Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sylvia's Spaghetti Sauce

Picture is from

I went into my neighbor's house the other day and was overwhelmed by the aroma of Picadillo simmering on the stove. Picadillo is a spanish dish of ground meat, olives, tomatoes, capers, raisins, onions, peppers, garlic and spices. You can find Picadillo at any local Cuban or Spanish restaurant around here. They make a good version at the Cuban Sandwich Shop in Tampa, but not the same as homemade.

I didn't grow up with a Spanish or Italian mother or grandmother, but I imagine the feel and smell of that kitchen is what childhood memories are made of. My neighbor sent a sample home with me. She couldn't find the Picadillo recipe but she shared her spaghetti sauce recipe with me. I am going to share it with you.

I told her I would probably never make it since they make very good commercial spaghetti sauce now and she said, "Just doctor it up. That is what I do." I still want to buy all the groceries and have her make me a Spanish feast. Her black beans do not taste like any I have ever tasted and I have a feeling her spaghetti sauce is the same.

My husband is prejudiced against garlic or I would just pay Sylvia to cook for us all the time. It is wonderful to have a neighbor with such a rich heritage that she shares with me.

Sylvia's Spaghetti

2 lbs. Italian Sausage
2 lbs. Cube Pork
2 1/2 lbs Ground Meat (for meatballs)
2 Large Cans of Whole Tomato
2 Large Cans of Tomato Puree
2 Large Cans of Crushed Tomato
2 Large Yellow Onions
1 Green Pepper
1 Red Pepper (use about 3/4)
8 Garlic Cloves (one small head)
5 Bay leaves (small)
6 Fresh Basil leaves
Olive Oil
1 Cup Red Wine
4 Tbls. Brown Sugar
Salt (cover top of sauce)
Pepper (cover top of sauce)
Oregano (cover top of sauce)
1 Carrot (grated and peeled)
1 Zucchini (grated and peeled)

Cook the Italian Sausage directly into the pot that will cook all the sauce, approximately 15 minutes. Remove Italian Sausage leaving the drippings in the pot. Add the Cube Pork and cook approximately 15 minutes or until brown. Remove the Cube Pork leaving the drippings in the pot. Chop the Onions, Green Pepper, Garlic and Red Pepper. Add the chopped vegetables, shredded Carrot and the Olive Oil to the pot and simmer until the vegetables are clear. Open all cans and add one at a time, while stirring. Add Brown Sugar, Pepper, Salt and Oregano to taste (again measure by covering the top of the sauce). Add the Bay leaves and fresh Basil leaves. Continue stirring. Add Wine and grated Zucchini. Continue stirring and tasting to adjust spices as needed. After one hour of cooking, slowly add the Meatballs by pushing them into the sauce. After you have added the Meatballs, limit stirring or the Meatballs will breakdown. Continue cooking for another hour. Total cooking time should be only 2 hours on low to medium heat. Sauce should be bubbling and you should stir frequently. Do not cover or over cook (will turn watery if over cooked.)
2 1/2 lbs of Ground Meat
2 Eggs
1/3 cup of Evaporated Milk
Sprinkle of Romano or Parmesan Cheese
2 Garlic Cloves
1/3 Green Pepper
1 small Yellow Pepper
Bread Crumbs
Place the eggs, onion, green pepper and garlic, cheese and evaporated milk in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the blended ingredients to the ground meat. Mix with hands and slowly add the breadcrumbs until firm in texture. Roll into small meatballs to add to the sauce.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nap - Magpie Tales #36

Magpie Tales is a writing blog hosted by Willow at Willow Manor. Click here to see the other entries.

A simple little luxury unheard of for many years of work from 9-5, pick up the children from daycare, start supper, a messy house, unwashed laundry . . .

The doors and windows are flung open to a few perfect days after a long steambath summer. Not for us a big, splashy Fall with crunchy leaves underfoot. But, if you watch for them, tiny oak leaves flutter down in the cool breeze like lazy yellow butterflies. The room is bathed in dappled sun light and silence. Time slows to a stop. Disconnected thoughts drift in and out. . . peace. . . sleep. An afternoon nap.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chocolate Cakes - Wedding, Bundt, Mud and Wacky

We have had lots of chocolate cake lately.
First there was chocolate wedding cake (Stephanie's favorite) and then a couple of chocolate birthday cakes for her October birthday.The picture above is chocolate bundt cake. Her stepmother made the first one up in Virginia and then I made one. I just used a moist chocolate cake mix but I put in only 2 eggs instead of 3 and I substituted strong coffee instead of water and baked it in a bundt pan. I made a simple glaze of butter, cocoa, confectioner's sugar and coffee but it was a little too thin so it just soaked right in. You can't see it but you can taste it.

The other cake I made was a version of Mississippi Mud Cake. It was also a little like Wacky Cake. I include both recipes here. Do you remember Wacky Cake? It was popular when I was a teenager because 1) it was wacky 2)it was cheap to make and 3) it tasted fantastic. I still make it sometimes because it is just enough for a square cake pan and it takes almost no ingredients to make.

Here are the somewhat modified recipes I used from a great cookbook called "A Collection of the VERY FINEST RECIPES ever assembled into one Cookbook". It was published in 1979 by Becker Publications, Inc. in Hayward, California. I think someone gave it to me. The cover is missing but it said something on the inside about the publishers being typesetters who created many, many cookbooks for various fundraisers. They picked out the best of these recipes and created this cookbook. Since I was a typesetter myself and worked on a couple of cookbooks, I was curious right away. Then I looked inside and found every old recipe I had ever tried to find. What I like best is that every recipe is someone's family favorite.

Mississippi Mud Cake

2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening (I used 2 sticks of margarine)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 Tsp. salt
2 Tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (I put this in the frosting rather than the cake)
1 large package of marshmallows (I left this out)

1 box of powdered sugar
1 stick of margarine, melted
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 cup evaporated milk (I just used regular milk)
1 Tsp. vanilla

Cake: Cream sugar and shortening. Beat in eggs by hand. Sift flour, cocoa and salt together. Add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla and nuts (or not). Pour into greased oblong cake pan and bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. Sprinkle cake with rows of marshmallows. Increase heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes. (I left out the marshmallows and baked the whole thing at 325 for 25 minutes.

Frosting: Combine powdered sugar and cocoa. Add melted margarine, milk, vanilla, stir in nuts and pour over cake.

I never use a whole box of powdered sugar. I just use a lot more than I'm really comfortable with until the frosting is the right texture. This makes a wonderful fudgey glaze on top of the cake.

Wacky Cake

1 cup of sugar
3 Tbs. cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tsp. baking soda
1 cup cold water
6 Tbs. cooking oil
1 Tbs. vinegar
1 Tsp. vanilla

Stir dry ingredients together into an 8" x 8" baking pan. Make 3 holes in dry ingredients. Put vinegar in one hole; oil in one hole, and vanilla in the last hole. Pour cold water over all and stir with a fork until moistened. Do not beat. Bake 25 - 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Leave in pan and frost.

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. cocoa
2 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. milk or evaporated milk
1 pinch salt

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Carrot Cake

A homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing for my brother's birthday. The recipe is straight out of my husband's bachelor Betty Crocker cookbook. It was the most similar to my Aunt Nellie's recipe that I have lost. I don't really like pineapple or even raisins in my carrot cake. Just lots of nuts and carrots and frosting that is not too sweet or too thick. There is more frosting on this that I intended but it was good.

Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups shredded carrots

1/4 ground nutmeg

1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl until blended. Stir in dry ingredients except carrots and nuts. Beat 1 minute. Stir in carrots and nuts. I baked this in a silicone bundt pan for 1 hour. In a rectangle pan, bake 40 - 45 minutes. In 2 round pans, 30 - 35 minutes. Top cool cake with frosting if desired, or just a dusting of powdered (confectioner's) sugar.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons of soft butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

!/2 box (or more) of powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk.

Mix softened cream cheese and butter with vanilla, powdered sugar and enough milk to make the consistency you want, from a thin, pour-on glaze to a thick, fluffy frosting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


After my little roast chicken on Sunday, I wanted to include an actual recipe.

Have you ever heard of Talerine? I failed to find it several times on Google until I spelled it this way. I learned some interesting things. For instance, the name Talerine apparently comes from a wide Italian pasta called tagliarini.

I learned this recipe from my friend Carol when we were young single moms in Arkansas. We lived on this stuff but I always wondered why it had such a funny name. We made it in a skillet. Here is the recipe I use.

1 lb. ground beef, browned

1/2 cup diced onion

1 can corn

1 can tomato sauce

1 soup can of water to help cook the noodles

1/2 pkg. wide egg noodles

American cheese slices

Brown the ground beef with onion and drain. Add 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 soup can of water, 1 can of corn, and 1/2 the package of noodles. Cook until the noodles are tender. Top with American cheese slices and cook until they are melted.

Here is what I learned. There was a recipe in 1962 using Campbell's tomato soup. I imagine this is where most people learned about this recipe. Most recipes I found on the internet had green pepper, mushrooms, and black olives as well as the corn. They all used shredded cheddar cheese. All were baked in the oven. Here is the Campbell's soup version. Here is another one from Simply Recipes.
I think the black olives would be a good flavor addition. I love green pepper but I think it would change the taste that I remember too much. Shredded cheddar would be good, but the old slices of American cheese are kind of sentimental to me. What you MUST have for it to be Talerine is corn, cheese and, for me, tomato sauce. The Campbell's soup, crushed tomatoes, etc. in other recipes just don't produce the same flavor. I plan to make this stuff soon. It reminds me of many warm, satisfying suppers for a young, broke mom and a hungry little boy who loved it. (My husband loves it, too.) BTW, image is from the Campbell's soup website.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I roasted a chicken on Sunday. I saw them in the store at 59 cents per pound and thought, "What a bargain!" I saw myself expertly roasting two chickens each Sunday and doing wonderful things with the leftovers all week. Or I could cut out the backbone and spread it out on the grill or under the broiler or in a cast iron pan with a foil wrapped brick on top. Or I could perch it atop a can of beer and make beer can chicken.

Trouble is I didn't have any beer or one of those wire gadgets to hold the chicken over the can. I didn't even have any cooking twine and I had just used my only lemon. I did want to bind those legs together and tried to hold them with foil but that didn't work. So it roasted with it's legs splayed out with a big chunk of onion inside and carrots to act as a cooking rack. When this picture was taken, it wasn't done yet and had to go back into the oven for 20 more minutes. It tasted fine.

My confession is this. It was a lot of trouble to cook, not to mention trying to get all the meat off the pesky thing. It makes buying chicken quarters at $1.00 more a pound seem very attractive. Even those frozen chicken breasts or a store-bought rotisserie chicken. That reminds me of another confession. I am afraid of my gas grill. I'm even afraid for my husband. It is a beautiful grill but it is often hard to light and hard to regulate.

Here is another meal we had recently. Meatloaf. Very simple with lots of ketchup. The way my mother made it. It was good. I also recently made white chicken chili. It was good. I'm sorry to be on a blog with these simple meals. Can't even really call them recipes. But here they are ... those are my confessions.