Sunday: More Leaves, More Cooking

It was another very busy Sunday in our house.

More leaves to haul away.

leaves and wheelbarrow

Stowaway in the wheelbarrow!


Uh on – preschooler among the leaves!

Our “helper.”

preschooler and leaves

I’ve got this!


The rake wasn’t nearly as close to his eye as it appears

Big pot of collard greens to go with the leg of lamb I’m roasting tomorrow!

Greens simmered w/ red onions...yum

Greens simmered w/ red onions…yum

Homemade nut-free granola bars for Daniel’s school lunches. Here’s the recipe. Very easy and he LOVES them!

nut-free granola bars

Smells SO good!

We’re exhausted now. Tomorrow is another teacher workday for Daniel, so he’ll be going to grandma’s and I think it will make for a lower-stress Monday, which is good since I have several meetings tomorrow.

How was your weekend?

We Should Have Called it BaconFest

Today was “Fall Feast” with my Triangle Fight Club (not what you think. Ha!).  I’ve posted before about our annual cookie exchange, but we also try to get together sometime in October or November for a seasonal meal.  I think we chose to have it in Fall because everyone is so busy in summer, making it impossible to schedule something but mostly because we all love the Fall and its flavors.

We don’t always manage to get around to the Fall Feast before the demands of the holidays are upon us, but this year, somehow we managed to pick a date and stick to it.  We had a small group this year with only 4 of us able to attend, but as usual, the table was groaning with a variety of yummy things.  We have stellar cooks in the group and apparently we were craving bacon since three of the dishes featured bacon.

Gnocchi, pumpkin-sausage manicotti, Mediterranean quinoa, spinach-bacon quiche, spiced apples, fruit, hummus, crackers and bread along with sangria.  We filled our plates and sat outside to enjoy the beautiful, slightly chilly Fall day.


Too soon it was time to bring the meal to an end. It was Sunday, after all, and we all had various school and work days to prepare for.

I don’t see these ladies often enough; they’ve been with me through wedding planning, the wedding, infertility and finally parenthood. Twenty pounds lighter and much less gray in my hair.  We all look different, yet the same in all the ways that matter.

We have tentatively set the date for our annual cookie exchange and are researching how to make it revolve around our master, bacon, from cocktails to cookies.

Oh, and I volunteered to host 🙂

Thanks for a wonderful day, ladies!

My quiche recipe is Paula Deen’s (I was only slightly embarrassed to say that before; now I’m mortified). The major change I made was to sauté everything. I sautéed red onion and spinach (I also needed to use about 5 cups of fresh spinach) in the bacon grease. I also added gruyere cheese to the swiss cheese (I forgot we had thrown out my broken grater, so I had to use a zester, which worked OK).  I’m not a fan of swiss cheese, so I’d like to find a milder cheese.  I did NOT make my own crust because I’m a slacker like that.


Week in My Life 2012: Tuesday


We have a joke around the office that Tuesdays suck except it’s not really a joke.  They tend to suck.  Maybe it’s because you feel a false sense of well-being because it’s not Monday.  Maybe it’s because it’s still not far enough into the week to for you not to be depressed that it’s not closer to the weekend.  Whatever the reason, crappy stuff tends to happen often on Tuesdays both at work and at home because Tuesday also happens to be garbage night.  This Tuesday was no exception.  I’ve decided to focus on what happens after 5pm because tricky Tuesday threw me a curve at work in that my scheduled 4-hour meeting ended up going an extra hour, so there was nothing from work to document except for the screaming in my head.

Traffic was horrible on the way to pick up Daniel, so I rolled into the parking lot right at 6pm, setting us up for a rushed evening.  In contrast to Monday’s ridiculously short nap, I was thrilled to discover Daniel had a good nap.  Since we were already behind, hopefully his nap would buy us a little time and it seemed to because he was in a great mood on the way home.

Happy Daniel on the ride home


Since he was a baby, Daniel has loved to try to change the stoplight from red to green by blowing on it.  Nowadays he likes to command me to “blow the light, Mommy.”  Here we are both trying to change the light.

I wonder what the other drivers think.


When we arrive home, Daniel makes a beeline for the leaves in the front yard because he wants to catch a squirrel.  Good luck with that.

Where’d the squirrel go?


Since we’re so much later getting home than usual, Jimmy has beaten us home and already taken out the garbage.  One odious task done!  Surely that means the rest of the night will be smooth sailing!  I’ve posted before about how we try to prepare a multi-day meal once a week and this week’s is to be jambalaya.  Only we hadn’t made it yet because we didn’t make it to the store on Sunday, meaning we grocery shopped yesterday, resulting in the sub-par Chinese for dinner Monday night.  Since we needed to do a bit of meal prep, we fed Daniel separately and began to prep.  I cooked hot sausage while sous chefs Jimmy and Daniel cut vegetables.

Maybe a show on the Food Network is in our future?

The evening is passing by in a haze of domestic tranquility.  We’re prepping jambalaya while Daniel proceeds from his dinner to his fruit course, while a Thomas DVD gently blares in the background.  It’s almost time to get Daniel ready from bed, and I’m patting myself on the back over how smoothly everything has gone.  Then disaster strikes.  I discover we are missing a key ingredient for the jambalaya.  Jimmy has to go to the store to get it, leaving me to handle the bedtime routine with the 3-year-old who insists on doing everything for himself except when he decides he doesn’t want to and moves at a glacial speed unless it is something he wants to do or the very opposite of what you asked him to do.

Don’t even think of suggesting pajamas other than Thomas ones right now.


Fifteen minutes and one trip to the potty later, we are ready to read books!  I like to add in seasonal books to our story time and right now, our books are a mix of Halloween and Fall. Daniel LOVES to go “Wooooooooooo” like a ghost right in your face.  He is also into rhyming and jokes.  Tonight’s gem was “That’s not toast; it’s a ghost!” Happily, Jimmy returns in time to read a story too.

Books and a foot




After we tuck in Daniel, Jimmy keeps an ear out for little feet scampering from the bed to the door while I cook.  Daniel usually requires 3 or 4 retucks before he goes asleep.  Much to my chagrin, I discover that I’ve messed up the order of some of the ingredients for the jambalaya, requiring me to pick out some of the vegetables I’ve put into the pot.  This delays dinner again.  Ah tricky Tuesday, you strike again! Hungry and frustrated, Jimmy and I empty the dishwasher and exchange barbs before we realize how silly we are being and apologize.

Dinner is finally ready to be eaten around 10pm.  So much for a simpler evening!

Worth the wait I suppose

The Icing on the Cake

A work of art

This was Daniel’s birthday cake.  In case you couldn’t tell (ha), it was homemade. When we’ve had birthday parties for him, I’ve bought cakes, which I sort of didn’t want to do because as I’ve written many times, I like to cook and I also like the idea of everything I serve at a party being homemade (it just seems to be polite and respectful of my guests.  And maybe I’m showing off).  Of course I break this “rule” quite often, especially when I’m making a big meal like, say, Thanksgiving and decide that while the idea of homemade pumpkin cheesecake or sweet potato ice cream sounds great, enthusiasm can carry you only so far.

We didn’t have a big party for his birthday this year, so it was really important to me to make a cake for him so it would seem like we put some effort into making his birthday special (I suffer from acute guilt in general; my mommy guilt is epic).  I also realize that when he gets older, mommy making his cake will likely seem embarrassing and the allure of the store-bought cake will be something that makes his birthday special. Hmm.

So we made him this cake, and when I say “we,” I mean me and Jimmy.  I made the cake.  I’m embarrassed to admit the cake is from a mix because Daniel wanted a chocolate cake, and the homemade cake I made didn’t turn out right which sort of made me wonder whether my cooking skills have atrophied (see previous post).  I also made the icing.  Jimmy decorated the cake.  Ok, I did pipe the sloppy blue beads around the base.  You may have guessed that while I may enjoy baking cakes, decorating them is not a core competency of mine.

I came to this realization painfully.

Several years ago I took a cake decorating class.  I’m not sure why except I had the time and was bored I suppose.  This was pre-child, pre-grad school, post-newlywed time.  I think I may have signed up for the class because I had concluded I lacked creativity and was taking fun classes like paper making and fiction writing in order to awaken any creativity that might be slumbering.  Learning how to decorate cakes seemed like it would be fun, and I think I was also curious about how those techniques were done.   I bought the Wilton tackle box chock full o’ decorating goodies and prepared to be initiated into the mysteries of torting, levelling, piping and spreading.

In retrospect, taking the class was a stupid idea.  I am very uncoordinated, so any technique involving dexterity was doomed.  I’m also a perfectionist, so anything I could not do well nagged me.  I hit the first roadblock right away: spreading the icing on the cake, the base layer for the delightful decorations to come. I carefully followed the recipe for “Faux-tercream” (we used shortening instead of butter for our practice buttercream).  I plopped a large spoonful of icing on top, picked up my spatula and prepared to achieve the desired smooth canvas.  But I never could.  I spread and smoothed and smoothed and spread but no matter what I did, I couldn’t achieve the smooth look or crumbs contaminated the icing.  Frustrated, I searched sites for techniques and other icing recipes.  I tried using a crumb coat.  I refrigerated the cake.  Nothing worked.  I could get the icing sort of smooth, but it still looked sloppy. After watching my attempts, Jimmy offered suggestions and annoyed, I suggested he give it a try.  He did, and I’ll be damned if his didn’t look better.

Though I hated bringing such a sloppy product to class, I soldiered on, determined to master the borders and other decorations.  The borders were a bit easier to grasp, but again my lack of coordination came back to haunt me.  I could make a few consistent-sized dots or scallops before my hand squeezed the bag too hard or not hard enough, my border taking on a ragged look.  Some border elements would be flush against the cake while others had noticeable gaps.  The next obstacle were icing roses.  Roses are my favorite flower, and I was excited to learn how to make them.  I made very few attractive roses.  While my classmates made crisp, gorgeous buds, mine were flaccid and poorly defined.

I hung in there for the entire 8 weeks even though my poor cakes were the least attractive in the class.  I usually took the finished product to work, and they enjoyed the fruit of my labors no matter how poorly decorated.  I was very frustrated, though.  I didn’t expect to become an expert cake designer, but it bothered me that I couldn’t bend the icing to my will.  I also discovered that cake decorating was not helping me nurture my creativity: the blank canvas of an iced cake was just as daunting as everything else I had attempted.  By the last class, I was tense.

For our last project, we were going to make a two-level cake using dowels.  I brought a 6-inch layer, a 9-inch layer and the dowels as instructed. Unfortunately, our teacher had forgotten to tell us to cut our dowels to the appropriate height ahead of time.  The only tool she had for cutting was a dull cake knife slightly shorter than a saber with which we had to hack at the dowels.  And we needed 4 dowels.  We took turns with the knife and while we waited, we decorated our cakes.  The teacher clucked disapprovingly at my smoothing job.  My roses were wilted. My colors were garish.  It was a hideous cake.

I took my turn with the knife and started hacking.  Perhaps I was taking out some of my frustration on the dowels; perhaps it was the pesky lack of coordination.  Hack. Hack. Hack.  Suddenly, my thumb was bleeding all over my dowels and the table.  I grabbed a paper towel to put around my thumb, but it just was too much and I ran to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall and sobbed.  I sobbed for the icing that would never smooth properly.  The roses that refused to bloom.  The borders that were never even and flush. And I sobbed because I was the moron who thought taking a cake decorating class was an awesome idea.  Did I mention that the class was taught at night at a high school?  I also sobbed because I was humiliated that a cake decorating class had reduced me to sobbing in a stall with lilliputian-sized doors in the girls’ bathroom.

I finally got it together and returned to the classroom.  I finished my cake, managing to avoid adding any blood to the already grotesque monstrosity, and left.

And that experience is why I don’t decorate cakes. Jimmy and I have mutually agreed that we cakes need to be iced, he does it.  It’s galling, but I’ve grudgingly accepted it.

Oh well.  You can’t be good at everything, right?

What is one thing you wish you could do that you have never been able to master?

Cooking with Toddlers: Crepes

I had never eaten a crepe before I met Jimmy…I think.  Considering that I went to France after I graduated from high school, that seems improbable, but since I vividly remember eating my first escargot but have no memory of eating a crepe, it must be true.  Thanks to their heritage, his family celebrates Candlemas Day in the traditional French way by eating crepes.  Three and then four generations of family would gather in the kitchen at his mother’s or grandmother’s house, watching deft hands expertly flip the thin, golden pancakes.  Eventually, the “kids” (me, Jimmy, his brother, and his sister-in-law) would take a turn at flipping the crepe high into the air and catching it in the pan.  The first time I flipped a crepe, I was scared to death because I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the family, but I succeeded.  I also remember my sister-in-law snarkily correcting a grammar mistake I made at one of these events before she decided to pretend to like me (Think I can hold a mean grudge? That incident was 15 years ago!).

Once the crepes were ready, we descended on them like vultures, topping them with Nutella, powdered sugar, jam or nothing at all, rolling them up and gorging on them.   One crepe was carefully placed on the highest surface in the kitchen to stay there until next Candlemas Day for good luck.

Over the years as the “kids” moved away, we didn’t get together to celebrate Candlemas Day as often.  In 2001, Jimmy’s grandmother sent us the recipe for crepes, and I started making them a few times a year.  Because of Mum’s death this year, I thought crepes would be a meaningful, appropriate recipe for me and Daniel to make as we continue our culinary explorations.

Since liquor is used in the recipe, these crepes are dessert crepes.  If you want savory crepes, omit the liquor and prepare as indicated.  This recipe makes a lot of crepes, and they are easily stored in the freezer or refrigerator.   As usual, Daniel loved helping make the batter (he really loved the flour!); he would not eat one even when tempted with Nutella filling.  That was ok with Jimmy since he was able to eat them all 🙂

Oh! Look at the flour! It goes everywhere if I blow on it!


Stirring the batter


Taking his job very seriously!


  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp rum or grand marnier (I always use grand marnier because I like the citrus flavor)


  • Place ingredients in blender or bowl in the order in which they are listed
  • Blend for 2-3 minutes
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Oil an omelet pan or small saute pan and heat on medium-high
  • Place no more than 1/4 cup of batter in the pan and swirl it around so it spreads out
  • Once the edges begin to crisp and the batter is setting, gently flip it over.  It should be a light golden color
  • Place the finished crepe on a plate, pour in more batter and continue


Almost ready to flip


Since the hallmark of a crepe is its thinness, don’t be afraid to mess up when cooking them.  Even though I’ve made them for years, I still ruin the first 2 or 3 crepes (at least) before I get in the groove.  Experiment and figure out what works best for you.  This recipe is very versatile, and crepes make a great base for many other recipes.


Done! Ready to cool and eat!


Cooking with Toddlers: Yogurt Cake

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of my lingering takeaways from Bringing Up Bebe had been how French families bake with their children from a very early age and how capable even the youngest toddlers were of preparing a batter.  It’s not so much the baking that struck me per se but the idea that my son, not quite three, might be capable of more than I often give him credit for.  I think that I too often fall into the mode of thinking that my son is too young to be able to do XYZ and therefore delay pursuing it.

As a result of reading the book, I decided to start baking with my son as often as possible in order to attempt to instill patience, an understanding of cooking and an appreciation for food.  I really like to cook.  The first career I ever wanted was to be a singer (??? Ok, I was 5 years old), but my second career (at the advanced age of 8) was to be an artist (never mind the fact I have no artistic ability) AND a chef.  I’m not at all the caliber of a restaurant chef, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking and watched my mother cook amazing homemade meals. Since Jimmy and I have started making many of our meals and sauces from scratch, I’m really excited that I might be able to pass along an appreciation of cooking and food to Daniel at such an early age.

The first recipe we made was yogurt cake, inspired from Bringing Up Bebe.  I didn’t use the recipe that Druckerman included but thanks to the awesome power of Google, I used Chocolate & Zucchini’s recipe with a few minor variations.  Due to limitations such as Jimmy buying a ginormous container of yogurt, we couldn’t use the yogurt container as the measuring cup.  Details, schmetails!

Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt and was a bit liberal with it)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp rum
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line bottom of round pan with parchment paper and grease sides (I confess I did not do a good job with this part, so my cake looked a little misshapen)
  • Combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, rum, and lemon extract
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients until just combined
  • Pour batter into prepared pan
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes (we found 32-33 to be perfect)


I loved making this recipe with Daniel.  He was able to participate throughout the entire process and had a good time.  The cake was amazing.  It was lighter than a pound cake but denser than the basic yellow cake, and I think the addition of lemon extract really helped.

Horrific picture of me; adorable sous chef

Mixing the batter

The cake cooked quickly. That first night, Daniel had a small bit and then refused to eat any more (grumble).  I had a few pieces over the next few days before declaring myself done.  I took the leftover cake to work, and my coworkers happily demolished it.

Parchment paper fail, but it got the job done.

Yogurt Cake and chocolate syrup FTW!

I would definitely make the cake again.  The yogurt cuts the sweetness but adds a depth to the cake that is rather unusual and very nice.  In my Googling, I saw several variations on the recipe that included more exotic ingredients such as fruit and nutella, so it looks like it is a very versatile recipe.


Low-Carb Jambalaya


Spinach, tomatoes, broth and veggies make a great winter soup

Even when temperatures have been closer to spring than winter recently, Jimmy and I have craved homey, substantive meals.  I think these meals fortify the soul as much as the stomach, which we have needed.  Jambalaya is a perfect example of this type of meal and as a bonus, it can scale easily to make a meal for several days.

I’m always trying to reduce the carbs in my diet, so this dish is more like a soup, but you could add rice easily for a more authentic jambalaya dish.


  • 1 package boneless chicken breasts, baked in the oven (350 degrees for 1 hour; this a great make-ahead tip. I usually cook the chicken the night before and use it the next day)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (we like hot)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 squash, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 can Italian-diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Tobasco sauce
  • 1 tsp basil or thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


  • Melt 2 Tbs butter in pan.  Add pepper and onions.  Saute over medium heat until soft (around 5 minutes). Set aside
  • Break sausage into chunks and cook over medium-high heat until done
  • In a stew pot combine peppers, onion, broth, tomatoes, 3-4 dashes tobasco, garlic powder, basil and thyme (if you have a pot large enough,  you could saute the veggies in it and then add the rest of the ingredients instead of dirtying another pan)
  • Bring soup to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes
  • Add chicken and sausage
  • Before serving, add baby spinach and stir until it begins to wilt

As with all my favorite recipes, this recipe is very versatile.  If you don’t want to add spinach, you don’t have to, but I find that it adds an extra layer of substance and flavor to the dish.  I’ve thought about adding a second can of diced tomatoes too and may do that the next time we make the recipe.  If you like spicier foods, feel free to add more tobasco.  You could also add any vegetable you like.  I’m a big fan of zucchini and squash, so those are the ones I chose.  It just occurred to me that this dish is very similar to one of my favorite summer side dishes: ratatouille.   It’s a great dish to allow you to have some veggies when all you want to do is ingest carbs!


Do you have a go-to meal when you need something hearty?

Mini Pizzas and Mini Men

Daniel is becoming such a big boy, and it just shocks me.  He’s not quite 2.5 (December 2), yet he is well over 3 feet.  Add in the extra height from his stool, and he can easily see over the countertops.  We brought his stool into the kitchen recently, and he loves it.  He loves to drag it over to where we are working and watch us and preferably help.  It’s really adorable, and he is so very interested and wants to be a part.  He especially loves to watch us prepare meals.  We are “scrounging” dinner-wise this week in order not to exhaust ourselves for Thanksgiving (we are hosting), and tonight my guys decided to make mini English Muffin pizzas.  Daniel made an awesome sous chef (which he can now say & is also adorable).

Watching daddy put olive oil on the English muffins

Watching daddy put the sauce on the muffins

I can do it! Daniel sprinkling cheese on the pizzas


  • 2 Whole wheat English muffin pizzas halved
  • 1 cup tomato/pizza sauce (we used frozen cubes from our sauce)
  • 1 Cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Drizzle olive oil other each muffin half
  • Spoon sauce over each half and spread to the edge
  • Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
  • Sprinkle with oregano
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes

These little pizzas are ridiculously simple, yet amazingly good.  I feel less guilty about Daniel eating them than pre-packaged pizzas since I know what went into the sauce we made.  And again, so simple!!!  J and I keep saying how we need to get more ingredients (Canadian bacon, olives, artichokes, etc.) and make more “adult” pizzas, but even in this simple form, they are soooooooo good.

I love that Daniel is taking an interest in cooking.  I have always loved to cook (when I was 5, my career goal was to be an artist and a chef – one problem with that is that I have extremely little artistic ability).  In the last few years, J has become very interested in cooking and is a wonderful sous chef.  I like how we are unafraid to tackle making our own sauce, roasting turkeys or making soufflés.  It just feels good to be able to do those things, and I’m glad Daniel is taking an interest.

Do I make mistakes in the kitchen? Oh yes.  Like the omelet I burnt last weekend.  The lamb that was slightly over-cooked a few months ago (still edible and good but a little more well done than it should have been).  Dry cakes.  Ice cream that was not as sweet as it should have been.  I am not a trained chef, but that’s ok.  I like experimenting and am excited that we may be able to do that as a family.

Tell me about your family kitchen.  Do your children take an interest in helping to cook?

Tomato Sauce

A little over a year ago, J and I made our first batch of homemade tomato sauce for pasta. I think we were inspired by hard-core weekend of Food Network watching, but it was something we had talked about doing for a while.  Once we took the first bite of our sauce, we were hooked.  We could not believe how much better and fresher it tasted than jarred sauce.  Every time we have our sauce, I always marvel at how it tastes like I had wandered out that very day to our vegetable garden (which doesn’t exist yet) and picked the tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs we use.  As with all my recipes, our tomato sauce recipe is fairly fluid: the basic components stay the same, but it is easy to modify to suit your individual taste or mood.

It takes around 3-4 hours to prep, cook and blend, but it makes a HUGE amount.  From our most recent batch made last weekend, we had fresh tomato sauce on our pasta that night and still had enough to freeze 8 bags.  Each bag easily feeds the 3 of us and probably could feed a family of 4. J is a huge help with this recipe as he chops all the vegetables and herbs.  He bought a really good set of kitchen knives and few years ago and loves to use them.   This recipe would take a lot longer if he didn’t help with the chopping.

Right now we use canned tomatoes, but we do plan to plant a vegetable garden.  Eventually.  I grew up in a rural area, and my family and my aunts’ families had a garden every summer.  Not being especially athletic or outdoorsy, I hated working in the garden.  It was hot.  There were bugs (like those nasty bugs that like corn) and let’s be honest, there is something primordially scary about rows of tall corn stalks.  My mother would can or freeze the vegetables, and we’d eat on them all winter (geez, sounds like something out of Little House on the Prairie!).  I never thought I would want to have a garden, but the older I become and the scarier the world gets, the more I want one.  Baby steps.  Right now we are growing basil and mint, and we used the basil in the recipe.


  • 4 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 4 cans tomato paste
  • 7 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1  1/4 cups of red wine (we use pinot noir, but a rich cabernet could work too.  Any robust red wine will do)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 TB fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 TB fresh oregano, finely chopped


  • Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the pepper is soft (about 15 minutes)

    Onions, pepper and garlic sauteeing

  • Add the tomatoes, sugar, red wine, herbs and salt (I use sea salt) and pepper

    A lot of tomatoes

Fresh oregano and basil


Everything! Needs a stir and to simmer for a couple of hours

  • Stir well and bring to simmer
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium-low
  • Simmer for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes (I like to simmer the sauce for around 2 – 3 hours because the sauce starts to thicken and it adds an extra flavor dimension and texture I can describe only as “plummy.” It’s crucial that you continue to stir so the bottom doesn’t start to burn.  Burnt sauce really sucks.)
  • Once sauce is cool enough, blend in batches (we use our ancient blender, but you could use an immersion blender)
  • Bag up the sauce and pop into the freezer (We use freezer bags which probably isn’t the best thing to use, so if you have better freezer storage options, please let me know!)

    Blended and ready to bag

Enjoy!  This Winter we hope to explore making pasta from scratch to go with our sauce. 

Do you have a favorite tomato sauce recipe?

Pot Roast: A Fall Favorite

This week’s multi-day meal is pot roast, which is perfect since this week is the first full week of Fall.  Pot roast, with its rich broth and hearty vegetables, is an ideal meal for cooler evenings or for those craving a touch of Autumn.  What I really like about this recipe is how versatile it is.  You can change up the sauce, add your favorite vegetables or more or less of the vegetables in the recipe.   I also like that this pot roast is done in the oven.  I don’t know why, but I don’t like roasts cooked on the stove top. It just seems wrong to me.  This recipe takes about 30 minutes to prep (mostly chopping the vegetables) and 2 hours to roast.


  • 5-6 pounds  beef roast (chuck roast, round roast, rump roast, etc.)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 7 Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of tomato juice
  • 1 package beefy onion soup mix
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBS basil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Heat oil in a large pan
  • Brown the roast(s) on all sides in the pan and then place in roasting pan
  • Combine tomato juice, soup packet, water, Worcestershire sauce, basil, garlic pepper and salt and pepper
  • Pour sauce over meat

Roast covered with sauce and ready for its first sojourn in the oven

  • Cover pan with foil and roast for 1  hour
  • After an hour, add vegetables to the pan
  • Recover pan with foil and roast for another 45-60 minutes (depending on the amount of vegetables you have.  I find that a full 60 minutes works well for my oven)
  • Slice and serve!

That’s it!


What are your favorite pot roast recipes?