The Best Pasta Sauce EVER

26 Oct

My husband and I modified a recipe for pasta sauce that originally appeared in the Pink Adobe Cookbook. The Pink Adobe is a lovely Sonoran restaurant in Santa Fe, along the Old Santa Fe Trail. I HIGHLY recommend you check it out if you’re ever in the area.

This tomato-and-meat based pasta sauce is incredible and excellent atop Rotini noodles. Don’t skimp on the simmering time – it’s needed to develop the full depth of flavor that all of the herbs and spices provide. Trust me, you’ll never crack open a jar of Prego again!!!

Preparation time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves six

Ingredients:

– 1 lb lean ground beef
– 1/2 lb ground pork
– 1 TBSP worcestershire

– 2 stalks of celery, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1 cup beef broth
– 24-28 oz canned crushed tomatoes (whichever the largest size is in your grocery store)
– 12 oz (two six ounce cans) tomato paste
– 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– 1-2 tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you like your sauce)
– 1 generous pinch EACH of dried oregano, marjoram, rosemary, basil, cumin, thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– salt and pepper to taste

– grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Brown ground beef and ground pork with the worcestershire in a medium skillet. Drain thoroughly.

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil until shimmery and saute the onion, garlic, and celery until just transparent. Add the beef broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining ingredients (except the cheese), plus the cooked ground beef and pork. Stir to combine.

Bring to a LOW simmer and cook, covered, for one hour. Stir occasionally, and add splashes of beef broth, dark beer or red wine if the sauce seems too thick.

Dig around and try to find and remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve over your pasta of choice and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat entirely too much. Unbutton top button of pants. Lay on the couch and groan.

Leftovers the next day are PHENOMENAL.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

27 Nov

Also known as THE PIE(tm) on my blog.

Ingredients:
– One 9″ prepared pie crust, do not pre-bake/blind bake
– 4 TBSP butter, softened
– 3/4 c light brown sugar, packed
– 3 eggs, beaten
– 3/4 c light Karo (corn) syrup
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1 1/2 c crushed pecans
– 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 2 TBSP bourbon (such as Maker’s Mark)

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually while beating. Add beaten eggs, Karo, salt, vanilla, and flour. Stir in chips and nuts. Stir in bourbon until well mixed. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to remix.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place crust in a glass pie dish, flour the bottom lightly.

Stir batter one final time, and pour into pie crust. Place on the bottom rack of the oven (if you don’t the bottom crust will come out soggy, as I discovered to my dismay) and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. If necessary, cover pie crust edges with foil to avoid burning. Continue baking for about 45 minutes, until center is no longer jiggly.

Let cool nearly completely before serving; pie surface will settle considerably during cooling. Serve with Whiskey Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.

Refrigerate leftovers.

(Adapted from a recipe provided to me by Dyskinesia and Taoist Biker, who are officially reserved a special place in Heaven for this.)

Irish Cream Brownies

27 Nov

These brownies are incredibly decadent. They taste fantastic several days later, and refrigerate very well. In fact, I like to cut them into small brownie bites, refrigerate them, and eat them very cold. With some of the leftover Irish Cream liqueur. Or vanilla ice cream. OH MAN, remember when Ben and Jerry’s made White Russian Ice Cream? That would have been so good with these! Ah, well.

This recipe was originally found over at The Wee Kitchen, who found it at Bake or Break. Bless you, ladies!!! BLESS YOU.

Batter:
– 1 cup butter
– 4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
– 2 cups sugar
– 4 large eggs
– 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream Layer:
– 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 large egg
– 3 tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur (Bailey’s recommended)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool.

Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving several inches of overhang on the two opposite sides of the pan. This will come in handy later for lifting the brownies up out of the pan for cutting. Lightly coat the foil-lined pan with a non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until fluffy (3-5 minutes). Gradually add in the flour and salt and continue to beat until combined. Set the beater aside, and fold in the melted chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar and beat until creamy. Add egg and liqueur and continue to beat until combined.

Pour half of the chocolate batter into the pan. Spread all of the the cream layer over the chocolate layer. Pour the remaining chocolate batter over the cream layer and smooth. Create a marbled effect by swirling a knife through the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until no longer jiggly in the center. Cool completely before cutting.

Whiskey Brown Sugar Whipped Cream

25 Nov

Put this on EVERYTHING. But especially pumpkin pie.

Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 2 TBSP brown sugar
– 1 TBSP whiskey (Maker’s Mark works well)

Put all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. With an electric beater, mix on medium speed until fluffy with soft peaks, about five minutes. Serve immediately. Swoon repeatedly.

Buffalo Burgers

4 Oct

I don’t think I’ll ever use ground beef again. These are SERIOUSLY good.

– 1 lb ground buffalo (bison) meat
– 2 tbsp minced garlic (about three cloves)
– 2 tbsp dried minced onion (fresh is good too)
– 2 tbsp Worcestershire
– salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, but try not to handle too much (the meat gets tough). Form meat into three large or four smaller patties. Grill on high heat for 3 minutes per side. Can also be fried or broiled, just keep in mind that buffalo meat cooks faster than ground beef. Serve on buns with your choice of cheese and condiments.

The Best Tuna Casserole Ever. I am so not kidding.

23 Sep

I adapted this recipe from one that I found on Food.com. We usually just do the stove top tuna and noodles, but lately I’ve found myself completely disinterested in eating it once I’ve made it. Enter this gem of a casserole, which I whole-heartedly assure you will be the best thing you put in your mouth today. Heh.

– 12 ounces wide egg noodles, cooked al-dente, drained and rinsed
– 1 can cream of golden mushroom soup (any cream of mushroom soup will do, but I find that the golden stuff adds nice color and flavor) – use the low fat stuff if you’re counting calories
– 3/4 cup evaporated milk
– 1/4 cup mayonnaise (low fat is ok)
– 1/4 cup sour cream (low fat is ok)
– 1/4 cup water
– 2 five-ounce cans of tuna, drained
– 1/2 packet of dry Lipton onion soup mix
– 1 1/2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, separated
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire
– 1 tsp Tabasco
– 1/2 tsp celery salt
– 1 tsp black pepper
– Optional – 1 cup of frozen baby peas or vegetable medley, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl mix all ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, and folding the cooked pasta in last after everything else has been mixed well. Pour everything into a greased casserole dish, and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for thirty minutes. Serve hot – serves up to six.

Crock Pot Pinto Beans with Bacon and Potatoes

6 Sep

These are incredibly flavorful, incredibly simple pinto beans that go great with crusty bread or Mexican cornbread. Cooking them on high for five to six hours instead of on low for ten to twelve results in tender-firm beans that, thrown together at lunchtime, are ready by dinner. The beans thicken nicely with the addition of the potatoes. You’ll need to soak the beans and the ham hock overnight, so keep that in mind for your dining plans.

– 1 pound pinto beans
– 1 ham hock
– water

– 2 cups beef broth
– 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
– 1 tsp oregano
– 1 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp pepper

– 1 15oz can white potatoes, diced
– 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

To prepare the beans and ham hock overnight:

Soak the beans overnight – place in a large bowl and cover with water two inches above the level of the beans. Cover and leave on the counter. Soak the ham hock overnight – place in a small stock pot, cover with water, cover with a lid, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day:

Drain and rinse the beans, and place them in the crock pot. Place the ham hock in the crock pot with the beans, and reserve the soaking liquid. Pour the beef broth over the beans, add the chopped onion, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pour in the liquid from the ham hock, until the beans and hock are covered (you may not use all of the liquid – if you run out, add water). Stir well to combine.

Set crock pot on HIGH and cook for five to six hours.

In the final half-hour of cooking time, cook the bacon until very crisp, and crumble. Reserve two TBSP of bacon grease, and fry the diced potatoes until golden. Add the bacon and the potatoes to the beans and stir. Continue cooking the beans until they are the desired tenderness (mine are done usually right at five hours, but I let them sit on “keep warm” for another few hours until we’re ready to eat, and they’re just fine).

Remove the ham hock (you can chop the meat up and add it back in – I don’t really care for hock meat myself) and serve the beans with bread, sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced jalapeños, etc. IF there are any leftovers, they keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

Potato Leek Soup

10 May

– 3.5 pounds russet potatoes (about seven medium), peeled, halved, and sliced thin
– 3 medium sized leeks, whites and small part of tender green sliced thin (about 2 cups)
– 3 cloves of garlic, minced
– 3 tbsp flour*
– 10 oz bacon, diced
– 5 cups chicken stock or broth
– 3 cups water
– 3 egg yolks
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 cup half-and-half
– 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
– 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
– salt and pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven or heavy soup pot, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towel.

Sauté the leeks in the bacon fat over medium heat until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, stir well to combine, and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes.

Pour in the broth and water, stir and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until potatoes start to break down and soup thickens, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, half-and-half, and egg yolks. Take one cup of the soup broth and mix it in. Pour mixture into soup pot and stir – DO NOT allow the soup to return to a simmer or the mixture will curdle. Add the basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir constantly for about five minutes, until soup is thickened and heated through. Stir in the bacon. Serve.

Makes 8 servings.

* For gluten free, replace flour with gluten-free flour of choice.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy)

23 Feb

My clean kitchen

My clean kitchen

So remember how a couple of weeks ago – okay, more like a month ago – I was talking about how Amanda and I watched “Julie and Julia” and how I now simply HAD TO make Boeuf Bourguignon but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a Le Creuset casserole? Well, apparently my MOST AWESOME AND WONDERFUL NEIGHBOR JOHANNA reads my blog. She is possessed of a Le Creuset casserole the exact type that I required to fulfill my lifelong month-long dream. One afternoon, before I got home from work but AFTER Bill was home from work (this is a key detail), she knocked on the door and presented Bill with this casserole, telling him I could now fulfill my lifelong month-long dream of making succulent, delicious, amazingly wonderfully tasty Boeuf Bourguignon ala Julia Child.

Anyway. So, I walk in the door after work and see this casserole sitting on the kitchen counter. I absolutely FREAKING SQUEE’D, recognizing what it was right away (of course). Bill looked at me like, “Really? It’s that exciting?” I said to him. “You. Did. NOT. You did NOT just buy me a Le Creuset casserole???? YOU DID NOT!” To which Bill responded with, “Well… no. I did not. Johanna read that you needed one to make that beef thingy you wanted to make, so she brought this over for you to borrow.” So, I was momentarily deflated, but unsurprised, because it would have been 1) a really big friggin’ shock if Bill had known me THAT well, to know how much I wanted one of these;, 2) had somehow kept the $350 purchase a secret from me; 3) had actually surprised me with it on, like, a Tuesday afternoon for no reason whatsoever.

And then I was all, HOW AWESOME IS JOHANNA???

Johanna's Le Creuset Casserole

Johanna's Le Creuset Casserole

She is the best. neighbor. EVER.

A couple of weeks passed before I had the opportunity to make the dish. Yesterday turned out to finally be the day, so I got started at noon on the button, the better to ascertain the timing of the preparation and cooking of Boeuf Bourguignon ala Julia Child. I looked up the recipe. I studied it. I pondered it. Then I went about changing things, because that’s just how I roll.

I kind of borrowed the best bits from the method of Julia Child and the method of Ina Garten, and made this recipe easier to deal with. For one, hey Julia? What the heck is a “lardon” of bacon? Is bacon even sold in solid chunks anymore? And why the heck did it need to be boiled? I just provided instructions to dice and sauté the bacon, which is what Ina recommended.

Also, Julia had much more complicated instructions for the onion and mushrooms, added near the end of the stew’s cooking time. Rather than fool with simmering the onions in broth for an hour, I just instructed that they be sautéed in olive oil and herbs. Your mileage may vary, if you’re using fresh whole pearl onions and you’re concerned that sautéing them won’t soften them enough to be added to the stew, then go ahead and use the instructions Julia provided.

Speaking of herbs, Julia seemed to like to use fresh, tied in sprigs, and then removed at the end. I like my herbs to remain in my dish, so I subbed for dried. Also, Julia wanted me to drain the stew of its broth and make separate sauce to be added back in, whereas Ina provided instructions for thickening the stew right in the pot. I went with the latter.

My family dislikes onions so I didn’t add the pearl onions in at the end, just the mushrooms.

Finally, Ina’s recipe called for the meat to be cooked for 1 ¼ hours at 250 degrees, where Julia’s was for 3-4 hours at 325. I very much doubted the meat would be done per the time and temp Ina indicated (I was right), so I went for the 325 degree setting and the meat was done at 3 ¼ hours. I started cold (with all the cutting/slicing/prepping yet to do) at noon exactly, and the food was ready to eat at 4:45 p.m.

Ingredients for Beef Burgundy

Ingredients for Beef Burgundy

Ina’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beef-bourguignon-recipe/index.html
Julia’s recipe: http://www.recipezaar.com/Boeuf-Bourguignon-a-La-Julia-Child-148007

Of course, as soon as I finished chopping and cutting and slicing all of the ingredients (primarily the bacon and the beef), the new knife set that I was waiting for was finally delivered. I’d hope to break them in on this dish, but the timing was off. Still, aren’t they pretty?

Chicago Fusion Cutlery

Chicago Fusion Cutlery

My recipe:

• 8-12 ounces center cut bacon, diced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2.5-3 lbs lean stewing beef (such as chuck roast), cut into 2-inch cubes
• 1 carrot, peeled and sliced (or 12 baby carrots, halved)
• 1 onion, peeled and sliced (my family dislikes onions, so I just quartered a large sweet onion and left it in chunks so they could pick it out)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
• 2-3 cups beef stock or broth
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 bay leaf
FOR THE BRAISED ONIONS
• 18-24 white pearl onions, peeled (again, my family dislikes onions so skipped the additional onions – frozen onions can also be used, drain and thaw first)
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• salt & fresh ground pepper
• ½ tsp tried thyme
• 1 tbsp dried parsley
FOR THE SAUTEED MUSHROOMS
• 1 lb mushroom, quartered (or halved if the mushrooms are small)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
2. Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9″ – 10″ wide, 3″ deep) oven-proof casserole (such as a Le Creuset) and warm over moderate heat.
3. Sauté the bacon for about ten minutes to brown and lightly crisp.

cooking bacon

cooking bacon

4. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
5. Dry off the pieces of beef and sauté them in several batches in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. It’s important that the beef be dry or it will not brown properly. And we’re talking about cooking, like, ten or twelve pieces at a time, darlings. Don’t crowd the meat.

Dry the beef well between layers of paper towels.

Dry the beef well between layers of paper towels.

Brown the meat a little at a time.

Brown the meat a little at a time.

6. Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon. You are now done with the most labor-intensive part of the recipe.

Browned beef and bacon.

Browned beef and bacon.

7. In the same oil/fat, sauté the onion and the carrot until softened. Remove vegetables to a side plate.

Cooking onion.

Cooking onion.

Cooking carrots.

Cooking carrots.

8. Pour off the fat and return the bacon and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.
9. Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.

Add flour to the beef and veggie mixture.

Add flour to the beef and veggie mixture.

10. Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
11. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
12. Now, lower the oven heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
13. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Scrape a spatula or flat whisk along the bottom of the casserole to deglaze the lovely brown bits. This will make for a delicious and nicely-colored sauce.
14. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.
15. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.

Beef Burgundy, getting ready to go in the oven.

Beef Burgundy, getting ready to go in the oven.

16. Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily. Check every hour until desired tenderness is achieved. For us, it’s when the meat falls apart easily.
———-
17. At the end of the meat’s cooking time, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
18. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet. Sauté over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart. Remove to a plate. (I skipped this part.)
19. For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet. As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat. Place on plate with onions.

Oil and butter, making a snowflake in the cast iron skillet.

Oil and butter, making a snowflake in the cast iron skillet.

Cooking mushrooms.

Cooking mushrooms.

———-
20. When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven. Skim visible fat from the surface of the sauce, if desired.
21. Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat. Bring to a simmer on the stove and cook for 15 minutes. Skim fat as necessary/desired.
22. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
23. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency, or dissolve two tbsp of flour in broth and add slowly to the stew. (For the record, the consistency of my dish was perfect and needed neither thickening nor thinning.)

Out of the oven.

Out of the oven.

24. Taste for seasoning.
25. Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley. Offer fresh crusty bread.

Boeuf Bourguignon with egg noodles.

Boeuf Bourguignon with egg noodles.

It turned out really freaking well. Even Bill was all, “Om nom nom nom,” which is the highest accolade he has to offer. I can now cross the making of Boeuf Bourguignon off of my bucket list. And DAMN, I’m buying me one of those casseroles. Price tag be damned.

Potato Broccoli Cheese Soup

6 Jan

(Modified from the recipe in Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny.)

Prep & cooking time: About 40 minutes total
Serves about six

Ingredients:
– 1 tbsp salted butter
– 1/2 sweet onion, chopped (a half-cup or so of green onions would work well, too)
– 1/2 tsp dry mustard
– 3 cups chicken broth or stock
– 4 cups russet potatoes, peeled and diced (4-5 small-ish potatoes)
– 5 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
– 2 cups half-and-half (light cream)
– 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
– 1/8 tsp nutmeg
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire (optional)
– 1 tsp Tabasco (optional)
– salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add dry mustard, stir, and cook for about one minute. Add the chicken broth, stir, then add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, steam or boil the broccoli until tender, 5-10 minutes. Drain.

When potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to remove about one cup of the potatoes. Put on a plate and mash well with a fork, then return to the pot. This will thicken the soup.

Add the half-and-half to the pot, stir, then add in the cooked broccoli. Heat until very hot, but not boiling (boiling will cause the cream to curdle – doesn’t change the taste but makes the texture a little unattractive). Stir in the cheddar cheese until melted. If using, stir in the Worcestershire and Tabasco. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

This recipe would probably be excellent with some crisp-cooked crumbled bacon added in at the end, or added to individual bowls. I really haven’t found too many circumstances where bacon wouldn’t improve a potato-based soup.