Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Easy Marinara Sauce

You know sometimes you just want to get a tasty dinner in a hurry.  I sometimes feel that those of us who enjoy cooking sometimes become cooking snobs.  It's all about using just the right ingredients, technique, making everything from scratch and bragging about it.  That is not always "real world".   And for novice cooks this can be intimidating.  When I have the time and am in the mood, I enjoy tackling very intricate recipes.  I find preparing that type of meal fun and an accomplishment.  When time is lacking I look for short cuts that are not short on flavor.  I always use natural ingredients and fresh ingredients when available.  Yes I love to get the freshest plum tomatoes and make a big patch of marinara sauce freezing extra sauce for future use.  For a quick meal I make what I think is pretty good marinara sauce that I can get together in 30 minutes.  Then I change what I add to make different recipes.  My mother calls this doctoring up the recipe!

Easy Marinara Sauce
1 can Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 cup wine
1 Tbs chopped Basil
1 tsp crushed red peppers
salt and pepper to taste
 Saute shallot in olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and  cook for another two minutes.  Add rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Now you can add what ever you want to make different meals.  I like to add a 1/2 pound of cleaned raw shrimp and make shrimp with marinara sauce.  Or if I want to make a Pescatori, I add 1 pound clams cleaned, 1/2 pound mussel cleaned, 1/4 pound raw pealed pound shrimp and 1/4 pound scallops.  I cook the marinara sauce and then I add the clams and mussels, cook covered for 5 minutes until shells open then add the rest of the seafood.  Cook another 5 minutes and then serve over pasta.
You serve about 2-4 with good size portions.  You can double recipe for a larger group. Add a salad and good bread and you have a very delicious meal in under an hour.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finally my mothers sauce and meatball!

I've said it before, my mother and my grandmother  were my inspiration for cooking. My fondest memories growing up are watching both these wonderful cooks in the kitchen, as well a savoring the delicious meals they prepared. So when I asked my 88 year old mother for her spaghetti sauce and meatball recipe, I thought I could just share it with you all. Not so, I needed to fill in the blanks because my mother just cooks from memory. I worked with her to get the full recipes down on paper. I still think that only my mother can make her recipes sing with the most harmonies flavors. I gave this my best. I cooked all kinds of variations of her recipe and now my freezer is filled with enough sauce and meatballs for months. I must admit I did have fun cooking like my mother and grandmother, making large pots of sauce simmering on the stove. And the funny thing is that I don't make that much traditional sauce because I have never felt that I can duplicate the flavor of my mother and grandmother's sauce. I feel the same way about traditional pasta and Lasagna dishes. I am always disappointed with the results when I make traditional Italian recipes from my childhood.
My meals never taste as wonderful as I remember.
Before I start the recipe let's talk tomatoes. My mother say you can use crushed tomatoes if you  want to go cut a step, such as Pastene ground peeled, kitchen ready tomatoes. Over the years she's used Red Pack, Tuttoroso,  just good Italian tomatoes. Now I know that many will say you can only make good sauce with San Mazrano DOP tomatoes, or others swear by Muir Glen, or Cento or Pom. I am not such a purist when it comes to the tomatoes because I was spoiled by my grandmother's home grown preserved tomatoes that she would only use.  Nothing compares to her plum tomatoes. Use what you want. If I use whole peeled tomatoes, I chop the tomatoes then add along with the with the juice to the recipe. Or you can put tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with a fine disk. Do what suits you.

My Mothers Spaghetti  Sauce and Meatballs
2 Cans of Tomatoes, 28 or 35 oz.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
In large pot heat olive olive, add onions cook until lightly translucent for 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook for two more minutes. Add tomatoes(chopped if whole) with liquid and seasonings. Simmer for an hour.(Add a little water or white wine if the sauce gets too thick).

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 eggs
1 Tbs fine chopped parsley
1 cup stale bread, crust removed and break bread into small pieces
or you can use 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
3 Tablespoon olive oil for cooking
Moisten bread with milk. Combine the moistened bread with all the other ingredients except olive oil and mix meat mixture very well. Form into meatballs and fry in oil for only a few minutes on each side. Add meatballs and one tablespoon of oil that was cooked with the meatballs to sauce. Cook sauce and meatballs on low for another hour.
Or if you want to bake meatballs like my mother. Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Coat with olive oil and bake for 10-12 minutes. Add meatballs and one tablespoon of oil that meatballs were baked in to sauce. Cook sauce and meatballs on low for another hour.

Good cooks really put passion into what they make. Cooking is an art and skill that get better with practice and time. The best advice I can give is to have no fear just cook. Try all different recipes and add your own touches that will make the meal special. What I found out over the years is that making a recipe your own is what makes that recipe special to you and your family. I have tried so many different dishes from magazines and cook books that I thought were not very good. So I just started from scratch and made the recipe how I thought it would be better and it was.  So give it a try, just cook.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beautiful Old Fashion English Roses

I've always loved Old Fashion English Roses. Not only the fresh blooms but the beautiful images of these roses in photos, on fabric patterns, plates and more. For some reason it took me a long time to plant the roses in my garden. Finally three years ago I ordered David Austin Old Fashion English Roses in five varieties and my only regret is that I waited so long to make this spectacular addition to my garden.
I was a little disappointed when I opened the box and saw what the roses looked like shipped bare rooted. I didn't expect much the first year. Following the directions I soaked the roots over night. Just by chance I was speaking with a knowledgeable gardener and she mentioned that I should cut the roses back to a foot high after planting . I was very skeptical but she assured me that the roses would do better the first year if I followed her instruction. I did and she was right. I had lovely blooms the first year and for the past two seasons. Each summer season I am dazzled by the beautiful blooms and wonderful fragrance of my roses.  And each year the roses get bigger and bigger. I planted my roses, where else, but in front of  a white picket fence. With very little care and fuss my roses bloom continuously from late spring into fall. The only attention required is rose fertilizer once a month and weekly dead heading, all worth waking up each day to these beauties in my garden. I have received so much beauty and enjoyment with so little work!
Next year I am definitely going to add more of Old Fashion Roses to my garden.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I can't help myself I have to blog about shopping!!

Alright I said that I wasn't going to blog about shopping on Good Dinner Mrs Mellen, I lied.  I can't help myself!  If you know me, you know that I love to shop and shop and shop and shop.  I just love clothes, home furnishing, cosmetic, you name it I'm there.  Well I just had to share my most recent shopping finds.  I believe in when the President says that we need to stimulate the economy so I spread my purchased around to all types of retailers.  High end, discount, I do not discriminate.  If I like it I buy it.
I get such a rush when I find a bargain or exceptional deal, I just get so warm and fuzzy.  Last week I was up in the White Mountain region of New Hampshire. A beautiful natural resource that just takes my breath away.  So in between the beautiful mountains, forest, lakes etc what should appear a few years ago but a T.J. Maxx in, of all places, Littleton New Hampshire.  Now Littleton is a lovely small town that has actually made money magazines list of best small town to live in the US.  In the winter the main street reminds me of Bedford Falls in "It's a wonderful life" with the Christmas lights strung across the street and snow falling.  All that missing is George Baily running down the street to go home to Mary after he is saved by the Angel. A T.J. Maxx was a surprise to find so far up in New Hampshire.  Now I have been won over by the bargains that I have found at this store.  I think that they much ship merchandise that isn't sold at other story and just mark the items down to nothing to sell.  At the end of each season is my most favorite time to hit this store just to buy any name brand item for next to nothing. So last week I was on a mission, hunt through all the clearance racks for name brands to buy.  First to the shoes, did I tell you that I just love shoes.  I was very disappointed. (I've been known to find $100 shoes or boots for $5 or $10)  NO LUCK this time!  On to the woman's clearance racks.  I look through all sizes, a bargain can be stuck in the wrong size rack.  My fingers busily move quickly through the racks, looking for names, give me Free people, BCBG, Juicy Couturier, Polo(Black Label I would die for), Jolie, Tommy Bahama bathing suits and more.  I am frantically searching for me or my daughter or anyone I don't care the bargains are fabulous.  Ah three Free People rompers into my cart, two BCBG bathing suit cover ups are mine, and still my heart, a Polo Black label black Tee shirt with a large pink horse!  I am in heaven.  I make one more pass over the racks to make sure that I haven't missed some more finds but sadly that is it for today.  Over all it was a good day.  I have had better days but I think that the word is out about this T.J Max so the bargains are getting slimmer and slimmer.
OK I know that you want to know how much I spent and the retail price on the manufacturers tags.  You need to be seated for this, two of the Free People rompers were each .50 and one was $2.00. On the manufacturers tag $78. The two BCBG cover ups were $3.00 and $5.00, retail price $120. And my favorite the Polo Black Label tee cost me $7.00.  I know I was being a little extravagant!  Retail price was $98.00. Drum roll, I spent a total of $18. for $572 worth of merchandise.  I almost couldn't sleep that night I was so amazed by my finds.  My only regret is I couldn't find more to buy!
Now to the opposite end of bargain hunting.  I went to new expanded The Runway at Maxx at T.J. Maxx in Newton to see all the new ultra expensive upscale fashions at discounted prices. And did they have the names, Chanel, Prada, Fendi, Nanette Lepore, Alice & Olivia, Ralph Lauren and still my heart, Jimmy Choo! Thousand dollar Jimmy Choo's for $599 or my favorite bargain, a beautiful handmade gold beaded Ralph Lauren evening top, retail $6000 for the small change of $999!  I looked, I touched, I tried on but I didn't buy.  I had so much fun joining the feeding frenzy along with all those other woman who were so caught up looking at the unbelievable price of these designer duds. I felt like I was part of a clinical study of a psychology class on how woman behave in large groups when they are presented with unlimited bargains. Or that we were all on Punk'd!
Like I said I just love to shop even if I am just looking and admiring beautifully made clothing.  And I am just so thrilled with my loot from my shopping excursion in New Hampshire!

Good Dinner Mrs. Mellen: I can't help myself I have to blog about shopping!...

Good Dinner Mrs. Mellen: I can't help myself I have to blog about shopping!...: "Alright I said that I wasn't going to blog about shopping in Good Dinner Mrs Mellen, I lied. I can't help myself! If you know me, you know..."