On Top of Spaghetti

When I was pregnant with my third son I craved pasta like a mad woman. I would eat spinach ravioli, cheese ravioli, tricolor noodles with butter, and oh the Kraft macaroni and cheese. I stood in front of the stove only slightly apologetic as I called my older boys for dinner, only for them to see that I’d already polished off half the pot of macaroni, eating straight off the wooden  spoon.  I’ve paid for those days, that’s for sure, but they were worth it. I got a baby out of it!

One thing pregnancy gives you is heightened senses. My cooking talents expanded in the kitchen. One evening I was craving the family style spaghetti from this local place near us called Vince’s spaghetti. (This was the first place we visited after I had my baby boy, by the way!)  The place is very unique.  The food is wheeled out by the waiters on little cafeteria carts and you get a lot.  Minestrone soup, crispy salad, baskets of buttery garlic bread and a heaping plate of spaghetti, snowed on by Italian cheese if you like. 
This is my husband’s plate at home.  See what I mean.  Now that’s a pile of pasta!
Extra Meaty Restaurant Style Spaghetti

1-1 lb package of spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained according to package directions
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1-45oz jar Traditional Ragu spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 large onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
7 cloves garlic, pressed
3 Tb dried parsley
1 Tb olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or very large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes more. Add carrots and cook 2 minutes more.  Separate vegetables to side of pan and add the lean ground beef. Brown meat, breaking down very well, and continue cooking vegetables, stirring frequently.  When meat is browned combine together with vegetables. Add salt and pepper. 
Slowly pour jarred spaghetti sauce over meat and vegetable mixture.  Add 1 cup water to jar, replace cap and shake to get all the sauce out.  Add water to pot.  Slowly stir in parsley. 
Prepare pasta according to package directions while sauce is simmering.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer stirring occasionally for at least 30 minutes.  One day I’ll make this in the crock pot for a crowd. I know that will be good!
To make a quick and easy garlic bread, combine 3 1/2 Tb melted butter with 1 clove pressed garlic and brush mixture with basting brush onto 8 bias slices of french bread.  I prefer french baguettes.  Place bread on cookie sheet under broiler for 2-3 minutes per side.  
Add a crisp salad of your choice and serve with the spaghetti and garlic bread.  Top the spaghetti with plenty of mozzarella or provolone cheese if you like. 

Makes 8 servings. 10 min prep. 50 min total cook time. 

Healthier option:
For a low carb and gluten free option, try a summer spaghetti squash in place of pasta.  This was my healthier version.  Pierce squash with fork and heat in microwave for 5-6 minutes. Slice in half, remove seeds and fluff “noodles” with a fork.  Add sauce and cheese and enjoy.  Serve with gluten free bread or just the salad.  One squash serves 2. 
Finicky Shark option:
My most finicky shark ate meat sauce for the very first time today!!!   That’s Jesse and I in the picture at the bottom of the page.  I was so proud!  
This finicky version was for my 2 year old. Just noodles and plenty of mozzarella cheese!

And no spaghetti dinner is ever complete without some spaghetti kisses!
This meaty veggie filled spaghetti sauce is sure to please, and save money on any Italian restaurant visit.  Enjoy spaghetti lovers!

The Best Memories are Created in the Kitchen

We like to think that we as parents are the best influences on our children, the ones that make the biggest impact on their lives.  In most cases this is true. We set the examples to nurture, show devotion and live responsibly.  Apparently part of my responsibility and my passion of cooking and baking is growing on my boys.

My oldest son has seen me blogging and creating healthy dishes.  This one is his idea!  He told me the other day, “Mom I have the best idea for your writing cooking thing that you do on the computer!  I want you to make a frozen cupcake, then dip it in chocolate and then banana pudding and freeze it!  Then put little bananas on top.” I thought, ‘we could make that idea work.’  So we came up with frozen banana pudding cake pops.  And yes, we made them-gasp-healthy!
Frozen Banana Pudding Cake Pops
Cake:
1 box French vanilla cake mix
1 cup water
3 eggs
2 ripe bananas
Pudding:
1 large box banana pudding mix
1 2/3 cups milk
Chocolate Coating:
4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 Tb coconut oil
Toppings:
Colored Sugar, Jimmies, Nonpareils or Chopped Nuts
About 60 lollipop sticks
Preheat oven as directed on cake box, depending on cake pan used (350F or 375F).
Combine cake mix eggs, water and ripe banana in stand mixer and mix well.  *Note I did not add vegetable oil.  Pour into greased cake pan and bake as directed, as my sous chef is doing below.

Meanwhile prepare pudding according to pie filling directions.
When cake is done, cool slightly. Break baked cake into pieces in large mixing bowl.  Measure 1 1/2 cups prepared banana pudding (save the remaining pudding for your kids’ school lunches) and spread over cake pieces.  Mix well.  It will resemble a soft cookie dough.  I dare you not to taste it!
On a foil lined cookie sheet, scoop out dough with cookie scooper or rounded tablespoons evenly spaced. Mine made 58.  Refrigerate about 15 minutes. 

Prepare chocolate coating by measuring 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips into a 2 cup microwave safe bowl. Add 2 Tb coconut oil and another 1 cup chips. Microwave at 60% power for 2 minutes, stirring once. Remove from microwave and stir well until smooth and glossy. 

Remove cake balls from refrigerator and roll into smoother balls.  Dip ends of lollipop sticks into chocolate coating and stick upright into center of cake balls.  This will ensure the sticks stay put.  Refrigerate 15 more minutes. 
Remove cake balls from refrigerator and dip each one into the chocolate coating, rolling to cover completely and letting excess drip off.  You will likely run out of coating about halfway through the batch of pops. Prepare the remaining chocolate coating ingredients as before and dip remaining cake balls.  Sprinkle desired toppings and refrigerate for one hour. Pops may be frozen at this point as well. 
I made these pops especially good for you, as I used banana in place of oil in the cake mix. And I added banana pudding full of calcium instead of the traditional unhealthy canned frosting.  Semi-sweet chocolate is also used in place of chocolate baking pieces, as semi-sweet chocolate is full of healthy fats (MUFAs). The coconut oil I added gives the chocolate a nice sheen and candy appeal, and is also full of MCT oil, a highly digestible oil that goes straight to the body’s liver and jump starts the metabolism. 
What I love about these pops is the versatility. Straight from the fridge they taste like a banana truffle on a stick, but frozen they a like bite-sized frozen bananas-delicious!

And the very best thing about these frozen banana pudding cake pops?  We made them together. Don’t forget to lick the batter!