Pasta Sauce

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Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Levesque

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, shaved or minced

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

4-15 oz. cans tomato sauce

2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained well

2 bay leaves

Italian seasoning

granulated garlic

red pepper flakes

salt and fresh ground pepper

sugar

sliced mushrooms, optional

chopped green peppers, optional

Directions

1. Prepare garlic by peeling and mincing or shaving into very thin slices.

2. Heat olive oil til hot. If using fresh mushrooms, add to pot with sliced garlic and onions.  Saute in olive oil until soft, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add tomato paste and continue to saute until the onions and garlic are translucent.

3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, optional chopped peppers, and bay leaves.  Stir and keep the pot on simmer.

4. There are no amounts listed for the rest of this recipe because everyone likes a different taste.  Add the seasonings, pepper flakes and sugar to your taste, a little at a time until it is just right.

5. Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes.  This will make enough sauce for about 3 pounds of pasta.

 

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Countdown to Football Season

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Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs by Chris Berman and Texas Caviar by Gale Sayers

Adapted from The NFL Family Cookbook, published by SMITHMARK Publishers, New York, NY

Well it is finally here, that time of year that all of us sports fans live for, football season.  College football kicks off next week, and the NFL kicks off the week after that.  Whether you are tailgating, watching a game with friends, or screaming at the tv with 100 other patrons in a sports bar, one thing is for sure…there will be food.

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If you are planning a football party, know this; there must be food before the game, snacks for during the game, something special brought out at half time, and a little dessert to nibble on throughout the day.  I always try to make as much food ahead of time as possible and have Mark operate the grill so that I’m free to watch all the pre-game stuff, and visit with the guests.

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Two of the following recipes come from The NFL Family Cookbook.  The first recipe is Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs from Chris Berman, the humorous ESPN sportscaster who is so well-known for giving the players funny nicknames in his broadcasts.  The second recipe is Texas Caviar from the legendary NFL Hall of Fame Running Back, Gale Sayers.

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Ribs and Brats, along with the Pasta Salad are great for eating before the game.  Texas Caviar with tortilla chips can be munched on all during the game, along with a veggie tray that includes your favorite dip.  Make some Chili in a crock pot and have all the fixin’s (shredded cheese, chopped onion, crackers, macaroni, etc.) ready before the game starts, then at halftime you can serve a great Chili Bar with very little effort.  Peanut Butter Cookies and Buckeyes are yummy at any time and will be gone before you know it, so make extras.  Here’s hoping your team has a great season…and Go Bucs!  Enjoy!

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Football Party Menu

  • Ribs
  • Brats
  • Pasta Salad
  • Halftime Chili Bar
  • Texas Caviar
  • Veggie Tray
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Buckeyes

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Baby Back Ribs Ingredients

6 pounds baby back pork ribs (each rack is about 3 pounds)

32 oz. ketchup

1/3 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke

1 Tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce

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Directions

1. Set up your gas grill for indirect cooking with the setting on low.  Cook the racks of ribs for about 2 1/2 hours.

2. After 1 1/2 hours prepare the BBQ sauce. Bring the sauce to a low boil and then simmer for about 1 hour.

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3.  Brush the BBQ sauce on the ribs and cook over a medium, direct heat for about 5 minutes. Flip the ribs, brush on some more BBQ sauce, and cook on the other side over the direct heat for about 5 minutes or until the ribs are browned to your liking.  Keep basting the ribs with sauce and move them to the back of the grill ( indirect) if necessary to allow the sauce to cook in to the ribs.

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Texas Caviar Ingredients

2-14 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained

1 -15 oz. can white hominy, drained

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (I used the tame jalapenos)

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped or snipped (cilantro would work well in this recipe, too)

1 8 oz. bottle Italian dressing

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the black-eyed peas and hominy.

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2. Add the tomatoes, green onions, and garlic.  Mix well.

3. Add the green pepper and jalapeno peppers, onion and parsley (or cilantro).  Toss well.

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4. Pour the salad dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to coat well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

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5. Drain, and serve with tortilla chips.

Meatless Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Levesque

We are not an Italian family, but we sure do eat our fair share of pasta.  Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes to make; it tastes better the next day (which means 1 day of cooking yields two meals), and if I make an extra pan and freeze it, one messy day actually yields four meals.  You’ll probably notice that the mushrooms are sliced quite large, that is because only half the family likes mushrooms.  It is easier to pick out big pieces of mushroom if you don’t care for them.  On the other hand, if you like mushrooms, then you get a real taste and not a tiny speck of mushroom.  I was in the mood for a fresh tasting lasagna, not a meat based sauce.  The mushrooms give the sauce an earthy, robust quality and you don’t miss the meat at all.  Enjoy!

Elizabeth’s Pasta Sauce

2-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound mushrooms

3-4 nice cloves garlic

4 -15 oz. cans tomato sauce

1-60z. can tomato paste

sugar

granulated garlic (or garlic powder)

basil

oregano

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

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Pasta Sauce Directions

1. Wipe off the mushrooms with a paper towel.  Trim the bottom of each stem and slice the mushrooms to the size you prefer.  Chop the onion.

2. Heat the olive oil.  Using a garlic press, press the cloves of garlic into the warm oil.  Stir and do not allow the garlic to stick or burn.  You want it to flavor the oil before you add the vegetables.

3. After about one minute, add the onion and mushrooms.  Stir to coat the vegetables.  Allow the vegetables to simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or til soft but not mushy or browned.

4. Add the tomato sauce and paste.  Add the seasonings.  Taste and add the sugar (start with a Tablespoon and taste until you get it where you would like it to be).  I typically add about 1/4 cup of sugar with a large pot of sauce.

5. Once you have everything in the pot, turn the heat up a little until you see it trying to boil.  Stir to keep it from sticking, turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes.

 

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Meatless Lasagna Ingredients

12 lasagna noodles ( my pan fits 4 noodles across and 3 layers deep, but cook more if you need to)

about 15 oz ricotta cheese

about 24 oz. shredded mozzarella

1 cup parmesan cheese, divide in 2

pasta sauce-either homemade, or a large jar of Prego, Ragu, etc.

Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped or snipped

 

Lasagna Directions

1. Cook the lasagna noodles in a pot of boiling water for about 4 or 5 minutes.  You just want to cook them long enough to make them pliable, not done.  Drain and cool.  To keep them from sticking together, rinse with cold water so you don’t burn your fingers, then drape the noodles around the colander to allow them to drip and cool.

2. Mix the ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of the divided parmesan cheese and parsley.

3. Spray your lasagna pan with Pam.  Use a soup ladle to place 2 or 3 large scoops of sauce in the lasagna pan.  Spread it out evenly.

4. Fill the pan with a row of  lasagna noodles, they can overlap a little, but don’t leave empty spaces.

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5. Spread the ricotta mixture in a thin layer across the noodles-I use a small off-set spatula for this.  You can find them in any Wilton cake decorating display.

6. Ladle on enough sauce to cover the ricotta mixture, again use the spatula to spread it all evenly.

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7. Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese to cover it all.  You have completed 1 layer.  Save some sauce for the end, then repeat this process two more times, ending with the saved sauce.  Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of parmesan over it all.

8. Bake at 350°F. for about 45 minutes, or til very bubbly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.  Garnish each piece with fresh parsley.

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Mika

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Jasper

These are our furry babies, Mika and Jasper, enjoying a beautiful spring day.  They are Korean Jindos, we got them 14 years ago from PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving), a shelter at Misawa AB, Japan.  They are brother and sister from a litter of puppies that were thrown away in a box on the side of the road.

Chocolate Spice Sorbet with Chocolate Sauce

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Recipes courtesy of Crazy About Chocolate by Krystina Castella

Chocolate Spice Sorbet is a light and refreshing alternative to ice cream.  If you do not like cardamom ( or do not want to spend a lot of money on a spice that you will never use again), Krystina Castella recommends some flavor variations; you can replace the cinnamon and cardamom with mint, ginger, lavender, raspberry, or orange.  Sorbet does not freeze as hard as ice cream, so plan on placing the sorbet in the freezer overnight before serving.

The Chocolate Sauce is rich, velvety, and full of fat.  It is a great contrast to the sorbet, and would be delicious served with cakes or breads (gingerbread or banana bread would be awesome), or bottled and given as a gift with an ice cream scoop.  I dipped walnuts in the sauce and drizzled some sauce on the sorbet.  This book would also be a terrific gift for the chocolate lover on your list. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Spice Sorbet Ingredients
3 cups water
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70 % cacao), finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Chocolate Sauce Ingredients
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

 

Chocolate Spice Sorbet Directions

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1. Combine the water, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and sugar in a large saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until the mixture has reduced to about 2 1/4 cups ( the syrup will become thicker and will boil slightly, but don’t allow it to become a full rolling boil).  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean.

 

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2. Return the pan to the stove top and add the cocoa powder and salt.  Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.  Once it starts boiling, whisk constantly for an additional 30 seconds.

 

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3. Remove from the heat and stir in the bittersweet chocolate and cardamom.  Stir until the chocolate has melted.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until thick but still pourable ( I transferred the mixture to a heat-proof bowl before placing it in the fridge).

 

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4. Freeze the sorbet in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  The sorbet will be soft-frozen, so scoop into serving dishes immediately before serving. * Even after 30 minutes in the ice cream maker, my sorbet was too soft to hold its shape.  I put it in the freezer overnight before trying to dip it.

 

 Chocolate Sauce Directions

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1. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water.

 

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2. Stir in the sugar and cream and lower the heat.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until thick.

Caramel Sauce

One day I was craving caramel sauce and decided to search through all the books and torn-out files in my pantry for the perfect recipe. After about an hour I was able to narrow it down to four recipes (I eliminated all the recipes that listed sweetened condensed milk, only sugar and water, or opening a 14 oz. bag of wrapped caramels).  One of the four recipes called for a candy thermometer, I have one but didn’t want to use it, so that recipe got eliminated.  The remaining three recipes were very similar; all requiring brown sugar, butter, heavy cream and vanilla.  I decided to make them all and see which recipe I liked the best.

 

1. Caramel Sauce from Holiday Baking 2009-published by Meredith Corp.

It is a decent caramel sauce.  Because of the added Karo, it sets up really fast and is very glossy and smooth.  That’s great if you need it for a bar cookie (like Turtle Brownies).  It was the easiest one to make, but did get very thick when it cooled.

2. Buttery Caramel Sauce from Baking by Flavor-by Lisa Yockelson-published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Her recipes are very detail oriented.  This caramel sauce was the thinnest of the three, but perfect for drizzling atop a gingerbread cake or an apple pie.  Of the three, this one has the deepest and richest flavor.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  It thickened somewhat once it cooled.

3.Caramel Sauce from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham-published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

This recipe was about 2 sentences long.  I cooked this caramel sauce similar to the previous two recipes even though it didn’t say to do so in the instructions.  I also added vanilla to the caramel. It runs a close second to caramel sauce #2 in its thickness and uses. The flavor is good and it’s pretty easy to make.  This one was Mark’s favorite.  Enjoy!

Caramel Sauce #1

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar( I used light brown sugar)

1 Tablespoon light corn syrup (I used dark Karo)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine whipping cream, butter, sugar and corn syrup. Bring to boiling over med-high heat, whisking occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium.  Boil gently for 3 minutes more.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Let cool slightly.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  After refrigerating, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

 

Caramel Sauce #2

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, sieved if lumpy (I used light brown sugar)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (since I used the light brown, I just added a little extra and skipped this sugar)

2/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon heavy cream

pinch of salt ( skip this if you are using salted butter)

2 Tablespoons light cream (I used one Tbsp.2% milk, and the second Tbsp of 2% milk had a little heavy cream, too)

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg ( I skipped this)

Place butter and sugar(s) in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar(s).  Stir in the heavy cream and salt. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stir often and lower heat slightly so that it cooks at a moderate boil for 3 minutes.  Add the light cream, stir and continue to boil for 1-2 minutes longer. At this point the sauce should be slightly thickened, smooth, and should coat the back of a wooden spoon. If not, simmer for another minute or two.

Remove from the heat.  Add the vanilla and the nutmeg.  Stir, and allow to cool to lukewarm before using.  Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.  To use refrigerated sauce, heat in a saucepan until smooth and liquified.  Allow to cool to lukewarm before serving.

 

Caramel Sauce #3

8 Tablespoons butter

1 cup light brown sugar (I packed it)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Cut the butter into pieces and melt in a saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and cream. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until all is melted and blended.  Whisking the sauce helps to bring it together. Serve warm, refrigerate what is not used.  I did start the sauce on low, but then brought it to a low boil for 3 minutes, removed it from the heat and added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.