Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is such an easy meal, in so many ways.  It’s very popular, it’s easy to heat up some sauce and to boil some noodles, and of course throwing some garlic bread in the oven.  I honestly don’t remember ever hearing someone say “Eww!” when they heard they were having spaghetti for dinner.  Shoot, the two meals that my brother is able to cook includes spaghetti and hamburger helper…and spaghetti is always a winner!  One thing I have noticed about the jar of spaghetti sauce you buy at the store tends to have a watery texture to it.  Some more so than others, but it’s still there from the jar sauces I’ve had.  That was one of the several differences that I noticed about this sauce…no watery texture!

Although the jar of spaghetti sauce is super easy and convenient to make, I still wanted to make my own sauce from scratch (less preservatives, and I knew exactly what herbs and flavors were going in).  But, I also didn’t want to have to spend an hour preparing the sauce every time I make it, so making a batch and then freezing it in individual freezer safe mason jars was the way to go.  Since the jars at the store are typically 24 oz, that’s the size I decided to store this sauce in.  Of course, you always have the option to store your sauce in larger or smaller containers.  These jars come with the metal lids, but I also got the plastic lids for easier access, and just because I prefer them.  This batch fills up about 2 1/2 of the 24 oz. jars.  Typically, I like to double the batch and fill up 5 jars, just so I have to make the sauce a little less often.  Just make sure you have a big pot for it!  When I distribute the sauce in the jars, I let them sit out on the counter (uncovered), to cool for about 1-2 hours before putting the lid on and sticking them in the fridge.  After they’ve gotten cold in the fridge, I decide how many to put in the freezer to use at a later time.  Don’t forget to put sticker labels on your jars so you’re not scratching your head, trying to figure out if they’re still good to eat or not!

spaghetti sauce jars

You can store the prepared sauce in your refrigerator for up to 7 days, and up to 6 months in your freezer.  When you decide to take a jar out of the freezer to thaw, just make sure you do this the night before, and let it thaw in the refrigerator.  What’s great about the prepared sauce is that you can use it for more than just spaghetti…you can also use it for baked ziti and lasagna.  If using for spaghetti, just reheat in a pot.  My cousin loves to throw extra meatballs in her sauce for her family, and I’m a huge fan of that as well.  With frozen meatballs, you can microwave them according to the package directions before putting them in, or let them cook in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.  Personally, I just throw mine in the microwave to make the process a little faster, but that’s totally up to you.  you can also add some extra parmesan to your sauce…because you can’t go wrong with cheese.

spaghetti sauce

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this sauce, just replace the ground beef with 1 lb. of chopped vegetables of your choice (typically in this kind of sauce, I think of onions, green bell peppers and mushrooms).  If you do this, just make sure you add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the veggies first, before adding the sauce.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe:

1 lb. ground beef

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

16 oz. can tomato sauce

6 oz. can tomato paste

2 oz. tomato juice

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Cook the beef in a large sauté pan or other pot (I use a stock pot when doubling this recipe).  When beef is fully cooked and browned, add all of remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low/medium heat, and stir occasionally for about 1 hour.  Serve immediately, or store in individual containers in refrigerator (for up to 7 days) or freezer (for up to 6 months).

 

 

Vegetable Tortilla Soup

Well, it’s been a while since my last post…  I recently took a part time job working as a cook in a restaurant, so now I’m working two jobs, going to culinary school, and making sure there’s quality time with the family in there with all of that going on.  Can we say busy?  Whew!  But, it’s amazing how much more I’m learning about cooking just by being in the environment itself.

I’ve been making this recipe for several months now, and always happily gobble it down.  During the day, I eat very healthy.  All the sinful goodies are saved for the evenings and weekends, and it has proven to be a happy balance for me.  So, I’m always looking for a healthy alternative to different recipes.

This recipe is a vegetarian/vegan twist of Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I actually came across putting this together when I was working on a sauce for one of my final exams in culinary school while pureeing the first five ingredients.  I loved the taste of this so much, that I decided to turn this into a soup.  So, if you love tortilla soup, but want it more of a vegetable base, here you go!

vegetable tortilla soup

Usually when I make this, I’ll portion it into smaller containers and freeze it.  This way, when you’re ready to have some, there is plenty in the freezer waiting.  You can either thaw it out in the fridge in advance, or directly put it in the microwave.  I’d recommend thawing it out some first though, because the cooking process isn’t as long.  This has become a regular in my household, and is made every couple of weeks.  Who knew something so healthy could taste so delicious?!

Vegetable Tortilla Soup Recipe:

1 onion, chopped into medium size pieces

6 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 poblano pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 corn tortilla, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 bags frozen corn, thawed

2 cans black beans, drained

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in stock pot at medium heat.  Add onions and garlic once oil is hot, sauté until tender.  Add poblano pepper and corn tortilla, cook for another five minutes.  Add two cups of the vegetable broth, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove to bowl to cool slightly, then puree in blender for about 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth.  To stock pot, add tomato sauce, remaining vegetable broth, and frozen corn.  Return to medium heat, add pureed mixture and stir well.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, add black beans, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until corn is tender and soup is thoroughly heated through.  Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer.

Homemade Lasagna

Over the weekend, my daughter and I took a trip to visit my parents.  My cousins were also visiting with their kids…so we had a total of 6 children between the ages of 1-8 all weekend.  It was…eventful, to say the least.  My favorite part of the weekend was just watching all of the kids play together, and it took me back to my days as a young spring chicken, running around with all of my cousins.  Climbing trees, throwing the football, chasing each other around the yard, and of course, fighting.  My daughter and my cousin’s daughter are literally three months apart in age, and they already have a love/hate relationship.  They get SO excited to see each other and have so much fun together…but they also fight and get mad at each other.  Ahhh, to be a kid again.

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For Sunday lunch, I volunteered to cook a big meal for everyone.  I know, it’s crazy…but all these years of my grandmother cooking lunch for everyone, I insisted that she relax and just eat.  So, I put together an Italian feast.  The menu consisted of garlic bread, chicken alfredo, lasagna, Caesar salad, and a tiramisu trifle.  The night before, I went to the store to get ingredients to make the lasagna and trifle.  As I’m slowly moving through the grocery store and mentally going over my list, it hit me that I still had to put together the lasagna, trifle, AND put my little girl to bed.  And honestly, all I wanted to do when I got back to the house was sit my happy butt on the couch and drink a glass of wine.  So, I compromised.  Grammy put little pumpkin to bed while I put together the trifle, and the storebought lasagna thawed in the fridge while I enjoyed that delightful glass of wine.  Everybody wins.  The day after I got home though, the fleeting thought of making a lasagna was still floating around in my head, so that was what made it on the dinner table the following night.  With this batch though, instead of making it in a 9×13 inch dish, I split the ingredients up and made two 8×8 inch pans of lasagna, and one went in the freezer for later use.  Perfect!  Next time I don’t feel like putting together dinner, all I have to do is thaw that baby out and pop it in the oven.  Shoot, we still had leftovers from this smaller version…and it was just as delicious.

Lasagna Recipe:

9 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1 lb. ground hamburger or sausage

1/4 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (24 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, divided

16 oz. large curd cottage cheese

1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil lasagna noodles in water according to package directions.  Cook ground meat in skillet until browned and fully cooked, add garlic and onions and cook for a few minutes until onions are tender.  Remove from heat, stir together with 1 jar of spaghetti sauce.  Spread 1/3 of remaining jar of spaghetti sauce on bottom of 9×13 inch baking dish.  Place three noodles along bottom on top of sauce.  Spoon half of cottage cheese on top of noodles, followed by half of meat mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, then 1 cup of mozzarella.  Repeat layering one more time.  For top layer, add remaining three noodles, remaining spaghetti sauce, and cheeses.  Bake in oven for 1 hour, let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Make a Freezer Meal!!  Prepare ingredients evenly between two 8 inch foil pans or one 9×13 inch foil pan.  Wrap with plastic wrap, place plastic lid on top.  Store in freezer.  The night before you want to eat the meal, place in the refrigerator to defrost.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, let stand for 10 minutes..  Enjoy!