Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Semi-Freezer Cooking: Bolognese Sauce (or Tacos!!!)

There are some nights when I just need a quick meal but I don't want to serve a less than healthy meal like processed foods. So my solution is to "process" whole foods myself at home and have things in the freezer that can be ready in 20 minutes or less. I am a planner so a lot of times I will plan to use one of my "processed" foods ahead of time. For example, Wednesdays are really busy for us with produce co-op and PE class at the YMCA for the kids and then church in the evenings. I don't want to have to eat out or go through a drive thru so a lot of Wednesdays we will have pasta. Growing up Italian in Brooklyn, NY, it was actually a sin (in my family and the greater neighborhood even) to serve jar sauce unless you had canned it yourself over the summer (which we did). SO, I came up with this recipe which actually makes 7-8 packets of meat sauce base for that slow cooked Bolognese Sauce in 20 minutes. I have served it to my grandmother and I am still alive! LOL! This recipe is also an awesome way to sneak lots of veggie into those picky eaters.

Kristi's Bolognese Base

5 pounds ground meats of choice
4 onions
5 ribs of celery with leaves
5 cloves of garlic (or more . . . we like a lot of garlic)
2 zucchini
16 oz mushrooms
4 carrots
1 large Sam's Club sized can of diced tomatoes
12 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh minced flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp pepper

Process all of the fresh veggies in the food processor until they are very small bits. Set aside. In a LARGE pot, cook your meat in batches so it browns and doesn't boil and turn gray. Remove the meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the veggies in the meat grease in batches until soft. Remove the veggies to a bowl and discard remaining grease. Using the same pot, return the meat to the pot and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat and stir until paste is melted and starts to bubble and turn a rusty reddish-brown color. Add your veggies and diced tomatoes with their liquid. Stir well and add your seasonings. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook uncovered for at least 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Let it cool and transfer to freezer bags or containers of your choice in 3 cup portions. It will be the consistency of a thick ground beef chili. Freeze until ready to use. This recipe usually yields 7-8 packets of sauce base. Please ignore the 6 inches of snow in my freezer. I need to defrost it. I usually stack the bags like this for maximum storage space. I do the same with dried beans that I have prepared.

When I am ready to make the sauce, I usually set a packet of sauce base on the counter in the morning.

By dinner time it is mostly defrosted and slides right out of the bag and into a medium sauce pan. Then I add a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and 2 tsp Italian seasoning. Simmer over low heat while your pasta is cooking. If you want to make it a true Bolognese Sauce, stir 1 cup of milk or cream into the sauce about 2 minutes before removing from the heat. It is fine as a meat sauce but the cream just adds more flavor and richness. Serve your sauce over your favorite pasta (we had penne).

NOTE: You can use just beef in this recipe but, I usually use a mixture of beef, pork, veal, sausage, turkey or whatever I have on hand to add up to 5 pounds of meat. You can also add more or different veggies. This is my basic recipe but I have used bell peppers and eggplant in it before with good results. I try to use whatever is in season.

ANOTHER NOTE: You can use the fully prepared sauce to put together a lasagna or baked ziti or in any recipe you would use a meat sauce.

LAST NOTE (I PROMISE): You can use the packet of sauce as a taco meat by omitting the 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning and adding an envelope of taco seasoning (or the equivalent of homemade taco seasoning) and 1/3 cup of water. Simmer together in a pan and serve as you would for tacos, burritos, whatever you like.

I am Linking up with

Jen @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Lisa @ Blessed with Grace

Cole @ All the Small Stuff

Gayle @ The Grocery Cart Challenge

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Homemade Granola . . . I May Never Buy Commercial Cereal Again!

My family loves granola . . . in any form. Their favorite form is the granola bar which I began making at the end of last year. I researched several different recipes to come up with a mixture my kids would like. Jeremy, the undisputed king of granola bars, loves the recipe that I came up with and lets me know when we are running out so I can make more.

My favorite form of granola is as a cold cereal with milk and it is so expensive in the stores so I decided to make my own. Hey, I am all about making things myself. Here at the Temple house, we make all of our own soaps (body and hand soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, dish washing liquid, shampoo, conditioner, household cleaners) breads, granola bars, sauces, spice mixes, stocks, etc. If I had a juicer . . .

Anyway, back to the granola. After reading several recipes and methods, I concocted my own version of what I thought I would like best and it is fat free (except for the fat the occurs naturally in the nuts). I call it Greatest Hits Granola. I like to make it at night after everyone is in bed so it can cool overnight.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Mix the following together in a large bowl:
3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup roughly chopped cashews
1 cup crispy rice cereal

In a small sauce pan, combine the following ingredients and heat over low heat until the brown sugar is dissolved. You do not need to bring this to a boil:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup applesauce (not chunky, I used homemade apple sauce)
1/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt

Pour the liquid mixture over the ingredients in the bowl and mix to coat evenly. Divide the mixture between 2 sheet pans and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until evenly browned. Here is a picture of the 2 sheets baking. Every time I took them out to stir them, I rotated which rack they were on just so they would brown evenly.

When it is done baking, turn off the oven and prop the door open and leave the granola in the oven to cool on the sheet pans over night. In the morning, transfer the granola to an airtight storage container. See my new counter tops? I will be posting the whole story complete with pictures soon.

Then you can add in 1 cup or more of whatever you like (raisins, craisins, dried apples, dried apricots, mini chocolate chips, etc.). As you can see here, I added freeze dried apples and dried cranberries. See that lovely jug of milk in the picture? I just started buying our milk directly from the dairy. It is raw, full fat milk with the cream on top. You have to shake it before using unless you want to pour the cream off for another use. It is delicious and I have not had any problems digesting it as I have in the past with dairy products. I am beginning to think that pastuerization kills a nutrient in the milk that aids in digestion. It is illegal for raw milk to be sold in North Carolina for human consumption so, I cross the border to South Carolina to get it straight from the cow at Tucker Adkins Dairy.

Mmmmmmmm!!! Yummy Granola and Creamy Raw Milk!!!

I hope you are inspired to try this granola. I know if you do, you will be hooked!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grateful For His Sacrifice

This song says all that I feel today as Resurrection Sunday approaches.

May you all enjoy the freedom and peace that His sacrifice gives us.

Happy Easter!