Tag Archives: Dressings/Sauces

Satisfactorily sauced

Canning season continues! Because we’re very sensible people, we’re preparing for the harsh winter ahead by capturing as much garden bounty in glass jars as possible. Sure, it may be balmy out today, but soon enough it will look like this:


And then, some poor saps will be stuck inside with nothing but ramen and ketchup. Not MOI, my friends! I’ll be under an electric blanket, watching Sister Wives with a big bowl of home-sauced spaghetti.

To make this recipe you need about 16 pounds of tomatoes. How does one come by 16 pounds of tomatoes, you ask? Well, you could go buy them, but you have to be careful that they don’t come from a million miles away and taste like mealy nothingness. You could grow them. Or–you could find yourself a tomato guy. I have one. His name is Elmer, and he lives about 80 miles from here. We go way back. We received word a few days ago that Elmer was in possession of a giant bucket of garden tomatoes. A rendezvous was arranged at the Godfather’s Pizza in Adel, IA (a convenient mid-point), and thus the stage was set for some serious sauce makin’.


You need to peel the tomatoes first, and I suggest you do this by putting them in boiling water for about a minute until the skins break and then dropping them into ice water. They should peel easily after that. Then, you pretty much just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer while you go about your business for two hours. Your home will smell like Giada’s. Note: that is just an assumption because Giada has never invited me to one of her girl’s-night dinners full of pan-CETT-a.



Just like back when we had our chat about pickles, you need to boil your jars and lids to sterilize them and get a good seal.



To test this stuff out (and to make sure I was not leading you fine people astray), I made a little lasagna with zucchini from our garden and some tofu ricotta. (Tofu ricotta = tofu mashed with a fork, jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some nutritional yeast if you have it.) It was delicious, in a no-fake-ingredients, made-with-love, I-would-do-a-cartwheel-if-I-hadn’t-already-broken-my-wrist-twice kind of way. So here’s the recipe! See you cats and kittens later.


Spaghetti Sauce (full batch will fill about 8 pint jars)

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 small onions, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, diced (whatever color you like, or a combination)
  • 16 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced (*Drain off most of the juice, but save some in case you’d like to use it to thin out the sauce at any point)
  • 2 12-oz cans of tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (or about 2 tbsp dried parsley)
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2-1 tbsp dried oregano)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves (leave them whole and fish them out at the end, or just crush them between your hands when you put them in and don’t worry about finding them later)

Sautee the garlic, bell pepper, and diced onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, and then pour all of this into a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 hours. If you would like it to be thicker, just cook longer. Boil the jars and lids for 15 minutes. Then, fill them with the sauce, screw on the lids, and let them cool on the counter. When they’re cool, check for a proper seal–press on the lid and make sure it doesn’t pop down and back up. If any of the jars didn’t seal properly, store them in the refrigerator and use them as soon as you can.


Rice paper wrappers full of (r)awesome

Just a very quick installment today…

My friend Katie (she also happens to be my sister-in-law’s brother’s wife, but “friend” is simpler) has a holistic health coaching business and sends out a newsletter full of info about happy, healthy food and tasty recipes.  The business is called Rooted Wellbeing and you should really check out the website, mmmkay? It will inspire you when you feel like eating Doritos for dinner.

I tried her recipe for a raw Thai “peanut” sauce yesterday and I can already tell it is destined to become a staple in my fridge.  It would be great on a pasta salad, as a dip, in a wrap, etc.  Tonight I used it as a dipping sauce for some spring rolls.

Spring roll components: broiled tofu (using this recipe from Peas and Thank You), cooked rice noodles with a bit of the peanut sauce stirred in, veggies, and the rice paper wrappers.

These are very fun to make.  You need to soak the rice paper in a shallow dish of warm-ish water for about 20 seconds to make it pliable.  This reminded me of the scene in Grease when Sandy sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and wistfully floats a sheet of stationery in the pool in Frenchie’s backyard.  Anybody?  No?  OK, never mind.

Then you can fill them with whatever suits your fancy and you have a pretty little appetizer or light supper.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe for these rolls, but here’s one that looks good if you want a little food for thought.  My finished product:

These were pretty decent, but the star of the meal was definitely the dipping sauce—here’s the link with the recipe.  Make it, love it…..try to resist the temptation to just eat it straight with a spoon.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!  (I’ll be back with another post soon, because I bought tartlet pans today.  TARTLET PANS!  I can barely contain my excitement….)

Maple-soy marinated veggies

One more (very simple) recipe before spring break is over.  My brother and sister-in-law and their wonderful kiddos got back from spring break in Florida today, and we fired up the grill for the first time this spring.  Oh, by the way, do you want to see something adorable?  Check out baby nephew at Disneyworld:


I made a marinade for grilled portabella mushrooms and asparagus using my tiny bottle of maple syrup from VT.  Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 clove garlic

My mom bought one of those Magic Bullet things today and blended the ingredients in that, but you could also mince the clove of garlic and just whisk everything together.

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I used 2 portabella caps and one good-sized bunch of asparagus.  To prep the veggies, break the stems off the portabella caps and use a spoon to scrape out the black gills.  Chop off the bottom third or so of the asparagus spears and discard.  (The bottom is usually kind of tough.)

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Leave the asparagus long if you want to place it directly on the grill, or chop it into smaller pieces if you’re going to be using a grill pan.  Then put the portabellas and asparagus into a pan and pour the marinade over them.

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Put the pan in the fridge for a few hours, and stir every now and then to make sure every veggie gets a chance to soak up some flavor.  Then, fire up the grill.  Cook the mushroom caps for about five minutes on each side, and the asparagus until crisp-tender.

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I love grilling nights on the patio with my family!  The prospect of having many more this summer makes studying for the bar exam sound much less painful.

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Finished product:

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My dad grilled some meat for the carnivorous family members, so almost everybody was happy with the meal.  My older nephew, however, had to head to the pantry.  He only eats one thing:

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Have a great week!  It’s back to school for me.

Undercover brownies

Tomorrow is half marathon day!  I’m back in Des Moines, hydrating  like a champion and baking to avoid being scared.  Now, I know this sounds weird…but here’s today’s featured recipe:

Black Bean Brownies:

  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. coffee granules
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Put all of that business (except the chocolate chips) into a food processor.  (A blender might also work, if you don’t have a food processor.)

Process for awhile, scrape down the sides, and process again until it looks gooooood and smooth.  (I would surmise that chunks of black bean in a brownie would not be pleasant.)  Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Finished product:

Verdict: I’m a fan!  But, because I kind of like weird, healthy food, I passed one off on my unsuspecting padre when he wandered through the kitchen.  Although he guessed there was something “healthy” in there, he gave them two thumbs up as well and was impressed when the secret ingredient was revealed.   My Grandma Neva has a spice cake recipe that involves a can of Van de Kamp’s Pork and Beans, so I guess I’m in good company.

Speaking of my Grandma Neva, I spent about an hour today looking through her old binders of recipe columns clipped from my hometown newspaper.  These things go back to the sixties, and they’re fabulous!  Here’s the column from the week she was the “featured chef”:

At the end, it says, “Neva thoroughly enjoys cooking, and her daughter does too–which makes for some happy times in the kitchen for the two of them.”  AWWW.  I’m so glad she saved these.

In other news, I can’t stop eating butternut squash lately.  I may actually be taking on a sort of orange-y glow.  Here’s my favorite lunch-y creation of the past few weeks:

I would highly recommend making your own salad dressing, if you’ve never tried it before.  It doesn’t take long, it keeps in the refrigerator for a week or so, and salad dressing from the store has some weirdo ingredients that you can avoid by just blending up your own.  Here are the ingredients for the dressing on that delish fall salad pictured above:

Honey-balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and let it run until everything is combined.  The last batch of dressing I made was particularly good because I used an apple-flavored balsamic vinegar.  (I have far more varieties of vinegar than a young lady of my station in life really ought to have.)  To recreate the salad above, pour a bit of the dressing over greens, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and sliced pear.  Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (or walnuts, or pecans, or anything fall-ish and crunchy), and chow down.

Send good vibes my way tomorrow morning, faithful recipe readers!  If I survive all 13.1 miles, I’ll be back soon with a recap.