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!

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!


Perfect Hamburger Patties

Summertime is here– time for cookouts and grilled hamburgers– and I’ve updated my grilled hamburger patty post. Hope you enjoy and get a lot of mileage from it!

Perfect hamburger patties

Nothing beats homemade, grilled hamburgers– unless you don’t know how to make them! Auntie Em makes some slap-your-sister-good ones, and I’ll tell you how:

First- go start your grill. I always scrape the grates and spray them with Pam first.

To make the patties: Start with ground meat. Get at least 15% fat ground beef– too lean and it will be tough and chewy. And I like to add ground pork too.. Yum! Season like you like–I use salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and Chipotle Tabasco sauce.

Mix it all up really well- the meat has different textures so you don’t want them to look separate. You’ll probably have to use your hands to do it well. Sorry!

Then begin shaping them into patties. They need to be uniform sizes and not too thick- about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Rotate them between your palms, using your thumb to even up the edges. Don’t smash it down, though; you don’t want it tough.

As is my normal practice, I make more than I need for one meal and freeze the rest! Wrap patties with

parchment paper, then put into a Ziploc freezer bag.

I do my own vacuum-seal by closing the bag except for a little gap, then sucking out all the air myself! (Tightwad Food Saver!)

Ta-da! Now I can take out as many as I want and they won’t stick together.

I grill them 6-7 minutes. They should be a little brown around the edges, and getting gray on top.

Carefully lift to check the bottom for raw spots. None here!

So go ahead and flip them over, and cook about 1 minute less than you did the first side.

Hungry yet?

And there you are- perfect hamburger patties. Top it off like you like- cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms, lettuce, onions. pickles, mayo, mustard, good soft warmed buns….


Update: Auntie Em’s Country Squash and Italian Zucchini


Auntie Em fixed squash for supper tonight. (We have “supper” in the country!) I love summertime, when I can get it fresh. True confession, though: I like *zucchini better. You can fix it just the same way. As always, measurements are guesstimates and you need to adjust flavors to suit your family!

Preheat a skillet on fairly high heat- I like to use a cast iron for this. When the rim is hot to the touch, drizzle some oil. Next, chop some onion. I used about 1/2 cup. Put it in to sauté

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Then slice your squash. I like to split them longways, and split the fat part again if it’s too big.

Then slice about 1/4 -1/2 inch thick. Put them in (A real chef would say wait til they are all chopped and put them in together so they will chop evenly, but whatever… 4 chopped squash won’t fit on my cutting board, so in they go when I get too crowded!) At this point I added a couple of small cloves of garlic. It tends to burn, so I don’t put it in at the beginning. I do the Rachel Ray “smash”, then peel and mince.


Stir everything up good- add some butter! Salt and pepper. Squash is pretty bland so I like a lot. Cover and lower the temp a little. Don’t cook it too long, and add broth if there is not liquid visible on the bottom. Depending on the squash, some amount of moisture will cook out so you might not need to add any. Not too much, you don’t want it soggy!

Serve it up hot and you will love it!

*NOTE: Added August 12, 2012– I fixed zucchini like the squash, but added a large can of Italian chopped tomatoes and a little water, covered, and cooked till tender. YUM!!

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