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That Homemade Sauce, From a Jar.

August 2, 2017 Leave a comment

I have Italian blood coursing through my veins. Pasta, red sauce, cannoli are vital to my life even at the expense of my Germanic other-half. It has even been said that I ruined my first born on the red sauce by feeding it to him on a continual basis when he was a toddler. I just think the German part of him is sour much like sauerkraut. When I make pasta there is one problem I often face and that is time to make the sauce and the lack of necessary ingredients.

A jar of sauce is a convenient way to make a pasta and ruin the experience, too. Quality jar sauces are too expensive, and this leaves me with the Ragus and Pregos of the grocery store. I truly hate them. They’re too sweet and, well, just not very good. There is a solution to using these jars without any good Italian recognizing the imposter. Yes, I have actually seen Italians, proud of their tastes, claim an imposter to be a good sauce. I have a friend that has been clueless every time we make a sauce and he prides himself on his Italian heritage. Is there a secret to making a jar sauce palatable? Yes.

Two main ingredients are quality garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Seriously, olive oil is key and you need to find a very good maker and pay the price. Right now I use a domestic olive oil, California Olive Ranch. The imported are risky as you don’t know how long they been sitting since they were bottled and where they were sitting. There are even incidences of so-called quality olive oils from Italy being fake. A good way to know is to buy a bottle and test it. There is a bit of a wow factor when you taste the good oil. As for garlic, you want a type that you like as there are many varieties of garlic. I prefer not to use elephant garlic as it is part of the onion family, and I do not care for onions in my sauce.

You want to heat oil in a sauce pan before adding the garlic to infuse flavor. Don’t worry if you allow your garlic to sit idle for a bit after mincing. Apparently, there are healthy things happening when you do. Do not cook the garlic for too long as you don’t want it to brown. I usually eye it to my liking and turn the heat down before adding the dreaded jar. This is the first step.

The next step is allowing it to simmer for a short time while adding dried oregano and basil. It can simmer while you heat up the water and cook the spaghetti. Keep in mind of the sauce you are using as you could add too much if there is already plenty of these herbs in the sauce. You could try fresh but the dried imparts more flavor. This doesn’t make the jar taste go away, but it becomes palatable. You can add onions before the garlic and let the onions cook down. Another option, and a great

You can add onions before the garlic and let the onions cook down. Adding olives to the sauce, don’t fry these, imparts a nice flavor, too. Another option, and a great one, is to add meat. My mother would fry up some pork on the bone and add it to the sauce. The pork and bone change the flavor for the best. You can add just about any type of meat to the sauce. Oh, do NOT make meatballs and place them in the sauce without first cooking the meatballs. The texture and taste become wrong with the meatballs if you do that. DO NOT buy the pre-packaged meatballs. Just make a large batch, broil or fry them, and freeze them. Adding real cheese, not the wood chips you find in the plastic containers, helps with the flavor of the sauce. Sometimes I’ll add tomato paste or another type of canned tomatoes.

The base of altering a jar sauce is the olive oil and garlic. From there you can add what you like to produce a sauce you can enjoy with your pasta. Some people prefer ground beef to pork or meatballs. My wife doesn’t like the cheese in the sauce while I try to sneak it in. The key is to add the very best ingredients to the jar sauce.

What about a white sauce? Make the real thing! You can’t improve the jar alfredo sauce. Look online for a good sauce recipe, and it will be unhealthy. Anything fat-free or has a substitute for health reasons does not taste good. We all know it, so why trying to fake ourselves as we struggle to eat horrible items. Just do not eat the white sauce as often or not at all. As for the red sauce, alter the jar sauce if you cannot make the real sauce.

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My Irish Stew

March 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Years ago I was in Boston and had a wonderful dish. It was an Irish Stew. Knowing my chances of having this dish was slim, I went to work researching a recipe to duplicate what I had. What I came up with was a concoction made from multiple recipes I had found. This is a traditional Irish Stew without Guinness. Guinness is not part of a traditional Irish Stew.

Ingredients
1-2 lbm lamb 2 celery
1 or 2 lamb bones fresh parsley
4 large potatoes sprig of thyme
2 medium onions salt and pepper to taste
2 large carrots 2 bay leaves
1 knob of butter 3 cups of stock (You may use lamb or chicken)

You will need a casserole dish with a lid. The oven will need set at 375°F

The onions will need chopped in a large size and place to the side.

Melt the butter in a pan over high heat. Cut the lamb up into pieces if it is not already in pieces. Place the lamb and bone in and brown it. Upon browning the lamb, place it into the casserole dish.

Add the onions into the pan you just used and cook for a minute or two. Move the onions to the casserole dish just before the onions turn brown.

Pour half of the stock into the pan, turn the heat to high and scrape the pan as it boils. You are trying to capture any of the flavor left in the pan. For a non-stick pan this may not be needed. I usually boil for a short time. Pour the pan stock into the casserole. As for the rest of the stock, pour it into the casserole, too. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. When I used chicken stock or broth I do not add salt. Cover the dish and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

The carrots and celery are to be cut into thick pieces. The potatoes, too, will need to be chopped into pieces. After the 45 minutes or hour, add the carrots and celery. I usually stir it around. Next, lay the potatoes over the top of the stew and cook for 45 minutes in the oven.

The broth is not thick.

As I stated, this is made from two or three separate recipes. If you decide to make this dish I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I do like to enjoy a nice bread with this meal. I have eaten pumpernickel bread with this stew. Saloio bread goes well with this too. Of course, a nice Italian bread will do. I like dipping my bread into the stew.

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Vacation #1: The Blueberry Pie Recipe

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

This is the first in a series of posts about our latest vacation. It is not to be about my family’s trip but more as an information source chocked full with filler.
There is one item Maine seems to want you to think it is a king of – blueberries. They’re blueberries to be specific, and this means pie. Allow me to tell you the Maine blueberry is a myth. It is a myth to think their berries are better when they are really no different than other “wild” varieties. There it is done. Sorry Maine, you can’t own the blueberries just like you can’t own the whoopie pie. It is strictly Pennsylvanian just like the Kentucky Pennsylvania rifle. The whoopie pie is strictly a Pennsylvania Dutch creation.
What is special with the Maine blueberry pie? Well, nothing. I spent time in Maine sampling a few pies and have found my pies to be better. Actually, the one pie was slightly different that my version and that dealt with the crust. Maine pies utilize the smaller sized berry found with wild plants. How can a berry be considered wild when the environment and possibly the berry are modified? Think about that when in Maine.
I have picked wild berries since I was young and can tell you it is a lot of work for little amount. The effort is worth it for the flavor is supreme to store bought or farm picked. This goes for all berries.
I am not saying their pies are not good. They are not unique or special.

RECIPE SECTION…..

The three most important parts to a blueberry pie are the crust, blueberries and filler. I recommend you find a great homemade crust recipe. Store bought crusts are just that, store bought. They are horrible. You can try a graham cracker crust. I had this in Maine and it was tasty. The Educator won’t make one because “it is not healthy for me.” Blah, I say. A poor crust leads to a poor pie. Next are the berries. Frozen from the store are the least preferred. Next are the store pints. Nah, they are not fresh and not the best. Picking your own at an orchard is a great way to add nice flavor. These tend to be big and not as flavorful as wild. Wild blueberries are the best. They have the best flavor. Their small size means more berries and less filler. I am indifferent to most fillers. I generally know of tapioca and cornstarch. The higher the quality the better the pie.
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
¾ C sugar. (You can reduce this amount or add more according to your taste)
2 tbsp Cornstarch
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tspn cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine these ingredients, stir until well mixed and let sit for 10 to 45 minutes. Pour into lined pie pan and add the top layer. Place three slits on the top to vent.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
Another variation to the recipe is as follows:
3-4 C blueberries. (If small size, you may want another cup)
1/3 C sugar.
1/3 C brown sugar.
1 tbsp quick dry tapioca
½ tbsp nutmeg
½ tspn cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Sprinkle lemon juice on blueberries and fold into dry ingredient mixture. Do this gently. Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Place into pie shell and cover with top. Add the vents and bake for 10 minutes at 400. Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 25 minutes.
I forgot to mention that you need to crimp the completed pie edges with your fingers before you bake the pie.
Glazing. You brush the top with milk or better yet, heavy cream and sprinkle sugar. I have used turbinado sugar.
There you go, blueberry pie. There are many variations of this pie. You can you maple syrup instead of sugar. There is the graham cracker crust I mentioned earlier. What matters most are your crust and berries.

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BBQ Sauce

August 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I have been tasked to develop or find a barbecue sauce by the family; it really is Youth 2’s request. The sauce is a type of dip sauce experienced at Bushy Run recently.

Normally, we eat Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. It is the best I have found of all of the commercial sauces that I have experienced. It disappoints me when visiting family and they are using KC Masterpiece or any other variety. Some of the commercial brands are gritty to the taste or taste very artificial. Baby Ray’s is just the better of the bunch. There are the dry packets, and they are horrible! I’ll stick with Baby Ray’s for commercial.

A few years back we experienced the Carolina sauce at a highly recommended place. Our family found it to be average at best. It could be the sauce itself is not to our liking. I found the flavor to be lacking. The best restaurant was McPhersons in Port Royal, SC. It was excellent the only time we ate there. It was filled with marines and their family members. It is now gone. Most establishments have average sauces. The two best I have found are no longer in business.

At home, I make a dry rub for our ribs. This dry rub also works well with pork chops. It begins with a marinade and ends with the dry rub on the meat. It is by far the best dry rub I have ever eaten. This dry rub is not the dipping sauce Youth 2 is looking for.

In my search of a better sauce, I have discovered a variety of sauces. I just do not have enough meat to put these sauces on. I will have to visit barbecue joints to sample the types of sauces and work on it on my own. For now, I will continue looking online for a recipe or hints on how to make my own recipe.

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Inventing

April 29, 2013 Leave a comment

An important part of a child’s growth is experimenting. Children thrive when they are allowed to take items and find out how they work and if there are new uses. We parents too often squash this thinking outside of the box. I try to encourage my children to invent and put to use their ideas. One such idea is an invention that the family races to.

Youth 2 loves nachos with cheese, nachos and salsa. These food items could be a main staple if it were not for the Educator and myself. When we are out of these items, Youth 2 takes to experimenting with different foods. My child has come up with a tasty creation that I wish to share. Maybe someone else has invented this, but I’m giving my child the credit.

I guess it could be called a saltine popper.
Ingredients:
saltines
jalapeno pepper
Colby Jack cheese

One or two peppers are placed on a saltine. Diced cheese is placed on top of the pepper. These are small chunks of cheese. You could place more or less cheese. In fact, you can use whatever cheese you like. Youth 2 usually makes a plate full and then microwaves them monitoring the cheese melting. The method of microwaving is done in two to three phases in order to ensure the cheese melts properly. The time ranges from ten to fifteen seconds. Too long and the cheese melts too much and hardens or stiffens. What Youth 2 is looking for is a gentle melt.

That is my child’s method of preparation.

There is a spicy pop to the snack with some saltiness from the cracker.

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Scones

April 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This weekend I have been tasked with meals. Friday was a make your own meal as I was to be watching a hockey game that ended up watching the hunt for a fugitive. Yesterday was my chicken fried rice. Any hopes of leftovers was over within minutes of the Educator and me taking our first bite. Today’s meal is corn chowder. I always say chowder with a New Englander accent. Takes me back to spending time in Bwaston after graduating from high school. I wanted to attend B.U. or B.C.(I picked a better school). If you haven’t visited the city, please do. There is much history to be had and a nice Italian restaurant in the city except I forgot its name, so I can’t help you.

This morning after our Sunday requirements I began the meals. First is the jerky I am making. Twenty pounds of meat dried into a few pounds of leather in eight or so hours. This meat is then processed by Youth 1 and Youth 2 and gone before the end of the week. If you do not have a recipe for jerky and are interested in making it visit this site, http://www.conyeagerspice.com/. Con Yeager is just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. They have some great kits such as the Hillbilly Jerky. For their bologna, I will add brown sugar for a sweeter variety. Anyway, this jerky is being made for hiking and biking but won’t make it to the coming weekend when it is most needed.

The Educator wanted some type of bread product to go with the corn chowder. If I’m not in the mood to make something, I don’t make it. What I will make are scones! I love scones; blueberry scones are what I love, too. I have some frozen blueberries we picked from last year that will make a great ingredient. This recipe is not of my creation. I do modify it when I make them. No longer do I need to hit the grocery store wondering if these scones have been manipulated by dirty hands.

INGREDIENTS
· 3 cups all-purpose flour
· 1/2 cup white sugar
· 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
· 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I leave this out and use salted butter because that is what I have)
· 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
· 2 cups fresh blueberries (Any berries or variety of berries can be applied)
· 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
· 1 1/2 cups vanilla extract
· 1/2 cup heavy cream, for brushing
· 1/2 cup sugar, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet. In a large bowl and using a wooden spoon, mix together the flour, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using your bare hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the berries, mixing well, so that the berries are evenly distributed. In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla extract with a fork. Once again using your hands, dig a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour the buttermilk mixture into the well. Still using your hands, combine the ingredients until the entire mixture appears wet. Do not over-knead. Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat down the dough to make a disk about 1½-2 inches thick. Using a biscuit cutter (or a knife if you don’t have a biscuit cutter), cut out as many scones as possible and lay them on the baking sheet. Gather together the remaining dough to cut out more scones, careful not to over-knead the dough. Note: I’m not too picky when cutting out scones. They taste the same.

Liberally brush the heavy cream over the top of each scone, then sprinkle them with sugar. Bake the scones for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly browned.

As I have stated, this is not my recipe. I do vary this recipe. Today, I will not use as much vanilla; I do not have that amount on hand. Please give this recipe a whirl.