Monthly Archives: November 2015

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara / Spaghetti / Tomato Sauce

My mother was a first generation American. Both of her parents were from Italy. Since I started cooking at a very early age, she taught me how to make homemade marinara / spaghetti / tomato sauce (whatever you want to call it) when I was in elementary school. Really! After all these years I had not put this recipe in a written form. I thought it was about time I did that, if for no other reason than to pass it along to my children. So, lucky you! You get to share in this recipe too!

Below is the recipe, followed by a video where I demonstrate making it. Of course, it’s very flexible with the seasonings. Feel free to adjust to your taste.

Enjoy!
Judi

Homemade Tomato / Marinara / Spaghetti Sauce
Makes About 2-1/2 Quarts
(No worries…freeze the extra in small containers)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp dried garlic powder)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (or 1 to 2 Tbsp dried minced onion)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled, left whole or finely grated (recommended, but optional)
2 (28 oz) cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
1 (12 oz) can water (or more if needed)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-1/2  to 2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and vegetables (garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrot). Stir and saute the vegetables until they start to soften. Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover the pot. Allow sauce to simmer gently for about 2 hours or more if you want a thicker sauce. Stir sauce occasionally as it cooks so it does not burn on the bottom. Taste after 30 minutes and adjust seasonings, if desired. Continue cooking until sauce is thick and flavors are blended well. Serve with pasta, stuffed cabbage or peppers, chicken cacciatore, Swiss steak, and use on pizza, or in any dish calling for a tomato-based sauce. Cool extra sauce and freeze in small containers, enough for one meal at a time.

Note: If you want to add ground beef or sausage to this sauce, brown the meat in the pan you plan to cook the sauce in. Drain excess fat and proceed as directed. If a little fat is left in the pan, you can omit the olive oil.

If you want to add meat balls to the sauce, it is best to prepare the meat balls and precook them before adding them to the sauce. This avoids having excessive fat in the sauce. Add them to the sauce after combining all ingredients. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce as it cooks.

When time is short, this sauce cooks well in a slow cooker. Simply place all ingredients in the slow cooker early in the day, and cook on low until supper time. You’ll have homemade sauce, ready to go!

Traditional Apple Pie (Bakery Recipe)

Traditional Apple Pie (Bakery Recipe)

Pie season is here! Apples have fallen off the trees and the pumpkins have been picked. Snow will be falling soon, and ovens will be hot, filling homes with delightful aromas of fresh baked goods, casseroles, breads, and other delicious goodies.

So, it’s time to share the recipe I used at my bakery for a traditional apple pie. I sold literally hundreds of these pies over the years and had MANY orders for them at Thanksgiving. The recipe is below, followed by a video showing how I make the pie. Some extra tips are also included in the video.

Enjoy!
Judi

Traditional Apple Pie (My Bakery Recipe)
Makes 1 Pie

6 to 8 tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp butter
Prepared pastry for one 9″ 2-crust pie

In a medium bowl, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and flour. Pour into a crust-lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Place top crust over pie and cut slits in top crust. Flute edges. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour, until bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool 1 to 2 hours to set up before cutting. Refrigerate if pie will not be eaten right away.

*Note: If you prefer very tender fruit filling, the apples may be cooked briefly before being used in the pie filling.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix

Review of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix

For anyone who must eat gluten free and who loves bread, life can be extremely challenging. Ready-to-eat gluten free breads are tasteless, often dry, and don’t have quite the texture you’re expecting. Homemade recipes often turn out crumbly and don’t hold together like bread should. And never mind the flavor…oh my!

Yet, gluten free options are growing in the marketplace. And that’s to be expected…the demand is growing for assorted reasons. After being disappointed about gluten free recipes and options many times over, I decided to try once again to enjoy bread, and review the product at the same time.

Today’s test is on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix. (Please note that I have no connections with the Bob’s Red Mill company, other than buying their products at the supermarket.) Here’s my two cents…

Price. First of all the price seems hefty, at just under $5 a bag where I purchased it. However, when comparing it to the price of ready-to-eat gluten free loaves, it was comparable. So I suppose that’s about all one could ask.

“Hidden” raisins. When I picked up the package I couldn’t see any raisins. No matter how I jostled the bag around I couldn’t see any raisins, so I guessed they were in a separate pack inside, even though the directions didn’t mention any raisin package and they weren’t among the added ingredients I needed. Well, the raisins were there…just “hidden.” When I emptied the package into my mixing bowl, the raisins were there, and they were plentiful! They were well coated with the flour mixture, so they just weren’t visible while in the bag. Thanks, Bob!

Ingredients. The bag includes a separate yeast package, which is to be expected. Other than that, you add warm water, eggs and oil, in a specific order, proofing the yeast first. Very reasonable and most people would have those few ingredients on hand.

Ease of mixing. The instructions recommend using a stand mixer, which I have. With that appliance, the ingredients blended extremely easily and quickly into a smooth but rather thick batter. Without a stand mixer, it will likely involve  a lot of hand mixing to achieve the same smooth texture achieved with the stand mixer. The package says it will be like cake batter. No so to me. IF it was cake batter, it’s so thick I expect you’d have a really dry cake on your hands. It IS smooth like cake batter, but don’t expect it to be as thin because it’s much thicker than that.

Raisin Bread Ready to Rise

Raisin Bread Ready to Rise

Baking pan. The instructions call for a greased 9×5 nonstick loaf pan. I do not have a nonstick loaf pan. Instead I have a good quality aluminum loaf pan. With that, I greased it well with a pat of real butter and hoped for the best. No issues…the bread released easily after baking without any sticking whatsoever. Yeah!

Rise time. The instructions call for allowing the bread to rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes until the dough is level with the top of the pan. Mine took 53 minutes to reach that point. So, Bob is “right on” here.

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baking time. Bob calls for allowing the bread to bake for 60 to 65 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F. This bit of instruction may present issues with some people who don’t have an instant read thermometer (which in my life, is a kitchen essential). I baked the bread for 60 minutes and noticed it had pulled away from the sides of the pan. The internal temperature was close. I declared it to be done.

Cover with aluminum foil during baking. The instructions call for covering the loaf with aluminum foil while baking after it begins to brown. I did not have any foil at the time, so I baked it without the foil. I noticed that the bread was nicely browned when it was finished baking…not too dark. However, the top was very tough and dry. It was hard to poke the thermometer through the top of the bread to test the temperature. SO, apparently the foil recommendation is there not for browning, but for maintaining moisture in the loaf. I suggest you use the foil!

Sliced Raisin Bread

Sliced Raisin Bread

Allow bread to cool before slicing. This is a standard recommendation with all baked breads, and it’s no different here. If you cut bread while it’s hot (as delicious as it is), moisture escapes through the cut section and the bread will be dryer than it would have been otherwise. So, give it time to cool before slicing.

Ease of slicing and bread texture. To my absolute delight, this bread sliced easily despite the tough top crust (from my not using foil during the baking). The slices stayed together and didn’t fall apart as so often happens with homemade gluten free bread. The slices even looked like regular bread, or at least they were a very close second. Even the tough top crust was easy to slice with my serrated bread knife. Thanks again, Bob!

Taste. The taste was fair to me, not absolutely great and wonderful. To my surprise, the bread was moist, so that was a real plus. First I tasted it plain with nothing on it. Secondly, I toasted the rest of the slice and put (real) butter on it. It toasted well in that it browned nicely and held up during toasting. However even with butter, the taste was still a little bland. To me (and maybe not to you), it needed a little more cinnamon to give it a flavor boost. Gluten free flours are very tasteless and it’s often necessary to boost up flavorings to give the baked goods the flavor you’d expect. More cinnamon would have masked the bland flavor of the flours/starches used in the mix.

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Overall. Overall, I think this is a good product and I will buy it again. It does take some time to make in that it’s a slow riser and slow baker. However, as long as you’re home, you can do other things during the down times. The price is comparable to other gluten free breads and mixes that are available, so it’s not unreasonable. The flavor could stand some improvement, but that’s likely to be said about all and any gluten free baked goods. A little cinnamon and sugar on it will go a long way in making you feel like you’re eating regular raisin bread.

Thank you, Bob!
Judi 🙂

Pumpkin Pie (Bakery Recipe)

Pumpkin Pie (My Bakery Recipe)

Pumpkin pie is a staple dessert in the fall, especially at Thanksgiving. When I had my bakery, I literally sold hundreds of pumpkin pies made with this recipe over the years. They were favored by many and this same recipe has long been used by my family also. I’m sharing it with you!

Below is the recipe, followed by a link to my video showing how to make it. (The pie crust is left for another video/post.)

Enjoy!
Judi

Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1 each 9″ Pie

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
(regular is preferred, but low-fat is acceptable)1 unbaked pie crust (9″ preferred)

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Stir in the pumpkin, then eggs; combine well. Whisk in the evaporated milk and mix until well blended. Pour into a fluted, unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for another 50 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 1 to 2 hours. Serve and refrigerate leftovers.

Note: If your pie pan is smaller than 9″ and you have too much filling, simply bake the extra in a greased bowl. Enjoy it as pumpkin pudding!

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

I love bell peppers, any way they’re fixed…raw, added to a salad, sauteed, and stuffed. Here’s a recent recipe I’ve developed that’s quickly become one of our favorites! The recipe is below and that’s followed by a video showing the making of this delicious vegetarian  dish. Enjoy! Judi

Meatless Stuffed Peppers
Makes 3 Servings

3 bell peppers, washed, tops and cores removed
1 can beans of choice, rinsed and drained
(or 1-3/4 cups cooked dried beans of choice)
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced fresh tomato
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped vegetable of choice
(ie fresh or frozen kale, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash), optional
2-3 tsp dried minced onion*
1/2 to 3/4 tsp garlic powder*
1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried basil leaves
1 to 1-1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 to 3/8 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Tomato sauce of choice
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare bell peppers and place them in a deep casserole dish that has a lid; set aside. In a food processor, coarsely process 2/3 to 3/4 of the cooked beans, leaving the remaining beans whole; set aside.

In a large bowl, add the prepared beans, cooked rice, diced tomato and other vegetable of choice, the herbs, and salt and pepper. Add grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Stir to combine. Spoon in tomato sauce until ingredients bind together, using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the tomato sauce.

Spoon filling into prepared bell peppers. Place another tablespoon or two of tomato sauce on top of the peppers and place about 1/3 cup of the sauce around the peppers in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place lid on casserole.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes, until peppers are tender and filling is very hot. Remove from oven and put the peppers onto serving plates. Spoon sauce from the bottom of the casserole onto peppers as a garnish. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

*If preferred, fresh onion and garlic may be used. Use 2 or 3 large cloves garlic, minced, and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped onion. Saute briefly in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil until barely tender. Add to mixture as per instructions above.