an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

Making Lasagna

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Tacos with Avocado Salsa

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So, a favorite of ours is definitely tacos. Beef, turkey, pork, pulled chicken, we love tacos. This recipe happens to be the ground meat variety. You can use whatever meat you want, it ll tastes good. With Pork or turkey )(or even chicken, but I’ve never been able to come to terms with ground chicken), you might want to adjust the seasonings. The spice mix I’m gonna put down is really a suggestion anyway. I never follow any kind of measurements, and you really don’t have to either. I’m taking my time and measuring, just for you, today. Feel special. Feel very special.

Now, my mother will tell you this is not how tacos are made. I love you, mom, but this is way more real than your spice packet tacos. Sorry. This time, I’m right. This is the right way, and you can perfect it to exactly what you want. I’m going to completely encourage you to take the general proportions of what I’m going to list and find what you like. I’m even going to suggest things you can add that I don’t, and you can make it to your preference. Taste, taste, taste. That’s the rule here, or whenever you’re branching out and making new things that you usually buy pre-packaged. It might take a few tries, so take notes (becuse I don’t and I always wish I had, later on.

Here’s what you’ll need:
1-2 lbs ground meat (turkey, beef or pork) [I usually use 1.5 lbs of ground beef, and that feeds the two of us with a little bit leftover…better to have too much than not enough, right?]

Salsa:
1 Tomato
1 Avocado
Juice of 1 lime
1 Jalepeno
1/4 Red Onion, diced fine 

Spice Mix:
Chili Powder Blend (2 tbsp Chili Powder, 1/2 tsp each of Ancho, Chipotle and New Mexico Chili powders or whatever else you have)
1 tsp Cumin
1tsp Coriander
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tbsp Onion Powder
Salt
Pepper

Here’s what you do:
Brown the meat over medium heat so it crumbles fine. The best way to get this consistancy is to stir, a lot, almost constantly, in fact. It’s a little more work, but it’s so worth it.  Once it’s browned, strain out the fat, or most of it at least. I like to leave a little bit, just for flavor. Add half the spices and just enough water to coat the bottom of the pan. Simmer until thickened, tasting and adjusting for flavor as you do.

While that’s simmering, you can prepare the salsa. Chop the vegetables and mix together with the lime juice, mashing the avocado if you want to. Season with salt and pepper and whatever else catches your eye. Remember, cooking is supposed to be fun.

Now, you can use plain old flour tortillas (like Dan, who loves them) OR you can be like me, and make your own hard shells. To do that, you just need to preheat your oven to 350, and when it’s ready (and you’re ready), pull out one of the racks and drap the corn tortillas through the grates. They won’t lay exactly the way you think they should look, but one or two rungs should do the trick. Let them bake for about 10 minutes before pulling them out, and layer your taco meat and salsa in them, with whatever else you enjoy.

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Pizza-Stuffed Zucchini

Pizza Stuffed Zucchini || An Army Wife's Guide to Life

They look a little messy, but they are really delicious. Zucchini has been something I’ve discovered that I LOVE over the past two years, and even though Dan doesn’t agree, I use it a lot over the summer months. Last week at the farmer’s market, I got four big ones for a dollar! It was more than I needed, but individually, they were $.50…I’m my mother’s daughter, for sure.

This is an easy recipe to throw together and then toss in the oven and forget about. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 3 links Italian sausage, uncased (any flavor would do. I used mild and then added some spice on my own)
  2. 1-2 large zucchini
  3. Pizza Sauce
  4. Mozzarella Cheese
  5. 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  6. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  7. Salt & Pepper
  • First, you’re gonna preheat your oven to 350°.
  • Start the sausage in a pan over medium-high heat along with the garlic. I’ve found that cooking ground meat like this over lower temperatures helps it break up into smaller pieces, and that’s important for stuffing the zucchini.
  • While the sausage is browning, slice the zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You can reserve the flesh to add to the pan, but I didn’t, I fed it to my dogs, who LOVE zucchini and are terribly spoiled. Add a small layer of cheese and sauce to the bottom of the hollow zucchini boats and set on a greased baking sheet (preferably lined with tin foil or parchment paper)
  • When the sausage is cooked through, add about 2 tablespoons of pizza sauce to the pan, along with the salt and pepper and crushed red pepper, all to taste. Once it’s all incorporated, use a spoon to fill the zucchini to fairly heaping. I had left over filling and I only used 1 zucchini, it will probably fill two just fine.
  • Top with more mozzarella and gently cover with foil.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake 5 minutes more, until cheese is browned.
  • Slice into manageable pieces (I made them a few inches wide) and serve.
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(Almost) No-Cook Pizza Sauce

I love garlic. If you know me at all, you know that already. I always have it in my kitchen, and if you’ve read any of this blog, you know I use garlic cloves and garlic powder in pretty much every recipe, and this one isn’t an exception. This could be a no-cook sauce, if you’re short on time, but I love the toasted garlic part of it, it’s great. Now, this sauce makes enough for quite a few pizzas, even if you like a saucy pizza like I do, and it stores great in the fridge. It does get a little weird when you bring it back out of the fridge, and it’s better if you leave it out for a few hours before so it get back to a normalish temperature, but once you stir it and it gets cooked, you can’t tell the difference.

Here’s what you need:

  1. 3-5 large cloves garlic
  2. 1 (12 oz) can tomato sauce
  3. 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  4. A few tablespoons olive oil
  5. Salt&Pepper
  6. Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder

Here’s what you do (and it’s so simple, that there’s no reason to skip the cooking part):

  • Peel the cloves of garlic and put them into a small saucepan with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Turn the stove on meduim-low heat and let them roast slowly, until they’re just starting to look a little burnt.
  • Once they’ve cooked, remove them from the heat and add them, and the rest of the ingredients to a blender, and blend until everything is melded together. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

This is seriously simple and takes all of five minutes to make and lasts through several weeks of constant pizza eating.

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My Quickest Pasta Sauce Recipe

This is not my grandmother’s sauce.
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And i put that in bold, because, in my family, that’s a huge no no. This is my sauce, the sauce I make when I’m pressed for time or just don’t feel like starting to cook in the morning but I want pasta. This is different. It’s not as tasty because it hasn’t simmered for hours, but it’s still good. And it’s more than good enough to share. This is one of those recipes where you can dress it up however you like, just remember to taste often and season well.

What you’re gonna need:

  • 1 lb (or less) of ground meat. I usually use ground beef, but Italian sausage out of the case is delicious, too.
  • 1 (28 oz) can, crushed tomatoes w/ basil. That was the only kind they have in my grocery store and I haven’t wished there was anything else.
  • 1 (12 oz) can, tomato sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder
  • Salt&Pepper

Super simple, and the meat is totally optional. I’ve made it without before and it was delicious just like that, too. Basically all you’re gonna do is brown the meat with the garlic (or cook the garlic in a little olive oil if you’re omitting the meat), add your canned goods, then fill the crushed tomato can with water (slowly, so it doesn’t get weird and foamy) and add that to the pan as well. Season with Salt, Pepper, Italian Seasoning, Onion and Garlic Powder to taste and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. That’s it. Leave it longer if you have time, but 15 minutes should do the trick for getting it ready. Then just serve it over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.

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Garlicky Tomato Candy :)

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Ok, so first of all, I’m sorry about the quality of the pics…my camera is sans batteries right now and I’ve been too lazy/forgetful to buy more. So here’s an instagram pic instead.

Second, this isn’t really candy, but it’s as delicious as candy for those of us who love savory a little more than sweet. And I’m firmly one of those people. Savory wins about 99% of the time. You can ask my mother, I ate spaghetti for dessert once.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. This is a super simple recipe, the biggest thing you really need is time. And patience. And the self control to resist the smells coming from your kitchen.

Ingredients are as follows:

  1. Tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes. You can use any quantity, I’m not even gonna tell you how much to make. You can use any size, anything, you just need tomatoes, as much as you think you’ll need.
  2. Garlic. I used about 5 cloves. You can use less, or more, or whatever.
  3. Olive oil (or, you know, pam or something to keep everything from sticking).
  4. Balsamic vinegar.
  5. Onion Powder.
  6. Salt and Pepper (cuz, duh.).

First, you’re gonna preheat your oven to 250°. The aim of this game in nice and slow and easy.

Second, cut up your tomatoes. I sliced mine in half cuz they were tiny, but you can do slices if they’re bigger. Put them on a baking sheet, preferably lined with tin foil, cuz, you know, less cleanup.

Then mince your garlic. Make it as fine as possible, and toss it over your tomatoes. Season with Salt and Pepper and Onion Powder, not a lot, just a sprinkle of each. Next comes the olive oil, just sprinkle it over the top, so the tomatoes have something to cook in. Lastly, add the balsamic vinegar, just a bit, splash it over the top until you’ve got a modest amount of coverage.

Bake for 1 hour and check on the progress. Mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes, but yours could take longer…or shorter depending on how done you want them.

They’re delicious by themselves, but I added them to Alfredo sauce. If you are adding them to a sauce, reserve the oil and chop it all up really finely. It’s freaking delicious!

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Making Canned Alfredo Sauce your own

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It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been busy and not making anything all that interesting lately. I’ve been in a blah mood food wise (honestly, I’ve been more excited about getting Mexican food, lol). Also, this isn’t any kind of sponsored post, I just really like Bertolli brand. (I’m putting that in for future reference when this blog is awesome and has a ton of followers…not that I’m counting on it).

This is one of my favorite things to do, though, when I don’t feel like putting a lot of effort into dinner. You can use whatever brand, but this is my favorite, and I still can’t make sauce like I can buy yet…that’s a work in progress. Here’s a list of simple dinner ideas using canned sauce:

  1. Chicken and Pasta. But everyone adds chicken, don’t they? Still, if I didn’t add it, I’d feel weird.
  2. Broccoli and Pasta. I love this. It’s so good.
  3. Pour it over fresh, steamed cauliflower. It could be as a side dish or add some meat in with that, too and make it a one pot sort of meal. If you haven’t worked with fresh cauliflower, you don’t know what you’re missing.
  4. With Tortellini or Ravioli. Especially the meat filled kind to make you feel like you’re getting everything in one place.
  5. Make it spicy! This is my favorite, one, too. Add spicy Italian sausage or a ton of crushed red pepper to the sauce when you’re heating it up.
  6. Add tomatoes.
  7. Add sun-dried or oven roasted tomatoes.
  8. Add Mushrooms.
  9. Add Extra Garlic…or roasted garlic…or garlic powder…mmmm, garlic…garlic is good
  10. Add Sausage. Cased or uncased. Any Italian variety is good and I really wanna see how diced Andouille is in the sauce. Cajun Pasta is usually pretty good.
  11. Make Lasagna. Or stuffed shells. Or manicotti.
  12. Add veggies. Zucchini, eggplant, spaghetti squash, whatever else sounds good.

I’ve found that pretty much anything you do with Alfredo sauce turns out pretty good. Just follow my tasting guidelines and you should be fine. That advice is, of course, add a little, taste it and keep adding until it’s perfect. If you aren’t sampling as you go, you’re doing it wrong. Tonight, for example (and the whole inspiration for this post), I’m doing homemade oven roasted tomatoes and meat tortellini. I’ll probably add a little spice with some crushed red peppers. And, as always, a little extra salt and pepper.

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Italian Sausage Meatballs

Due to the begging of family and friends on Facebook, I present my Italian Sausage Meatballs. They’re 100% homemade, nothing prepackaged or anything like that. Of course, you can always cheat and buy uncased Italian Sausage and make them into meatballs, but this way is soooo much better. And it doesn’t really take any longer to make.

You’ll need the following;

  1. 1 lb of ground turkey
  2. 1/2 lb of ground beef
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese also minced
  5. Splash of worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 tsp tomato paste
  7. 3/4 of the Italian Sausage Spice Blend that I’ll go through first

So, for the spice blend, you’ll need

  1. 1 tsp black pepper
  2. 2 tsp salt
  3. 1 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
  4. 1 tsp garlic powder
  5. 1/2 tsp paprika
  6. 1 tsp onion powder
  7. about 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)

Put all the spices into a coffee/spice grinder, or you can use a magic bullet with the flat blade like I do, and process until it’s a consistent powder.

Now on to the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350. To “mince” the mozzarella cheese, just run your knife through the shreds until they’re tiny pieces. Mix everything but the meat together with your fingers before adding the meat. Mix by hand until everything is incorporated together. Form into meatballs to the size you want them. I made them large since they were the a main part of the meal.

Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes and then enjoy with a bed of vegetables or pasta.

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Roasted Balsamic Broccoli with Onions, Garlic and Bacon

This is one of those recipes that can either be a side dish or a main course for one person. For me, it was that main course option, because cooking for one person is kind of miserable for me. But this was a dish that was worth the effort I put into it and I ended up enjoying eating more than I usually would. This was originally going to be a side for Bruschetta Chicken, but since it was just me, I nixed the chicken (at least for today).

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This recipe is ridiculously simple, here’s what you’ll need:

→ 3 small heads of fresh broccoli, cut into florets

→ 1 medium onion, halved and sliced

→ 3 cloves of garlic, minced

→ 1/2 package of bacon

→ about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

→ salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder

 

Step 1

Do Not preheat your oven. I’m serious, don’t do it. Do not skip ahead to see where the oven will be heated to, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to jail if you peek. Seriously. Don’t do it. Instead, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and put a roasting rack (or a cookie rack) over it. Line that rack with bacon. Then put the bacon in the cold oven. I’m serious. Put the oven on 400º and set the timer for 20-25 mintues (25-30 for thick bacon). You will thank me for this when you realize you now have bacon jerky that’s perfectly cooked.

Step 2

While the bacon is becoming perfect, chop your veggies. Then wait, because you’ll have time left before the bacon comes out and you probably don’t want to stand in the kitchen smelling the perfection while you wait for dinner. Go browse Pinterest, or better yet, pin this just for fun.

Step 3

When the bacon has reached perfection, remove it to your cutting board with tongs, and remove the rack from the pan. Don’t get ride of the lovely bacon drippings, don’t touch any of that. Instead, line the bottom of the pan with the onions and garlic, and then layer the broccoli over that. This is also where I added the balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. The vinegar will smell a little strong, even while it’s cooking, but it come out so, so sweet, so use a little more than you think you’d like.

Step 4

Slice the bacon. Try not to eat all of it before it you add it back to the pan. Sprinkle it over the mixture, if you have any left.

Step 5

Bake for another 15-20 minutes in your now-preheated oven. The broccoli should be a really deep greed with slightly brown edges and there shouldn’t be anything slightly burnt smelling, like mine was (I put it in for 25 minutes, oops).

Easy, right? There might be a bit of chopping involved  and a lot of self control, but this is a side dish (or main dish) that pretty much puts itself together. Now, if you wanted to cut down a bit on the fattiness of this dish (or you’re just not into bacon), you can omit it and drizzle olive oil along with the vinegar. It would still be really good, but the fat in it really was good. It wasn’t overly greasy, the broccoli does a good job of soaking it up, and the bacon was just a really delicious addition to it.

 

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April is Paleo Month

And this month is different for two reasons:

  1. It’s a permanent change
  2. we’re not jumping into it right away

Because Paleo is a total diet change. It’s different than not cooking meat for a month, it’s something you decide to do and then stick with. But we have leftovers that are soooo not paleo (mac and cheese anyone?), and potatoes that I don’t want to go to waste. Plus a loaf of bread I need to eat. So, yeah, it’s not gonna happen all at once. BUT I did commit to not buying anything that wasn’t paleo at the store, and we’re phasing things out. AND I’m figuring out how to make Paleo coffee creamer (if I figure it out, there will be a recipe).

I know that we’ll cheat, though. Because we love Pasta…and Dan loves cheese. And I can’t see us never visiting the Olive Garden or eating pizza again. But that’s not gonna happen this month. No cheating except what’s already in the house. And once those are gone, no more buying them.

So that’s the plan. We’re going paleo. That’s that.

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