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!

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Brunch Round-up By Edan Goode

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Now, moms, we all know that if there is something we are wishing for on Mother’s Day, giving a little hint never hurt. If you are hoping for a nice Mother’s Day Brunch, but don’t have time to research a place to go (Who does, right?) we’ve done the work for you.

Here’s a round-up of area restaurants doing something special in honor of you, on Sunday, May 12. Make those reservations now – or rather, tell the person who needs to know this information to call right now to get a table or else! Happy Mother’s Day!

Where: Zengo Denver/1610 Little Raven St., Denver. http://www.richardsandoval.com/zengodenver/index.php
What: 10:30am-2:30pm. Mums & Mother’s Day Brunch celebration. Each mom will receive a mum (flower) with their brunch.
Cost: $35 per guest, $10 for children, and includes unlimited small plates and free flowing brunch cocktails.

Where: TAG Restaurant/1441 Larimer St., Denver. http://tag-restaurant.com/
What: A special Mother’s Day Brunch, 10am-2pm.
Cost: $40 per person. $15 for children.

Where:  The Corner Office/1401 Curtis St., Denver. http://thecornerofficedenver.com/
What: 
Sexy Mama Disco Brunch, 9am-3pm. Regular brunch a la carte menu but with the addition of a 10-minute chair massage, champagne and photo booth.
Cost: Depends on menu items chosen. Not fixed price.

Where: Tamayo/14oo Larimer St., Denver. www.richardsandoval.com
What: Bottomless Margarita Brunch and Mom’s Day chrysanthemum flower.
Cost:  Brunch includes unlimited small plates and breakfast cocktails for $35. Discount for those not drinking and for kids.

Where: Second Home Kitchen + Bar/150 Clayton Lane inside JW Marriott Hotel. www.secondhomedenver.com.
What: Mom receives a complimentary mimosa during the Mother’s Day Pajama Brunch from 7am-3pm or dinner from 5pm-10pm.
Cost: Order off of regular menu. Kids age 8 and under, free when wearing their PJ’s during the brunch. They get to eat and be entertained in a separate room.

Where: Gaetano’s/3760 Tejon St., Denver. www.gaetanositalian.com
What:  Noon-4 pm. Special Mother’s Day brunch items in addition to the regular menu. Also, a Prosecco-sicle, a liquor popsicle dropped into a glass of prosecco for $9.
Cost: Varies with menu items chosen.

Where: Altitude Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Denver/650 15th St., Denver. http://www.downtowndenverhyatts.com/altitude-mothers-day-dining
What: Brunch from11am-3pm.
Cost: $42 per person 13+, $17 ages 6-12, 5 and under dine free.

Where: Garden Terrace at the Inverness Hotel/200 Inverness Drive West, Englewood.  http://www.invernesshotel.com/denver-restaurants.php
What: Buffet brunch. 9:30am-3pm.
Cost: $49.95 per person 11+, $23.95 ages 6-10, 5 and under dine free.

Where: Beatrice and Woodsley, South Broadway No. 38, Denver. http://beatriceandwoodsley.com/special-occasions-menus/
What: Table service brunch with multi-course options. 10am- 2pm.
Cost: $36 per adult, $20 per child.

Where:  Café Terracotta, (5649 S. Curtice St., Littleton. http://www.cafeterracottalittleton.com/.
What: Brunch 7:30am-2:30pm.
Cost: $29.95 per person, $14.95 children 10 and under.

Where: Cool River Café,  8000 E. Belleview Ave. , Suite C 10, Greenwood Village. http://www.coolrivercafe.com/reservations.php?c=1&id=4
What:  Buffet 10am- 3pm.
Cost: $36.95 per person, $14.95 children under 12.

Just a reminder that buffets do not include tax and gratuity. Be kind to your server. They may be a mom or have one.

 

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Go-To Meals, Part 1 By Edan Goode

When I’m able to be really organized, I plan a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, shopping for ingredients, defrosting in stages, etc. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m very proud of having my act so together. That scenario doesn’t happen very often.

At best, I scan the fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets in the morning and come up with a plan for that night. Even then, I still feel pretty good about myself for knowing what I’m going to make that night.

Now, the reality is more like this: no Sunday planning, no time for a quick plan in the morning and suddenly it’s 4:00 and the kids walk in the door asking what’s for dinner. “Um, I haven’t decided yet” is my usual response. I hate that. It takes an already busy, stressful day and tops it off with even more stress. I scramble to come up with something (often the scrambling of eggs ends up being involved, ironically) but it’s haphazard and a tense situation.

What I need to do is come up with a list of Go-To meals (as opposed to To-Go meals!) that I can keep the ingredients on hand for and assemble quickly when need be. In the next few blogs, I’m going to share with you what I’m coming up with in hopes that some of the recipes might help you too. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. I invite you, dear readers, to share your recipes with me as well. I’d love to share them in this blog space so we can help each other out.

Here’s my first recipe, a beef ragu sauce that can be made in the crockpot (which, yes, requires planning from the morning but then it

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

comes together quickly at dinnertime) or it can be made using a pressure cooker in about 20 minutes. Please share your recipes in the Leave A Reply area below. Thanks!

Edan’s Go-To Beef Ragu Sauce                           


Note: This can be served over pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes

1 large carrot, diced finely

1 medium onion, chopped finely

Go-To Beef Ragu

Go-To Beef Ragu

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can tomato paste

2 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 tsp. each thyme, oregano and basil

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into bite-size pieces

Pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes for the sauce

Grated parmesan for serving

In a crockpot:

Combine all ingredients except pasta/polenta/potatoes and parmesan in a slow cooker. Cover and put on low for 6 hours or on high for 4. Check the liquid levels periodically to make sure it isn’t reducing too much. If it is, add ¼ cup water at a time. But no more than that you don’t want to make the sauce too runny.

The sauce is done when the meat and carrots are fork tender. Ladle over whatever base you choose and sprinkle with parmesan.

In a pressure cooker: 

Brown the meat and onion, adding the minced garlic after the meat has started to brown. Add enough water to just cover the meat mixture. Put the lid on and cook over medium high heat until the pressure has clearly started to build up (how and when this happens depends on your pressure cooker). Lower the heat to medium and simmer, with lid on, for 15 minutes. Follow the directions for how to release the steam and open the lid. Drain off most of the liquid.

Put the pressure cooker back on the stove and add the tomato sauce, paste and seasonings. On medium heat, simmer until the sauce is heated through. Meanwhile, prepare your base and prepare as above.

Share your Go-To recipe under the Leave A Reply section below.

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Family mealtime a crock? Thank goodness!

A study recently came out from Cornell University questioning the benefits of family meal time. You know, that evening-time standard

upon which so many families, including mine, have based their parental success? That time of day that is supposed to increase family bonding, clue us in on what’s going on in our children’s brains and lives and is supposed to prevent them from getting into all sorts of trouble too terrifying to even think about. To this I say: What a relief!

I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed over making sure the whole family is together, gathered ‘round the table eating something fabulously healthy, engaging in worthwhile discussion and bonding. I have to confess, it hasn’t gone well.

Most nights, that lovely bonding experience collapses into cajoling them to try something new, eat their vegetables, stop tipping back in their chair, quit punching each other, don’t insult your sister, tell me what’s new in your life, etc. We can’t WAIT until dinner’s over! And now that it’s summer, we’re eating outside every night which, I’m sure, my neighbors just love. Maybe that’s why they started closing their windows and doors when they see the kids set the table…

Now before you think we are all heathens, I have to say it’s not like that every night (most nights, but not every night). Some nights, they eat what’s put in front of them. There are rounds of jovial laughter, thoughts are shared, people are happy and smiling and it’s almost like a Norman Rockwell painting. Why weren’t the neighbor’s windows open for those nights?!

Lest I feel like a complete failure as a parent because our family meal times are not all they are supposed to be, the Cornell study says all is not lost. They found that the association between family meals and kid well-being is due to other aspects of the family environment including economics, time spent together and the general closeness of the relationships.

In the June edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell and lead author of the study says “Meals may afford a regular and positive context for parents to connect with children emotionally, to monitor their social and academic activities and to convey values and expectations. This is what we suspect is driving any causal relationship between family dinners and child well-being. But family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package.”

This news takes so much pressure off of family meal times. They don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of success as a family anymore which is great because I always had my doubts as to their magical powers. My husband and I have often talked about the unplanned, magical moments that happen when riding in the car with one or more of the kids, or walking with them to school, sitting next to them on the couch watching a movie or even while we’re doing chores. All of the sudden, completely unprompted, they’ll open up and divulge something and a conversation starts. At those times, we know we have to bite our tongues and remain calm and cool even if what they are telling us is worrisome or goes against our very grain. We have to let it unfold and then let the conversation between us flow as calmly as we can so that they will want to do this again and again. That’s where our closeness and, I believe, the reinforcement of our family values are strengthened. And broccoli had nothing to do with it.

Where to “Use Your Noodle”: In Search of Pasta Restaurants for Kids By Edan Goode

Kids and pasta are a natural combination. Maybe it’s that spaghetti noodles look like worms. Or that you can slurp them. Or that they are bland. Or that they come in lots of interesting shapes with interesting names that are fun to say like “fusilli” and “rigatoni”.

Although pasta is one of the easiest things in the world to cook at home, it’s a lot of fun to go out for pasta because you know there won’t be any arguments from the kids about what to order.

Here are a few of my childrens’ favorites:

  1. The Old Spaghetti Factory –   With its interesting décor and train theme, including

    An example of a birthday balloon hat you can get at The Old Spaghetti Factory.

    an actual box car you can dine in, it’s an event to go to Old Spaghetti Factory. For a birthday, count on the staff singing to you and the balloon artist coming ‘round to make a fanciful and wonderfully embarrassing hat for you to wear.  Meals are a good deal with the price including soup or salad (salad or applesauce on the kids’ menu), drink, entrée and dessert.

    (Read a review of  The Old Spaghetti Factory).

  2. Noodles & Company – The Wisconsin Mac and Cheese is, hands-down, my childrens’ favorite dish in the world with its mixture of creamy cheese sauce, topped with two kinds of shredded cheese that melt over the whole mess as you eat.  My youngest says the plain buttered noodles with herbs and parmesan is “the best thing ever”.
  3. Pei Wei – Because noodles aren’t just Italian, the Lo Mein noodles with chicken on the kids menu are a big hit with my kids. They also like the Dan Dan Noodles from the main menu for something a little spicier. With soy sauce, chicken, scallions, garlic, bean sprouts, cucumbers on egg noodles, it gets them out of their simple pasta rut, for which I am grateful.
  4. Olive Garden  – These folks are smart. They give kids a sense of control while keeping them within the confines of the kids’ menu. One of their most popular menu items is the “Create Your Own Pasta” where kids pick the kind of pasta they want, then the kind of sauce and finally the protein they want to add like grilled chicken, Italian sausage or a meatball.

Where are your favorite places to take the kids for pasta?  I’ve only mentioned chains here, unintentionally, only because we haven’t discovered any “mom and pop” places yet. Have you discovered any? Let us know!

Comment below and share your favorite spots for pasta with the family. Mangia!

Breakfast with a twist By Edan Goode

As you have noted from previous posts, I believe it’s ok to be a little sneaky with food if it results in added nutrition in my family’s everyday favorites. While I’d prefer they say, “Please Mom, make some of your whole wheat bread and throw in some extra oat bran,” it won’t happen in my lifetime. So instead, I augment here, tweak there and they’re eating healthy without even realizing it.

Our weekend breakfasts are no exception. I have a great recipe for pancakes that is good on its own but beautifully adapts to some healthful changes. I happily share it with you, here. Feel free to sneak in your own healthy additions.

Edan Goode’s Secretly Healthy Pancakes
Makes 8-10 pancakes depending on the size

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose, unbleached white flour
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup skim milk
3 TBS safflower or olive oil
2 TBS flax meal or oat bran
Fruit and nut mix-ins such as berries, banana slices, chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a nonstick skillet or add a little butter. Combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Pour the batter into a measuring cup for ease of pouring. Or, use a gravy ladle to spoon up perfect portions. Place fruit and/or nuts on each pancake at this point while the top side is still wet. Don’t add them to the batter in the bowl because they’ll just sink to the bottom and won’t be evenly distributed.

When the edges begin to dry and harden, flip the pancakes. Cook the second side until it is golden brown. Keep the pancakes warm until the entire batch is done.  Sprinkle more fruit and/or nuts over the top of the pancakes.

It’s good to be sneaky by Edan Goode

I believe being a little sneaky is a critical element of a parenting tool box…as long as it’s used for good, not evil.  I came across some recipes from one of my favorite food-oriented websites, Zis Boom Bah that hide healthy food in baked goods. Yes, I know it is quite “au courant” to do this these days but these recipes sound particularly doable.

So give them a try as you bake things up for the holidays, with or without the kids. If they are baking with you, no need to tell them that the orange puree they are adding is for their health. Just tell them it is to help make the goodie extra good.  There I go again, being sneaky.

Thank you to the good folks at Zis Boom Bah for providing me with the link for these recipes (go ahead, click here).