Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perfect Spaghetti Sauce

I was making spaghetti for dinner tonight and for once actually kept track of all the stuff I was throwing into it. In the process, I think I have perfected spaghetti sauce. I LOVE this sauce. Even my picky kid likes it. It is chunky, thick, and doesn't all end up left on your plate when the noodles are gone (unless you're like me and put on WAY more sauce than necessary just so you have some to scoop up with your bread). It is SO easy, and it is all about '1'. Here it is:

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can mushrooms (size depends on how much you like mushrooms, I use a small one)
1 can black olives (again, size depends on how much you like olives, I use a 15 oz can of whole olives and slice 'em up).
1 Tbsp mixed Italian seasoning (or 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, and 1 dash of each sage and marjoram.
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar

Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium high heat in a skillet until meat is cooked through and onion is translucent.

While meat is cooking, combine remaining ingredients into a 2 qt saucepan on low.

When meat mixture is cooked through, drain any fat and add to saucepan.
spaghetti sauce
Allow to simmer on low for at least 1 hour (I try to go at least 3 hours). Remove bay leaf before serving.

I use this sauce for spaghetti, lasagna, baked ziti, and even for pizza sauce if I don't add the meat. It freezes excellently and is a favorite of everyone in my house.
spaghetti sauce

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rite of passage

So this week I went through a rite of passage, an age-old tradition that I am told every parent is put through by each of their young children. My sweet, wonderful little boy.... gave himself a hair cut.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

I’m a sharecropper

Last year, I had a pitiful little garden with tomatoes, potatoes, and a bit of garlic. I have a tiny backyard and my usable garden space last year was about 3 x 6. Yesterday, we move 3 rose bushes, which may or may not survive at this point, and doubled our available garden space to about 3 x 12. In this space I plan to plant 2 or 3 tomato plants and attempt jalapeno and Anaheim peppers.

Last fall, I mentioned to my mom that I would really like to grow more of my own food for a variety of economic, environmental, and safety reasons, not to mention the pure satisfaction of it. She offered up a corner of her lot that if we participated in tending, we could share in the bounty.

Last week we staked out the proposed boundary of the garden and I drew up a “map.” Part of the area was previously a vegetable garden that has not been used in 2-3 years. She already has rhubarb, artichoke, blueberries, and marionberries established nearby as well. Here is the map:
2009 Garden
The front is 32 feet wide and the left side is 27 feet long. The funky triangle on the right side is where the marionberries are. There is a 4 x 12 raised bed that was there; it has been temporarily moved and we haven’t decided where to put it.

We will have to fence the whole thing to keep out the larger animals… but haven’t figured out the best way to keep out the rabbits. These suckers are ruthless. They’ll crawl under or though most wire fencing. They’ve even chewed through a chicken wire fence before. They’re pretty fearless too. Dogs don’t faze them. One of the neighbors was throwing rocks to scare one away and it didn’t even move until she accidentally hit it.

The planning goes on. We’ve laid black plastic to try to kill off the sod before we till in about a month. In 2 to 3 weeks, we’ll start tomatoes and peas indoors. We also plan to grow pole beans, corn, broccoli, sweet peppers, potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, carrots, spinach, onion, garlic, pumpkins, and squash. The seed catalogs are on order, and now we have nothing to do but wait…

Here are some photos of the garden area as it is now:

This is standing at the marionberries, looking toward the southwest corner of the garden. The bush at the back, behind the frame for the raised bed, is a HUGE rosemary bush. The garden will end at the brick retaining wall at the back. The artichokes and rhubarb will come up just to the left of the rosemary.
garden 003

This is standing in the front, near the rosemary, looking down the 'L' The garden will end a few feet before the woodpile at the back (the thing that looks like plywood being supported by a pallet).
garden 002

In addition to the obvious rewards of growing our own food, I also hope to use the garden to teach Ethan about plants and seed germination as well as healthy eating.