Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese

On Christmas Eve, Mike made bolognese sauce.  This recipe is originally from Mike’s dad, Jim, but has become one of Mike’s speciality recipes when he has a hankering to cook. We had this for lunch on Christmas Eve and everyone enjoyed it.  Bo has deemed it the best sauce ever.  I think it helped that Daddy made it!

If you’re looking for a special pasta sauce with lots of flavor, this one is perfect.  I served it with Pioneer Woman’s Garlic Cheese Bread Sticks.  Bo and I enjoy watching Pioneer Woman’s show on Food Network and she made these in one of the episodes we watched the day before.  They were a great accompaniment!

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Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, pureed
  • 1 stalk of celery, pureed
  • 1 large carrot, pureed
  • ⅛ tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ cup pancetta, diced
  • ¼ lb. mild Italian sausage
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 28 oz. can Italian tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • dash of cloves
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Saute ground beef in a heavy skillet or dutch oven until color is no longer red. Remove meat, set aside, and drain fat. Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in butter and olive oil until softened (if you prefer to have minimal chunks in your sauce like my family, then puree these ingredients -- if you don't mind chunks, finely chopped is fine). Add Italian sausage, pancetta, and garlic and cook until color of the meat is no longer red. Be sure to chop up the meat as it cooks.
  2. Return beef to the pan and add white wine. Turn up the heat to high and cook until wine is cooked off. Add whole milk and continue cooking. Add chopped tomatoes, dash of cloves, black pepper, and tomatoes sauce. Slow simmer for a minimum of 2 hours.
  3. Just before serving, add heavy cream. Add salt if needed.
  4. Serve over freshly cooked pasta.

 

Beef-n-Noodles

These noodles were my favorite meal growing up.  My mom would serve them with mashed potatoes and green beans with shelley beans and I couldn’t have been happier.  Now, my trio enjoys them.  And the best part — they are super easy to make thanks to a secret ingredient from the freezer section that makes them “semi-homemade.”

The secret ingredient is Reese’s frozen noodles.  Instead of slaving over homemade noodles, I just grab a package of these and cut the prep-time significantly.

Apparently, beef-n-noodles is a “southern” thing — not the true south — but a Southern Illinois thing at least.  After I married Mike (he’s from the suburbs of Chicago) and made noodles as part of the meal for the first Thanksgiving I hosted — I quickly learned that these noodles aren’t “normal” in families from North of I-80.

No matter if you’ve had beef-n-noodles before or you’ve never tried them — give this recipe a try.  They are a delicious comfort food and I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love them.

Beef-n-Noodles
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Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup cooked beef chunks (I use leftover roast beef)
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • water
  • 1 bag Reese's Frozen Noodles
  • pepper
  • salt
Instructions
  1. In a large pot (I use a stew pot) combine the beef stock, beef chunks, and beef bullion cubes. Add water until the pot is ¾ full. Heat until boiling. Add the noodles and reduce heat. Cook on low for several hours, adding water as needed. The longer they cook, the better they taste! Add generous amounts of pepper and salt before serving. Great with mashed potatoes.

 

Taco Salad Dip

Happy 4th of July! (And Happy Birthday to me…) Are you looking for a recipe to take with you to a pool party or pre-firework’s bash?  This one is a great pick!  And super easy!

Last week, Mike was motivated to make this yummy taco salad dip.  Life has been a bit chaotic – we had a large garage sale and all of the setup and house cleanup that comes with it – combined with three small children and a full-time job (plus a few side jobs) mean that I haven’t had much time in the kitchen recently.

On Saturday, while I was outside working the garage sale, Mike took the kids to the grocery store and bought the ingredients for this dip which he made on Sunday.  It’s tasty!  We ended up eating it for dinner but it would be a great dish to bring for a picnic or potluck — or even just to serve as an appetizer.

I took the leftovers in a small container on a picnic with the trio on Tuesday.  The kids wouldn’t touch the stuff — but that just meant more for me!

Kudos to Mike for this yummy dip.  And from rescuing us from another meal of foraging through the pantry. 🙂

Taco Salad Dip
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Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. hamburger, browned
  • 1 - 15 oz can refried beans
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 2-3 drops tabasco sauce
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1-2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 small tomato, diced
Instructions
  1. Brown hamburger and drain. Add refried beans, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, chopped onion, tabasco, and garlic sauce. Simmer until heated through and bubbly. Spread into a 9x13 pan. In a small bowl combine the sour cream and chili powder. Spread over the meat mixture. Top with cheese, lettuce, and diced tomato. Good served hot or cold with tortilla chips or corn chips.

 

Mexican Lasagna

I originally made this recipe about 4 years ago and Mike wasn’t a fan.  I made it again last week and he thought it was great.  Someone’s palate is expanding.  Thank the Lord!

This recipe is a great alternative to the traditional “taco night” – basically it’s a combo of enchiladas and tacos in lasagna form.  It tastes great and reheats very well for leftovers.  I ate it for breakfast the next morning.  I actually ate this four times — two dinners, once for lunch, and once for breakfast.  It’s delicious.  We served it with Mike’s infamous BLT guacamole.

Definitely a winner — and a recipe that I’ll be adding to our regular rotation.

Mexican Lasagna
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Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 10-15 corn tortillas
  • 1 large can enchilada sauce
  • 1 can fat free refried beans
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 bag shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • diced tomatoes
  • lettuce shreds
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a skillet, brown hamburger, onion, and green pepper. Drain. Add enchilada sauce and refried beans and cook until bubbly. Spray a casserole dish with Pam and place tortillas in the bottom (I broke some of them in pieces to mostly cover the bottom. Pour ⅓ of the hamburger mixture over the top of the tortillas and then ⅓ of the bag of shredded cheese. Repeat layers 2 more times. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. Top with diced tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream.

 

Jack Daniel’s Sauce

When I was in high school and college, one of my favorite places to go out to eat was TGIFriday’s.  I loved the Jack Daniel’s sauce — especially the appetizer with chicken tenders and the grilled chicken and salmon.  Last week, I was craving it, and without a TGIFriday’s in our area, I set out to recreate the dish at home.

I threw this sauce together on a weeknight and it made for a very tasty dinner.  I baked the salmon for about 12 minutes and made the rice and vegetables in the rice cleaner so overall it was fairly painless.  This sauce packs all the flavor and must be very close to TGIFriday’s recipe.  Since only Mike and I ate the salmon, I saved the rest of the sauce glaze chicken from the grill over the weekend.  Also a hit!  Both Mike and I approve — and we didn’t offer any to the children… 😉

Jack Daniel's Sauce
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Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 whole finely chopped red onion
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup teriyaki sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup white grape juice
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ½ tsp. Tabasco
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic. Add all ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 20 minutes or until it begins to thicken and becomes more sauce like. Great served with grilled chicken, salmon, or steak.

 

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

Last week, we had the Kilmartin’s over for a Valentine’s Day dinner.  Mike asked me to invite them weeks ago as he was planning to order three cakes (a redo of our wedding cakes) and wanted to be sure there were plenty of people here to help us eat them.

I wanted to do a Valentine theme for the kiddos – so I decided to try my hand at heart pizza.  I made one big heart and used heart cookie cutters to make smaller individual pizzas for the kiddos. Laura brought heart shaped jigglers and cut strawberries into hearts and I also made peanut butter cookies with Dove heart chocolates on top for our heart- themed meal.

Apparently I was feeling lazy as I didn’t take a picture with my good camera of any of our heart-themed food.  However, I did snap this photo of our large heart pizza with my phone.  This one is topped with Italian sausage.  Yum!  The pizza was a hit — I doubled the recipe for the dough and we had just enough for the 10 of us.

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza
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Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cup flour – white/wheat/ or some combo
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • ¼ cup + ½ cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar or alternative sweetener
Instructions
  1. Combine and mix ½ cup of warm water and sugar. Dissolve yeast in sugar water mix and let stand for a minimum of 5 minutes. Put flour and salt in the food processor and blend in oil, ½ cup of water, and yeast mixture. Process until a sticky ball forms. Transfer dough into a mixing bowl oiled or sprayed with PAM. Cover and let rice until doubled – about 1 to 1 and ½ hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 500 with pizza stone inside. Roll dough flat on a floured surface until 14 inches in diameter. Place on a pizza palate that is sprinkled with cornmeal and poke holes in crust with fork. Slide the crust into the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove and add toppings. Reduce oven temperature to 425. Return pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted (5-7 minutes). Enjoy!

 

POM Pork Stir Fry

Last week, I thawed a few pork chops and instead of our regular BBQ chops, I decided to mix it up a bit and make stir fry. I started with four pork chops and marinated them for several hours in a large bowl filled with POM juice and a teaspoon of onion powder and garlic powder.

When it was time to make dinner, I threw the rice in the rice cooker (my splurge when I found out I received my new job) and cubed the pork.  I added a bag of stir fry veggies and then topped it with the sauce outlined below.  It all came together very quickly and was quite tasty.  Definitely a recipe I’ll be making again.

POM Pork Stir Fry
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Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 lean pork chops
  • 1 bottle POM juice
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp POM juice
  • 1 - 16 oz bag frozen stir fry vegetables
  • rice, prepared
Instructions
  1. -5 hours before cooking (or overnight), place the pork chops in a large bowl or Ziplock back and cover with POM juice, onion powder, and garlic powder. Be sure to reserve at least 3 Tbsp. of the POM juice for the sauce. Return the pork to the fridge.
  2. To prepare, remove the pork from the marinade and cube. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and sear the pork. When the pork is seared, add the frozen vegetables. While the vegetables and pork are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic, and POM juice. When your meat is cooked through and the vegetables are almost at your desired consistency pour the sauce over the top and allow to thicken slightly. Serve over rice.

The trio isn’t a big fan of stir fry, so served their meal components separately — I picked out pieces of pork, which they all liked. And they ate the rice plain.  Anna is my only veggie eater, and she enjoyed the broccoli as well.

 

Winter Minestrone

Last week, the weather report said that there was a blizzard coming — it turned out to be nothing more than a dusting of snow and a bit of strong wind.  The cold, dark, dreary, blustery day was the perfect opportunity to throw together a hearty winter minestrone soup.

The recipe I based this soup on is from the Barefoot Contessa.  I used different quantities and left out a few ingredients.  Spinach in soup just seems weird to me — but who knows.  🙂

It takes awhile to chop all of the veggies for this soup — and you’ll want to have your homemade chicken stock already prepared and on hand.  For a snowy evening at home, this soup is thick, rich, and satisfying.

I served it with breadsticks and fruit.  The kids wouldn’t touch it — they aren’t soup fans — but even Mike, the vegetable hater himself, ate a bowl — picking out the chunks.

Winter Minestrone
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Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash, diced
  • 1½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. Thyme
  • 26 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 - 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup small pasta, I used orzo
  • ½ cup good dry white wine
  • 5 Tbsp. pesto sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, grated finely
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and allow to simmer until meal time. Stir in the white wine and pesto 5 minutes before serving. Dish into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve with warm bread.

 
Maybe you can enjoy this soup to reintroduce a few veggies after the massive eating that will take place over the next few days! I’ll be posting sporadically until after Christmas break, then I’ll hopefully be back to my three times a week posts. 🙂 Enjoy your holiday season!

Frito Pie

Considering we are in the midst of a nearly 70 degree day here in the Midwest (Happy December!) eating a warm bowl of chili doesn’t sound as appealing as it did a few weeks ago when I made Frito Pie for Mike and his buddy, Derek, to enjoy while they watched the Bears game.  However, I’m not sure they took full advantage of the Frito Pie possibilities and probably just ate the chili plain…

Everyone can make chili and there are hundreds of different recipes for it. This chili recipe is my mom’s and Mike commented, “It was good, but not as good as your mom’s.”  So even though I used her recipe, I must not have done it quite right.  Maybe she’ll comment here with some insight…

What makes this recipe extra special is the extra ingredients that are added to the chili before serving to give it extra saltiness and creaminess.  Yum!  While you can definitely eat the chili plain, I highly suggest taking it up a notch to the Frito Pie level.  To upgrade, you’ll layer Fritos, chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and finely chopped white onion in your bowl.  It’s ridiculously easy but oh, so tasty!

Frito Pie
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Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 24 oz. can tomato juice
  • 3 15 oz. cans chili beans
  • 1 pkg. chili seasoning of your choice
  • 1 lb. hamburger, browned
  • 1 onion, chopped -- ½ added to the hamburger and browned, other half reserved
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Fritos
  • shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican blend cheese
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. Brown hamburger and ½ of the onion, drain fat. Add hamburger and onion mixture, tomato juice, chili beans, chili seasoning, and sugar to a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Read heat and simmer for several hours.
  2. To serve, layer Fritos, chili, cheese, sour cream, and remaining chopped onion in a bowl. Perfect for enjoying during Sunday football in the fall.

 

Homemade Pizza Spaghetti-Os

When Bo was a baby I swore that highly processed foods like Spaghetti-Os would never cross his lips.  Then, I became pregnant with twins and since Mike is a closet Spaghetti-Os and canned pasta eater, they ended up in our cabinet. Canned Spaghetti-Os is still one of those foods that I just can’t force myself to feed them — so I save them for Daddy dinners or for the babysitter on date nights.  Of course, my kids love them.

When I ran across a pin on Pinterest for homemade Spaghetti-Os, I knew I had to make them for my kiddos.  Of course, I couldn’t just leave the recipe alone and had to change it up a bit — and Pizza Spaghetti-Os were born.

Of course, Bo was smart enough to realize that these were not the same as their canned counterpart and at first refused to eat them.  However, once he took a bite, he thought they were yummy — even if they didn’t taste quite like “real” Spaghetti-Os.   The girls gobbled them up – no problem.

The secret ingredient in these is the pepperoni flavored pizza sauce by Contadina.  We can’t find it by us (there is three cheese and regular, but not the pepperoni) so we buy it in bulk when we visit Mike’s parents. I served pepperoni on the side as I thought it might be a texture issue for my kids.  However, I think finely chopped pepperoni directly in the pasta would be a delicious addition.

Homemade Pizza Spaghetti-Os
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Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz pasta rings
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 15 oz can Contadina brand Pepperoni flavored pizza sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • 1 cup shredded pizza-blend cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper, then stir in the pizza sauce, water, tomato pasta, salt, pepper, sugar, and remaining butter. When the butter is completely melted and the sauce warm, stir in the milk. Simmer until the pasta is done.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the pizza cheese until melted. Drain the pasta and combine with approximately ¾ths of the sauce (any more and it will be soupy). Stir to combine. Add finely chopped pepperoni or serve with pepperoni on the side.

I made this for dinner on a week night last week and it was very quick and easy.  Not quite as easy as opening a can, but still not a lot of effort.  After my trio ate there were enough leftovers for another full meal.