Category: Sauces and Condiments


So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

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.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤

I’ve certainly made no secret of my love for Autumn here on this blog and in life in general. However, that love doesn’t carry over to the sports that come with it. Well, one sport in particular: American football. It’s not that I’m against sports entirely; I’m not. Rugby is awesome, soccer is pretty damn cool, and jai alai just rocks. But American professional football… BLECH!! I despise it. The players are GROSSLY over paid and mostly they’re a bunch of thugs in tight pants made into (undeserving) idols. Thankfully I can pretty much ignore football season. I have several die hard football fan friends on Facebook, but I can either just ignore the posts or hide them if they get too numerous. In fact, I did such a good job of ignoring football the last couple of years that I didn’t even know who was playing in the Superbowl until a day or so before the game! HOWEVER, all that being said, I do have to admit that I like cooking for people who watch football. Cooking fun, comforting food for a group of people is always right up my alley and football watchers definitely require that! So while I know (and care) very little about the rules of the game, I certainly know what the game obsessed like to eat and I enjoy supplying the food they’ll eat and providing a fun atmosphere 🙂

One of the best football watching/fall foods is chili… well, anything really. Chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili nachos, chili mac, the list goes on. You can put chili on just about anything. But this isn’t chili such as you would eat out of a bowl with some cornbread on the side. Actually, I don’t care for that chili much. I think it’s the cumin- I’ve never really liked cumin as a defining flavor. That’s the version of chili you find in the Western US. What I like is the Eastern US’s version of chili: no beans, no cumin, and it’s usually served over spaghetti (look up “chili 5 way” and you’ll find an interesting meal!). This chili is more of a condiment than a meal in itself. And it’s incredibly easy to make. (You can also make this in the crock pot, but I’m doing the stove top version. I’ll put the crock pot directions below.) We’ll start with what you probably already have on hand…

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See? I bet you don’t even have to run to the store for any of that, do you? I love it when that happens! Oh- and I can hear you now “The Humble Food Snob is BUYING garlic in a jar?!?! Isn’t that contrary to what you’ve been saying all along about knife skills and economy?!” Sigh… Yes; it is. Under normal circumstances, I disdain jarred garlic. But under normal circumstances I have access to great garlic at one store or another. Large heads of garlic with nice big cloves and no green shoots in the center… what a fond memory. And that’s all it is; a memory. Because in my current locale, all that’s available at the 2 grocery stores are tiny heads of garlic about 3/4 the size of an egg with pathetic little cloves that are more work than they’re worth to peel. AND every head I’ve purchased so far has been growing already, which means I have to dissect the tiny cloves to remove the bitter shoots. So until I can grow my own garlic, I will be buying jarred garlic. Thankfully they offer it at a decent price here.

Anyway… You may notice that the amounts in this picture and the amounts in the recipe below don’t jive. I know that. I went from a normal sized freezer plus a stand alone freezer to store things in at my last residence, to just a tiny freezer in a small, 30 year old fridge. That means it’s also got an inch of frost taking up room. Is being in our own home and away from the awful situation we were in worth it? A thousand times YES!! Does it mean I have to change the way I do some things? Yes again. And that’s ok. So instead of the full batch I’m making a half batch. (And incidentally, a recipe I found that helped inspire this makes double what’s below! 😮 )

So brown your ground beef. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, but you’ll need to make sure there is about half a cup of fat of one kind or another to soak up the flour to make the roux. It can be olive or vegetable oil, or you could use bacon fat- that would be a great addition! While the meat is browning, dice your onion. Don’t drain your meat. Like I said; you’ll need the fat. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft- about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. You want the flour to cook but not burn. It should look almost like there is no flour:

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Now you can add the water and the tomato sauce. I usually add the sauce first and then put the water in the can and swish it around to get the last traces of the sauce out of the can. Why waste it? Along with the water and tomato sauce, add the spices. Give it a good stir, and you’ve got this:

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Put a tight fitting lid on this and bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, lower the heat until it’s at a slow simmer, replace the lid, and go do something else for awhile. You’ll need to come back and stir the pot about twice an hour, but other than that you’ve got 2 hours to kill. I’d suggest watching something with Robin Williams in it. Never forget what it feels like to laugh with your whole body and soul- the world needs more of that. The Birdcage is my particular favorite of his 🙂

Once 2 hours have ticked by, take the lid off, give the pot another stir, and let the chili simmer for about an hour without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes or so. It may take a little more or less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it. You want to end up with a chili that is very thick.

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I know; it doesn’t LOOK a whole lot different. But it has reduced by about two thirds to half. Go ahead and give it a taste and adjust the salt and/or pepper. Don’t add too much pepper though- now is when you add the red pepper flakes if you want a milder chili. If you’re looking for spicy chili, add the red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices before you simmer the pot.

I was supposed to have a wonderful money shot for this post: A plate with hot dogs smothered in chili with melty cheese on top. But then I went and landed myself in the urgent care. I’ll be ok. But it cost me my blog picture. So sadly, I do not have a great shot of this tasty chili in action. But I do have a tip for freezing the leftovers. Here you go:

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I prefer to have thinner, wrapped packages of food that I can stack several packages high instead of plastic containers that limit my storage and break when I inevitably drop one. So I line plastic food storage containers with plastic wrap and divide the (completely cooled) food into them. Each of these containers will make one meal’s worth of chili dogs.

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Put these in the freezer, come back in a couple of hours, lift the sides of the plastic to remove, wrap the food, and you’re good to go! I usually do 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, like so:

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Make sure you mark the package with the contents and the date it was made. That way you don’t have to unwrap your packages and try to guess what’s in them.

So there you go: a jumping off point for lots of hearty recipes to get you through the fall and winter; from watching sports on TV to tail gating to coming in off the slopes or the sled hills.

As promised, Here is what you need to do to make this chili in a crock pot (slow cooker):

– Brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, and add/cook the flour as described above.

– Transfer the mixture to the crock of the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.

– Remember to not add the red pepper flakes until after cooking unless you want SPICY chili.

– Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

-Here’s the caveat to making this chili in the slow cooker: you need to let it cook with the lid off for about the last hour, just like the stove top version. And you need to stir it a few times. When it’s the consistency you want you can take it out. This is a deal breaker for some, because they want whatever is in the slow cooker to be ready when they get home from work or wherever. If that’s the case, I’d advise making it on a day off and reheating what you have set aside. You can’t tell it’s been reheated, so it’s not a problem.

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Ground Beef

2 Onions, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 C + 1 T All Purpose Flour

29 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce

8 Oz. Water

2 t Salt

2 t Seasoned Salt

2 t Pepper (Black or White, doesn’t matter)

1/4 C Chili Powder (don’t let the amount scare you- it’s not really spicy at all)

1/3 C Sugar

1 t (or to taste) Red Pepper Flakes (this is what will make it spicy)

The Method:

*In a large soup or stock pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain!

*Add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes, until the onions are fragrant and soft.

*Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cooking 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the roux burn!

*Add the tomato sauce and the water, swishing the water in the sauce can to get the remnants out.

*Stir in the spices (adding the red pepper flakes now only if you want spicy chili).

*Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.

*Stir, lower the heat to a slow simmer, replace the cover and cook 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times per hour.

*Uncover the pot and continue to slowly simmer for about an hour, until the chili is very thick.

*Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed.

*If you haven’t added them before now, stir the red pepper flakes in.

As the song says Christmas and it’s associated trappings & trimmings is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year. But not too terribly long before that is the other most wonderful time: the pumpkin harvest! Like millions of others in this world, I LOVE pumpkin. It’s very good in savory dishes but it truly does shine in the sweet ones. Like it was created solely for pies, breads, cakes, and all other things sweet. And next to apple, pumpkin pie is my favorite. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix up (if you have the crust already done) and it’s smooth, custardy texture is heaven in the mouth. My recipe for pumpkin butter is like pie in a jar that you can enjoy anytime with just a couple of minutes’ preparation. My kids’ favorite way to eat pumpkin butter is on buttered toast for breakfast. But put this over a brick of softened cream cheese and serve with vanilla wafers or pita chips and you have a fun, creative dessert that is perfect for a party.

Making pumpkin butter is just as easy as making pumpkin pie- you just have to stick close to it a little longer. Here’s what you need:

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You can use plain apple juice if that’s easier for you to get your hands on, but apple cider adds a depth of flavor that apple juice can’t. But even if you don’t have cider on hand make this butter! It will still turn out incredible!

All you have to do is measure the ingredients, pour them in the pan, and stir while the butter reduces and thickens. It really couldn’t be easier! But you do want to stay close by the stove. This is a thick mixture with very little liquid to begin with so you will need to be right next to it to stir it every couple of minutes to start out, and then constantly for the last few minutes or you will have scorched pumpkin butter and no one wants that!

I would tell you exactly how long it will take for the mixture to reduce and become butter but I can’t. It depends on your range. Once the mixture comes up to a simmer it usually takes about 10 minutes over medium low heat, stirring constantly for the last 3 or 4 minutes. Your range will most likely vary, so just keep an eye on it. You end up with…

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Thick, rich, pumpkin-pie-in-a-jar that you can eat for breakfast! Of course, I really DO eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. But if you can’t bring yourself to do that here is a fantastic alternative! You’re welcome 😀

The Recipe:

1 3/4 C or 1 Can Pumpkin Puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 t Vanilla

1/3 C Apple Cider (or Juice)

1/2 C Brown Sugar

2 t Cinnamon

1 t Ginger

SCANT 1/2 t Nutmeg

You could add 1/2 t Cloves if you’d like, but I don’t really care for cloves- certainly not in my pumpkin pie.

The Method:

*Put all ingredients into a heavy bottomed saucepan.

*Bring to a simmer.

*Simmer until very thick. (This will be when it’s reduced by about 1/3.)

*Cool and transfer to a suitable container. I use canning jars with lids & rings.

*Must be stored in the refrigerator.

NOTE: I usually double this recipe and come up with enough to fill 2 pint jars plus about 1/2 C extra. I keep one jar & the extra in the fridge and give the other pint to my parents, who share my love of pumpkin butter.

I have a confession to make: I hate grilling with commercial charcoal. No matter what I do I can’t keep it lit. I’ve tried tricks & tips from numerous sources and none of them work for me. And I hate the smell of burning charcoal. It’s so… harsh. And unnatural. When I grill with commercial charcoal I have to shower and wash that set of clothes immediately afterwards because the smell lingers- especially in my hair. And propane? No thanks. Then we’d have to buy propane all the time. And propane grills do a fine job of getting the food cooked, but you lose that “grilled” flavor that is the whole reason you’re cooking out in the first place. But this summer my husband & I have hit upon a solution: grilling over an actual fire. We make our fire in an old charcoal grill and it’s perfect! Build a base of tinder: dryer lint, wood shavings, newspaper, or dry grass from the yard all work very well. Then around that put some kindling. Larger dry sticks work fine or you can cut some of the larger pieces of wood into sticks with a hatchet. We use a small amount of dimensional lumber. You DO NOT want to use this as your only wood for a cooking fire because it does contain some very not good for you things- a lot like commercial charcoal briquettes. But we just use it to get the fire going. You should have something like this: IMG_0172 Now put some fire to your tinder and blow on it if it doesn’t catch completely. Gently!! Blow on the baby fire gently! You want to give it some extra oxygen- not blow it out. Once the kindling catches well, add some larger pieces of wood- but only a couple. If you add too much too soon your fire will die and you’ll have to start over. Or call on the pizza fairy to visit your house. IMG_0176 Good! Now you’ve got your fire established. You can add another piece or two of wood. Now put your grate over the top and let the fire burn down until it’s hot enough that you can only hold your hand over it for about 5 seconds. Now you can add your room temperature meat. Did I not say to let the meat come to room temperature? No, I didn’t. Sigh. Well, I’m not re-writing the post. You should be reading through the instructions before you begin anyway. So really I’m just keeping you on your toes 😉 But seriously, you don’t want to try to cook meat straight from the fridge. It’s too cold- it won’t cook properly. I’m using flank steak for this post but we’ve also cooked chicken this way and it’s equally awesome! Anything you can cook on a conventional outdoor grill you can cook this way. You just have to keep an eye on the heat. I wish I could tell you exactly how hot it will get or exactly how to control the heat but I can’t. It’s something you have to work with for a bit & get to just know by sight and feel. It doesn’t take long. If you’re paying attention while you cook you should get the hang of it after one or two tries. Trial & error isn’t a bad thing. Learning for yourself teaches you SO much more than having every last detail laid out for you. And this is a great way to learn for yourself. Figuring this out gave my husband and I a wonderful sense of accomplishment! IMG_0179 We bought a cooking grate at the local camping supply store because the grate that came with the grill was left out to rust (not by us, thank you very much). We have wood stored here at the house from my father in law’s forays into tree trimming. We have apple, cherry, and plum to work with and they each add their own special flavor to whatever goes over them. The smell is much softer, much more natural, and far more pleasing than commercial charcoal. In fact, it’s fun to just sit by the fire and chat while we wait for the fire to be ready and then while the food is cooking. That’s definitely not something we would consider with commercial charcoal. I always thought it was the ranting of people who are obsessed with camping, but everything really does taste better cooked over an open fire! And the materials are fairly easy to lay your hands on. If you have a regular charcoal grill you have all you need except the wood. If you don’t have a charcoal grill, you can use a fire pit. You know; the ones people buy for decoration that they swear they’ll sit next to every night in the nice weather so they spend $200 on a nice one and then never actually use it. Craigslist is filthy with them. Cheap. And usually brand new or nearly so. Go find one, buy it, and actually use it! As for the wood, if you have trees in your backyard see if the need trimming. If it’s a hard wood, you’re ready to go! Or, once again, Craigslist or any local newspaper usually has all sorts of people trying to get rid of wood. Check it out- this is completely worth it! So the actual recipes! Finally, right?! I’ve seen a few recipes for pineapple salsa over the years and thought to myself “that sounds really good!” and then never thought of them again. But I saw one recently and decided that this time I would actually put it into the menu plan. It was good! But not great. Certainly not great enough to make the same way again. So I played. Because that’s what I do. I have a basic pico de gallo recipe that is easily turned into pineapple salsa- just add some grilled pineapple. Don’t like pineapple? No problem. Don’t add it. Without the pineapple this is just basic pico de gallo and is super good on tacos or nachos! IMG_0195.JPG (2) (*Disclaimer: I have to be honest- this picture was taken AFTER I made a plate of tacos for my husband (pictured below). So this is not a full batch; the ingredients listed below will make more than this. We got enough for 10 tacos using the smaller sized flour tortillas.) If you’ve made pico de gallo before, you’ll notice that I don’t have any cilantro pictured here. That is simply because I don’t like cilantro. If you would like to add it you’ll need about 1/3 of a cup, chopped. Or you can substitute flat leaf parsley. I just leave the leafy green stuff out altogether. For the best flavor, the pineapple needs to be a bit charred. And since this tastes better if it gets to sit for an hour or more, it can’t really wait until the pineapple can go over the fire. So I just drain the pineapple slices very well and put them in a dry pan. About 2 minutes per side on medium high heat does the trick. Now you’ll need to seed the tomatoes. DO NOT just cut up the tomatoes and throw them in the bowl for pico de gallo. The gel and seeds will add too much moisture and a bitter flavor. To seed tomatoes just slice the fruit into wedges, lay the wedges on their sides, and run your knife between the tomato flesh and the gel. They should look like this when you’re done: IMG_0164 All you have to do now is dice all of the fruits & veggies into small pieces (I mince the jalapeno), add a bit of kosher salt and a squeeze of lime juice, stir, cover, and let sit it in the fridge. (When you take it out there will be quite a bit of juice but it’s ok. The salt has drawn it out- it’s supposed to be there.) On to the steak. The steaks I buy take about 6-7 minutes per side over the fire to get to the point of very rare in the middle, which is where you want them if you’re going to be cooking them one more time after slicing. Once the steak is rare I put it on a platter, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes. This is essential! If the steak doesn’t rest all the juices will come flooding out when it’s cut and the steak will end up dry. But this 15 minute stretch of time is perfect because now you can make your taco seasoning! You didn’t honestly think I was going to use a packet of seasoning, did you? If I did I might as well quit this blog right now. Taco seasoning is SO easy to make! In fact, I would bet that you already have all of the ingredients in your pantry or cupboard already. I found a very simple, very tasty recipe here and adapted it a bit. This is also incredibly simple to make into a large batch and store away for later. IMG_0181 Now THAT is what taco seasoning should look like. It’s the color of spices you actually have in your cabinet- not that weird orange color that you really can’t quite identify. So once you have your seasoning made and your steak has rested for at least 15 minutes, you can go ahead and slice that beautiful piece of meat. Since the flank steak is so wide I cut it lengthwise down the center, with the grain, before I cut it into slices. That way the meat is easier to eat and fits in the tortillas better. Use a very sharp knife and make the slices as thin as you can without shredding the meat, thusly… IMG_0184 Yes; you want it that rare. If you cook it anymore than that you will end up with very tough meat after you cook it with the taco seasoning. If you were going to eat this straight from the grill you could cook it more. Now put the slices in a pan or skillet on medium high heat, add the seasoning (about 1 tablespoon, but you can use more or less according to your preference), about 1/4 cup of water, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer (lowering the heat if necessary) until the seasoning has made a nice thick sauce. IMG_0189 Mmmmm…. so tasty!! Now remove the pan from the heat, get the pineapple salsa out of the fridge along with any other taco toppings you fancy, and go to town! IMG_0191 These are SO good and SO easy that you’ll be astonished that people actually leave home and pay someone else to cook them! Of course, you don’t HAVE to cook the steak over an open fire. You can just grill it like normal people. Or you can pan sear it. You’ll need a heavy bottomed pan that’s large enough to fit the steak. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and heat the whole lot over high heat (about 3/4 of the way to the “high” mark on the knob). Once the oil is shimmery and giving off tiny wisps of smoke, add the steak and cook it for 7 minutes on each side for a 3/4-1 inch thick steak (this will be a very rare steak). Proceed as above for resting, slicing, etc. You WILL need to use the exhaust fan and you WILL need to open the windows if you pan sear. But it’s worth it- even in the winter 🙂 So only 7 more weeks of summer left! That thought makes me happy! The kids are already excited to start school again and I am absolutely longing for Autumn to arrive. Knowing there’s only 7 more weeks of summer is making things a little more bearable 🙂

The Recipe: Pineapple Salsa 4 Slices Pineapple, drained well, charred, and diced

1 Large Tomato, seeded and diced

1/2 Medium Red Onion, diced

1/2-1 whole Jalapeno, diced fine (I use half but if you want the pico spicier use the whole thing. Or if you’re really crazy, use 2)

1 t Kosher Salt Juice from half a small lime

The Method: *Drain the pineapple slices very well.

*In a dry pan heat the pineapple slices for about 2 minutes on each side. You want some charring but you don’t want them blackened.

*Seed the tomato by cutting it into wedges and running a knife between the flesh and the gel where the seeds are. Discard the cores. (Ours go in the compost bin so they aren’t wasted.)

*Dice the fruits and veggies, add the salt and lime juice.

*Stir, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days.

The Recipe: Taco Seasoning 1 T Chili Powder

1 t Garlic Powder

1/2 t Onion Powder

1/4 t Red Pepper Flakes (more or less, depending on how spicy you want it. Remember: you can always add more so err on the side of caution.)

1/2 t Paprika

2 t Cumin

1 t Kosher Salt (you can adjust this as you like. I don’t buy the mainstream media’s reports of how evil sodium is so I use the whole teaspoon)

1 t Black Pepper

The Method:

*Mix all ingredients.

*Use about 1 tablespoon of seasoning and 1/4 cup of water for each pound of meat you’re cooking. You can adjust this to suit your tastes. (Another perk of making your own!)

*Bring to a simmer and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced to a sauce.

***UPDATE: You can make this seasoning more like store bought, which forms a thick sauce, by adding 1 heaping teaspoon of cornstarch to 1/2 C of water instead of 1/4C. Add the seasoning to the meat and then pour in the slurry. Boil and cook until the sauce thickens.***

As I’ve mentioned before, my family gets sick of salad pretty quickly during the summer. We don’t mind eating it as a side dish fairly often but eating it as the main course has to be resorted to sparingly. I try to make it interesting by laying out a salad bar with lots of toppings & add-ins, but I still can’t make salad for dinner more than once or twice a month. One of the things I do to make salads more interesting is so simple it’s ridiculous… I make my own dressings. The decision to do so was two-fold. The first reason is that we were tired of the boring, often harsh, cookie cutter flavors of store bought dressings. I’m sure you’ve guessed the other reason if you’ve read more than one post here on The Humble Food Snob. I’ve been pretty vocal about all the nastiness found in store bought… well… just about everything that isn’t found in the fresh foods departments. Salad dressings are some of the worst offenders. Go to your fridge and really look at the ingredients. Unless you buy one of very few (comparatively speaking) organic brands, odds are what you will find is a very long list of very nasty ingredients that should never be available for consumption. Up until a couple of years ago I never looked because I didn’t want to come to terms with that fact. I thought making my own salad dressings was going to be tricky. I put it off and put it off, convinced that it was beyond me. Finally I’d had enough. I put a bite of salad with store bought French dressing in my mouth and it was so harsh that it hit the spot in the back of my mouth where my salivary glands are and stomped on them. I literally couldn’t chew for a moment. There had to be a better way. So I tried my hand at two dressings initially- our favorites: French and Thousand Island. They were SO good! And SO easy! All you need is more than likely in your fridge and pantry already and all you do is mix and let sit for awhile. How could it be any easier?!

We’ll start with the Thousand Island. This is all you need.

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There is milk in the little cup there on the right. Put it to the side- you may not use it at all. It depends on how the dressing comes out and how thick you want the final product to be. And as for the sweet chili sauce, it’s perfectly acceptable to use sugar instead- or you can use a little of both which is how I make mine. Everything else is pretty mundane. Completely unintimidating! Now mince your onion super fine and put everything in a bowl…

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That really is all that’s supposed to go into thousand Island dressing. Now grab a whisk and mix this together for about 10 seconds. That really is all it takes!

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Now you just have to check the consistency. If you like your salad dressing super thick and more dip like (try dipping chicken tenders in this- it’s amazing!) then you can leave it as is. If you want it to be a little more pourable then add the milk, a little at a time, up to about 1 tablespoon. Let this sit in the fridge for at least a few hours and you’re good to go!

Next up is French dressing. This is NOT the neon orange, sickly-sweet-yet-strongly-sour french dressing you find in the bottle from the store. This is a thick, slightly spicy (which is completely adjustable), mildly sweet dressing that does just as well as a dip for veggies or chicken and a spread for sandwiches as it does for salads. I had already made a batch about 2 weeks ago so what’s pictured below is how it will look after it has been sitting for a little while. Here’s what you need to get started…

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Yes- that is oil behind the ketchup. Canola, to be exact. And you need a full cup of it. French dressing is an emulsion. Don’t be afraid. You can use any light oil you’d like and it’s not as if you’re going to be drinking this stuff by the cupful. It’s not as unhealthy as the food police would have you believe! All you have to do is put all the ingredients except the oil into the blender (or food processor), mix a bit, and then- with the machine running- add the oil in a thin stream until all of it has been added and everything has mixed completely. You CAN do this without a machine! You’ll need to use an old fashioned hand powered egg beater or use a regular old whisk and whisk like mad while adding the oil until everything emulsifies. You end up with a beautiful reddish-orange jar of really excellent French dressing…

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Definitely not your average neon grocery store French Dressing! This has such a smooth flavor you will wonder why you ever bothered buying French! For dinner last night I enjoyed the Thousand Island while my husband stuck with his favorite- the French…

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Now those salads are anything but boring! I love my salads with cheese, dried cranberries and cashews but last night my husband wanted just croutons & cheese. They would have been plain Jane ordinary had it not been for these fantastic homemade dressings! Go ahead- give them a try. They are good for more than just salads too! Try a ham & Swiss sandwich with French or a turkey & Cheddar (or better yet, Brie) sandwich with thousand Island. SO good! And at less than 5 minutes each to make, there’s no excuse not to make your own 🙂

The Recipe, Thousand Island:

1 C Mayonnaise

½ C Ketchup

2 T Sweet Pickle Relish

1 t Worcestershire Sauce

1 t Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

1 t Sugar (or 2 t if omitting Chili Sauce)

1 T Lemon Juice

1 T Milk if needed

2 T Onion, minced VERY fine

½ t Kosher Salt

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients except milk in a medium bowl.

*Whisk until well combined.

*Add milk to think if desired.

*Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

The Recipe, French:

1 C Oil (Light oil of your choice)

1 C Ketchup

½ C Sugar

¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar

¼ C Water

3 t Mustard Powder

2 t Paprika

1 t White Pepper (adjust as necessary, a full 1 t gives this a very small kick)

1 t Garlic Powder

1/2 t Kosher Salt

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor.

*Mix for 10-20 seconds, or until well combined.

*Using the tube of the food processor or the hole in the lid of the blender, SLOWLY pour the oil in with the machine running. The oil should be a very thin stream running into the machine.

*Run the machine only until all of the oil is incorporated.

*Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Best if chilled overnight.

I’m sure that it will surprise no one that The Humble Food Snob dislikes cheap chocolate. And when it comes to cheap chocolate you can’t get much cheaper than Hershey’s. My main complaints are the fact that it’s grainy (to me, anyway) and sickeningly sweet with a slight chalkiness. Now, I never noticed these qualities until I got my hands on some high quality European chocolate. I had a taste of a Lindt milk chocolate bar (from Switzerland) and it was an epiphany for me. I know; that sounds a little melodramatic, but it’s true. I put the thin square in my mouth and it was silky, mellow, creamy, milk-chocolatey bliss. In that instant I knew I would never look at chocolate- or confectionery in general, for that matter-  the same way again. The next time I ate a Hershey’s Kiss I actually spat it out into the trash. True story. So now I spend the money on good chocolate and consume it judiciously. It works pretty well- except for things like chocolate milk. Expensive chocolate melts fine for hot chocolate but when you want an ice cold glass of chocolate milk… well, it doesn’t work at all. So I had no choice but to use Hershey’s syrup. At least until I made my own syrup, that is. Now I can play with the recipe and up the vanilla a little bit to make the flavor a little smoother and give it that special something that you don’t recognize until it’s not there 🙂

Yes- that is Hershey’s cocoa powder in the picture. Yes- I can be a great big hypocrite. I’ll be the first to admit that. But Hershey’s puts out a good cocoa powder so that’s what I use. If they could just stick with cocoa powder things would be fine.  But they insist on butchering other chocolate products and therein lies the problem. Thankfully I’ve figured out a way around that 🙂

These really are all the ingredients you need to make chocolate syrup. It’s astonishingly simple and SO much cheaper than the store bought stuff. The fact that they charge so much for chocolate syrup in the store should be a crime. (Of course, so should adding all of those other nasty ingredients but that’s another post.)

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I could say “all you have to do is put these ingredients in a pan, stir, boil, and you have chocolate syrup”. But I just can’t do it. I have to be honest with you because I don’t want you to feel like I betrayed you. While this recipe is really, REALLY easy, there is a hitch: cocoa powder is quite possibly the most hydrophobic substance in the world. When you add the water to the sugar and cocoa powder it will disappear beneath the surface and you will wonder if you ever actually put the water in at all. You will have to get your whisk out and stir- a lot. This recipe takes about 10 minutes to make and 4 of those 10 minutes is whisking the ingredients to combine them. Just when you’ve given up all hope of combining water with cocoa powder it will magically come together and you can stop whisking and let it boil. Make sure you’ve put the ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan because the mixture will expand as it boils! I made the mistake once of making this in a small sauce pan and had to change pans after it started boiling because it wanted to boil over the top of my little pan. After boiling for 5 minutes and adding your vanilla you should have something like this…

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Oh, that’s pretty 🙂 Don’t worry about the bubbles- those will go away once the syrup is cooled completely. And if your syrup is a little thinner than you expected when it’s done it’s ok. It will thicken up after it’s chilled thoroughly. Zachariah asked for some chocolate milk when this batch was done and he’s such a good boy I couldn’t turn him down 🙂

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My sweet little boy! He was thanking me while smiling for the camera while trying to take a drink. Who says males can’t multi-task? 😉

The Recipe:

1 1/4 C Sugar

1 C Cocoa Powder

1 C Water

1/4 t Salt

2 t Vanilla

The Method:

*Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium or large saucepan until COMPLETELY combined.

* Bring to a boil over medium low heat.

*Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*Remove from heat and add vanilla.

*Let cool and transfer to a storage container (I use a canning jar with a clean, used lid that I can’t use for actual canning anymore). Store in the refrigerator and use as you would store bought chocolate syrup.

Edited on September 2, 2013 to correct the measurement for red wine vinegar. It was brought to my attention that the measurement I had down was incorrect and too much for the recipe. I am more sorry than I could ever convey for this mistake. I take cooking incredibly seriously and this is paramount to treason against my readers. Please forgive me. 

“American” food is, for the most part, a myth. Every summer you hear the cliche “as American as apple pie” and people start drooling over “American” foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries. I’m sorry, but apple pie started out as the French apple tarte tatin, hot dogs and hamburgers are both German, and french fries are Belgian. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foods we’ve turned into what Americans recognize and claim as our own today. However I’m not saying this is a bad thing. My favorite pie is apple, I love fresh french fries (dipped in roasted garlic aioli), and burgers & dogs on the grill- count me in! My point is there are precious few things that we, as Americans, can truly claim as our own. To find something truly American we have to look at BBQ. Yes, it started with buccaneers and barbacoa over a fire on the beach in the Caribbean.  But really that’s only related to our BBQ in a very vague way. (Kind of like you and your 4th cousin, twice removed; you’re related but it takes pen, paper, and an hour to figure out exactly how.) I can think of nothing else that is so ingrained in- and defining of- our culture and yet has a culture all it’s own. You can go anywhere in our country and invite someone to a BBQ and they not only know what you’re talking about but they will have a preconceived notion of what will happen and how it will taste. Everyone loves BBQ- some so much so that they make their living doing it. So while we can’t legitimately claim most of our “American” foods, we can claim one of the most popular activities/food categories/cultures in the world. And the most important part of that culture- the thing that is most highly prized and guarded- is BBQ sauce. There are people crazy enough to injure friends & family over sauce recipes. I am not one of those people… anymore 😉 So here is my BBQ sauce recipe. Sauce so good my daughters would eat it on their cereal in the morning if I’d let them. Sauce so good my husband will sit with a hunk of cheese and dip slices in it. Sauce so good my dad would happily eat it with a spoon if my mom would let him. Sauce so good that your friends and family will beg for the recipe. Whether or not they survive that encounter I will leave up to you 😉

Do not let the somewhat large collection of ingredients scare you! It’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks! Most of these things you probably already have in your pantry. If you don’t, buy them for this recipe and you will be amazed at all the uses you will find for them. But even if you don’t find another use, you’ll have them on hand for this sauce and that’s all that matters! A note: I didn’t realize the brown sugar was going to look like that until after I was done with the recipe and I was going through the pictures. Sigh. So the little plastic corners that are sticking out behind Kroger spices is the brown sugar. Pitiful. Lesson learned. Moving on!

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Yes, there is a fair number of ingredients. But all you have to do with most of them is dump them in a pan. This recipe is so ridiculously easy that you will kick yourself for having ever bought BBQ sauce. You may even be mad that the major companies have the nerve to charge so much for bottled sauce with an obscene list of ingredients that you may or may not be able to pronounce. But it’s ok- that’s all behind you now because you’re making your own from now on!

The only real prep work in this recipe is the garlic. The first couple of times I made this sauce I tried mincing the garlic very fine with my chef’s knife. It worked, but I did still end up with a few little hunks of garlic. Not a bad thing really, but I was going for a nice, smooth consistency. So I now use the garlic mangler- known to most of you as a garlic press. Normally I hate garlic presses. They do nothing for your knife skills and they are a nightmare to actually get clean unless you have a brush that can get into the holes. But for me the mangler (press) works best for this recipe so I’ll let go of the anger for now 😉 So mangle your garlic and cook it over low heat in about 2 teaspoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Cook the garlic for about a minute- you only want to get the raw strongness (ha- I just made up a word!) out of it. After a minute add the tomato sauce and the ketchup to stop the garlic cooking. Then you can add the rest of the ingredients as you open the containers. It really is that simple. You end up with something that looks nothing like BBQ sauce:

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Yeah. Nothing like BBQ sauce. But not to worry! It will get there! Yes, there are clumps of spices. Those will work themselves apart, I promise! Take note of where your sauce level starts out. Put the pan over medium low heat (maybe a scosche lower) and simmer until the sauce reduces by half. It will be thick, rich, smooth (mostly), and glossy. Like this…

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Aside from the tiny chunk of garlic, does that not look like the sauce you get from the store? The taste though… it’s out of this world. Truly. You will never go back to store bought sauce after this. I know I never will!

A tip: Make this sauce at least 24 hours before you need it. Technically it’s edible the same day but the vinegar flavor will be very strong and the spices will not have had enough time to permeate the sauce. The longer this stuff sits the better it tastes!

The Recipe:

2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced

2 t Oil of Choice

1 C Ketchup

1 C Tomato Sauce

1/2 C + 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/3 C + 1 T Red Wine Vinegar

¼ C Unsulfured Molasses

2 t Liquid Smoke

1/4 t Garlic powder

1/4 t Onion Powder

1/8 t Chili Powder

1/2 t Paprika

1/8 t Celery Seed

1/4 t Cinnamon

1 t Salt

1/2 – 1 t White Pepper (I use the full 1 teaspoon and honestly the sauce isn’t that spicy)

The Method:

Mince the garlic extremely fine or put through a garlic press. Saute over medium low heat for one minute. Add the ketchup and tomato sauce, then the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over medium low or low heat until reduced by half, stirring frequently.

I always double this recipe and it fills a quart canning jar with a little bit left over. The measurements here will fill a pint jar with some left over. Store in the fridge. (Since I perfected this recipe I’ve only made double batches because everyone loves it so much it never lasts long!)