Beefy Bolognese Sauce

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These are the days when I think a lot about comforts….and comfort foods.   Which brings me to the question:  just what is a comfort food?

If each of you were to give me an answer, I would probably get over 400 answers, so that means everyone has their own definition of what comfort food is to them.  For me, comfort foods take me back to my younger days, when Mom was doing the cooking.  There were so many dishes she made that I loved, so anything that reminds me of one of those meals is a comfort to me.  Comfort foods are tied up with memories….the family eating together around a big table with lots of talk and laughter going on, and enjoying favorite foods.

Bolognese Sauce with penne pasta

Bolognese Sauce with penne pasta

One of my most favorite memories is the meat sauce that Mom always made from scratch, and served over pasta with lots of grated cheese over the top.  I’m guessing that pasta in some form is considered a comfort food by many people all over the world.  Therefore a recipe for a good meat sauce (Bolognese Sauce) should be in every cook’s repertoire.  It’s so versatile, it can be served over anything;  rice, bread, potatoes, polenta, and pasta, of course.  It goes with any pasta shape.

So welcome to my kitchen today while I prepare my best Bolognese Sauce for you.  This is not a sauce that needs to cook slowly on the back burner for hours.  What helps to speed up the blending of flavors is cooking it in a Dutch oven.  The Dutch oven, even with the lid on, allows the sauce to reduce a little, thus concentrating the flavors.  This method of cooking it also lets the layers of flavor come through, as the bacon, ground meat and veggies all get browned in the same pot, which is then deglazed with the cooking liquid.

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For anyone who might want to cook it in a slow cooker….I have done it that way, and find that the sauce is a little more liquid than I like it, so I would recommend using a little less broth, or omit the wine.  The end result will still be very good, but my first choice is the Dutch oven.

Also, since making this is so easy, I like to make double the amount, and freeze half of it, so it’s ready for a quick meal anytime…

BEEFY BOLOGNESE SAUCE

Yield:  Makes about 4 cups, or enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices center cut bacon, choppedIMG_9024
  • 8 oz. 90% lean ground beef
  • 4 oz. ground, lean pork, or sausage, casings removed
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup red or white wine
  • 1 ( 14.5-oz) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

1.  Place bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté 5 minutes or until beacon begins to crisp.  Add beef and pork to pan;  cook 6 minutes or until partly browned, stirring to crumble.  Remove mixture from pan.

Browning all the meat.

Browning all the meat.

2.  Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes.

Sautéing the veggies.

Sautéing the veggies.

Add tomato paste; saute 1 minute until it starts to darken.

Add tomato paste.

Add tomato paste.

Add chicken broth and wine; bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return beef mixture to pan.

Add liquids, then return meats to the pan.

Add liquids, then return meats to the pan.

3.  Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cover; reduce heat to low, and cook about 1 hour, stirring several times to prevent sticking.  Taste before serving and add more salt, if needed.

Serve over your choice of pasta.  In the photos here, I used penne pasta.  Grate some fresh parmesan or Romano cheese over each serving and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.    DEEElish!

Oops, in my haste to take the photos, I forgot the cheese.  How could I ?

Oops, in my haste to take the photos, I forgot the cheese. How could I ?

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Decorating Cookies: A Simple Glaze

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When this container appears in my kitchen, it means it’s time to get serious about cookie decorating.  After all, Christmas is only a week away, and the cookies I baked yesterday, must be finished today!

This is how I begin:

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I set up my center island in the kitchen with an old tablecloth, pour myself another cup of coffee, and begin to lay out all the necessary supplies, equipment and other stuff I may or may not use. ( Nice to have it out and handy just in case inspiration strikes.)  It’s time to break out the tools and have some fun.

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If you’re like me you have the cookies all baked, cooled and stored in an airtight container, ready and waiting to be decorated.  This may have been done up to a week ahead.

Next I make the decorative icing.  I used to make royal icing, whipping it up like crazy, covering it with layers of damp paper towels or a cloth towel in an attempt to prevent it from drying out.  I still do make it if I want to get really fancy in my decorating, but for the most part, I get just as much bang for my buck, in a lot less time, with this Simple Cookie Glaze.

Here’s how to make it.   Put the following in a deep mixer bowl:

  • 2  1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1  1/2 to 2 Tbsp. milk, plus 1 teaspoon milk
Ingredients for glaze.

Ingredients for glaze.

Mix together the sugar and corn syrup.  Then add 1  1/2 tablespoons milk, and begin to mix.  As you mix it together you will get a thick, pasty blob forming in the center of the bowl.

Thick blob forms.

Thick blob forms.

Now add 1 more teaspoon milk.  Continue mixing until things begin to smooth out; but it you’re using all your might to draw the whisk (or spoon) through the mixture, or you electric mixer overheats and stops working, (just kidding), you’re allowed to add 1 additional teaspoon milk.

This is what the texture looks like:

Smooth and thinned out.

Smooth and thinned out.

The frosting falls in a ribbon, but disappears back into the pool of frosting in the bowl within a few seconds.

Perfect consistency.

Perfect consistency.

I bring out a few of my re-purposed “to-go” containers with lids.  This glaze can’t be left uncovered for more than a few minutes before it begins to thicken up, dry out, and develop a crust.  So I divide it up into several containers with lids, so that I can tint smaller portions in the colors I plan to use.

Coloring small amount of the glaze.

Coloring small amount of the glaze.

Also, if I know that I will be using this icing again in a day or so, these containers are just right for keeping it moist and ready to go when I need it.  An additional drop or two of milk will loosed it up if it should get a little too thick.

I put some plain glaze in a container, give it a healthy blob of gel paste food coloring, then mix it up.  Dip your cookie into the glaze, or spread it on the cookie with an off-set spatula.  If you want them to be sparkly, sprinkle on some fine decorating sugar, or sprinkles.  If not, just let the glaze dry.  Then you can draw or write on it with food-safe colored pens.  These are great for drawing on faces or accenting details of the cookie mold.

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I like to use squeeze bottles with decorating tips on them to write on cookies or make details.  Just spoon white or colored frosting of choice into the bottle, screw on the cover with tip attached, and gently squeeze the bottle.

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That’s how I made these. Trees with snow on them. Aren’t they cute?

 

With the batch of Swedish Ginger Cookies that I made yesterday, and only 1 batch of the Simple Glaze, I was able to get this variety of cookies.

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It’s easy to make an impressive and colorful assortment of cookies that look like they required more work than they actually did, using this decorating method.

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Now, go……bake,……decorate,……have fun!   🙂

 

The Ultimate Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

Today we are making mayonnaise.  I had never tried to make my own mayo before this, but when I came across the recipe it looked so easy I just had to try it.

Mayonnaise is a condiment that I think we all take for granted.  It’s always there in the refrigerator when we need/want it.  But have you ever given any thought to what goes into mayonnaise?  It’s basically egg yolks and oil blended together to form an emulsion plus a little vinegar, salt and pepper.  Commercially prepared mayonnaise contains stabilizers and other additives to extend its shelf life, but we don’t need all those extra things.

Let’s face it mayonnaise contains a lot of fat.   My guy, Mr. D. loves mayonnaise slathered on his sandwiches.  No matter that I try to reduce the amount of fats (and calories) in the foods I prepare, he often overturns my best efforts by (over)using mayonnaise.  I’m just wondering,  is that a guy thing?  Because I know several other guys who love mayonnaise, but I don’t see that in my women friends.  Any comments along those lines?   Hmmm?

Back to the task-at-hand:  making mayonnaise.  I like the fact that I can make a small amount.  I’ve had the experience where I’ve purchased a large jar of mayonnaise and after a while, even though it’s refrigerated, it starts to have an “off ” taste, as the oils get old.  By making your own, you can make variations in flavor too, thus saving the cost of buying all those name-brand items like chipotle, smoky ranch, wasabi, or Dijon mayonnaise.  These lively flavored spreads can really change a sandwich from ho-hum, to WOW!    So let’s make our own.  It’s cost-saving, you control what’s in it, and you can have a variety of flavors in small amounts.

HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE

Yield:    Makes 3/4 cup

All it takes is canola oil, egg yolks, white vinegar, and salt and pepper.

All it takes is canola oil, egg yolks, white vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup canola oil ( or olive oil, if you prefer)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

Directions:

1.  Place a medium bowl on a non-slip surface, such as a silicone baking sheet or a damp dish towel.  In the bowl, whisk egg yolks until light and frothy.

Beat the egg yolks till light and frothy.

Beat the egg yolks till light and frothy.

Slowly drizzle in 2  1/2 teaspoons oil, continuing to whisk until yolks become paler and thicken, about 40 seconds.  If oil begins to pool rather than emulsify, stop drizzling and whisk yolks vigorously before adding any more oil.  Then add remaining oil in a slow drizzle, continuing to whisk.

Start to drizzle in the oil while beating the yolks.

Start to drizzle in the oil while beating the yolks.

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Continue beating while slowly adding the rest of the oil.

Continue beating while slowly adding the rest of the oil.

IMG_6757IMG_6758      The mixture will become quite thick.

2.  Whisk in the white vinegar and salt.   Add white pepper if desired.

Transfer mayonnaise to a clean container with screw top, or cover with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated.

I just made about 3/4 cup mayonnaise.  It was Fun!!

I just made about 3/4 cup mayonnaise. It was Fun!!

Hint:  Try adding some Dijon mustard, about 1 – 2 teaspoons to the above recipe, and use in egg salad.  So good!!

FLAVOR VARIATIONS:

1.  HORSERADISH:  Stir in 1/4 cup drained, prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2.  CAPER-DIJON:  Add 1/4 cup drained, chopped capers and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.

3.  FRESH HERB:  Fold in 1  1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme.

4,  CHILI-LIME:  Mix in 1  1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon lime zest, and 2 teaspoons each of honey and chili sauce.

5.  BACON – CHIVE:  Combine with 3 slices finely chopped cooked bacon and 1  1/2 tablespoons chopped chives.

6.  BARBECUE-BACON:  add freshly cooked and crumbled bacon plus 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce for a unique dipping sauce.

SOURCE:   Adapted from Country Living

Kitchen Basics: Making Blueberry Sauce

Blueberry Sauce

Blueberry Sauce

We eat lots of blueberries in the summertime when we can get them at the “pick-your-own” farm.  They are such delightful little blue orbs; sweet, juicy, and so healthy for us with their antioxidants.  They make a fabulous snack right out of your hand–I do that while I pick, but I know you won’t tell on me.   Good as they are in their natural state, something magical happens when you cook with them.  The flavor changes completely and they release a vivid pink-purple juice.   I just love the color.

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As beautiful as this looks, it tastes even better!

If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry pie, you know what I mean.   But when you have blueberry sauce on hand, you have dozens of uses for it, all of them so delicious.

So tag along with me while I make some blueberry sauce.  The berries can be frozen or fresh.  Isn’t that great?  because when you run out in the middle of winter, you can make more with frozen berries.  However, since this is prime time for fresh blueberries,  I’m making it now.   Be sure to make plenty, store it in sealed jars or well-sealed containers, and use it any of these ways:

  • pour over vanilla ice creamIMG_4674
  • use on waffles or pancakes
  • swirl into yogurt
  • top a cheesecake
  • use as the filling in a layer cake
  • spoon over fresh sliced peaches
  •  your own ideas…..

Recipe:  FRESH BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Yield:  makes about 2  1/2 – 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries

    Blueberries and lemon, so good together.

    Blueberries and lemon, so good together.

  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup orange or lemon juice

1.  Combine the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

2.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange or lemon juice in a small bowl, and whisk until smooth.

3.  Cook the blueberry mixture, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to release their juices.

4.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute more.  The mixture should thicken and bubble.  Do not over cook.

5.  Remove from the heat.  Cover and chill.  Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

We love it over lemon frozen yogurt.

We love it over lemon frozen yogurt.

SOURCE:   Preserving the Abundance,  Hometown Cooking

When Life Hands You Lemons

Citrusy, smooth lemon curd.

Citrusy, smooth lemon curd.

When life hands you lemons, don’t just make lemonade, make lemon curd!….  Fresh lemons are a must in this recipe and they give it unbeatable flavor. When lemons are so plentiful in the marketplace, this is the time of year to make it.   For a lime-curd variation, substitute lime rind and juice.

Curd is a common tea-time treat, usually slathered on toast or scones.  It is so versatile.  British cooks also use it as a filling in trifles, tarts and cakes.   Lemon meringue pie is, essentially, lemon curd wearing a crown of meringue.

Traditionally curds are made with egg yolks and plenty of butter.  This recipe uses whole eggs and cornstarch, then you stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter at the end to achieve the velvety texture expected from curd, but with less fat and fewer calories.  Homemade curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, you also can freeze it in a lidded container or zip-lock bag.  Thaw frozen curd in the refrigerator and use it within one week of thawing.

LEMON CURD

YIELD:   2 1/2 cups

Few ingredients, but big flavor!

Few ingredients, but big flavor!

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 5 medium lemons
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1.  Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring with a whisk.  Stir in juice and eggs;  bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat;  add butter and lemon rind, stirring gently until butter melts.

2.  Spoon mixture into a medium bowl to cool.  Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight (mixture will thicken as it cools).

I wish you could scratch and taste this picture!

I wish you could scratch and taste this picture!

I had a plan in mind when I made this curd.  Be sure to stop back next week to see what I did with it…….

Serving size:   1 Tablespoon      Calories, 35;  Fat, 1 g.  Carb., 6.4 g.

SOURCE:    Cooking Light Annual Recipes, 2007