Leftover week is going quite well so far. Last night I made a delicious pot of soup using leftover crudite veggies, turkey, wild rice and frozen corn on the cob. Lunch the last two days for the kiddos has been leftover BBQ cocktail sausages wrapped in biscuit dough- kind of like pigs in blankets. Tonight’s leftover remains to be seen. I really want to do something creative with the mashed potatoes, but so far I’m not coming up with anything too exciting. If I don’t come up with something soon, it will be squash pancakes for dinner with applesauce and cranberry sauce on the side.
One of my goals for 2013 was to overcome my fear of pressure canning. Early in the year I splurged and bought myself a Mirro pressure canner. What frightened me the most about pressure canning was food safety. With water bath canning you use high acid foods like fruit and tomatoes and add even more acid to ensure their safety on the pantry shelf. With pressure canning, you are relying on pressure to force out all the air that can trap bad bacteria. You also have to be insanely precise with recipes- you absolutely may not deviate from a given recipe for pressure canning. Any deviation to the left or right can cause big bad nasties to grow in those sealed jars. That’s a little scary to me! Last winter, however, I took a free food safety and canning course through the National Center For Home Preservation and by the time I was finished with the course, I was ready to attempt pressure canning.
It took a little trial and error to figure out exactly how my canner worked, and I honestly could not have figured it out as fast as I did without the help of a few master canners at the Gardenweb forums. The first thing I pressure canned was a batch of chicken stock, followed closely by a batch of baked beans. I was instantly hooked! Except shortly after that our lives were plunged into chaos, and once the garden season emerged, it was back to pulling out the boiling water canner.
But a few weeks ago Andy came down with a rather yucky cold. At the time, I wished I’d had some good homemade chicken soup on hand, and apologized as I reached into the cupboard and found a lone can of store bought chicken noodle. Andy was grateful for that, but the more I thought on it, the more I decided I needed some home canned chicken soup on my pantry shelves. An entire Thursday afternoon was devoted to that process, but I was insanely excited to have 16 pints of homemade chicken soup in the pantry!
Fast forward to this week, and my turkey carcass made a fabulous tasting turkey broth. I used some last night for soup, but I determined that today I would can up the rest of that delicious stock. It is cloudy, which I suspect is a result of the apple cider used in my brine. I can’t think of what else would cause that, but the first batch came out of the canner just a short while ago, and I couldn’t be happier!
I have four more pints in the pressure canner as I write this. I’m also eyeing up the leftover ham and considering making a ham and bean soup of some kind to put in the pantry as well. Pressure canning does take considerably more time than firing up the water bath canner. The stock pictured above needed to be held at pressure for a full 25 minutes- and that doesn’t include the time to get up to pressure, and the cooling time. A batch of baked beans holds at pressure for a full 90 minutes!
But it is fun, and armed with a pressure canner, all I need now is an endless supply of canning jars and few more reliable sources for recipes for pressure canning.
The best food holiday of the year is already behind us, and just like that, it’s December and Christmas is just three weeks away. I know the media has been saying that the Christmas shopping season was short, but I didn’t realize just how short until I actually flipped the calendar today. Yikes!
This year our Thanksgiving celebration landed on Saturday so that all family who could attend was able. As the week went on, I wasn’t so sure I liked that. I was a little jealous of people who were discussing their feasts while we dined on chili and party food. But then Saturday happened.
I kept the meal straightforward and simple. I could do no cooking ahead this year, as our extra fridge in the basement has been acting up, and while we could put beverages in it, I was not going to put any part of the meal in there due to the fact that at any moment it could stop working. Our meal consisted of my cider-brined turkey, a simple ham, several sides, and 16 assorted pies for pie hour.
I do still love the concept of Pie Hour. Instead of lunch, we feast on pie. It just works so well! We are able to enjoy the pie, eat several slices, and by the time we have room for more food, Thanksgiving dinner is ready as the evening meal. Anyone who wants can cap that off with more pie, but there is no longer that obligation to eat small slices of pie. We all love Pie Hour, and as long as we are able, I think we’ve created a real tradition for our family.
As we wrapped up Saturday evening and said our goodbyes, I still wasn’t sold on the Saturday Thanksgiving idea. But then Sunday morning happened. The kids enjoyed pie for breakfast, lunch was with family, but then our late meal on Sunday was a few snackies from the weekend. The light was slowly dawning. This morning another round of pie ensued for breakfast. Lunch was ham sandwiches from our leftover ham, and dinner…
Well, the light bulb has fully blinked on! The best part about a Saturday Thanksgiving? Now that family is gone and we have a regular week ahead of us, I have a fridge full of leftovers, and the entire week to consume them! Normally, with a Thursday or Friday Thanksgiving, those leftovers sit while we visit with family the rest of the weekend, and by the time we get to them on Monday, the clock is ticking on using them up. Not so this year! It is my intention to utilize every scrap of leftovers for this week’s meals. On top of that, I doubt I will even need to visit a grocery store!
Tonight’s leftover repurposing is a pasta dish. I’m boiling up some fettucini, which I will toss with a sauce made from leftover Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin, Chopped Turkey, and leftover Cheeses. It’s delicious, and the first of several creations I intend to concoct this week. (By the way, that Gratin from Eating Well? Quite tasty- everyone at the table enjoyed it.) We’ll have some cranberry sauce on the side tonight along with some toasted baguette.
This morning I also made turkey stock from the carcass- it’s outside on the deck for the night to chill and allow the fat to rise to the top. Once it’s skimmed, some will be used for a soup night this week, but if there’s enough left I plan to pressure can a batch of homemade stock. It will be lovely to add that to the basement pantry.
Anyway, Thanksgiving was lovely. I love that we stretch it out to encompass a full four day weekend. I trust that your Thanksgiving celebrations were just as wonderful, and as we are thrust full steam ahead towards Christmas, I hope we can all find the time to really enjoy the season.
Today is a beautiful day.
I bought the first bag of new crop mandarin oranges this morning. I didn’t even have my coat off yet and the kids were in the bag, peeling their first one. That first wedge was popped in the mouth, and all eyes were closed, as that first taste of the season filled the mouth with a burst of freshness. Zander promptly peeled a second one, exclaiming that he was clearly in need of Vitamin C. Pure bliss.
This year I made it my goal to follow through on intentional seasonal eating when it comes to the fruit basket. People always wonder how seasonal eating can truly be accomplished- and here in the land of the frozen chosen, we can’t always rely on seasonal eating. But if we do it when we can… The real secret to seasonal eating and doing it successfully is also preserving and putting those seasonal products by for when nothing else is available. I have a freezer packed with a spectacular variety of berries that were picked at the height of perfection. I have a pantry filled with jars of preserved stone fruits and apples, delicious, and wonderful to eat all year long.
In this day and age, you can buy most fresh produce every day of the year. Modern refrigeration and growing techniques make this all too possible. It’s not terrible to want fresh strawberries in December, but they aren’t going to come even close to the quality of a fresh June-grown local strawberry. Here in the United States, we have the added bonus of several growing regions, so it is possible to have fresh, organic strawberries in February that have been grown in Florida. And there certainly is a time for that. But I wanted to know what would happen if we really purposed to eat as little fruit out of season as possible. So without saying a word to anyone in my family even, that it what I have attempted to do this year.
Basically, here is how it worked. As a fruit would come into season, we would go a little crazy indulging. Truly. When those strawberries first ripened in June, it was no holds barred, the kids were free to eat as many as they could hold. By the time their interest in strawberries was waning, the blueberries came in, and the raspberries. Next came the peaches and pears, followed closely by the cherries and plums. Melons made a brief appearance, and next year I am mindful to purchase a few extra melons to chunk and freeze for smoothies. (Which my kids are slowly coming around to. I’ve learned to not put yogurt in the smoothies. They like just the fruit and ice- but I need a bigger badder blender if we’re going to continue with the smoothie making. The cuisinart just isn’t cutting it.)
Apple season arrived just in the nick of time, and oh, we had a good time with that this year! We visited two orchards regularly, and sampled about 15 different varieties. I still don’t think we have a favorite. All told, we went through about 120 pounds of fresh apples this year. Seriously! About half of them were made into applesauce and apple pie jam, but the rest we ate out of hand, or baked into delicious goodies from the oven. We still have a small pile from our last trip to the orchard, but we’re at that point where apples are losing their lustre.
Fortunately, over the last few weeks the grapes have been spectacular- did you know there was a season for grapes? They’re always available, but fall is when they are the sweetest and the biggest- and most importantly- grown here in the U.S.A. We’ve sampled the green, the red, the black, and they’ve all been delightful.
Then this morning, as I spied the new pallet of fresh from Calilfornia Mandarin oranges, I got so excited! Can it really be time for the citrus to start up already? Oh, I know, you can buy citrus year round, but I don’t. Unless I need it for a recipe (and I’m not counting lemons and limes which I buy frequently year round) you couldn’t get me to buy any citrus out of season. Those cuties you bought in August? Yeah, they’ve been sitting in a gas filled warehouse since they were harvested last winter to prevent them from turning to mush.
These little mandarin oranges are only the beginning of the winter fruit season. We’ll have grapefruit and navel oranges and pineapple and pomegranates, making us think of tropical breezes on a cold winter day. I saw pineapple today for a ridiculous price, and I’m wondering if it would be worth it to pick up a whole pile and try home-canned pineapple. Yes, it’s a cheap product to buy at the store, but home-canned fruit has thus far proved superior to me… How will the pineapple fare?
Which brings me to the bananas. Bananas, a perfect snack and food loaded with nutrients essential to our body. As far as I know, there isn’t really a season for bananas, and most of the bananas we find at the grocery store are not grown in our country. One could easily argue that with true seasonal eating, one should skip the bananas. The bananas are my between-season filler. When nothing else is fresh and good, that’s when I buy a bunch of bananas. I’ve bought them so seldom, that when I do buy them, they’ve been a delightful treat to have for a few days.
The real question is, do we miss the fruit that we are not eating? Not really. We’re not missing the strawberries because we’re so busy indulging in whatever is next. And when we do get a hankering for strawberries, I only need to go to the freezer, pull out a bag of strawberries, and we’re instantly transported to the summer day that we spent at the patch picking them when they are at their best. By the time we get to the point where we’re really missing the strawberries, the organic ones from Florida should be ready, and we can get a brief little preview of the summer to come. I like that we’re not eating fruit that’s been gassed and held in storage since who-knows-when.
It’s like that with every fruit we’ve gone through this year! It’s truly been an experiment of joy, because it’s been wonderful eating our way through the calendar of fruit. And it’s been a great year for fruit as well- I think we were truly blessed to have such a great year be the year I decided to do this experiment. It’s also a way of eating that I’ve decided is absolutely worth it. I have a few more fruits on my list that I’d really like to find good sources for. Kiwi, plums, blackberries and mangos come to mind as fruits that we need more of when they are juicy and delicious.
Ultimately, we’re also drastically reducing the expense of keeping fresh fruit in our diet. It is WAY cheaper to buy what’s in season when it is in season. Fresh pineapple is the perfect example. When it’s at its best, I can buy a good whole pineapple for between $1.49 to $1.99, depending on where I am. When it’s out of season, one pineapple can cost $4.99 a pop. The fresh apples we indulged on (all 120 pounds of them!) were enjoyed at just one dollar a pound. That’s a way better deal than the $6.99 for a two-pound bag in the month of April. One of the things I may do in 2014 is attempt to keep track of the cost of seasonal eating, and see how it would compare to a more traditional, American way of buying it when you want it.
I did attempt on a smaller scale to do the same thing with vegetables, but without a good garden this year, that was not as easily done. Maybe next year I’ll be able to work in the vegetables. That would be my ultimate goal- though it will certainly require another freezer!
Seasonal eating. It makes me insanely happy, and brings my children great joy. It’s a great way to eat.
There should be more of these in the world!
The other day I had decided that a nice fall-inspired dinner was in order, and smothered pork chops were going to be the centerpiece. I’ve made a few different recipes for it, and actually, I think I could successfully just wing it and put together some acceptable smothered pork chops. But this time, when I went to the grocery store, they didn’t have the pork chops I wanted. I wanted thick cut chops- thick and meaty, with some substance to it. All they had were boneless chops or skinny anemic thin-cut chops. I stood there for a minute and chastised my choice of grocery store. I chose the one closest to home, when I should have gone to the one that has the meat department I prefer. But I was there, so I surveyed the offerings and my eyes landed upon the pork steaks that were on sale. The wheels started turning and I couldn’t see why I couldn’t take pork steaks and smother them the same way I do chops…
The obvious accomodation that needed to be made was with the pans. Pork steaks are rather large, and there was no way I was going to get four of them in my largest saute pan. I needed to brown them in batches, and then I would put the browned steaks in a 9×13 pan. Once the steaks were nicely browned, I would finish the sauce in the saute pan, and then pour that over the steaks in the baking dish, and slide the whole thing in the oven to finish.
I used an old recipe from Cooking Light for Smothered Pork Chops with Thyme as my base recipe. I only made a few minor changes, and pretty much stayed with the recipe. My first change was that I doubled the spices I sprinkled on the steaks- these were big steaks, so they needed more seasoning. I also added a good teaspoon of fresh thyme to the sauce, and finally, I gave the onions a little more time than indicated. I wanted a good level of caramelization on the onions, so I probably gave them a full ten minutes before finishing the sauce.
This was seriously good eating. The pork steaks turned out tender and completely delicious. These were a hit, and I would totally make them again. If you do opt to make this with a thicker cut of pork like I did, you’ll need to either simmer them on the stove in the sauce for a few minutes to ensure they are cooked through, or do what I did and pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes or so. Either way, this is a great recipe, and it gets dinner on the table rather quickly.
Smothered Pork Chops with Thyme
1 cup beef broth, divided
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 (2-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/4 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Combine 1/4 cup broth, milk, flour, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.
Sprinkle one side of each pork chop with paprika and thyme. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a good drizzle of olive oil to the pan. Add half of the pork to pan; sauté 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until pork is done and lightly browned. Remove pork from pan.
Repeat procedure with remaining pork.
Reduce heat to medium. Add chopped onion; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly golden, add the fresh thyme and allow it to cook with the onions for a minute or two. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Add pork, turning to coat; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
I’ll confess. When I’m standing at the farmstand, looking at all the amazing winter squash available, the acorn squash is not one I usually reach for. My preference, when it comes to winter squash, are the varieties that are really dense and thick with that squash/pumpkini flavor. My ultimate favorite it buttercup, with butternut running a very close second. Pie pumpkins and kabocha squash are also in the running, but I just usually find acorn squash to be watery and bland- though they do have their applications.
Well, the weekend before last, one of my favorite farms was advertising that you could fill a bushel box with your choice of winter squash for just $14.00. That was too good to pass up, so I drove over and filled a box with delicious squash goodness. But as I was packing the box with butternuts and buttercups, I saw these small acorn squash and I decided I just had to add a few of those as well for stuffing purposes. I’d seen too many recipes as of late for stuffed acorn squash, so I added a handful of acorns as well that day.
Once Andy had seen this bushel box of squash later that day, he asked me why I didn’t get two boxes at that amazing price. So, wouldn’t you know, the next day after church we swung by the stand again to fill a second box- this one I added a few more acorn squash too, as logistically they filled in the corners. I wasn’t allowed to overfill the bushel box, but I was determined to maximize the space.
My first thought for stuffing acorn squash was that I wanted to try an idea that the kids might eat. Abigail has come around to eating squash, Zander is still not a fan, but it’s always worth a shot. This is a non-recipe method, because of course, you can use what you have on hand, versus exactly what I used to stuff these small squash.
The first step though, was to pre-bake the squash. Had I stuffed them still hard and raw, the filling would be burnt like crazy by the time the squash was soft all the way through, so I wanted to bake the squash partway first. I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds and membranes, and then rubbed coconut oil over the cut side of the squash. Then I placed them cut side down into a pan and popped them into a 350ºF oven for about half an hour.
Next, I assembled a really simple filling. I took three small golden delicious apples, peeled and cored them, and then diced them. I added some golden raisins, almond slivers, and then a small scoop of brown sugar, followed by a dash of cinnamon and some salt. I mixed this all together in a bowl and then filled the hollows of the squash with the filling. The crowning touch was a pat of butter, and then they went back into the oven. Another 30 minutes passed, and then we had some delicious stuffed squash.
Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the final baked product, but it’s not that different from the pre-baked one. This was very delicious stuffed acorn squash. Andy loved it, I loved it, and Abigail really enjoyed it too. Zander told me that I should just make the filling part next time- I guess this didn’t win him over to the squash dark side yet.
Up next for the acorn squash I’m honing in on a good grain-based autumnal stuffing. I have a few recipes that I’ve gathered so far, we’ll see what happens…
It’s that time of year again for the Waz Fam here in Wisconsin. Fall has arrived, which on the plus side, means it’s squash, apple and cranberry season. On the negative side, Andy is not working again. He was supposed to work until Christmas, but after the government shutdown, they shut down a lot of the jobs and he is currently not working. It’s not the official lay off (meaning no official notice from the boss) yet, but since he has only worked three days all month, I would say that we are in the soft lay-off period. Which, for us, means we go into hunker down mode and tighten every purse string we can find. For myself, it means a heightened vigilence in the kitchen as far as food waste is concerned.
Meaning, we waste as little as possible- every leftover gets taken into account with meal planning. When this time comes every year (which it does when one’s main source of employment is a seasonal construction job), this is when I look back on all the food preservation from the year and all I can do is smile big. Our freezer this year is jam packed with fresh fruits- blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pantry is burgeoning with canned pears, peaches, pickles, tomatoes, salsas and more jams than you can imagine. I have two bushels of winter squash waiting for the canning pantry to be finished so they can have a home. Once a week I will go through them, and any that seem to be starting to turn will be baked, and then used in a dish, or frozen for adding to a million things. It’s amazing how many foods you can enhance nutritionally by adding a cup of squash puree !
I am so thankful for those things that we took the time to harvest and put aside for later. When I try to think about what our winters would be like without those precious canned goods… well, it frightens me a little. Those delicious and healthful preserves often become the main focus of a meal- or they round out something that isn’t so spectacular. Have you ever had sour cherry pancakes? Or a pumpkin scone studded with blueberries? How about a fresh from the oven slab of cornbread smothered with apple butter. Oh man, just thinking about that? I tell you, while I don’t enjoy not being able to spend what I’d like on groceries during lay off season, we always do our best eating this time of year. Always.
Which brings me to today’s recipe that I want to share. This recipe for Grape Chutney was in the October issue of Eating Well magazine. It attracted me right off the bat because it was simple- the ingredients are few, the picture was stunning, and I always love a good chutney. The grapes have also been quite good as of late, and the idea of grape chutney meant, to me, that a curry dinner was in order. The one thing I didn’t have on hand for making the chutney was dry sherry- an item I usually just skip in recipes, but in this case, I made an exception, and I bought a bottle. Hey, with all the recipes that call for it, maybe I’ll discover that I really like what it adds! Then I waited for an opportunity to present itself to make this grape chutney. I’d bring grapes home and they’d get eaten- they’ve really been delicious!
Finally, we had some grapes sitting around that had lost their lustre. They were getting soft, some were turning into rotten raisins, and they simply weren’t going to be eaten out of hand. On top of that, it was Thursday night, which is a night the kids eat at dance, so it was the perfect opportunity to put together a spicy curry which they wouldn’t want to eat.
The Grape Chutney was as easy to put together as I thought it would be. First I finely chopped some onion and got it sauteeing in some olive oil just until it started to brown. Then, I chopped two cups of grapes in half- both green and purple grapes- and put them in the pan with the sherry, some rice wine vinegar, mustard seeds and salt and pepper. This all simmered together for about 20 minutes, when the grapes had kind of mushed up and most of the liquid had vanished. Oh my gosh, this was magic! It was so good- it had that oniony/mustardy flavor that I associate with chutney, but then there was this huge POW of grape flavor, and it was simply delicious. While it was delicious with my curry, it would be equally good served with some cheese for an appetizer, or served with a pork roast. I was really glad I thought to buy the sherry some time ago, because with a drastically reduced grocery budget, it would have never come home with me. Now I’m anxious to try it in other things and see what it adds.
One note about the recipe. The directions indicate that you just want the shallot (or onion) to soften a bit. I took it further and let the onion start to carmalize, and I think that took this chutney to an even better level. It gave it an extra depth, and the bites with a bit of the browned onion were my favorite.
from Eating Well, October 2013
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 cups halved seedless purple or red grapes
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add grapes, sherry, vinegar, mustard seeds and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grapes have broken down, 10 to 20 minutes.
Some time before our crazy spring arrived, I had this bright idea to buy a box of pre-made chicken and cheese chimichangas from Sam’s Club. I had been out all morning and told the kids I’d bring lunch home. I thought the chimichangas sounded fun, ignored all the yucky ingredients on the box, and took it home with me.
To say that was a bad decision would be an understatement. They decidedly did NOT like these frozen chimichangas. I didn’t think they were bad smothered with sour cream and salsa, but they did taste fake and the tortilla themselves had a funky flavor to them. What I really wanted was a REAL chimichanga, you know, those burrito-like objects that are essentially deep-fat fried and glorious? Flour tortillas make magic when they’re bathed in hot oil, but deep fat frying is something that we only pull out two or three times a year for fish or egg rolls (and we may eliminate those soon, we’ll see).
But one day, not too long ago, I was looking for something different to make the kids for lunch. We’d recently had a taco night, and a few leftover variations, but I really, really wanted to turn leftover taco fixings into chimchangas. As I thought about this, I wondered what would happen if I put my fillings in a tortilla, rolled it up, and then brushed the entire exterior with olive oil before baking them. Could this work? Or would the fillings run out all over, or would the tortilla taste like some low-fat cooking spray experiment. (Come on, I KNOW you’ve tried baked egg rolls coated with cooking spray- the texture of those things are nasty!)
I decided to go for it, and I am so glad I did!
I used the largest flour tortillas I could find. I mixed together taco meat, shredded cheddar cheese and a small bit of salsa, and then used this for my fillings. I was very careful to be sparse with the filling, as I didn’t want it bursting out all over while it baked up. I rolled up the tortillas snugly, and then I took them all and brushed them all over with olive oil. All told, I probably used 1 1/2 tablespoons for 8 chimichangas- that’s not a whole lot of oil. I placed the chimichangas on a rack set in a baking sheet. I’m still not sure if the rack was necessary, but I wanted any excess oil to be able to drip off so they didn’t end up greasy and unappealing.
I baked these up at 350ºF for about 20 minutes. They came out golden brown, and a few had started to leak their innards, but very little. For the most part, they were intact. Then we proceeded to taste them.
Amazing! The tortillas had that crispy browned deep-fat fried tortilla flavor, the insides were hot and melty, and they were absolutely delicious. They were a huge hit with the kids too. We had some leftover, so those I put in the fridge, and a few days later pulled out and popped in the toaster oven to warm up for a second lunch. Once again, they were perfect.
A few weeks later I made them again- this time for a dinner meal with the hubs around. These ones were filled with shredded chicken, cheddar cheese, peppers and rice. Once again, a hit all around. More than a hit, actually. Everyone absolutely loved them. I’m still not sure the baking rack is absolutely necessary- if you don’t have one, don’t sweat it, and just bake the chimichangas up in a baking sheet.
Lesson learned. The next time I’m looking at a frozen meal type thing, I should take the trouble to make my own. And now I’m thinking about those baked egg rolls again. Could it be possible for them to turn out delicious if I brushed the exterior of each one with olive oil? Stay tuned…
Surely you’ve all heard of the concept of love languages? Many years ago we did a study on the five love languages- how people show their love, and how they best see someone else’s love for them. Some people show their love by giving gifts, some show love through an act of service. Some prefer a physical act, like a hug or hand-hold, some people show their love through words- and through receiving them. And then some people show their love through the idea of quality time. When we did this study, it was of no surprise to anyone that Andy and I both ranked an act of service numero uno.
Well, with all due respect to Gary Chapman, who penned the book we read, I don’t think he quite covered all of the possible love languages. While my love language may technically BE an act of service, it isn’t always, sometimes it can walk the line between an act of service, quality time AND gift giving. Of course, this love language that I speak of is the act of cooking. Preparing food IS my love language. Every day when I prepare meals for my family, I do so because of the deep love I have for them. Because I desire them to eat wholesome, nutritious and delicious food that will help ensure their health in the long run. Yet, it’s so much more than that, because when I cook to feed someone else, it’s as if something magical comes over me. I pour every once of love I have for someone into the dish I’m preparing. There really is a seasoning that is added when I am cooking for others versus just for myself.
I love that. A pot of chili on a cool fall day is truly something special to be enjoyed, but I’ll tell you, that pot of chili takes on another layer of deliciousness when I am cooking it for a guest at our dinner table. We had family visiting a few weeks ago from out of town- I can’t tell you how excited I was at the prospect of out of town guests. Do you know what that means to me?! People need to eat! I know how expensive travel can be, and how eating out meal after meal can get old really, really fast. To be able to spend a few days cooking up delicious meals and honoring our guests with the best our larder has to offer? Oh my, that is priceless. It makes me wistful that our time was all too short- I could have cooked for another week! I get giddy just thinking about doing it again soon.
But you know, I think the majority of people I know truly don’t understand how deep this love language goes for me. For far too many people, cooking is a chore- something to be endured to put food on the table. Not so for me. Every second that I spend chopping, dicing, stewing, roasting, baking, etc, is a moment of pure pleasure for me- especially as I think on the person or persons we will be sharing with. Do you know, I even enjoy the cleaning up afterwards? I think it’s because I know our guests are filled with delicious food, and now they can sit and relax and enjoy one another’s company while I fulfill my secondary love language- the act of service.
It’s my love language whether I am cooking for you in my home, or giving you a jar of homemade salsa or jam. It’s my love language when I give you that loaf of blueberry bread, pecan pie, or package of delicious cookies to take home and share with your family. It’s my love language when my new teenager comes to me with a request to bake a few items for her youth group’s upcoming bake sale. I was all over that, despite that week being one of our busiest of the year. If my beautiful daughter wants me to bake something, I’m going to bake something. And because it was for the youth group, teenagers and young adults whom I love, no plain old cookies were going to do. The love was coming out in full force, and we were going to prepare something truly special.
Abigail took her time and checked out a boatload of cookie and brownie cookbooks from the library. She has fallen in love with the extensive cookbook selection at our library, and always is bringing home stacks to pore through. She reminds me of myself when I was a teenager and excited about the prospect of cooking delicious recipes. ( Except that by the time I was her age I was a very angry teenager, and my recipe hunting was to compile a cookbook for the second I could move out of my parents home and be on my own. Sigh. I am so blessed to have a thirteen year old daughter who still loves her family and still wants my input in every aspect of her life.) Anyway, she was really impressed by one book in particular, Crazy About Cookies by Krystina Castella.
We decided to make two cookies from this book- the first being a Toffee Chip Cookie. This book went so far as to suggest you make a homemade batch of toffee first to put in this cookie! Alas, time was against us, so Abigail decided it would be okay if we bought some Bits O’ Brickle and use that instead. What a thoughtful assistant! Those cookies turned out really, really good, and made me excited to try the second cookie she chose…
White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cookies seemed a little daunting to me at first glance, but as I read through the recipe, it really was pretty straightforward, with the exception that in the end, you sandwich two cookies together with a smear of white chocolate frosting. We used 4 ounce Ghirardelli White Chocolate bars for the chocolate we melted, and then instead of coarsely chopped white chocolate chunks, we simply used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips. When it came time to fold the chips into the frosting, I did give them a rough chop with my knife, as I thought it would make spreading the frosting easier.
Oh. My. Gosh. LOVE! These cookies are spectacular! The macadamia nuts and the white chocolate come through, and they really are not as overpowering sweet as you would think either. I used my large 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to make larger cookies, and I was so glad I did. We got about 20 large sandwich cookies out of one batch- obviously, you’d get more cookies if you made them smaller.
What I especially loved about these cookies (and the toffee chip ones) was that they came out exactly as they looked in the cookbook- that hardly ever happens. It so impressed me that I headed directly onto Amazon and bought my own copy of this book to keep- there are 300 cookie recipes in this book, and we’re really looking forward to trying more of them. There’s such a variety! There are cookies that use whole grain ingredients, vegan cookies, gluten-free cookies, and the everyday bad for you white flour/ white sugar cookies. I can’t wait to try the next one. Maybe it will be an act of love that prompts us to bake up something special for someone special?
You must try these cookies. They are definitely good enough for a holiday cookie platter, should you be on the prowl for this type of thing. They completely sold out at the bake sale and were a huge hit! They also are a great everyday cookie, and have become an instant favorite.
White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cookies
White Chocolate Cookie Dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
1 cup macadamia nuts
White Chocolate Cream:
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 cookie sheets (or line with Reynolds non-stick foil).
Make the white chocolate cookie dough: Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until blended. Stir in the melted white chocolate and chopped white chocolate, then the nuts; finally, add the flour mixture.
Drop 1 1/2 tablespoon mounds of dough on the cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
Make the white chocolate cream: Combine the melted white chocolate and the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl, stir until blended. Stir in the milk, vanilla and salt.
Beat in the butter until smooth, and then fold in the white chocolate chunks. Refrigerate the cream for 15 to 20 minutes to thicken up a bit. Spread the white chocolate cream between two cookies.
Wow! My kitchen has been fairly non-stop for a good month or so. Every spare moment I had was spent preserving this or that. Jams, jellies, salsas, tomatoes, peaches, pickles, pears, cherries, the list goes on and on! I feel so blessed to have these mountains of homemade preserves on hand.
I still don’t have a place to put them. But in the meantime, they pile up in my dining room and the school room and make me smile.
Preservation season is beginning to wind down, but there is still plenty to do. I have bushels of apples in the basement waiting to be turned into applesauce and preserves, and we’ll be making at least one more trip to the orchard as well. I’m hoping I’ll find a great source for locally grown pie pumpkins- and I’m keeping a very close eye (online, from a distance) on a cranberry producer a few hours southwest of us. I hear a rumor they ship by the case when the cranberries are fresh- which should be next week. I will keep you posted if that rumor holds true.
Anyway, what I wanted to share was a few waste-not, want-not ideas for food preservation. One of the worst things (to me) about all this canning and preserving is the mountain of debris that gets discarded. The fruit peelings, tomato cores, and all those cherry and peach pits! Normally, I would compost that, but my compost bin is not ready yet (and is not on the priority list for the moment). I recalled that a few years ago I made an Apple Peel Jelly which Andy still raves about to this day, and I wondered if I could do something similar with peach peelings.
My friend Google let me know that this was definitely a possibility, but most of the recipes I found included the pits in the preserves. I just wasn’t comfortable using the pits. Peach pits contain the chemical amygdalin, which, when broken down by the human body, becomes cyanide. The risk may be small using the pits in such an application, and people may have been doing so for years, but I was not going to go there.
Pits were discarded, but as I prepared peaches for canning, I accumulated quite the mound of peelings. My recipe called for 1.5 quarts of peelings- or six cups. I had just enough! So I added the peelings to a pot with 5 quarts of water and brought that to a boil, then reduced it to a simmer. I let it simmer for 45 minutes, giving it a stir here and there.
Once it was done simmering, I placed a sieve over a bowl and carefully poured the peelings into the sieve. The juice ran through to the bottom while the peelings were caught in the sieve. I needed 4 cups of juice total, and was just a bit shy, so I gently pressed on the peelings until I had 4 cups of juice. Pressing on the peelings is not ideal for perfect jelly appearance, as it makes the jelly cloudy, but I thought that preferable over thinning the juice with extra water.
So, juice now in hand, I could proceed with the simple jelly, following the instructions for cooked jam/jelly in the box of Sure-Jel. 4 cups of juice, 5 cups of sugar, and 1 box of pectin. A short while later, I was ladeling some of the most beautiful jelly into jars. Andy absolutely loves it- and is eager to compare it with a fresh batch of apple peel jelly as well. And just look at this color- who needs artificial colorings?
Peach Peel Jelly
1 1/2 quarts peach peelings
5 cups water
5 cups white granulated sugar
1 box pectin (not low-sugar or no sugar)
Combine the peach peelings and the water in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place a fine strainer or sieve over a large bowl. Carefully and gently, pour the peelings and thier liquid into the strainer. You need 4 cups of juice- if you don’t have quite enough, press very gently on the peelings to extract more of their juice. You can always add a bit of water at the end to get the full 4 cups.
Pour the 4 cups of juice into a medium sized pot. Add the package of pectin and stir well. Turn up the heat and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the mixture is at a full rolling boil- meaning that it won’t stop boiling while being stirred- add all the sugar at once. Stir well.
Continue to cook and stir until the mixture comes again to a full boil. Once the full boil is achieved, cook it for one full minute.
Remove from heat and ladle the jelly into prepared jars. Add lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
It seems that deciding to gravitate our diet more and more in the natural unprocessed direction has consequences. Specifically, when you don’t utilize chemical laden products, you start to begin to be able to identify them by taste. I sort of wish I was kidding.
An example. I’ve been trying really hard to curb the use of anything with artificial coloring. Not entirely, but as much as I feel comfortable. One of the things that I’ve delilberately stopped buying in that department is Kool-Aid. Gosh, I love that stuff. Love it. It’s also a very inexpensive drink to have on hand for hot summer days. I’ve also really reigned in on buying the kids sweets, sugary colored cereals, we don’t buy fruit snack type things anymore. Even popsicles, I’ve been buying whole fruit bars. The result is that I can actually taste when food coloring is added. In a big way, not in a cherry jolly rancher candy way. I made cupcakes for Abigail for her birthday and added just a few drops of yellow and pink food coloring to make a light peachy color. I had a hard time eating those cupcakes- all I could taste was the food coloring in the frosting. Which was a shame because they were completely homemade peach cobbler cupcakes with frosting. Red Velvet cake? That’s a shame, but thank goodness it usually is paired with cream cheese frosting to cover up the flavor of the red food coloring.
Another example. (And the real topic of today’s post.) It’s summer. I’ve been baking very little and cooking with very little fat in our diets. Not on purpose, it’s just summer, so we grill a lot and eat salad a lot. I’ve also been reading a lot about healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats. One day, not too long ago I pulled out the bottle of plain old vegetable oil to add some to a recipe. It smelled off to me- it smelled rancid. I used it anyway, and while I didn’t taste any effect in the finished dish, I couldn’t get over how that bottle of oil smelled. I’d read a long while back that many of our vegetable oils are actually rancid when produced, and manufacturers bleach them and put them through a process rendering them “usable” for our purposes. I couldn’t stop thinking about this.
The more and more I read, and the more and more I researched, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about the fats I was cooking with. For the most part, I’d already committed to using mostly butter or olive oil for most things, but I still used Crisco for pie crust and regular old vegetable oils for baking, frying and other things. (Not that I fry often, mind you.) There is so much conflicting information out there about good fats vs. bad fats. For years we’ve been told that the “good” oils include sunflower, canola, peanut and something else that is escaping my mind at the moment. Stay away from shortening and corn oil, we’ve been told, and we’ll escape heart disease. Also, add trans-fats from margarines to your naughty list.
But all of those oils- and the standard vegetable oil which is a blend, still go through a seriously lengthy process to become the oils that sit on our pantry shelves. Olive oil, butter and sesame oil are the only oils I regularly have on hand that are as close to natural as possible while sitting in the bottle. I was really feeling conflicted, and felt extremely guilty making my family a cherry pie using hydrogenated shortening in the crust.
But a blog I’ve been following for some time is really good about pointing out deals and sales on various websites for grocery items. I laugh at myself, because I follow the blog, glean ideas, but there is seldom anything I make from there. It’s just too crunchy for me- I don’t care to grind my own flour at this point, I don’t care to make all my baked goods with whole wheat, and I still don’t have a problem using regular sugar in baked goods. (Though sugar must be C&H from Hawaii made with sugar cane only, thankyouverymuch.) On one of these days, this blog advertised a killer sale on virgin coconut oil through Vitacost. I’ve used coconut oil before, and had been seriously considering getting it again to try incorporating more into our diets.
So I took the plunge. I bought the virgin coconut oil. My initial idea had been to use the coconut oil in place of shortening in my pie crusts. I wanted to eliminate the vegetable shortening in my pantry, and this seemed like a good place to start. My coconut oil arrived, and when I opened it up, I was a little dismayed to find that it actually smelled like coconuts. Not everyone is a fan of that flavor, and I decided I didn’t want to use it in pie crust after all. I was a little disappointed until this same blog also advertised a deal for Palm Shortening from Tropical Traditions. A-ha! I’d forgotten that I wanted to try that also. So I ordered that as well.
The thing about both the Virgin Coconut Oil and the Palm Shortening is that these are natural fats- they are very, very minimally processed, and close to what you could get yourself out of the coconut and palm fruit if you tried yourself. Studies done on native diets where these fats are exclusively consumed find little to no evidence of heart disease- which we are told here in our country come from the fats we consume. There are also essential acids found in the coconut oil which can contribute greatly to whole health. When I ordered the palm shortening, I also received a book titled Virgin Coconut Oil. The information in this book was eye-opening, as to the health benefits from adding coconut oil to one’s diet. The caveat being that it MUST be virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil can be processed, but the virgin or extra virgin coconut oils are as little processed as possible. (By the way, there is no difference between virgin or extra virgin.)
I’ve been using the coconut oil for everyday cooking. I used it in stir-fry, though I used a little too much, as there was an undertone of coconut to the stir-fry. The palm shortening I promptly used for a batch of pie crusts. Last night, while enjoying a fresh apple pie, Andy and I both agreed that the palm shortening worked beautifully in the pie crust. The crust is flaky and tasty. I didn’t even feel it needed some added butter for flavor. The palm shortening is a huge success. Sometimes when you sub in something natural for something processed, the end result is good, but you wish you could use the processed thing instead. Not so here. There is no discernible difference between my Crisco shortening, and the one made with the palm shortening. In addition, both the coconut oil and the palm shortening have high smoke points, so should I need to fry something (like the occasional egg roll), I can use either of them.
I threw out my bottle of vegetable oil.
I still need to figure out the right places to use the coconut oil. It worked great for stir-fry, and I’ve used it a few times for cooking. I’m looking forward to trying it out in baking as we are beginning to cool down here in Wisconsin.
Overall, I’m very pleased with this direction I am taking with my cooking. I don’t cook with a lot of fat to begin with, but now at least I know that when I do use it, I’m not poisoning my family with something not really meant for human ingestion. This is especially important to me as Andy and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage yesterday. He also turns the big 4-0 this year, and I want to enjoy having him by my side for 80 more years, at least. With a history of heart disease in the family, he needs to pay attention to his diet, and I believe that switching completely to these heart-healthy fats is the way to go. Now if I can only convince him to stop hitting up the drive-thrus and the convenience stores, we’ll be making progress…
There should be more Swordfish Tacos in the world! Yesterday was an oddball day where it was just me home alone for dinner. You wouldn’t believe all the possibilities that rolled through my head when it came to what I should have for dinner. I was leaning really hard towards picking up some sushi or making a curry, and then out of the blue I decided I wanted to make tacos. I wanted some kind of fish/seafood taco, so as I made my way through the grocery store I added just a few things to my basket to complete the tacos. The fish counter made me pause though. I was expecting something to just jump out at me… I looked everything over, and was leaning towards the shrimp for a minute, but then I saw the swordfish. It has been a long time since we had swordfish, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought swordfish would make a fabulous taco. I chose my steak and headed for home and the grill. And the computer- I was hoping to find a really good recipe.
Except that I didn’t! Searching my favorite websites surprised me, as I found three lone recipes for swordfish tacos, and none of them really sounded great. I knew it shouldn’t be complicated, but it also shouldn’t be simply pico de gallo and swordfish. So I did what anyone else would have done. I went through the pantry, fridge, garden gleanings and my just bought grocery items and put together an amazing dinner.
I apologize to my family- especially my husband because this meal was absolutely incredible. I almost felt bad that I was eating it myself. Almost.
I started with the grill. I peeled two ears of fresh sweet corn and grabbed a bunch of scallions. I turned two burners onto high and literally put the corn and scallions right over the fire. I wanted charred corn and charred scallions. My bunch of scallions was small- there were only five- and in retrospect I wish I’d had two bunches.
Next, into a small bowl I diced up three smaller heirloom tomatoes, a good handful of cilantro, and then added the juice of half a lime. I also added a pinch of sea salt and a grind of pepper, and then looked at the hot peppers I had sitting on the counter. I settled for an Aji Cristal pepper- by all means use a jalapeno if you want- and finely chopped that to bits and added that to my bowl. I checked the corn, flipped it, and found the scallions nicely charred. You really do want them pretty blackened- the flavor of a charred scallion is amazing- and is really what takes this salsa over the top. I gave the scallions a minute to cool, and then used my knife to chop them up and added them to my bowl.
Finally, the corn was ready, so I scraped the kernels off the cobs and added that to the bowl as well. Wow! Charring the sweet corn and the scallions gave the whole salsa a smoky depth that was incredible.
I set this aside while I prepared my swordfish. I took a bit of Cajun seasoning, sea salt, pepper, and ground cumin and mixed them together. Then I drizzled the swordfish with olive oil and rubbed on the seasonings. I threw that on the hot grill and gave it about 4 minutes per side. My steak was a good inch thick, and I did want it cooked all the way through. If you prefer your swordfish to have some translucence in the middle, go for it, but I wanted it cooked all the way through. I did take a picture of the swordfish once it was done, but my camera strikes again with an unrecognizeable file format. I wish I knew why it did that!
The final pieces of this meal were very easy to add in. I thinly sliced up a bit of green cabbage- because I love the crunch that adds to fish tacos, and then I also sliced up an avocado and tossed that with a little extra lime juice. While my swordfish rested, I set to toasting up my corn tortillas.
The tortillas with the most black on them were the tastiest of the bunch. And it really is as easy as it looks. I turn on the gas burner and toss the tortilla right on the grate. Flip it a few times and then put it on a plate while you do the next one. Obviously, I could have done this on the gas grill outside as well- and if you don’t have a gas stove, you can put them under your broiler with good results as well.
When all was said and done, I made up four tacos for myself. I had half a pound of swordfish and used most of it in the tacos. Corn tortillas make small tacos, so I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it. But I’ll tell you, I enjoyed every single bite. Swordfish is the perfect fish for tacos! It’s so meaty and hearty- it holds up perfectly and was just absolutely delicious. When the tacos were gone, I got out the tortilla chips and scooped up some of the remaining salsa with a few chips. The recipe below will serve 2 people, depending on appetites. I had plenty of extra salsa. Half a pound of swordfish per person is probably a good guideline- for me that was one smaller sized steak. And seriously- make this while you can get all these veggies fresh from the farmer’s market. All told, it sounds like there were a lot of steps, but this meal was ready in under 20 minutes, so it would also be a quick weeknight meal.
Swordfish Tacos with Charred Scallion and Corn Salsa
2 ears of sweet corn, peeled
one bunch of scallions, rinsed and patted dry
2-3 smaller heirloom tomatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups of tomato)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 hot pepper, finely chopped
juice of half a lime
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
1 avocado, diced or sliced
6-8 corn tortillas, toasted
For the Swordfish:
2 swordfish steaks
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (I used a hot one)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Get an outdoor gas grill fired up on high. Place the corn and the scallions right over the fire. After about three minutes, check on them and give them all a flip. Another two minutes later, the scallions should be nicely charred- remove them from the grill and rotate the corn if needed. Continue roasting the corn until you have some nicely blackened bits on all sides of the corn. Remove from the grill- keep the grill going for the swordfish.
Combine the tomatoes, cilantro, hot pepper, lime juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Chop the scallions the best you can with a chef’s knife- they will be soft and squishy, just do what you can and add them to the bowl. Next, use a knife to remove the corn kernels from the cobs and add those to the bowl as well. Toss the salsa until nicely combined. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.
For the swordfish, combine the salt, pepper, cumin and Cajun seasoning in a small dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the swordfish, and then sprinkle on the seasonings. Rub them all over the swordfish steaks.
Put the steaks on the grill, still going on high. Close the top and give them 3-4 minutes before turning them over. The swordfish cooks quickly- if you want some translucence in the middle, flip them at 2 minutes. Close the top again, and in 3-4 minutes, the swordfish will be cooked through. Remove to a plate and let rest for five minutes.
Slice the swordfish into pieces and divide among the toasted tortillas. Next, add a few pinches of shredded cabbage to each taco, followed by the salsa and the avocado slices. Serve immediately.
It really is that good.
I first had this meat sauce…hm… sometime last winter, I think. I wanted to make lasagna for dinner, and was debating making a lasagna different from my usual one. After searching around on a few websites and chatting with a few people, I settled on the recipe for World’s Best Lasagna found on Allrecipes.com. It said world’s best in the title, and I just had to know what someone considered the world’s best. There are a lot of lasagnas out there! I did try it, and while the lasagna was very delicious, and one I would make again, it really was the slow cooked meat sauce that stood out for me. It was rich, full of depth and seasonings and tomato flavor. I wanted to just sit and eat that sauce with a spoon!
Fast forward to last week. I took Abigail to the grocery store with me and my bargain shopper spotted a coupon on the shelf to buy 4 boxes of Barilla pasta and get 1 free. She insisted we do so, so I let her choose which pastas we took home. When she saw the ginormous box of large shells for stuffing, she lit up and asked what you would do with such large shells. I realized then and there that it had been a long time since I made stuffed shells, and purposed to do so within the next few days.
The shells were easy enough. I literally mixed up equal proportions of cottage cheese, mozarella cheese and a good aged parmesan, added fresh parsley, basil, garlic and pepper and stuffed the shells with that. The sauce though… I decided to make the sauce from that lasagna with a few minor modifications. It was just as delicious as I’d remembered. Our only problem that night was that I made a small pan of stuffed shells and Zander discovered a new favorite food. Those shells were gone in no time.
You can multiply this meat sauce and make a huge pot of it, then cool and freeze in family size portions to pull out for whatever you need. It’s great for lasagna and stuffed pasta, but equally delicious as a quick topping for spaghetti. It pretty much cooks itself once you have it all in the pot, so there is little effort and a big payout in the end. Vary up the ground meats that you use too. I’ve been making my own Italian sausage, so what I did this time was use two pounds of ground pork, and then I added the spices I use for the Italian sausage. Obviously you could buy good sausage (hot or sweet as you prefer), use ground beef, pork, lamb or venison. I’m not so sure ground poultry would work as well, but it would be worth a shot if that’s what you usually use.
Just one note about the ingredients. Do find the fennel seed and use it- it truly adds something to this marinara. It’s not a large quantity, and you can’t pick out the fennel, but I do notice the depth it contributes to the sauce.
Marinara With Meat Sauce
1 pound Italian sausage (bulk, or squeezed out of the casings)
1 pound ground pork or beef
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (crushed in a mortar & pestle)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
In a large pot, brown the meats over medium heat until nicely browned. Drain off any accumulated fat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the onions have softened a touch.
Add everything else to the pot. Keep heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
One recipe makes enough for two pans of lasagna.