Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homemade SpaghettiOs & Meatballs

Many of us remember SpaghettiOs - the can of ring-shaped pasta in a tomato and cheese sauce - from our childhood years. My favorite was the variety with the meatballs containing meat of questionable origin. :)

Preparing to make some homemade SpaghettiOs

I decided it would be fun to make a homemade version. Tons of recipes are out there, and this is the recipe I used as a guide. But I ended up taking it a different direction and did my own thing with the sauce, meatballs, and even the pasta.

The meatball recipe is pretty much what I do when I make regular meatballs, only they were smaller. And I ended up adding some wine, herbs, and spices that are most likely absent in the canned version. The classic ring pasta was used, but do you remember how the canned SpaghettiOs had those really small rings mixed in with the bigger ones? I added a small amount of tiny "stelline" (star-shaped) pasta to account for this.

What I ended up with was one really fantastic batch of SpaghettiOs! Tangy, cheesy sauce, homemade meatballs that were far superior to the canned, and nicely textured pasta. It was like a trip down memory lane, only with better quality ingredients. How delicious. And fun!

Jean's Homemade SpaghettiOs & Meatballs

For the Pasta:

-12 oz. ring shaped pasta
-4 oz. tiny star-shaped pasta ("stelline")

Add the pasta to boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions (note - these two pastas have different cooking times. I started the rings, and added the stars three minutes later so they would be ready at the same time). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Add to a covered container and keep in the fridge until needed.

For the sauce:

-1 T. olive oil
-3/4 c. yellow onion, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic
-1/2 c. white wine
-1 28 oz. tomato sauce (I use Dei Fratelli "Italian Sauce")
-1/4 t. crushed red pepper
-1/4 t. dried oregano
-1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley, finely minced (optional)
-1 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Add the wine and tomato sauce. Stir well. Add the red pepper, oregano, and Italian parsley. Simmer for 15 minutes or so. As soon as you add the meatballs in the step below, also add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the Meatballs:

-1/2 lb. ground beef
-1/2 lb. ground pork
-1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, finely minced
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-1/2 t. crushed red pepper
-1 egg
-3/4 c. to 1 c. fine bread crumbs
-1/2 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
-1/2 t. kosher salt
-1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

Gently mix all ingredients until everything comes together. The mixture should not be too wet, but you don't want it dry, either. Feel free to adjust the amount of bread crumbs to achieve this. Pinch off small bits of the meat mixture and roll into small meatballs, approximately 3/4 inch in size. (These can be kept on a plate in the fridge, covered, for a few hours until ready to cook, or you can fry them up if you are ready to go.)

Fry in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. Do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Drain on a paper towel. Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce and allow to cook for 10 - 15 minutes or so to ensure the meatballs have cooked through.

Final assembly:

Add the pasta to the sauce and meatball mixture. Stir well so the sauce coats the pasta. Allow to cook for a couple minutes to ensure the pasta is heated through. Serve immediately, and enjoy the feeling of nostalgia while eating this homemade version of a childhood classic!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shrimp & Mushrooms

I made a new recipe on Sunday night that was really tasty - shrimp and mushrooms in spicy black bean oyster sauce. Of course, there were a couple of modifications:

1. I found an 8 oz. package of mixed, fresh shiitake, oyster, and crimini mushrooms. I used those in lieu of the dried shiitakes.

2. As I had no mushroom soaking liquid, I just used a cup of chicken stock to make the sauce mixture.

3. Didn't use the salted black beans, as I didn't have any. I used black bean & garlic sauce instead, and I just added this to the sauce .

4. I also added about a tablespoon of chile-garlic sauce to the sauce.

5. I did not coat the shrimp in cornstarch. I only added 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to the sauce and found that was more than enough to thicken it nicely.

6. I thought the dish needed some crunch, so I added a handful of cashews.

OK, so there were more than just a couple of modifications! That being said, the rest of the ingredients and amounts were as prescribed.

Shrimp and Mushrooms in Spicy Black Bean Oyster Sauce

I really enjoyed this dish. Plump shrimp and a variety of mushrooms in a spicy, flavorful sauce laced with ginger, chilies, and garlic...yum! I will definitely be making this one again. With my modifications, of course. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I have returned!

I am back from a trip up north to visit my family, eat really well, and watch a few birds. It was a fantastic week.

The weather was perfect. Perhaps the best I have experienced when visiting the folks. A little cool on some days, but pleasant and sunny. It made for excellent running (I ran five times - a great 12 miler, and a series of 5 milers) and hiking, which we did every day.

In addition to visiting the family, one of the reasons for visiting was for bird watching. This is traditionally a great week to observe migrating spring birds making their way back to the northern nesting grounds. Bird watching was pretty good, although I think next week will be better. Spring has been slow to arrive, and there seemed to be greater numbers of birds showing up as my vacation was ending. Several good warbler sightings, including the black-throated blue. Also got to see an eastern towhee, a bird I have not seen in MN in 25 years.

I got to hang out with my niece and nephew, which was a lot of fun. My nephew just turned two, and he seems to be a sharp kid who enjoys nature. I was outside with him and pointed out a blue butterfly. "Spring Azure!" he exclaimed. And he was right! It was indeed a Spring Azure. Amazing. He is learning well. And my six-month-old niece is developing a fun personality, giggling and laughing at her silly uncle. Great little kids.

Of course, I was fed well. Mom and Dad greeted me with a prime rib dinner, Dad made his signature smoked ribs, I cooked one night (made my fettuccine & meatball "lasagna," which received rave reviews!), and we dined out on a couple of occasions. I am still trying to figure out how I managed to lose a pound during my visit. :)

It was a wonderful vacation, and I got to spend quality time with some of my favorite people. What more could you want? Below are some images from my week:

New leaves sprouting on the trees - spring is just arriving in the Northland!

Pine cones hanging on a branch

The handiwork of the pileated woodpecker

A friendly black-capped chickadee enjoying a snack

Yours truly on one of many birding hikes

"The Sparrow Whisperer" - my sister-in-law resuscitating a white-throated sparrow that hit the window (he was fine)

Spring Beauty - these flowers were blanketing the forest floor at Oberg Mountain

Hiking at Oberg Mountain

Of course, we need some food pics! This was the sandwich I had at The Crooked Spoon Cafe in Grand Marais. This was the special of the day - a "grown up" grilled cheese with braised pork belly, assorted cheeses, tomato, sauteed apples, and arugula. Incredible!

These were Dad's apple wood smoked BBQ ribs with a bounty of veggies. Awesome!

And finally, a little video! We were wildly amused by this red squirrel trying to figure out how to get to the bird feeder. The pole is equipped with squirrel baffle and is lined with slippery PVC tubing. This guy wasn't successful, but Dad said one of them has this figured out! Clever, persistent animals.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Somehow Blogger has become unbelievably screwed up over the last couple days, and I completely lost my last post. Anyhow, I am taking a little break from the blog over the next week and a half or so while I take some much needed vacation time. Reports of running, food, and eating will be forthcoming.

I'll be back!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Minnesota

OK, that is a complete and total lie...but not today! A gorgeous, breezy 67 degree day here in the great state of Minnesota. Beautiful sunshine, leaves are starting to emerge, and a new bird sighting to report as well - the gray catbird (one of my favorite birds of summer). This is more like it! :)

A few images from today's run:

Yours truly on the trail tonight, signs of green everywhere

Dutchman's breeches in full bloom

Mama eagle was sitting outside of her nest. The little ones must be driving her nuts!

Going green along the trail, leaves starting to pop

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A chilly May Day, and the week that was

Has it really been a week since I last posted? My last week was crazy. Lots of busyness at work, some family business, crappy weather for the most part (needed to bundle up a couple of times for my runs), and I was simply bursting with excitement over the royal wedding (OK, just kidding about that last part - although, the menu at the lunchtime reception looked awesome). How about a super mega-huge recap of the week that was?

1. Tuesday we said goodbye to my great aunt, so I was out of town for the funeral. She was 97 and had not been well, so this was not unexpected, but it was still sad to see her go. However, as the occasions often serve as reunions, I did have a nice time catching up with aunts, uncles, and extended family. My great aunt had an amazing memory and could recall the most intricate details from decades, even generations, ago. A true family historian. We all have great stories to remember her by, and she will be missed.

A picture of my great aunt and me from the summer of 1992 - I was working at the golf course pro shop, and she insisted on seeing where I worked while she was visiting us!

2. My running is pretty much back to normal, and I feel fully recovered after the 50K a couple of weeks ago. I had a bruise on my right foot that was uncomfortable, but that has healed, and all is well. I put in a nice 11 miler on Friday (about the only really nice day we have had in the last week), and I have fallen back into my regular routine.

3. I went running and hiking this morning. It was 33 degrees, 20+ MPH winds, with occasional snow flurries. I know, it is May 1st. But this year, anything is possible. In any case, I really don't feel like I should have to wear a stocking cap on my spring bird hikes, but today it was necessary!

Yours truly, celebrating May Day on a chilly bird hike!

4. Snow flurries excluded, signs of spring are everywhere. The leaves are starting to sprout, green colors are starting to dominate, and a few new birds have arrived - today I spotted the white-crowned sparrow and the palm warblers (those two are just passing through en route to their northern nesting grounds - always a treat to catch them down here). Also, the green heron is back at his swamp along my trail, and I found a swamp sparrow in, of all places, a swamp. :)

5. A couple of recent culinary creations:

Saturday night I made a largely improvised single-serving dish of homemade mac & cheese with sharp cheddar and a little Velveeta (yeah, I know - but I like Velveeta, and it melts so nice!), and I tossed in some bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, and peas. Very tasty and creamy, with some smokiness from the bacon. So good!

Sharp, cheesy, & smoky mac & cheese

Tonight I made enchiladas. I used the Homesick Texan's recipe for beef enchiladas with chipotle-pasilla chili gravy. I was fairly true to the recipe, except that I used flour tortilla instead of corn (not authentic, I know, but I like flour better), the cheeses included a mix of sharp cheddar and Monterrey Jack, and I spread some refried beans inside of each tortilla before rolling them up.

The Homesick Texan's Beef Enchiladas with Chipotle-Pasilla Chili Gravy - yum!

This was an awesome dish! I loved the chipotle-pasilla gravy. I had never made a sauce like that before, and it was smoky, spicy, and beefy. I also made some of my guajillo chile salsa to go along with it. Served with some simple Spanish rice, it was a delightful recipe, and warming meal on this, the first day of May. :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails