How to Make Homemade SpaghettiO’s

104631942Children and adults alike love the taste of SpaghettiO’s. Put a new spin on this classic with the following recipe, and bring out your inner child. You’ll save money by making it at home instead of spending money on a can, and you’ll have enough to feed your family or save the rest for leftovers. This variety is also healthier, so you’ll feel good about giving it to your children.

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • One 24-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 4 teaspoons of kosher salt, plus extra
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¾ pound anelletti pasta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra

Instructions

  1. Making the Sauce

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the remaining butter, tomato puree, the sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper to taste, and ¼ cup of water. Cook about 5 minutes, until thick.

  1. Making the Meatballs

Mix rest of the salt (2 teaspoons) with the ground beef. Roll the meat into ¾-inch balls in the palm of your hands. Place the meatballs into the sauce and reduce heat to medium. Cook about 6 to 8 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

  1. Cooking the Pasta

Generously salt water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook about 13 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta, and then add it to the saucepan along with the Parmesan cheese. Serve right away with the rest of the cheese on the side.

This recipe serves four and takes about 40 minutes to prepare and cook. Bring a smile to your child’s face and your own with this homemade version of SpaghettiO’s.

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Squashes And Gourds You Should Cook With This Fall

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Seeing as how we are well into fall and the autumn season, today we are going to be talking about fall gourds and squash types — as they become quite prevalent in recipes and decorations this time of year — and the best varieties for cooking. First thing we need to talk about are the varieties of gourds, squash and pumpkins that are NOT EDIBLE.

Types of Gourds, Squash and Pumpkins You CAN NOT EAT

Unfortunately, this time of year, the grocery stores fill their produce sections with both inedible and edible gourds — quite often right next to each other. For a lay person, it could be quite difficult to tell if the gourd or squash type you are looking at is for cooking or simply for decoration. The following types of squash and gourds are only for decoration and should not be eaten:

  • Angel Wing
  • Apple Gourd
  • Baby Bear
  • Gooseneck
  • Jack Be Quick

While the Jack Be Quick’s are the tiny miniature pumpkins you most often see for decoration this time of year, most of us recognize them as being inedible; the other types are a bit tougher to recognize. Angel wing can come in green, yellow or orange colors and look much like a striped zucchini. You can recognize an angel wing by the way it clubs outward at the fat end, like a medieval spiked club.

Apple Gourds looks a lot like a miniature watermelon, with emerald looking surface, but quickly turns a sickly amber yellow color when dried. This type of gourd should only be used for decoration. Gooseneck’s look similar to the apple gourd in size and color, but have a long goosenecked top half.

Baby bear’s look much like your traditional Halloween pumpkin, though smaller and in an almost perfect ball shape. These cause much of the confusion in the grocery stores, as they are not edible, but look very similar to edible pumpkins. Today, many grocery stores do not carry baby bears, due to the confusion they can easily cause.

Traditional pumpkins, like the type that we carve every year, are considered ‘edible, but not often used for cooking.’ You may be shocked to hear that the pumpkins so popular in America today are not usually considered a food-grade piece of produce, but it is quite true. While roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious, and even pumpkin meat can be delicious in some recipes, they are often considered a “garbage” gourd fed to pigs, grown to ridiculous sizes for show, or carved to be used as decoration for a night or two.

Squash and Gourds You Can Cook With

Now we will get into the good stuff, gourds and squash that can be cooked and turned into delicious recipes. While you may not be able to find all of these types in your local market, they can be ordered and shipped online, and can be found in local specialty markets. These will often show up in grocery stores in the fall, but if you can;t find them locally, try ordering them online to taste and try these squashes and gourds.

  • Acorn Squash — One of the more popular squash types for cooking, these are aromatic and have a sweeter flesh than pumpkin. They are usually green all over, with a yellow spot where they touched the ground. Lock for a clean edged yellow spot; if there is too much yellow covering the squash, it is likely over-ripened.
  • Blue Hubbard — A white gourd about the same size as an acorn squash, this variety comes from Marblehead, Massachusetts — developed in 1840 — and is less sweet and more of a cucumber flavor.
  • Butternut Squash — Our personal favorites for soups and chili, the butternut squash is about the sweetest of the squash, though is meaty and rich in flavor. With less strings inside and a thin shell, it is also the easiest to work with, making it preferred for cooking.
  • Cushaw — Most often used in the more savory dishes, this type has a long and slightly curved neck, is usually a brownish tan, and has a thin skin like butternut squash. These come in a dark green variety also that can be confused with the inedible gooseneck squash, so be wary.
  • Turks Turban — Looking much like a pillowy turkish hat with orange and blue-green stripes, there is very little flesh on this variety, though it has one of the mildest flavors that makes it go well in a large amount of both sweet and savory recipes. The extra large seed size makes this a favorite for roasted seed recipes.

Our Favorite Recipes Using Gourds and Squash

There are so many great dishes you can add squash and gourds to in order to really round out the flavor of the dish and build extra layers of flavor within. Our favorite use of gourds is in chili, where the flesh of roasted gourds and squash can be used as a thickener and a base. The best way to start cooking with gourds and squash it to roast them and taste them to get a sense of their natural flavor. Once you know what each variety tastes like, incorporating them into your favorite recipes is a snap.

Check Out 55 Healthy Gourd and Squash Recipes HERE >>

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Tips For Cooking Salmon Perfectly

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Salmon fillets and steaks are yummy, but it is not the easiest of things to cook salmon well. So, here are a few salmon cooking tips which would help you sidestep the usual errors and will save you the blushes when it is serve-up time!

Salmon Cooking Tips

Poach, Grill, or Pan Sear?

You can employ any of these methods, but you will need to go the right way. When poaching, many commit the common mistake of poaching the fish in plain water, though when poaching, you are missing on a great opportunity to add flavors. We say if you should poach, poach the salmon in milk, chicken stock, or fish broth and try flavors with lemon, peppercorns, bay leaves, etc.—whatever suits your fancy. It is also a great idea to poach the fish in dry white wine.

If you are grilling or hot-smoking, use only pre-soaked wood chips—try alder, hickory or maple. Lower the heat once it starts to smoke and keep the temperature inside the smoker at no higher than 80-90C.

In case of pan-frying, use a heavy non-stick frying pan and use olive oil or butter (heated in medium high-heat) to cook your salmon.

Choose the Right Salmon

If you are going for steak or fillet, make sure that you pick pieces all of uniform size and thickness. A center cut is normally your best option. Also, do not go for whatever is there in offer. Organically raised salmon tastes the best. They are normally more expensive, but you will also get the best of your salmon if you choose those varieties.

Do Not Rip the Skin Off

This is another common mistake you can make when cooking salmon. There are some recipes which may advise you to get rid of the skin, but we at Italian Home Kitchen Blog say that it is best that you do not, especially when you are pan-searing or grilling. The skin provides a nice safety layer between the soft salmon flesh and the surface of the grill or the hot pan. Cook the skin-side down and ALWAYS cook in lower heat.

Follow these tips and chances are slim that you will ever go wrong in cooking your salmon again.

 

Cheap Meat Cuts You Can Turn Into Delicious Dishes

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The prices of meats are rising and settling at all times; though, while the prices of expensive cuts of meats always remain high-yet-competitive, the prices of cheaper cuts of meats remain low-yet-competitive. This means that you can pick up some cheaper cuts of meat and still create a delicious and decadent meal — as long as you know how to use the cuts of meat. Here are some cheaper cuts of meat and ideas of how to use them:

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Flat Iron Steak

Also known as ‘top blade’ the flat iron cut is nontraditional yet versatile and comes from the shoulders of cows. Although fillet and sirloin are tenderer, flat iron steak is both affordable and delicious. It can be prepared in various ways like pan frying, grilling, marinating and braising among others. Caution should however be observed to avoid overcooking.

Get A Delicious Flat Iron Steak Recipe HERE >>

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Beef Chuck

This is another cheap cut which comes from steers’ shoulders. It can be chopped up for stew or braised whole. Beef chuck has connective tissues which tenderize it and adds flavor. The secret with this cut is to cook it slowly. Beef chuck pot roast is a traditional one-pot meal which works well for both family dinners and parties.

Get Our Best Beef Chuck Pot Roast Recipe HERE >>

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Pork Shoulder

This is one of the most affordable meat options out there. An average bone-in shoulder could feed a family of four, and typically costs less than $10  for 3 pounds. It responds very well to shredding and slow cooking, which means one can set and leave it to attend to other chores.

Get Our Favorite Pork Shoulder Recipe HERE >>

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Chicken Thighs and Legs

Chicken is generally affordable. However, the enormous demand for boneless, skinless and breasts tends to drive up the price, especially in urban areas. Still, wings, thighs and legs are usually more affordable yet flavorful. Unlike breasts, they’re also easier to cook properly.

Get Our Favorite Chicken Thigh and Leg Recipe HERE >>

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Sirloin

The sirloin refers to a large-area cut from a cow’s rear back section. Top sirloin tends to be tenderer thus more preferred. If one is looking for something cheaper, the tip sirloin is a leaner cut that goes well for stew, kebabs and stir-fry. To keep it from becoming dry and chewy, it needs to be marinated for several hours before broiling, grilling or pan-searing.

Get Our Favorite Sirloin Steak Kebab Recipe HERE >>

As you can see, just because some cuts of meat are cheaper, doesn’t mean you can’t make them into great dishes. Thanks to cell phones and mobile devices, finding easy recipes for cheap meats has never been easier. All you have to do is go to your local butcher or grocery meat counter and ask for deals and cheaper cuts that are available that day, and search for recipes for that select cut of meat or ingredient. With the wealth of recipes available online today, you can search through hundreds of recipes and get ideas for your own recipes using these affordable — yet delicious — cuts of meat.

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All About Leaveners For Baking

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Amateur and accomplished cooks alike will be familiar with leavening agents.  A leavening agent is also known as a raising agent. The baking product is used to create air pockets to ensure baked products rise. The Italian Home Kitchen blog team are passionate about food. However, today, we would like to tell you about the different types of raising agents available. Our team of professional cooks have tested various leavening agents and have come up with an efficient list of raising agents for you to trial.

Alternative Baking Leaveners

  • Ammonium Carbonate or Bakers Ammonia
  • Original Bakewell Cream
  • Instant Clearjel
  • Signature Secrets
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Bakewell Cream Baking Powder
  • Whipped Cream Stabilizer

These eight thickening agents and baking leaveners are supreme food thickeners for home baking. All eight effective culinary leavening and thickening agents are used by professional bakers. While many of these types of leaveners may sound exotic, they are commonly used in baking to achieve different textures, tastes and consistencies in doughs, cakes and other baked goods.

General Information about the Eight Baking Leaveners and Thickening Agents

  • Bakers Ammonia (Ammonium Carbonate) was once referred to as Hartshorn.  The chemical cooking leavener was widely used before you could buy baking soda and baking powder. We find this old-fashioned raising agent makes the crispiest crackers and cookies
  • We found Original Bakewell Cream acts in the same way as Cream of Tartar. The gluten-free raising agent is ideal for cookie baking
  • Instant Clearjel is a highly-concentrated thickener.  We discovered the Kosher thickening agent was perfect for making thick fruit pie juices
  • Signature Secrets is a good all-round thickening agent. We whisked the Kosher thickener into cakes, sauces, custards and pies. Our custard pies were unusually creamy and light
  • Cream of Tartar is yet another old-fashioned baking leavener. We used the raising agent in old-fashioned biscuit recipes. Our cooks also used it to make creamy icing and tasty candy. Use cream of tartar to make the perfect meringue, you won’t be disappointed
  • In our opinion, Xanthan Gum is a great emulsifier, stabilizer and baking leavener. The kosher thickening agent is also gluten-free.  We acknowledge some gluten-free treats lack texture and body, however, we discovered Xanthan Gum improves gluten-free recipes
  • The Original Bakewell Cream Baking Powder is an amazing raising agent. The fast-acting, non-aluminium, kosher leavener is ideal for baking muffins, cakes, biscuits and cookies
  • Add a little Kosher whipped cream stabilizer before whipping to prevent the cream from separating. We found the cream stabilizer also helped the dairy product to maintain body and freshness

With the abundance of modern leaveners such as baking powder and instant yeast widely available in grocery stores these days, many of these alternative leaveners are not commonly used anymore; however, if you are using traditional recipes, you may find that they call for these types of leaveners. Some more adventurous bakers may want to try using some of these leaveners, as they offer different textures, and can lead to softer cakes, stretchier doughs, and interesting tastes to all of your baking projects.

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Easy Gazpacho Salad Recipe

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Delicious marinated vegetables are the star in our easy gazpacho salad recipe; comprised of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions. This is just about the easiest recipe in our collection and can be made quickly. Just like our Cannellini Relish recipe, the trick to this recipe is just to let the vegetables marinated for 8-12 hours to let the vegetables soak up all that delicious vinaigrette. This recipe is so quick and simple that we used to make it in a fix at the restaurant, or substitute this salad for others if we ran out of ingredients.

How to Make Gazpacho Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 Medium Roma Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium to Large Red Onion
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chopped Garlic
  • 2 Teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste

Preparing Your Vegetables

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Wedge Tomatoes

Preparing the tomatoes is easy, even if your knife skills are a bit lacking. Create tomato wedges by simply cutting the top of the tomato with the stem off, then splitting the tomato down the middle, lengthwise. Next, lay the tomato halves flat with the cut side down. Cut each half in-half again lengthwise. Now take each quarter and split in half again — leaving 8 perfect tomato wedges.

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Sliced Cucumbers

Now, slice your cucumbers by removing both tip ends. Then, simply slice the cucumber into thin, round medallions. Try to get the slices as thin as possible, otherwise the cucumber flavor tends to be a bit too strong in each bite and can actually overpower the tomatoes, onions and vinaigrette. For perfectly thin medallions every time, feel free to use a mandolin slicer.

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Sliced Red Onions

When it comes to slicing your red onions, you have two choices. you can slice the onions into rings, or you can slice into strands. For rounds, simply cut the top and bottoms off of the red onion and slice width-wise into thing rounds or rings. For strands, cut the top and bottom off the red onion, then cut in half lengthwise then slice into thin strands — leaving half-rings. The reason for the options is that some people do not like the rings, and feel that that is just too much onion in every bite. Red onions are stronger and have more bite than yellow onions, so cutting in half and then into strands will make the onion flavor a bit milder in every bite. Again, feel free to use your mandolin for the onions as well.

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Combine Vegetables

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of your vegetables together and add salt and pepper to taste. We tend to go a little heavy on the pepper, sprinkling all over the top of the vegetables, and just a hefty pinch of salt. You can use any type of salt you like, but we prefer kosher salt as the best. Once seasoned, give the vegetables a toss and stir, ensuring that all the veggies come into contact with the spices.

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Prepare Your Vinaigrette

We use a “quick vinaigrette” for this marinade; this is a bit different than a emulsified vinaigrette, but gives a much better quality salad. As opposed to a traditional vinaigrette, you combine all the ingredients at once, instead of slowly drizzling in the oil. The reason we do this is that an emulsified vinaigrette will thicken too much and turn into a fatty thick dressing during the marinating. With the quick vinaigrette, the mixture remains thinner and better coats and marinates the vegetables.

To make the quick vinaigrette, combine Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Chopped Garlic, and Worcestershire Sauce in a separate small bowl. Once combined, use a wire whisk or a fork to whip the mixture together (for about a minute). Vinaigrette should come together and thicken a bit, but remain a fairly loose mixture. And that’s it!

HINT: Use a quick vinaigrette on other veggies, chicken, shrimp, fish and beef as a marinade as well

Your Gazpacho salad is almost done. Now just drizzle the vinaigrette over all of the vegetables in the large mixing bowl and use a spatula to toss everything together — ensuring that all of the vegetables get a taste of the vinaigrette.

Let Your Salad Marinate

Like we said in the introduction, giving the salad time to marinate, soak up the vinaigrette, and let the flavors meld is the real key to this recipe. We use the 8 hour rule to get the perfect flavor and let the vegetables break down a tiny bit. It can be served immediately — as we often did in the restaurant — but at least 4 hours is needed for the vegetables to really soak up some flavor.

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Your Gazpacho salad is ready to enjoy! We don’t usually garnish our salad, but feel free to garnish yours with chopped cilantro or a chopped mint leaves. For extra flavor, we often dress each individual salad serving with blue cheese crumbles and serve alongside fresh baked bread (focaccia goes well with this salad).

Now Enjoy!

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Delicious Pickled Items You Should Try

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Pickled vegetables and other food items have been around for thousands of years. An ancient form of preservation that preceded modern preservation methods, not only will pickling give you a great source of preserving your own foods, but the pickling process itself will leave you with an extremely flavorful product that can be served on salads, alongside meats and other proteins, or can be eaten by themselves.

Pickled Meats

We will start with what is considered the strangest of pickled items: pickled meats. While this sounds strange, it is actually a great way to preserve game meats and other proteins, and the flavor is amazing. Probably the most famous “pickled meat” is corned beef. Corned beef is usually cooked, but goes through a pickling process not for preservation, but for added flavor. That distinctive flavor of corned beef is a taste of what you’ll get when you try some of the more obscure pickled meats, so keep an open mind and give a few a try!

Meats That Are Pickled:

  • Pickled Kielbasa
  • Pickled Bologna
  • Pickled Sausages
  • Pickled Ham Hocks
  • Pickled Octopus
  • Pickled Bacon (Harder to find, but delicious)

Pickled Vegetables

Pickled vegetables are the most commonly pickled item, with pickled cucumbers commonly referred to as simply “pickles.” There are lots of other vegetables though that are just as delicious and should be more commonly served.

Vegetables That Are Pickled:

  • Pickled Okra
  • Pickled Cauliflower
  • Pickled Peppers (often called peperocini)
  • Pickled Eggplant
  • Pickled Leeks
  • Pickled Beets
  • Pickled Celery Sticks
  • Pickled Onions

Pickled Fruits

This one might also sound a bit strange, but the tangy flavor of many fruits really comes through well when they are pickled.

Fruits That Are Pickled:

  • Pickled Watermelon Rinds (the juice is used as a condiment. Don’t eat the rinds!)
  • Pickled Pears
  • Pickled Figs
  • Pickled Lemons
  • Pickled Grapes
  • Pickled Mango
  • Pickled Pineapple

How To Make Pickling Brine

Pickling brine is really easy to make, it contains only a few ingredients — excluding the items being pickled — and just takes a little bit of time to preserve the items and for them to drink up all the flavor of the brine. The ingredients are always the same, simply keep the same proportions of ingredients and change the amounts to meet the amount of pickling brine that you need.

Ingredients: (For 4 Pounds of Vegetables, Meats, or Fruit)

  • 2 3/4 Vinegar (White, White Wine, Red Wine, Rice Wine, or Cider Vinegar) The only type of vinegar that we have found does not work is balsamic vinegar. Each vinegar type will give a different flavor to the pickle.
  • 3 Cups of Water
  • 1/4 Cup of Sea Salt (It needs to be Sea Salt that is coarse. Iodized salt doesn’t work as well and will leave the brine looking cloudy).

And That Is All There Is To It…

Try out pickling for yourself and have delicious pickled vegetables, meat and fruits year-round for less expense…

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