Spaghetti My Way

I really like to make a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and serve it with whole wheat thin spaghetti. I think it’s a comfort food – at least for me. I used to make the sauce from scratch (many years ago), then went to buying spaghetti, and then with some input from my son, I used a purchased spaghetti sauce that has been “doctored up.” Here’s my version.

Spaghetti Sauce My Way

1 1/2 lbs ground beef, browned well, with lots of fresh ground pepper and some sea salt to season (son says to be sure and brown it well and don’t skimp on the pepper – he knows what he’s talking about!)
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 oz. jar spaghetti sauce – I’ve used a variety of brands with good results. Usually get a roasted garlic, or basil seasoned one
2 – 15 oz. cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup. chopped parsley
1 lb. box whole wheat spaghetti (I also like the Barilla Plus)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Start browning ground beef, draining any excess fat. When beef is almost done, add the garlic and onions and continue cooking until onions are limp… another 5-7 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, basil, oregano, and crushed red peppers. Add enough water to make sauce desired consistency. I usually add about 1/2 cup.
3. Cook spaghetti another 10 minutes or so until flavors are melded.
4. Add parsley and cook a few more minutes.
5. While spaghetti sauce is cooking, boil water in large stock pot. Add a couple teaspoons of sea salt, and cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain.
6. Serve sauce over spaghetti and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

I like to serve this with stir-fried broccoli or mixed salad greens.

Amaranth – Grain of the Gods

I like to explore the use of some of the more unfamiliar grains in cooking — so this weekend decided it would be amaranth since I’ve had some in my cupboard for a couple weeks. Amaranth is a small, nutty type of grain and is considered a complete protein source. It was a staple in Aztec and Inca cultures and was even used in religious ceremonies.

I will occasionally make a pilaf with the grain for something different. Last weekend, I made the pilaf below which I found in my “Clean Eating” magazine, made a few changes and this is the result. This pilaf has a bit of a kick to it and thought it went well with the roast chicken and roasted asparagus.

Amaranth Pilaf

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. each chili powder and paprika
2 cups chicken broth, preferably low sodium
2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. saffron threads (original recipe says this is optional – I like the yellow hue and subtle flavor)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Pinch of fresh ground pepper and cayenne pepper
1 cup amaranth

Instructions:
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes
2. Add chili power and paprika. Stir to coat onion/garlic
3. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, saffron, salt and peppers. Bring to boil. Stir in amaranth, bringing back to a boil. Reduce head and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
4. Remove from heat and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Will post some recipes for quinoa, bulgur, and barley in the future as time and ambition permits.

Chow Mein – Sort of

Well, it’s a cold, rainy, breezy day. Am at work and thinking, ” Haven’t made chow mein for awhile, and it would taste pretty good tonight.” So off I go to the grocery store after work. Pick up the ingredients, pause at the celery and think that I have plenty at home, so don’t get it. There’s no bok choy, so I substitute, napa cabbage figuring that will work.

I get home and have to finish cleaning the kitchen before I cook (not a good start). And then there’s no celery. My husband ate it earlier! That set me off a bit. So I get in the car and head to town. (We live in a rural area, and town is a 5 mile drive). At the store the celery is in such poor shape, I wouldn’t take it if they paid me let alone being asked to pay for it. So I go home and finish the chow mein sans celery. Added another half onion and more cabbage, but it’s not quite the same. But in the end, it tasted pretty good.

Anyway, here’s my chow mein recipe. I got it from a blend of what my mother makes and what my husband’s sister made once when she was out here. I call it chow mein… not sure the Chinese would accept it, but we like it and that’s what we call it.

Chow Mein
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast cut up (I’ve used pork loin and round steak also)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
4-5 carrots, sliced
1 head bok choy, chopped (I’ve used napa cabbage, broccoli, or snow peas)
2 cans bean sprouts
1 can water chestnuts
8 oz. carton mushrooms, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. cornstarch, heaping
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water (may need more)
2 cups brown rice, cooked in 4 cups water
Dried chow mein noodles, if desired

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into bite size pieces.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp. Olive oil in large pan on medium high. Add garlic, red pepper, ginger and sesame oil. Sauté 30 seconds or so.
3. Add chicken. Cook until chicken is done and lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
4. Add 2nd tablespoon olive oil. Add onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and sauté 3-5 minutes.
5. Add broth and heat mixture until it is simmering. Add bean sprouts and water chestnuts. Heat until simmering.
6. Add bok choy and cook until bok choy is almost done.
7. Add chicken back.
8. Combine cornstarch, soy sauce and 1/2 cup cold water. Add to chow mein and cook until thickened. Add more water if you feel the mixture is too thick.
9. Serve over rice and top with chow mein noodles if desired.

Arugula with Chick-Pea Salad

arugula-chickpea-saladMy oldest son is into eating less meat in general, so we like to try vegetarian, fish or “light on the meat” dishes. This Arugula Salad was originally given to him by my sister who got it from Jack Bishop’s “Pasta and Verdura” book (which we also purchased). I think this dish is one of those love-it or hate-it dishes. And, obviously, we love it! Here’s the recipe with my comments and changes to accommodate our tastes.

Arugula with Chick-pea Salad

2 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed. (original recipe recommends 1 cup dried chick-peas that have been re-hydrated, but never seem to have the time.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
40 Kalamata black olives, pitted and sliced (original recipe calls for 15 – not enough for us)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large bunch arugula (about 1/3 lb). (We can never find arugula in our grocery store, so if it isn’t in the garden, I buy a sassy/bold mix of greens that is predominantly arugula).
1 lb whole wheat pasta, cooked and drained. Use rotini, shells, or whatever I can find

Directions:
1. Rinse and drain chick-peas and put in large bowl.
2. Bring salted water to boil in a large pot for cooking pasta.
3. Coarsely chop the pitted olives. Add them to the bowl with the chick-peas.
4. Combine the garlic, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, pepper flakes and salt. Slowly whisk in 4 Tbsp. olive oil. Drizzle over the chick-peas and olives, tossing gently. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
5. Clean and dry the arugula. Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside.
6. Cook and drain pasta. Toss the hot pasta with the chick-pea mixture. Add the salad greens and remaining olive oil. Mix well until arugula wilts. Serve immediately. (This is also good cold the next day).

My Birthday Meal – Featuring Spinach-Beef Lasagna

Was invited out for an evening meal on my birthday, but both Alan and I felt we’d rather cook a meal at home instead, so had the inviters become the invitees.  Hadn’t made lasagna in a long time, so decided this would be the main dish. Served with roasted asparagus and mixed salad greens with a balsamic vinaigrette to complete the meal. One of the guests brought brownies for dessert (heavenly) and another a nice red Spanish wine.

Everyone absolutely loved the lasagna. And here is the recipe:

Spinach Beef Lasagna

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
26-32 oz. jar sphagetti sauce (I used a Basil Tomato flavor)
1 15 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup water, about (substitute a dry red wine for half the water – awesome)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
15 oz. carton ricotta cheese
10 oz. pkg of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Brown hamburger, draining fat as needed. When almost done, add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are almost done – another 5-7 minutes. Add about a tsp of sea salt and about 1/2 tsp. black pepper. I grind my black pepper, so it’s hard to give an amount, but like putting a lot of black pepper on ground beef as it adds a nice flavor.
2. Add spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, pepper flakes. Cook another 5-10 minutes to blend flavors. Adjust the seasonings as desired. The herb amounts are guesstimates as I just grabbed some out of the spice bag.
3. Add enough water to make the mixture a bit on the soupy side. The uncooked noodles will absorb this liquid during the baking phase. If it looks too soupy, cook it down a bit.
4. In another bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, and spinach.
5. In a 9 x 13 inch pan, put 2 cups of the tomato/beef mixture. Layer 3 noodles lengthwise, and then a 4th noodle across the top. You may have to break a part of the 4th noodle off to fit.
6. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles, followed by 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
7. Top with 1 1/2 cups tomato/beef tomato mixture.
8. Add 4 more lasagna noodles in same fashion as noted above and then top with the remaining tomato beef mixture.
9. Bake in a 375 degree oven until noodles are done – 45-60 minutes (the whole wheat noodles will take closer to an hour).
10. Top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese along with some more Parmesan if desired. Put back in oven another 5 minutes to melt cheese.
11. Remove from oven and let stand 15-20 minutes before serving.

My Lentil Soup

I absolutely LOVE this lentil soup. The inspiration came many years ago from Jane Brody and it has evolved into the recipe below. It is basically a vegetarian recipe if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, but I go for the chicken broth. My husband likes to add some cooked ham to his portion.

My sister changed the white wine to lemon juice and I have to say I like this better than the wine. Without further ado….

My Lentil Soup

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, chopped
5 carrots, chopped (this is really an “about” as I buy a 1 lb bag of organic carrots and use the whole bag, minus what I munch on)
1 tsp dry oregano (original recipe called for marjoram, but never seem to have it)
1 tsp dry thyme
2 15 oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I’ve used regular when I can’t find these)
8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (this originally called for 6 oz dry white wine which is also good… I like a Chardonnay or Chablis)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (am always generous with parsley — it adds some green)
Grated cheese for topping – Parmesan, Cheddar, or whatever suits you.

1. Heat oil in soup pot and saute the garlic, onions, carrots, oregano and thyme, stirring for about 5 – 7 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, broth, and lentils. Bring soup to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour or until lentils are done.
3. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley. Simmer for a few minutes. Serve with cheese sprinkled on top.

White Bean-Pancetta Soup

Not sure where this recipe came from originally, but have been making it for a few years and never make it quite the same way. I know I’ve changed at least 3 of the ingredients/quantities, and don’t even recall the name of the original recipe, so maybe I can call it mine.

When you read the ingredient list, you can tell it’s pretty open to adjusting to your tastes. I love pancetta, but my husband thinks that regular bacon or ham (and more of it) would be better in this soup. Well, since I’m the cook….. :-). I put lemon juice in here, but often think a splash of Chardonnay would be an interesting substitute — just haven’t done it yet… maybe someday when the planets align and  there is Chardonnay on hand plus the desire to make the soup all on the same day.

Anyway, here’s the recipe to use as you wish.

White Bean-Pancetta Soup

3 oz package of pancetta, chopped (that’s how it’s available in local grocery, so that’s what is used – it could be any amount you wish)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (if you’re not a garlic fan, tone this down)
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup chopped carrots
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 tsp. thyme ( I use dried, but sometime want to use fresh when have fresh thyme and the ingredients)
2 Bay leaves
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed. (Have used Cannellini or Great Northern)
4 cups chicken broth (or a 32 oz. box)
zest of 1 lemon
1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

To put it all together….
1. Heat olive oil in small soup pot and heat
2. Add garlic and pancetta, saute 2-3 minutes
3. Add carrots, onions, celery, thyme and saute another 5-7 minutes or until veggies are just starting to get tender
4. Add broth and bay leaves. Bring to boil, turn down heat, and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until veggies are done.
5. Add parsley, lemon juice and zest. Heat a few more minutes.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with crusty bread and/or salad and enjoy!

I like to make this soup for Sunday dinner after church as it comes together fast and we’ve usually had a later breakfast, so it isn’t a heavy meal.

Roasted Asparagus Soup

Had a long day at work (on a Saturday, no less), so on my way home, was thinking about something light and comforting for supper. Had seen a recipe for Asparagus Soup in my Prevention magazine, so stopped at the grocery store to pickup some fresh asparagus.

Of course, instead of measuring, I just guesstimated the chicken broth and put in way too much. So what’s a person to do… I pureed a can of Cannellini beans to thicken the soup and it turned out great. So here’s my twist on the recipe.

Roasted Asparagus Soup

2 lb. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or whatever you happen to dump in the pot, as was my case)
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
8 oz. baby portebella mushrooms, sliced (original recipe called for shiitake mushrooms, but didn’t have any)
1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 425.
Take 9 x 13 inch pan, lay asparagus in. Mix together with salt, olive oil, and garlic. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in pan and saute mushrooms until golden (5-6 minutes). Remove and place in a separate bowl/plate.
Melt rest of butter in pan and saute onion until starting to carmelize… 10-12 minutes.
When asparagus is done, remove tips from half of them and set aside.
Mix asparagus, beans, broth in small pot and puree using an immersion blender.
Add mushr0oms and pepper.
Bring to boil. Season w/ additional salt and pepper as desired.
Garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Could’ve eaten the whole pot, but figured I should share. I’m sure you can come up with your own twist also

Breakfast Smoothie

Well, was going to work today and as I was walking out the door, got a phone call from client cancelling the visit until later. No complaints from me… emailed my boss and said I was cancelling work today and  taking a vacation day :-). So thought I’d do a post this morning.

I’m a big fan of eating a good breakfast no matter what time you have to get up. I have several items I like to rotate through for breakfast — one of my favorites is to make a smoothie. I’ve made a variety of smoothies, depending on what’s in the house and what I feel like having. I now have a smoothie I really like for now based on a couple recipes on the Internet and ideas from friends and family. Here is my current favorite smoothie to enjoy 🙂

Breakfast Smoothie

1 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp flaxseed meal (I buy whole flax and grind it in an old coffee grinder I no longer use)
1 Tbsp Chia seeds
2 Tbsp whey powder
1.5 Tbsp psyllium powder (great source of fiber & gels the smoothie a bit)
1/2 cup frozen fruit (I’m into 1/2 blueberries & 1/2 raspberries at the moment)
1 small banana (if not available, just add another 1/2 cup frozen fruit)
1/2 cup water
1/2 juice (have used orange, grape, grapefruit, pomegranate, & cherry so far)
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon (this is really a matter of taste and optional… i just like cinnamon in lots of stuff)

Mix all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. I actually use my trusty immersion blender and mix it in a 3 cup container. I LOVE my immersion blender (almost as much as I love my 500 GB small external hard drive — which is another post some day).

This smoothie keeps me filled up until past noon easily. Have put a small container of vanilla/plain Greek Yogurt in for the 1/2 cup water which is also good. So what’s your favorite smoothie?

Garlic Roasted Dill Potatoes

Happy Easter to all….. had an enjoyable time at our niece’s place. Brought my “famous” garlic roasted dill potatoes, and they were a hit as always. Got the recipe several years ago when our church prepared a Seder meal to celebrate Easter/passover. It was my dish to prepare for the feast – not sure where it came from. Of course,  couldn’t just leave it, so put my own twist on it… the main change being the use of olive oil/butter instead of margarine. I just cannot consider margarine a food. And this change made a huge difference. Adjusted the amount of fat used (decreased) and also changed seasonings. Here’s the recipe as I use it:

Garlic Roasted Dill Potatoes
5 lbs. new potatoes cut in quarters
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. dill weed
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 large garlic bulb – peel and separate cloves, cut in half if large.

Preheat oven to 375

Mix all ingredients in a large roaster pan. Roast 2.5-3 hrs. Potatoes should be starting to turn brown.

Green Tea Poached Salmon

Well, decided to try a blog with Word Press and see how it went for me. So far I like some of the options here better than Blogspot.

It’s Easter weekend and getting together with family for food, conversation, and fun. Since we are not hosting the event, it means I can lie low and relax. With nothing major in my kitchen tomorrow (except my dish to bring), decided to try a new salmon recipe I found in my latest issue of Clean Eating — Green Tea Poached Salmon. It was absolutely awesome. Tried to find an online version of the recipe to link, but can’t locate one. It’s from Claire Robinson who hosts “5 Ingredient Fix,” but didn’t see this recipe in her list.

Anyway, the recipe has salmon poached in a liquid of green tea, ginger, honey, and lime. Also a bit of salt and peppercorns for some additional seasoning. It went over great at the supper table with not a bit left over. Served it with roasted asparagus.

This recipe is so good, I didn’t even have the desire to change one thing on it!!

UPDATE: Decided to put this recipe down since I “lost” the magazine for awhile and was frantic when I couldn’t find this recipe… so here it is:

Green Tea Poached Salmon

2 limes, halved
4 Tbsp honey
1 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (don’t skimp on this!)
4 Tbsp loose-leaf green tea, put in an infuser or cheesecloth or use 6 green tea bags (this last is definitely easier)
4 6-oz salmon fillets, skin and bones removed (I just bought a couple lbs of salmon and cut it up in serving pieces – wild-caught if possible)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp whole black peppercorns

Instructions:
1.  Put 6-7 cups water in a straight sided skillet or pot with lid.
2.  Add 3 lime halves after squeezing the juice into the water.
3.  Add 3 Tpsp honey, ginger, salt and peppercorns.
4.  Bring liquid to boil, reduce to simmer, cover & cook 10 minutes to infuse water with flavor. Remove 1/2 cup of the liquid and set aside.
5.  Remove skillter from heat and add tea, allowing to brew for about 5 minutes. (Taste the broth/liquid at this point — it is truly a delightful flavor experience!)
6.  Put skillet back on heat and slide salmon into the liquid. Poach for 7-8 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.
7.  While tea is brewing in broth, put the 1/2 cup reserved liquid in a small pot along with 1 Tbsp honey, juice and zest of remaining lime half. Simmer until this is reducted by 1/2 and thickens slightly. This takaes about 10 minutes for me. Plan accordingly.
8. Remove salmon from cooking liquid and plate. Drizzle with the reduced sauce. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Enjoy and maybe you’ll have enough for leftovers… I never do :-(.