Big Batch Bolognese

My first taste of meat sauce for pasta came as a child when my Mom would use a name-brand seasoning packet which shall go nameless here. It was delicious but full of processed stuff. When I had a family of my own, I tried to recreate those flavors without all that processed stuff and came pretty darned close. Then, a while back, I was invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant in town where they made a fantastic bolognese sauce with pork, Italian sausage, beef and a touch of red wine. It was divine! So, I set about figuring out how to make THAT at home as well, feeling like I was graduating a bit from that first attempt at sauce.

I think I’ve done it and wanted to share the recipe with you. I’ve made this recipe numerous times now and it always draws raves. I love putting half the sauce in the freezer, knowing that on a busy night, I’ve got another great meal ready.

Big Batch Bolognese - finished

This makes a big batch of bolognese sauce! Our family of six can get two full meals out of it. It freezes beautifully (I think it actually benefits from some time chilling out) so depending on the size of your family, portion it off in freezer bags for easy defrosting and reheating. Also, note that this is not a saucy sauce that’s going to run over your plate. It’s thick and meant to cling to your pasta. I recommend spaghetti, fettuccine or wide papperadelle noodles or campanelle which is small but ruffly and catches bits of sauce beautifully.

Big Batch Bolognese
Serves up to 12

Ingredients:

1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce plus about 1/2 a can of water
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 pound ground beef – 80/20 or 90/10 lean/fat are fine
1lb bulk, hot Italian sausage
1 lb ground pork
Fresh or dried basil, oregano, rosemary – see below
1/4 cup red wine that you’d drink with the meal
Salt to taste
Pasta of your choice
Parmesan cheese to taste

 

Big Batch Bolognese - meat

Save time by cooking the meats, onions and garlic all together.

Instructions:

1. In a large pot, drizzle a little olive oil and heat until just before it starts to smoke.
2. Add the onion, garlic and meats, breaking them up and mixing all ingredients as they brown. Keep cooking until the fat diminishes. You want to have some left for flavor but you don’t want it to be swimming in it.
3. Carefully add the cans of tomato sauce and the tomato paste plus the 1/2 can of water. Keep the cans nearby in case you have to add a little more water as things thicken. This is a good way to also get every last bit of sauce out of the cans and prepare them for the recycling bin.
4. Stir everything together, breaking up the tomato paste.
5. At this point, add about 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. If you are using dried herbs, crumble them between your fingers and mix.  
6. Add the sugar and mix. This is an old trick to tang some of the acidity off of the tomato sauce and to give it a more well-rounded flavor. Add too much and you’ll ruin the sauce so be conservative. You can always add more. 
7. While the sauce is cooking over medium heat, get another big pot of salted water boiling and make the pasta. The sauce can be left waiting but the pasta can’t. 
8. Cook the sauce until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. 
9. A few minutes before serving, add another 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. I do this because I like the layering of herb flavors that have cooked with the dish and the ones that are more pronounced on their own. 
10. Sprinkle in some parmesan cheese and leave it out to serve with the finished meal.
11. Add the wine and stir. 
12. Drain your pasta and serve the sauce over it or mix the two together before serving if you’re going to eat it all. Don’t freeze pasta and sauce together – it doesn’t reheat well. 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant Rolls

Chocolate that you’re supposed to spread as freely and as frequently as you would peanut butter and jam! Does it get any better? Uh, yes, when you make it a spreadable chocolate-hazelnut spread called Nocciolata!

nocciolata-toastMy daughter and I sampled Nocciolata from Rigoni di Asiago, a family-owned and operated business based in the Altopiano di Asiago, a mountain plateau in Northern Italy. Using certified organic ingredients free of GMO’s, preservatives, colors, additives, or artificial sweeteners, Nocciolata combines hazelnuts, cocoa and cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract and raw cane sugar. They also have a certified vegan, dairy free version, Nocciolata Dairy Free.

To give the spread an earnest try, we started and ended the day with Nocciolata because, well, any day is better that starts and ends with chocolate. In the morning, we spread it over whole grain toast. It went so well with a cup of coffee! Then, for dessert that night, my daughter asked if she could make her own creation, a take on a chocolate croissant. This is what she came up with:
Nocciolata Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant Rolls
Serves 8-10

1 can croissant/crescent rolls
Approximately ¼ cup Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread (Don’t use too much or it will be a gooey, yet delicious, mess.)

  1. Preheat the oven per the directions on the can. Spread the dough out on a cutting board. You won’t be cutting the dough along the pre-cut lines so press along those lines to smoosh them together a bit.
  2. Spread the Nocciolata evenly over the dough leaving about ½ an inch uncovered around all edges.
  3. Roll up the dough, tucking in the sides as you go and sealing the ends.
  4. Pick up the roll and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
  5. Bake according to croissant directions.
  6. Cut the rolls into slices and serve on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
    nocciolata-rolling-new
    nocciolata-baked-roll-newnocciolata-finished-new

Going Free-Form with a Fruit Galette

I don’t do double crust pies well. I just can’t get them to look nice around the edges, despite trying all the tricks. Then I thought of doing a Galette, a more free-form pie that has a “rustic” look. (I love the word “rustic” because it’s my excuse to be really imperfect and still sound like it was on purpose!) Pies, galettes and cobblers are a great way to use up fruit that has seen better days. When I made this galette, I had some rhubarb, blueberries and peaches. But you can use any fruit that you think would go well together including frozen fruit that has been defrosted and drained of extra liquid.

Ingredients:

Galette

Mix all of the ingredients of your filling together in a large bowl.

1 thawed pie crust

2 cups worth of diced fruit of choice

1 TBS Brown sugar (can add more)

1 TBS corn starch

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

1 TBS sanding or turbinado sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to temperature recommended on pie crust packaging.

Lay out the pie crust on a non-stick (like Silpat) liner on a baking sheet.

Mix the fruit, sugar, corn starch and salt together in a large bowl.

Spoon fruit mixture in the center, leaving about an inch and a half all around the edge.

Fold in sections of the outer edge of the crust you just left exposed, turning the galette as you go. There will be a large section of fruit filling showing.

Brush the crust you have now folded up with the egg wash.

Sprinkle the crust with the sanding or turbinado sugar. This isn’t just to sweeten it a bit, it’s to leave a crystalline effect that is very pretty.

Bake according to instructions.

Allow to cool 15 minutes or more. Cut into wedges, like a pie, to serve. It would be good served a la mode or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Galette

Leave a generous edge all around to fold in.

I’d love to show you a picture of the finished product, fresh out of the oven. It was lovely and golden brown. However we had company over and they all descended and topped their slices with vanilla ice cream before I could get a shot. I guess I’ll consider that a compliment!

galette-with-sugar-sprinkle

Pretty, huh? You should have seen it baked! Without letting it cool a bit, and while my back was turned, the family descended. The aftermath was a plate of crumbs and some happy tummies. 

4-Ingredient Mexican-Style Corn

A couple of years ago, I visited Santa Fe and had corn on the cob prepared in the Mexican tradition, coated with mayonnaise, seasonings and cheese. It was delicious but really messy to eat (or maybe it was just me). Luckily, it’s easier to make (and less messy to eat) with corn that’s already off the cob. Here’s my variation which is super-fast and easy to make. It’s a great side-dish that goes with any protein and is also delicious mixed into a salad. 

Here’s all you need to make this corn: 1. Frozen corn off the cob 2. Chili powder 3. Mayonnaise 4. Lime zest. That’s it! Adjust the amounts to your taste. 

mexican-corn-with-chili-prep

Prepare frozen corn according to instructions, being sure to drain off all liquid. Sprinkle on some chili powder, starting with 1 teaspoon at a time. You can always add more of all ingredients by tasting it at the end. Stir the corn and chili to mix it well.

 

mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Add a rounded tablespoon of your favorite mayonnaise and stir. Again, you can always add more but the idea is just to add a creamy coating to the corn without making it gloppy. Add a pinch of lime zest for color and brightness of flavor. 

When I get some great limes, I wash them thoroughly and zest them all. I freeze the zest in a zipper bag to use throughout the year – works great! I prefer lime zest over lemon here both for the flavor and the pop of color.
mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Mix everything together and serve immediately. As it sits, moisture from inside the corn starts to mix with the mayonnaise and things start to get watery. You don’t want that! 

Birch Benders Pancakes & Waffles

I have wonderful memories of my dad making pancakes on Sunday mornings. I wouldBirch Benders Pancakes .jpg wake up to the smell of butter melting in the pan. He made perfect pancakes. True, they weren’t from scratch but he did add butter, eggs and milk. I loved the flavor of those pancakes and, even though I’ve bought that particular mix as an adult, the taste is not the same. But recently, ironically on my dad’s birthday, I made a batch of pancakes from a mix by Denver’s own Birch Benders. Guess what? I was taken right back to those Sunday mornings with pancakes full of great flavor, a hint of vanilla, crispy edges and a fluffy center. It made me happy.

Using all-natural ingredients, Birch Benders’ mixes take only water. That means that even birch-benders-pancake-packageson a school day, I can make them for my family and still have everyone get out of the house on time. You can make waffles with the mix too. Besides the ease and the flavor, what really drew me to want to try Birch Benders was that they account for modern dietary needs and culinary wishes. Varieties include Paleo, Gluten Free, and Protein, and the brand offers an all-natural twist on traditional favorites such as Classic, Chocolate Chip, Six Grain Cinnamon, and more. For the holiday season, Birch Benders created Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread Spice, and Double Chocolate Peppermint flavors that make every morning feel festive.

What’s behind the name, Birch Benders? It’s an American tradition of climbing slender, supple birch trees that bend down and return you to the ground when you climb them. The founder, Matt, grew up in Maine and recalls happy times birch bending.

You can buy Birch Benders at Sprout’s, Natural Grocers, and People’s Market. Check out their recipes on their charming website too – they even have savory things to make like Paleo Pizza! 

 

Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

A grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup in which to dip that sandwich is a classic combination. I love this combo but, one day, while trying to make something different for Sunday breakfast, I came up with this dish, a deconstructed recipe that combines tomatoes, toasted bread and melted cheese with the addition of an over-easy egg! It was delicious. The yolk combines with the tomatoes, cheese and bread into something creamy and full of flavor.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-3

A hearty, healthy breakfast I call a Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (with Egg).

Ingredients:
Per person –
1/2 tomato, chopped or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 slice bread of choice (I used a sprouted grain bread)
1 slice cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar)
1 egg

Method: 
1. In a toaster oven or regular toaster, lightly toast bread of choice.
2. In a skillet, melt butter and then place lightly-toasted bread in the pan and top with cheese. You will not be turning this over in the skillet, obviously, because of the cheese. Place a cover over the skillet to help the cheese melt. When done, put it on a plate to make room for the tomato and egg. Don’t cover the toast to keep it warm because it will steam and the toast will soften. The heat from the tomato and egg will create the overall heat for the meal.
3.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
4. Saute the tomatoes on one side of the pan, turning frequently. On the other side, crack an egg. Cover and let the egg cook for sunnyside up, or turn over for over-easy. Just make sure the yolk remains runny.
5. To serve, place the egg on top of the toast and then the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-2

You could make this cheese toast in a skillet with butter for a more traditional flavor, or you can do it in a toaster oven without butter.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-1

Saute tomato in the same skillet as the egg you are frying.

Autumn Muffins

One of our most popular recipes in this blog, and in my house, is for Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins.  We make them every year around this time. And, when my kids were little, I’d stock up on cans of pumpkin in the fall so that I could make these muffins when it was my turn to bring snack to school or for a soccer game. This year, I’m proud to say one of my daughters came up with a variation on my muffins that is delicious and very pretty! They’d be wonderful to make for holiday brunches or to give as gifts.

My daughter used my recipe but instead of putting the full 1 cup of chocolate chips, she used 1/2 cup chips and 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cranberries. She also recommended throwing in 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

You could also experiment with an orange glaze on top, made of powdered sugar with some orange juice. If you do this, apply it immediately after taking the muffins out of the oven, while they are still in the muffin tin so that the glaze melts and seeps into the fresh muffins.Orange goes great with both chocolate and cranberries but if you prefer one over the other with an orange glaze, just stick to 1 cup of either chocolate chips or cranberries. Mmmm, that would smell so good!

autumn-muffins