Category Archives: For Foodies

Loving a man who bakes

It’s really not that hard. Especially when he brings you one of his salted caramels to taste test and it tastes like heaven and well . . .

Alright, I confess, it’s a little bit harder than that.  At least it was for me last weekend when Jason made copious amounts of sugary treats for his co-workers.  There were a few times I tried to avoid helping and there was that time I thought “Do the salted caramels really have to be wrapped that perfectly?!”

But they must.  Everything must be perfect.  And it was.  And I still love this man who bakes.

The lineup was Cherry Chocolate Hazelnut Bars, Molasses Spice Cookies, Fudge, and Salted Caramels.  The first two came out of the The New Best Recipe (aka Jason’s third best friend next to myself and Jordan). The Fudge was Martha’s and well, we’ve decided to keep the caramels a secret because I think we could make some money off of them, they were so amazing.

There were several moments where I heard from the kitchen “This is awful, it’s totally ruined!” only to hear him later say with much satisfaction, “Actually, this is pretty darn good.”  In the process I learned not to become discouraged that yet another bag of chocolate chips was going to be wasted as he poured them into a pot of steaming cream, butter, and marshmallows.  The fudge would indeed turn out fabulous. My taste buds are verifying it this very moment that I write.

Jason’s mom, Becky, worked tirelessly with him as his sous chef, and Bill put his caramel stirring, cutting and wrapping skills to work (as well as his caramel eating skills).  I helped minimally (as was previously mentioned), but did put the finishing touches on each plate.

20 plates of goodies were packaged up and went off to Jason’s co-workers on Tuesday morning, but thankfully there were some leftover for us to enjoy.  Except Jason couldn’t keep from spreading his baking cheer so a couple of neighbors got some and I’m trying to eat up the rest 🙂

Thank you, Jason, for taking us all to greater baking heights.  I know I’m a better person for it.

Organic or not?

I oftentimes find myself standing in front of the sink washing some non-organic produce wondering a few things:

  1. Is this veggie wash really doing anything?
  2. Will I someday end up  in a cancer ward taking care of my ailing husband or son? (for some reason I don’t imagine getting cancer myself)
  3. If I am in a cancer ward somewhere, will I be kicking myself, thinking “Why did I buy those non-organic grapes?!?”

Now that I put my stream of consciousness out there, it seems kind of ridiculous. But does anyone else get as stressed out at the grocery store as I do?

If I buy organic then I feel comforted that maybe my family is consuming something that’s generally better for their bodies, in the short and long term.  At least that’s what I hear organic does.  But if I buy organic, I practically hyperventilate at the end of the month when Jason attempts to balance the budget.  Money stresses me out.

Regardless of my decision (which really varies with how I’m feeling that day), I know it is 1) influenced by some level of fear and 2) a mostly ignorant one.

So, I would like to educate myself and develop some kind of generalized philosophy/strategy when it comes to organic vs. non-organic purchases.  For me, this looks like taking what I’ve learned, confidently making decisions at the grocery store, and trusting God with the rest.

Here are some questions I’ve come up with that I’m working on answering for myself:

  • What is considered organic? How is it produced?
  • Is organic really better or am I just buying into the trend?
  • What is non-organic?  Why do some people think it’s so evil?  Is it really that bad?
  • Is organic really more nutritious that non-organic?
  • Does produce wash really do anything?

I am also very interested in what this looks like for other families.  If you would, please comment on some or all of the questions below. I would love to hear what you do and how it works for you–no matter whether you are on one end of the spectrum, the other end, or somewhere in the middle.

I should also clarify–I am talking mainly about food when it comes to this issue, but also cleaning, baby, and hygiene products.

  • What (if any) do you buy organic and why?
  • What (if any) do you buy non-organic and why?
  • Have you found any good alternatives (ie, grass-fed or natural but not organic, produce wash).  What was your reasoning behind choosing these alternatives?
  • What resources were helpful to you in making your decisions?
  • If you buy some or all organic, how do you do so in a cost-effective manner (ie, where are the deals)?  If you have to make sacrifices in other areas, what does that look like for you?
  • Do you have creative ways you acquire healthy or organic foods or natural products besides purchasing in the store (bartering, gardening, co-op, etc.)?  What does that look like?

The Haggard’s FAMOUS BBQ sauce

Now that it’s officially summer (though you wouldn’t know it here in Seattle) it seems appropriate to discuss BBQ sauce.

To be honest, I’ve never been that into it.  I mean it’s fine and all, but what could beat ketchup?  BBQ sauce has it’s place on the grill, and that’s that.

I was wrong.  All wrong.

The following recipe, which was developed by chef extraordinaire Mr. Jason Haggard, has it’s place on EVERYTHING.  It’s that good.  My personal favorites are as a potato chip dipping sauce and on pulled pork.

It’s not famous now, but one day it will be folks . . . and you’ll know it all started with this blog.

Chef Jason’s BBQ sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1. Combine all ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a saucepan over high heat.  Blend ingredients with a whisk until smooth.

2. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered.

3. When the mixture thickens (approx 30-45 minutes, longer if you double the recipe), remove it from heat.  If you overcook it and make the sauce too thick, thin it with more vinegar.

Developed from Top Secret‘s Tony Roma’s Carolina Honeys sauce.

Granola bars

I swore to myself that these would be pre-workout fuel ONLY. 

I told Jason this rule was unalterable.  Well, I didn’t really tell him.  It was more like I waved my finger vigorously at him, while pointing towards the bars and giving him the evil eye.

But then a few days later they were just there, sitting in a tupperware container in our cupboard . . . so I had one.  And then another one. And the rule flew out the window.

Despite my hypocrisy, they still serve as great workout fuel (due to all the good things in them).  Or as second breakfast, with a glass of milk.  Or a couch snack.  Or whatever . . .

Granola Bars (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup flaxseed
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ¼ plus 1/8 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (sometimes I add these, sometimes I don’t)

Directions

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, and flaxseed onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring three times.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips quickly (before they get too melty) and pour the mixture into the baking dish.  Press it down with the back of a greased spatu

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Enjoying the fall

When I was a little girl I loved celebrating the different seasons. There was so much joy and wonder in the sights, sounds, foods, and activities that came with each turn of weather and upcoming holiday. I always felt a sense of nostalgia when we would open up the boxes of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter decorations.

I owe a lot of this to Mom who really got into holiday decorations, activities, and cooking. She organized parties & costumes, baked Christmas cookies with me, helped me address my valentines, etc., over the years.

Living in Minnesota where there is such a stark contrast in the seasons (fall colors and white Christmases) also added to it for me, as well as the fact that I loved school (which is all about seasonal crafts and parties).

Sadly, I went through a phase in young adulthood where I found these sort of celebrations a waste of money and time. Thankfully, that has come to an end in the last few years. Marriage has especially brought it to my attention, as Jason & I have talked about what traditions we each had growing up and which ones we want to continue.

Finding joy in the seasons doesn’t feel altogether new, but rather like a possession you put away years ago, thinking it was childish, only to rediscover you like it now just as much or more.

As for this season, I’ve been savoring the crisp weather and the fall colors that seem to be especially bright around Seattle this year. Mother Teresa came for a visit last weekend and we hiked Twin Falls, with perfect clear skies and sunshine. It reminds me why so many people say that fall is the best time to come here for a visit.

I bought a pumpkin last week which sits on our front steps and after stumbling upon an apple tree in Discovery Park, I made it a goal to go apple picking. I don’t think we’ll have time to do the apple picking, but I’m going to carve the pumpkin, do some cooking with the innards and roast the seeds.

When Mother Teresa came last Friday she came with her own agenda (how surprising) of certain fall recipes she wanted to try out–Pumpkin Pie Squares and Autumn Apple Cake. We spent Monday afternoon in the kitchen, also adding caramel apples to our repertoire.

I’ve been thinking about what this has to do with this lesson of childlikeness vs. childishness that I’ve been working through. For me, my childishness has been the act of foolishly throwing away joyful memories and traditions (all for the sake of self-perceived maturity).  For some time, it was slightly shameful and felt wasteful to get to excited about such things.

Childlikeness for me now is savoring God’s grace in allowing me to rediscover those things that I enjoyed so much as a child and joyfully passing them along to my husband and son in the future.

It turns out that the Pumpkin Pie Squares were a hit at the mom’s gathering I went to today, so I thought I would share the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Filling:

  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
  • 1 (12 oz) can low fat evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger, optional
  • 1/4 t ground cloves

Crust:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c butter, softened

Topping:

  • 1/2 c chopped pecans
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • whipped cream, optional
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13×9 inch glass baking dish.
  2. To prepare crust, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and butter. Using pastry blender, fork or food processor, stir until crumbly. Press into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes or until partially set.
  3. To prepare filling, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, granulated sugar, salt and spices. Pour over crust and bake 30 minutes.
  4. To prepare topping, combine pecans, brown sugar and butter. Remove from pan and sprinkle topping evenly over filling. Bake 15-20 minutes, until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 30 squares.

Pasta Bolognese

Some of my best (and easiest) recipes over the last few months have come from Real Simple. Every recipe I’ve tried includes only a few ingredients, most of which I already have in the kitchen.

Since I haven’t included anything foodie-related in a while, I thought I would share one of my new favorite recipes out of August’s issue (which has an extensive section on easy meals).

Pasta Bolognese

This is the kind of thing that’s good the first night, but great the next day. I think the white wine and basil flavors really start to come out once it’s been sitting in its own juices for a while.

12 ounces fettuccine (3/4 box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes (about 3), chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, breaking up the turkey with a spoon, for 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in the zucchini and basil. Serve over the pasta.

Haggard heaven

On Saturday Jason and I went to the Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place Market. Being avid cheese lovers, we’d been looking forward to this event for months.

It was that blazing hot day, but it was worth it – there were more free samples of cheese than we could’ve possibly eaten.

Our favorites were