Sunday, September 1, 2013

Making Good Meat Sauce GREAT!!

Funny how Spaghetti seems like it is always on the favorites list for kids. The rich, sweet and savory tomato sauce with soft meat and then of course what kid doesn't like pasta?  Finish with a snow shower of Parmesan cheese and maybe a slice of garlic bread, molto bene!!!  

Well I have had this trick that I have been using for sometime now to pump up that meat sauce in the healthful way and not have the taste suffer in the least!  As a matter of fact I think it is quite the improvement. First of all, to make a really good meat sauce the first ingredient is time.  If you don't have at least 3 hours, don't bother!  I think that once you get all your layers in and going, it must simmer for a long time to soften the meat, develop the right flavors and reduce some to make a rich thick sauce.  Let me give you my recipe for a beautiful meat sauce.


2 tbsp oil
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 onions, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground pork
1 cup milk
1 14 oz can of tomato paste
2 28 oz.  cans whole tomatoes, I like the Cento San Marzano tomatoes
1 + cups of chicken stock
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp pizza seasoning if you have it (just adds something)
1 tbsp sugar
3 bay leaves
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 bunch basil, chopped

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot. I love my big Le Creuset pot . Add in carrots, celery, and half the onions.   Sprinkle a little pinch of salt and pepper, we are building flavors here. Saute for a couple minutes, just working on softening, then add the mushrooms and continue sauteing till everything is soft, we aren't looking for color.  This is the healthy veggies that we are sneaking in under the radar! 

Once softened, place in the blender and add the 2 cans of tomatoes, juices and all, and blend till smooth.  In the pot, if needed add a bit of oil, or to really keep it healthy a bit of the chicken stock and add the second half of the onions. Again a bit of salt to help that softening process. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the minced garlic all at medium high heat. Don't let your garlic burn, my rule of thumb is when you start smelling it, time to move on!  So now add all the meat and break it up with your wooden spoon or spatula. Continue cooking, moving it around often so as to evenly cook,  till the meat is completely browned. Now at this point you can pour off the accumulated fat. Personally this is not what I do, I feel like there is a lot of flavor that you can lose from the juices.  Add the cup of milk, stir well and reduce the heat to low. The milk contains lactic acid which serve to soften the meat even more. And heating at low allows the milk and juices you left to slowly absorb into the meat. Add the can of tomato paste and let it melt into the meat and cook into it a bit. 

Now you can add the blended tomato sauce, cup of chicken stock, and the spices, except for the basil.  Stir well to make sure everything is incorporated. Heat to bubbly and then turn down the heat to low, give one good stir and put the pot lid on, but with a corner exposed.  You don't want it covered, you are just trying to protect from splatter.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce is not sticking to the bottom. you expect the sauce to thicken but if you think it is getting too thick, feel free to add some more chicken stock or water, 1/4 cup at a time. You don't want at watery sauce, it should be more of a gravy consistency.  
At the end (and I say at the end because it isn't till that point that all the flavors have had the opportunity to meld and develop fully) I taste and adjust my seasonings.  Tomatoes, even canned ones, can be sweeter or tarter at different times of the year so sometimes I will add an additional bit of tomato paste to pump up the tomatoey goodness, other times, it's salt and others, sugar is needed.  Once you are happy with the overall taste, toss in the fresh basil leaves and bring the heat up to medium so that the sauce will be at serving temperature and then serve over your favorite pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan and ENJOY!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beef and Bean Chili

So my family LOVES chili and I have come up with this recipe that is fairly simple to make and has some versatile options. So here you go!

Debbie's Beef and Bean Chili
1-2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeƱo, minced
2 lbs ground beef, look for an 85 or 90% fat
2 tbsp flour
1 4oz can diced green chiles, I like Hatch if you can find them.
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced- my favorite brand is Embasa

1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (for extra punch try 2 14 oz cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes)
2-3 40 oz cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I like a lot of beans, but if you like it meatier do the 2 cans)
1/4 cup good quality chili powder
1 heaping tbsp oregano
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp Caldo De Pollo

1 - 2 cups of chicken broth
salt and pepper
Use large pot and heat to medium high heat, add oil and onions. Toss in a pinch of salt, this helps to soften the onions. Stir onions for about 2-3 minutes, not going for color, just limpness, then turn the heat to medium and add garlic and jalepeno and saute for another 1-2 minutes (a good clue is when you smell the garlic). Add in the ground beef and turn the heat back up to med high to high heat, breaking up the ground beef as you stir it in. I like to use a wooden spatula , 
it is strong and has a nice flat surface to help break up the meat. Once the meat is cooked, sprinkle on the flour and stir it around so it it fully coated on the meat and has absorbs the oil. Once you see no more flour start adding your canned goods. The green chilies,chipotles (these are spicy so it is important to use just one or two and chop them very finely, don't want someone to bite into a big piece), tomatoes (juice and all) and pinto beans. Stir all well then add in the spices, chili powder, oregano, cumin and Caldo de Pollo. Again, stir well. At this point the mixture should have a nice brick red appearance.

I usually taste at this point for seasonings. Every flavor will get deeper as it cooks and so I don't  recommend adding any additional salt at this point, but I am not sure how to explain this but if it doesn't taste CHILI enough, or look red enough, I sometimes will add another tablespoons of chili powder. (Chili powder looses its kick as it sits on a shelf, so even if you bought it at the grocery store, you don't know how long it has been there and so you may need to make up for that lack of flavor by adding more) Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, stir and bring up to a simmer. Reserve the other cup for the process, if it seems after a half hour of cooking that it needs more liquid go ahead and add a half a cup then wait again another 15 minutes. (The cooking process allows the beans to break down a little and tomatoes to release some liquid so even when you add everthing to the pot it seems not very liquidy it is ok, it will be more so in that first 15-30 mins) Once it is simmering, lower the heat to low or med low. You want it to simmer lightly not boil with bubble breaking (if you do that you will get burning on the bottom of the chili). I like to set my lid on but not covering completely, just sort of offset to let the steam release. The thing about chili is the longer it cooks it seems to just get better and better so if you can do this early in the day and let it simmer for an hour or so that would be great, but it is important to stir the pot maybe every 10 - 15 minutes to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom. When ready pour into bowls and add grated cheese, sour cream, fresh chopped onions and a squeeze of lime. Viola!

Now here are some variations you may want to do.

You can add green and/or red bell peppers to the onions

Add one or two roasted poblano chiles, chopped to the onions (add a little more spice and smokiness)

Substitute some of the pinto beans with Kidney beans

Before cooking the ground beef, use chorizo and cook it really well and then add the ground beef (just adds some more of that mexican spice)

Instead of flour, use Masa Harina (near the flour in the grocery store) It is what is used to make corn tortillas, so you add a little bit of the corn flavor.

Make a pot of macaroni noodles and toss together to make a Chili Mac dinner.

And last, if you really want to go decadent, instead of ground beef, use ribeye or filet mignon for the meat. Chop it into bite size pieces (it will shrink a bit in the cooking so not too little) and instead of tossing the flour in after adding the meat, toss the meat in the flour then add to the pan. You may need to add more oil to the pan before adding the meat if the onion mixture seems to dry. You just want to brown all the meat pieces you don't need to worry about cooking them thru cause they will cook in the pot with all the ingredients.

I wish I had a photo of the finished product to share, but honestly the taste is what matters the most!!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas

Been a while since I have blogged, but my sister inspired me to get my butt in gear and begin again! With all this modern technology at my finger tips there is just no excuse why I shouldn't be sharing my love of cooking. So here is my first post back after an extended break!

I love eggs! I got chickens last year so I could be sure to have fresh eggs all the time. But for anyone that knows me, I am not one to do just normal food, I like to add interesting accents. In this case the interesting accent is a Spanish tomato sauce with chickpeas.I also am trying to add fiber into every meal I consume and do that with natural grains and beans in an attempt to steer away from bread, hence the chickpeas.

I love to make two over easy eggs in a nonstick pan, simple a dash of s&p.  I take a spoonful or two of the tomato mixture, place the cooked eggs on top and VIOLA breakfast.  The unctuousness of the egg yolk seeping into the tomato sauce is pure HEAVEN.  Very fulfilling and satisfying! 

SO here it how it goes.....

Spanish Tomato Sauce

I like to start the sauce earlier then the eggs so it has time to simmer and let all the flavors come together and develop. I begin with shallots and garlic
Heat a skillet over medium heat add about a tbsp of oil and add minced garlic and shallots and saute' till softened.
At this point I like to add my dried herbs to just get a little heat on them to bring out the fragrance.  For this I add 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes and about 1 tbsp of Williams Sonoma Pizza Seasoning.  Is is full of delicious Italian herbs. 
You only want to leave this for a minute, MAYBE.  You just want them to smell.  At this point I add my canned tomatoes. I like to use Cento brands whole San Marzano tomatoes in their juice, I think the flavor is very full bodied. I use 2 cans and then I added for a little tang, about a cup of cut up sweet 100 tomatoes, yellow and red for some color pop. I think they give a nice acidity and fresh texture.  At this point I add salt and pepper and about 2 tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar and then let it simmer for about 1/2 hour or even longer if you like,  stirring occasionally breaking up the tomatoes more and more as you go.

This is the point where you add 2 16 oz cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) that have been drained and rinsed and about 1/4 chopped fresh basil.  Stir and let heat through and it is ready to go!  You might taste for final seasoning.  Sometimes if the tomatoes were too tangy, I might add a little sugar but usually the long cooking down process does the trick. 

A one cup serving is about 180 Calories and a WHOPPING 8 grams of fiber! Two whole eggs are about 144 calories so 324 calories for a very fulfilling breakfast AND you technically got fruit (tomatoes are a fruit) fiber and protein from your eggs, very well rounded meal ! I hope you enjoy!