At one of Dan’s pre-school doctor’s appointments, the nurse asked him a series of questions designed to gauge his social and intellectual development.
Nurse: “What do you do when you’re cold?”
Dan: “Put mittens on.”
Nurse: “What do you do when you’re tired?”
Dan: “Go to sleep.”
Nurse: “What do you do when you’re hungry?”
Dan: “Look for food.”
Fast forward 10 years and not much has changed. My hungry kids still rummage through the fridge looking for food. Except now, as fast-growing teens, I think they eat twice as much.
Daphne had her own well child visit last week. The questions asked by the nurse have changed quite a bit since her last visit. She was asked, “How many evening meals do you eat with your family each week?” and “How many take out/restaurant meals do you eat each week?”
I’m proud to say that Daphne’s answers reflected the value our family – and many other farm families – places on home cooked meals.
My go-to strategy for putting supper on the table most nights and making sure we have leftovers available for rummaging is the humble 9 x 13 pan.
I know many home cooks who rely on their Crock•Pots® and InstaPots® for making supper prep easy. I used to make a lot of skillet meals and I still like a quick sheet pan dinner. But, these days, I’m a queen of the 9 x 13.
The things I like most about making supper in a 9 x 13 are that 9 x 13 recipes usually make enough for multiple meals and when supper is done, I can put a cover on the pan and put the whole thing right in the fridge. Everyone in our family knows that if there’s a 9 x 13 pan in the fridge, there’s something tasty to eat.
I admit that making supper in the oven isn’t as flexible, time-wise, as using a slow cooker, but it works well for me now since Dan and Monika are old enough to take the pan out of the oven if I’m not in the house when the timer goes off.
Our best-loved 9 x 13 suppers are usually a delicious combination of meat and cheese – lasagna, meatloaf, and sausage egg bake. But we also enjoy classics like tater tot hotdish and chicken n’ biscuit casserole.
Another great use of 9 x 13 pans is for reinventing leftovers. Everybody around here groans if I heat up last night’s spaghetti or chicken alfredo for supper, but if I mix the leftover pasta and sauce together, spread it out in a 9 x 13, cover it with mozzarella cheese, and put it in the oven for half an hour – voilà! I have another hot supper that everybody enjoys.
I also make most of our desserts in a 9 x 13. When I first started baking, I couldn’t understand why any recipe was created for an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan. A small pan of bars or cake doesn’t last long enough to be worth baking. I automatically double those recipes to make them family-size.
My latest 9 x 13 dessert victory was the cheesecake I made Glen for Valentine’s Day. I have a traditional springform pan for making fancy round cheesecakes, but a 9 x 13 pan is just way more practical.
Maybe next month I’ll share the cheesecake recipe. For now, though, here’s my recipe for a 9 x 13 pan of Pizza Meatloaf. Enjoy!
Pizza Meatloaf
makes one 9 x 13 pan; 12 – 16 servings
Ingredients
2 eggs
24 ounce jar marinara sauce, divided
2 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds ground beef
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
12-24 pepperoni slices (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
In large bowl, beat eggs, then mix in 2 cups of marinara sauce, oatmeal, spices, and salt. Gently mix in ground beef. Transfer beef mixture to prepared pan and press into place to fill pan.
Spread remaining 1 cup marinara sauce over top of beef mixture. Sauce layer will be very thin. Bake for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce. Top with pepperoni slices, if using. You can also add a few pinches of Italian seasoning or dried parsley flakes for garnish. Bake for 10 minutes more.
For extra deliciousness and presentation points, finish the pizza meatloaf under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.