Friday, September 30, 2011

Pasta Sauce

Good Morning!

Here is a pasta sauce that I use based off of a recipe I found online called “'Baby’s Got Sauce' Italian Sauce". I tweaked it a bit. I hope you like it!

1 Batch--------------------------------------------2 batches-------------------------------4 Batches

Olive Oil----------------------------------------same----------------------------------same

1 large onion-----------------------------------2 onions------------------------------4 onions

7-8 cloves garlic, crushed---------------------14-16 cloves--------------------------28-32 cloves

Italian Sausage-6-8 links or 1 lb ground—12-16 links or 2 lbs-------------------24-32 links or 4 lbs

1 can Tomato paste----------------------------2 cans tomato paste-----------------4 cans tomato paste

2-28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes--------4-28 oz cans--------------------------8-28 oz cans

1-28 oz can Crushed or diced Tomatoes----2 cans ---------------------------------4 cans

2-4 3.5 oz jars of baby food carrots-----------4-8 jars------------------------------8-16 jars

Fresh Basil diced fine--------------------------same---------------------------------same

Fresh Oregano diced fine----------------------same---------------------------------same

Fresh Thyme diced fine------------------------same---------------------------------same

5 Bay Leaves ------------------------------------10 bay leaves-----------------------20 bay leaves

Port or sweet red wine (optional but REALLY adds to the flavor)



Crushed Red Pepper (about a tablespoon)

A large, deep pot




Red Bell Pepper


Put 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in pot to brown sausage. Remove from pot and set aside. Add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pot 1/8-1/4 inch and bring back to hot temperature. Saute onions in pot until they become translucent. Lightly salt and pepper onions.

Add crushed garlic, can of tomato paste. Cook on medium high for a few minutes to mellow flavor of tomato paste. Watch carefully to prevent burning, especially of garlic.

Add whole peeled tomatoes.* Add diced/crushed tomatoes**.

Add herbs***

Add sausage back in.

Add baby food carrots. Carrots give the sauce a wonderful light bit of sweetness. You can mince whole carrots, but I found that baby food carrots are exceptional in the recipe, and much easier to use.

Continue to taste every twenty minutes to gauge flavor of sauce to see if salt or pepper is necessary. If you like spicy sauce, add crushed red peppers.

Optional: Port or sweet red wine (merlot, etc). Port gives and incredible depth and compliment of flavor to the meat and tomatoes. In fact, we often put a splash of port in everything from soup to chili. It truly just ties all the flavors together in such a perfect way, giving a depth and richness. A few Tablespoons should do, but you can taste and see if more is needed.

*These need to be crushed either in the pot or in the can. I find it much easier to crush/chop them in the can. OR you can use already diced tomatoes in the larger cans.

**I like to use fire roasted tomatoes or other flavored tomatoes.

***I often use dried herbs. I would start with 1 Tbls and see how strong they taste. You can also get tubes of herbs in the fresh produce section, which are very convenient.

The longer this cooks, the better it tastes. I generally make this first for my freezer meal days and let it simmer all day long until I assemble lasagne at the end of the day :) It also freezes well by itself for spaghetti sauce.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fried Chicken Wingies

(remember this image for later in the post. I cannot figure out how to make this pic NOT be at the top of the post....)

Good morning my sweet bees :)

This time I have a fun finger food for you :). Fried chicken wingies! Perfect football food, perfect little kid food, perfect "I want a snack of something fried in a hurry" food :).

I was expecting company yesterday, so I bought a few bags of frozen chicken wingies (the kind used for buffalo wings) the day before. Regrettably, the timing for the company did not quite work out the way I was thinking it might, so I ended up not being able to serve these for them. HOWEVER, the good news is that I put them in the freezer and reheated them this morning to see how they would survive the freezing. They were WONDERFUL!!!!

Steph's Fried Chicken Wingies

1 1/2 large bags of frozen, raw chicken wingie pieces
4 Tablespoons of chicken bullion (optional)
3 cups self rising flour
2 Tablespoons Lawry's
2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne (this is not enough to be hot, just to add some flavor. if you want hot, add more)
2 cups milk
1 egg

The method:

Place 1.5 bags of raw, still frozen, chicken wings in a large empty pasta pot. Sprinkle chicken bullion granules over meat. Carefully added water to fill the pot and put the pot to boil on the stove. Boil the chicken wings until a meat thermometer inserted deep into the meat read at least 170 degrees F (y'all DO have meat thermometers, right? Right? :) SAFETY SAFETY!).

Drain the chicken wings and put them aside. Put 1 to 2 inches of oil in pot or electric skillet (see notes below :) ), and turn heat til oil is about 375 degrees.

In the meantime, mix the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, seasonings) in a flat bottom dish (such as a pyrex or a pie plate, or even a large ziplock baggie) and the rest of the wet ingredients (milk, egg) in another bowl. I then add about a tablespoon of the dry into the wet to thicken it a bit to help it stick better, but that is not necessary.

Put a handful of wings in the dry mix to coat, then in the wet mix, then back in the dry mix. The double coating is wonderful! Then place in hot oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough if a pinch of dry flour starts to "fry" a bit when you drop it in the oil, instead of settling down to the bottom.

Fry til they are a pretty golden color, then flip and fry the other side of the wings. Since the chicken is cooked, you do not have to worry about undercooking...just fry until they look pretty to you :). Place cooked wings on a dish lined with a paper towel to drain (I used a pyrex baking pan).

To freeze, cool the wings slightly and place in ziplock baggies and put in freezer. To reheat, place wings on tin foil in toaster oven or oven and cook at 375 for about 16 minutes, depending on the size of the wings (I have had brands of wings that looked like they came from an emu, and some that looked like they came from a chickadee, so you have to play with the timing).

Serve with dip, coat in sauce, however you like your wings :). This recipe and procedure are also excellent for larger pieces of chicken.

Various notes:

Electric Skillets
I heated oil in one of those electric skillets like one above. I LOVE LOVE LOVE these. They are convenient for browning meat, cooking soup, frying beignets, fries, and chicken, etc. They are dishwasher safe and a BREEZE to clean up.

I put maybe an inch or two, tops, of oil in there. Many people feel that you need to submerge the meat in oil--NOT AT ALL!!! I put only enough oil to reach about halfway up whatever meat I am frying--usually an inch or two. The meat will be flipped over, so you do not have to submerge the meat in oil.

I like the smaller sized electric skillet, as it is perfect for our family. I also like the ability to control the temperature better than the stove. If I need to fry at 375, I set the temp to 375. I fry pretty often and the problem with frying on the stove (well one of many problems) is that it is hard to get the temp just right--it is either too cold or reaching that smoking point.

Why do I boil my chicken first? Because:
a)I hate handling raw meat, and it is easy to open the bag and dump in the chicken. BTW, dump the chicken first THEN add water, NOT the other way around, or it is messy :)
b)because it helps flavor get into the meat--you can use onions, garlic, lemon (if you are doing a lemon chicken), soy (for a chinese flair), etc.
c)because then I KNOW that the chicken is cooked through to a safe temperature, and I am not doing that dance of "burnt outside vs raw inside"
d)Because the chicken is cooked already, it only needs a few minutes in the oil, just enough to crisp up the breading, meaning it soaks up much less oil and requires less oil.
e)It saves time as I HAVE to monitor the hot oil every minute, but I can go on to other parts of the supper while the chicken is boiling.
f)I can use frozen chicken pieces without defrosting.

Dredging Ideas
a)I use self rising flour as it makes a lighter crust (I ACTUALLY used some of my treasured Whit Lily yesterday! gasp!), however, it is NOT necessary to use it. Regular flour can be used as well. Or you can use regular flour and add a few tablespoons of corn starch to lighten it up. I go heavy on the cornstarch when frying onions, to get that very ethereal crunch.
b)Use any seasonings you want to in the flour! Things to try adding to the flour dredge: ranch dressing packets, dry chili seasoning packets, italian dressing packets, green can parm cheese, corn meal or corn flour, buttermilk powder, paprika, Tony Chachere's, etc.
c)Use tongs instead of your fingers to do the dry-wet-dry dredging. It really cuts down on the mess.
d)I also use this with pork chops to make fried pork chops. Very nummy :)
e)You can use this to make chicken tenders/nuggets too! Use boneless skinless chicken strips, boil. Then instead of doing a dry-wet-dry, actually mix the two to make a light batter (thinner than pancakes. Sort of like syrup in viscosity).
f)I do Italian Fried Chicken using boneless skinless THIGHS. Instead of the flour dredge, I use italian bread crumbs with extra lawry's, tons of green can parm, and cayenne in it. Very nummy too!

Misc ideas/warnings
b)See a
c)See b...then see a
d)When I fry, no kids or critters are allowed anywhere near me. Period.
e)Keep cords behind the skillet (so no one can accidentally snag it and pull oil down). Fry on the back burners and keep pot handles turned to the back.
f)Did I mention points a, b, c, d and e? Yeah, review those :).
g)If I am going to cook on the stove, I prefer to use a pot instead of a frying pan (though I put the same amount of oil in both). It REALLY cuts down on the splatters, and is safer as the oil will not slosh out of the pot.

I do not mean to scare people. Frying is a delicious and much easier way of cooking than people often think. However, it DOES require more vigilance than turning on the microwave. Preboiling the chicken means you do not have to be vigilant for long, but you do have to be vigilant. :) As long as you pay attention, there is no problem :).

I hope you try these! They were phenom, TOTALLY easy and stress free, and FUN. Make them on Saturday, freeze them (hee hee, if there are any left overs! :) ), and heat them in the oven on Sunday if you are having a football party or need something to take to church :).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cooking Day!!!

My Sweet Bees! How are you this wonderful day?!? GREAT I hope :)

This is my first freezer cook day since starting the blog!!! SuperBee is taking home ec this year and so he and I did the cooking :).

As per my usual, my ambition and my ability did NOT match up :). So whilst I envisioned making a good 5 dishes, we settled for three: make ahead been burritos, sauce (and then lasagne), and broccoli cheese rice casserole. I prebaked italian sausage and pork sausage in the oven. The lasagne recipe was slightly abbreviated in that we did not do two FULL ricotta layers, but only one ricotta layer. There were enough layers that I thought it would be ok if we SSTTREEETTCCHHHEDDDD it out to make another couple of lasagnes :) I think it will be better that way. I also ended up with no tomato paste, but i think it was ok....I just kept the sauce on the stove for several hours for the tomato flavor to develop. I figure that the old italians did not have tiny little tins of tomato paste and still managed to make good food :)

Let me tell you that the Burritos 1)were a hit and 2)make a TON of 8" burritos, especially if you are new to rolling burritos :). The final count was ....37, I think. That was for ONE batch of the burrito mix!!! (I was going to "start small" in case PeekieBee did not like them....well she has a lot to plow through now :) )

I had gone shopping yesterday and did NOT make an actual list of the amounts of necessities, just sort of what I needed. So I ended up with too much mexican cheese and not enough mozz cheese. BUT we are nothing if not resourceful, so some of my Italian lasagnes turned into sort of a mexican lasagne :)

I also realized I had to clean the freezer out from the watermelon that I had frozen a good...oh....5-7 years ago? A quick run to the transfer site, and I had room to put in several broc cheese and rice casseroles and several lasagnes, all in 8x8 pans and all in gallon baggies and labeled. We used down time to both eat cookies and run the dishwasher, so there is not a huge mess. (for which PeekieBee is thankful :) ).

Tomorrow I hope to do muffin tin meals :) Though the week IS filling up, so it might be next week. I am DYING to try the mini cherry pies :)

Blessings and love to all y'all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Follow me! Follow me!

My beautiful bevy of busy bees!! I hope you had a wonderful day!

This is just a note to let you know that if you want email updates for when I post here, you need to go to the VERY BOTTOM of this blog and enter your email in!!

If you just click "follow", you will only get updates on your dashboard or something like that.

However, if you enter your email, then you get updates in your inbox. (so i am told :) ).

Of course, you bees who know me know that I would NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER give or sell your email stuff. I do not even sign up for things on facebook that try to access my friends' list :).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Precooking Meats!

Hello my beautiful, wonderful bees!

Meat is generally the "hardest" part of a meal. You have to defrost it somehow, remember to take it out, it takes longer to cook than the veg, makes more clean up, and generally (to me!) seems a bit of a hassle sometimes. :)

However, precooked meat is a wonder of modern science :). It is quick, easy, economical.

Precooking meat, even if you do not do whole freezer meals, is one of the BEST ways to ensure you put a supper on the table.

If you have precooked sausage, a can of tomatoes, and boil some rice, you have a meal on the supper in the amount of time it takes to cook the rice! (sausage and tomatoes over rice)

If you have precooked chicken, a jar of alfredo sauce, a bag of broccoli or peas, and some dried pasta, you have a meal on the table in the time it takes to boil the noodles! (pasta alfredo with chicken and veg)

If you have precooked seasoned beef, some taco shells, and fixings, you have tacos in a flash.

Here are more:

Precooked chicken+cans of chicken broth+chopped frozen veg+noodles=chicken noodle soup

Precooked sausage (or slab bacon)+eggs=almost instant breakfast (or breakfast for supper)

Precooked steak or chicken strips+teryaki sauce+veggies+rice=stir fry

Precooked steak strips+veg+tortillas=fajitas

Precooked sausage+cheese+jarred sauce+veg+bread or crust=pizza

If you find that you end up going out for supper or getting junk for supper, may I suggest strongly that the first freezer stuff you do is precook some meat? ANY meat you have in the house will do: chicken, sausage, ground beef, roast, ground turkey, ground pork, etc. Then look at the list above and make a note of those or any other recipes that you have that might go with the meat you cooked. NOW you have almost instant supper for less time than it takes to run to the burger place, and with almost no effort! :)

So, how to precook meat? This is what I do....
I take the defrosted sausage/beef/chicken/whatever, season it if it needs it, and put it in a pyrex baking dish. I cover it tightly with tin foil and bake it at 350 until it is done. Depending on the meat and amount, it could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more (a whole chicken will take longer than a lb of ground beef).

CHECK WITH MEAT THERMOMETER! When the internal temps reach the proper amount (I shoot for 170 in just about everything, but check), then take out of the oven. Cut chicken up if necessary, turn the sausage or meat to cool, etc. Cool for 15 minutes or so (do not leave out very long, you need to get it to safe food temp--below 40 degrees or above 140--within 2 hours).

At this point, if you have planned ahead, you can make some freezer meals (such as using the sausage in the lasagne). However, if you are not ready to do that, just put the meat in the freezer for a quick grab :).

To freeze, it is best to spread it on a thin layer on a pan and freeze, then put in baggies. However, I often just put straight into baggies but in thin enough layer for me to break off what I need.

If you get ready for this a day or so ahead, consider buying LARGE (like turkey size) disposable aluminum pans for cooking the meat in--it makes clean up at the end of the day a breeze! Keep putting meat in the oven, cooling a batch, freezing a batch. Soon you will have a ton of meat at the ready for those evenings where you do not feel like cooking, or you are short on time.

In the mornings, I make breakfast for Wonder Bee. I am SO tickled because I have this down to a science, so let me share :):

1) I turn on the small burner on hi and put a very small saute pan (8 inches across?) on it to heat up
2) I grab a very small handful of frozen sausage or about 4-5 pieces of chunked slab bacon and put it on the plate I am going to serve his breakfast on.
3) I put that plate in the micro for 30 seconds.
4) When it is done nuking, the pan is hot, so I then dump the meat in a little tiny saute pan
5) I brown it for a minute or two, then slide the meat back on the plate that I nuked it on.
6) I squirt the pan with about 3 squirts of olive oil, then put in two egg beaters (sometimes I get the flavored kinds) and scramble those.
7) I then put them on the plate too. Add a couple of shakes of black pepper, and voila!

In truly less than, say, 4 minutes, I have cooked a hearty, protein-y breakfast for Wonder Bee. He is happy, I seem to be both organized AND a dedicated cook (ha ha!), and we both start out the day content. :)


Good Morning my beautiful bees! I have a new recipe for you! This is an oldie but a goodie that I make.

Now, I am going to give you this recipe which calls for jarred sauces, etc. BUT I am also going to talk about how I freeze beef and make sauce. You just do WHATEVER is more likely to get the meals into the freezer! If you have a jarred sauce you like, USE IT! Don't worry about making a sauce from scratch :).

I like to make this on the same day I cook off a lot of sausage and or ground beef. I take the defrosted sausage/beef (it comes with the pork and beef I order from a local farm) and put it in a pyrex baking dish, cover it tightly with tin foil, and bake it at 350 until it is done. I use some of that in my lasagne recipe, and the rest I put in the freezer (to freeze, it is best to spread it on a thin layer on a pan and freeze, then put in baggies. However, I often just put straight into baggies but in thin enough layer for me to break off what I need. I am laz...ahem....expedient that way :) ).

On the day I do this, I generally make pasta sauce as well that is REALLY good. It has a secret ingredient that completely takes the flavor to another level. Well actually TWO secret ingredients. :D

So since I already have the sausage made, and already have the sauce made, it is nothing at all to assemble the lasagnes. I do not cook the noodles first. I just use the regular lasagne noodles dry. I do not bake the lasagnes then, just assemble and put in the freezer. When I reheat, I do so in the microwave and the cheese on top still browns. GREAT GREAT freezer meal!


1 Batch 2 batches 4 batches

12 lasagne noodles----------------------------24 lasagne noodles--------------------- 48 noodles (two boxes)

15 oz ricotta cheese----------------------------30 oz ricotta cheese--------------------60 oz ricotta cheese

1 box frozen chopped spinach----------------2 boxes spinach------------------------4 boxes spinach

2 beaten eggs----------------------------------4 beaten eggs---------------------------8 beaten eggs

1 ½ tsp garlic powder-------------------------3 tsp garlic powder--------------------6 tsp garlic powder

1 jar marinara sauce --------------------------2 jars marinara sauce-----------------4 jars marinara sauce

3 cups shredded mozz ------------------------6 cups shredded mozz---------------12 cups shredded mozz

Salt and pepper to taste------------------------same -----------------------------------same


1 lb Italian sausage or beef (cooked) -------2 lbs Italian sausage or beef--------4 lbs Italian sausage or beef

1 jar alfredo sauce---------------------------- 2 jars alfredo sauce -----------------4 jars alfredo sauce

½ cup parm cheese --------------------------1 cup parm cheese ------------------2 cups parm cheese

Thaw and well drain spinach. In a bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, eggs, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Spread ½ cup of marinara sauce in a disposable 13x9 dish*. Layer with 3 lasagne pieces**, ½ cup sauce, half of the ricotta, ½ cup mozzarella. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, then cheese****. Wrap and place in freezer. On baking day, preheat oven to 375 and bake until inner middle is thoroughly cooked. These can also be microwaved and turn out just as good.

*Note: I make these in 8x8 disposable pans, so each batch actually makes almost two batches.

**Note: It is not necessary to cook the noodles first as long as you are sure that the sauce layers cover the noodles. The noodles will soften and cook as they absorb liquid from the sauce.

***Note: you can mix the sausage into the sauce, or use it as its own layer after the first layer of noodles and sauce. Then add the sausage, then the cheese over it.

****Note: if you are going to add the alfredo sauce, place on top of sauce on top of last noodles. Same with the parmesan. END WITH MOZZARELLA CHEESE!

*****Note: you can also use mexican cheese, or mixes of cheese if you want slightly different flavors.