BRACEVILLE - Easy, cheap and cheesy.
Cathy Pugh says her pizza burgers are quick, economical and popular.
"It's better than a sloppy joe but just as convenient," she said recently at her Braceville home.
Cathy Pugh of Braceville displays her pizza burgers, which she describes as quick, economical and popular.
Pugh spreads the meat and cheese mixture on open-face hamburger buns.
Her recipe came from a friend more than 30 years ago, and she said her family now begs for her to make it. She likes to serve it to a crowd and said it's good for kids, too, especially as an after-school snack.
Most of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time - the browned beef, onion and oregano can be mixed with spaghetti sauce and tomato paste and kept in the refrigerator until just before baking. The recipe can be cut in half for a smaller crowd, or the meat mixture can be frozen.
Pugh said it's important not to mix the cheese in - and it has to be Velveeta - too long before baking.
Pizza Burgers Submitted by Cathy Pugh
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 small onion (diced small)
1 jar (one pound, 10 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 small can tomato paste
Velveeta cheese (shredded)
In skillet, brown the beef, onion and oregano. Drain grease and let cool.
To the cooled mixture, add the spaghetti sauce and the tomato paste. Keep mixture in refrigerator until ready to bake.
When ready to bake, mix hamburger mixture with some shredded Velveeta cheese. (About 1 tablespoon of meat mix to 1 tablespoon cheese - it depends on how much cheese you like.)
On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, open the buns onto the sheet with the inside of the bun on top (open face). Place 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture on each bun. Bake at 425-450 degrees for 6 minutes.
Hint: Don't mix cheese into meat mixture until you are ready to bake; cheese will become watery.
"This is the key, keeping them separate," she said. "If you mix it, the cheese gets watery."
Pugh's family gathers each Sunday at the home of her parents, who are in their 80s and live about 10 houses down the road from her. The siblings have a rotating system for who brings what, divided into main dish, vegetable and bread, dessert, side dish and extras.
"We all eat cheap and have a great time," Pugh said.
In addition to the pizza burgers, Pugh, 52, loves to cook most anything, especially lasagna. Her most requested dishes are cheesy potatoes, hash brown casserole, an orange dessert and pumpkin pies, of which she makes six at a time. Also popular is her pizza, featuring a high crust, sausage, sauce and, again, Velveeta cheese.
She's also teaching her college-age daughter how to cook.
Pugh doesn't serve the pizza burgers as a main dish - it's more of a snack or a party treat, but she might serve some chips with them.
Serving size is clearly up to the individual, as her husband, Terry, eats 10 of the open-faced snacks.
In addition to cooking, Pugh enjoys making cards. When she got laid off from General Electric, she took a class in flower arranging. She's been encouraged to sell her floral creations, but is hesitant in the current economy.
"People need food, not flowers," she said.
The mother of two loves having her house full of people. She once served as house mother for what was the New Life Maternity Home in Vienna, and she said some of those then-young mothers still keep in touch.
"It's so rewarding to help people like that," Pugh said.
This industrious cook, who also enjoys a two-hour mowing stint on her "big John Deere," said she cooks nearly every day and her best work is "off the cuff," not from a recipe.
Pugh's pizza burgers are baked for just six minutes, but she said they can be placed under a broiler. Her brother, for example, does this because he likes them toasty.
Pugh was excited to share her cheesy Trumbull Cooks recipe. She said in her written submission that kids love it as well as adults. However, she was quite nervous about the interview and pictures.
"I don't know how Paula Deen does it," she said. "Golly."