Tomato Sauce

I'm posting a sauce. Yeah that's right. A tomato sauce for pasta. Don't be afraid.

For a while I had given up cooking homemade gravy, bolognese, marinara or whatever you call it. I must have tried ten different recipes, only to hear "just okay" from husband Todd. That is not a sufficient response to keep me mashing canned tomatoes, chopping onions and garlic to oblivion, and simmering until slightly thickened.

So we went back to professionally prepared Italian food, from Pompeii to Mia Francesca to Little Italy. We sang, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that's amore!" I'd picture my five foot two self as Cher in Moonstruck.

Then in May of 2011 Bon Appetit, "The Italy Issue," arrived. The cover photo was spaghetti smothered in the "simplest, silkiest sauce you'll ever make, p. 142." The cover proclaimed there's a secret involved. I was in.

I turned to page 142. I learned secrets, which I will break down into baby steps for you who also may need help to boil water. Or not. Either way, this one's a winner. At least that's what husband Todd tells me.


Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup

It was cold, I was hungry and there were sweet potatoes and a can of pumpkin in my house. Plus carrots and celery and onion, oh my. To the internet I went to find a hot food recipe.

Gluten-Free Goddess, my personal hero, struck again. This soup, which I altered slightly, is as soothing as it is yummy. Check out her blog for mind blowing soup and stew recipes, among others.


Don't Forget the Kugel

If I had to name one food responsible for every pound over goal weight gained in my teen years, kugel would be it. Hot or cold, day or night, middle of the night, home or on the road, this dish makes me lose control. Which is why I only make it a few times a year.

Here's my mother's recipe in full detail. I've made some changes over the years but it's pretty close to the original.


Brisket, baby!

Rosh Hashanah is upon us. Time to cook a brisket. I posted this a while back but thought I'd challenge you cooking phobics and avoiders (Jewish or not) to try something difficult this holiday season.

Good luck and l'shana tova!

Brisket Recipe


Eggies: Part One

Something has happened to me when it comes to eggs. I'm addicted. Not to any eggs, of course, but to farmers market eggs at $5 a dozen. Expensive? A little. Worth it? Yes. Like $4 chocolate bars I (only!) buy when "on sale." When 44 years old you turn your palate will require such indulgence also.

A bit of history. After Sons Jonah and Griffin reached the non-choking hazard years, I let go of my salmonella fear allowing the boys to eat my brother's version of scrambled eggs which is, in a word, runny, and referred to, back when his daughter Samantha and our sons still took baths together, as "eggies." (Readers not in favor of small, messy children, "ies" will be dropped from here on out). Anyway, for years as my brother and I disagreed on scramble techniques, the children would dis my eggs with, "Not as good as Unca-Larry's."

Meanwhile, as I transitioned from grocery to farmers market eggs, I discovered Cooks Illustrated's instructions for scrambling suggested that my brother worked in their test kitchen. I pondered this, then tried their "Fluffy Scrambled Eggs" recipe and voila...Unca-Larry's eggies (last time, promise)!

I say buy those pricey farmers market eggs and get your addiction started. You deserve it. No matter how old your are.


Farmers Markets, Everyone?

The markets are coming, the markets are coming! Actually, they're here. So grab your baskets and vegetable dyed reusable bags. Time to shop al fresco.

I hit Green City Market this week (Wednesdays & Saturdays 7 a.m. - 1 p.m.) located on Clark just north of North Avenue. Oh happy day.

Phoenix Bean's Jenny Yang was offering several different tofu samples, so that was breakfast washed down with coffee from my reusable to-go mug. A taste of leafy greens served as a palate cleanser. Next visit I hope to eat more, perhaps a cheese sample or two.

On this first outdoor market shop of the season I was "out and out" in 20 minutes (my record is 12). I nabbed two packages of Phoenix Bean tofu, one dozen eggs and a bunch each of asparagus and rhubarb from Ellis Farms, two hunks of Brunkow cheese, two dozen eggs from Mint Creek Farm, 1/2 pound mushrooms from the mushroom guy, one pretzel braid from Bennison's Bakery, three lettuce heads from Tomato Mountain, and a partridge in a pear tree. Mission accomplished.

This season I'll be posting as I shop to aid the market-phobic (me ten years ago). Yes, I'm looking for converts. Always. So stay tuned if you're game. I'll do my best.


Steel Cut Oatmeal

Yes it's true. A lesson on steel cut oats. Those instructions on the package sound no fail. But are they? I've over/under-cooked enough oats to cry uncle forever.

That was until Sister-in-law Amy's slow cooker oatmeal recipe arrived via email. I nabbed a 1.5 quart crock pot, in turquoise, for eight bucks at Target. The games began.

I tried the recipe several times. Tasted great. Took some patience. Not a good combo for me. Lots of timing and pot scrubbing involved. My pragmatic inner voice said, "There must be another way!"

My solution is a mash up of the slow cooker recipe and the package instructions. No more wasted oats. No more head shaking at breakfast. Just me and a hot bowl of goodness.

The turquoise slow cooker goes to the next college student who walks through my door.


Banana Bread

Why have I waited so long to post this dependable, easy banana bread? There it's been, wasting away on my hard drive. Not on Facebook, nor on Google Docs. Nestled in ole fashioned Documents. To the Internet!

A former neighbor brought this to a block party and it was the best I'd had. She said the recipe was "super easy." She was right. I've been making it ever since.


Under the Tuscan Sun Ribollita

A few years back, okay more than a few but less than a decade, my friend Dawn and I attended a Chopping Block cooking class called Under the Tuscan Sun: Food and Wine of Tuscany. The chef prepared a new and exotic (to me) dish called ribollita. We both loved it and have been making it ever since.


Soup and Bread Debrief

Soup and Bread was quite the experience. Here's how my 3 gallons of ribollita and I spent the evening.

I was sandwiched between a culinary school graduate (chef?) and his rabbit soup and Foodgasm's hostess and her blood red beet soup. They took turns showing me the ropes. Don't rest the ladle on the table. Remove slow cooker lid for presentation. Add "made with chicken broth" on the soup sign so the vegans know. Helpful hints I was grateful to have.

Meanwhile my soup was heating oh so slowly and needed to be a safe 135 degrees. Rabbit soup guy wanted a taste regardless of its 120 degree-ness. Are you sure? I ask. He nods assuredly as I hand him a bowlful. He likes it (or so he said). I exhaled and returned to temperature surveillance.

Finally my soup was ready. I ladled it into bowls held by grinning people who believed they were about to eat a professionally prepared meal. At least one person returned for seconds from the cook formerly know as Swedish Chef II. I cannot believe they let me into this event, I thought. Clearly no one is doing background checks. I even ran out of soup before night's end.

So...banned from Soup and Bread? I think not.

Thank you founders Martha Bayne and Sheila Sachs for taking a chance on an unknown kid (that's a line from the movie Summer School in case it sounds familiar).

Check out Soup and Bread's own recap of the evening which includes photos and more info on the cooks. And come to The Hideout Wednesday nights from 5:30-8 through mid April for hot bowls of homemade goodness.

Next post: Ribollita Recipe


Jonah's Mostly Noodle Chicken Noodle Soup

As I sit here about to embark upon cooking and transporting three gallons of soup for tomorrow night's Soup and Bread event at the Hideout I cannot shake the fact that at lunchtime today I brought 2 cups of Whole Foods chicken broth to a simmer, added a pinch of salt, three turns of pepper and a handful of cooked-last-night Manischewitz fine egg noodles.

This was for older son, Jonah, who's been fighting a cold. He's rejected other chicken soup concoctions (enjoyed by Husband Todd and I) due to excessive vegetable presence so a simple combination was in order. Finally, success. The boy ate it up.

What made this soup different from all others? The broth was almost clear and a bit shimmery, like my grandma's made from chicken capon. No vegetables or outlandish spices were added, just salt and pepper and the Cadillac of soup noodles.

Tomorrow I will make a lovely (I hope) soup with 10 or so ingredients for diners likely to appreciate the chopping, sauteing, seasoning, tasting, and more seasoning involved in creating healthy goodness. Stay tuned for results. Fingers crossed my next post isn't titled, "Banned from Soup and Bread."

Meanwhile try Jonah's Mostly Noodle Chicken Noodle Soup. You can do it!


White Bean and Sausage Stew

I love food magazines. Such promise on those covers. Until reality bites, reminding me that my cooking resume reads like Keanu Reeves' movie list. Terrible then not so bad to pretty good to how did he pull off that role so well to ugh not again.

Recipes in Bon Appetit stump me the most. If I follow directions exactly there's about a 50/50 shot at tastiness. But when I read the recipe closely and interject with, dare I say, "experience" results improve. So frustrating, right? The only way to get better at anything is to do it more but if you hate it then avoid it (taking out, cold cereal, canned soup) the cycle continues.

Lucky for you this blog is not so gourmet you want to scream "What's escarole?!!!" (which I will tell you anyway, not that you can't google it yourself but so much easier to one-stop shop) nor are the recipes prison-esque or dorm-like.

This Bon Appetit dish was easy for me and would be easy for lost souls if more instructions were provided. Not their target audience but it is mine. So here ya go.

This meal rocks.