Category Archives: Meat

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

If food was a hug, this meal, right here, would be IT. Forget chocolate. Don’t bother with cupcakes. I can think of no better way to tell someone you love them than with a plate piled high with whole wheat spaghetti and meaty tomato sauce.

Unless they’re a vegetarian. That would just be mean.

If you’re still looking for a meal to make your honey for Valentine’s Day (which just so happens to be a week from today!) I’ve got your answer right here. The fact that it makes your home smell amazing is a huge added bonus, too. And you can whip it up in less than 45 minutes when you get home from work. Oh, and it involves wine.

Of course it involves wine.

I’ve made this dish three times since I first discovered the Epicurious* recipe a few months ago. Each time it gets better and better and the last time I made it–on Super Bowl Sunday–I made a game-changing move. I nearly doubled the sauce, which not only improved the pasta to sauce to meat ratio (super important), but also extended the leftovers. In other words, it provided an additional dinner plus lunch for three days for one lucky guy.

To fancy things up for V-day, serve it with a simple arugula salad on the side and a brick of parmesan cheese that you can generously grate on top.

Happy Love Day! Consider this meal a hug from me to you : )

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce via abalancedlifecooks.com

 

*If you prefer a higher meat to sauce ratio follow the Epicurious recipe. For more sauce, follow mine below!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

16 oz whole wheat spaghetti

Olive oil

1-1 1/4 pound lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional – I usually leave it out if I don’t already have it in the fridge)

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (FYI – this isn’t in the Epicurious recipe and I highly recommend adding)

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, drained, chopped into chunks

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1/2 cup red wine (such as merlot)

Preparation

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef. Cook until brown, using a wooden spoon to break it up, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl. To the skillet, add onion and garlic. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add parsley (if using), crumble basil between your hands and add to skillet, repeat with oregano, and add paprika. Continue cooking about 1 minute. Return beef to skillet. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and wine. Turn down heat to medium or low, simmering until sauce thickens slightly, about 30-40 minutes.

To serve, place pasta on plate, top with sauce, add Parmesan as desired.

 

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Vegetable Beef Soup

This is not the most glamorous meal I’ve ever made. But when I was looking for something that would be hearty without being too heavy for a quiet Friday night, this definitely did the trick—and then some. At first I wasn’t sure whether I was going to share this recipe…I mean, it’s vegetable beef soup. Doesn’t everyone have a recipe for that? Well, when searching for a recipe online I was surprised to find that locating one with all of the components I was looking for was no easy task. Maybe it’s because everyone assumes everyone else already knows how to make it? Um, I didn’t. My very simple criteria for a veggie beef soup included two main things:

  • Chunks of meat
  • Frozen veggies

As much as I love chopping—probably way more than is normal—I was looking for something that would minimize the amount of time between making a homemade winter meal and plopping my bum on the couch. Plus, my grandma and my mom always made their beef soups with frozen veggies so I was searching with a sense of nostalgia, too.

Finally, I ended up combining two recipes: One from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and one from a special issue (all soups!) of Better Homes and Gardens. The first included chunks of meat (yes, please!), but freshly cut veggies (normally that’d totally be my jam, but I was on the hunt for a shortcut). The latter included frozen veggies (score!), but ground meat (not this time).

Once I hit Whole Foods and got into the kitchen, what ended up happening was a beautiful thing. As homey and as basic as this recipe may seem, I channeled a little Ina Garten (who, by the way, didn’t have a vegetable beef soup recipe last I checked) and turned the volume way up by using high-quality ingredients. Here’s a peek:

  • Lean organic grass-fed meat
  • Organic frozen veggies with carrots, peas, corn, string beans, and baby lima beans
  • A healthy glug of merlot
  • Chunks of creamy Yukon gold potatoes

The result satisfied every item on my checklist and much, much more.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients
Grapeseed oil
1 ½ pounds lean beef stew meat (even if it’s already in chunks be sure to cut down to bite-sized pieces)
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
32 oz container low-sodium beef broth
28 oz can diced tomatoes
12 oz package frozen mixed vegetables
3 small Yukon gold potatoes, leave skin on & slice into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup red wine
salt & pepper

Preparation
Heat about 1 Tbsp of oil in a large pot on medium-high heat & swirl to coat bottom. Salt and pepper meat. Add beef in batches (be sure not to crowd) turning to brown on all sides. Once browned, transfer beef from pot to a plate and add next batch (I did it in three batches). Add additional oil as necessary. Once you remove the final batch, scrape brown bits off bottom of the pot with wooden spoon and pour out with accumulated fat. Return pot to heat.

Add onion and celery. Sautee until onion softens, about 5 to 8 minutes. Return beef to pot. Add the broth, tomatoes, frozen vegetables, potatoes, and wine. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Soup

I can’t believe I’m about to write a post on sausage. Oh, it’s happening. And just for kicks I’m going to attempt to do it while keeping a straight face. So here it goes.

I hated sausage for the majority of my life. I think it stems from tasting it at my grandparents’ house in Maryland when I was a kid. It was the breakfast kind that came in links and was stored in the freezer. No, not that freezer—the second freezer. The one in the laundry room. Well, I thought sausage was gross (I’m guessing it was the fennel) so I stuck with bacon.

As the years went by and I became interested in health, I further avoided sausage. I learned about the sodium and nitrates that go into curing sausage, and let’s not talk about what’s in the casing. I decided I’d never touch the stuff.

But then I became interested in cooking. And food. And I noticed menu items like orecchiette with broccoli rabe, sausage, and sun-dried tomatoes. Don’t the words sound so delicious you could just eat them? Sausage wasn’t only being paired with scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes anymore.

I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to give sausage a second chance. I think it may have something to do with one of my favorite soup recipes, Italian Wedding Soup. My sister made it for the first time several years ago and I fell in love with the tiny chicken sausage meatballs. No longer did fennel turn me off—it was a deep and complex flavor with just the right amount of bite. I loved that sausage was no longer limited only to pork—this was chicken! And where was the casing? Raw, this stuff looked like ground meat with seasonings.

Last winter I made Italian Wedding Soup on my own several times and fell more in love with sausage’s bold flavors. Sometimes, I’d even order items at restaurants that contained it. But I’d never cooked anything else with sausage…until Monday. A while ago, I saw a recipe for kale and white bean soup. The moment I saw the word kale I was pretty much sold. I then saw a recipe for sausage and white bean soup. These recipes had to meet. And I was just the girl to set them up.

It was only a matter of time before kale, white bean, and sausage soup came to be. Of course, this wasn’t going to happen without interrogating the Whole Foods meat counter guy first. Yes, I’ve been known to do this weekly from time to time. I had to know what was in his sausage. (I’m still keeping a straight face here.) Is the chicken sausage white meat or dark? It’s dark. I could live with that. Is it organic? Yes. Has it been cured? No. So no nitrates? No nitrates. It’s simply ground meat with seasonings already mixed in and has never been in a casing before? Yes. No casing. I’ll take a pound, please. This soup was as good as done. I picked up some onion, carrots, celery, and two giant bunches of lacitano kale (after last week’s success I figured I’d give this variety another shot—and there wasn’t even any braising involved!)

Now I’m just going to come out and say it. This is the best soup I’ve ever made. Ever. In history. Hands down. No competition. There are a million different flavors going on here, but it’s like they were meant to be together. (Maybe I’m destined to be a food matchmaker?) The beans, kale and carrots provide a perfect backdrop for the slightly spicy sausage and sweet fire-roasted tomatoes to pop on your palate. Even the textures are ideal. I’m not going to lie: I had two heaping bowls last night and am happy to say there’s still plenty left to feed me through Thursday (at least). This is a recipe I’ll be making again and again. After all, I have a lot of sausage eating to make up for.

Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound spicy chicken sausage (out of the casing, if possible)
3 large carrots (or 4 smaller ones), chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed, pour half into a bowl and mash with the back of a fork
2 bunches lacitano kale, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

Preparation
In a soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, break up the meat and cook until starting to brown. Add the carrots and celery and cook about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Add the beans and kale and cover again, cooking until the kale wilts, about 5 to 7 more minutes.

Four Veggie Flank Steak Stir-Fry

sweet. spicy. steamy.

When checking out a new recipe, one of the first questions I ask is, how can I add more veggies? Sometimes it requires a little finesse, but boosting the health factor of Friday night’s dinner—a stir-fry—was a cinch. When it comes to stir fries, pretty much anything from the veggie world goes. The recipe I adapted included asparagus and red bell pepper. A good start, but we could do better. So while stocking up on ingredients for the weekend at Whole Foods, I also grabbed some sugar snap peas and mushrooms. That’s more like it. By the time dinner was served, I had about twice the amount of veggies (while keeping the quantity of meat the same) per serving than the original recipe.

However, I learned from this experience that if I’m going to pile on the produce when making stir-fries I need to get myself a wok—stat. The pan I used was filled to the brim, which made my stir-frying action messy and spastic. (Typical, really, of what I look like in the kitchen anyway.) Fortunately, having two dogs came in handy.

A delicious, comforting Friday night meal that beats take-out any day of the week.

Four Veggie Flank Steak Stir-Fry
(Serves 4…or in my experience two with a little extra for leftovers.)

Ingredients
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1 ½ inch long pieces
2 red bell peppers, seeded, de-ribbed, and cut into 2 inch long strips
8 oz white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 lb. flank steak cut into 2 inch-long pieces

Sauce
6 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp chili oil
4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tbsp of water

Preparation
Whisk together the sauce ingredients through the chili oil and set aside. Boil a small pot of water on the stove. Once boiling, add the asparagus and cook about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a pan with 1 Tbsp canola oil on high heat. Stir-fry the beef strips, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until browned, but still pink inside. Return the first batch of beef to the pan and add the bell pepper, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms. Stir and toss over high heat until just beginning to wilt, 1-2 minutes. Add the asparagus.

Quickly stir the cornstarch with the water and add it to the pan. Add the stir-fry sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes. Season with red pepper flakes & serve with brown rice.

Adapted from: SimplyRecipes