Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

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Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe

Homemade spaghetti sauce is really the only way to go if you want flavor, freshness and frugality. It’s so incredibly easy and makes a world of difference compared to the store-bought-jarred-or-canned-stuff.  I whipped up a batch of this homemade spaghetti sauce last night and I think it’s one of my best batches yet.

This homemade spaghetti sauce recipe could be made in the slow cooker, but you’ll still want to cook up the garlic, onions and beef before you toss it into the slow cooker. I used a Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-Quart Oval French Oven, Cherry (Amazon) - but any large pan will do.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil – 2 Tablespoons

Ground beef or turkey – about 2 pounds
I am an Alaskan girl, so I used moose meat :)

1 large onion – diced finely

Garlic cloves - 5 cloves, peeled and minced

Tomato sauce – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Tomato paste - 1 can, 12 oz

Brown sugar - 2 Tablespoons

Dried Oregano (or Italian seasoning mix) – 1 heaping Tablespoon

Dried Sweet Basil - 1 heaping Tablespoon

Bay leaves - two whole leaves (remove when done cooking)

Optional: Sliced fresh mushrooms (probably 12 – 16 oz), diced fresh red or yellow peppers, parmesan cheese

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) In a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, add your olive oil. After it’s hot, toss in your diced onions and minced garlic. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Be careful, the garlic can burn if you’re not careful.

2.) Once your onions are cooked, toss in your ground beef (or turkey). Cook until it’s no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. (If the pan is hard to drain, use a turkey baster to remove grease.)

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3.) Once your meat is no longer pink and the grease drained – toss in all the tomatoes, brown sugar and spices!

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4.) Simmer on LOW for at least one hour, uncovered, on the stove top!  Stir occasionally. Simmering will reduce a lot of the extra water and enrich the flavor. I simmered mine for a few hours on LOW and think it only gets better with time.

5.) Serve over pasta with a shaving of parmesan cheese

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Frozen-Spaghetti-Sauce

Make a big batch of this sauce and you can freeze for future meals. When we want spaghetti we take the sauce out the night before and heat up on the stove top. I like to freeze mine laying flat so that I can stack them upright in my freezer (see how I organize my freezer here).

homemade-roasted-Marinara-sauce

If you are lucky enough to have FRESH tomatoes – I definitely recommend my Roasted Marinara Tomato sauce. It’s amazing and also easy. It’s great to whip up when you have a bumper crop of tomatoes in late summer!

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Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry Recipe

Broccoli-Sausage-Stir-Fry-(2)

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Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry

This recipe for Broccoli and Sausage Stir Fry is one of my favorite all-time family recipes. It’s a recipe I’ve modified that my mother makes and I serve it as least twice a month, if not more. It’s incredibly easy to make – you can have it done and on the table in about the time it takes to boil your water and cook your pasta.

Broccoli-Sausage-Stir-Fry-Recipe-Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

Fresh broccoli, 1 pound – Cut to small florets

Sausages, 3-4 - I prefer chicken sausage, like Aidell’s, whereas my mom makes it with Polska Kielbasa sausage
For this recipe I used Sabahno’s Smoke Mozzarella with Artichokes and Garlic Chicken sausage from Costco

Fresh Mushrooms, 1 pound - I prefer crimini, sliced

Onion, 1 medium – Diced finely

Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, 1 Cup - Finely grated

Pasta, one pound – I prefer Wacky Mac or Ronzoni Garden Delight, but used regular bow tie today.

Garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced

Oregano - 2 to 4 Tablespoons
Start with less – you can always add more.

Olive oil, Tablespoon

Salt, just a dash

These measurements are exact. You can add as much or as little of any ingredient and I think it still will turn out delicious.

Costco has all these ingredients at a great price. I usually buy the pre-cut broccoli florets at Costco, the crimini mushrooms, oregano (or italian seasoning mix), the sausages and the parmesan. The packages from Costco will easily get you two meals of this (and you’ll still have sausage and parmesan left over).

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Start the process by getting a big pot of water on the stove for your noodles.

2.) While you’re waiting for the water to boil, prep your other ingredients. Mince you garlic, dice your onions, slice your mushrooms, wash/cut your broccoli, grate your parmesan

3.) By this point my water is usually boiling – dump in your noodles, cook according to directions on package.

4.) While noodles are boiling, get a large skillet (with a lid to use toward the end) and put over medium-heat on the stove top. Everything will end up in this skillet (except the noodles), so make sure it’s a big size. I use this one (Amazon: Cuisinart CSK-250 GreenGourmet 14-Inch Nonstick Electric Skillet) Add your olive oil to your skillet.

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5.) Once your olive oil is hot, add your onions, garlic and a dash of salt. Cook down the onions (2-3 minutes) over medium heat.

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6.) Once onions have started to soften, add mushrooms, cook down 2-3 minutes

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7.) Once mushrooms are softening, add sausage and oregano, cook for 2-3 minutes

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8.) Once everything is hot and steamy – add your broccoli, don’t stir, just COVER for about 3 minutes until your broccoli has turned a vibrant green and is steamed but still crunchy.

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9.) Serve over a scoop of pasta and add your parmesan cheese! It reheats great the next day – in fact, I think I even like it more as leftovers!

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Kids-Stir-Fry-web

Let me know what you think! I hope you like it as much as we do! Here’s a photo from when I posted back in 2011. This has always been one of my kid’s favorite meals. My son is showing off his muscles – since he’s eating broccoli and my daughter is still in her high chair. They were such babies! Time is going way too fast. . .

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Slow cooker crockpot country style pork ribs recipe

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Crockpot Country-Style Pork Ribs

Country-style pork ribs are one of the most frugal meats you can buy. This Slow Cooker Country-Style Pork Rib recipe is simple and so easy. It’s a fantastically simple base recipe that you can add to or serve with a variety of sauces.

INGREDIENTS

About 5 – 7 pounds of country-style pork ribs

Water, 1 Cup

Sherry, 1/2 Cup

Barbecue sauce, 1/4 Cup

Worcestershire sauce, a few shakes

Garlic salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Season country-style ribs with garlic salt and pepper, to your liking.

2.) Put ribs into slow cooker. Whisk together water, sherry and barbecue sauce and pour over the ribs in the slow cooker

3.) Shake worcestershire sauce over the top of it. I did a few shakes.

4.) Cook on low for 8 hours. Don’t stir too much, just leave it be, with the lid on. Over stirring will break apart the ribs.

5.) Remove with tongs and serve with your favorite toppings. We served with barbecue sauce!

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It’s Crock-toberAs part of this month-long series I’ll be featuring slow cooker and crockpot recipes that are easy and inexpensive!  This recipe was sent in by Alexia as part of our Crock-tober series - so she’ll get a $10 Amazon gift card! Send in your recipe and if I feature your recipe on the blog you’ll get a $10 Amazon gift card!

Here are some of the slow cooker recipes we’ve featured this month:

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Roasted Marinara Sauce Recipe – Easy, homemade, fresh

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Roasted Marinara Sauce Recipe

This roasted marinara recipe could not be any easier and it beats jarred or canned sauce by a landslide. I admittedly tried to make a homemade marinara sauce in the crockpot last fall and it was a MAJOR fail. I don’t know why, but it just tasted bitter and blah.  But this, this is how you make marinara sauce – roasted.

The measurements in this recipe are just a suggestion. It’s what I ended up putting into my marinara sauce, but add more of what you like and less of what you don’t. I’m fairly certain you can’t mess this up.

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INGREDIENTS

Tomatoes - About 5 pounds
I used a combination of roma, cherry, and glacier – some from my garden, some store bought. Dice large ones and leave cherry tomatoes whole. Remove stems.

Fresh Basil - Cup (packed) with fresh basil leaves, washed (whole leaves), stems removed

Fresh Garlic - Whole cloves, about 10 or 1/4 Cup
I like garlic, use less if this sounds like too much

Zucchini - 1 – 2 zucchinis, diced in 1/2″ thick slices

Onions - Two medium onions, quartered
I used a red onion and a Walla Walla Sweet onion (from my garden)

Olive oil - About 2 Tablespoons

Balsamic Vinegar - 1 Tablespoon (optional)

Salt - 3/4 Tablespoon

Italian Seasoning - 1 Tablespoon

Ground Pepper – To taste

Roasted-Marinara-Recipe-Fresh-Tomatoes

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degree F

2.) Wash and chop all your vegetables. If you have large tomatoes, quarter them. Basically you want everything about the same size when you chop it up – so it all cooks at the same rate.

Roasted-Marinara-Recipe-Fresh-Vegetables

3.) Once all your vegetables are chopped, toss them into a roasting pan or glass pyrex pan. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over vegetables. Add salt, italian seasoning and ground pepper to taste.

4.) Pop in the oven. Cook 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees. You can take the pan out about half way through and give it a good stir. If you have enough for multiple pans, rotate them on the shelves so they cook evenly.

4.) Remove from oven. Allow to cool.

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5.) Once cool to touch, use a slotted spoon to scoop vegetables into a food processor, blender or Blendtec/Vitamix. I recommend a slotted spoon because I found I had a lot of liquid from my tomatoes – leave the juice in the pan, you can add more later.

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6.) Puree your vegetables. The longer you puree, the smoother the sauce. If you had very seedy tomatoes, puree a bit longer to help break those up. Scoop in liquid from your roasting pan to get it to the consistency you would like. You can always freeze this liquid for tomato soups or to add to sauce at a later time (I didn’t want to throw mine away!). If it’s not thick enough for you, try adding some tomato paste.

7.) Freeze in Ziploc bags or freezer bags. Or if you’re up for it, can it!

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I knew the recipe was a keeper when my daughter sat down, right there on the kitchen floor and ate a bowl of it, without noodles, without cheese. She loved it! So it’s kid-approved, in case you’re wondering.

I’d love to hear what you think about this recipe! I’m excited to get more tomatoes and try some different variations. I might try to add the basil in fresh to the food processor – I bet that would give it a vibrant color and possibly a stronger flavor.

Roasted-Marinara-Recipe-Fresh-Tomatoes-Onions-Basil

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Crockpot Corn Chowder recipe

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Crockpot Corn Chowder recipe

After a weeklong hot spell the weather in the Northwest cooled down quite a bit today. So I threw together some Crockpot Corn Chowder - it hit the spot and it was just the thing to use up the gobs of frozen corn I have in the freezer. My husband raved about it, so I think I’ll be making it again real soon.

INGREDIENTS

Potatoes, peeled and cubed, about 5 Cups (5-6 potatoes)

Corn, I used frozen, 5 Cups

Chicken broth, 4 Cups

3 Carrots, peeled and diced

3 Celery stalks, diced

1/2 Onion diced and sautéed in olive oil

5-6 slices of cooked bacon

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon Thyme
Don’t leave this out, I think it really adds to the flavor.

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Or you could probably use fresh garlic, I was out. Maybe 1 -2 cloves, minced.

1 Cup Heavy Cream (I used whipping cream because it’s what I had)
1 Cup regular milk (I used 1% milk)
Or I think you could just substitute 2 Cups heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings: Shredded cheddar cheese and diced bacon if you like

corn-chowder-in-crockpot

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Throw potatoes, corn, chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, bacon, butter, thyme and garlic powder into crockpot (basically everything BUT the milk).

2.) Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Since the bacon and onions are pre-cooked you really only need to get the potatoes soft, the smaller you dice those, the quicker that happens.

3.) About 30 minutes before you serve, add your milk or heavy cream or whipping cream. Whatever you have to make it creamy.

4.) You can used an immersion blender if you wanted to thicken it up by pureeing some of the potatoes (be careful if it’s hot). I tried this, but frankly, I like it chunky so I didn’t mind.

5.) Serve with shredded cheese and bacon bits for toppings.

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My kids aren’t really soup eaters. They never have been, unless it’s Miso soup, then they love it (strange huh?). Usually what we do is use a slotted spoon and serve them the soup without the broth. We don’t even tell them it’s soup, it’s veggies and cheese or whatever it happens to be.

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I served this with warm batch of my Grandma’s homemade rolls. I hope you enjoy!

What are your favorite things to add to chowder? Do you make chowder in the crockpot or stove top?

Curried-Corn-Cheddar-Chowder-Recipe

If you like this recipe, you might also like these recipes:

And more crockpot recipes here:

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Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup recipe

I originally shared this recipe back in February 2012, but this slow cooker beef and barley soup just had to be shared again as part of our soup and salad series!

I love to pick up stew meat when I find it’s been marked down and needs to be cooked up – that’s what I did for this recipe. I’m pretty sure you can have the butcher dice up any kind of meat cut, but I’m not positive (have you done this?)

INGREDIENTS

1 to 2 pounds stew beef

1 cup pearl barley

2 cups frozen corn 

4-6 cups water or broth (I used beef bouillon mixed with water)

4 to 6 sliced carrots

1 stalk celery, diced (Although I put in four or five)

1 can tomatoes

1 onion, diced (I put in two)

3 minced fresh garlic clove (I have to put garlic in everything, you don’t, it wasn’t on any of the recipes I looked at)

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups fresh or frozen green beans (I left this out since we didn’t have them)

Fresh parsley to garnish

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) In a large skillet add a little olive oil and add the onions and beef. Cook beef until brown and onions until starting to soften.

2.) If beef is really fatty, you can drain it first, then transfer to your slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker.

3.) Cook on medium-high for for 4-5 hours or until barley, beef and veggies are tender.

4.) Serve with fresh parsley as garnish and don’t forget the warm bread. If you’re up for it – make my Grandma’s Rolls.

5.) Serve and enjoy!

I’d love to hear your recipes and your versions for this!  This salad recipe is part of our Soup and Salad recipe series!

You might also like:

Do you have a favorite soup or salad? Send it in! You could get a $10 Amazon gift card if I feature your recipe!

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Homemade pesto served with pasta (healthier version)

I’ve never been able to successfully keep a basil plant alive, ever. Believe me, I’ve tried. But this year, I build raised beds and I jumped into the whole gardening thing – and I’m both shocked and humbled to have just harvested my very first homegrown batch of basil. I won’t go all mushy on you – but I’m feeling very basil-blessed after harvesting it all and making up a batch of the most delicious, fresh pesto I’ve ever had. Maybe it tastes so good, because it came from my garden. Yes, that’s probably it, but that’s okay. I think savoring the bounty is the real reason anyone gardens anyway. So I’ll sit back, smile and savor it. And I’ll share with you my simple, healthier, pesto recipe.

This week I harvested a ton of zucchini and a beautiful pile of basil.

If you don’t have homegrown basil, don’t despair. Buy it from Trader Joe’s (great price) or in the produce section of most grocery stores.

This recipe is a little healthier than other recipes because it calls for less olive oil. I substitute olive oil with water from boiled pasta (pasta water). It also has less cheese and fewer pine nuts than other recipes. I still think it tastes superb, but you can always add more of whatever you like. Want more olive oil? Add less water. It’s very difficult to screw it up.

INGREDIENTS

Fresh Basil 2 cups(I doubled this recipe, I figure if you’re going to make it, go for a big batch and then freeze remaining pesto). Wash and dry basil.

Pine nuts 2-3 tablespoons, these are expensive, so you can start with less then add more if you want more flavor. I like the pine nut flavor so I’m more of a 3 tablespoons kinda gal. Buy it in bulk to save. Or check Amazon or Costco.

Fresh parmesan cheese, shredded 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup
Costco has a great price on this.

Garlic 2-3 cloves, peeled

Olive oil 1 tablespoon

Water, from boiled pasta 1/4 cup

Salt, 1/2 teaspoon

DIRECTIONS

1.) Throw washed basil into large food processor. I made a double batch and it fit perfectly in my Cuisinart 14-cup food processor (which I adore).

2.) Toss in pine nuts, peeled garlic and shredded cheese.

3.) Add olive oil. The more you add, the richer it will be. We did one tablespoon (2x for double batch).

4.) Pulse the food processor and get it going. See what the consistency looks like. Slowly add pasta water until you get it to the consistency that you like. Avoid making it runny, if you are adding it to freshly boiled pasta there is going to moisture from that as well.

5.) Taste it. Need more garlic? More olive oil? Pine nuts? Add them and blend again. It’s really easy – you can’t screw it up, I promise. Make it to your liking.

6.) And you’re done! It’s that easy. Scrap out pesto into bowl. Serve on pasta, chicken, sandwiches, with a cheese plate or on a burger.

I like to freeze my extra pesto. This last time I used a mini muffin pan – each spot holds about 1 tablespoon of basil. A great serving size – a little bit goes a long way, especially on pasta. Once it’s frozen pop the pieces into a plastic bag and you can take out one at a time. I used a metal mini muffin pan, but here is a silicone mini muffin pan – I bet it would work great for popping out the frozen pesto packs - HIC Brands that Cook Essentials Silicone 24-Cup Mini Muffin Pan.

If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can use an ice cube tray.

What’s your favorite way to make pesto? What types of foods do you like to serve with pesto?

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Chicken stuffed with arugula and goat cheese

We had this for dinner this week – it was our first time making it, but won’t be our last. I have a ton of arugula from our garden, so we’ve been trying to make the most of it. And we had goat cheese in the fridge left over from this Strawberry, Arugula, Goat Cheese salad - so we make chicken stuffed with arugula and goat cheese!

INGREDIENTS

Chicken breasts, four

Arugula, about 4 ounces

Goat cheese (chevre), about 4 ounces  (Costco has a Kirkland brand goat cheese that is super affordable!)

Olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons

Toothpicks

DIRECTIONS

1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2.) Wash, dry your chicken breasts. Then place on cutting board, lay a piece of plastic wrap across chicken breasts and pound them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer. We just want to thin them out a bit – it’s easier for wrapping.

3.) On a clean surface, layout the chicken breasts and put a layer of arugula leaves on top. Then sprinkle with goat cheese – it will melt and infuse into chicken, so add a little more than you think you should. Start with the narrowest end of the chicken breasts and roll it up. Secure with a toothpick or two.

4.) Using a skillet that is safe for the oven, place skillet on stove and heat oil on medium high heat. Place your chicken rolls into the pan and brown them on all sides.

5.) Finish them off by placing skillet into oven and cook until chicken is cooked through. Probably 10 – 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven (careful – it’s hot!) and remove the chicken from pan. Cover with foil and let it rest for five minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve – either sliced or whole.

I think there are so many possibilities for this recipe – you could do the same technique with pesto and mozzarella, ham and swiss and . . . ?

What is your favorite thing to stuff inside chicken?

Find other chicken recipes here

Recipe credit: Simply Recipes

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Grilled Honey Teriyaki Chicken recipe

Mr. Queen Bee made this for dinner last night and it was so yummy! We admit we are grilling amateurs – we do the basics like burgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts and the occasional steak. But last week Fred Meyer had grill packs for $0.88 a pound, so we figured we’d give grilled teriyaki chicken a try – my oh my, we hope you like it as much as we do!

Recipe credit goes to the Food Network’s Grilled Honey-Teriyaki Chicken recipe.

INGREDIENTS

Chicken
We used a grill pack filled with different cuts of chicken.

BRINE
2 cups water
1 cup light brown sugar (We used regular)
1/2 head garlic, unpeeled
4 slices fresh ginger root, gently bashed to open up. (We ended up using jarred ginger, because we didn’t have fresh)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 sprigs fresh thyme

GLAZE
2 cups teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 large (1-inch) piece fresh ginger root, sliced and bashed to open up (We ended up using jarred ginger, because we didn’t have fresh)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, plus 1/2 cup
Freshly ground black pepper
Scallion threads, for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

1.) Make your brine. Combine water, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, salt and thyme in a large resealable bag and mix to dissolve your sugar. We ended up using a glass cake pan with a lid.

2.) Rinse your chicken, pat dry with paper towels. Add to brine for a couple hours in the refrigerator. You can shake it up every once in awhile to really coat the chicken.

3.) When you’re ready – preheat your grill on low-medium heat – not too hot!

4.) Make your teriyaki glaze in a small saucepan, over medium-heat. Combine teriyaki sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and one teaspoon of sesame oil. Simmer until rich and slightly reduced.

5.) Remove chicken from brine and pat it dry. Toss the brine, you won’t use it again. Add chicken to large bowl, drizzle with 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil and season with fresh ground black pepper.

6.) Toss to coat and grill on low-medium heat for up 17-20 minutes per side until cooked through. You are going to baste with the teriyaki glaze only the last 5-7 minutes of cooking. This is a key to cooking with sugary glazes – cook the meat slow and low and then only baste toward the ends – otherwise the sugars easily burn on high heat.

7.) You can garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. If you cut the scallions on a bias and soak in ice water they curl up all artsy.

8.) We served with grilled asparagus.

Recipe credit goes to the Food Network’s Grilled Honey-Teriyaki Chicken recipe.

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Red wine and mushroom sauce. . .steaks anyone?

It may not be the prettiest meal, but it is delicious! Especially if you like mushrooms.

Today is my husband’s birthday! Everyone say, Happy Birthday Mr. Queen Bee! He’s actually the only reason this site exists – without him being such a staunch supporter and super star dad, this site wouldn’t happen. Plain. And. Simple.

To celebrate another year of him, last night we had steaks for dinner. We got the steaks using a Groupon offer for Omaha Steaks – it’s a great way to get top-quality steaks for nearly 50-60% off. They are really the best steaks and these ones were even wrapped in bacon! Mr. Bee found a recipe for a red wine and mushroom sauce and it was so awesome, I thought I’d share it with you. We hope you like it, too.

And I might add – NY Steaks are on sale at Fred Meyer this week for $4.97/lb, which is not bad!

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 pounds mushrooms – the recipe suggests wild mushrooms, we used regular ole bella mushrooms

Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon – we bought a cheap $5-6 bottle

1/4 cup reserved beef broth (drippings from roast) or low-sodium canned broth

1/4 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

1.) Place a clean skillet over medium heat.

2.) Add butter and a little drizzle of olive oil. Once butter is melted add the shallots and saute for 2 minutes to soften.

3.) Add mushrooms and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together for a few minutes.

4.) Add the red wine, stirring to scrape up any stuck bits; then cook and stir to evaporate the alcohol. When the wine is almost all gone, add the reserved beef juices.

5.) Let the liquid cook down and then take it off the heat. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.

You could probably serve this over any kind of red meat.

Recipe credit: Red wine and mushroom sauce

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