Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce

It's officially fall and today is a nice balmy day at 64 degrees so far.  I do love the cool mornings, but I'm sure that this won't last for long as we've had one hot summer...and it's not over yet.

As I'm sitting here watching Rick Steves' ITALY Cities of Dreams shows I'm taken back to my trip to Italy with my mom and the wonderful memories we made.  One of my best vacations ever!  Of course the food was outstanding.  I can remember every dish we ate all those years ago.  Now that's an impression, and that's some good food.

So I'm getting a hankering for some comfort food.  So let's make some pasta.  Fall is the perfect time for comfort food.

You may recall that a neighbor of mine is from Sicily.  She's passed on now but I treasure the time I got to spend with her hearing her stories of traveling to America at the age of 14 on a boat, landing in New Orleans!  What an adventurous woman.  And her food?  to die for.

Today's recipe is a meaty pasta sauce and is a variation of her Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce. Oh! this is soooo good.  The recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, but not to fret, this freezes wonderfully.  I've placed my extra sauce in a airtight container and it will keep in the freezer for several months to take out and have again on a cold fall night.  Perfect double duty!  It also takes a while to make this sauce so make sure to do this on a weekend.

While I've never been to Sicily it's certainly on my bucket list. Thank you Nettie (my 4th grandmother!) for all your stories and your inspiration. Nettie's tomato marinara, Sicilian Sauce is wonderful if you don't like meat in your sauce.

Manga! Manga!

Sicilian Spaghetti Sauce

adapted from my Sicilian neighbor Nettie

serves 6

1/2 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, ground or casings removed
1/2 lb. 10% lean ground sirloin

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15oz cans of good quality tomato sauce
1 6oz can of tomato paste
3 cups water
1 t salt
2 t dried parsley
1 t dried basil
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t red pepper flakes
Cooked spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook sausage and ground sirloin in a large skillet over medium heat about 6 min.  Stir meat as it cooks until it crumbles.  Add onion and garlic to the meat and continue to cook and stir another 4 minutes or until onion is soft and meat is no longer pink.  Drain if necessary.  Set aside.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add tomato sauce, paste, and water.  Stir to combine.  Add your spices, salt, parsley, basil, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine.  Add your meat and onion mixture. Cook on medium low for about 40-50 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.  Serve over hot spaghetti and top with grate Parmesan cheese if desired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall Flavor Profiles: Pumpkin

Falling leaves, falling temperatures, and comfort food remind me of Fall!

While it's not quite fall here...(still dang hot!) it's lurking around the corner though.  I can feel it.
Or at least I think I can...

So let talk about Fall seasonal ingredients...Pumpkins are on the list today.


Small pumpkins start appearing in the markets in late September; larger varieties become available in October, although I seen quite sizeable pumpkins available already. Choose pumpkins that feel solid and heavy for their size. For cooking, choose small, sweet varieties with a thick flesh and a fairly small seed cavity, such as the Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese pumpkin. Hard shells will protect pumpkins from easy spoilage. Most will keep for a month or longer if stored in a cool, dry place. Once cut, pumpkins should be wrapped tightly in plastic, refrigerated and used within 3 to 4 days.

Or you can use canned!

Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew
Comfort food at it's best!

Pumpkin Pie Bars
Oh yum!!

Spicy Pumpkin Fool
A quick and easy dessert.  Kids love it!

Layered Pumpkin Bread
Oh, this is a good one...

Let's not forget pumpkin for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie with Orange Marmalade
A special pie with a little umph.  Great for Thanksgiving!

Fall, I'm waiting for you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dessert To Go: S'mores in a Jar

Hi there, I'm back!

I've been having computer problems and have decided it time to retire my laptop and upgrade to something new.  I've been looking at Chromebooks lately.  Anyone have one and want to share their likes or dislikes? As such with my current laptop it takes me about 2 hours to complete one post!  So, I'm sorry that the posts slowed down, but I'm working around that with an interim fix.

Last time I brought you Dinner To Go.  This was a wonderful Asian Pasta Salad dish that we took to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  It was the perfect dish in every way; taste, and ease of transport.  I hope you enjoyed this and if you haven't made so right away!

Today I wanted to bring you the perfect Dessert To Go. Again, this was born out the need to create a comforting yet delicious dessert that was easy to transport.  I could have made a cake and cut it into pieces, but I wanted something a little more special.  This is my take on S'mores in a Jar!

I love putting desserts in a jar so that each person have their own individual serving.  I use these jars which you can get here.  I love the design but any regular jar or container will do.  These Peach Raspberry Crisps were baked straight in the jar and we took these to a concert several years ago. 

As chocolate was on my mind I wanted to get on the S'mores train and create a portable dish.  I wouldn't have a fire to roast marshmallows so I improvised and used the flavor of S'mores and built a wonderful layered dessert.  Using chocolate fudge pudding, graham cracker crumbs and small marshmallows worked perfectly.

Layering these ingredients in a jar, makes it cute!  It also allows you to get all the flavors in one bite.  The desserts were easy to pack and totally hit the spot during the concert intermission.  We even got comments from our neighbors on how pretty the dessert was, and what a great idea to use the jars.


S'mores in a Jar

serves 4

1 3.9 oz box of Jello instant pudding, chocolate fudge flavored
2 cups 2% milk
2 sheets of graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup of miniature marshmallows
4 mason or other canning jars - 8 oz.

Make the pudding according to the directions on the box and refrigerate until set and ready for use.

To assemble jars:  Evenly distribute half of the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of 4 mason jars.  Divide half of the pudding among the four jars layering on top of the crumbs. Divide all of the marshmallows on top of the pudding.  Follow with the remaining pudding divided equally and topping with the remaining crumbs.

Secure lid and keep cold until ready to serve.  NOTE:  if packing these for travel make sure that they are packed with ice packs and that they stay upright.


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