Slow Cooker Pepperoni Lasagne and Cheesy Bread

When my children were in high school, I loved having their friends over for supper before Friday night football games. Everyone’s favorite dish was a cross between lasagna and pepperoni pizza cooked in a slow cooker. Cleanup was a breeze using a disposable plastic liner!

We ate outside on long tables covered with red gingham tablecloths. After the teens had “filled up” on lasagna, salad, and cheesy bread, they would roast marshmallows over a fire pit for s’mores.  There were lots of laughs on those Friday nights and I’m happy to say lifelong friendships were formed!

Slow Cooker Pepperoni Lasagne 15 Servings

1 plastic disposable slow cooker liner
1 pound ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-28 oz. jars marinara sauce
6 oz. package pepperoni slices
10 oz. cooked, extra wide, egg noodles
16 oz. ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Season ground chuck with salt and pepper. Brown meat with onions and garlic. Add 1 ½ jars marinara sauce to meat mixture. Reserve ½ a jar to go on top of assembled lasagna. Line a 6-quart slow cooker with a disposable plastic liner.  

This lasagna has 3 layers. Each layer consists of ⅓ of each of the following ingredients: meat sauce, pepperoni, noodles, ricotta cheese, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. After lasagna is assembled, top with reserved ½ jar of marinara sauce. Cover with slow cooker lid. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Serves 15 hungry teenagers.

Tip: Each time you remove the lid and peek add an additional 20 minutes to the cooking time! Every time my kids would pass by the slow cooker they would look inside and take a whiff. I finally put a yellow sticky note on the lid threatening to do bodily harm to anyone who opened it!

 Cheesy Bread

1 loaf French or Italian read
dried minced onions
squeeze margarine ( I used Parkay)
2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Using a ruler, slice bread on every inch mark, without cutting all the way through the bottom crust of bread. In every slice, spread margarine on one side, sprinkle with
1/4 teaspoon dried minced onion, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Wrap in aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes until hot. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 loaf of bread. Tip: To prevent bottom of bread from sticking to the foil, put a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom of the bread inside regular aluminum foil.

Previously published in The News and Neighbor

Crispy Fried Fish Taco’s with Spicy Coleslaw

Last week it dawned on me that summer was gone. I don’t know how it happened. I’m not quite ready for fall so I ran off to the beach to stick my toes in the sand and feel the hot sun on my skin one last time. Doc and I bodysurfed in the waves for hours letting the waves knock us over and sweep us to the shore. It was a fantastic time. My cousin and 8 year old godson, Patrick, came to visit and we all laughed till we cried telling silly stories. Patrick even found a baby crocodile in a nearby pond and named it “Chomp”!

When I go to the beach I love to eat fish tacos. This recipe is inspired by a restaurant in Charlotte, NC named Cabo Fish Taco. The slaw has a spicy kick to offset the tame flavor of the fish.

Crispy Fried Fish Tacos with Baja Coleslaw

1 pound cod or favorite fish, cut in 1 x 1 x 5 inch strips
Batter for fish (see below)
8 flour tortillas, fajita size
Baja Coleslaw (see below)
Garnish: slices of lime and cilantro leaves

Baja Coleslaw

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Mexican style, hot chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
3 tablespoons sweet onion, minced
1/4 cup green pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
One 10 ounce bag angel hair coleslaw

Mix all ingredients except cabbage together until thoroughly combined. Add cabbage and stir until all ingredients are coated with dressing. Refrigerate 24 hours before serving to let all the flavors mingle.

Fish Batter

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces light beer
2 cups canola oil for frying

Preheat oven to 200ºF. In a mixing bowl stir all dry ingredients together. Add Beer and stir with a wire whisk until batter is smooth. Batter will be thin. Heat canola oil to 350 degrees F. in a deep skillet or deep fat fryer. ( I use a baby deep fat fryer that holds 2 cups of oil) While oil is heating, cut fish into 1 inch X 1 inch X 5 inch strips. Dip fish into the batter coating every side.  Fry fish in batches by gently sliding the battered fish into the hot oil with tongs. Make sure the pieces do not touch or they will stick together!  Fry fish until golden brown, turning as necessary so all sides are evenly browned. Remove fish from oil and place on a jelly roll pan lined with paper towels. Place pan in oven to keep fish warm until all the fish is fried.

To assemble: Place fried fish on flour tortillas. Top with coleslaw and garnish with slices of lime and cilantro leaves.
Published in The News and Neighbor on September 15, 2012

Hello world!

Hello! I am so glad you decided to visit my food blog!  My name is Mary Duke. (Yes, it’s a double name like Mary Jane or Billy Jo. I’m just happy my mother didn’t name me “Bubba!”) I’m a wife, mother, retired registered dietitian, friend, and volunteer…and I write a food column called Mary Duke Cooks! Sassy Southern for our community newspaper in East Tennessee, The News and Neighbor.

You may be wondering why I chose Sassy Southern. Let me explain. Being “sassy” in the south is not being rude, it’s an attitude of confidence. It’s meeting life head on with your head held high facing whatever life throws at you with just a little bit of spunk. Being southern is more than being born in a certain part of the country. Anyone can have southern traits. If you can be the chairperson of a 72 hour fundraising event while maintaining a smile and not killing anyone, you’re on the right track. If you write thank you notes, appreciate people for who they truly are, and overlook their faults, you may be more southern than you think. So, if you take some sassy-ness and add a little bit of warmth and genuine hospitality – you have Sassy Southern!

Each week Mary Duke Cooks! Sassy Southern will have a weekly recipe sometimes with a humorous and yet unbelievable story. (My friends say, “You can’t make this stuff up. Truth is stranger than fiction!”) There will be a variety of recipes to explore including tailgating, recipes for kids, teachers’ gifts, decadent desserts, easy appetizers, and foods to entertain with and impress your friends! I will share recipes for the food I grew up with (comfort food) and the multicultural and fusion food I love now.

If you really love delicious food and are passionate about eating and cooking like I am, then this blog is for you. You’re welcome to visit anytime!