Easy Peasy Tomato Sauce

If there is one thing that I cannot live without in my freezer (besides beef, of course!), it is my homemade tomato sauce. This recipe is the base for the vast majority of my ground beef recipes. 

Also, it is super easy. Because when it comes to big batch cooking, I am super lazy. And I hate canning. So it needs to be easy, delicious, and freezable. Another bonus – it uses up all the questionable (but pre-moldy) veggies in my fridge that I probably wouldn’t use otherwise. Oh, and the other best part of this recipe? No recipe! I have never once measured what I put in. And it has never failed. Yet. 

Every fall, I make a half a dozen batches of this sauce as my garden tomatoes ripen. I use Roma style tomatoes, because they are less juicy and more meaty, so you don’t have to boil down your sauce for as long, and their sugar content will give you a better tasting sauce. 

Here is what is (very approximately) in my pot today:

  • 12 cups tomatoes
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cups red pepper
  • 6 gloves garlic
  • Handful of mushrooms

Other than the mushrooms, this is the standard base. If I didn’t have these things on hand, I would go and buy them. Other veggies I may add include:

  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini 
  • Spicy peppers
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Whatever else cranks your fancy


I chop everything up and throw it in a stock pot. Under medium-low, I bring it to a boil and let it simmer for a couple hours. 


Once it is all smushy, and even the hardest veggie (usually carrots) are soft, transfer to your blender. Yep. Blender. None of those hand crank torture devices known as tomato presses. They suck. And you lose all the really good-for-you fibre in the veggies. And they make a mess. And I am lazy. 

Blend on high for a few minutes until there is not a chunk to be seen. Because eeww, chunks. 


Put back in a pot and add a 1/4 cup or so of Italian spices. I also add my favourite garlic mix, Johnny’s. Add salt, pepper, and a few table spoons of sugar. 

If your tomatos are on the watery side, you may need to low boil until you reach a good consistency. 

Cool, freeze in baggies, and you are done! 

Now you are prepped to make hamburger soup, lasagne, spaghetti and meat sauce, and on and on. 

Enjoy!! 

Rancher Approved Steak Marinade

You can probably guess that we take our steak real seriously around here. Our entire ranch system revolves around producing the most flavourful, tender, mouthwateringly delicious high end cuts of beef. Because we always have a deep freeze (or two) full of beef, you can bet we spend a fair number of summer afternoons barbecuing. Steak is most definitely not reserved for special occasions around here! 

For company, and special occasions, I kick our steak BBQ up a notch with this fail safe teriyaki marinade. Seriously, I have never met anyone who doesn’t love it. This is my most asked for recipe, hands down. If you BBQ steak, you need to try it. 

First off, start with good beef! Here in Canada, Canada Prime is tops for quality, but will cost you significant $$. The next level of quality, and more easy to find is Canada AAA. It will be well marbled, and from a young animal. If you are grilling beef, it is really worth it to buy high quality. 

What about the cut? Choosing the correct cut of steak is as important as the quality. This marinade will tenderize as well as flavour the meat, but it cannot work miracles. Round steak is best left to braising or slow cooking. Rib steaks are so heavily marbled, they are rich and full of flavour with just salt and pepper. I use this recipe on tenderloins (they are tender on their own, but lean, so can use the extra flavour), sirloins (to tenderize and flavour), and tbones (which are a combo of sirloin and tenderloin). If you want to know more about cuts, check out Canada Beef’s website here

The recipe:

In a medium sized pot mix the following on medium heat:

  • 1c soy sauce 
  • 1c white vinegar 
  • 1c brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp corn starch. 

Mix thoroughly, cook until it bubbles and thickens. 

Let cool and then pour over steaks. 

  
Marinate for at least 2 hrs. I usually leave them in the fridge overnight. 

Then grill ’em up!! 

  

And to give credit where credit is due: like many great things in the country, this awesome recipe came from family friends and farm neighbours, Sharon Walker. A grain farming family to boot! And now, I gotta go. I have a juicy steak calling my name….

  

Massive Batch Meatballs

The Christmas season is upon us, and that means holiday Potluck parties. Of course I am always expected to bring a beefy dish to share, being a cattle rancher. My absolute favourite crowd pleaser at Potlucks is beefy meatballs. They are so versatile, you can change their entire flavour by switching up the sauce, and they go with everything! Possibly the best part about meatballs is how easy they are to make ahead in big batches to freeze and pull out when needed. 

While the sauce possibilities are endless, two of my favourites are Sweet and Sour, and Creamy Mushroom sauce. I will share them in a future post, but for those of you who are often in a desperate rush (like I am tonight), pour a couple cans of cream of mushroom soup over a crockpot full of pre-made meatballs and voila- easy peezy dinner! 

This recipe is Child, Rancher and Mom approved, a perfect trifecta!

  
Massive Batch Meatball Recipe 
Ingredients:

  1. 8 lbs ground beef. No need for the more expensive lean ground beef – because there is no pork, the added fat in regular ground beef keeps the meatballs juicy and delicious. 
  2. 1 onion finely diced and sauted in canola oil until translucent 
  3. 2 cups Panko bread crumbs. If you don’t happen to have Panko in your pantry, never fear, any kind of bread crumb works. If all else fails, finely crushed crackers or tortilla chips will work in a pinch. 
  4. 6 eggs
  5. 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1/4 cup Johnny’s garlic seasoning
  7. 1/4 cup Italian seasoning  (both seasonings can be switched up according to taste.  
  8. 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp pepper 

  
Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in large bowl (I use my bread making bowl). If you are squeamish about mixing raw meat with your hands, use medical gloves. 

  

  • Roll into small meatballs. Make sure they are equal in size so they cook evenly. 
  • Spread meatballs out evenly on broiler pans. If needed, I also use cookie sheets covered in tin foil for easy clean-up. Just make sure it has sides to catch grease. 

  

  • Bake at 350 degrees F for approx 30 minutes. This will largely depend on the size of meatballs. 
  • Always cook ground beef dishes to a minimum internal temp of 160 Degrees F!!!

  

In the past, I always fried my meatballs, but once I discovered cooking them in the oven, I have never looked back! No splatter, no standing over a hot stove, and I found the meatballs actually kept a better round shape in the oven. 

Once cooled, I freeze the meatballs in large ziplock freezer bags. I never know how large of a crowd I will be cooking for, so I love that I can take out as many (or little) as I need. Just pop them out of the freezer into a casserole dish (or crockpot), cover with the sauce of your choosing, and heat at 350F until hot and bubbly throughout. 

  
I hope you enjoy this stand-by as much as we do!

The Glory of a Fall Supper in a Ukrainian Town

There is no better time to live in a small Saskatchewan town of strong Ukrainian culture than Fall Supper season. It is that special time of year when all Babas unite to bring us arguably the most delicious  dinner of the year. While there are many high points of living in a small town like Ituna Saskatchewan, fall supper season may just top that list.  

 Tonight I was fortunate enough to attend the Sacred Heart Parish Ukrainian  Catholic annual fall supper. For a mere $15 per adult, or $6 per child we have gorged ourselves on some of the best food Saskatchewan  has to offer. 

Fall (or Fowl) suppers are a pretty great thing across Western Canada. Usually done as a church or community fundraiser, they are a collection of food prepared by the best cooks in the community. Add in the Ukrainian heritage of Ituna, and then the magic really happens. 

The long buffet style line of food is almost daunting at first. A pre-meal game plan is usually in order. 

The standard fillers of veggies, buns, and a selection of salads may look delicious, but a seasoned fall supper goer, such as myself, knows that you must hold back at the start of the food procession. You will need that precious plate space for the really delicious dishes to come. 

Next is the perogie section. Yes, here in Ituna perogies warrant their own entire section. The perogie pan is huge, and sits alongside dishes of onions and butter, sour cream, and creamy mushroom gravy. Did I mention that these perogies are Baba-made (with love) and hand-pinched? These are an entire meal on their own! 

 
Cabbage rolls are so delicate that they have their own dedicated server person. And of course one standard variety is not enough. Buckwheat cabbage rolls are a special treat. 

 
And then (THEN!) comes the “regular” dishes. Sweet and sour meatballs, roast turkey with all the fixings, freshly boiled carrots and peas so sweet that I suspect came out of Baba #24’s personal garden, and potatoes whipped to creamy heaven. 

By the time I hit the end, it is a fantastical balancing act to keep the enormous amount of food intact on my plate. Damming the rivers of both brown and mushroom gravy is a must. At this point I begin to worry that my eyes have seriously exceeded my stomach’s capacity. 

  
And then I spy the dessert table. 

 
When it is all said and done, and we have cleaned our plates (a remarkable feat), we enjoyed a good cup of coffee and a visit with the people sitting on either side of us – people from neighbouring communities that mark the first Sunday in November as their annual trek to Ituna. 

And now, after rolling ourselves out of the church hall, I sit on my couch and contemplate how awesome it is to live in such a community. 

And pop the button on my jeans…..

Momma D’s Swiss Steak

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, my Mom had a handful of go-to recipes that were sure to bring everyone, (picky eaters like myself included), happily around the table, no matter what schedule craziness was going on.  Swiss steak was a favorite of the entire family. It is not low in calories or sodium, so maybe it is a good thing that it takes a little extra prep work. That being said, there really isn’t anything more comforting on a cold or rainy day.

This recipe uses Minute Steak (also known as cube steak), made from relatively thin round steak that has been tenderized, either by pounding it with a meat tenderizer, or an electric tenderizer. It gets its name from only taking a minute or so to cook if you are frying or grilling it. This recipe takes considerably longer, but the results are more than worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Minute Steak
  • I box Vegetable Thin crackers
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cans Cream of Tomato Soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Crush crackers into fine crumbs (I use a blender) and add parmesan cheese
  2.  Put flour, cracker crumbs and milk each in their own tray or deep plate
  3. Put canola oil into heated frying pan
  4. Dip and coat each minute steak with first flour, then milk, then crumbs
  5. Fry until golden brown – flipping half way

6. Place steaks into casserole dish and cover with tomato sauce

7. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 90-120 minutes (depending on thickness of steaks)

If your dish is quite full, it always helps to place an old cookie sheet under it to catch any over-flow.

8. Uncover, spread cheese on top and bake until melted

9. Serve with mashed potatoes – the sauce makes an amazing tomato gravy!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we always have!!

Melty Oven Beef Short Ribs РCandy to Meatatarians 

*Note: This post made me fully realize my lackings as a food photographer. The pictures cannot begin to convey the deliciousness of these ribs!

  
Although we always have a deep freeze full of beef, short ribs are not frequent fair around our place. Although not difficult to cook, they do require a certain level of “babysitting”, and setting aside a good portion of my day to focus on dinner’s meat of choice isn’t always an option. Short ribs are usually pulled out just before a new side of beef arrives, and I need to clean up the bits and pieces of the last beef. But even though they are a (slight) pain in the butt to cook, they are sooooo worth the effort. 

These shorts ribs are not just fall off the bone tender, but actually melt in your mouth. The slight sweetness from the wine makes them so darn good, they are quite literally candy to a meatatarian. And coming from a family of meatatarians, I am a good judge!

Also: I am a big fan of any recipe that uses half a bottle of wine. Somehow the entire bottle gets used. Every time. 

Ingredients:
2-3 pounds beef short ribs
salt and pepper
canola oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 bottle red wine
4 cups water 
3 tbsp “Better than Bouillon” Beef Base
*or 4 cups beef broth*
 

  • Season ribs with salt and pepper
  • Coat bottom of Dutch Oven with Canola oil
  • Brown ribs. A good heavy sear will give the ribs the best texture
  • Set ribs aside. Add garlic and cook until soft. (Could also roast garlic in oven)
  • Add wine and reduce until thick and delicious 
  • Drink other half of bottle!
  • Add ribs back to pot along with water/beef base
  • Simmer 3-4 hours until beef is super tender
  • Separate ribs and broth. Skim fat from broth (I do this all the way along), and boil to thicken. You can also add a little flour to thicken if you want more of a gravy than a sauce. 
  • Drool and serve!!

Other than the time it takes, the most difficult part of this recipe is keeping your fingers off the meat while it is cooking. Too often, by the time dinner time comes around, I am full from picking at the meat. Soooooo goooood!!!