an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

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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Making use of Everything

One of the things I’m trying very hard to do with this new year is reduce my waste. This especially includes things like leftovers, which before this year, we’ve been terrible about eating. Usually, we’d end up with a fridge full of leftover food and it would just slowly go bad and mold until we finally decided to clean it out. Which was always disgusting and I’d refuse to do it all on my own.

This year, we’ve done much, much better. There has been maybe 2 containers of leftovers from this year that I ended up throwing away, one of them because it just wasn’t very good and shouldn’t have been saved in the first place, but that’s another story. Which brings me to today’s recipe.

It’s a black bean soup made using the leftover cooking liquid from a pot roast. The recipe for that pot roast is here on The Pioneer Woman‘s website. Of course, I didn’t make it the same way she did, and I’ll point out the differences as I go, like always. 

Obviously, you can start this recipe the day before, like I did, and make your crock pot really work, or you can just put together the ingredients and make the soup. As far as money-saving goes, though, the best idea is to make the pot roast, and the soup. Here’s what I did different from the original recipe: I didn’t add the cherry peppers (hubby can’t take food that’s too spicy) or the pimientos (cuz I don’t particularly care for them) and I did add the tomato paste (because I love it). That’s the only difference. And it was DELICIOUS. We both loved it. If you’re just feeding two, that mean’s there’ll be leftovers (there were plenty here), and I left them on low overnight, to keep cooking and getting more tender and delicious.

The next morning, you’ll fish out the beef and some of the liquid and put it away, it’s leftovers for another night. If you finished all the meat the night before, just leave the crock pot on the low setting so it keeps developing flavor. Then you’ll want to add a pound of black beans and half a box ( or 16 oz) of stock to the pot and turn it back to high. I don’t soak my beans overnight because I’m lazy and they come out just fine on the high setting.

Once the beans are cooked, blend the soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender. Saute a small onion and some garlic in olive oil and add it to the pureed soup. And that’s it. Serve it with a nice, crusty bread and you have a warm, delicious meal for a snowy day.

I’m going to show you the picture of this soup, but be warned: it’s not pretty…like, at all.

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See, not pretty. But it is DELICIOUS, and you should just take my word for that.

Italian Black Bean Soup Recipe

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Cheater’s Ravioli

I’ve been finding some awesome ravioli recipes, but I haven’t even started to master making fresh pasta…so I needed a different way to try my ravioli recipes.

And then it came to me: I could stuff it into manicotti. And that is what this recipe is. It’s portobello mushroom manicotti. Instead of using any recipe I found online, I just made it up on the spot.

Here’s most of what you’ll need:

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I added a few things along the way (there was no real plan, I was completely improvising.), and, you’re obviously going to need some kind of pasta sauce (I used the pot of sauce I have in the fridge), but I’ll let you know what you’ll need.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

So, you’re gonna want to start a pot of water to cook the manicotti (this recipe will make more than enough for the entire box, if that’s what you’ll need. For two people, half the box will do. Go ahead and wash the mushrooms and let them drain in the sink while you chop the onion and garlic (I used 4 cloves) very finely. In a somewhat large pan, go ahead and start cooking the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil over medium heat, until they’re soft and the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, chop the mushrooms finely, adding them to the pan once the onions and garlic are soft. Add salt and pepper while the mushrooms are cooking, letting them go until they’re soft. Add the mushroom mix to a blender, including all the liquids in the pan, add a little heavy cream (or milk will work, too), and blend until at least somewhat smooth. It doesn’t have to be that smooth, there can be some texture to it. Fold the pureed mushroom and ricotta together until completely mixed.

When the water boils, cook the manicotti according to package directions, then drain. You’ll want to let them cool a little before handling them, and you’ll probably be working on other things while that happens anyway. Go ahead and put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Once they’re cool, unless you have a pastry bag, you can split them down the middle, so they can lay flat, and fill them with the mushroom-ricotta filling before rolling them back up. If you have a pastry bag, or know some other, brilliant way of filling manicotti, leave them whole and fill them. Also, if you know some other brilliant way of filling them, you should let me know.

If you do it my way, they’ll look like this when you’re done filling them:

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Cover them with another layer of sauce. If you want to, add a layer of mozzarella over the sauce, but I didn’t because I ran out of cheese (which is a total crime in our household). Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered if you don’t have cheese, but I’d cover it if you add cheese for the first 15 minutes at least.

And, enjoy!

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I know I sure did.

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Gazpacho

This is a post with no pictures…I meant to take them, but I didn’t, and it’s a complete original, too. I actually wrote down what I was putting in it and how much, just for y’all. I started at the grocery store, knowing that I wanted to make a gazpacho to go with a dinner, so I picked up a few tomatoes and a cucumber and left it at that. Without further ado, my gazpacho recipe:

3 large tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs)

1 cucumber, peeled

8 oz of tomato sauce

8 oz water

3 cloves garlic

dash of cayenne pepper

salt & pepper to taste

red wine vinegar to taste

about 10 drops of lime juice

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Roughly chop the tomato and cucumber and blend with olive oil until smooth, in batches if necessary (if you want a chunky soup, reserve some of the tomato and cucumber and chop them smaller)
  2. Add garlic, tomato sauce and water and blend until mixed
  3. This is where I ran out of room in my blender, so I poured it all into a serving bowl and added everything else, to taste.
  4. Let chill in the fridge at least an hour before serving.

I made the mistake of over-seasoning a little bit, though, so I would recommend stopping just before you feel like it’s seasoned enough. Especially with the vinegar. I like things a little more of the sour/salty side, but take my advice, stop before you think it’s done. Once you put it in the fridge, the flavors will build on themselves and get stronger. After it’s been in the fridge for a while, taste it and adjust the seasoning to be more exact for you.

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Making Butter

My Kitchenaid mixer is probably my most prized possession. It was a Christmas present from my mother-in-law, and since moving to Kansas, it has gotten pretty constant use. Now, this isn’t a normal post, because this was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, but I didn’t save the link. I had leftover cream from my Salted Caramel Sauce that I made, and no idea what to do with it. And then I remembered that I’d read something about making butter with the same heavy cream that I had on hand. And I ended up looking at several different sites (none of which I remember at this point) to get enough tips to do it myself.

And this was basically the most simple thing I’ve ever done. It’s as easy as putting the cream in my mixer and turning it on. The first time, it took me almost half an hour to get the cream churned into butter, because I didn’t listen to the hint I’d gotten to let the cream get to room temperature. The second time, I did listen to that, and thought it would still take a while, so I ended up turning it on and vacuuming while I waited. By the time I got to the kitchen (because there’s carpet there, too) it was done.

The hardest part is getting the remaining milk out of the butter. I’m very taken with using cheesecloth on the outside, because handling butter with your bare hands (even under freezing water) gives you slippery, greasy hands. And that parts takes time and patience as well. What I haven’t figured out is if it’s worth making my own butter, financially. With a quart of cream, I can make about a pound of butter, which is what I usually buy. Right now, I haven’t found a quart of cream for cheaper than a pound of butter, but I’m still trying to find the best places to shop here anyway. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for cheap cream.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

OK, so, Cream of Mushroom Soup. This is something I’ve always seem come from can , and usually cooked with chicken and rice. SO why no make it myself? I thought it sounded like a good idea and I turned to my go-to online recipe file allrecipes for an easy cream of mushroom soup recipe and found the one from the picture. Go, take a look at the recipe, than come back for the twists. I’ll wait, I promise.

So now that you’ve seen the super-simple recipe, I’ll tell you what I did and what was different. First, I discovered that I had no chicken stock that wasn’t frozen…oops. And I don’t have chicken bouillon cubes, so I used beef instead. And I didn’t have thyme (although I did have plenty of time). I’m terrible, I know, ignore the bad jokes.

I followed the directions (with the changes above), and added two cloves of garlic (because I have a total love affair with garlic).

There’s everything boiling away in the pot, getting nice and soft together in the improvised beef stock. I also had a brilliant idea while the mushrooms were cooking down to use my immersion blender to get everything blended together, but I don’t recommend it. It really, really didn’t work out for me. I ended up still needing to use my actual blender.

It looks pretty bad, right? It’s just about one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Now, when it came to making the roux, I had about half a sick of butter in the fridge, so I decided to use 4 tbsp of butter instead of 3…and initially i stuck with the original amount of flour, too, but ended up adding another tbsp to make up the difference. This made my soup a lot more thick than it was supposed to be, and I’ll tell you how I fixed that later.

Roux is something I’m still learning, so I have no idea if that looks right (someone can let me know, ok?), but it seemed about right, so I added the milk (forgot the half-half) and the pureed mushroom mix back into the pot to cook again.

I mixed it together and realized that it was super-super thick. Like, way, way too thick. So I added more milk. And I didn’t measure, because I’m terrible at measuring. But I got it down to a thinner consistency and let it thicken up a little bit again until it looked (and tasted) good. I was also adding the salt and pepper and a little bit of garlic powder to get the taste back to what I wanted. This is where I ended up:

This made two pints of soup (more than I would use soon) and it’s not the pretties thing in the world, but it came out tasty and it’ll go nice with my chicken and rice tomorrow night.

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