Monday, October 17, 2011

Baked Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

Saturday, my college daughter was home and we wanted to do a little shopping. My husband was home piddling around in the yard. My daughter had requested meatball sandwiches for supper but we really wanted to go shopping at some great thrift stores and she was on the lookout for a warm coat at Bass Pro Shop. I didn't really want to eat out, so I came up with the BEST WAY for making spaghetti sauce (this time, with meatballs) without having to stand at the stove stirring and watching the pot simmer. When we got home, we had such a delicious supper waiting for us in the oven.

It occurred to me that when I cook a roast or other things in the oven, that the gravy will be "juice" when I first start baking it, but the finished product is always thick and rich but I never have to stir it or anything. So, I thought, why not BAKE my spaghetti sauce?

It was perfect. I will probably always cook it this way (when its not blasting hot in summer, that is). I think I will probably even cook my chili this way. I used one of those enamel pots with a lid (like Le Creuset, but mine is a generic one from Sam's), but if you don't have one of those, a casserole dish (covered) would work fine as well.

For our meatballs sandwiches, we toasted some hotdog buns, ladled on the meatballs and sauce, and topped with some grated mozerella! It was a feast!

This is how I made BAKED spaghetti sauce with meatballs AT HOME MY WAY!

First, I should say that I don't really have a recipe for meatballs. I just toss some stuff in there, make little balls, place them on a plate, and microwave them until they're cooked. Then I drop them (along with the cooked crumbled hamburger in my pot) for the sauce. (I prefer both meatballs AND meat in my sauce! LOL).

Baked Spaghetti Sauce (with or without Meatballs)


1 pound uncooked Hamburger

1 egg (blended)

1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup (or less) parmesan cheese (the canned stuff)

3 Tablespoons milk

Mix all of the ingredients together. Form into little balls the size of ping pong balls. Place them on a micro-safe plate. Cover (I used a PAPER plate), and cook approximately 4-5 minutes or until the meatballs are done.

Recipe for the Spaghetti Sauce


1-2 pounds hamburger (If I make meatballs, I use 1 pound for meatballs, and 1 pound for the sauce)

2 teaspoons onion powder or 1/2 fresh onion chopped

salt & pepper

Other spices you need: garlic powder, dried basil, bay leaves

tomato sauce (one 15-oz can)

tomato paste (two-6-oz cans)

sugar (just 1 Tablespoon)

Directions for the sauce: Brown the hamburger (& real onion if using) in a large skillet or pot, stirring often (until onion is clear) and drain (if using onion powder, add after draining).

Sprinkle the cooked meat with:

1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil. Stir.

Then add to the cooked meat in the pot:

1- 15 oz can of tomato sauce + 1 can of water

2- 6oz cans of tomato paste + 3 cans of water for each can (=6 cans water)

On med-high, heat and stir so that the tomato paste blends with the water.

Add spices again: 1 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 bay leaves (DO NOT EAT THESE - REMOVE BEFORE SERVING). Use large ones so you can find them when done.)

Drop in your meatballs (if you made some). Heat until this mixture dissolves well (the paste). Cover, and place in the oven, preheated, to 300 degrees for approximately 2 hours.

If not baking, just simmer this on the stove with a cracked lid for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wacky Cake - Pantry Cooking at its BEST!

Yesterday as I was reading over some of my favorite blogs I ran across a recipe for WACKY CAKE! Now, how can you read a name like "Wacky Cake" and not be intrigued?

One of the blogs I most like to read is Kim's Jabez Farm blog. I love to read the posts Kim writes about her farm and family. She lives in the Pacific Northwest (where I have never even visited), and is a homeschooling mama who has a wonderful menagerie of farm animals. I work in a law office all day, wishing I was home, and ONLY have one dog and some cats! Reading blogs is definitely a wonderful way to experience a different way of life and at times, it is a delightful reprieve from my sometimes dull existence!

I had heard about Wacky Cakes. My mom tells me she used to make them all the time, but I don't remember. Chocolate cake is CHOCOLATE CAKE when your mom bakes it for you, right? A win-win, whatever kind of recipe!

I believe the history is that this cake was popular during the depression when ingredients were hard to come by. I don't know about you, but it seems like we're sort of in a depression now and definitely sometimes ingredients are hard to come by - at least in my kitchen! I am always on the lookout for recipes that I can make when I am short on ingredients! Well, this recipe is a keeper FOR SURE! In fact, I liked it so well that it might just be my "go to" chocolate cake recipe - for cupcakes and any even layer cakes! It was light and moist. Just perfect really! Don't let the vinegar scare you off. I'm not a scientist. I have no idea really what vinegar does to this cake. There are no eggs, butter or milk. But whatever happens in there works because this is a perfect chocolate cake!

Here's how I made Kim's Wacky Cake AT HOME MY WAY.

(Of course, my camera was saying "lense error" and so I don't have a picture, but trust me when I say that this cake is really wonderful and looks dark and rich and, and, and.....!)

Wacky Cake

  • 3 cups All Purpose flour

  • 2 cups Sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons Baking soda

  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa

  • 1/2 cup oil

  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar

  • 2 cups hot tap water

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional) I did not have any so did not use

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease a 9 x 13 pan.

In a large bowl, mix together well the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa. Make 2 wells in the flour mixture. Pour the oil in one well and the vinegar in the other. Pour hot water over the entire mixture. Stir with a spoon until smooth. (This is a BEAUTIFUL batter!) Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips (if using). Bake for 40 minutes or until springs back to the touch.

I just sprinkled mine with powdered sugar once completely cool and then ate a huge piece!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Baked Cheesy Fries

My husband and I are recent "empty nesters" and have been enjoying a little bit of new found freedom the last couple of weeks. We haven't ever been big restaurant eaters but we have a new affinity for Outback Steakhouse. It seems like the other restaurants have raised their prices to the point that we can now eat at Outback as cheaply as we can eat at one of our local diners. If we each have the Outback Special for around $10, and drink the ice water, its a pretty cheap date night. A few times we have splurged and bought a half order of the Cheese Fries. They are divine! And OF COURSE, I had to figure a way to make these AT HOME MY WAY! And boy oh boy did I have success! These are really good. My older daughter wants me to make them over and over in the same week. She just can't get enough of them.

I bought a 20 pound bag of potatoes (well... I bought two actually) for $1.98 each so this date-night splurge was really cheap to make at home. We NEVER fry anything any more unless we have the fish frier set up outside. So, these potatoes aren't as bad for you as they look. They are baked in very little oil with however much cheese you are brave enough to sprinkle on. This is how I did it.

Baked Cheesy Fries (Preheat oven to 400 degrees)

  • 6 Washed brown-skinned potatoes (however many you need for feeding your family) (leave the peeling on)

  • 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese / sharp, mild, medium, or colby (really any kind of cheese would be fine)

  • Seasonings I used: Season salt (generic Lowrys), onion powder, pepper

  • 3 T. Oil (olive, canola, or vegetable oil)

I used this awesome frenchfry cutter my husband got last Christmas (and we had never used) - it works magnificently. My Mom got it at Bass Pro. Its super worth it! We pushed the potatoes through the cutter with the peeling on. Super fast!

Place all the fries in a big bowl. Drizzle with the oil. Stir well to coat the fries in the oil.

Dump on lightly oiled or sprayed cookie sheet (actually I didn't remember to do this step and since my fries were lightly oiled, they didn't stick or anything). Try to get them in one layer with just a little crowding. If you have a bigger family, you may have to use two cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice.

Bake uncovered in 400 degree oven until the fries are browning. I would guess 20-30 minutes. (I didn't remember to time them but you want them completely done before melting the cheese because that doesn't take but a minute).

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese melts (app. 1-2 minutes).

My daughter ate hers as "loaded" potatoes with a little sour cream. My husband and I just ate ours as cheesy fries! They would probably be great with a little leftover chili and cheese as well for a complete pig out dish!

We bought some inexpensive steaks and all three of us ate for less than $10.00. It was fun and delicious and we decided we will be making this often.


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