About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Marinara Sauce

I guess after that last post you might want the Marinara recipe.  This makes about 1 quart.  I like to simmer meatballs in the sauce and serve over pasta with lots of grated Parmesan.

3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and chopped
1 cup
chopped onion
5-6 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbls tomato paste
1  1/2 tbls Italian seasoning
1 cup full bodied red wine
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh Basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
3 tbls olive oil
1 tsp salt
pinch of sugar

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom Dutch oven.  Add onion and cook stirring occasionally about 5 minutes (do not brown).  Add garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato paste and cook one minute.  Add tomatoes, red wine, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and sugar and stir.  Bring to a simmer, cover and lower heat and cook 30 minutes. Uncover and cook another 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add basil and parley.  Ready for canning, freezing or dinner.

If canning, do your homework, and follow the directions to the letter!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Canning Therapy

                                                                                                  I go over the edge about this time every year, out of control and consumed with a burning desire to save and savor all the glory of summer.  I admitted to a friend I had "wasted" a perfectly beautiful Saturday canning quarts of Marinara Sauce, and Gumbo, she said "you must be bored." No, actually, I was in heaven toiling away over the water bath and waiting for the sealed jars to pop.  Maybe I need a straight jacket or a good therapist.  I can just imagine a dialogue like this:

Doctor: "So what initiates these frantic episodes and how long do they last?"

Me: "I don't know, I guess it happens every August when all the beautiful fruits and vegetables are  abundant.  I see a vegetable stand and am just drawn to it like a moth to flame, and then I just buy too much and I have to do something with all that stuff.  I keep cooking until everything is preserved or consumed."

Doctor: "Can you describe your last attack?"

Me:  "Yes, I woke up with a compulsion to drive 20 miles to buy tomatoes at the State Farmer's Market. There where so many other fun things I should have been doing, like cleaning out my closets, paying bills or giving the dogs a bath. Then I got lost and almost ran out of gas, but I had to find the place.  My heart started to pound when I saw those tomatoes and shelled peas. I bought 25 pounds of tomatoes and 10 pounds of peas.  On the way home I started to sweat, I was so eager to start making Marinara sauce for canning and freeze shelled peas."

Doctor:  "So what justifies this bazaar behavior in your mind?"

Me:  "Winter, when there are only tasteless hydroponic tomatoes and no zipper peas.  I feel sort of insecure without them for 9 to 10 months.  I get withdrawal by February.  I freeze or can enough in August so I can pull some out any time.  I just gotta have fresh fruits and vegetables."

Doctor:  "Why don't you just buy what's in the stores or eat out like everybody else?"

Me: "Ah, well that's why I'm here, I don't know why I can't be like everyone else and just buy carry out or order pizza.  I tell you, I need help Doc, please.  Nobody, believes me when I tell them it's worth the effort.  They think I've turned into Martha Stewart!"

Doctor:  "I want you to try this therapeutic method until our next session.  Tomorrow morning, drive to Starbucks and waste 10 to 15 minutes standing in line and pay $5 for a Grande Moccachino Latte.  The next day, eat lunch at a Subway  and order a meatball sandwich.  The day after, order pizza delivered to your home for dinner.  Then start combining one or more of these meals each day.  If you start to slide, remind yourself, processed food is abundant too and that you'll have more time to play video games and text if you stay out of the kitchen."

Me: "Sure, Doc.  I'll try, I know I'm missing out on a lot of two for one and super sizing and my friends are worried the lack of preservatives in my diet will affect my health someday.

How much do I own you today?"

Doctor:  "I'll take a quart of that Marinara Sauce and a bag of Lady Peas in lieu of cash.  Next time, could you bring some Gumbo."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Off the Beaten Path - The Isle of Mull

Starter Course at The Ninth Wave
Goat Cheese and Egg Tart at the Iona Hotel with a little jar of  chutney
Get your globe out and look hard at the western coast of Scotland, north of Ireland.  It's an island not far out from the mainland city of Oban and not easy to reach.  It took two flights, totaling 10 hours, 3 hours by train, 40 minutes by ferry and 1 hour by car to reach our destination near the quaint community of Bunessan.  Sheep sometimes blocked the way through the rugged, scenic terrain. Drivers heading straight for you on the one lane roads felt like a game of chicken.  Our friends had bought a B&B that had been an ancient hunting lodge 17 years ago and turned it into their personal dream - Ardfenaig Lodge.  We'd been beckoned many times to come.  Finally, my husband, his brothers and wives, decided to do some family bonding as a nod to the family's Scottish heritage.
We stayed in the property's charming gate keeper's cottage and did some of our own cooking in the modern kitchen with groceries ordered on line and then delivered from the mainland, plus all the fresh eggs we could handle from the owners' 60 exotic chickens.

 Outside our own devices, the island offered extraordinary dining from a pub that dished up fish and chips to very fine dining at The Ninth Wave.  The couple who own The Ninth Wave each contribute their skills to some really special cuisine.  The husband takes his boat out in the morning and catches what his wife, a talented chef, then turns into a beautifully crafted meal.  I never expected to find such on a remote island, but why not?  In addition to the bounty of the sea, we toured a large organic garden whose kitchen had baked goods sold on the honor system.  Just leave your cash in the jar.

Another 10 minute ferry to the tiny island of Iona (population 150) offered a lot to see, do and eat.
After hiking around the island, we had lunch at the Iona Hotel, a throw back to the 60's in feel with a friendly staff. I was hungry and chilled so their hearty soup and fresh bread hit the spot.  I thought to myself, "tastes like something I made."  Their food was fresh, organic and great.  I peeked in the kitchen to watch a single young baker working over her pies, cakes and breads.  Ah!  A beautiful site.

After Mull, we changed pace to the hustle and bustle of Dublin and later a golf resort.  Both are fine places to visit but there's something about the adventure and discovery of the remote unknown that make the best memories and Mull is one of them.  I've played golf on many of the finest courses in the world with spectacular scenery but equally fine in experience was "golf" on Iona.  Borrow a bag of assorted really old clubs to share, donate 1 Scottish Pound to play, walk 2 miles to the first tee, ask the sheep to get out of the way and enjoy scenery that rivals Cypress Point or Pebble Beach. Wow!  I love the routine of coffee in the morning and a quiet dinner with my husband in the evening but stepping outside our comfort zone, becoming a temporary local and unique personal experiences are the secret ingredients for a richer life.  Life is good.

My husband takes pictures of the scenery, I take pictures of my lunch!