Easy Pasta Sauce

We just threw this sauce together tonight for a pasta dinner. My boys loved it. Normally I’m pretty good with measuring quantities of spices, but this time we did just add a little of this and a little of that. So add your spices to taste and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 5 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine (Whatever is on hand, I used a red blend)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • black olives, chopped – to taste (I used about ½ of a can)

Directions

Heat large (deep) skillet over medium-high heat. Add EVOO, garlic, and onion, cook until onion is soft – about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Taco Casserole

We decided to try a taco casserole last night. I had a few recipes I looked at for the basics. Here’s what we came up with. My boys loved this twist on our usual taco night.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • tortilla chips
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (divided in half)
  • 2 – 3 roma tomatoes, chopped (divided in half)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
  • ½ cup sliced black olives, plus more for topping
  • shredded lettuce
  • sour cream (optional)
  • avocado (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook beef and yellow onion over medium-high heat until the beef is browned and cooked through (about 7 minutes). Drain. Add beans, canned tomatoes/green chiles, and taco seasoning. Reduce heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In an ungreased casserole dish (mine was approx 9 x 13), layer the bottom with roughly broken tortilla chips. Top with the beef mixture. Sprinkle the bell peppers, half the green onion, half the diced tomato, and the ½ cup of olives. Cover with cheese.

Bake uncovered 20 – 30 minutes, until hot and the cheese is melted. Top the baked casserole with lettuce and the remaining green onions, diced tomatoes, olives, and a little more broken tortilla chips. Serve with sour cream and avocado.

Note: Not sure how many tortilla chips we used. I just broke them right into the casserole dish, lining the bottom. I had about ¼” to ½” of a layer on the bottom, it made a nice crust. I didn’t add too many additional chips to the top.

Ham, Sweet Potato, & White Bean Soup

Last spring, right after Easter, our friends invited us over for a delicious ham-bone based soup. It had been thrown together with ingredients they had around the kitchen and was so tasty. I decided I wanted some of that soup today, so I searched around the internet for a recipe. None of them were quite right. I made this instead; it was really easy and tasted great. We didn’t have a ham bone, but I plan on trying a version of this soup using a stock made from the ham bone next time we have a holiday ham.

This made a huge amount of soup. The four of us had dinner and then we saved some for leftovers this week and froze the rest in order to pull it out on a busy night this winter. Half this recipe if you don’t want this many leftovers.

Notes:
¹ I used dried beans, you could use an equivalent of canned white beans, drained and rinsed. This was a huge pot of soup, so I would guess three cans. Plus or minus one.
² The store was out of fresh thyme so I used dried.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ham, roughly chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (~¼” to ½” cubes)
  • 1 pound dried great northern beans (soaked per package directions)
  • 8 cups veggie broth
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pepper to taste

Directions

Soak beans per package directions. If you think of it in time do an overnight soak. I did the quick soak method, which took about an hour.

I used a large dutch oven. This recipe makes a lot of soup, so be sure to have a big pot. Add EVOO to pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, carrots, and garlic for a few minutes. Add ham, and cook for 5 or 10 minutes, until ham begins to brown and onions and carrots are soft.

Add veggie broth and then all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few hours. Remove bay leaf. Serve with fresh bread.

“Sprincle Cupcake Recipe” (by my seven-year-old son)

My youngest boy, age seven, has been very interested in helping in the kitchen the last few months. On our first cooking adventure, we made a spaghetti sauce from scratch with items we had on hand, and he just thought that was the best. (I was pretty impressed too, normally I need a recipe, but it turned out great!) Monday night he helped me make some Cheddar Cheese Soup, and was a super assistant.

Tuesday he handed me this recipe for Sprincle Cupcakes. He made it up all on his own. I am thinking we should whip these up so he can see his recipe in action. 😉 My favorite part is step 4.

Sprinkle_Cupcakes

Cheddar Cheese Soup

A few years ago, our family took our first trip to Walt Disney World. As a kid, I wasn’t too excited about EPCOT and the World Showcase. As an adult, I loved it. Especially since we travelled during the Food & Wine Festival. We also participated in the Disney Dining Plan, and boy did we eat. And eat. And eat.

For readers that don’t know much about me, I love Disney. And I love cheese. So it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite dishes in all of Disney World was the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served at Le Cellier Steakhouse. So delicious. And then a year after our visit, Disney published this wonderful recipe as part of their Food & Wine Festival promotions. Here it is for you in all it’s delicious, cheesy glory. Enjoy.

One note: as regular readers know, we prefer veggie broth to chicken broth in our cooking. That’s the only change I make to this soup.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound of bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock [we use veggie broth]
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • Course salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup pale ale, room temperature
  • Chopped scallions or chives, for garnish

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a 4- or 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, celery, and butter. Sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and stir constantly for about 4 minutes.
  4. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add milk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. (Do not boil after adding milk,)
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper until cheese is melted and soup is smooth. Stir in ale. If soup is too think, thin to desired consistency with warm milk.
  7. Serve hot, garnished with scallion or chives.

Makes about 6 cups.

30 March 2015
We just made this again tonight. Two notes to the recipe:

Note 1: In step 4, I found that the 3 cups of broth wasn’t quite enough; the mixture is very thick. I slowly added a little extra broth several times while it was simmering, I probably ended up at about 3 1/2 cups.

Note 2: We are not Pale Ale drinkers. We use Kona Brewing Company’s Longboard Lager when we make this soup.

Corn Chowder

Fall is here and our family loves to make (and eat!) soups and stews. This corn chowder is a great meal that everyone enjoys. A little prep work, and then it spends all day cooking and smelling delicious. I make a big batch and then freeze the leftovers, giving us a quick and yummy meal on a busy night.

Two notes on this one.

  1. I love to cook with yukon gold potatoes, but if you prefer another kind, feel free to substitute.
  2. We like the taste of veggie broth in recipes at our house. If you like chicken broth better, it will work fine in the chowder.

Ingredients

  • 10 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 to 1 package frozen white sweet corn
  • 3 to 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1 lb diced ham
  • 1 diced onion
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups ½ & ½
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Add potatoes, corn, veggie broth, ham, and onions to the slow cooker, stir to combine. Make sure broth covers the ingredients; add more broth or water if needed. Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours. Using a potato masher, mash the chowder to your desired thickness. Add the butter and ½ & ½, cook on high for 30 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.