Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When Artists Cook

Hi, it's Jenn of Just Add Water Silly again. You know, I'm not much of a Halloween fan, after I got over the free candy, all the fun kinda went out of it for me. Although, I do truly love the Fall season. I love how the leaves turn beautiful colors and the weather cools down. "Sweater weather" is what we call it here in BC. We're so lucky here on the West Coast, the weather cools down but usually stays seasonable and enjoyable throughout Fall and even Winter.

I remember many Christmases where we spent Boxing Day skate boarding or at the beach, throwing rocks into the surf. Now, don't get me wrong, it does get cold here sometimes. Autumn can cause you to need not just a sweater but gloves and a muffler too. It just usually wouldn't last long. Think days filled with sweaters and falling leaves and nights warmed by a good fire in the fireplace. October days would bring thoughts of warm stew and steaming cups of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. It was just cold enough to make you feel cozy in your home. 
It was also a time for preserving, canning and freezing all the available produce that had either been grown in our own backyard or purchased at the local markets. I remember shelves and shelves of "put up" peaches, pears, cherries, apricots, pickles, tomato sauce, jams, jellies and apple sauce. One year we even made sauerkraut!! Another year, with a bounty of sour wine grapes at the ready, ripe and waiting on our laden back fence, mom found an obscure grape pie recipe and we got together with a couple of families and made more than a hundred pies, lol. We still get requests dozens of years later for a piece of mom's grape pie!! (unfortunately, it's just not the same without those special grapes!)

We also would work together with good friends and produce full meals that were freezer friendly. We had dozens of great "stick to your ribs" recipes that could be frozen for months and just popped into the oven when needed. It was a great time saver and always tasted like home cooked scrumptiousness. I thought I'd share one of those simple but terrific recipes with you today.
Title: "Jack"
(although I'm not sure why we didn't call it Canadian Fry!)
  • elbow macaroni (rotini would work just as well)
  • lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • large can diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cans mushrooms (depending on how much you're making)
  • marjoram
  • thyme
  • basil
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • butter (for sautéing onions & garlic)
  1. Get a large pot of salted water on to boil and cook your pasta. (if you're going to freeze this, slightly undercook the pasta.)
  2. Sauté the onions and garlic in some butter in a large skillet until the onions are translucent.
  3. Throw in the ground beef and cook until done. (don't skim off the excess fat, it'll help bring out the flavors of the sauce, if there's too much fat in the end, you can skim off the excess easily.)
  4. Add the whole can (with juice) of diced tomatoes and mushrooms.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and your spices until you think it'll taste good. You're going for an italian pasta sauce taste, although mom usually didn't use as much oregano than a pasta sauce would normally need.
  6. Now, cover your sauce and let simmer for a good hour or so. The more time it has to simmer, the better it'll be.
  7. If your tomato sauce is a little to acidic, add a pinch or so of sugar to balance out the acid.
  8. When your sauce tastes like ambrosia, add the pasta and let sit on low heat for another half hour, allowing the pasta to soak up the flavors. If the American fry becomes too thick, thin out a little with some chicken stock or water. 
  9. This recipe freezes beautifully and can be reheated in the oven at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.
  10. Add a side of hot cornbread or fresh buns for dipping and you're all set! Oh, and I recommend doing a double or triple batch as this recipe is even better a day later!
I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween and the Candy Gods are good to you.
Happy Autumn, now on to Thanksgiving!