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Blizzard Worthy Chicken Tortellini Soup

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I should call this “Siberian Soup” since this winter in PA has seemed uncomfortably Russian, but I will turn down my dramatic tendencies. This soup came after trying a recipe that was just a bit too heavy for me. Instead of tossing it, I went back into the kitchen and changed the ingredients to make it lighter, and a lot healthier!

Today was certainly the best day to try it, since we are receiving almost 2 FEET OF SNOW! Luckily, my husband was off today, so I could cook warm toasty meals. This soup was a hit! My husband loved it, along with four very hungry little girls, who just came in from the snow.

So, if you are looking for a way to escape the arctic, make a pot of this tasty tortellini soup!

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached & shredded
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh tortellini
  • 2 zucchini cut into large chunks
  • 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, poach chicken breasts and shred. (You can put them in your mixer with the paddle attachment and turn on low until shredded)
  2. Sautee onions and garlic in the pot until tender. Stir in chicken broth, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in zucchini, cheese, and parsley. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. Serve with warm garlic bread.

*Note– if you save this soup for leftovers the tortellini will suck up the broth so the result is a more like a stew. Feel free to add more chicken broth if you eat it the next day.

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Buffalo Chicken Chili

Buffalo Chicken Chili

This is one of those great meals that you don’t have to feel guilty about. It is so packed with veggies that your kids and husband will have no clue that you are secretly serving something nutritious! My daughter has asked for it in a thermos to take in her school lunch, and my husband will settle in to watch football with a big bowl of this tasty chili and some chips. It is also a quick and easy, one pot meal that feeds many on a budget. So whether you are entertaining the masses, or just looking for a reprieve from all that is unhealthy, look no further!

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 Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 medium onion,
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of buffalo wing sauce, depending on your taste
  • 2 15 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar or blue cheese for garnish

Preparation:

1. Poach chicken breasts in about an inch of water in a large stock pot for about 8 minutes. (or you can use 2 lbs, of ground chicken, cooked & crumbled)

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2.Meanwhile, chop carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in a food processor.

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3. Once chicken is cooked, remove from the pot, reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.

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4. Add 2 Tbsp. of butter to the stock pot (no need to wash it between steps), and allow to melt.

5. Add chopped vegetables, sautéing until soft.

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6. Chop cooked chicken in food processor, then add to the vegetables in the stock pot mixing well.

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7. Add wing sauce and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

8. Add broth, bay leaves, paprika,

9. Allow to simmer on low heat for about 10-20 minutes

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Presentation:

Top with a pinch of cheese, then serve hot with tortilla chips for scooping.

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7

My Crazy is Showing, but I’ll Tuck it in Later

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My husband says that I have a tomato problem.

  I don’t.

He uses words like “addiction”, “compulsion”, “obsession”.

I respond with words like “whatever”, “nu-uh”, “ugh” (yes, they are words in my vocabulary)

My kids say things like “Stop saucing, Mommy!” “Can’t we just go to the pool, like other kids?” “Why are you making mooorrrreee???”

My responses… “I just have a few more to do.” “You love Mommy’s sauce.” “Can I just have one hobby?”

Why can’t my loved ones embrace my annual hobby of stalking my favorite secret farm stand until the Romas are ready, then packing my car full of red, juicy little friends, and crafting some of the finest homemade sauce (or “gravy” as my Italian friend, Lisa, corrects)? No one else we know has a basement stockpile of tomatoey awesomeness!! My family is lucky, damn it!

I’m a pretty simple girl. I do not like shopping. The mall is not my happy place, and the outlets, which are right down the road from my farm stand oasis, make my heart palpitate with anxiety! I prefer to cook, and grow, and relax. In an ideal world, I’d live on a small farm, next to the beach, and I’d have enough money to stay home with my kids and cook fabulous meals. It’s not a lot to ask.

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But now, the season of saucing is upon us. The Romas are ready; this is shopping that brings me joy! I woke up this morning, recruited my sister, Rori, who is crazy enough to join my adventures, and off we went. The sun was out, the breeze was warm, the top was down, and the doors were off. It was heavenly.

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Our morning was awesome. Kid & husband free, we popped into several farm stands snatching up peppers, pickling cucumbers, cheese, blackberries, and the coveted Roma tomatoes. I have a super secret special spot that grows them to perfection. Here we bought SIX BUSHELS. As I transferred them from the baskets to cardboard boxes, a calm washed over me. This is my happy place, this is my happy place, THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE!!   After we loaded them into the car, I stood to ponder our stash. No buyer’s remorse. I had buyer’s delight!

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After a happy drive home, I pulled into the driveway and fought the urge to yell, in the spirit of Maurice Sendak, “LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!”

It is time to sauce.

So, as I pull the first tomatoes from the box, and my family watches and waits for my crazy to show, I do consider the stages of addiction…

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion:
    • I totally admit that I cannot control my compulsion to make & can homemade pasta sauce
  • Recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
    • I totally thank God often that I live in such a beautiful place on Earth, with fertile soil, and Amish neighbors who grow the BEST ROMA TOMATOES EVER!!!!
  • Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor;
    • I will totally own my errors. Two years ago I didn’t make enough and we ran out in January. Last year, I made a little too much, and I still have 8 jars left.
  • Making amends for these errors;
    • I bought less this year.
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
    • I will live with less canned sauce, and embrace my passion for making sun pickles too 🙂
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions;
    • I assisted my sister in securing a few cases for herself, and I am willing to help you all as well.

There you have it. I may be a little obsessed, addicted, or compulsive, but Hell, it’s a lot of fun, and so, so good!

If you need to know how I make my sauce/gravy, check out my Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce!

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Yoga Pants

1-IMG_2668I don’t really love tomatoes raw, but once roasted, I could eat them until I burst. Seriously, I need to wear my yoga pants (aka “buffet pants”) when indulging in any roasted tomatoey goodness. I even went as far as to plant a bazillion cherry tomato plants in various parts of my backyard to satisfy my need for these yummy little savory treasures.

My passion err..obsession for roasted tomatoes started with a recipe that I saw for French bread pizzas. The recipe called for roasted cherry tomato puree as the pizza sauce. Once I made these, it opened all new doors. I now use roasted cherry tomatoes on a weekly basis for a multitude of recipes. They’re simple, easy, and packed with flavor.

Try them, but I take no responsibility for creating a new addiction, or causing you to need stretch pants to accommodate your overstuffed belly.

Ingredients:

2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes

2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil

1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

1.       Wash & dry the tomatoes.

2.       Slice them in half.

3.       Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

4.       Place the tomatoes in a casserole dish or roasting pan so they cover the bottom in a single layer.

5.       Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.

6.       Add thyme, and toss, coating all of the tomatoes.

7.       Roast in the oven on 425 for about 35 minutes, or until they are withered and caramelized at the edges.

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Serving Suggestions:

1.       Allow them to cool and toss with fresh basil, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar.

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2.       Roast 3 cloves of garlic with the tomatoes. Puree with a hand blender, add a sprinkle of sugar if you like the sauce a bit sweet, and top raviolis, or use it as a pizza sauce for French bread pizza.

3.       Toss with mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar, and large croutons for a tasty panzanella.

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Savory Pot Roast

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Pot roast, your perfect post pool day dish!

I know, you’re thinking “What kind of crazy loon makes pot roast in the middle of a heat wave in June??

Me!

While this does not seem like summer fare, I find myself juggling early mornings at swim team practice, then long activity filled summer days. I need slow cooker meals that will fill the starving bellies of my hungry monsters who are often “dying” and “starving” as they stagger around the kitchen whining for food at 4:30 on a Wednesday. And who wants to fire up the stove after a day of kid crazy??

This week was “Clean the Freezer Week” at my house, and I happened to have a big ol’ chuck roast in the freezer threatening to slip out and crush the tiny toes of a Popsicle seeking rummager. I figured I might as well pop it in the slow cooker and feed them a hearty meal. The result was well fed, happy kids who marched their satisfied tummies upstairs and slept well all night! SCORE!!

As for the recipe, This is an old family favorite, courtesy of my mother. Over the years, I have tweaked it a bit, but it still remains very much like the recipe of my childhood.

Savory Pot Roast

1 3lb beef roast

Oil for frying

Salt

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes OR ¼ cup catsup

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire

1 sprig of fresh rosemary OR 1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary

4 fresh garlic cloves OR ½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. dry mustard

In a Dutch oven or large oven safe pot, brown meat on the stovetop in small amount of oil. Sprinkle meat with a little salt. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover tightly, roast at 350 for 2 hours or until tender. Remove meat to heated platter. Skim excess fat from sauce. Spoon sauce over meat.

*** You can also cook it on low in a slow cooker for about 8 hours. I also add carrots and potatoes to cook in the sauce with the meat 🙂

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My Backyard Garden is Growing

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Food Beauty

Sometimes, while cooking, I am struck by the beauty of food. Here are a few moments that I managed to capture in my own kitchen. Let this be a reminder to slow down, and appreciate the scene and beauty in the small moments of life.

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My husband would call this a “bad pour”, but to me it was a quiet moment of reflection.

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It may not have been a hit at the dinner table, but it was pretty to look at.

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It just reminds me of summer, and I like red, and they taste so good.

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I liked the way the star fruit looked, perched on the rim of the glass, but it was a bit in the way. I was happy to find that the scene was just as beautiful when floating on top.

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The simplicity of the sun streaming in, as I baked some morning eggs. I love simplicity.

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This scene literally made me stop and stare at the contrast between honey & soy sauce. I felt bad when the time came to stir it, but the chicken was great!

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So What Are You Reading? Me, A Great Cookbook!

I can honestly say that I have never read a cookbook cover to cover as if it were a novel, until now. A few days ago, I came home from work and found a large envelope addressed to me. I excitedly ripped it open revealing a beautiful cookbook entitled, Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking From In Jennie’s Kitchen, by Jennifer Perillo. Just flipping through the pages, skimming the contents, had me hooked. So, when I finally found some quiet time to read, that is exactly what I did.

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This is not just a collection of recipes adorned with beautiful pictures staged to perfection, it is more a manual of fabulous kitchen advice and simple recipes that will make you feel like a domestic rockstar! It opens with Jennifer’s personal story of the tragic loss of her husband, and how she has used the kitchen for healing and connecting with her daughters. It then moves on to share her advice on stocking a well equipped kitchen, and a rationale for cooking from scratch. I found myself connecting to and agreeing with everything that she shared. This woman is so wise!

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Any good reader talks to the text! I took LOTS of notes!

Jennifer Perillo’s advice and recipes are so simple; anyone can make them. They are well described, with clear steps. Jennifer proves that you do not have to be a professional chef to pull off healthy, homemade, nutritionally conscious food. It was so appealing to me, that I frantically scrounged up some sticky notes to mark all of the pages and recipes that called to me, especially one that I instantly craved just from the picture.

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“Slow-Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella”– Not only is it “pretty food”, it’s my new addiction!!!

So, are the recipes as good as they look? Absolutely, if not better! After reading the entire book, and tagging a multitude of pages, I dashed to the grocery store to gather all of the ingredients for her Slow-Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella. What an amazing dish. Not only was it very simple to make, it was gorgeous, and you all know how much I like “pretty food”. I loved this recipe so much that I have added it to my weekly menu, and will keep it there for a while. I also have fallen in love with her buttermilk pancakes, making the baking mix ahead of time, and pulling off pancakes from scratch on a weekday morning. My kids and husband are in heaven! I have to admit that a few of my old standbys have been dethroned…

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Buttermilk Pancakes from Jennie’s “All Purpose Baking Mix”.

Because of my success with the first few dishes, I will absolutely continue to try Jennifer’s recipes, in essence, cooking my way through her book. I am excited to see what other gems she has to offer, and I strongly encourage you to do the same. It is worth every dime! You too can feel the satisfaction and reward that comes from feeding your friends and family healthy, well designed dishes that look and taste spectacular.

Click here to purchase Jennifer’s book: Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking From In Jennie’s Kitchen

Jennifer’s Blog: In Jennie’s Kitchen

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Jennifer Perillo

Disclaimer: While I was provided with a complimentary copy of this cookbook, I was not paid for this review. All statements expressed above are my own feelings and opinions.

8

Lasagna Muffins

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My friend, Heather, always comments on my “pretty food”. So, I laugh and usually tag her in all of my “pretty food” Facebook photos. I like pretty food. It is nice to look at, you want to eat it, and most importantly, other people want to eat it (like my kids). Pretty food is also necessary if you want people to actually visit and interact with your food blog. But, pretty food has to taste as well as it looks. Pretty food is useless if it sucks, right? So I was so very happy tonight when my supermodel pretty food had hall of fame taste! WOW! When I say hall of fame taste, I’m talkin’ grand-slam H-O-M-E-R-U-N in the 9th inning of the World Series taste! So, naturally I am excited to share.

I made lasagna “muffins” or “cupcakes”. Whatever you call them, they were awesome! Now, I cannot take credit for this idea. It is all over Pinterest, and if you Google it, a million recipes will appear–Food Network, LOTS of blogs, Pinterest… the list goes on. So, why am I bothering to post? Well, when I looked at the other recipes, they were missing taste, so I took the time to blend this creative technique that others have already shared (why re-invent the wheel?) and I added the flavors that I integrate into my homemade lasagna. That is what makes mine different from all of the rest– the “better mouse trap, so to speak.

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Lasagna Muffins

The Sauce: (you can use jar sauce to save time, but then you compromise the flavor)

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  • 1/2  lb. of ground beef
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes 
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Brown ground beef, drain, & set aside.
  2. In the same pan, sautee fresh minced garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Pour tomatoes into the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add sugar, salt, & pepper.
  5. Add beef and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The Cheese:

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  • 16 oz. of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fine shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small dash of nutmeg
  • 1 dash of salt & pepper
  1. mix all ingredients, blending well.

The Rest:

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  • 1 pkg. of square wonton wrappers. (about 3 inch squares)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • cooking spray

1. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Place 1 wonton wrapper into each cup.

IMG_06583. Add a small spoonful of cheese to cover the bottom of the cup.

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4. Add a small spoonful of sauce.

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5. Top with another wonton wrapper. 
6. Add another layer of cheese, then sauce
7. Top with parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese

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8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.
9. Let them rest in the pan, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes. (if you cheat, they will fall apart)

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*** AWESOME VARIATION***

If you want to make these as an appetizer, or if you have extra wrappers, cheese, & sauce, make them as a single layer in a mini-muffin pan. They are like the cutest little one bite appetizers!

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Picture-less version:

Lasagna Muffins

The Sauce: (you can use jar sauce to save time, but then you compromise the flavor)

  • 1/2  lb. of ground beef
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Brown ground beef, drain, & set aside.
  2. In the same pan, sautee fresh minced garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Pour tomatoes into the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add sugar, salt, & pepper.
  5. Add beef and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The Cheese:

  • 16 oz. of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fine shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small dash of nutmeg
  1. mix all ingredients, blending well.

The Rest:

  • 1 pkg. of square wonton wrappers. (about 3 inch squares)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • cooking spray
  1. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place 1 wonton wrapper into each cup.
  3. Add a small spoonful of cheese to cover the bottom of the cup.
  4. Add a small spoonful of sauce.
  5. Top with another wonton wrapper.
  6. Add another layer of cheese, then sauce
  7. Top with parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.
  9. Let them rest in the pan, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes. (if you cheat, they will fall apart)

*** AWESOME VARIATION***

If you want to make these as an appetizer, or if you have extra wrappers, cheese, & sauce, make them as a single layer in a mini-muffin pan. They are like the cutest little one bite appetizers!

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Magnificent Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs may be the greatest form of comfort food. Sometimes you crave it on a cold, blustery day when you are looking for something to warm you from the inside out. And other times, I think it is the perfect way to fill a belly after an exhausting summer day at the pool. The bottom line is that this is a great go to meal that is sure to please!

The Meatballs–

1. Put 2 lbs. of ground beef in a large mixing bowl.

2. Mince the garlic. A good garlic press is essential to any kitchen. You would be wise to invest in a good one.

3. Add the remaining ingredients. If your kids like to cook with you, this is a good task for them. I know that my little helpers like to help me measure and “dump” it all in the bowl.

4. Use your hands (or your stand mixer if the thought of raw meat skeeves you) to blend the mixture well.

5. Roll meatballs to about the size of a golf ball.

6. Place meatballs in even rows onto a parchment lined baking pan.

7. Bake about 30 minutes at 375.

8. Heat up 2-4 quarts of Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce

9. I enhance my sauce with 1/4 cup of red wine, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons each of fresh basil & fresh oregano. (optional)

10. Drop cooked meatballs into a boiling pot of Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce.


11. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. (The longer, the better)

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Serve over spaghetti, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and a big slab of garlic bread!

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Ingredients

2 lbs. ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
4-6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:

Preparation:
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl by hand.
2. If you are skeeved by raw meat, use a stand mixer on low speed until blended.
3. Roll meatballs to about the size of a golf ball.
4. Place meatballs in even rows onto a parchment lined baking pan.
5. Bake about 30 minutes at 375.
6. Drop into a boiling pot of Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce.
7. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. (The longer, the better)

**serve over spaghetti, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and a big slab of garlic bread!