Friday, March 26, 2010

One Pizza Sauce to rule them all.

The best I've ever had.  The original recipe came from a popular one on, but I tweaked it a bit, as is my wont.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried minced garlic (or 1 clove minced)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion (or 1/2 c chopped)
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce (or 2 6 oz cans tomato paste + some water, or some combination thereof)
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
1.  If you have a fussy toddler like me, break up fennel seeds in a blender or mortar and pestle so that she can't pick them out and wrinkle her nose at them.
2.  Heat olive oil, onions, and garlic on low in a saucepan until they've rehydrated a bit.  (If using fresh, saute onions on medium heat until cooked, then add garlic for about 30 seconds.  Garlic burns easy.)
3.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for up to an hour to help flavors blend, stirring periodicaly.  (If you're like me, heat through and immediately smear it on the pizza because you didn't think to make it ahead.  Works great that way too.)

It freezes well, so double or triple the recipe and freeze if you'd like.  I'm thinking about making up small jars of all the dried items (onions, garlic, cheese, herbs, spices, sugar, etc) so that I can just dump it into 16 oz of tomato sauce when I need a quick sauce-- or to give as gifts.

Seriously.  It is THAT good.  The only thing I can imagine improving it is the onset of fresh basil and oregano when the summer garden gets rolling.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fences. Gardens. (Bloody) Financial Food for Thought.

I need a fence.  I want to garden, but I need to contain my two children safely to be able to spend more than a few minutes at a time with them in the yard.  (Somehow, they just seem unwilling to stay quietly by my side while I schlep around with mulch and compost.)

My dog needs containment too.  She's been visiting the neighbors and coming back with mysterious bones and then barfing all over my carpet-- which makes me feel a little rabid.  (I know.  "Don't let your dog go make friends with the neighbors."  But if I don't let her out when she needs to go, she'll pee upstairs in secret.  And I can't see how I can leash and walk the dog on demand several times a day with a two- and four-year-old in the house with me.  Dogpee in the house, walking the lurchy antileash dog with two toddlers several times a day, dogvomit on the carpet, or a fence.  Which do you pick?)

But this isn't really about the fence idea.  (It's late.  I'm tired.  I'm sorry I can't stick to one topic.)

Tonight I've been hunting down pictures of fenced front yards (on older houses) tonight, which led to cottage gardens in the front yard, which led to potager gardens, which led to this amazing enormous public potager just an hour and a half from me (must visit!), which led to its newsletter, which led to this quote, which seems very much worth recording tonight:

"Money is like blood," says NEF researcher David Boyle. "Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers," he says, and "it flows out like a wound."
Ouch.  Wounding my community with each uber-convenient purchase.

It's something I want to keep in mind.  I'd heard of this concept before, of course, but something about the idea of the currency as lifeblood makes it a more potent image.

(Yes, I do get that distracted when I sit down to look something up on the internet, especially late  at night when the house is quiet.  I'm an ADD magpie of shiny pictures and information.)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pondering kidbeds.

I have a recurring fascination with creating an unusual bedroom for my kids... something cozy and unique.  My own childhood was filled with requests for bunk beds, hammocks, and other bizarre beds; my parents never relented, and I spent my childhood sleeping on one very unremarkable twin bed (dressed in various comforters over the years).

I'm sure I'm living out my own childhood fantasies, but here's my latest find:

Suspended loft beds! 

Screwed into the wall studs on two sides, the mattress frame has just one unsupported corner that is held up by heavy-duty cable that extends into the attic to loop over pipe straddling two attic joists.  It's reportedly amazingly stable, and much cheaper to build than traditional loft or bunk beds because of the reduced amount of lumber used.

Someday, when they're a bit older, I want to do this for them.  Fantastic.

(Pictures all snagged from this discussion thread on


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baaaaaaa. (mmm.)

This winter, my husband picked up a new client (he works with Medicare Advantage insurance) and learned that she raises sheep for a living.  Because we have an increasing interest in buying our produce and meat locally, and because he loves to do business with his clients wherever possible, he immediately placed an order for a lamb.

I've never really cooked lamb.  I'll admit to being a bit intimidated about taking on a whole carcass worth of unfamiliar meat.  But no more!  The wonders of the modern (online) recipe hunt have vaporized my trepidation.

Our Lamb Lady brought the sacrifice to death's door; once the deed was done and neatly packaged, I was dispatched to pick up the results.  (FYI- if you're looking for a slaughterhouse-- our lamb lady prefers this establishment because they don't kill the animals in front of one another.  This is much more humane, and also keeps their adrenaline levels down, which improves the meat flavor.)

Thus far, we've enjoyed three different dishes.

My foodie friend Faith's crockpot Lamb Ragu was our first adventure.  She's right-- the longer you can leave it in the crockpot, the more meltingly delicious it is.  (The browning phase made a massive mess on my stovetop, though.  I'll use a dutch oven instead of a frying pan next time to try to cut down on the splatter.)

Next, my husband prepared and grilled Alton Brown's amazing Silence of the Leg O' Lamb, which wowed our pastor and his wife (and us too).  YUM.

And finally, tonight I whipped up a quick stovetop version of this Rustic Lamb Stew from Recipezaar.  Again, very tasty, although I think the prescribed 8 hours in the slow cooker might have made it even better.

I'm still adjusting to the gamier taste of lamb, but it's not unpleasant-- just different.  The fun of hunting down these new recipes, though, has made our introduction to preparing lamb an adventure.

Hooray for new, healthier food habits!