Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fuzzy Comforts and Christmas Spaghetti with a Secret Ingredient

It's the day after Christmas and all is quiet in our house, exactly the opposite from yesterday's wonderful hustle and bustle, laughter and cookie snitching. The family began arriving around 9:30 in the morning and stayed for the entire day. We started with breakfast and ended with our famous Christmas spaghetti dinner. (The recipe is below.) We were too full of cookies and good food to have any interest in dessert. I am truly blessed.

We are in no danger of being cold this winter. My son dressed us all in matching fleece jackets, and I handed out five warm fleecy robes. Yes, they were finished, and with time to spare!

There is nothing that needs doing today. Such a luxury! I've spent the whole day lounging in my chair reading the latest Inspector Gamache novel by Louise Penny, and I have no intention of doing anything more energetic than that.

Christmas Spaghetti Sauce With Meatballs 
(and a secret ingredient)

I was so busy enjoying my family that I forgot to take photos of our dinner table. The spaghetti was served with fettuccini and accompanied by lots of fresh veggies and warm garlic bread.

This is a large recipe. There were seven of us, and I made a full crockpot of sauce so that there would be plenty left to send home with everyone.

Once again, the measurements for ingredients are close estimates, but not exact. I don't usually measure at all, but I let my taste guide the proportions. I made the sauce the day before Christmas, then reheated it and added the secret ingredient on Christmas day.

I don't add herbs or spices to the meatballs because they absorb their flavor from the sauce as it simmers.
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 2 medium onions
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Chop the onions in a food processor or grate them.
  2. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together. 
  3. Shape into balls. I made the meatballs about 2 inches in diameter, but smaller is fine.
  4. Brown the meatballs. 
  5. Refrigerate until needed.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 - 8 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 bunch (about 1 cup)  of fresh parsley, chopped fine, or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 sweet green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 3 or 4 baby carrots, grated
  • 4 cups cooked, chopped tomatoes (I used tomatoes that I had prepared and frozen during the summer, but canned is fine.)
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (This will add flavor and thicken the sauce at the same time.)
  • 3 or 4 cups of water 
  • salt and pepper to taste
The Secret Ingredient
  • 1 - 3 oz. Bristol Cream Sherry (Another high quality cream sherry would do, but don't use cooking sherry or dry sherry.)  
1. In a heavy skillet, fry the onions in the olive oil until they are golden brown.
2. Add the garlic, parsley, and basil to the pan. Continue frying on medium low heat until the herbs are wilted.

 3. Add the peppers grated carrots. Fry for another minute or two. 

4. Pour the contents of the pan into a crockpot. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushroom soup, salt and pepper. Stir until blended.

5. Add enough water to give the sauce a nice consistency - not too thick, but not watery.
6. Place the meatballs in the pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or more. This can simmer all day if you like.
7. About ten minutes before serving pour an ounce or two of the cream sherry into the sauce. Stir and taste. More sherry can be added if you like, but be careful not to overwhelm the the other flavors with the sherry. The sherry should sweeten the sauce a bit with a unique, but subtle fragrance and flavor.


Now, to get back to my book. I love this series!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Pinterest Cookie Fail

I'm almost ready for Christmas. Not quite, but almost.

I don't do a lot of decorating anymore since the children are only here for one day, but the tree is up. Nothing is underneath it yet, although all five fleece robes are ready to wrap. I'll show photos after Christmas.

What a dark photo! My little phone did its best, but the day is dark and dreary, and the tree is against the window.

My baking is finished, too. The snowballs, orange walnut cookies with yummy orange buttercream, gingerbread, and fudge were ready in plenty of time for Friday night's cookie exchange. This weekend the sugar cookies were the only ones left.

I was exhausted from all the baking and sewing, and I wanted something simple for this very last batch. Something that didn't require rolling out dough and cutting lots of shapes. Something that I could do with only one color of frosting.

I found these on Pinterest. I love these pretty snowflakes in delicate ice blue and white! They look easy enough, too.

I knew the design would be just fine on a circle, and I could accomplish that quickly by rolling the dough into a log and making refrigerator cookies from my recipe. So that's what I did. The shiny icing and the gel food coloring were new to me, so I added just a little of food coloring. Only a drop of two.


Too much food coloring, maybe? Too large a decorator tip, perhaps?

Oh, well. They taste just fine, and don't stand out quite so much when mixed in with other things on the gift plates. They make me laugh, too. Maybe I'll try again next year.

Next up, Christmas spaghetti!!

Merry Christmas!!