Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Preparing for the Inevitable

Photo courtesy of K-Log.

In light of the recent earthquakes on the east coast and Colorado, this serves as a gentle reminder that things beyond our control happen all the time.  But, there are things that are withinin our control, which can give us peace, if we do our part to prepare.

I realize this is a bit of a morbid post, but I think talking about important things like preparing for our inevitable death is important if not essential. 

Last week, one of my favorite blogs featured a post about preparing an "In Case Of" file for your loved ones when you die.  It tells them after you die everything they need to know to deal with all those things you don't think about, like closing down your Facebook or Twitter accounts.  It's more than a will with bequests, it's all the little mundane things, too, like if you have a child who has music lessons when and where those are.

It really got me thinking and motivated to get started on mine.  It's going to take some time to amass all the online accounts I access, with their log ins, passwords, and security questions.  I came across this document that I know will give me a starting point, and it may be helpful to you, too.

Don't forget - this information is highly confidential, make sure you password protect, incrypt, or file in a safe place like a locked, fireproof safe, or in your file drawer under an inocuous label like Old Recipes.

Do you already have an "In Case Of" file?  What has worked for you in getting it started?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Skillet Mac with Zesty Meat Sauce

I came across this recipe in my June/July 2010 copy of Cook's Country, and have adapted it below.  It's been sitting patiently in my to-try pile ever since and I sure wish I hadn't waited so long.  The standard macaroni noodles and crushed tomatoes are elevated to a whole new level with the addition of banana peppers which really brighten and freshen up the flavor of the tomatoes, and the basil adds a sweet note.  The cheese gives it the final touch adding a rich and creamy flavor.  It's not trying to be spaghetti, the sauce is much lighter and fresher than that.  This is a great recipe that's going into our regular rotation.

The winner here for us is that the ingredients are normal purchases for us, not anything fancy or that would only be used for this one recipe.  The HubLub was skeptical - we've tried a few skillet mac dishes which have all been ho-hum - and when he saw the ingredient list he thought for sure he'd have to add some chili powder or cumin to spice it up and get some flavor out of it.  We were both surprised at how different this tasted from all the other recipes we tried.  The canned tomatoes didn't even taste canned, it was that good!  The recipe claims it serves 4, but I think you can get 6 reasonable 1 1/2 servings.  Serve it with some bread and veggies and you're good to go.  This is a great weeknight dinner, it's a 30-minute type of recipe and it's all cooked in one large skillet, which really helps with clean up.  Go ahead, give it a try and let me know what you think.

1 tablespoon canola oil (or another vegetable oil)
1/2 - 1 pound 85% lean ground beef (we used a little more than 3/4 lb and thought that was just fine)
1/2 teaspoon of salt (plus more for seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more for seasoning)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 cups water
12 ounces elbow macaroni (I could only find a 16 ounce box, so I used used my scale to measure out 12 oz)
1/2 cup drained jarred mild or hot banana peppers, chopped (I know this sounds different, but I promise you don't want to skip this because it really brightens the sauce, you can skip chopping them and just pick out the pieces when you eat it, like the HubLub did)
1-1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

Pour oil in large non stick skillet (with a lid) and heat on medium-high until shimmery.  Brown beef with the salt and pepper.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds or so).

Stir in tomatoes, water, macaroni, and banana peppers.  Cover and cook about 7 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, about 7 minutes or until al dente.  Turn off stove.

Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and basil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese using as much or as little as you like, cover and let sit until melted, about 1 minute.