Marinara Meat Sauce (For Spaghetti) Super Easy!

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This tomato meat sauce is delicious! It is my son’s favorite thing to eat, well anything with spaghetti really, is his favorite lol. This recipe is super easy and fast to make but tastes like something served at an upscale Italian Restaurant. Olive Garden ain’t got notin’ on this dish! It is perfect for those really busy weeknights as it takes a total of about 30 minutes to make and impresses even the pickiest eaters. You can never go wrong with spaghetti! I made this dish for dinner at my friends house last week and it was gone fast. Everyone really enjoyed it and kept saying how great it tasted, even the kids got seconds! I am actually putting this recipe up as it was requested. So next time you are craving a hearty, savory, meaty, Italian sauce with spaghetti but don’t feel like going out, give this recipe a try. It is a winner for sure! Especially if you serve it with some hot, fresh bread sticks. Bon appétit! 🙂

Tomato Meat Sauce {Serves 8} 

Ingredients:

  • 1 LB Ground Beef
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 (25 Oz.) Can of Marinara Sauce (I use the Organic, Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon Mrs.Dash Original Seasoning (Or seasoning of your choice)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 3 Garlic Cloves (Finely minced)
  • Spaghetti (Any kind you want)
  • Bread sticks *Optional (I buy the frozen ones)

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Directions:

1) Heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large pan, on Medium-High heat ( I did 7.5). Add the ground beef to the pan. Using a large cooking spoon, mix the ground beef and divide it into little chunks of meat.

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2) Season the meat with salt/pepper and about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of Mrs.Dash (optional) to taste (you can always add more later). Mix every once in a while to cook all the beef evenly. Start cooking the spaghetti according to the package instructions. Finely dice the onion.

3) When the ground beef is almost cooked through, add the diced onion. Mix well to combine.

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4) When the beef is cooked through and the onion becomes soft, add the Marinara Sauce and lower the heat to Medium-Low ( I did 3.5). Cover the pan with the lid and let it simmer until the spaghetti is ready, mixing it every once in a while. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the 3 (finely minced) garlic cloves to the sauce.

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5) I serve this in individual plates. Everyone can put their own serving of spaghetti and marinara meat sauce into their plate, as they want. That way if there is any marinara meat sauce left over, you can just reheat the sauce in the pan the next day and make fresh spaghetti.

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(That is how it looks if you mix the spaghetti and the sauce together in the plate. YUM!!!)

 

 

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Panera Bread Version)

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Okay guys. I did it!!! I have FINALLY figured out the perfect recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup that tastes just like Panera Bread, the restaurant chain that made this soup such a popular hit. Actually no, I lied. This recipe tastes even better. Anyone else who has tasted it will tell you the same thing. That’s right, I said it, It tastes even better then Panera! Maybe it is because you can use your own ingredients and know exactly what’s going into the soup, and cuz you can never beat the taste of fresh home made soup. This recipe has been in the making for a few years now because I could never get it to taste just right, just like Panera. There were times that I literally made a whole pot of soup and would end up throwing out the entire pot because it tasted nothing like Panera and I was left hungry and dissapointed… Can I get a witness in the house? Lol jk. I love that I can now make this soup at home, for about $8 and it serves 4 (big bowls), and of course the taste is so much more superior. Did I mention it only takes like 45 minutes total to prepare?! That alone should be a good enough reason for you to make it for dinner this week. 😉

Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Panera Bread Version) {Serves 4}

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Butter AND 4 1/2 Tablespoons Butter (For 2 separate steps)
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 Cups Half and Half
  • 1/4 Cup Flour (All Purpose Flour)
  • .75 LB Fresh Broccoli, about 1 1/2 Cups (If the big stem is cut off, with small stem left)
  • 2 Carrots (About 1 Cup, grated)
  • 10 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Shredded. I shred my own)

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Directions:

1) Dice the onion into small pieces. Set a pan on Medium-High heat (I did a 6.5) and add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of butter. When the butter melts, add the diced onion to the pan and saute, stirring every now and until the onion is soft and translucent. Set this pan with onion aside.

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2) Set a Medium sized pot on Medium heat (I did a 5.5) with the 4 1/2 Tablespoons of butter. Once the butter melts, add in the 1/4 cup flour, a spoon at a time, and mix immediately as you incorporate the flour so it does not burn but turns into a thicker texture, for about 4 minutes.

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3) Immediately add the chicken broth to the pot and stir constantly to mix well with the flour and butter mixture (this needs to be done well, so you won’t have any flour lumps). Then add the half and half. Let it simmer on Medium-Low heat (I did a 3.5) for about 20 Minutes.

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4) Meanwhile wash and cut the broccoli into both 1/2 and 1/4 inch pieces, and shorten the stems at the bottom of the broccoli. Wash and finely shred the carrots.

5) Add the chopped broccoli, shredded carrots, and sauteed onions into the pot. Let it simmer on Medium-Low (I did a 4.0) for about 20-25 minutes. Until the broccoli and carrots are soft.

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6) Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add 1/2 the shredded cheese into the pot. Mix very well to incorporate the cheese and let it melt (which only takes a few seconds).

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7) Then add the rest of the shredded cheese into the pot and let it melt. Turn heat off. Mix very well to incorporate everything. Enjoy!

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3O Minute Skillet Pasta

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This is the most delicious skillet pasta that I have ever, ever tried. I got the recipe for it from one of my cook books “The Best Simple Recipes” from America’s Test Kitchen and just adapted it to our liking. I can not believe that this recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make and all in one pan! It tastes like something served at a gourmet Italian or Pasta restaurant. I make it for dinner often as my husband and son request it all the time, It has become a family favorite for sure! I’ve made it several times for dinner guests at our house and anyone who tried this pasta dish loved it. It is always gone and nobody can believe that it only takes 30 Minutes to make and all in 1 pan so you don’t have a ton of dishes left to wash. It is fast and simple enough to make on a busy weeknight or when you have company over and don’t want to spend too much time by the stove. If you are looking to impress your dinner guests, or your special someone, this right here is the recipe for you. 🙂

30 Minute Skillet Pasta {Serves 4-5}

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 14 oz. Smoked Sausage (I used Butterball Turkey Smoked Sausage)
  • 1 (10 oz) Can Diced tomatoes and Green Chiles *MILD* (I usually use Ro-Tel or Harris Teeter Brand)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 10 oz Penne Pasta (I do 16 oz)
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Cups *Low Sodium* Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, Shredded (I do 2 cups or 16 oz to make it extra cheesy. I shred my own cheese.)
  • 1/3 Cup Scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, 1/4 teaspoon Pepper

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Directions:

1) Cut your smoked sausage into even little pieces. Add olive oil to a large pan and set it on Medium-High heat (I did 7.5). Finely dice the onion.

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2) When the pan heats up, add the smoked sausage. When you finish dicing the onion, add it into the pan with the sausag. Cook until the sausage and onion are cooked through and lightly browned. Then add the garlic through the garlic press, until fragrant about 30 seconds.

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3) Add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes and green chiles, heavy cream, pasta, salt and pepper, and stir.

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4) Bring it to a boil, cover the pasta with the lid, then lower the heat to Medium-Low (I did 3.0). Meanwhile shred the Monterey Jack cheese and wash/finely chop the scallions.

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5) Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Then add 1/2 of the cheese and all the scallions into the pan and mix the pasta very well.

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6) Turn the stove off. Top with remaining cheese and let it melt all over the pasta. Mix well and enjoy! {OR* if you prefer to do it the cook book way: Transfer the pasta into an oven safe pan and put it in the oven on Broil until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and spotty brown.} I have tried it both ways and either way it will turn out great, but I do not put it in the oven because we prefer a creamy texture of cheese covering our pasta.

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( Here is a close up picture to make you drool 😛 )

Deodorant and Toothpaste… A Slow Poison!

The new year is here, and with it come the new year resolutions. Some of you may have resolutions to be healthier so with that being said, this is not a recipe but rather some information that I just wanted to share with my followers on the kind of toothpaste and deodorant my family uses and hopefully it will help you be more informed about what products you are buying and using, and the effects that these products may have on your body.

Toothpaste:

In my house we use exclusively fluoride free toothpaste. The reason being is that we do not like the idea of fluoride and the effects that it has on the human body. If you are not familiar with fluoride, I wanted to share some rather interesting facts about it with you, that will hopefully be able to help you choose the right products for you and your family.

  • Fluoride is indeed highly toxic. It is a pollutant, a by-product of iron, copper, and aluminum manufacturing.
  • Fluoride was used as an insecticide and rat poison, before it was considered a “cavity fighter”.
  • Fluoride does not actually prevent tooth decay, according to the largest study ever conducted on fluoride and oral health.
  • Fluoride does more bad then good when used for dental hygiene and too much consumed fluoride can cause teeth to discolor and crumble.
  • In tests performed on laboratory animals, it has been shown that fluoride enhances the brains consumption of aluminum, which is also the substance that is found in the brain’s of most Alzheimer’s  patients.
  •  10,000 cancer deaths per year, in a number of different studies have been linked to fluoride. Men exposed to fluoridated water, had a high incidence of bone cancer.
  • The FDA requires a poison warning on every tube of fluoride toothpaste now sold in the U.S.
  • Children who swallow too much fluoride toothpaste can suffer acute poisoning, even death. One tube of Colgate-for-kids toothpaste contains 143 mg of fluoride which is enough to kill a child weighing less then 30 kg (or 66 pounds).
  • 24 studies have shown a link between fluoride exposure and the lowering of IQ.
  • Fluoride is so toxic and dangerous, it has the ability to eat through concrete and metal.
  • Research has found that fluoride affects normal endocrine function, causes kidney disease, cancer, bone weakness, dental fluorosis, arthritis, immune deficiencies, calcification of the pineal gland, skeletal fluorosis, and much, much more.

So… do you still think fluoride is good for our teeth?… That’s what I thought! But don’t take my research for it. Look into it yourself and you will be appalled by the information that you find.

The toothpaste that we use is: Jason (Natural pioneer since 1959) it is Fluoride Free and Sulfate Free. Also it has no preservatives, no propylene glycol, no saccharin, no artificial flavors or colors, and no animal by-products or testing. On the back it says “Jason spearmint toothpaste with baking soda combines silica and calcium carbonate to brighten and polish teeth. Natural anise oil is combined with spearmint, wintergreen, and peppermint oils to deliver minty fresh breath.” Here are some pictures of it:

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I like Citrus Mint flavor and my husband likes Spearmint flavor toothpaste.

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This is the back side of the toothpaste.

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This is my 3 year old son’s toothpaste, also the same brand as ours.

We purchased this toothpastes at Whole Foods but I am sure you can buy this toothpaste online or other natural/organic stores. We have been using this toothpaste for the paste about 6 months. We are very happy with it. There are many other brands like this one though, so we want to eventually try all of them out but this is a brand we have stuck to lately and it works great for us. It is very concentrated, so you only need a small pea sized amount. One tube lasts us about 2 to 2.5 months (because we each have our own tube of toothpaste.) It tastes amazing and leaves a nice, fresh breath after you use it. If you want to learn more information about this specific brand of toothpaste, you can visit their website at: http://www.jason-natural.com

Deodorant:

We also use aluminum free deodorant, let me explain why. Aluminum, often called aluminum chlorohydrate, potassium alum, aluminum zirconium, aluminum hydroxybromide, and many more names (to hide it in the ingredients of your deodorant) is very neurotoxic . Aluminum has been repeatedly indicated as a cause of breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, brittle bones, infertility, and permanent damage to the central nervous system. Also aluminum has been found to mimic estrogen to imbalance the hormones leading to endometriosis, hypothyroidism, and decreased fertility.

Antiperspirants work by closing, clogging, or blocking the pores that release sweat from under your arms, the active ingredient is aluminum.  Not only does this block one of your body’s natural ways of detoxification (releasing toxins through your under arm sweat). But it is also raises concern as to where these metals go after you apply them, by rolling or spraying them on. Research, including one study published this year in the Journal of  Applied Toxicology, shows that the aluminum is not just absorbed by the body but is also deposited in your breast tissue and can even be found in nipple aspirate fluid, a fluid present in the breast duct tree. Research also has determined that the mean level of aluminum in nipple aspirate fluid was much higher in breast cancer-affected woman compared to healthy woman, which suggests that woman with higher levels of aluminum are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

So, if you could avoid aluminum and pay a few dollars more for a safer alternative for your body then why not? After all you can’t put a price tag on your health. Just make sure before you buy the deodorant that it does not contain aluminum hidden in the ingredients by another name, because many companies try to trick you into thinking you are buying a natural and aluminum free deodorant. One of those deodorants is the Crystal salt brand deodorant, consumers think they are getting an aluminum free deodorant but don’t realize it is cleverly hidden in the ingredients list. I was a victim of that one, so be aware and read all the ingredients it is made up of before purchasing it.

The deodorant my husband and I use is also from Whole Foods but can probably be found at other natural/organic health stores or online. It is called: Every Man Jack. It is a naturally derived deodorant. With cotton extract and witch hazel to absorb wetness. Lichen extract-a natural antibacterial agent- helps control odor causing bacteria. Essential oils of peppermint leave you feeling fresh and clean. No aluminum, no parabens, no phthalates, no dyes, and it is never tested on animals. You can look it up at: WWW.EVERYMANJACK.COM. We buy the Signature Mint scented one, although there are a few other scents to choose from. This is a men’s deodorant but out of all the natural ones I have tried this has been my favorite brand to use so far, and in my opinion Mint is a gender neutral scent so it can be used by woman also. I like the super refreshing and cool feeling that it gives you when you put it on, and I like that it is very smooth when you roll it on under your arms, it is not hard like most deodorant sticks and does not leave a white residue on your clothes under the arms. Here are a few pictures of it:

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That is the front of the deodorant we  use.

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That is the back of the deodorant that we use.

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That is a close up of the deodorant bar, so you can see how incredibly smooth it is.

That my friends is just some tips and information that I wanted to share with you all. Not everyone has to agree with me. I just hope it will make you more cautious when buying these essential items. I am glad that I am informed about this and I am sure other people will be happy to learn more about these products as well, especially since we use these on a daily basis. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

I wish everyone a wonderful New Year, full of health, love, joy, prosperity and success! May God bless each and every one of you! Thank you so much for following my blog. Blogging is my passion, my therapy, my hobby, and I enjoy giving you all tips and recipes, that can hopefully be a helpful resource for you to use. 🙂 

Note: I am not getting paid to write this post and am in no means endorcing the above products that I have written about. Everything I wrote regarding the specific brands are based off mine and my family’s experience using them. a few of the sources that I used to help with my research are: