Beef Ragu


When I made this I had no idea what to call it. I started with a recipe that I got from a friend in college that was called “Farfalle Di Sera” (which means evening butterflies in Italian) as the base, but I made some changes to it so I’m not sure it’d still be called that. But after looking at this wikipedia page, I’m pretty sure it can be categorized as a ragu.

As you may or may not know, I typically cook dinner for around 25-40 people most Sundays for my church community. Normally I do things that are fairly simple because I don’t really start thinking about what I’m going to cook until Sunday afternoon and then only have a few hours to shop and cook. This Saturday the husband was out of town for a work trip and I had some extra time on my hands so I decided to try something different/more complicated.

I’m not sure I’ve ever braised that much meat at once before. After 5-6 hours the meat still seemed really tough, so I was a little worried. But a friend assured me that all would be ok if I just kept cooking it, and it all worked out!

I think it turned out really well and people seemed to enjoy it. Sadly it’s not very vibrant looking and hence not super appetizing, but it tasted good and that’s what matters right?

It’s only been 10 days since my last post, so I don’t really have a whole lot else to add.

Ingredients (note that this is probably enough for 30-40)
10 lbs chuck roast
5 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
7 medium zucchini/yellow squash, diced
5 small yellow onions, diced
3-4 cups chopped carrots
Heavy cream
Garlic powder
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot (I used a 12-qt stock pot… and then eventually had to divide into a second pot) and cook onions until soft and translucent.

Cut chuck roast into large pieces just so that they’re small enough fit in the pot you’re going to use. Season sides with salt and pepper. Brown all sides of the pieces of chuck roast and put them in the stock pot over the onions.

Add all the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-12 hours or until the meat is tender and shreddable with a fork. Allow to cool and skim extraneous oil from the top.

In a large pan, sauté the carrots with salt, pepper, and garlic powder until tender crisp and put aside in a bowl. Do the same with the zucchini.

Remove the large chunks of chuck roast and shred with two forks. I did this in the second pot I ended up using. When all the meat has been shredded, add about half back to the first pot and transfer about half the liquid from the first pot to the second. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder to taste. Add the carrots and zucchini (drain any extra liquid first) and continue to simmer until the carrots are soft.

Add heavy cream to your desired level of creaminess.

Serve over your favorite kind of pasta!


Spaghetti Burgers


So the other day I was surfing the internet when I saw this article about spaghetti burgers. I was intrigued by the concept, but thought it was just a carb overload. Spaghetti on bread? I was skeptical.

And then I had an idea. What if the spaghetti was the bun? And what if the burger was a meatball? So of course I had to try that.

I finally was able to find some time and grab a couple friends to experiment. The article mentioned the ingredients that were in the spaghetti “patty” but it didn’t say what the proportions were. Here’s what I ended up with:

For the “buns”:
1 box spaghetti
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6oz can tomato paste
Garlic powder
1 cup grated pecorino romano
2 eggs, beaten

For the “burgers”:
All the ingredients from this recipe from

In a pot, heat crushed tomatoes and tomato paste with oregano, salt, sugar and garlic powder to taste. Simmer for 20 min.

While the sauce is simmering, cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain and cut into small pieces with kitchen scissors. Add around 1/2 cup of sauce (the noodles should be covered but not too wet), the pecorino cheese, and the eggs to the spaghetti. Using a small pyrex dish or a ramekin, press the spaghetti mixture to about 1 cm thickness. Place on a cookie sheet. Continue until you run out of the spaghetti mixture. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator for 10-15 min. You should be able to make around 14-16 buns (7-8 burgers).

Combine all the ingredients from the meatball recipe in a large bowl. Form 7-8 patties. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take the spaghetti buns out of the refrigerator. Heat oil in a frying pan or cast iron pan. Fry the spaghetti buns over medium heat for 4-5 min on each side or until crispy.

Sear the meatball patties for about 1 min of each side. Remove and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes.

Serve with extra sauce.

Overall the experiment was quite good and we had a lot of fun cooking. The spaghetti buns didn’t solidify/stay together too well so we ended up having to eat with a fork. Perhaps next time I’ll try baking them instead. Or maybe bake them in muffin pans and make meatball sliders instead. But all in all it tasted really good!

Caprese Pasta Salad


I walked into my friend’s office today. I noticed that her officemate’s calendar was on September. I thought to myself, “That’s odd, it’s not September yet…” I proceeded to chat with my friend for a few minutes when I noticed that her calendar was on September too… and then I realized. It is September. Crazy!

Today felt so much like a Monday. I suppose Labor Day does that. Hopefully that means that on Friday it won’t feel like Friday and then I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I feel like some people come back from vacations refreshed and ready to get back to work. I always come back from vacations feeling like I need another vacation.

We had a Labor Day barbecue at James Madison Park yesterday. It was really nice. The park was right by the lake and the temperature finally cooled down. The last couple weeks have been gross and hot and humid, but yesterday was 70’s, dry and breezy.

There was so much food at the barbecue. A couple of the guys grilled burgers and hot dogs. There were a couple of different kinds of pasta, veggies, chips, and a bunch of desserts. A friend made these amazing peanut butter nutella cookies. So good. But dangerous! I was eating one and my friend made me laugh. I inhaled some of the cookie dust and started coughing up a lung.

I made a caprese pasta salad. It was a really simple recipe, but it was really good. I loooove fresh mozzarella. And thank you to my roommate for letting me use her olive oil and balsamic vinegar!

Recipe from Once Upon a Recipe

2 lbs uncooked pasta (I used rotini)
1 lb grape tomatoes
1 lb fresh mozzarella balls
3/4 cups olive oil
8-10 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Cook pasta. Drain, rinse, and let cool.

Slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, and pepper flake over low heat for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Let the oil cool.

Mix the pasta, oil, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and mozzarella balls together. Add salt, pepper, and basil to taste. Mix well.

Refrigerate for several hours and serve cold.

“I Don’t Know” Pasta


My friend and I semi-joke around about starting a restaurant sometimes. I cook but don’t bake. She bakes but doesn’t cook. So together we make a pretty good team. We sometimes talk about running away to culinary school… maybe one day we’ll actually do it.

I think it’d be funny to open a place called “Wherever”. The idea came because my friends and I are generally incredibly indecisive. So when the question comes up of where to go to eat, invariably the answer is usually a shrug paired with “wherever”. Since there currently isn’t a restaurant called “Wherever”, this answer isn’t very helpful for decision making. But if there was… voila! Decision made.

Going along with that idea, we would have dishes with names like “I don’t know”, “Whatever”, “Anything”, and “Surprise me”. When I was a kid, my mom would always get so annoyed at us when she would ask us what we wanted to eat and we would reply “I don’t know”. She’d always go, “There’s no such thing as ‘I don’t know’!” Well, now “I don’t know” would exist.

The first time I made this dish was when a couple of friends and I cleaned our other friend’s apartment while he wasn’t in town (his apartment was a DISASTER). After we finished cleaning we made dinner and watched 27 Dresses, Sweet Home Alabama, and Enchanted.

Last night my friend and I replicated the recipe, but a much lazier version. Instead of chopping broccoli we bought 2 bags of pre-cut florets and instead of making my own white sauce, we bought jarred sauce. We were both feeling pretty lazy and were in the middle of a Toy Story marathon. Normally I would always opt to make my own white sauce rather than buy the jarred stuff. If anyone would rather make their own white sauce too, my method is to simmer heavy cream with grated parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic (or garlic powder). The ratios of these things will vary greatly on how cheesy/salty/peppery/garlicky you like your white sauce. If you’re lazy, pressed for time, or just awful in the kitchen, jarred sauce is good too.

Currently things are going well in Madison and I have no intention of leaving my job here, but if we ever decide to open “Wherever” I’ll be sure to let you all know! 🙂

1 lb uncooked pasta (my preference is for farfalle, but any kind should do)
2 15 oz jars of white sauce (I use Classico roasted garlic alfredo or make my own)
2 16 oz packages of Polish Kielbasa
2 large heads of broccoli
garlic powder

Cook pasta to your preferred consistency.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces, and kielbasa into slices (~1/2 cm thick).

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add broccoli. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste and stir well. Add a little water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Cover and allow broccoli to cook until it’s a vibrant green (i.e., still has a crunch but is completely cooked). Remove the broccoli and set aside. Fry the kielbasa slices until cooked through and browned slightly on both sides. Remove and set aside.

Heat the sauce in a saucepan. Once hot, add the broccoli and kielbasa. Simmer for a few minutes to let the the broccoli and kielbasa soak in the flavor of the sauce. Serve over pasta.

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs

Big news of the day month: I moved! When I first moved here a little over a year ago (I can’t believe here I’ve been here for over a year now), I was 110% sure that when my lease was up I was going to move to my own apartment closer to work on the west side (i.e. suburbs). Of course guess what ended up happening? I moved in with a friend to a two-bedroom apartment downtown that’s further from work. Funny how things change…

As always, with moving comes shopping. One of my newest acquisitions is a slow cooker. I wanted to buy a slow cooker a while back, but there were only a few months left on my lease so I decided to wait until after I moved to buy one. It was a pretty exciting moment when I finally bought it last week. My family group had a potluck tonight, which was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I decided to try out this meatball recipe, but I have a friend who doesn’t eat beef or pork, so I switched out the beef and pork for turkey. I thought they came out ok, but the turkey gave the them a funny texture and they didn’t really hold together that well. They were almost a little too tender. I think it would have been better with beef and pork. But they were still pretty good, and the sauce had good flavor. I’m pretty excited to try out more slow cooker recipes in the near(ish) future.

I loosely followed this recipe from Dash recipes, but I made a lot of modifications.

Here’s what I did.

For the meatballs:
2 lb ground turkey
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1.5 tbsp italian seasoning
1 egg, beaten
5 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the sauce:
3 can crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each)
1 can stewed Italian tomatoes (14.5 oz)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
4 tsp garlic powder
4 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 sweet yellow onion, chopped coarsely

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the meatballs together.

In a frying pan with a little oil, saute the onions and mushrooms until soft. Put all the ingredients for the sauce in the slow cooker and mix. Form balls (~1″ in diameter) and mix into the sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over pasta.

“Mexican” pasta

So I’m wrapping up my second week at work. This week seems to have gone by super fast. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Friday again. My big accomplishment of the week? I passed my first exam! PTL! There are many more to come and they’re going to get harder, but still. First one down! Yay!

In other news, I’m moving into my apartment on Sunday! Finally! I’ll be really glad to get outta this hotel. Not totally looking forward to moving everything again though.

Ok. On to the recipe. I’ve definitely seen this idea many times so the idea isn’t original, but I didn’t use a recipe, so this specific recipe is mine. You might notice that a lot of the ingredients are the same as the ones in my last post… I had a bunch of half cans of things to finish.

For the most part it was just dumping a bunch of things together. Pretty simple. I thought I was going to be eating it for a week straight, but a friend came over last night and ate two servings. That means a) it’s pretty good, b) my friend eats everything, or c) both.

Also, I’m not sure why it looks so shiny in the picture…

1/2 lb rotini
1 lb ground beef
1 packet (1 oz) taco seasoning
1/2 (15oz) can black beans, drained
1/2 (15.5oz) can corn, drained
16 oz salsa
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chili peppers
8 oz sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta until al dente.

In a large, non-stick frying pan, brown ground beef in a pan. Add taco seasoning and stir until well mixed. Add black beans, corn and tomatoes and chili peppers.

Mix in pasta, sour cream and salsa.

Add cheddar cheese and stir until cheese is melted in.

“Asian” Vegetable Pasta

So I officially finished my first week of work! I don’t do any real work yet though because I’m still in orientation and training. Actually, it’s a lot like being a freshman again. This past week reminded me strongly of First Days. Lots of new people (some of whom know each other already– i.e., similar to summer science/summer humanities people), lots of new information, getting lost on campus, etc.

I haven’t moved into my apartment yet (move in date: August 14th), so I’m currently living in a residence hotel. There’s a kitchen– it’s small, but it has a refrigerator and a stove, so I’ve been doing a little cooking! Mostly really simple things… often involving Ramen.

But I thought I’d share this because it’s really easy to make and turned out pretty well. I put “Asian” in quotation marks because it certainly isn’t real Asian food. It has Asian elements (vegetables/flavoring) but authentic Asian food does not have rotini or (Western) broccoli in it.

1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
1 carrot, sliced
3 stalks of 油菜 (Mandarin: youcai, Cantonese: yauchoy), chopped into (approx) 1″ pieces
1/2 lb of pasta (I used rotini)
Lee Kum Kee Black Bean Garlic Sauce (first mentioned in this post)
vegetable oil
garlic powder

Boil water and cook pasta until al dente.

In a non-stick frying pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot, add carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add broccoli. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder, and add some water (about 1/4 cup). Cook until tender.

Add 油菜 to the pan and continue to cook. Add pasta and stir until well-mixed. Add 2 spoonfuls of the black bean garlic sauce and stir until the sauce is evenly spread.

Cook on low heat for a few more minutes to let the pasta/vegetables absorb the flavor of the sauce.

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