Monday, August 30, 2010

Kicking Up The Classics

Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? The awesome thing about spaghetti and meatballs is that there are thousands of different recipes for the sauce, the noodles, and the meatballs. But in the end.. it's still one the most loved food classics.

I made spaghetti on Friday night for my husband, who had a long and draining week. It has taken me years and dozens of different variations of this recipe. I'm really pleased with how the meatball ingredients turned out... this was the first time I tried it this way and it worked out the best so far. I've heard good things about Vodka Sauce (no, it's not what you think it might be) so I wanted to give it a try. Vodka Sauce is essentially a tomato sauce with half & half. I thought it was a great change from the typical tomato sauce but, I'm not sure that I'd try it again.

Mara's Spaghetti & Meatballs
Prep Time = 20 minutes
Cook Time = 30 minutes

- 1 lb of ground lean meat (turkey is healthy but not quite the same - I used a combo of lean beef and pork)
- 1 tbsp grated onion (I substituted this for the egg that is typically used for meatballs.. and this seemed to keep the meat moist without letting it fall apart)
- 1/4 cup minced sweet onion
- 1 tbsp fresh basil
- 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp bread crumb (Italian)
- 1 clove grated garlic (I use a micro-plane and highly recommend it)
- Italian seasoning
- Salt, pepper
- Combine together in a bowl (don't be afraid to use your hands - soap and water works wonders). Roll into the size a little larger than a ping-pong ball. Place a cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 10-13 minutes. The only negative thing that I can see about baking the meatballs is that one side will get a little charred if they aren't flipped. But, it is the healthiest option in comparison to frying in a pan.

- Add a box of spaghetti noodles to a large pot, boil, and drain. Set the noodles aside.
- Add 1 jar of Vodka Sauce to the same pot. At this time you can also add 1 chopped fresh tomato - we received about 8 garden fresh tomatoes from our neighbors. This gives the sauce a little more texture. If you prefer no texture.. that's okay too.
- Heat the sauce until it bubbles and then stir in the noodles and meatballs.
- Simmer together for approximately 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Honey, Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 tbsp of honey (it's a pain to measure honey though so I suggest not doing that)
- 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Whisk rapidly until completely combined and add to the top of your desired salad

Field greens, sweet onion, salt and pepper

My dinner - Paired with a light glass of Chardonnay

This was my own little version of Italian cooking. If my husband has been through a rough week.. I like that he can come home, eat some dinner and melt his cares away. It brings me joy. 

I hope you try this and enjoy it as much as we did. 

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Happened To That Cheese?

Looking for a healthy lunch that is affordable and will keep you full until dinner time?

The latest craze in my kitchen is bleu cheese. I used to LOATHE bleu cheese.. in fact, I ordered a Cobb Salad when I was 13 and thought someone had put dish soap in as the dressing. But, as you get older and TRY more foods that are full of flavor.. you might begin to love the foods that you used to hate. I actually started by trying gorgonzola first - which is basically a rich and creamy version of bleu cheese. Yum! So I finally opened my mind up to trying the cheese-gone-bad again. And 14 years later... I have become a bleu advocate.

So here is a salad that you will probably find in any health food magazine or book... the difference is that I'm not a health-nut.... I'm just a girl that enjoys a little flavor in my life. Try this for lunch one day.. it gives you a lot of nutritional options that your heart and waist will thank you for (well.. I hope that my does, any way!).

Raspberry and Bleu Cheese Salad
- Spinach OR Romaine Salad mix (even better if you get it FRESH from the farmers market)
- Bleu Cheese Crumbles - this can be found in the dairy section on the shelf below the shredded cheese
- Halved Walnuts - toasted or untoasted
- Raspberries - antioxidants anyone??
- Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette with Poppyseeds (Made with EVOO) - found by all the other Kraft dressings ... or if you prefer something with no fat that's fine. I've tried a lot of dressings and found this one to be the best.

Get the raspberries when they're in season - otherwise they will run up your grocery bill. The dressing can run you about $3 - 4 so, maybe find a coupon for it. And the bleu cheese crumbles are a little pricey, about $4 depending on where you go. The good thing about bleu cheese is that it will last a long time... it's already moldy right? Ha!

Well.. I hope that you enjoy this lunch option. I was itching to write about something so even if you don't have an exploratory palate.. that's okay. Thanks for reading.

Coming later this evening (hopefully!) ... Spaghetti and homemade meatballs.. with green bean and a honey balsamic dressing. Mmm! Can't wait. Off to the grocery store....

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Comfort Food - The Unsung Hero

On days that we've been broken down.. disappointed.. hurt.. saddened.. there is nothing better than coming home to a nice big plate or bowl of your favorite comfort food. A comfort food can come in many forms.. sandwiches, pasta, pizza, salad, soup, any thing. So when you've had a tiring and draining day.. what do you turn to?

I dealt with a few challenges and since Jon was out of town for the day.. I decided to find comfort in a nicely sized bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese. Mmm! For me there is nothing better on a tiring day than filling a bowl with delicious pasta and throwing some cheese on it. Let's be honest.. what doesn't taste good with cheese on it? - No need to insert a Wisconsin joke here.

Over the years.. I have attempted many forms of a homemade macaroni and cheese. It took some time to figure out what mixes well together, how to appropriately melt the cheese, which cheese melts the best, and what vegetables can be mixed in. This recipe is for one person. Here is what I made tonight (sorry no picture today)....

Mara's Mac-N-Cheese
- 1 cup of medium shell noodles
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 1/2 cup of marble jack cheese
- 1 tbsp of 2% or whole milk
- (Optional) 1/2 of a small diced sweet onion
- (Optional) 1/2 of a tomato - diced
- 1/2 clove of minced garlic
- Crushed red pepper (I don't measure but, if you'd like to try it.. add a small amount; you can always add more later if needed)
- Salt and pepper

Boil the noodles, strain and set aside. Melt 1 tbsp of butter into a medium sauce pan and add the onion (skip this step if you prefer no onion). Caramelize the onions to your preference. Add the noodles to the sauce pan and combine. Add 1 more tbsp of butter.. then add the cheese and a splash of milk. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

If I have time.. I would mix a combination of butter, flour, and milk to thicken the cheese. But, this is the quick version and ultimately serves the same purpose. It takes about 15 minutes and can be as fancy or as simple as you'd like. I have also added spinach and chicken - which are some other fun options.

I'm sure to some people this might not qualify as blog-worthy but, I think that all comfort foods deserve a little attention from time to time. Comfort foods are the unsung heroes of our day. So, if you're in need of a little comfy, cozy soul time.. I hope this recipe can provide that for you.

Have a great week all. :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Man Needs Meat and Potatoes

When I cook dinner.. I thoughtfully consider what will fill and please my husband's tummy. So, if you are married to or dating a meat and potatoes kind of guy.. I strongly urge you to try this recipe. Your man will love it.

Tonight's dinner was created (yet again) at random and inspired by mexican taco's or enchiladas. It's actually fairly simple.

Prep time = 20 - 25 minutes
Cook time = 25 - 30 minutes

Hashbrown Enchilada Casserole
- 1 lb of hash browns (I used cubed instead of shredded but, it doesn't matter what you choose)
- 1/2 of a sweet onion
- 1 cup of diced tomato (I chose grape tomatoes this time.. it took longer to cut so.. pick something else)
- 4 cheese Mexican (I used Reduced Fat)
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 can of mild red enchilada sauce (my hubby is spice sensitive.. I'd prefer spicy)
- (Optional) 1 lb of ground meat
- (Optional) 1 jalapeno
- 1/2 of diced scallions (add at the end)
- Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in any particular order.. doesn't matter. Make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed in the casserole pan. Add the cheese to the top and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes - covered. Add the scallions. Uncover. Bake for an additional 5 - 7 minutes.

This was my first time making this recipe. Oh my goodness.. Wow! Every bite has a different texture and flavor. The tomatoes give it a sweetness and the beans give it softness... the potato and the onion have contrasting texture. It was surprisingly delicious.

I don't think I have ever seen Jon eat his dinner so fast. I did actually time him and he consumed the large proportion of the casserole in less than 3 minutes. I was shocked yet satisfied with his reaction to my cooking. I'm sure that your man will love it too.

This is before baking the casserole

After removing the foil and adding the scallions

Time to eat!

My plate 

Jon's plate

I decided to add a simple side to this mexican inspired dish. Corn seemed fitting for the meal. We had a glass of fruity Chardonnay with dinner.. I believe it was called "Lucky Duck" for $7 at Wal-Mart, believe it or not. 

If I had to guess how much it cost to make this dinner.. I would say $15.. plus not a lot of time. :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Art of Relaxation - Kitchen Style

What is it about cooking that is so relaxing? Tonight, I came home from work exhausted from not sleeping the night before.. mentally drained.. and mostly in the mood for lying on the couch with a movie and frozen pizza. BUT instead.. I dragged myself into the kitchen and started throwing another random dinner together.

I spent 20 minutes prepping tilapia, red potatoes, onion and green peppers for the grill. I fired up our glass top stove and threw in some gnocchi with butter. Yum!

20 more minutes later and my cares are wiped away.

I love creating a meal and I love it even more when my husband loves what I have created. My evening is now complete. Good night readers! :)

What's in my refrigerator? - Part 1

As a creative food lover, one of my favorite things to do is take a bunch of items out of my refrigerator and mix it with a pasta. You may find that a lot of my blogs end up being some sort of pasta or pizza dish. I will try to branch out as I get more and more adventurous. Please keep in mind that I don't really measure anything when I'm cooking.. so this is more of an assumption.

But who doesn't love pasta? There is SO much that you can do with it. On this particular day, Jon and I had a bunch of new vegetables in the fridge. I paired this dish with a simple salad and called it a night...

The inspiration for this dish was pizza. I was in the mood for pizza but, didn't have dough or enough cheese. So here is what I used...

Tomato & Basil Pizza Pasta
- 2 and a half cups of pasta (shape doesn't matter. Use something that isn't a spaghetti noodle and isn't flat.)
- 1 small jar of plain tomato sauce
- Half of a sweet onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of fresh basil
- 1 cup of sliced cherry tomatoes - or you can use a different kind of tomato
- 2 hand fulls of shredded mozzarella
- 1 clove of grated garlic
- 2 tablespoons of EVOO
- Salt and Pepper

Cover and bake at 425 for 15 - 20 minutes in a medium sized pan. I will be completely honest and say that I don't know what or if there is a name for that pan but that's okay.. you get the idea. Check the dish after 15 or 20 minutes, uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

You can add the basil before or after baking this dish. You can also add meat, if you prefer. A great choice would be pepperoni, italian sausage - sliced or chunked.

Serve and enjoy!

You will love how fresh it tastes and the uniqueness the pasta brings, rather than pizza dough. I'd like to suggest a semi-dry fruity chardonnay or pinot grigio to go with this dish. :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.