We Were Going to Make Pasta Sauce

December was pasta sauce month.  December is over.  We missed it.

December is busy.  Holidays, family, snow shoveling; it all really starts to add up.  Perfecting sauce just was not in the cards.

I did make one sauce.  It was at the beginning of the month.  I used fresh tomatoes and do not remember what else I did.  The sauce was fine, but it did not have the depth of flavor I am searching for.


Rachel Ray had some helpful advice and I used this guide at The Kitchn as the basis for my sauce.  I wasn’t canning, but it gave the basic idea to make my own sauce.

Pasta sauce, you’re still a goal.  I promise you will make it back in 2014.



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Marisa’s 20th of the Month Sourdough Sidetrack: Popovers

I love popovers! I think I’d only made them once before this month’s Sourdough Surprises task. Now they are my new favorite way to quickly use some sourdough.

I started by making The Gingered Whisk’s Sourdough Cheesy Popovers, following the recipe exactly. Beginner’s luck? The perfect recipe? I’m banking on the latter. I trusted the recipe even when I was concerned that the temperature was too high and they were baking for too long. Good call. I don’t even have a popover pan, and look at how these turned out!


They tasted as good as they look! I filled every other hole in a regular muffin tin, and my only disappointment is that I had enough batter left over for approximately one more popover.

Inspired, I decided I was up for a bit more of a mathematical challenge. This time, I was going to sourdoughize a non-sourdough recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Popovers. I turned to the trusty Cultures for Health conversion resource. Everything was going according to plan. I was eagerly anticipating a deliciously decadent breakfast treat. I put them in the oven and waited. I was overconfident. I trusted the recipe even when I was concerned the temperature was too low. Bad call. They didn’t rise for me. So sad. The pan full of batter had had such promise. Does sourdough baking require a hotter oven?

I’ll spare the visual-they looked like dense muffins with sunken holes in the middle. Andy claims they were delicious.  I’m looking forward to trying them again using The Gingered Whisk’s temperature and baking time, replicating the batter conversion below.

Sourdough Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Popovers Batter Ingredient Conversions

Adapted from Doughmesstic

3T butter

3 Eggs

1/2C Milk

1/3C Pumpkin

<2T Brown Sugar

1/4t Cinnamon

1/4t Ground Ginger

Pinch Nutmeg

Pinch Salt

2t Vanilla

1/2C Starter

1C All Purpose Flour

Looking forward to seeing what flavor combinations others have tried!

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November: Intro to Braising

Braising is wonderful. November is not long enough.

In All About Braising, Molly Stevens defines it as “tucking a few ingredients into a heavy pot with a bit of liquid, covering the pot tightly, and letting everything simmer peacefully until tender and intensely flavored.

To kick off the month, Jill and I made Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. What happened in the oven under the lid of the Le Cruset after browning the ribs, sauteeing some vegetables, and reducing a bottle of wine in half was nothing short of magic. Technically I think Jill had a recipe, but I did not notice her referring to it, and I don’t remember seeing it.


A week later, I made The Homesick Texan’s Chilorio, a mexican pulled pork. As written, according to my limited understanding, this dish is not braised. The recipe instructed simmering the meat with the lid off. After a few hours, we covered our pot, and magic happened again. The meat went from technically done to meltingly tender.

And on Sunday, chunks of beef went into the slow cooker with enchilada sauce. Hours and hours later, this falling apart mix went into some burritoey enchiladas. That’s braising, right?

We don’t eat meat all that often, so three major braising meals this month so far are quite an accomplishment. Two areas that have led to past lackluster braises both involve time: developing flavors early on by browing meat/sauteeing aromatics/reducing liquid and allowing the covered dish ample time to become tender. Rather than focusing on fading recipes completely, my goals for continued success with braising are to utilize recipes as a guide, while learning to allow the needed time for the magic to happen under the lid.

Many families went in with ours on a 4H meat buying co-op this fall. We have a lot of cuts of pork and beef in our collective freezers right now with different names from those frequently called for in recipes. I would like to continue to increase my confidence in swapping out what I have. There is a milk braised pork I’ve been hearing about (in Michael Pollan’s Cooked and with the passing of Marcella Hazan) that I can’t wait to try. And I have yet to make it past the intro of Molly Stevens’ 480 page book.

We are in our 11th month, and therefore, our 11th topic. I love braising. It’s my favorite.

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The 5th Annual Soup Party

For the last 5 year, on the first Saturday of November, my husband and I have hosted a soup party.  What, you ask, is a soup party?  Well, let me tell you all about it.  It is the best way to have a party.  You invite over a bunch of people and tell them to bring soup.  People think this sounds like fun.  There will be lots of different soups.  And the best part is, the host only has to make one soup.  ONE.  And buy some bread and some drinks.  That’s it.  Then everyone else brings food too, there is tons of food and not a lot of clean up.  It’s a grand idea.

This year, we had six different soups.


Marisa made dill pickle soup.  It was delicious. She used a recipe.  Cheater.


Stacey made pasta fagioli.  She is dairy free right now and wanted to make a dairy free soup.  She combined two different recipes and does not write for this blog, so she is not a cheater.


Chris (Stacey’s husband and a regular soup contributor.  They over achieve) made white chicken chili.  He used a recipe, it had some kick and lots of accessories.  I love soup with accessories.


Jackie and Patrick make chicken gnocchi.  They modified a recipe.  It used a lot of cream.  No chicken gnocchi for poor Stacey.


Emily made tomato soup.  Emily never uses a recipe and her soup is always great.  She can never replicate them because she has no idea what she did in the first place, but they are always great.  Emily made her soup vegan so that Stacey could have some.  I was not excited about a soup using vegan cream cheese and sour cream (I don’t want to know what they are made of), but it was fantastic.


Lastly, I made a Mexican soup.  No recipe.  I had leftover meat juice from Skinny Taste’s Barbocoa Beef and leftover pork from Skinny Taste’s Puerto Rican pork roast.  Some onion, some peppers, some beef stock, tomatoes and rice.  We garnished with lime and queso fresco.  I was very happy with how it turned out.

20131102_205403  20131102_205353

And in other soup news, I did make two other soups this month without using recipes.  One was a red and green pepper, summer squash, and rice soup.  I used ground beef from our cow.  It was good.


The other was a potato soup.  This was the best potato soup I have ever made.  Potatoes, chicken stock, onions, hot pepper.  It was simple and flavorful.  I have always been disappointed in the past when I made potato soup;  it was always bland.  Not this soup.  The pepper gave it kick.  I salted the potatoes while they were boiling and I think that really helped with the flavor.  Salt, you are a wonder.  And I sauteed the onion in bacon fat.  Mmm, bacon. A

20131028_175445Turns out, I didn’t take a picture of the final product.  Oh well.

No vegetable soup made, no homemade stock.  Even with these short comings, soup month was a success.

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I Made a Lovely Soup

I planned on following Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s building a soup guidelines, but I realized that the direction I would have taken it would have resulted in another fine meal. And I think that’s the problem I’ve been having. When I haven’t used a recipe, dinner has turned out fine. And that’s why I go back to scouring my Food to Try Pinterest board or my tagged items that I’ve transferred over to my Feedly account (PS. I don’t even miss Google Reader at all). Because there’s promise in those unmade recipes. What if they’re better than fine? What if they contain the untapped technique or combination of ingredients that I hadn’t thought of and result in a keeper?

So I put the splendid How to Eat Supper cookbook away, and I relied on the ingredients on hand and an idea. I still had smoked pork to incorporate, so my soup was built around that. I wanted a southwestern vibe and was willing to run to the local grocery store for frozen corn and a can of black beans. Then I decided I didn’t just want southwestern. I wanted deep flavor. Chili-esque. A chili-esque tortilla soup. And then I knew. It’s all about the accroutremonts. I built a decent base. Onion, garlic, carrot, celery, red bell pepper, a roasted jalapeno. Chili powder, cumin, salt. Tomato paste. Last summer’s canned tomatoes, chicken broth, water. Some other tomatoes in the refrigerator. Those beans, that corn, and the pork. While that all simmered away, I prepared the rest. Chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar, sour cream, black olives, lime segments, and freshly fried corn tortilla strips. The flavor of the soup was spicier than I’d intended but very good. And the fixings put it over the edge. My soup was better than fine. It cleaned out a good bit of tidbits in the refrigerator, and it involved no paper or electronic inspiration. It took until October 24, but I made a lovely soup.


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On October 15 I Finally Made a Sandwich

Who goes an entire month and then some without making a single sandwich? Especially when it’s sandwich month? Weeeellllllll, me. I think I may have thrown together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for one of the kid’s lunches, and while I certainly didn’t use a recipe, I don’t think it quite fit the month’s goal. But then I had a sandwich from Roll MKE, one of Milwaukee’s fine food trucks. It was a brisket grilled cheese. I ate it at noon. I didn’t want to waste a single morsel of the sandwich or the delicious fries that came with it, so I ate a lot. I ate so much that I never got around to eating dinner. So when our friends left a container of smoked pork at our house because they couldn’t fit it in their car for their 6 hour trek home (true story) in the middle of October, I decided it was high time to tackle September’s target. Smoked Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I filled the bread with about 1/8 of what my memorable lunch contained, but the sandwiches turned out well nonetheless. Thanks Rinkes!



In the spirit of winging it, I also used up some produce odds and ends to create a great little salad. Corn roasted over the gas stove burners, some of the season’s last tomatoes, oven baked bacon, parsley, and Mark Bittman’s homemade ranch dressing.


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Marisa’s 20th of the Month Sourdough Sidetrack: Quickbread

Since starting to maintain a sourdough culture almost two years ago, I have made several quickbread and muffin recipes. They’ve all been fine.

I appreciate that this one specifies discard and encourages variations.

This sourdough zucchini bread turned out well, although I may try it at my oven’s 350 next time.

I’ve made this sourdough banana bread a few times, including this month, decreasing the amount of sugar, tweaking the types of flour and oil, and using discard starter.


I have been intrigued by the magic of converting regular recipes to utilize sourdough starter, so I was grateful for the link to Cultures for Health that Sourdough Surprises posted for this month’s quickbread and muffin task that explains how to do just that.

For this month’s task, I decided to covert the Maple Walnut Bread from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.


Yep. It looks a lot like the banana bread. And it tasted fine.

There are other muffins that I adore, like these coconut ones and these rhubarb ones, but I love them so much that I don’t want to change them at all. And then there are these carrot banana muffins that I may be the most in love with just the way they are because they have no added grain flour or sugar.

Out of all the sourdough quickbreads and muffins I’ve made, this one has been my favorite. Poppyseeds and almond flour. I just love the combination.

After being underwhelmed with so many of my sourdough quickbread and muffin attempts in the past, and even this month, I was thinking that this post may signal the end of this genre for me in the kitchen for a while. Now that I look back at the recipe for those Sourdough Poppyseed Muffins, I’m starting to notice some similarities to the non-sourdough Carrot Banana Muffins (honey, no sugar, almond flour), and I’m starting to feel a little spark of tinkering possibility. I may need to sleep on it before I do anything too crazy.

I’m also really looking forward to reading about what the other participants have made.

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It’s Soup Month!

For the last four years, I have hosted a Soup Party on the first Saturday of November.   We have a 5 or 6 couples over and every couple brings a soup.  For me, this is the perfect way to entertain.  I only have to prepare one thing and we still end up with a ton of food.  Brilliant.

To prepare for the soup party, we decided to make October soup month.   Before now, I have never even attempted a soup without a recipe.  Instead,  I would scour cookbooks and the interwebs for something new and different to make.  This year, I am going to go sans recipe.

Kate at Simple Bites give a really nice overview on How to Make a Soup from Scratch.  It’s straight forward and goes through the basics you need to build flavor in your soup.

At The Kitchn, they have a focus on How to Make Soup from Almost Any Vegetable.  This looks like a great way to use up vegetables that are left in the fridge and another thing to do when I forget to take some meat out of the freezer.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper at The Splendid Table (LOVE the podcast), takes Basic Soup Improvisation to a different level.   Building flavor, umami, how to perk up a bland soup… The information in this post is so helpful especially with the ideas on how to fix a soup that didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

My goals for October:

1. Do something with the pork neck bones in freezer.

2. Make a vegetable soup.

3. Make a delicious soup for the soup party.

That’s a lot to do in 12 days.  We shall see.

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Jalapeno Grilled Cheese

It’s the last day of September and I have not made as many sandwiches as I would have liked.  This seems to be a recurring theme these last few months and I do apologize.  October will be better; school is over, master’s degree is gotten, and now I am just waiting on the results of my certification exam.  Luckily, waiting can be done while making soup.  But that is October.  Today we celebrate September and the sandwich.

A year or so ago, I found a recipe for Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese.  I made it once and I liked it.  I figured I could make something similar without using the recipe.  I have not even glanced at the recipe in over a year.  It was the inspiration, but I did this all on my own.

20130923_200245First, I roasted the jalapenos and then peeled them.  We had gotten some from our neighbor, so they were farm fresh.  I used a jalapeno cream cheese and shredded sharp cheddar.  I was pretty heavy handed with both cheeses.  Because cheese is delicious.  Then I grilled that baby up.

20130923_201411The finished project was lovely.  I wished that I would have roasted the jalapenos a bit longer.  They were still a bit crunchy for my taste.

I was inspired, I was not a slave the recipe, and it turned out well.  Success.

In a completely unrelated note, I love Justin Timberlake.  Sorry, he’s on the tv right now, and it just had to be said.  Love him.

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B.E.L.T and some Quinoa for Good Measure

I love sandwiches.  Nothing makes me happier than having a great sandwich. 

My personal downfall is that I buy great sandwiches, I don’t make them.  I make myself a sandwich for lunch almost every day and it is always a sad, sad, little sandwich lacking in any sort of creativity.  It is always lunch meat, cheese, mustard, and boring.  I rarely make sandwiches for dinner for two reasons:  I don’t think my husband really likes sandwiches and all the sandwiches I make are boring.  September is going to change all that.

This week, we got half a pig.  That’s a lot of pig.  A LOT.  With that pig came some bacon.  Mmm.  Bacon.  We were also gifted some homegrown tomatoes from a neighbor and I had some farmer’s market greens in the fridge.  And two eggs.  A plan is made.

20130920_193327Local greens from the Tosa Farmer’s Market

20130920_193405Fresh homegrown tomatoes

20130920_193732Thick cut bacon from the local pig purchased at the Ozaukee County Fair

20130920_194024Finish it up with an over easy egg

20130920_194035This was one delicious sandwich.  A dinner hit.

And I am also keeping up my grain skills.  Who would have thought?  Quinoa salad with kalamata olives, cucumbers from the neighbor, and lemon garlic vinaigrette (left over from the bulgur).

20130920_194124Jamie hated the olives, but he can pick those out.  I thought it was good.

Acquisition and maintenance, what more can a girl ask for?


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