Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

7-Day Real Food Challenge

Events have been conspiring to make me more and more aware of my health, including my diet, weight, and exercise. I need to lose at least 20 lbs and have been “trying” to lose 5 for about 5 years.

I saw a good friend for the first time in several months and she had lost a significant amount of weight– she looked great! Of course I asked what she had changed, and she said she was eating a combination of paleo and real food. Was she exercising? Not really. She said as she eliminated bad food and allergens from her diet, she felt better and just naturally moved more, but she had not been doing a cardio routine or anything like that. She recommended a book called Practical Paleo.

Then my son began losing weight. He’s always been big– he weighed 9 lbs when he was born; always wore 2-3 sizes larger than his age; was a head taller than most kids in his class. But his weight had gotten way too high and he was having high blood pressure issues at a very young age. (He’s 27.) High blood pressure runs in Mr X’s side of the family, but not beginning that early.

So he just decided it was time to do something about it. I’m a terrible mother and really didn’t notice until he had lost between 30-40 lbs. (In my defense, he lives a couple of hours away and we see him only every month or 2, and he would always wear baggy clothes, so it was hard to tell.)

What was his secret? Cardio and “if man made it, don’t eat it.”

And in May I’d gone for an annual checkup and my cholesterol was a bit high. The doctor said it needed to come down, so try diet and exercise, have it tested again in the summer, and if it didn’t lower I would need to take medicine. I’m determined NOT to do that!

So the past month I’ve been working toward a real food/paleo/no allergen diet, and “moving” (I like that term better than “exercising”) more than I have been before. Then, in that funny way God has of working things together for our good, I found Mary’s Kitchen’s 7 Day Real Food Challenge. I don’t even remember how I found her! But I thought participating would be good incentive for me to stick with it and also help me do it better. It officially kicks off tomorrow. I’ll be doing posts this week about what I’ve learned.

Wanna join me?

Mary's Kitchen

Here are links to some good info on Mary’s blog:

Eating Real Food is Easy

Details and Recipes: 7-Day Real Food Challenge

What About Liquids? Our 7-Day Real Food Challenge

14 Comments »

Yummy Beef Stew

beef stew

I love soups and stews! They are prime candidates for the crock pot (easy to make), doubling up and freezing or sharing with friends, and microwaving by the bowl when you are rushed for time. Last week I made one that was particularly good– Mr X commented several times, and all I can think of that I did differently than normal was the amount of herbs I used… so here goes:

Start with beef stew meat. Get the leanest you can, and chopped in the size you want. 20130305-181724.jpg

I had put it in the freezer and it wasn’t even thawed out all the way– no worries! Preheat your skillet and oil over medium-high heat, and plop the whole thing in.

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Season heavily– there’s a lot of surface area stuck together. Cover and let it cook about 5 minutes, then turn it over and cover it again. Break apart what you can, but don’t work up a sweat!

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After it cooks another 5 minutes or so, you will be able to break it apart easily. It’ll look like this.

20130305-181801.jpg

Keep cooking till all the pink is gone. Then I add the onions– probably 1/2 cup of a leek-like onion from my garden– and celery. I like to soften them up a bit before I add the rest.

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Carrots take longer to cook than potatoes, so I cut them fairly small and add them next. I love the color and flavor they add, so I used about 4.

20130305-181818.jpg

Then the potatoes– they were getting old, so I put them all in– about 10 small ones, cut into quarters.

20130305-181808.jpg

Next came the seasonings and liquid: A teaspoon of minced garlic (no fresh in the cabinet), a quart of chicken broth, petite diced tomatoes with their juice, and a tablespoon of dried basil and oregano (plant some– I’m using leaves I dried last summer and they are so much fresher and more flavorful (not to mention less expensive!) than what you buy.

20130305-181833.jpg

Hmmm. Still not enough “white” so I added a can of corn.

20130305-182243.jpg 20130305-182253.jpg

I cooked it all about 15-20 more minutes and added a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley (also from the garden) and served it with Granny’s cornbread. YUM!

20130305-181853.jpg

7 Comments »

Save Them For Later

I’m the world’s worst at buying a container of something– mushrooms, for example– using them in one dish, then letting the rest go bad sitting for weeks in my refrigerator. (Bad planning!) But this year I was proud that I thought ahead, plus had some down time during my Christmas holidays, and fixed them where I can use them later.

Your freezer is your BFF for this. Chop your mushrooms, fill ice trays about half full with them, then top them off with chicken broth or oil. Freeze and put in freezer bags. Ready to use! (Just don’t forget they’re in the freezer!)

20121223-084109.jpg20121223-084014.jpg

I also like to make chicken broth any time I have chicken bones. After I roast or boil the bone-in chicken and remove the meat, I boil the bones again. If you don’t have time right then, you can put all the bones, or the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, in a freezer bag to do later. The yummy broth you can get is worth the trouble! If you are chopping vegetables, put the scraps in the pot too, for extra flavor. Put the bones in a large pot and cover with water; salt and pepper if you like; and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for a few hours. Cool then refrigerate. (A straight sided pitcher is handy for this.) The fat will rise to the top and can be spooned off. *NOTE: If you have a lot of bones, like a whole turkey carcass, the broth will have the consistency of jelly. This is because of the marrow in the bones– don’t worry; it will liquefy as it heats up.

Then pour in ice trays (good for adding a couple of cubes for flavor to rice or small dishes) or larger containers and freeze; remove from containers and put in freezer bags for use in soups, gravies, and anything else that needs a shot of extra flavor.

boiling hen DSC_610320121223-084212.jpg

Ice trays are also very handy for freezing bits of fresh herbs (in oil or broth) and lemon or lime juice. Think of the most common amount you require of any of these, whether it’s a tablespoon or a cup, and freeze in that quantity to make it easy on yourself.

Don’t let those fresh yummy goodies go bad in your refrigerator, wasting money– put them in the freezer and save them for later!

5 Comments »

Roasted Holiday Turkey

15 pound turkeyAt our house, nothing says Thanksgiving and Christmas like turkey and dressing. I’ve somehow become the turkey girl — I’m glad because it’s very easy. Buying more than one when they are available and inexpensive is a good idea– they are still good to eat later in the year!

When you buy a turkey it is usually frozen. There will be thawing instructions on the package, varying depending on the weight of the turkey and the temp of your fridge. I put this one in the fridge Wednestay evening and it still was a bit frozen inside on Sunday morning– so plan ahead! Of course you can thaw it in water or out on the countertop, but it’s not recommended.

Open the package in the sink– there will be lots of liquid that will make a mess if you don’t.

Now let’s get cooking!  I use Ina Garten’s herb butter recipe to start:

Preheat your oven to 375, and get out a shallow pan with a rack. (If you don’t have a rack, make your own with carrots and celery– the bonus is your juice will be extra flavored!)

In a small bowl, stir up 1 stick of butter, softened (You can use olive oil instead, or part olive oil and part butter if you want a little healthier choice– it won’t brown as well though.)

Add 1 tsp salt, pepper, and minced garlic

Add 1 TBS finely chopped fresh sage, basil, rosemary, parsley, and oregano. If you use dried herbs, crumble the leaves up and use about half as much.

herb butterNow, gently pry the skin away from the breast as far as you can. Get clumps of herb butter and spread under the skin. Then spread over all the skin, evening out the butter under the skin as you smear it around. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on if you want to. I like lots!

turkey with herb butter

Roasted turkey with herb butter

Now put him in to roast. Use the guidelines on the bag according to the weight. There is also a ton of “minutes per pound” info on the Interweb… I think I started checking this one after 3 1/2 or 4 hours. Now here’s the problem with a whole turkey and a deep pan like mine: (see it over by the sink?) The breast was over 180 degrees (remember how I love my meat thermometer) and brown and beautiful, but the bottom parts weren’t cooked all the way. After it cooled enough to handle it, I cut the breast meat off, flipped the whole thing over and put it back in the oven for another half hour or so. I have a convection oven, so I’m not sure if using a shallower pan would have prevented the uneven cooking?? For tomorrow (Thanksgiving day at Granny’s) I’m just cooking a breast. It’s still 8 pounds, all we’ll need, and much easier!

Save your juices, then use them in gravy. And for heaven’s sake, after you cut the meat off the bones, BOIL THEM! Put them in the crock pot overnight. You will get some of the most flavorful broth you’ve ever tasted. Then boil them again and you’ll get some more. I don’t know how many times you could do that; I stop after 2 times.

This was all that was left– it was a hit! leftover turkey

 

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage

2 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Grandma Ballard’s Caramel Pie

You might wonder why I’m tagging marriage in this recipe post. It’s because “Speak your husband’s language” is one of Auntie Em’s rules. One of Mr X’s love languages is acts of service. And when I serve him by cooking, he has always been very appreciative. When I make his favorite pie, which is pretty easy to make now, but at first was time-consuming and complicated, it spells L-O-V-E to him! Be a student of your husband; find out how to speak his language, then speak often!

Now– on to the pie. It’s not as simple as some– It uses FOUR dishes besides the pie pan! But it’s worth it. You’ll love it! Grandma Ballard's Caramel Pie recipe

(You can see lots of trial and error here. One of my first times to make it was when we were visiting my brother- and sister-in-law; I made it without the recipe. He spent most of the night sick, and the whole family jokes about my bad pie…. however, when the truth came out, he ate most of it in one sitting, and I think THAT is why he was sick !)

PREPARE:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 so you can bake the meringue when you’re all done.
  • Get out your food you’ll need: Flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, cream of tartar, a cooked pie shell
  • Get out your dishes you’ll need: A heavy pan for mixing the dry ingredients and cooking the custard, a heavy skillet for caramelizing the sugar; a bowl for mixing the eggs and milk, and a bowl for beating the egg whites. Plus a whisk for stirring the custard, a knife to cut the butter, measuring spoons and cups, and a spatula for applying the meringue.

Start with a baked pie shell. (Video instructions for a homemade one are here. It’s not as hard as you think!)

homemade pie crust cooked separate eggs

Now mix your wet ingredients together and your dry ingredients together

  • 2 3/4 C milk and 4 egg yolks. You’ll have to separate your eggs; put the whites in another bowl so you can beat them.
  • 1 C sugar and 1/2 C flour.  The recipe says “4 heaping TBS but I hate the vagueness of “heaping,” so I measured. (Believe it or not.)   I mix this in the pan I cook the custard in. Mix together well so you won’t get blobs of flour. (So says the voice of experience)

Now stir the milk and egg mixture into the dry mixture in the heavy pan. Mix together with a whisk till it’s smooth. This is the custard mixture. Heat it over medium heat. You can take a shortcut and heat it on higher heat till it begins to get warm, but watch and stir! It can burn and curdle quickly.

Then put 1 C of sugar into a heavy skillet; shake it to spread it around evenly. Heat over medium heat. Same as with the custard, you can start the heat higher but turn it down for more control.

sugar and flour mixture caramelizing sugar in skillet

Now you wait. And stir the custard. And stir the custard. And wait. Don’t stir the sugar. Just wait. After 10 minutes it looked like this, just barely beginning to melt.

sugar beginning to melt caramelizing sugar

After another 10 it looked like this. All this time I’ve been stirring the custard. If it has thickened or begun to bubble, I turn down the heat until the sugar is melted.  (At this point you can add the vanilla and butter and use this custard for a wonderful banana pudding! No jello pudding at our house!) Granny says never stir the sugar, just shake it around, so that’s what I do.

melting sugar caramelizing sugar

Once all the sugar melts it’s time to be really careful. The custard has to be VERT hot, or else the caramelized sugar will cool and harden instead of blend in. When you pour it in, it will bubble up violently. Stir, stir, stir!

caramelized sugar caramelized sugar poured into custard

Till it looks like this.

caramel pie filling

At this point, remove it from the heat and stir in 1-2 TBS butter and 1 tsp vanilla till it’s all smooth.

Pour into your cooked pie shell. You’re almost done!

Now you have to make the meringue topping. A Kitchenaid stand mixer makes quick work! Add 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and mix the 4 egg whites on high. When “frothy” like the first picture, add 4-6 TBS sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat till stiff peaks form– that means when you lift the beater it sticks and the mixture in the bowl keeps its shape, like in the second picture.

frothy egg whites stiff peaks egg whites meringue

Now gently place blobs of meringue onto the hot pie filling. You don’t want to do a lot of stirring because that will get the filling all over the meringue plus get the air out of the meringue, which will cause it to deflate. That’s bad. Gently connect the blobs to form a solid surface, and press to the sides of the pie crust to seal.

meringe on pie meringue on pie

Now, cook the meringue till it’s as brown as you like, at 400 degrees. This was about 4 minutes.

Auntie Em's caramel pie with meringe topping

Here’s what was left: (It will be a hit at your house or church too!)

leftover pie

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage

17 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Homemade Pie Crust

BIG NEWS!

Auntie Em figured the only way to teach someone to “cut in flour” or “roll out a pie crust” is to SHOW THEM. So, Dearies, here is Auntie Em’s video debut. I was brave; it was kind of weird… Be brave and try the pie crust! And leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page, telling me how it turned out.

Homemade pie crust gets a bad rap for being difficult, but really, it’s not. And it’s one of those things that really impresses people; they think you are Martha Stewart or something! (And I don’t mind something that gets a lot of bang for the buck LOL!)

I start from “Nanny’s Good and Easy Pastry” from my Cotton Country Collection, published by the Junior League of Monroe, Louisiana. My mother had a copy and gave me mine for Christmas right after our first anniversary. (in 1981!)

Here’s the recipe.

Measurements in (parentheses) are for a double crust. Italics are my commentary.

1 (1 1/2 c) cup sifted flour (You know I don’t sift it!)

1/4 heaping tsp (1/2 heaping tsp) salt

1 pinch of sugar (big pinch), a must for a good pastry crust (I think this is so funny!)

1/3 c (1/2 c) shortening

3 T (4-5 T) cold water

This just never made enough, so like I said, I start here. I usually don’t measure, but I would use at least the double measurements for a single crust. I like it to hang off the edges of the pie plate to the counter, so I can trim it and evenly turn it under. Plus have leftovers for a cinnamon roll!

What to do:

Stir or sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in shortening. Sprinkle in ice water and stir till it sticks together. Add water if necessary. Roll out on floured wax paper and shape into pie plate. For a precooked crust, bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. If you are cooking a pie, like pecan or pumpkin, you can “seal” the pie crust by diluting an egg white with a tablespoon of water, brush over the crust, and bake at 400 for about 5 minutes. This will prevent the liquid from soaking into the crust, which causes it to stick to the pan and tear up when you’re serving it. If you are cooking the crust, for a custard or other pre-cooked pie, poke holes with a fork into the bottom and sides of the uncooked crust, and weight it down with some dried beans. This prevents the crust from bubbling up, and keeps it flat.

Auntie Em shows how to cut in flour.

Auntie Em shows how to add water and roll out the crust. (For some reason I kept calling my wax paper “Paper towels.” I meant “wax paper.”)

Here’s what the crust looks like before it’s cooked.

homemade pie crust

Here’s after it’s cooked. Notice it’s not real brown.

homemade pie crust cooked

And here’s the pie I made– Grandma Ballard’s Caramel Pie!

meringe pie

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage

19 Comments »

Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Pastry cinnamon roll

Any time I make a pie crust, I make enough so I’ll left some left over… because I would have a very sad husband if I didn’t make a cinnamon roll! My mother-in-law, Granny, (of Granny’s cornbread fame)  started this tradition, and it continues to this day. It’s really funny to watch Mr X and his sister fight over it! We live very close to Granny and PawPaw, go to church with them, and eat Sunday lunch together almost every week. Aunt Kathy lives in Houston so we don’t get to see her nearly as often. When Granny makes Mr X a cinnamon roll  (or peas, or some other favorite), he will text her a picture and goad her about being the favorite child! I don’t guess you ever outgrow sibling rivalry.

Okay– you’ve made your homemade pie crust. YAY YOU! Gather up any scraps you trimmed off, and any dough left in the bowl, and roll it out in an oval or rectangular form. You never want to mix and mash it any more than necessary; it will become tough. Smear with lots of butter– melted if you want. (I didn’t use enough in the video.) Then sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over it. I mix up cinnamon and sugar and keep it in a shaker. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

Start your own family tradition of encouraging sibling rivalry!!

Auntie Em’s Video-How to make Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage

4 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Famous Gumbo

Cooler weather is finally hitting Southeast Texas, and that means GUMBO! Gumbo is a Cajun food, which you should always try if you get a chance! (In case you don’t know, Cajuns are the people of French from South Louisiana, chere, who are known for their good food and joie de vivre!)

I’ll print easy, all-in-one-place directions at the bottom.

gumbo

Start with chicken pieces or, if you really want to be authentic, boil a hen. Hens are richer and the meat will hold its flavor. It’s more trouble of course, because you have the skin and bones to remove, but if you’ve got the time, it’s worth it! However, I used breasts and thighs. I boiled half, so I could get broth, and roasted the others, to hold on to more flavor. I had boiled the chicken the night before so I had it chopped and had the broth in a pitcher.

To boil, cover chicken completely with water in a tall stock pot. Salt and pepper liberally!

gumbo, chicken broth

To roast chicken, line a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with tall edges) with parchment or foil for easy cleanup. Spray the roasting rack with Pam. If you don’t have one of these gizmos, get one ASAP! They are great for roasting meat and veggies!

how to roast chicken, gumbo

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, then roast at 400 35-50 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the meat gets to 180 degrees. Boneless meat like these thighs will cook faster than bone-in parts like the breasts. If you don’t have a meat thermometer either, you need to get to the store!

chopping onion, gumbo

Next chop a large onion and 4 or 5 stalks of celery. My son the chef introduced me to a chef’s knife like the one above. I was a little scared to use one, till he brought his and gave me an inservice. Now I love it! You keep your fingers well out of the way- just rock it up and down and keep your hand on top. Along with a meat thermometer and roasting pan with rack, a good knife is a MUST in the kitchen! Go ahead and invest in a Wusthof or something comparable. It might run $100, but it will last forever. Keep it sharp. It’ll change your life.

chopping onion, gumbo

You can see, you need a lot of onion!

chopping celery, gumbo

You can chop a lot of celery with a big knife!

While you’re chopping the veggies, melt a stick of butter on medium-low heat in a heavy skillet, then add the veggies. saute onion and celery, gumbo

After the onion and celery cook a bit, add some garlic. Lay your knife on top of the clove and smash it! Then mince it.

saute garlic, saute onion, saute celery, mince garlic, gumbo

You want to cook the veggies till they are soft and transparent– this will give you an idea: saute garlic, saute onion, saute celery, mince garlic, gumbo

While the veggies are cooking down, begin chopping up the meat. We like ours in fairly small bite sizes; cut them like your family likes. Again, with a big, sharp knife, you can make quick work of the chicken and sausage! This gumbo was a 3-night- affair, so most of my chicken was already cooked and chopped. I just had to debone and chop the roasted breasts. Here’s a handy hint: If you boil your chicken ahead of time, refrigerate the broth; the fat will solidify on the top and you can remove most of it easily.

roast chicken, gumbo

Now I think the roux is what scares people about making gumbo. I’ve made traditional roux, roux with browned flour only, and jarred roux mix, and I promise, I like the jar as well as any other, and it’s much less time-consuming! There is a trick though, you must get your broth to a FULL, ROLLING boil when you add the mix, or it will never dissolve. Follow the directions for the amount to use. If you like thicker broth, add more; for thinner add less. Then stir, stir, stir! This is the color to expect when it’s blended: I’ve heard it described as a melted Hershey bar.

how to make roux, gumbohow to make roux, gumbo

Once your roux is smooth, add the veggies and the meat, then let it simmer a bit.

Serve it up over rice, and if you are really feeling Cajun, plop some potato salad into your bowl! (I’ve talked to my Cajun friend Peggy and she says it’s so you can get your gumbo and potato salad, but have a free hand for your dessert!)

chicken gumbo

MMM! C’est si bon!

Auntie Em’s Famous Gumbo (serves at least 12– great for freezer meals!)

MEAT:

Boil 1/2 large pkg chicken breasts and 1/2 large pkg chicken thighs.

Roast the rest of the chicken at 400 degrees.

Chop all cooked chicken into desired size.

VEGGIES

Chop 1 large onion, 4-5 large stalks celery. Sautee with 1 stick butter in heavy skillet. Add a large clove of minced garlic. Cook till soft and transparent.

ROUX

Bring chicken broth to a full, rolling boil. Add roux mix. (I use Savoie’s or Tony Chachere’s.)

ASSEMBLING

When roux is smooth, add meats and veggies. Simmer, covered as long as you can stand it.

Serve over rice, and add potato salad for a Cajun experience! Find a Cajun music channel on Pandora and l’aissez les bon temps roulez, chere!

Today I’m linking with The Shabby Creek Cottage and The Lady Behind the Curtain– go visit and see what other goodies you can find!
shabby creek cottage
Cast Party Wednesday

14 Comments »

Church Fiesta

September 16 was Mexican Independence Day, and in the wonderful, creative way of our fellowship committee at my church, they planned a Fiesta covered-dish lunch! (We have an AWESOME group of ladies, and a few husbands too, that plan and execute luncheons and activities regularly.)

Now that I’m one of the … ahem… “older ladies” at church, I feel like I need to bring really big dishes, and multiple dishes. I don’t have kiddos I’m trying to get ready for church, and I can afford large quantities much more easily than I could when we had little ones at home, so I’m glad to do it. Many people enjoy making desserts, and we usually have lots, but sometimes run short on meats and veggies, so I’ve begun bring main dishes too.

I decided to make the Marriott Riverwalk’s Famous World Tortilla Soup.(If you are in downtown San Antonio, visit the Cactus Flower Restaurant in the Riverwalk, and enjoy the soup!)
It’s very simple, as you see… 20120929-143649.jpg

I collected the ingredients…

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Then, because I didn’t have as much chicken as I would have liked, I added a can of rinsed black beans, a few slices of chopped bacon (because it makes everything better!), and celery, because I love the flavor with chicken.

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I served it with Tostitos and grated cheddar cheese, and it was a big hit! Barely enough left for me to have some for lunch the next day.

I decided to make a Sopapilla Cheesecake too. I googled and found one online somewhere– I’m sorry, I don’t remember where! It called for 2 cans of Pillsbury RECIPE CREATION Crescent Rolls (These were new to me, so new that my store didn’t even have any), 16 oz cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 stick of melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1-2 T cinnamon.

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Spread out 1 can of Crescent rolls in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. (Mash the seams together if you use regular rolls.)

20120929-145159.jpg.

Beat the cream cheese and vanilla; spread over dough.

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Roll out the other can over the cream cheese, then pour the melted butter over the top evenly.
Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle evenly over the top.

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Bake about half an hour, till brown and bubbly. I used a pizza roller to cut mine in small squares– they are rich! — and brought them on a plate. (That way I got to keep some at home for us!).

I’m not sure why I didn’t take any pictures of the finished products! You’ll have to trust me; they were really good– I hope you will make them soon, and celebrate a fiesta!

4 Comments »

Auntie Em’s Kickin’ Spaghetti Sauce

Oh my goodness, can we make some good spaghetti sauce at Auntie Em’s house! I didn’t take pictures as I went, because I’m telling you, it is SO EASY!

I like to make a large batch so we can eat some now, and freeze the rest for later. As always, I estimate amounts, but I’ll tell you my “starting” place.

2 lbs lean ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork.. whatever floats your boat. I figure the turkey made it a little healthier!)

1 large onion, chopped

1 pkg mushrooms, wiped clean (Don’t run water over them) and sliced into whatever size your family likes

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced (I think Mr X might have used green olives this time, but I prefer black.)

4-8 oz sliced pepperoni or Canadian bacon, chopped

2 large cans tomato sauce

2 large cans chopped tomatoes

1 15-oz can tomato paste

Italian seasoning (or parsley, basil, oregano)

Salt and pepper

Preheat a large Dutch oven and add ground meat. Break apart (I use a potato masher) and brown. Drain if there’s a lot of fat; I like to use lean ground meat and usually don’t have any extra.  Add onions and garlic once it’s broken up. After they soften, add chopped mushrooms and olives. Then add the pepperoni, tomato products, and seasoning. Cover it and let it heat through. Then lower the heat, cover it,  and let it simmer. I don’t know if it gets better the longer it cooks, or it just smells up your house and builds your appetite, but I like to simmer it a long time!

This time I used vermicelli rather than regular spaghetti, and I liked it! It’s a bit wider and really hangs on to that sauce. I season my water with a bouillon cube or use broth, to give a little extra flavor to the noodles. Pay close attention to your time after you add the noodles; you don’t want to overcook them. Drain them quickly and add a little butter!

To serve, place the noodles on your plate, top with the sauce, and then add some fresh grated parmesan or mozzarella!

That’s amore! Enjoy!

8 Comments »

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