chopped

• ½ tsp. freshly minced garlic

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

• ½ cup fresh bread crumbs (use Italian, wheat, or French bread)

• ½ cup seasoned croutons, crushed

• 1 (8 oz.) fresh Mozzarella ball, chopped

• 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce, divided

• 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

• Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

• 2.25 lbs. lean ground beef, uncooked

In a large mixing bowl, combine together the chopped sundried tomatoes, onion, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, crushed croutons, and chopped Mozzarella cheese. Stir in ½ cup tomato sauce and the Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beef and toss together with your hands; season with additional salt and pepper. Line a large baking sheet pan (with sides) with a nonstick foil. Place the beef mixture in the center of the pan and shape into a large loaf. Pour ¾ cup of the tomato sauce over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle ¼ cup tomato sauce over the top and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes. Optional: Sprinkle the cooked loaf with fresh basil or grated cheese before serving.

Brunswick Stew or Burgoo

Burgoo is a traditional thick stew that dates back to the Civil War era and is made with three meats, often including squirrel, pheasant, or rabbit, and fresh vegetables, such as peas, tomatoes, beans, and potatoes. The only difference in the two recipes here is the tradition of using two meats for the Brunswick stew and three meats for the burgoo.

• ¼ cup salted butter

• 1 cup chopped onion

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 cups diced potatoes, cooked

• 1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained

• 1 (15 oz.) can cream style corn

• 1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes

• 8 oz. tomato sauce

• ¼ cup ketchup

• 2-3 TBSP. hickory flavored barbecue sauce

• 2 TBSP. Worcestershire sauce

• ¼-½ tsp. hot sauce

• ¾ tsp. ground black pepper

• ½ tsp. salt

• 2 cups frozen lima beans (optional)

To make Brunswick stew: Use a total of 2 ½ lbs. cooked (combined) chicken and pork (use some leftover cooked chicken or a rotisserie chicken; I buy a pound of pork from a local BBQ restaurant.)

To make burgoo: Use the two meats above and add 1 lb. lean beef tips to the recipe.

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat; add the onion and garlic and cook until tender. For burgoo, increase the heat and add the beef tips to the pot with the onions and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in the cooked chicken and pork, cooked potatoes, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, pepper, salt, and lima beans. Reduce the heat and cover; simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Note: I cook the potatoes (slightly done but not mushy inside) in the microwave, remove the skins, and dice.

Sesame Honey Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple

Cooking with friends is so much fun! Recently, we were invited to cook with our friends, Sherri and Tim, and we prepared this Joanna Gaines’ inspired recipe as our main dish.

• 8 skinless chicken thighs (at least 2 lbs. total)

• ½ cup apple cider vinegar

• ½ cup honey

• 4 TBSP. salted butter, melted

• 1 cup ketchup

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 TBSP. vegetable oil

• ½ tsp. kosher salt

• ½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper

• 1 ¼ cups red bell pepper strips (1 large)

• 2 cups cubed fresh pineapple

• 1 ¼ TBSP. sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

• Fresh parsley to garnish

• Cooked white rice

Position the upper oven rack so that it is within 6 inches from the broiler element. In a bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, honey, melted butter, ketchup, and minced garlic until combined, and set aside. Place the chicken thighs on a sheet pan; drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper (or to taste). Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 16-18 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bell peppers and pineapple along the sides and ends of the pan. Baste the chicken with ¾ cup of the sauce and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and broil until the chicken is beginning to lightly char, about 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and transfer the chicken, bell peppers, and pineapple to a serving dish; toss with ½ to ¾ cup of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds and chopped parsley. Serve with cooked rice and any remaining sauce.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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