Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fixing Martha's Spaghetti Sauce

Last week I decided to whip up this quick pasta dish for dinner. It's Martha's recipe so I figured it would be good, I'm usually satisfied with her meals. The pasta sauce had a nice flavor--but it wasn't really sauce in any way. It was just a jumble of meat and tomatoes. Joey likes his pasta to be saucy and this wasn't it.

Disappointed, I couldn't bring myself to throw the whole pot away (we ate it anyway but I also undercooked the pasta which did not help my cause). Joey and I decided that we could fix this sauce with a little of this and a little of that. So, I picked up some tortellini at the store (because it was on sale and it was just a little bit different than the pasta we'd just had) along with a small can of tomato paste and a 14.5 oz can of Hunts tomato sauce.

I heated the leftover sauce in the pan and added 2 T (roughly) of tomato paste and the entire can of tomato sauce. I simmered the sauce for about 20 minutes and served. It was much better! The flavors were still there from Martha's original recipe with the addition of a more saucy feel that really made the past better.

I also omitted the carrot from the original recipe because we forgot to get a carrot. Also, it calls for whole tomatoes. I hate using whole tomatoes from the can because no matter how much I "break up with back of spoon" while cooking or cut with scissors before putting them in the pan, I end up with gigantic chunks of tomatoes in there. I understand that whole tomatoes come in tomato juice, have more flavor, and no skin--but I still can't get behind it. Next time, I may consider pureeing the can of tomatoes in the food processor first and that might actually make the sauce saucier without the additional tomato sauce.

This recipe with the addition of the tomato sauce keeps going and going. If you make it and your family is two or smaller, I recommend freezing half of it. So far we have had this pasta sauce three times and there is still enough left over for another meal for me (and remember, Joey piles on the sauce so if you're a light saucer then it's going to be even more).

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 carrot, grated (about 1/2 cup) - see note above
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes - see note above
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Pasta of your choice
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 T tomato paste


  1. Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium. Stir in carrot, onion, and garlic. Add ground beef, and cook until it turns from pink to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomatoes and their liquid, crushing them with the back of a large spoon. Stir in milk, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook fettuccine until al dente according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain fettuccine, and return to the warm pot. Add meat sauce, and toss. Add pasta water as needed if the sauce seems dry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spicy Avocado Dip

Greetings! I don't think I have put any posts up yet, and I don't want to be known as a slacker. Just someone who hasn't been on her actual computer in ages.

Here is an easy veggie dip that went well at a work Pot Luck the other day. You can also use it with chips I imagine..

2 Avocados (de-skinned and pitted obviously)
1 (16oz) Sour Cream (any level of fat content works)
green onions
1 packet Ranch Salad Dressing & Dip Mix
lime juice (no I don't know how much I used, but less is more)
Ground Red Pepper to taste OR
Jalepenos OR
Both :)

mix all the above and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy! Sorry I do not have any photos...

Hash Browns with Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

As with any good bed and breakfast, a hot breakfast is provided to their guests each morning. My parent's departure was today and I wanted to send them off with something filling and hot.

We received a cookbook from Joey's Aunt Trisha for our wedding entitled Easy Breakfast and Brunch and I was excited to have a chance to use it. I looked through the recipes until something caught my fancy and landed on Hash Browns with Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes. This breakfast turns out to take a lot of time but luckily I did a little planning ahead. Leave at least 40 minutes to make this unless you have either a helper or prep early.

I served this breakfast with fried eggs which were a pretty good accompaniment. I recommend serving this with some kind of egg.

Hash Browns with Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4 barely
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, diced
4 T butter
1 L onion, finely chopped
12 premium breakfast sausages
2 T olive oil
20 cherry tomatoes, on the vine (or a whole basket from the farmer's market)
1 T balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

While making dinner, boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes until just tender. Store in a tupperware container in the refrigerator until morning.
Finely chop onion and place in a bag or tupperware in the refrigerator
Preheat oven to 400
1. Melt 4 T butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Add onions and saute 15 minutes until soft and golden.
2. While the onions are cooking, place the sausages on a roasting pan (although I just used a jellyroll pan). Toss with 1 T olive oil.
3. Spray another jellyroll pan with cooking spray. Toss the tomatoes on the prepared pan with the remaining olive oil
4. Mash potatoes slightly and season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes to the onions and cook 15-20 minutes until crispy
5. Meanwhile, put the sausages in the oven on the bottom shelf, cook 20 minutes, turning once.
6. After 5 minutes of cooking the sausages, place the tomatoes on the top shelf and roast 15 minutes.
7. Remove sausages from oven and let rest.
8. Remove tomatoes from oven and toss with balsamic vinegar. Put the tomatoes back in the oven and roast 5 minutes more.
9. Serve potatoes, sausages and tomatoes with their juices together with eggs.

(don't you love that spoon wearing the ladle hat? I wonder if my parents did that on purpose)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Potato Chowder

I wanted to make a quick and light dinner that would fill Joey and I up before softball but also give my parents that home-cooked feeling. Unfortunately, I got a late start and everything took a little bit longer than it should have so we ended up eating after our game (dinner at 9!). This soup is light and flavorful and rather quick and hands off once you get it simmering.

I watched this video and learned a valuable lesson about cleaning leeks. I have tasted that grit and sand before in finished leek dishes. I knew about the bowl part but didn't think that pouring them out wouldn't help at all.

This recipe didn't specify if herbs should be fresh or dried, but the flavor is really stand-out so I highly recommend fresh. To chop the thyme remove the leaves from the stems and roll into a thin cigar. To use the thyme, pinch leaves off of thick stems or drag your fingers against the grain to remove leaves.

Potato Chowder
1/2 t salt or to taste
4 oz chopped bacon
2 T butter
2 sliced leeks
2 t sage (fresh)
2 t thyme (fresh)
4 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C cream
1 bay leaf
3 potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
green onions or chives (for topping)
shredded cheese (for topping)

1. Saute bacon in a large stockpot
2. Add butter, leeks, sage and thyme. Let cook 1 minute
3. Add chicken broth, cream, bay leaf, and potatoes
4. Simmer until potatoes are tender.
5. Serve hot with toppings

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Buttermilk Raspberry Cake

Last week at the Farmer's Market they had a deal of 3 pints of raspberries for $5. I couldn't pass it up--but then I ended up with a lot of raspberries to eat. I browsed my favorite food blogs and discovered Smitten Kitchen's Buttermilk Raspberry Cake. This cake is just divine. It only takes about 30 minutes start to finish and yields a delightfully light and airy cake. Smitten suggests the use of other berries...but I wouldn't do anything too sour.

Buttermilk Raspberry Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 packet sugar in the raw for topping
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 450. Butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
2. In a small bowl whisk together first four ingredients
3. In another bowl beat butter and sugar until fluffy (2 minutes)
4. Add vanilla and zest and beat some more
5. Add egg and beat until combined
6. Alternate flour and buttermilk, starting and ending with flour, until combined
7. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Scatter with raspberries (I did a nice circular thing but couldn't see them in the end.
8. Bake 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Let cool in pan and then invert onto rack and let cool some more (this didn't work for me and my cake fell apart so wait long enough before inverting)
Serve warm (or cold it's good all the time..it would be great with whipped cream.)

This cake doesn't last more than 2 days...so eat it immediately and be sure to finish the whole thing in one sitting!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Afternoon Snack

Today I am hosting my parents and decided to do a little fun cooking since I was working from home anyway and surprise them with something delicious. I decided that there must be an afternoon snack, and it couldn't just be crackers!

I have been really wanting to try this white bean hummus and I thought that was just the ticket. To go along with it, I made my own tortilla chips (pita would work too but I happened to have a lot of tortillas), and a vegetable mix. Everything was delicious and worked quiet well together, it was such a quick and easy snack to make I'd do it ever day after school..er work.

White Bean Hummus
3 T olive oil
3 T fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
paprika (optional)

1. Whir oil, beans and lemon juice in food processor until just pureed. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

Fresh Tortilla Chips
olive oil
cumin (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Cut tortillas into desired chip size
3. Toss with about 1-1/2 T olive oil and salt to taste
4. Bake 10 minutes or until crisp

Vegetable Mix
assorted fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, jalapeno, tomatoes, cucumbers
Kosher salt or other coarse salt
Fresh lemon juice

1. Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
2. Toss with lemon juice and salt. Let stand 30 minutes until flavors mix.