My Signature Tuna Melt Noodle Casserole

I have NEVER liked traditional Tuna Noodle Casserole. Ever. You have to be so careful with tuna fish…can we agree on that? Mixing it with egg noddles that inevitably will get mushy (or maybe it’s just MINE that always do) and a “cream of” soup that is super salty and full of MSG as well as other things and, well, even toasty bread crumbs on top cannot save it in my opinion. My husband has the strange ability to forget meals I make that are just complete disasters…bless his heart, and he has completely forgotten the two other times I have attmpted to follow a classic recipe to a T and make one of his childhood favorites, and insists that I have only made it once when we were first married seven and a half years ago.  He DOES however, remember it was a flop. So, this evening when he again requested it and I had everything to make IT and not much else, I decided I was going to give it ONE more try, but I was going to do it MY way….

First, I decided that I wanted it to have a mildly creamy and cheesy base, reminiscent of a tuna melt…who doesn’t love THOSE! Then I decided that I needed a more forgiving pasta than egg noodles. Elbows came to mind but hubby said he wanted something more like noodles. Enter tiny little bow tie pastas someone had recently given us. PERFECT! SO I set to work, inspired by my favorite homemade Mac and Cheese recipe. Here it is!

Makes 1 FULL 9×13 baking dish

4 Cups of mini bow tie pasta, cooked, drained and hot

4 Tablespoons butter

1/4 Cup a/p flour

4 Cups milk

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

16 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese

2 teaspoons seasoned salt (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cans tunafish in water, drained WELL

3 cups frozen peas

2/3-1 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs

1-2 cups chopped mushrooms (optional)

Directions:

1) Cook pasta until mostly cooked. Should still be too undercooked to enjoy straight out of the pan, but still mostly cooked. Drain. I usually get the water going and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then start to make my sauce. Once the oven is ready and the sauce is ready, the pasta is too!

2) In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat then sprinkle in flour. Whisk together and constantly until your “roux” is formed and it is a light tan color that smells toasty. Add chopped mushrooms if you are using them.

3) Slowly pour in milk and whisk together. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to “plop plop plop”. Add mustard, onion powder, season salt and black pepper. Mix well and shut off heat. Add cheese and mik well until cheese has fully melted into the sauce. Add drained tuna and frozen peas.

4) Add sauce to cooked pasta in the pan you boiled the pasta in. Mix everything together WELL. Pour into baking dish and smooth out. Sprinkle with a liberal helping of seasoned panko bread crumbs.

5) Bake on 350 degrees F until the sauce in the middle of the dish is bubbling…about 45 minutes.

6) Let cool/set for 10 minutes while you enjoy a side salad, then serve and eat hot.

Love it!

Peace and Good Eats to you and your Lovies,

Leah

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One Week of All Crock Pot Dinner Challenge!

I am armed with a large crock-pot, a small crock-pot, a meal plan, a grocery list, and a stash of crock-pot liners! I’m ready to go! 🙂

Seven Meals. Day of the week to be decided as I go. Chicken recipe every OTHER day. I am a shame-filled user of the cheap, chipper, chicken. Actualy, I am NOT a fan of cheap chicken, but we splurge on the all natural pasture-raised stuff we can get from my parents for beef, pork (mostly), and yep we even eat some venison too! The chicken I WANT to buy is just too darn expensive still…one day. One day.

Meal#1- Slow Cooker Rotissorie-Style whole Chicken, Slow-cooker Maple-dijon glazed brussel sprouts, homemade rice-a-roni

Recipes: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2008/05/rotisserie-chicken/, http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/2012/02/slow-cooker-maple-dijon-glazed-brussels.html & http://stolenmomentscooking.com/homemade-chicken-rice-a-roni/

Meal#2 5-Minute Prep Slow-Cooker Asian Chicken (garnished with chopped cilantro and green onions, lo mein noodles), tossed with cooked noodles, garden salad pre-meal

Recipe: http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/2012/03/5-minute-prep-slow-cooker-asian-chicken.html

Meal#3 Slow-Cooker Beef Gyros, pitas/fajita-style flour tortillas, cucumber salad

Recipe: http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/2011/05/slow-cooker-beef-gyros-by-aimee.html

Meal#4 Slow-Cooker Chicken Pot Pie over Homemade Biscuits

Recipe: here is the best recipe I could find for what I am making, but I am making a from-scratch version that I don’t have a link to. Obviously, this will be healthier if you make your own biscuits and your own gravy. 😉  http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/slow-cooker-biscuit-chicken-pot-pie-cooking-for-two/0d82daae-d135-4cf6-b290-d6ad10a84758/?WT.dcsvid#

Meal#5 Slow-Cooker Italian Tortellini Soup, bread/rolls

Recipes: I am going to make the italian sausage from scratch using ground pork 🙂 http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/2011/11/slow-cooker-italian-tortellini-soup.html

Meal#6 Slow-Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Cole Slaw, Baked beans

Recipes: Nothing Fancy Just slow cooking 5-6 frozen (BBQ-style seasoned) chicken thighs over 2-3 large onions (sliced) for 4-6 hours. Pulling it with forks then tossing it back in the slow cooker with our favorite BBQ sauce for about 30-minutes. Served on a roll topped with homemade cole-slaw (also nothing fancy…a bag of slaw mix, mayo to taste and generaous but modest black pepper) Baked Beans from a can heated in the microwave!

Meal# 7 Slow Cooker Savory Pot Roast w/ bread/rolls (one could NOT do a week of crock-pot meals without this classic! It just wouldn’t be right. 😉

Recipe:http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/savory-pot-roast/1a01535d-e046-439c-ba12-f32f1f75d49a

I will (hopefully) post my reviews on these recipes since I have never actually USED any of them before. I would LOVE to hear what you think of them if you try any or all of them! Which you should…my grocery list for dinners looks SO inexpensive this week!

YAYA!!!

Peace, and good homemade SLOW COOKED meals to your home,

Leah

 

Meal Review Edit#1 9/4/12

I decided to kick off the Crock-Pot Challenge with the Classic Savory Pot Roast meal!

I have to say, I am VERY pleased with how simple yet special this new recipe was/is. Nothing “dumpy into the crock-pot” about it, yet it literally took me 10 minutes or less to pull together. LOTS of leftovers for Hubby’s lunches too! The meat was DELICIOUS (however the recipe does not call for it, but before searing the church roast, I sprinkled generous amounts of salt, pepper, season salt and garlic powder on all sides. I see no need to worry about the broth or veggies getting too salty or overseasoned), the potatoes and carrots cooked well, but needed a little help in the seasoning department after they were on our plates. The horseradish gave the whole thing a neat non-spicy flavor! A few cups of broth in the crock so I am thinking of freezing it for a quick lunch soup, or some gravy later. Don’t waste a single drop of the goodness! Lots of leftovers form last week we need to use up so they don’t go to waste, so we are actually going to skip one of the meals today and bump the challenge a day longer! 🙂

Eureka! Dinner Idea Moment…

Not sure why this quick, simple and healthy dinner idea never occured to me! Perhaps it has to you and I am just way behind, but I thought I’d share anyways!

Imagine your family gathered at the dinner table and you placing a large platter of DINNER NACHOS in front of them. Hear me out…

Cookie sheet (lined with tin foil for quick and easy cleanup!) Whole grain tortilla chips spread out in one or two lays deep, topped with either:

~taco meat (lean beef or turkey and your own homemade taco seasoning, if you don’t already have a recipe for this one will be posted at the bottom of the page. No excuses to buy the store-bought verson that has MSG and other crap in it)

OR

~Steak or Chicken breast, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with homemade taco seasoning, or salt, pepper, cumin and a pinch of Chipotle chili powder then baked, broiled or my favorite…GRILLED…then chopped small for good distribution

OR

~Make it vegetarian with a layer of black beans or refried beans!

THEN…

Spread a generous layer of your favorite shredded cheese or cheese blend

Place the whole sheet into a preheated oven at 325 degrees F… pull it out when the cheese is melted and the meat/beans/chips in the middle of the tray are hot. I imagine this to be around 5-10 minutes.

WHILE the oven is working it’s magic,

Cut up lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, corn, black beans, black olive slices, avocado, green peppers, jalapeno pepper rings, chopped fresh cilantro….ANYTHING you would love on your tacos!

REMOVE the hot pan of chips, meat/beans, and cheese and TOP with mounds of all the delicious fresh things you have ready!

Dollop with a modest bit of low fat or fat free sour cream, or you can skip the avocado earlier and make some delicious guacamole to modestly place on spots of this mountain of fresh-mex awesomeness!

Garnish with the chopped fresh cilantro and maybe lime wedges on the side for those who dig them…place this stunning food sculpture in the middle of your family dinner table and watch their eyes get HUGE. Then each person can scoop a bit onto their empty plate and go at it! Or perhaps you are having a dinner where you all just have napkins and you all pick at Mt. Fresh-Mex one chip at a time.

….but I’m just thinking out loud here. Maybe they would hate it and it is a horrible idea.

I don’t think so.

Now say one has eaters at her table that don’t like one of the elements, simply leave it off the whole thing, put it in a bowl on the side for those who do! 🙂

Yeaaaaaaahhhhh…..I think this is going on the next meal plan I make. I am already excited!

I am SUCH a food nerd. 😛

 

(Photo courtesy of Food Network and Rachel Ray)

Peace and good, healthy eating to your home,

Leah

*Link to a recipe for homemeade MSG and filler free taco seasoning: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/homemade-taco-seasoning/ )

How to make your OWN sausage…

Ingredient Lable from Sweet Italian Sausage #1: Pork, water, corn syrup and less than 2% of the following:  salt, dextrose, spices, paprika, monosodium glutamate, flavoring, BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid.

Ingredient Lable from (Four Cheese) Italian Sausage #2: Pork, water, corn syrup and less than 2% of the following: mozzarella/American/Romano/pasteurized process cheese product [pasteurized process cheese product (low moisture part skim mozzarella and other natural cheese {pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes}, water, cream, sodium phosphate and less than 2% of the following: salt, lactic acid, xanthan gum, sorbic acid)], mozzarella/American/parmesan pasteurized process cheese product [pasteurized process cheese product (low moisture part skim mozzarella and other natural cheese {pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes}, water, cream, sodium phosphate and less than 2% of the following: butter, salt, lactic acid, sugar, glutamic acid, natural flavors, xanthan gum and sorbic acid)], pasteurized process mozzarella and American cheese [low moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese (part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), American cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), water, cream, sodium phosphate, salt)], pasteurized process cheddar cheese [cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto), water, cream, enzyme modified cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, water, lipolyzed cream, sodium phosphate, xanthan gum), sodium phosphate, salt, sorbic citrate, sodium citrate, apo-carotenal], salt, dextrose, spices, paprika, monosodium glutamate, flavorings, BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid.

Ingredient Lable from Original Recipe Breakfast Sausage #1: Pork, water, corn syrup and less than 2% of the following: salt, dextrose, monosodium glutamate, lemon juice powder (corn syrup solids, lemon juice solids, lemon oil), flavorings, BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid, collagen casings.

Please, compare that to…

Ingredient Lable from Fresh Ground Pork: Pork

THIS my friends, is why for the most part, I have been purchasing ground pork and making my own ground sausage!

Below I have included the website I go to for recipes for my favorite different kinds of sausage…if you can afford it, purchase pasture-raised, grass-fed pork from a local farmer or a butcher shop that gets their pig from local small farms. If it just isn’t something you can do on your budget, make your own ground sausage anyway! Form it into patties or if you want to get fancy, purchase a sausage stuffer attatchment for your Kitchen Aid and find some good natural casings to make links with your homemade sausage mix. Ground pork with PORK as the sole ingredient, from a good grocery store, with a great meat department is just fine. Let me know about your adventures in sausage making!

http://www.meatprocessingproducts.com/sausage-recipes.html (these recipes all call for whole cuts of meat that you would grind yourself, but just skip that step. Make the big batch by weight of ground pork and freeze it for later use. I will post some of the recipes on a smaller scale for single meal use as I get the time to do so.)

Leah

My Homemade Pizza and Dough…

 

I have been making homemade pizza for the past 3-4 years. Just like any town, big or small, we have local pizza joints, but sometime along the way, I decided that generic looking pizzas were no longer what I wanted to settle for. We still have take-out pizza from time to time, but for 1/4 of the price charged for one medium pizza there, I can make two AMAZING medium-large homemade pizzas! Once i figured this out, I began to make homemade pizza for dinner about every other week to keep us from getting an expensive, mediocre pizza as a result of our love of and craving for pizza. I began to try out maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaany recipes for pizza crust, trying to find the perfect one. I finally came across this one and we have stuck with it since then. One mistake I was making, was that I assumed pizza crust like most other breads and such, was best baked at the common 350 degrees F. I was SO wrong! The reason pizza crust from a brick oven or pizza oven is so dang good, is because of the very high temp. Now, you’d never get me to bake my pizzas under 450 degrees F. Here is the delicious recipe that I have adapted as my own. I use both a pizza stone and a traditional metal pizza pan. Two quite different crust outcomes, but both are delicious and the important characteristics shine through. Make this in the morning and let it rise all day, punching it down in the bowl if it gets too high in your proofing bowl for a more strong and “yeasty” flavor. Regardless, you will need about 3 1/2 hours minimum before making your pizzas. This makes enough dough for two 12″ (thicker crust)-15″ (thinner crust) pizzas. Split the dough and a 16-oz brick of mozzarella in half, bake half each into your pizza and wrap the other half of the dough and cheese (separately) in seran wrap and put it, with about a 1/2 cup of your favorite sauce (in a snack ziplock bag) all in a gallon ziplock bag for pizza kit for a SECOND night! try to use it up within the month.

1 1/2 C. very warm (but not hot) water

1 1/2 TBSP. sugar

2 tsp. yeast

1) Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve all the sugar into the water. Sprinkle yeast over water. Let proof (bubble and foam ect) for 15-20 minutes.

3 1/2 C. flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1) Add flour and salt to yeast mix. With a good stiff rubber scraper or wooden spoon, mix everything well until a ball of dough starts to form. In order to contain a mess, I hold the bowl in my left elbow/arm, and use my right hand to knead the dough in the bowl until a nice smooth ball of dough is formed, about 5-7 minutes.

2) Grease another large bowl all over the inside GENEROUSLY with olive oil and place dough ball inside. Turn the dough in the bowl to get it coated with the olive oil. Cover with seran wrap or a clean towel, and place in a warm undisturbed place to proof/rise for 2-3 hours AT LEAST. I try to get my dough proofing by noon so it has about 5 hours to proof before I need to make dinner. We like a good yeasty flavor that needs those extra couple hours to develop. 🙂

3) When it’s time to make the pizza, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, remove the dough from the proofing bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and cut it in half. Wrap half WELL in seran wrap, then place it in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer. Or you can make a second pizza! (*Two pizzas is too much for my family of two adults and one toddler because we like to have a garden salad with it.)

4) With the other half, sprinkle dough with flour and roll/press out to desired size. (I use a rolling-pin nowadays because it goes faster.) When “sticky spots” pop up, toss some flour over them and continue spreading the dough to the size you need. Remember to check underneath and make sure the underside of the dough isn’t sticking. If it is, just toss some flour in that spot and move on.

5) Carefull move pizza dough to well olive oiled metal pizza pan, or to a baking stone.  Patch up any holes and try to make sure your dough is even throughout. Top with desired toppings and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. To know when it’s done, use a flipper to carefully check underneath the crust. When it is a nice toasty brown all the way to the center, it should be done. Remove from the oven and let it set for 7-10 minutes. Cut and Serve!

It may take making this a couple of times to really get the hang of it, but come on now, it’s pizza! Once you get the hang of it and realize how easy it is, how much CHEAPER it is, how much BETTER it tastes, and how much HEALTHIER it is, you may never go back, or only go back when you get that unmistakable craving for your favorite “pizza joint” pizza. It will happen. 😉

Here are just a few ideas of some GREAT pizzas we have made in our home. I LOVE such versatility!

  • Red pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and toppings like: Pepperoni, cooked chopped chicken, cooked crumbled sausage, cooked crumbled ground beef, cooked chopped steak, fresh sliced or chopped green peppers, fresh sliced mushrooms, fresh sliced or chopped onions, sliced black olives, small florets of steamed broccoli, sliced or chopped Roma tomatoes (make sure to only use the flesh of the tomato. Remove the seeds and pulp or you will get a soggy mess!)
  • BBQ Chicken or Pork- spread your favorite BBQ sauce over the crust, top with either mozzarella or a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack, then scatter pieces of cooked pulled or cubed chicken, cooked pulled or cubed pork (I have used leftover pulled BBQ pork for this with GREAT results!) thinly sliced or chopped red (or white) onions, and sliced or chopped green peppers. Serve with Some delicious cole slaw on the side!
  • Cheesburger Pizza- Spread ketchup over crust as sauce, sprinkle with either shredded mozzarella, shredded Monterey Jack or shredded American cheese. Scatter cooked ground beef, diced Roma tomatoes, chopped or thinly sliced fresh onions. Strain dill relish in a mesh strainer and sprinkle over cooked pizza. Drizzle ketchup and/or mustard over cooked pizza for a freshend-up taste!
  • Margarita Pizza- Drizzle crust with olive oil, mince fresh garlic and spread over olive oil. Spread shredded mozzarella over and top with diced or sliced de-seeded and de-pulped tomatoes. Bake then sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.
  • Garlic Pizza- make Margarita Pizza but don’t add tomatoes or chopped basil.
  • Pesto Pizza- Spread pesto liberally over crust, then top with shredded mozzarella.

I hope you are able to try this at least once, and I hope you are hooked after that. Enjoy and let me know about your pizza-from-scratch making adventure!

Peace and Tasty Homemade Pizzas in Your Home,

Leah

My Original New England Clam Chowder

I am a BIG fan of New England Clam Chowder. Understatement. In the past when I have needed a fix, I would go to the grocery store, pick out a can of something with “chunky” in the title and pay all of $2.50 for it, plop it into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up. If I REALLY wanted to treat myself right, I’d order it at a restaurant. Yes, I was such a foodie.

Once I started making things from scratch, I attempted to make NE Clam Chowder myself, all the way from buying fresh (ish…I live in central NY) clams, wash them, steam them, take them out of the shells, de-poop them, rinse them, chop them and THEN proceed to make a steaming pot of NE Clam Chowder. Only made THAT attempt once before I resigned myself to eating NE Clam Chowder in restaurants for the rest of my life. Until…

…my youngest sister discovered that my favorite grocery store, Wegman’s, carried clean, fresh(ish), raw, chopped clams for my chowder-making pleasure in their fresh fish department for only $6.99/lb! Eureka! I got my hands on some as soon as possible and made literally THE best NE Clam Chowder that I and my husband have ever tasted. He even said so, unprompted! So here is my recipe. Go forth and make ye some New England Clam Chowder!

New England Clam Chowder

(My Original Recipe!)

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 lg. onions, diced

4 stalks of cleaned celery, chopped

3 lg. carrots, diced large(ish)

4 lg. mushrooms chopped large(ish)

4 lg. peeled potatoes, diced large(ish)

8 cups chicken stock (homemade or purchased low sodium)

1 can creamed corn

2 cups frozen corn (or an additional can of whole kernel corn)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons salt (+more to season to your taste later)

2 teaspoons ground black pepper (+more to season to your taste later)

2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

2 teaspoons season salt

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 Tablespoons dried parsley

1 lb. clean, chopped, fresh, raw clams

1 cup 1/2 n’ 1/2

For Roux (to thicken):

5 Tablespoons butter (I use unsalted)

5 Tablespoons flour

3 cups 1/2 n’ 1/2

Directions:

1) Heat olive oil on med. low heat. Add onions when heated and saute until tender and see-through (about 7 minutes)

2) Add celery, carrots and mushrooms to onion mix. Add the 2 Tablespoons of butter and saute everything for 5 minutes.

3) Add potatoes to mix and saute everything for 3-5 more minutes. If you develop a “crust” on the bottom, this is a good thing! Just turn the heat down a little bit and don’t let the crust burn.

4) Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir well, scraping up any of the brown “crust” that has developed on the bottom of the pan. Add the creamed corn and corn kernels and all your seasonings and herbs. Mix in well.

5) Let that boil while you make your Roux (thickener)

6) Measure out your 1/2 n’ 1/2 and have it in arms reach. In a skillet or saucepan, melt 5 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add Flour and stir continuously and thoroughly until mix looks golden brown and smells “toasted”. Slowly stir in 1/2 of the 1/2 n’ 1/2 and mix well. Add the remaining 1/2 n’ 1/2 and mix well. When rough is thickened, turn off heat and set aside.

7) Check boiling soup mix. When potatoes and carrots are mostly to fully cooked,  add every bit of the roux to the soup pot. Once the roux is fully mixed in and the soup has thickened, turn off the heat completely.

8) Slowly add all of the clean clams and any juice they come with, to the pot.  Mix in well. Let soup sit for 20 minutes so the clams can cook in the residual heat of the soup. DO NOT turn the heat on again to cook the clams or they will over cook and turn chewy and rubbery!

9) After 20-30 minutes, taste the soup and add 1 cup 1/2 n’ 1/2 and any additional salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, garlic or onion powders you want more of and mix well.

10) Soup is ready to eat! Serve hot with oyster crackers, or hollow out small boule loaves of bread (crust rolls homemade or store-bought, work well for this too especially for kids portions!) and pour soup in, dunking the dug-out bread in your soup. Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

Peace and tasty homemade dishes to your home….

Leah

My Hearty Homemade Meatsauce

Doesn’t this pasta look LONELY???? My heart goes out to lonely pasta because #1 GOOD, well made pasta is one of my favorite things to eat, and #2 homemade sauce is SO delicious and SO easy to make! The one jarred pasta I always keep on hand is this…

…because it is delicious and tastes of fresh basil and more like fresh tomatoes than any jarred pasta I have ever had, and sometimes a hardworking mommy just needs to throw together a meal of pasta, jarred sauce and a salad. Also, it is super easy to make last-minute homemade pizza if you have a jar of this, split into ziplock snack baggies and stashed in the freezer with one of  your own delicious homemade pizza kits. More on that later… in any case, in my opinion, THIS is the only acceptable jarred pasta sauce. But then again I am a self-proclaimed foodie. Moving on…

The ingredients you will need to make my Hearty Homemade Meatsauce are:

1-2 lbs 90/10 (or leaner) ground beef

2 TBSP. Olive Oil

1 large onion diced into desirable size

4 lg. cloves of garlic, minced

1 28-oz. can Tuttorosso Diced tomatoes (not too pricey but better quality than el  cheapo.) Believe me, totally worth the extra cents!

1 28-oz. can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes with basil

1 beef  bullion cube

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried basil (crush by rolling between your palms while adding to the pot)

1/4 tsp dried oregano (crush the same as basil)

1/2 tsp. black pepper

salt to taste

*Fresh chopped basil (optional…only add it at the VERY end of cooking after you shut the heat off. If fresh basil gets cooked it loses its fresh flavor)

*2 large or 3 medium fresh diced tomatoes (also optional…. add at the very end of cooking after heat is off. Residual heat will cook them JUST enough and you will get a nice “garden fresh” flavor added to your sauce. DO not do this step if you have a tomato-hater because they WILL bite into tomato. If you love fresh tomato and everyone else does not, chop up one small tomato and add it to your own dish of pasta and sauce! Why should you miss out on deliciousness?)

Directions:

1) Drizzle olive oil in large saucepan. Add ground beef and brown over medium-high heat till almost completely cooked.

2) Lower heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to meat. Stir and cook all together until onions are soft and see-through(ish). (If you get some light “crustiness” at the bottom of the pan, jump for joy because in a few moments you will add the tomatoes and it will all scrape off and add a nice rich beefiness to your sauce. If your “crustiness” turns black and burns, fall onto the floor in a crumpled heap and cry. Cleaning burned pans is one of the tortures in hell.)

3) Sprinkle herbs, powders, pepper and at least 2 teaspoons of salt over meat mixture and stir well.

4) Add (slowly), both cans of tomatoes and the bullion cube. Stir well and if you have managed to create and accumulate any “crustiness” at the bottom of the pot, scrape up all that yumminess.

5) Put a lid on your pot and set the heat to low. Let sauce lightly simmer for 30 minutes, tasting and stirring every 10 minutes. The 2nd 10-minutes, taste first then add 1/2 tsp. salt if you think it needs it. At the end of the 30 minutes turn off the heat, stir, taste and add another 1/2 tsp salt or pepper if you would like it better with more. If you want to add more than 1/2 tsp. to get it how you like it, do so. At this point, you make it yours. 🙂

6) If at this point you are using either or both of the fresh chopped basil and/or the fresh diced tomatoes, add these now. Cover with the lid of the pot and let set while you make the pasta you will smother it over. If at this point you choose to let it cool to almost room temp so you can put it in a container for late in the day/week,  or put it in the freezer because you ROCK at life and have planned ahead for a late meal, THIS would be a perfect time to do so!

***A couple of notes and ideas on how we use this sauce…

~Freeze in ziplock snack (for children) or sandwich (for adults) bags for a single serving of sauce to put in the freezer for lunches, or single serve dinners for a teenager or spouse to make dinner for themselves. But PLEASE do not freeze it already mixed with pasta. In my humble opinion, frozen pasta is nasty and mushy and really how hard is it to cook some pasta?

~Cook elbow pasta and mix it all together to make delicious american-style goulash!

~Snack-sized ziplock bags of this sauce in the freezer make DELICIOUS homemade pizza! Just top with shredded mozzarella, bake the pizza and enjoy!

~ Make this sauce and replace the beef with ground italian sausage for variety!

~Keep a batch of this meatsauce in the freezer to make assembling homemade lasagna THAT much quicker and easier!

~Eat it with a spoon as “Italian Chili” with some crusty italian bread!

So there ya’ go! I hope anyone who reads this will give it a go and get as addicted to it as my family is. Pretty sure you will never go back to Ragu or Prego. If you have questions or need help troubleshooting, feel free to ask, and please let me know how your own adventure with it turns out!

Peace and tasty homemade dishes to your home….

Leah