Dad’s at Work – Spaghetti and Meatballs Night!

I usually prepare meals that are easy to pack and warm up for my husband’s lunch at work the next day. Spaghetti is one of those dishes that is 1.) messy in the office break room scenario and 2.) doesn’t really warm up as tasty as it is served fresh. My children (age 25 and 21) love spaghetti so to insure they get their requirement of pasta and sauce, the times my husband is home for dinner, I plan spaghetti the evening before as he won’t be needing that extra lunch. Today is that day but I’m out of sauce so am making my usual triple batch so as to have some to freeze for later spaghetti adventure meals.

My spaghetti sauce holds a lot of nutrition secrets that might take away from their favor did the family know in it’s entirely exactly what is simmering in that closed pot on the stove. In case any of you parents are interested in sabotaging your children’s food with needed nutrition, I thought I’d share my secrets.

Ingredients:
2 24/ounce cans of your favorite pasta sauce. (I watch for sales so usually get them for a dollar or less each)
4 cups chicken broth although beef broth works well, too.
1 6/ounce can of tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon chili flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (gives a sausage-taste to the sauce)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried onion (you can use 2 teaspoon onion powder)

Now, the nutrition elements!
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 stalks of celery thickly sliced
15 cloves of fresh garlic, mashed
1 large onion, chopped
2 Bell peppers, your choice of color, seeded and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced (use care as the oil can burn your hands!)
1 12-16-ounce packet of frozen spinach, defrosted
1 14-16 ounce can of pinto beans, rinsed
4 medium to large tomatoes, quartered

Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy cooking pot, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for one and a half to two hours. At this point all the ingredients should be very tender. At this point, there are two ways to smooth out the sauce. I am blessed to have a handheld immersion blender so I can smooth out the sauce right in the pot. Another way is to strain the liquid portion of the contents into another pot (don’t throw it away! :-)) and put the solids through the blender until smooth. Add everything back together. Check for seasoning. At this point, I like to add a cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to the mixture and cook on low until it is melted into the sauce. Keep the sauce simmering on low while you prepare your spaghetti, bake your meatballs, etc. Serve with lots of grated cheese on the side, garlic bread, and a salad and you shouldn’t hear any complaints.
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Chicken Salad Recipe – Cool Fare for a Hot Day!

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The temperatures are going up into the 90’s around here this weekend. Although I’m not particularly fond of the hot weather, it is a good excuse to make a cold dinner and get out of the kitchen sooner. A favorite around here are homemade chicken salad sandwiches. I usually keep hamburger buns in the freezer for just such an occasion but am not adverse to making my own . . . depending on how soon in the day I set the bread to rise and how hot it actually gets today.

Chicken Salad
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
2 cups very thinly sliced or diced celery
1 small shallot, finely diced or 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
Dijon mustard to taste, usually a teaspoon or two
Salt & pepper to taste
Thousand Island dressing

Romaine lettuce, washed and patted dry
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced Provolone Cheese
Hamburger buns or desired bread choice

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the Romaine. The Thousand Island dressing should moisten not drench the chicken.

Toast the buns or bread lightly. Line each side of the bread with Romaine and add the tomato and cheese on one side. Spread with the chicken salad, close the sandwich, and serve.

As usual, this is open to creativity.

Try dill pickle relish instead of the sweet.
Add some crushed croutons or potato chips to the chicken salad.
Try you favorite cheese.
A dash of barbecue sauce isn’t bad.
My son likes a few pickled jalapeño peppers.
Use a bottled Asian dressing instead of the Thousand Island.
Go with a Ranch dressing and add some crisp bacon.

Children a Cause of Aging?

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Without saying a word, just by being, children age you! Up until I had children, time seemed to hover over reality and, although I celebrated my birthdays, it didn’t seem to change the time factor much. Once you have children, however, they tend to become the measuring stick of your rapid aging process. Whereas you used to think back on events in a foggy but not that ancient past, you now have the years counted explicitly for you by way of your children.

When a child celebrates a birthday, it quickly brings to mind that another year has gone by and the child has changed. Suddenly, you glimpse an older person in the mirror and realize it it you. Time has sped up and you find yourself keeping track of the years as they quickly sift through your fingers!

Unless I can make the claim stick that I gave birth to all my children prior to age five, time is proclaiming the fact that while the children grow up, I am getting older.

Two of my children are off on their own. My older son is soon to be an author and he wrote the book in Chinese. Even my fourth child, my baby is twenty-one, now. My husband often shakes his head and bemoans the fact that it all happened so quickly. We were so busy raising the children, we regret not always having time to stop and totally revel in the fact.

We are, however, blessed. My advice to the mothers with cranky babies, exhaustion, and not enough time to do what they want to do . . . relish it as it ends all too soon and you will have children who will willingly walk into the future on their own, two feet and you are left with the memories. Rejoice and be glad and be thankful!

Lenten Fare – Vegetarian Chili

We like to go meatless a couple of days a week but it can be a challenge to find a recipe that doesn’t call for soy products. My husband can’t eat soy. During Lent and the meatless Fridays, I’m always straining my brain for nourishing meals that also taste good, too. This one seems to fit the requirements. It has everything you need to be filling and tasty and you can serve it as spicy as you want. I always put chili flakes on the table along with the salt and pepper for those in the family who like to breathe fire!

Vegetarian Chili
1 cup finely grated carrot
1 Portobelo mushroom, minced
One onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 cans beans (black, kidney, pinto, your choice!)
1 cup frozen corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup pasta sauce, your favorite brand
¼ cup chunky salsa
¼ cup fresh cilantro
Chili powder to taste
Ground cumin to taste

Tortilla chips
shredded Cheese
green onions, chopped
sour cream to top

Saute the carrot, mushroom, onion and garlic in a cooking pot with the olive oil until everything is tender. Add the Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, beans, corn, pasta sauce, and salsa. Stir to mix and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the chili and ground cumin, cook another five minutes. Add the cilantro and serve. Top with chips, shredded cheese, green onions, and sour cream.

Looking to Yourself for Your Circumstances . . . Great Quote!

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.
– George Bernard Shaw

Almond-Chocolate Roca Bars

This bar cookie smell like festivities approaching as it bakes! It is easy to make but looks like you fussed. Can you imagine it with a cup of hot coffee and good company? Easter is coming around the corner. Here is a grownup treat to celebrate the feast day!

Almond-Chocolate Roca Bars
1 cup butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Two cups dark chocolate pieces
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup toffee bits

Mix butter, sugars, flour, and extracts, and press into 11×15 baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and set. Melt chocolate and spread over cookie dough. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and toffee bit. Cut into bars while still warm.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies depending on size you cut them.

Ideas . . .
Instead of almonds, you can sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the melted chocolate.

If Jesus Came to Visit – author unknown

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Would you have to change your clothes
Before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines,
And put the Bible where they’d been?
Would you hide your worldly music
And put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in,
Or would you rush about?
And I wonder if the Savior
Spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing,
The things you always do?
Would you go right on saying
The things you always say?
Or would life for you continue
As it does from day to day?
Would you take Jesus with you
Everywhere you go?
Or would you maybe change your plans
For just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him
Meet your closest friends?
Or would you hope they stay away
Until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay
Forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief
When He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know,
The things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person,
To spend some time with you.