Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Roasted Spaghetti Sauce

I had the pleasure of working with some very lovely tomatoes this fall. Some folks we know have greenhouses wherein they raise them organically. These tomatoes are actually what they sorted out as "seconds", which might give you some indication of  the quality of their produce.

Now, a couple years ago I ran across a recipe on a blog where they roasted tomatoes for tomato sauce and raved about the difference in taste. I prompty tried it with the next thing I made using tomatoes, which happened to be a home canned salsa. It was an immediate hit in our house! The roasting seems to bring out a sweetness you hardly know is there otherwise, while decreasing the acidity.

We have pretty avid spaghetti eaters residing in our home, and it is an easy quick meal to put together. That makes spaghetti sauce a worthwhile thing for me to make and have on hand.

I enjoy cooking as much as possible with whole fresh foods, instead of using someone else's blends etc. There is a certain satisfaction from creating something completely from scratch. However, I am not opposed to using them, and have a favorite "Pizza Blend Seasoning" that comes by the pound from San Fransisco Herb Co. I have been using it the last few years, and only this year used my own fresh herbs until my poor plants were picked bare.

Now, first of all I will give you a prep tip I have learned to love! If you are including black pepper in your recipe, it makes an amazing difference in taste and smell if you roast/toast the peppercorns a bit before you grind them. I have a small (6 in.) cast iron skillet that I use reularly for this ever since I made this discovery. Just get a pan hot and throw in the peppercorns, roll them around a bit, give them a chance to get hot, sniff to see if they are giving off any smell. When they are, grind them. I use my Magic Bullet with the flat blade.

To make spagetti sauce by roasting your ingredients is really simple.

I start by drizzling some olive oil on the pan.
Then add quartered or halved roma tomatoes, depending on the size.
To a large cookie sheet sized pan, I also add:
At least 5 or more cloves of garlic...
One half of a red or green pepper...
1/2 to a whole onion, depending on the size...
Over all this I sprinkle some coarse sea salt and roasted fresh ground black pepper.
Toss it a bit to disperse the olive oil, and put in the oven @ 400 degrees for an hour.
I put in 2 pans at a time, then stir, and rotate the pans from top to bottom about half-way through.

After it is all roasted, making an absolutely delicious fall smell in your house, I put it through the blender. (It isn't super smooth and will have little tiny bits of tomato skin in it. If you like it smoother, you can put it through a food mill and it takes out the skins and tomato seeds. I did not strain mine. It is an added step to the process, and an unnecessary one in my opinion.)  Add your seasonings now too. If using fresh basil and oregano like I did, I add it into the blender after pureeing the tomatoes a bit first. It leaves a nice amount of green flecks.
Since I do this in quantity, pan after pan so that I can process in quart jars for winter use, I put it in a large kettle and simmer it to keep it hot and also to let the seaonings do their thing, if using a dry mix.

Another yummy addition is sauteing up lots fresh mushrooms to add in at this point.

I know there are varying ways to process something like this. So far I haven't had any problems with just doing it in a boiling water bath for around 20 minutes.
For my family's favorite spaghetti, I just brown 1 pound of sausage or hamburger, add a quart of this sauce, and one can of cream of mushroom soup. Ladle that over a pile of whole wheat spaghetti noodles with a side of green beans for a most satisfying supper any night of the week!

Note: One pan as full as possible made me 2+ quarts. And no, it didn't take me forever to do it this way. I planned on getting out my 18 quart roaster and getting it going to speed up the process since I wanted a lot, only to discover I could barely keep up with the oven! With a 1 year old in the house, and all the washing tomatoes, chopping, blendering, filling jars, boiling lids etc., I even turned the oven off a couple times. :)

One last word of recommendation:
I am learning to enjoy the process a bit more instead of just pushing hard to get to the finished product.
Take time to smell the peppercorns! :)
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade Red Lobster Biscuits From Scratch

I have one daughter that especially loves the biscuits they serve at Red Loster, and the rest of us enjoy them as well! So when Abe planned on bringing home some live Maine Lobsters to cook for us for a Valentine's Day treat, that was the incentive I needed to do a search and see what kind of recipe I could find to make them ourselves. I know my sis makes them and they are great, but they use Bisquik, which I did not have on hand. I had an icey driveway and didn't feel like going out just for that... what's the internet for, anyway?! :)
I am happy to link you to the recipe I found and used. I would not want to take any credit for the recipe.

I pretty much followed it, except I did use 1/3 whole wheat flour, which I will probably up to 1/2 next time, because they were light and awesome. (I'd see how much I can add without losing the texture these had.)
I used a mild cheddar, 'cause it's what I had, and I didn't have any parsley so I substituted dried cilantro. I also baked them at 450 degrees instead of 475.
Needless to say, they were very good and will definitely be made in my kitchen again!
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bran Muffins

This recipe has been around in my family for a long time. It's the only bran muffin I make. It's such a versatile recipe, you can change up the taste very easily.
The Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bran (wheat, oat or spelt)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter (or your preferred substitute)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups pumpkin (or) applesauce (or) ripe bananas, etc.
1 cup buttermilk (or) milk soured with vinegar
1 cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients together, add the rest and beat till mixed. Fill greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, until done. I prefer them good and brown, since they are a moist muffin.

Now you can see by the ingredient list that there are plenty of options. For the butter/oil, I have used a myriad of things and they always turned out fine. Coconut oil, veg. oil, and I have even combined the butter and milk amounts (1 & 1/2 cups) and used raw cream that went sour. The ratio seemed to be great! Why separate the butter from the milk if they both go in anyway! And it seems there's usually a pint of cream lurking somewhere in the fridge that didn't get used quick enough!

Depending on your taste buds, the sugar ratio can be messed with. If you use ripe bananas, they seem a bit on the sweet side. My favorite is to use canned pumpkin. The texture is good. You don't really taste pumpkin, but there's a depth to the flavor that I can't describe. You could try adding spices with it. I rarely use applesauce by itself, but frequently round out the measurement of whatever else I'm using, since there is usually applesauce around, in our house.

Now, the recipe calls for raisins. I can't remember the last time I used them, although they are very good! (Throw in some sunflower seeds too, if you like.)
What I always use, (and true health nuts will groan here) is:
If I put raisins in, I have to prod my kids to get them to eat them. If, on the other hand, I throw in semi-sweet chocolate chips, they beg me to let them eat them!!!

Now, I happen to like home-made foods with real ingredients. I'm sure some folks would label me a health nut, but I also am acquainted with those who would laugh at that label for us.
I say ...all things in moderation!
In other words... I like me a little chocolate chips with my whole wheat and bran!!!

These muffins are great still warm, with the chocolate chips all melty...
They also freeze well. A fruit/kefir smoothie and one or two of these makes a very quick and yummy breakfast.
I make about a batch and a half at a time, which makes about 36-38 muffins.
As a bran muffin, they are pretty effective. Need I say more? :)

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cake Decorating My Way

I've always thought it would be fun to take some kind of cake decorating class and maybe some day I'll actually do it! Until then I try to be a little creative based on the person I'm making the cake for. I think so far this is my all-time favorite!
My Mom loves cardinals and also likes "real" things, as in "not fake".
I had found this cardinal that of course is not real, but the alternative wasn't possible in this case!
For the greens, I went tramping around our place...there's pine needles (which kind of represent Idaho), holly leaves and english ivy.
The red berries are little rose hips, just minatures of the kind we used to pick and make jelly with in Idaho.
It's so amazing what can be done when you just look around you!
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Peach Cheesecake

I will give the cheesecake recipe I use (from Libby Bryan in Idaho), but you can use whatever cheesecake recipe you favor.
The topping is what this post is really about!
Love cheesecake? Like to try new things? Stray from the tried and true, and traditional? Years ago my Mom tried this when we had fresh peaches on hand and it became an immediate favorite with me!
1 & 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (1 pack,crushed)
2 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
Combine and press into a 10" spring form pan.
Bake 7 minutes @ 375 degrees.
While it is baking, mix 'til smooth:
2 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese (room temp.)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour over crust and bake 18 minutes. When it is cool, you are ready for the fruit topping of your choice.
Or... if you are not into fruit on your cheesecake, try this.
Cool 15 minutes.
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spread on top of cheesecake and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 5 more minutes.
Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
Cook together 'til thick:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 & 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
While it's hot, add 3 Tablespoons jello.
Cool and add fruit.
When you use peaches, use orange jello. The peach flavored jello tastes too fake. Add as much fruit as you like.
This recipe for thickening works well for fresh fruit pies too. Like strawberry... just use strawberry jello.
I like cheesecake good and cold, so I refrigerate it for a while after I put the topping on.

Serve and enjoy!
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bolivian Potato Salad

Here's a real different one for you! Our brother-in-law Omar from Bolivia, South America hooked us on this one. It's a favorite amongst the family. My sister-in-law Tia just got her LPN license and we did a celebratory dinner last weekend. Since she loves this salad like I do, I made it and took the pictures so I could post it when I got time...
Peel and cube 6 cups of potatoes - I used red ones. Cook till just done, not mushy, with minced garlic in the water. Cool. (I like to get everything ready the night before so the ingredients are cold and ready to put together.)

Peel and dice approx. 2 cups carrots, cook 'til tender crisp. Cool. (you can use frozen)

Add 2 cups frozen peas.
Also 2 cans diced red beets, drained.
For dressing, all the original recipe calls for is mayonnaise and of course salt and pepper. Toss all ingredients, chill, and serve. The longer it sets, the pinker it gets!

I happen to like to add some basil pesto into it to jazz it up a bit. It really is interesting with all the different textures.
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Friday, April 17, 2009


After posting the recipe for Baked Oatmeal, I thought I must put in a plug for cooked oatmeal yet too. I have learned a couple ways my girls do really enjoy it...
Since most folks know how to cook it, I won't give the how to's. Just add:

Don't be stingy, either! Especially with the butter... remember butter is an all-natural fat, just the way God made it and kids need that! (I'm just a big kid, right?)

The other alterative that works well at our house is...are you ready?....
Need I say anymore? In our defense, we are an all girl household most mornings!