Monday, April 30, 2012

Michael's Spaghetti or Lasagna Sauce

Michael says he won his bride with this awesome recipe. This recipe makes 16 – 20 large servings, so start with a large pot. The sauce freezes very well and makes an excellent quick dinner for working folk.  The first time you prepare a meal with the sauce, count the number of ladles you use and put an equal amount into freezer containers.  After the first meal, there are usually about 8 containers of three servings each for later use. Serve with whole grain pasta.

The surprisingly awesome nutrition facts are at Calorie Count.

Michael's Spaghetti/Lasagna Sauce

1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 stick of butter or margarine     
4 – 5 large garlic cloves, minced  
1 large onion (or 2 med.) chopped
4 small cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
2  28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes 
5  6-oz. cans unsalted tomato sauce
2 12-oz cans tomato paste
1  6-oz. can water (use a tomato sauce can)
3/4 cup of good burgundy wine (never use “cooking” wine)
1/2 cup dried parsley flakes
1 Tbsp. granulated beef bouillon
1/4 cup dried oregano leaves                               
1 packed Tbsp. of brown sugar
3 Tbsp. dried basil                                                               
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese            
1/2 tsp. garlic salt                                                    
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground celery seed
3 lbs. lean ground beef
1/2 tsp. each EXTRA pepper and garlic powder used when browning the beef


Heat the olive oil and margarine or butter in the pot, and sweat the onion and garlic until transparent.  Add all tomato ingredients, water, mushrooms, and wine.  Stir until blended.  Add all the dry ingredients, including parmesan cheese, and blend.  Cover and set aside on low heat, gradually bringing to a slow boil.

In a separate pot, brown the ground beef with a bit of oil.  As it cooks, sprinkle in an EXTRA 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder and an EXTRA 1/2 tsp. of black pepper.  Once the meat is brown, DRAIN IT THOROUGHLY or the sauce will be oily.  Then add the drained meat to the sauce.

Cover the meat/sauce mixture and simmer for at least three hours, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Here are several things I do that are optional, but which I believe add to the flavor:

Before adding the mushrooms, take the time to mince one of the cans of stems and pieces.  This gives a uniform mushroom flavor to the sauce.

Sliced fresh mushrooms can improve the appearance of the sauce.  If you elect to use them, lightly sauté about 1/2 to 3/4 of a lb. with the onion and garlic, rather than adding them later on.

Just after draining the ground beef, return it briefly to the browning pot, add a generous splash of burgundy and mix for an additional minute or so before adding the beef to the sauce mixture.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Crazypotato98's Three Picadillos

I had never had potatoes in a taco until I came to northern Mexico, and neither had my husband (his part of Mexico doesn't use potatoes in tacos, either). It's delicious and can be modified many different ways -- with nopales (cactus), made with steak, ground beef, even polish sausage...the point is, you can't have picadillo without potatoes!

The nutrition facts are linked with each of the three recipes below. For those of you that live in place where meat is measured in ounces instead of kilograms, this is the perfect opportunity to check out Calorie Count’s Conversion tool (link on the right hand side of this blog).

Crock Pot Steak Picadillo


0.58 kg lean beef stew meat
2 large potatoes
3 cups beef broth
1/4 cup salsa


In a Crock Pot, put stew meat, beef broth, salsa and potatoes. Let cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is extremely tender and potatoes are soft.

Add stew meat to a skillet, and then add cooked potatoes. Add beef broth. Cook and stir until mixture becomes a soft paste.

Spoon into tortilla of your choice or use as a tostada topping.

Polish Sausage Picadillo


243 g polish sausage, chopped
467 g potatoes, boiled
250 g mixed vegetables
1 cup water
1  cube beef bouillon


Boil potatoes until soft. Drain; set aside.

Chop polish sausage. Saute in skillet with cooking spray; set aside.

Add water and beef bouillon to skillet. When bouillon is dissolved, add potatoes and cook until the consistency is like a paste. Add sausage and mixed veggies.

You may boil the mixed veggies beforehand in a little chicken broth if desired.

Serve as a tostada topping or as a taco filling.

Ground Beef Picadillos


0.38 kg 90% lean ground beef
3 large potatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cup nopales
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper


Boil nopales in water, adding some onion and garlic if desired, until tender. Salt may also be added during boiling. When nopales are tender, add a small pinch of baking soda (not until the very end, or it will boil over!).

In a frying pan, cook ground beef until brown. Drain fat. Add cooked potatoes (boil or put in Crock Pot for 4 hours until tender). Add beef broth and nopales. Cook until mixture becomes a soft paste. 

Spoon into tortilla of your choice, or top tostada shells or other foods with this mixture.

Carolyn’s Twice Baked Potato

Twice baked potatoes are so easy and versatile. You can make them high or low fat, they can be filled to the brim with ingredients or just lightly seasoned. Carolyn’s potato is a basic version that can become as gussied up as you like or left simply perfect.

Twice Baked Potato 


1 baking potato
1 T butter
1/8 cup milk (approximate)
1 clove garlic pressed
1 t chives, minced
Dash of paprika


First bake: scrub thoroughly and bake the potato in a 350 oven until soft. Do not wrap in foil as this makes the skin too soft for twice baking.

Allow to cool a bit to make handling easier

Cut the potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides leaving the shell intact. ]

Place the insides in a small bowl, thoroughly whip together with the butter, garlic, and enough milk to make it fluffy but whipped - not flogged to an over-liquidy death. This can be done with a fork, a by hand potato masher, or a mixer as is your choice.

Place the insides back inside the shells and put a dash of paprika on each half.

Return to the 350 oven to bake the second bake - until the potato is hot throughout and lightly browned.

Optional add-ins:

More butter
Plain Yogurt in place of butter
Your favorite chicken or veggie stock in place of butter or milk
bits of cooked chopped broccoli
bits of cooked chopped asparagus
Cheese – mix it in to the potato insides and sprinkle some on top before it is baked the second time.
White sauce or chicken gravy can be added both within and on the top
Black Beans
Bits of chopped tomato
Bacon bits
bits of cooked chicken
Cooked barbecue
Your favorite spices, veggies, or meats

First Bake Option:

You can nuke the potato for the first bake (some people do not like the taste of a nuked potato, others don't mind, so do what you like) - rinse, prick, and place between waxed paper  and nuke until softened. Cool a bit and then proceed with the mashing of ingredients.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sheila's Hash Brown Casserole

Sheila says that this is fantastic served with fruit at a family brunch. It makes a lot so make sure you have at least one teenaged boy about the place. The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count.

Hash Brown Casserole


12 eggs, gently beaten
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
½  tsp black pepper – alright some salt too if need … but with bacon or ham you really do not need it
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 package (30 oz) frozen shredded hash browns or potatoes – or equivalent amount of home cooked hash browns
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green Pepper, chopped
1 cup of cooked ham or bacon – ham is our go to


Preheat the oven to 350.

Large bowl combine eggs, milk, pepper, and cayenne…. Stir in potatoes, cheese, onion, gr.pep and ham or w/e.

Pour into 13/9 inch greased pan and bake uncovered for about 45-50 mins or til browned.

Cool slightly and then serve.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Julia's Strawberry Grenadine Smoothie

This recipe makes a glass full of smooth peace and contentment. Add just a touch of crushed ice for a bit of refreshing satisfaction on a warm spring afternoon. Enjoy often...with good friends and family.

The nutrition facts can be found at Calorie Count!

Strawberry Grenadine Smoothie


Handful of crushed ice
1 cup of strawberries - frozen or fresh, unstrained
1 cup strawberry yogourt
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 T grenadine


Put all in a blender and whir!

Remember all smoothie recipes should be adjusted for your personal taste buds. If you like less grenadine, then by all means add less. If you want it thinner, add more pineapple juice. Thicker? Add more yogourt or berries. Ice is optional but it is what gives smoothies the traditional milk shake texture. Experiment with it to see how you like it best.

Make your own homemade grenadine and your smoothie will be even better!

Caroline's Curried Tofu Spinach Salad

Slightly crispy warm tofu on a spinach almond salad with mango chutney dressing. Now, what is there not to love about that?! This dish will convince even the most hesitant member of your family to love tofu. The nutrition facts (set as a main dish for two) are at Calorie Count.

Caroline’s Curried Tofu Spinach Salad

Salad Ingredients:

1 tbs curry powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt to taste
12-oz firm tofu, cubed
1 tbs olive oil
1 pound chopped spinach
1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup mango chutney
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs olive oil


Combine curry powder, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl.

Add cubed tofu and combine to coat.

Saute tofu in 1 tbsp. of olive oil until it is slightly crispy on the outside, about 8 minutes. While tofu is cooking, make the dressing.

When the tofu is done, serve it over chopped spinach and add dressing and chopped, toasted almonds.

Notes from Caroline: I like eating it while the tofu is still warm.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sharpshootinstar's Green Monster Smoothie with variations on a monster theme

Nobody does smoothies better than Sharpshootinstar! The Green Monster is her basic smoothie from which she spins a wonderful array of goodness. I ran the nutrition facts for the basic monster using no sugar added almond milk at Calorie Count!

Green Monster Smoothie


3 oz spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 scoop protein powder (optional, but nutritionally terrific!)
1 cup your favorite milk: milk, soy, almond milk, etc
1 small banana
a few ice cubes


Put the spinach in the blender along with a scoop of your favorite protein powder (you can omit this if you want, I just find it an easy way to get a serving of protein, veggies & fruit all in one.) 

Now add one cup of your favorite milk beverage, 1 small banana, and a few ice cubes.  

Blend on high...this part may take  a bit of patience.  Watch the smoothie mixture, and once all the spinach appears to be blended and the drink is a nice green color, it should be ready.  If you find big shreds of spinach in it, you didn't blend long enough.

Variations on a Monster Theme:

Banana Cream Green Monster
3oz fresh spinach, 1 small frozen banana broken into chunks, 1 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup ice.

Pink Monster
3oz spinach, 1 cup red raspberries, 1 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1/2 cup water

Jungle Monster
3oz spinach, 1 cup chopped mango, 1 cup ice, 1 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk

Endless possibilities!

Marydomingue's Stuffed Peppers with Mushrooms

Marydomingue replaces some of the ground meat with mushrooms for a lower calorie, lower fat, tasty stuffed pepper. The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count!

Stuffed Peppers & Mushrooms


4 lg bell peppers
3/4 lb ground meat, lean (I ran the nutrition facts for beef, but you could easily choose ground turkey)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic
8 or more fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 10-oz can tomatoes with peppers
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp water
1 Tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp pepper


You may put your peppers in a bowl and fill with boiling water for about 2 or 3 minutes to soften them before filling if you want them to come out extra soft.

In large skillet, saute meat til browned, drain excess fat.  

Add onions and garlic; cook til soft.  After about 3 minutes add the mushrooms and cook til soft. 

Add tomatoes, rice, water, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat.  Simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

You may lightly salt the inside of the peppers if desired. Stuff peppers with meat mixture.  

Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven. 

So good!

Berry Berry Smoothie

Make this simple recipe with your favorite combination of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The nutrition facts at Calorie Count are based on blueberries because those are my favorite berries...although the blueberry blackberry smoothie is right up there...

Berry Berry Smoothie


1 cup of your favorite berries - you can use frozen partially thawed or fresh
1 cup 0% Greek yogurt
1/4 cup almond milk
1 T honey - or agave
1 T ground flax seed
a small handful of ice if you are using fresh berries

Directions for smoothies are so difficult to follow, so pay close attention:

Put it all in a blender and blend. Start slowly in spurts and keep your hand on the lid so it does not explode all over the place. Trust me on this.


If you want it more like ice cream, skip the milk

If you want it to the point where you can drink it with a straw, add a little more milk.

If you don't have flax seed, try a scoop of oat or wheat bran. Both add great stay with you fiber.

If you are a thick smoothie person, add a few whole berries to the top for a pretty garnish.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crazypotato98's Banana Strawberry Smoothie

Everyone has their favorite combination of fruits and things to make smoothies. Crazypotato98 keeps hers simple and easy to blend up at a moment's notice!

The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count!

Banana Strawberry Smoothie


1 banana, frozen
1 cup strawberries, frozen
6 oz. Dannon light n fit vanilla yogurt


Slightly thaw strawberries and banana (you know your own blender best and what it can handle).

Add yogurt and blend.

Enjoy immediately!

Michael's Heavenly Breakfast Smoothie

This is one of Michael's favorite smoothies!

The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count.

Do not allow your smoothie
to blend unattended! 
Michael's Heavenly Breakfast Smoothie


3 small pear halves, canned; rinsed clean of syrup, etc.
3 pineapple rings, canned
6 small strawberries
¼ cup blueberries
3 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1-1/2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
1 tsp. Stevia or Splenda
¼ cup skim milk


If using frozen ingredients, thaw overnight before using. 

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  

Makes about 16 oz.


Use fresh or frozen fruit.

Eliminate the sweetener or replace it with your favorite (adjust the calories as necessary).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Michael's Skillet Frittata with Spinach and Cheese

Michael's recipe makes a nice skillet sized frittata that is so fast, you can make it on the most hectic of evenings. The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count!

Frittata with Spinach and Cheese


2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 large eggs, beaten
1 lb. spinach, stems removed, washed and blanched, squeezed dry and finely chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated cacio (sheep’s milk cheese from Rome)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop.
In a 9-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, spinach, salt and pepper, to taste. Add the cheeses and mix well to combine. Pour this mixture into the skillet and cook until the bottom has set, about 5 minutes.

Holding a flat lid over the skillet, turn the fritatta over onto the other side and slide back into the skillet. Cook 5 minutes more and serve immediately.

EASY! ..and very tasty.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sherri's French Onion Soup

A truly elegant and beautiful soup. The nutrition facts are at Calorie Count!

French Onion Soup


1/2 stick butter
2 t salt
1 t ground pepper
4 large onions (two red and two white) sliced thinly
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup good red wine
1 T soy sauce
2 sprigs parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 T balsamic vinegar
4 thick slices French or Italian bread
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Stir in salt, pepper, and onions. Cook onions until well caramelized. About 1/2 an hour.

Add stock, wine, and soy sauce. Bundle herbs and place in soup. Simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat, add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the herbs.

While soup is simmering, toast four thick slices of bread. Cut into cubes. Preheat broiler.

Ladle soup into oven proof bowls. Add a few bread cubes to each bowl. Sprinkle a little mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top of each bowl. Place under broiler til cheese bubbles and turns light brown.