Homemade spaghetti sauce

EDIT:  MORE DETAILED STEPS ADDED!

 Last week I took our batch of tomatoes I picked from our garden and canned some diced tomatoes and then made the rest into a spaghetti sauce. 

The canning process (although it seemed long) was successful.  Both my cans sealed up nice and tight, but of course I didn’t want to claim it as a total success until we had a chance to eat what I had canned.  Well last night we decided to make spaghetti, so we used the sauce I made.  It was SO good!  I was actually a little skeptical of it just because it was something new, but we were both very pleased.  This will probably be our go-to recipe now for spaghetti sauce.  We just browned 1.5 lbs of ground beef on the stovetop and dumped it into a stockpot.  Then we added about half the jar of sauce, 1 6-oz. can of tomato paste and about 12 oz. water (because it started getting too thick) and stirred it all together.


The recipe for the sauce can be found on this amazing blog- My Crazy Life (as a Farmer’s Wife).  Please take a look at it! First of all, I’m IN LOVE with this lady’s blog! It’s so bright and colorful, and her photographs are gorgeous.  It’s light and airy.  Not to mention I’m swooning over all her vintage country stuff.  I don’t know how many acres of land they own, but her, her husband and their 4 kids live in this adorable house with a red barn, and they have tons of gardens where they grow all their own fresh fruit and veggies.  I’m obsessed.


Sigh.  Ok, back to the recipe.  It’s her Tangy Spaghetti Sauce recipe, but since I’m not a huge fan of really spicey stuff, I took out a few things to make it not-so-tangy.  The items in italics I left out of our sauce.  So if you like it tangy, keep those items in there 😉  Oh, and since I only had about 4 cups of tomatoes once I got them chopped (it calls for 16 cups), I quartered all the ingredients as well. (and I filled 1 quart jar for canning…plus some that I just threw into the fridge).

First, I diced all the tomatoes I had.  Ideally, you should probably remove the skins first, using the boiling then ice water bath method described here, but I honestly just forgot to until I was almost done chopping them all.  So of course I searched online and found out it’s not entirely necessary to skin the tomatoes (it just helps cut back on possible bacteria, and keeps the chewy skins out if you’re picky about that!).  But I did read that if you finely chop the tomatoes in a food processor, the skins are less noticeable later.  So that’s what I did.  I diced, then tossed them all into the processes for a few seconds, careful not to process too much and turn it into mush.

 And I found out this method of cutting tomatoes was much easier (and less messy!!) than my last method.  Cut all around the core in a “C” shape, trying to avoid the watery core and seeds. If I got seeds in the cut pieces, I just dug them out with the knife so you’re left with just the firm flesh.
 
 

This time I ended up with roughly 6 cups of diced tomatoes.  They went into the food processor, along with onions and green peppers, and then all the ingredients went into a stockpot.

 
 

Tangy Spaghetti Sauce for Canning
 -3 medium onions, chopped
-2 cups green bell peppers, chopped
-1 cup banana peppers, chopped
-2 pkg. fresh sliced mushrooms (neither Greg or I like mushrooms, so those got the boot)
-4 cloves minced garlic
-16 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
-3(12oz) cans tomato paste
-1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
-3 tablespoons brown sugar
-1 tablespoon dried oregano
-4 teaspoons canning salt
-2 teaspoons dried basil
-1 teaspoon black pepper
-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
-1/2 teaspoon cumin


Mix all the ingredients in a large pot on the stove. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. If canning, fill clean, sterilized jars to ½” headspace at the top. Secure with lids. Process for 35 minutes for quart jars in a water bath.  

Enjoy delicious homemade spaghetti 🙂


Chicken Parmesan

 Luckily, this was NOT the scene at my house tonight.  I’ve noticed lately that I’ve gotten more relaxed in my need to follow a recipe word by word, which I think is a good thing.  I’ve always been amazed at cooks who can just throw things together sometimes without even needing a recipe. I’ve got a long way till I reach that level of skill, and I’m certainly no Julia Child, but at least I’m experimenting more and just “going with it.”  There’s still so very little I understand about mixing flavors together and what spices and herbs go well with things.  Baby steps, people.  Tonight, I found two chicken parmesan recipes (one was fairly complicated, the other super basic). So, of course I wanted to create a medium level dish. I’d say it turned out pretty well (and Greg agrees, so I guess that’s all that counts!).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green or red bell pepper (recipe called for red, but I used a green one)
  • 2 cups pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil)
  • approx. 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • linguine pasta for two

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pound each chicken breast to approx 1/2 inch thickness using a meat mallet. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of black pepper into a shallow pan.
2. Dip each breast into the egg wash, then into the breading mixture. Place chicken breasts into a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
3. While baking the chicken, saute the chopped bell pepper with 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once sauteed, add 2 cups pasta sauce and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Remove chicken from oven, pour pasta sauce over chicken and top with mozzarella cheese and cook for additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
5. Serve over linguine pasta.

Final result…

And one happy dinner date!
 

the best lasagna ever

I wanted to share with you the recipe for the lasagna we cooked for the guys last weekend.  I believe the word Greg used was “incredible!”  Thanks to my good friend DK for discovering it, and thanks to the Pioneer Woman for creating it!  The great thing about this lasagna was its simplicity. Unfortunately, though, it’s not packed with many veggies. I might try to add some next time.  Not that it lacked at all in taste, but it never hurts to mix some veggies into a meal. (especially for someone like me who never eats veggies on the side!)  Ok, so here it is. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 lbs. hot breakfast sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (6 Ounce) tomato paste
  • 4 Tablespoons dried parsley (divided in half)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoon salt (divided in half) 
  • 3 cups lowfat cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup grated (not Shredded) Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lbs. sliced mozzarella cheese (approximately) 
  • 1 package (10 Ounce) lasagna noodles

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (add 1/2 teaspoon salt to boiling pasta water)
2.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain off the fat.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 Tbs. parsley, 2 Tbs. basil and 1 tsp. salt. After adding the tomatoes, the sauce mixture should simmer for approx 30-45 minutes while you are working on the other steps.
3.  In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside.
4.  Cook lasagna until “al dente”

To assemble:
1. Arrange cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat/sauce mixture over the top.

2.  Repeat, ending with meat/sauce mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.
3.  Either freeze, refrigerate for up to two days, or bake immediately: 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until top is hot and bubbly.

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

Here is the recipe I mentioned yesterday.  It was delicious.  Thank you husband-to-be  🙂

The original recipe can be found here:  Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo  It serves 8. The version typed below is for 4.  Use the calculator on the website to adjust it to however much you need.

Ingredients:

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (cut into cubes)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided in half
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 pound fettuccini pasta
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 (8 ounce) package sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour  (this measurement is weird when you cut the recipe in half)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (another weird measurement)
  • 1/4 pound shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1-1/2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat combine chicken, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon garlic, and Italian seasoning. Cook until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for until al dente; drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet. Saute the onion, 1 tablespoons garlic and mushrooms until onions are transparent. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook approx. 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and half-and-half, stirring until smooth and creamy. Stir in Parmesan and Colby-Monterey Jack cheeses; stir until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken mixture, tomatoes and sour cream. Serve over cooked fettuccini.

And here’s the finished product one more time…