Archive for September, 2015


Ok, seriously; I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this sauce! Remember when I told you that my husband loves my sausage gravy so much he wants to eat it in a bowl like soup? Well that’s me with this sauce. And I can do that because this sauce is actually good for you! I’ll get into how I eat it in a bowl later. But first, I’ll get right into the recipe…

This sauce is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to wonder why you ever bought sauce at the store. It’s incredibly inexpensive to make too! These ingredients hardly cost anything:

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I suppose I should clarify: if you have all of these ingredients on hand, this recipe hardly costs anything. If you don’t have them on hand, you should. I’m perfectly serious. Go out and buy these ingredients if you don’t have them. The herbs will last you awhile and will allow you to make SO many other dishes! And having cans of tomato products on hand will allow you to easily and cheaply make your own sauces and soups without the cost and additives/preservatives the store bought stuff has. Ok, enough about that. Moving on…

So I have picky kids when it comes to onions. The girls like the idea of onions; meaning that they like the flavor that onions add to certain foods, but if they bite into a piece of onion then it’s game over. They won’t eat another bite for fear of getting another piece of onion. Any my son is just now starting to branch out beyond the realm of chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, so if he can see pieces of onions he won’t even allow the dish to appear on his plate. To combat this I got creative. Ok, sneaky. Same thing sometimes. Anyway, I grated the onion when I started playing with this recipe and it worked perfectly! Even I prefer it that way and I LOVE onions! So now I grate the onions on the small holes of the grater every time. When you grate the onions, do it on a plate or over a bowl to catch the juice as well as the pulp.

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Now mince your garlic. You do not need a garlic gadget! Use your chef’s knife and hone your skill with it.

Holding your knife as usual, use your off hand to keep the tip of the knife on the board (putting your fingers on the TOP of the blade to steady it) and your dominant hand to do the actual mincing by lifting up and down while also working the blade back and forth over the pile of garlic. It’s MUCH easier than it sounds. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. You’ll end up with a pile of minced garlic…

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Super easy! And it only takes a couple of minutes. Now that those two things are done, all you have left is opening a can and measuring herbs and spices. How much easier can homemade get?! You do have to make a choice, though. You can use olive oil for this sauce and it will turn out amazing. But I use bacon fat to saute the onion and garlic and the slightly smoky flavor it imparts makes the sauce stellar. I recommend using bacon fat, but the choice is yours. So choose one or the other and put it into a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion first, adding the juice as well. It may sizzle a bit, so be careful. Once the onion is beginning to turn golden, add in the garlic.

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Let the veggies cook for another 2 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t begin to burn. Give it a stir every 20-30 seconds to prevent burning. The picture above is as dark as you want it to be; much darker and the garlic will turn bitter and ruin the sauce. Go ahead and add the tomato sauce and mix well. Add the brown sugar (sadly not pictured above), basil, oregano, thyme, white pepper, the smaller amount of salt, and the bay leaf into the pot.

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SO much flavor going into this sauce! Give this a good stir to distribute the herbs, cover the pot, and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and set a timer for 30 minutes. If you think of it, you can come back and give the sauce a stir. But even if you don’t stir it at all in that 30 minutes, the sauce will be fine. This is one of those wonderful times that you can set a timer and just let the sauce do it’s own thing while you go do yours.

Once half an hour has gone by, take the lid off and give the sauce a good stir. While it should definitely be a sauce, and as such should be pourable, it should still be a bit thick. It should not be runny or watery. If it is watery, let the sauce continue to simmer uncovered until it looks like this:

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If your sauce was too watery after its covered simmer, it most likely means that the can of tomato sauce you started with was of lesser quality; they added too much water in the process of turning the tomatoes into sauce. That way they can use less tomato and make more money. In short; you got ripped off if you bought the super cheap “bargain” brand. Some bargain or store brands are great and work just fine. But then there are those that really do rip you off. Unfortunately sometimes it’s a matter of living and learning and figuring out which ones do and which don’t. So I usually go for the mid priced tomato products. Not the super fancy “premium” brand that costs a ridiculous amount, but not the super cheap “bargain basement” stuff either. Once again- moving on…

Assuming your sauce is the proper consistency, go ahead and give it a taste. Add more salt if you think the sauce needs it (I almost always do) and the red chili flakes if you want to use them. Remember that if you do use red chili flakes, let the sauce sit for a couple of minutes after you add them for them to take effect then give it another taste and readjust the seasoning if needed. If you want a spicy, arribiata type of sauce, go ahead and add the red chili flakes at the beginning with the herbs. But be warned: it will be SPICY! We like a little kick but still want to be able to feel our lips when we’re done eating, so I add just a little and only at the end.

Just like that, you’re done! And oh; the things you can do with this sauce! You can can this sauce in jars or freeze it in bags or containers. Or it will keep for about a week in the fridge. This amount makes one batch of lasagna or spaghetti with meat sauce for me. If I want to make pasta with no meat, I use what I need and save the rest (trust me; you’ll find a use for it). It’s perfect as a pizza sauce, but you can also make pizza fondue. Really; it’s one of my family’s favorite fun meals! Heat the whole batch of sauce in a fondue pot over low heat (if using an electric pot) or a couple of tea light candles if you’re using an old school fondue pot. Cut up your favorite pizza toppings and lay them out. If you want veggies that aren’t crunchy, saute them lightly before you set them out. I use cooked and sliced Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni slices (they’re easier to eat if they’re cut in half), and pineapple for a super easy spread of toppings. Cut some mozzarella into cubes (the block stuff will do but it won’t be nearly as good as the softer, “fresh” mozzarella you get packed in a little water) and some hot french bread into slices. Spear a cube of cheese and then your favorite toppings with your fondue fork and dip it all in the sauce. Slide the contents of your fork onto a slice of french bread and enjoy! I usually get 2 dips out of one slice of bread, so that helps fill up the hungry tummies gathered around the fondue pot 🙂

OH! I said up above that I would tell you how I eat this out of a bowl… it’s so simple and SO good…

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I make crustless pizza in a bowl. Stay with me on this! Put about half an inch of sauce in the bottom of a microwave or oven safe bowl then put some shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese in the sauce. Cover the bowl and heat it until the edges of the sauce are bubbly. Then add a few pizza toppings evenly over the surface. You don’t want to add a ton or the sauce won’t heat through well- just like real pizza. Cover the bowl again and heat until everything is good and hot. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals if I’m making something just for myself. But ONLY if I’m using this sauce. It’s just that good.

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The Recipe:

29 Oz Can Tomato Sauce (plain, no flavoring added)

1 T Bacon fat or Olive Oil

1/4 Large Onion, Grated Fine

8-10 Cloves Garlic, Minced

3-4 t Brown Sugar (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1 1/2 t Dried Basil

Scant 1 t Dried Oregano

1/4 t Ground Dried Thyme (or about 1/2 t dried thyme, unground)

1 Bay Leaf

1/2-3/4 t Kosher Salt (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1/4 t White or Black Ground Pepper (or to taste)

1/8-1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes (or to taste)

The Method:

*Grate the onion (on the smaller holes) onto a plate or into a bowl to save the juice as well.

*Mince the garlic.

*Add the bacon fat or oil into a large sauce pan over medium heat.

*Once the pan is ready, saute the grated onion (with its juice) until it begins to turn golden brown.

*Add the garlic to the pot and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

*Pour the tomato sauce into the pot and stir to incorporate the veggies.

*Add the brown sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well.

*Cover the pot and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and leave the sauce to cook for 30 minutes. You could give the pot a stir a couple of times if you think about it.

*Once 30 minutes is up stir and check for proper consistency. If the sauce is too watery let it simmer uncovered until the right thickness is reached.

*Add the red chili flakes if you’re using them, more brown sugar, salt, and/or pepper to taste.

*Use as desired immediately, can, freeze, or store in the refrigerator for about a week.

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Yes; you read that right: Maple Syrup Dumplings. As in soft, pillowy biscuit-style dumplings in a smooth sauce of maple syrup. Because sometimes it’s SO HARD to get out of bed with all of the not-so-great stuff you may have going on in life and you just need something indulgent and comforting for breakfast. Or because sometimes you get tired of the same old rotation at breakfast time and you need something easy but NEW to get your day started right. I would fall in the camp of the former. Right now things are just not as awesome as they should be. And while things are, in fact, improving, there are days that I have to argue with myself to get out of bed and take care of business. Those are the mornings that I try to make something fun for breakfast that will be a pleasant respite from “stuff” for my family and I. Maple syrup dumplings definitely qualify as fun!

When I was first told about maple syrup dumplings, I had the same reaction I imagine you’re having: “Wow- that has to be so sweet it will make my teeth ache!” But once I actually found a recipe and made it, I found out that it really isn’t as sickeningly sweet as it sounds. See, the sauce is made not only with maple syrup but water as well. So while it’s not something that you should eat all the time, it’s definitely worthy of an occasional spot on your breakfast table!

This dish is super easy to make and I would bet that all you’ll need to buy is the real maple syrup (unless you’re like me and try to keep it on hand). And you HAVE to use real maple syrup. If you can’t get any of the real stuff, make something else. If you try to use the fake maple syrup (the cheap “pancake syrup” you can buy in the plastic bottles in cute shapes) the dish will not turn out. The fake syrup doesn’t take well to cutting with water, at least flavor-wise. And it will be as sweet as you first thought when you heard the name of the dish. Just don’t try it; use the real deal!! Anyway, here’s what you need:

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Once you get your dry ingredients mixed, you’re going to add the butter. The easiest way to do that is to use frozen butter and use a regular old box grater to grate it into the dry ingredients. Then all you have to do is stir and the butter will distribute, like so:

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Set this aside for a minute and mix the maple syrup with the water in a large pan. If you don’t have a saucier like I do, use as big a sauce pan as you have or a soup pot. You could also use a very large skillet so long as you can cover it. One of key parts of this dish is having a tight fitting lid to make sure the dumplings cook through properly.

IMG_20150920_083502885_HDR Look at that deep amber color! It’s a thing of beauty 🙂 Turn your burner to medium high and bring the sauce to a boil. Just before it gets to that point, go ahead and add the milk to the flour and butter mixture. You may have to work a bit at getting the dough formed, but it only takes a minute. You should end up with something that resembles biscuit dough…

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By now your sauce should be boiling. Drop the dough by the spoonful into the sauce. I try to get dough balls that are about the size of a golf ball, maybe a tiny bit bigger.

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These will puff up quite a bit, don’t worry! Now put a tight fitting lid on your pan, lower the heat slightly to medium, and set a timer for 10 minutes (but don’t go far; you’ll need to keep an eye on things). You may notice…

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That the sauce is bubbling up over the dumplings A LOT. That’s OK! It will do that for a little while. Eventually, though…

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Things will calm down and the sauce won’t be bubbling as high. That’s when you need to back the heat down a little bit- but keep the pan at least at a fast simmer. When the 10 minutes are up take off the lid and check the dumplings.

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See the dumpling in the lower part of the middle? I used a spoon to open it up a little and make sure it was cooked through. It should look like a biscuit inside with no raw dough. And the sauce… Oh, the sauce!

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So thick and rich! The flour from the dumplings thickens the sauce into a velvety smooth taste of bliss! I usually give one and a half dumplings per serving with a good scoop of sauce over the top. It looks like a rather small serving, but a little goes a long way. If you want to add a little protein to this indulgent breakfast, bacon is a natural accompaniment. But I must say that as much as I love bacon, a mildly spicy breakfast sausage compliments the flavor of this dish perfectly. So go ahead; give yourself (and someone you love) a little treat for breakfast- you deserve it 🙂

The Recipe:

1 3/4 C Real Maple Syrup

1 1/2 C Water

1 1/2 C Flour

4 1/2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1/4 C Butter, Frozen and Grated

3/4 C Milk

The Method:

*In a large pot or pan/skillet with high sides, combine the maple syrup and the water. Set the burner to medium high.

*In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and the salt. Add the grated butter and stir until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

*Add the milk to the flour & butter mixture and stir until the milk is worked through and there is no more flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be fairly stiff.

*Once the syrup mixture is boiling gently add the dumpling dough by the spoonful, making the dumplings just slightly larger than a golf ball (or about the size of an egg).

*Once all of the dough has been used, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, lower the heat to medium so that the syrup continues boiling gently, and set a timer for 10 minutes.

*Once 10 minutes have passed, take the lid off and check the dumplings. They should be firm and there shouldn’t be any sticky dough left in the center.

*Serve immediately, storing any leftovers in the fridge.

 

 

So here we are in one of the coldest parts of the country, and we moved here willingly- happily even. Believe it or not, we wanted to move to northern Wisconsin. When my husband got his job with the railroad and it became very clear that staying in Colorado wasn’t going to be an option, we started very seriously researching places to live. And when we realized that we didn’t like South Dakota as much as we thought we would, we started taking trips to places we thought we would like. Turns out, northern Wisconsin just immediately felt like home. Some have called us crazy; “I mean, the winters there are awful!” they would exclaim. This is true. But they aren’t a whole lot worse than eastern South Dakota. And from what we’ve experienced in the last 2 months, the rest of the year more than makes up for the winters.

Now, having said that, I do have to say as well that I put a lot of effort into making sure my family is comfortable when it’s miserably cold outside. Sweat shirts, warm socks, hot chocolate, and hearty, piping hot foods that will stick with them for awhile. One of the easiest ways to get a hot breakfast into my family is to make farina for breakfast. You might know it by it’s brand name: Cream of Wheat. I know, I know; it’s old fashioned. Fuddy duddy. Incredibly bland and boring. At least, that’s what you think. But in all reality, farina is the perfect blank canvas for a surprising number of favorite flavors. Don’t believe me? Then read on; I’ll show you some fantastic ideas for jazzing up a classic hot cereal! (I’ll put the recipes at the bottom, giving amounts for 2 large servings.)

First, I want to take a minute to talk about the cereal itself. I use Bob’s Red Mill farina (also called creamy wheat on the package). I do like that it’s organic but, more than that, I like the finer texture of the finished cereal as opposed to the slightly coarser finish of brand name Cream of Wheat. I can also buy the Bob’s Red Mill cheaper on Amazon than I can buy the Cream of Wheat at the store (because we have Amazon Prime so our shipping is free), so that’s what I use. You can, of course, use whichever you like. Just make sure to follow the preparation directions carefully, because if you don’t you’ll end up with a lumpy mess.  Also, I cook mine with one part milk and 3 parts water to give the cereal a little more flavor and a little extra creaminess. You can use whatever ratio you prefer. So without further ado, let’s get down to the tastiness!

How about pumpkin pie for breakfast?? Well… I actually do serve pumpkin pie for breakfast on occasion. But if that’s not your thing, try this on for size! Make your normal batch of farina and add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Throw some whipped cream on top and you’ve got a bowl of pumpkin pie for breakfast that will fill you up and start your day with a smile!

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Or how about a cinnamon roll for breakfast that won’t leave you hungry 20 minutes later? It’s super easy to make cinnamon roll farina! To your batch of finished cereal add cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. That’s it! You can make an easy powdered sugar glaze to swirl over the top by adding a little milk to powdered sugar; that’s all glaze is. Or if you have some cream cheese frosting left over from something (like I did from my carrot cake), you can add a dollop to your bowl. This is my favorite way to eat farina!

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Ok, so if cinnamon roll is my all time favorite farina flavor, this one is a close second. Two words: BANANA BREAD. Seriously! Banana bread hot cereal! I wouldn’t joke about something like this. Add mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, some walnuts, and a little butter and you’ve got a bowl of warm banana bread. So comforting on a cold morning!

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And here’s my kids’ favorite way to eat farina: french toast! This one was thought up when the kids and I were discussing all the different things one could do with farina. The thought struck me and after a couple of minutes I had a basic idea for the how to. I tried it a few weeks later and it was awesome. All it takes is adding sugar, vanilla, maple syrup, and eggs to the hot farina. You do have to temper the eggs first, though, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg farina and that’s just yucky. I’ll add those instructions below. Add a pat of butter and an extra drizzle of maple syrup and you’ve got a bowl of french toast tastiness. This is such a fun way to serve this old fashioned cereal!

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Mmmmm…. those are some super awesome bowls of comforting yumminess!! And get this: you can make a big batch and reheat it as you need it! That’s right; you can make a double or triple batch and warm it up throughout the week. All you need to do is add a little milk as you microwave it to get it back to the desired consistency. That makes it an even better weekday breakfast! So go ahead and embrace an old fashioned classic; your stomach will thank you on the cold mornings to come!

The Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

1/3 C Pumpkin Puree

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1/2 t Cinnamon

1/8 t Nutmeg

1/2 t Vanilla

Whipped Cream, Pecans, and/or Butter to garnish

The Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

6 T Brown Sugar

2 Oz Cream Cheese

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1 t Cinnamon

1 t Vanilla

Whipped Cream, Glaze, Cream Cheese Frosting, Butter, and/or Nuts to garnish

For Glaze, if desired:

1/2 C Powdered Sugar

2-4 t Milk

The Recipe: Banana Bread Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

1 Banana, mashed

1/3 C Brown Sugar

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1/2 t Cinnamon

1/8 t Nutmeg

1/2 t Vanilla

Butter and/or Walnuts for garnish

The Recipe: French Toast Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina (for this one I usually use half water and half milk to cook the cereal)

2 Eggs, Beaten

2 T White Sugar

1/4 C Maple Syrup (this is one time that the store bought pancake syrup will work fine if that’s all you’ve got)

1 1/2 – 2 t Vanilla

1/8 t Salt

Pat of butter and extra maple syrup if desired

The Method:

*To temper the eggs before adding to the cereal: Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add about 1/4 C of the fully cooked hot cereal a little at a time while stirring the eggs constantly. Once that’s done, you can put the egg mixture back into the pot and stir it in.

*Heat the pot of cereal to a simmer once again to ensure that the eggs are cooked through.

*Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.