Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Yes You Can: Make Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Can you hear it calling?

I’m about to do you a favor. You’re going to use my Grandma Forsythe’s spaghetti sauce recipe for the rest of your life. You’re going to pass it down to your children–and they’ll pass it on to theirs. This is why:

  • This spaghetti sauce is amazingly tasty
  • It’s super easy–it just needs simmer time
  • Also: quite cheap
  • You don’t need a lot of tools: a cutting board, knife, frying pan, pot, and spoon should do it
  • It will make your house smell amazing

This is one of my go-to recipes that has seen me from my first apartment in college to present-day dinner parties with out-of-town guests. Everyone (who eats meat) loves it!

I’ve altered the recipe just a tad over the years–the original called for vegetable shortening and garlic salt. Also, this is actually part of my Grandma Forsythe’s fabulous lasagna recipe–and it is fabulous, rich and delicious and perfect for potlucks or families with new babies. But making lasagna is a pain, and making spaghetti is easy and still quite rewarding. So let’s get to it.

Grandma Forsythe’s Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Makes enough sauce for at least two pounds of pasta

You Need:

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large (28 oz) cans tomato sauce
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water with bouillon cube (I usually use a cup of water with a teaspoon of beef “Better Than Bouillon,” or a cup of chicken stock, or water in a pinch)
1 lb ground beef
1 lb mild Italian sausage

Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add the next six ingredients. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

In a frying pan, saute the ground beef and Italian sausage until cooked through. Drain and add to the sauce. Simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, and then cook spaghetti according to the package directions. Toss with sauce, then top with a little additional sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Lasagna Variation

Serves at least 12

You Need:

1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese
Parmesan (unspecified: I use at least 1 cup)
1/2 box lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions and spread out on cookie sheets. Place 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ pan. Place a third of the noodles over the sauce and top with 1/2 of the ricotta and mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan. Repeat with 1/4 sauce, 1/ 3 noodles, 1/2 of the ricotta and mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan. Finish with a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining parmesan cheese. To make ahead: refrigerate at this point if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (longer if refrigerated). Let set 20 minutes before serving. Mangia!

Your Potluck and New Baby Go-to: El Dorado Casserole

Juanitas Tortilla Chips

I don’t have a casserole picture! I’ll have to take one next time. But use Juanita’s chips, if you can!

El Dorado casserole was so prevalent in our family growing up that I refused to make it for years–especially when I got into Martha Stewart and “real cooking” in college. This was a main dish made with crushed tortilla chips and canned sliced olives! I certainly could not make it for other people!

But El Dorado casserole is comfort food in the extreme–beefy, creamy, cheesy, salty, and crunchy.

I believe this was either my Grandma Benge’s or Great-Grandma Potter’s recipe, and it was always the go-to dish when I was a child. Mom liked to make it when we were expecting out-of-town company, which I never understood as a young adult–couldn’t we make something fancier? Now I see: it appeals to virtually anyone, feeds a crowd, and can be ready and waiting to pop in the oven at a moment’s notice–especially handy in pre-cell phone times, when we were never quite sure when our road-tripping guests’ car would pull up.

My snobbishness about El Dorado casserole cracked when I made it as a backup dish for a huge dinner for a group (it is awfully handy). My friend Caroline glared at me as she scarfed it up, demanding, “Why haven’t you ever made this for me before?!?”

So make this and bring it to potlucks, freeze it and gift it to baby-having friends, and–of course–use it to welcome out-of-town guests and torment teenage would-be foodies.

El Dorado Casserole

Serves 8-12

You Need:

1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. minced onion (I usually use a whole onion)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 cup sour cream (I accidentally doubled this once and I’ve always made it that way going forward)
1 cup cottage cheese (ditto)
1 4-oz. can green chiles
Monterey jack cheese, grated (there’s never been a published measurement, just have at least 2 cups)
1 8-oz package tortilla chips, crushed (I just start crushing chips–Juanita’s, of course–from a big bag and layer as needed)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat in a pan and add onion, garlic salt, and tomato sauce. Combine the next four ingredients in a separate bowl.

Place a layer of crushed tortilla chips in a greased 8″ x 13″ casserole dish. Layer on half of the meat mixture, top with half of the sour cream mixture, and then sprinkle on a layer of cheese. Repeat with chips, meat mixture, sour cream mixture, and cheese. Top with additional chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. We usually had this with salad on the side, and if we were at my Grandma Benge’s, she would make sure to save any leftover (dressed!) salad in the fridge, which I attributed to her living through the Depression. Listen, I said I was snobby already.

Taco Salad

Taco Salad: Your Post-Cinco de Mayo Cleanup Recipe!

Taco Salad

I admit, I ate a couple bites before I remembered to take a photo. It’s that good!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today, people of Mexican descent celebrate the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla back in 1862. And the rest of us? Well, we use it as an excuse to consume tacos and margaritas. But what about after Cinco de Mayo, when your fridge is stocked with the spoils of your taco fest? That’s where my taco salad recipe comes in.

This year, to make meal planning easier, I’ve instituted a Taco Tuesday every week. We’ve happily eaten crispy chicken tacos, shrimp tacos, pulled pork tacos, etc. However, I realized that when I made the “traditional” Americanized ground beef and refried bean tacos, I had a lot of leftovers that would languish in the refrigerator. One pound of spiced ground beef + three to four cups of homemade refried beans – six small tacos between the three of us = a lot of waste.

Enter the taco salad! While of course we could just make tacos again, a properly made taco salad is a delight, and an excellent way to put a new spin on leftovers. The key is in getting all of the different temperatures and textures just right: cool crispy lettuce, warm meat and beans, tangy dressing, creamy avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, spicy salsa–yum, I’m drooling right now! Plus, it’s super easy.

Now your taco salad could look very different than mine–it just depends on what you have on hand. What really brings this together, in my opinion, is the dressing and the crispy tortilla strips. Here goes!

Post-Cinco de Mayo Taco Salad
Serves: However Many You Can Feed

For the salad:
Taco meat
Refried beans
Shredded cheese
Chopped red onions
Dressing (recipe below)
Tortilla strips (how-to below, or use tortilla chips)

On a plate or shallow bowl, layer your lettuce and sprinkle with part of the onion and cilantro. Drizzle with a little dressing. Warm your beans and meat (I tend to just do this in the microwave) and layer some over the lettuce. Add cheese, salsa, avocado, more onions and cilantro, and more dressing. Top with tortilla strips or chips and eat immediately!

For the dressing (multiply as needed):
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or regular yogurt)
1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste (or lime juice)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the mayo and yogurt together, then add red wine vinegar to taste. Whisk in the cumin and cayenne, and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the tortilla strips (multiply as needed):
Vegetable oil
Corn tortillas (1/2 to 1 per salad), cut into 1/2″ strips

In a small frying pan, add about 1/8″ of oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tortilla strips in one layer (do multiple batches if you have a lot, don’t crowd them). Fry for a minute or two per side, stirring with a metal slotted spoon. Remove to a plate to drain, then use while still warm.

Other excellent additions to your taco salad:

  • Seasoned rice
  • Corn or other sauteed vegetables
  • Olives
  • Green chiles
  • Swap out the meat and beans for grilled shrimp

As you can see, this is a super-easy, super-flexible recipe that you can make your own, and enjoy a fresh, new bonus meal while using up those leftovers–before they end up down your garbage disposal.

Are you a taco salad aficionado? Do you have other clever ways to gussy up your leftovers? Share them below!

Chicken Soup With Rice

Circle of Chicken: Chicken Soup With Rice

There are two soups–plucked from my favorite childhood books–that fill some cozy recess of my soul, and chicken soup with rice is one of them.

Chicken Soup With Rice Maurice Sendak

A craving for chicken soup with rice took hold of me last week, seemingly out of the blue. In fact, I don’t have any memory of actually eating this soup, except perhaps at some diner that offered it as the soup of the day.

So I have no idea if this is an “authentic” chicken and rice soup recipe, it’s just the dish I always pictured when I read Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup With Rice. And it does seem to me like the kind of soup you can eat at any time of the year: warm and comforting, like a hug for your tummy.

Plus, I realized, this would make an excellent Circle of Chicken recipe, using the leftover meat from Perfect Roast Chicken and eight cups of Golden Chicken Broth of Happiness. This makes it incredibly convenient and inexpensive to make.

Golden Chicken Broth of Happiness

Chicken broth, ready and waiting from the freezer!

Now, if you are craving this soup and don’t have these items on hand, go right ahead with some best-quality canned or boxed broth and some shredded rotisserie chicken (or pop a chicken breast or two in with the rice, and then remove it, shred, and return it to the soup after it’s cooked through).

However, top-quality ingredients are the key to making a simple soup like this shine. I threw it together in about 30 minutes last night, and my husband is still raving about how good it was!

Chicken Soup With Rice
Serves 6

You need:

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4″-1/2″ dice
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/2-2 cups leftover chicken, chopped or shredded
2-3 cups of water, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Garlic, carrot, onion--oh my!

Garlic, carrot, onion–oh my!

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil; add the rice and stir. Let simmer 15 minutes, or until rice is soft. Add the leftover chicken and water, if desired (my soup got quite thick). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some warm bread and butter.
Chicken Soup With Rice

Chicken soup with rice, perfect for any month of the year.

Do you have any go-to soup recipes? Favorite children’s books? Post them below!

Happy Monday: Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Happy Monday! Here are some fun/interesting/hilarious links to help you transition into your work week–or, if you’re me, finish up the weekend’s laundry and plan a trip to WinCo. Yes I am living the dream, thank you very much.

Coming later this week: more Circle of Chicken recipes (I’m testing a new one tonight!), a post about baby bedtime routines (I swear Sarah’s has made everything better), and probably more X-Men and Murder, She Wrote hijinks.

But first: let’s see how Jessica Fletcher feels about Mondays!

Via Murder, She Blogged, a fantastic and funny MSW recap site.

Via Murder, She Blogged, a fantastic and funny MSW recap site.

I heard about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek‘s inscrutable Mr. Spock, with a heavy heart. Not only did Nimoy perfectly inhabit a beloved character for decades, but he was also an incredibly decent human being who believed strongly in loving and respecting others. NPR has a wonderful interview with him here. This weekend we watched Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (weeping through Spock’s funeral) and  , which was directed by Nimoy. He was proud of the fact that there was no “villain” to kill in this movie–instead, the conflict sprung from human nature.

Another Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast is live! This week, they tackle the Shadow King, Charles Xavier’s inconsistent mobility, and New Mutants #29-34. If you missed my announcement last week, I was lucky enough to be tapped to guest host next week’s episode, in which Miles and I explore the 1985 and 1997 X-Men/Alpha Flight miniseries. Huge thanks to Rachel and Miles!

Want to cook something healthy, cheap, and incredibly delicious? Braised Coconut Spinach with Chickpeas and Lemon gets five stars in my book!

Need something to watch? Here’s The Best and Worst of What’s New on Netflix This Month, according to Pajiba. Best? Secret of NIMH. Worst? Grease 2. Or is that the best worst? I might want a Cool Rider!

I have a confession: I love, love, love Jennifer L. Scott’s Daily Connoisseur weblog and books. Her 10-Item Wardrobe made me so much better organized–and dressed! I also love that she emphasizes pursuing cultural activities and finding enjoyment in your everyday life. However, she’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, because she sometimes comes off like Diane Chambers. You know what I mean. I mean, I love my trash, too!

Got any awesome blogs to share–even your own? Post ’em below!

Make Brunch for 50 for About $110

Since I moved back to Portland, Oregon in 2005, I’ve thrown about 40 brunches. I started this for two reasons: one, when I first moved back, I lived in a tiny apartment and wanted to see as many old friends as possible. Brunch = eating standing up, if done correctly. And two, I had spent a stint working as a cook at the Point Way Inn, a bed and breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard, under the tutelage of Jaclyn Bettencourt.

The reason I kept doing brunches all these years? I discovered it was damn cheap. For example, I had about 52 people at my most recent brunch. The cost? About $110. Think about it: if you cook from scratch, brunch is made out of some very reasonably priced ingredients. Flour. Eggs. Cheese. Bacon.

Here’s the menu for this week’s Valentine’s Day brunch:

  • Heart-Shaped Donuts (both yeast-raised and chocolate cake varieties)
  • Tuscan Frittata Affrogata (baked in two heart-shaped cake pans, one without cheese)
  • This Breakfast Casserole (added to the menu at the last minute, made from leftover bread from the Heart-Shaped Toasts and a can of Ro-Tel, drained, in place of the tomatoes and mushrooms)
  • Heart-Shaped Toasts (rye and white bread, cut with cookie cutters) with cream cheese
  • Bacon (made in the oven, much easier to make alot on a large scale)
  • Strawberries
  • Coffee
  • Mimosas

Donuts from my most recent brunch–not for the faint of heart. Ha ha.

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I Made a Romantic Meal for My Husband, and What He Did Next SHOCKED Me!

Heh heh heh. My title is cracking me up. I can’t help it, those click-baity titles have quickly become parodies of themselves. But! I really do have a romantic Valentine’s Day meal to share: one that is perfect for last-minute planners, one that will fit most any budget or dietary restriction, and one that is sure to please your “special someone” (say that to yourself in your best Mrs. Roper voice), because it is easy to customize!


As with many people who used to work in the food service industry, I avoid going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it: it’s a pain. Everyone’s busy and stressed, it’s expensive, it’s super crowded, it’s pretty much the opposite of romantic. Plus, I obviously cook. Ha.

So I was wracking my brain for what to cook for Scott that would be special, and would also fit into our super-busy, we-have-two-children schedule, when it hit me . . . I’m not going to cook. I’m going to put together one of our favorite meals when it’s hot outside, or when I don’t feel like cooking, or when I want to eat all of our very favorite foods: an antipasto platter!

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