Monday, March 22, 2010

Spaghetti 20 minutes!

Mondays are not fundays...can we just all agree on that? Today is the Monday following Spring Break which has made it even more of a challenge. We spent a week moving a a leisurely pace, caring less about bedtimes and schedules and more about fun. I liked it. The laid-back schedule fits me. I'm told I'd fit in well in Europe...anyone want to take me there? I'd like to go to Portugal or Italy or Greece or...well, I digress.

My point up there was that Monday nights are not usually the greatest cooking nights. We're tired and we're rushed and it's Monday for heaven's sake!!! So, tonight...comfort food in 20 minutes. It's spaghetti night in our household!

Here's the deal...I'm a spaghetti snob. My mom is a great cook and an Italian woman so I sort of have been spoiled when it comes to good tomato sauces in life. I remember as a kid harvesting tomatoes out of our massive vegetable garden and my mom stewing them to freeze them so she could use them for sauce throughout the year. Yum is really all I can say. As a result, I don't like jarred spaghetti sauces. They just don't taste that great to me. I'll occasionally use one and doctor the heck out of it with my spice cabinet, but it always leaves me wanting.

I have a great marinara recipe, Lindrusso's Magnificent Marinara - and I'll be sharing that soon when I make a huge batch - but it's a longer process than a Monday night allows. So, spaghetti in 20 minutes and not out of a Prego jar? Simple. Good. Healthy.

I start by browing ground beef. I use 91% lean grass-fed, antibiotic-free, hormone-free sirloin. We don't need extra hormones in this house, that's for sure! Plus, it tastes better.

Once it's browned, I drain it. Even though I use a leaner beef, I like to get the excess grease out where I can.

In the same pot I just browned the ground beef, I toss in diced onions, shortly followed by some chopped fresh tomatoes and know the drill, cook until everthing is happy - maybe 5 minutes. By the way, you should start your pasta water at this takes some time to get it to a good rolling boil.

I like to add my spices at this point. Y'all know I love Penzey's so it's no surprise that I use Penzey's Tuscan Sunset as my Italian seasoning of choice. It's salt free so you can salt to your taste instead of someone else's. =) I also add some crushed red pepper when the weeone's not's amazing how she only thinks foods are spicy if she SEES the spicy ingredients being added!

Next, 1 can of Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce (it's just pureed tomatoes really) and some tomato paste as well. Mix them up...

Then for that great depth of flavor that makes spaghetti sauce sing...add some red wine. I add about 1/2 - 3/4 cup. I use a reasonable table red - nothing fancy, but something I would drink.

You should have boiling water by now to add your pasta to and it just takes a few minutes to get that cooked through.

If you've got a weeone - spaghetti night MUST, I repeat MUST include garlic bread. We just use sandwich bread with butter and garlic powder and toss it under the broiler.

Voila! Dinner is 20 minutes. Take THAT Rachel Ray! ;D

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's all because of the weeone...

Many posts could probably start out with that title, but this is most definitely accurate for this post. I haven't been cooking. There. I said it. We've been eating sandwiches and in restaurants and I've been generally very blah about food as of late. I guess we all get a moment, right? But today the weeone isn't feeling well. She's a bit under the weather, or she's hoodwinked us all again and just wants an evening tucked away in my bed watching tv and being doted on. Either are serious possibilities.

Anyway, when I arrived home from work her sad little eyes looked up at me and said, "Momma," yep, she calls me Momma and I hate it although secretly love it, "you haven't cooked for me in a long time. What's for dinner?". That's a guilt trip that will get you to do just about anything, right? So I busted out a soup recipe that I love. It's called Tomato-Tortilla soup, but I really think it's just a tomato soup that has some Mexican flair to it. It's yummy, quick and easy and despite the fact that it's not cold in H-town anymore, I'm making it.

So, like most good food, you start out with onion, garlic and cumin. =) own version of the trinity!

Add in the chicken stock (by the way, I LOVE when you need exactly 4 cups of chicken stock. That's the exact amount that comes in a carton. I believe all soup recipes should be built around the inclusion of 4 cups of stock!), tomatoes, oregano, jalapeno and boil then simmer.

After all the work is done, you add some fresh lime juice, puree and voila! You've got a great tomato soup!

I got this new immersion blender for my birthday - thanks, Mom!- and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! It makes recipes like this a snap! If you're a soup fan and you don't have one....RUN, do not walk, and go invest a little $ into this little friend.'s the final product...YUM!

Tomato-Tortilla Soup
by Ellie Krieger


  • 2 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes. with juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush both sides of each tortilla with oil, using 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cut the tortillas in half, then cut each half into 1/4-inch wide strips. Arrange the strips on a baking sheet, sprinkle with the salt, and bake until crisp and golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoons of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno, cumin, and oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Remove the pan from the heat and puree with an immersion blender or in 2 batches in a regular blender until the soup lightens in color but chunks of tomato remain, about 30 seconds. Serve the soup topped with the tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Per Serving:

Calories 270; Total Fat 10g (Sat Fat 2g, Mono Fat 3.5g, Poly Fat 2g); Protein 9g; Carb 36g; Fiber 4g; Cholesterol 8mg; Sodium 335mg

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Some things bear repeating...

One of my favorite recipes is an Ellie Krieger recipe for Baked Shrimp with tomatoes and feta. I've posted it before, though it's been a long time. Last weekend when my parents had just come in from a very long drive back from Arizona, I thought I'd dust this one off and put it to good use over a bed of orzo. yum.

You do the the bulk of the cooking on the stovetop - the usual array of onions, garlic, tomatoes, etc. Then when you add the shrimp and feta, you pop it into the oven to finish it off. It can be served solo, but I found it to be especially good piled atop a bed of orzo.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans of no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
handful of kalamata olives
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in an oven proof skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato juices thicken.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, dill, dried oregano and shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the feta over the top. Bake until the shrimp are cooked through and cheese melts, about 12 minutes.

Serve with orzo or pasta.