The Gnat Factory

My tomato plants are taller than me this year. Not hard to accomplish. There are tons of tomatoes and they are starting to breed fruit flies. OK more like they are swarming. Spaghetti sauce to the rescue. This one is thick and meaty.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce
Serves 12
From Great Dinners from Life

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green pepper (optional)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 2-pounds 3-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes (if using fresh, core and peel, then weigh) That would be 6 lbs 9 0z not 32 lbs 3 oz
18 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water with 1 T. plus 1 t. balsamic vinegar (my substitution for red wine)
5 t. whole oregano
5 t. basil leaves
3/4 cups water ( I add 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 t. thyme
1 bay leaf crumbled (I don't crumble it)
2 T. salt (start with 1 T. add more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper

Fry bacon until crisp in a wide 6-quart pot. Remove leaving 2 T. fat. Save both bacon and extra fat. Add ground beef breaking it up with a spoon and cook until brown, stirring occasionally.

Stir in onion, green pepper and garlic. Cook 10 min. Add more bacon fat if needed. If using whole tomatoes, mash. ( I squish them between my fingers.) Add to meat mixture plus tomato paste (Seriously the hardest part. Getting the paste out of those little cans is impossible!), bacon, water plus vinegar, 4 t. each oregano and basil and all remaining ingredients.

Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Watch the sauce and stir scraping the bottom while bringing to boil and simmering otherwise it will stick. You don't want to burn the bottom. You could taste after an hour of cooking and correct the seasoning if you are so inclined.

10 t0 15 minutes before serving blend in 1 t. each oregano and basil. ( I just add all 5 t. at once) Great the next day! After refrigerating, warm to room temperature before reheating. Top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Tip: For a 2 hour simmer, don't add the water. 

A Man and a Tool

Chopping up the hard lemonade powder cuz I wouldn't want to throw anything out.

Dressing in the Dungeon

When I saw a recipe on for sesame noodles I thought I am making this. Then I saw that it called for hot chili oil. There was no way I was going to buy a bottle of hot chili oil to just use a little and then let it sit on the shelf. Wow. Was I changing my foolhardy ways and becoming a more careful planner who thinks about the practicality and consequences of my actions? I quickly regained control (or loss of it) when I remembered the bottle of Asian chili dressing deep in the basement that I almost threw out 3 times. I could use it instead. Phew that was close.

Simple Sesame Noodles from The Pioneer Woman
12 ounces thin noodles, cooked and drained (angel hair, thin spaghetti, or Asian style)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons pure sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot chile oil (more to taste)
4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons hot water
3 to 4 green onions, sliced thin

Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed.
Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with green onions and toss.
Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. Yummy!

Adjusted for 16 oz. of pasta because that was the size package I had:
16 ounces thin noodles, cooked and drained (angel hair, thin spaghetti, or Asian style)
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 2/3 tablespoons rice vinegar (make it easy and just use 3 T)
2 2/3 to 4 tablespoons pure sesame oil
2/3 teaspoon hot chile oil (more to taste)
5 1/3 to 6 2/3 tablespoons canola oil (who calculated this?! Oh yeah, thanks honey)
2 2/3 tablespoons hot water
4 to 5 green onions, sliced thin

Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed.
Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with green onions and toss.
Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. Or fork.

OK I actually made it. ( This is for me because I still have some dressing left)

16 ounces thin noodles, cooked and drained (angel hair, thin spaghetti, or Asian style)
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (I used 1 T already minced)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (make it easy and just use 3 T)
4 tablespoons pure sesame oil (1/4 c.)
1/3 c. chili garlic vinaigrette
2 2/3 tablespoons hot water ( I used the hot water for the noodles)
4 to 5 green onions, sliced thin

Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed.
Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with green onions and toss.
Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. Or fork.
Maybe I should use less garlic as there is garlic in the dressing.

Buttermilk Biscuits

I made buttermilk biscuits for the ham butter. After looking around I settled on a recipe from She used part cake flour. An idea you especially want to employ if you are making French tarts. Equal parts cake flour and unbleached all-purpose flour will give you something similar to French flour.

Buttermilk Biscuits

1 1/4 C. cake flour
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 C. butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 C. buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
2. Prepare ingredients: Cut butter into small chunks, place in a bowl and return to fridge. Measure out buttermilk and set aside. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and have extra flour nearby for your hands and biscuit cutter. Have biscuit cutter and an ungreased baking sheet handy
3. Mix dough: In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt until very well blended. Add butter and cut into flour using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk and stir lightly until dough comes together in a ball.
4. Knead dough and cut biscuits: Dump dough mixture out onto floured work surface. With floured hands, lightly knead dough a few times until it is fairly well blended. Pat out into a circle, 3/4 – 1 inch thick. Dip cutter into flour and cut biscuits without twisting the cutter. Form the dough scraps into an extra biscuit-like shape instead of re-rolling the dough. Place cut biscuits together on the baking sheet so that the sides are touching. Brush tops with melted butter, if desired.
5. Bake biscuits: place baking sheet in the middle of a preheated 500 degree oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove biscuits to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.

Tips for Perfect Biscuits
  • Make sure your baking powder, baking soda, and/or self-rising flour are fresh!
  • Start preheating the oven as soon as you start thinking about making the biscuits! You want the oven to be completely preheated before the biscuits go in.
  • Prepare your ingredients and tools in advance so that once you get started, you can work quickly and efficiently: cut your butter in small pieces and put it back in the fridge, measure out the buttermilk, flour the counter, get out the biscuit cutter and baking sheet.
  • Use very cold butter, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready for it. Work the butter quickly into the flour so that it doesn’t have a chance to even think about melting!
  • When you add the buttermilk, stir lightly! This can be done simply with a fork. You just want to get the dough to a point where the flour is all clumped together, not a smooth dough!
  • Knead lightly and minimally. You aren’t kneading this like bread dough, you are simply finishing the mixing process with your hands. You only want to knead a couple of times to finish dispersing the liquid through the dough. The more you knead, the denser your biscuits will be!
  • Even if you use self-rising flour in the dough, dust the counter and dough with all-purpose flour. Self-rising flour can give the outside of the biscuits a bitter taste, due to the leavening it contains.
  • Don’t pat the dough out too thin. If you want high biscuits, don’t roll the dough any thinner than 3/4 – 1 inch.
  • When cutting biscuits, use a sharp cutter and press straight down and up. Don’t twist! This makes a difference!
  • Place cut biscuits together on the baking sheet so that they are touching. This will result in soft-sided biscuits!
  • Don’t re-roll the scraps. Since it is best to work the dough as little as possible, instead of gathering the scraps, re-rolling and cutting into biscuits, just form the scraps into biscuit shapes by hand. They might look a little funny, but they rise as well as the others and they taste just as good!
Here is another good recipe from Southern Living.

Christmas Ham

I cleaned out my freezer to make room for the 80 lbs. of strawberries that I froze. I found a smoked ham that was from last Christmas and guess what? It was still good. Except that was in June. It has deteriorated since then but I will not surrender. Mmmmm, ham butter. This is a popular dish on Derby Day but the ham won't keep until then. I didn't use biscuits as I have some old rolls I need to use up.

Ham Butter
Serves 12
Serve on hot biscuits

1 cup cubed ham
1/2 stick butter, softened

In a food processor, grind ham into small pieces. Add butter and pulse until combined. Split hot biscuits in 1/2, and fill each biscuit with about 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture.

Pepperoni Jerky

A few months ago I bought some natural pepperoni. It has turned into jerky. Then T tells me she made omelets last night with cheese, tomatoes, fresh spinach, mushrooms, and pepperoni. Pepperoni?! Omelets all around!


This does not bode well. They were 10 cents a pound. I couldn't help myself. I call dibs on being normal in the next life.

Dear Potatoes,

I am sorry I blamed you entirely for the smell in the pantry.
Your distant cousin, onion, made a contribution too. But don't worry.
He met a similar fate as you.
Signed, Tarnation
P.S. You were delicious.

Fried Onion Rings

An easy way to use up a lot of onions fast. Light and crunchy. Great on burgers. This recipe is great for deep frying vegetables, chicken or fish too.

Wash, peel and slice onions to desired thickness.
Grab your favorite pancake mix and make a batch. Or make up pancake batter from scratch. Either way buttermilk pancake batter is good. (I used up my rock hard buttermilk powder.) Mix until smooth.
Add extra salt and pepper to taste. Taste the batter to check. I use about an extra 1/2 t. of salt for every 2 cups of mix or flour.
Separate the onion slices into rings and stir into pancake batter. Refrigerate until very cold, at least an hour. Cold is the key!

Heat 1 to 2 quarts of oil in a large pot to 375 degrees or use a deep fryer and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Scoop out onion rings one at a time out of batter, letting the extra batter drain off briefly. Place into hot oil and fry until golden. Turn over and fry other side. Only fry a few at a time so onion rings won't stick together. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towel.

Invite lots of people over and watch them disappear. Or eat them all yourself. Not that I would ever do that.

Petits Pains au Chocolate

Petits Pains au Chocolate

from Bon Appetit
So easy and so good!

  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (one 17.3-ounce package), thawed, each sheet cut into 12 squares
  • 1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 water (for glaze)
  • 4 3.5-ounce bars imported bittersweet or milk chocolate, each cut into six 2x3/4-inch pieces
  • Sugar

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush top of each puff pastry square with egg glaze. Place 1 chocolate piece on edge of 1 pastry square. Roll up dough tightly, enclosing chocolate. Repeat with remaining pastry and chocolate. Place pastry rolls on baking sheet, seam side down. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pastries with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Cover and refrigerate remaining egg glaze.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush tops of pastry rolls with remaining egg glaze. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until pastries are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I forgot to sprinkle with sugar before I put them in the oven. So as soon as they came out of the oven I brushed them with butter and then sprinkled with sugar. I mistake I will make in the future. :)

Wormy Apples

About four years ago I planted a crab apple tree. The first year I had some blossoms but no fruit. The following year the tree produced a giant green crab apple. The next year a few more and this year a dozen giant crab apples. I mean these crab apples are so big they are the size of small apples. Hey wait a minute...could they be apples?? They do have worms. Lucky me. I have an apple tree. I didn't have very many apples so this recipe seemed to be a good fit--more cake less apple. But still I didn't have enough. Luckily I had some other old wrinkly apples that needed to be used. This is actually a Swedish apple cake (sockerkaka med applen). The Germans and French have a version as well. The nice thing about wormy apples is that the apples "heal" themselves and there may be a worm hole on the skin but their insides are fine...sometimes.

Apple Cake in an Iron Skillet

Adapted from Sara Moulton

4 to 5 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into six equal slices
1 3/4 sticks butter
3/4 cup sugar

1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped finely

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a 9 to 10-inch skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar to the pan and stir around, then place apple slices, wedge side down, in the pan. Don’t pack them too tightly, but try not to leave overly large gaps. Allow this to cook over low/medium-low heat while you make the cake batter.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 stick of butter and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Add sour cream and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Gently stir in 1 chopped apple.
Remove skillet from heat. Spoon batter over the top, then spread gently so batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and bubbly. Allow cake to sit in skillet for five minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Don’t worry if some of the topping isn’t perfect—it’ll taste perfect!
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


I found this recipe and get to use 3 old/moldy things from my fridge! Cuban black beans from one month ago (that long?), sun-dried tomatoes from years ago and some salsa from months ago. Obviously I changed it a little to accommodate my needs. I heeded my advice and went easy on the marinated tomatoes.

Warm Black Bean Dip




  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can BUSH'S® Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. Heat oil in an oven proof skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until tender. Stir in BUSH'S® Black Beans, and corn; cook until heated through. Mix in tomatoes, and season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Top with cheese. Transfer the skillet to the oven.
  3. Broil dip 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
This is much better with the salsa. It isn't so dry.

The Pantry Stinks

Oh, its rotting potatoes. This is a good time to make these again. We have enjoyed them all summer.
Don't smash too much. Just enough to break the skins.

Grilled Smashed Potatoes


  • 16 small red-skinned and/or white-skinned potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh rosemary leaves


  • Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 25 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to kitchen towel. Cool potatoes to lukewarm, about 20 minutes. Using another towel, gently press each potato until split open and flattened to scant 1-inch thickness (don't press too flat or potatoes will break apart).
  • Brush large baking sheet with oil. Transfer potatoes to prepared sheet. Brush potato tops with oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some rosemary leaves. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place potatoes, oiled side down, on grill. Brush with oil. Cook until crisp and beginning to color, about 5 minutes per side.
  • Transfer to platter; sprinkle with more rosemary leaves and serve hot.

Tomato Millefeuilles

Tomato Millefeuilles from La Tartine Gourmande

Layers of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
Add fresh basil between the layers.
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or just olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Assemble right before serving otherwise it becomes watery.
Serve with a crusty bread.

Trimming the bottom of the tomato so it is flat will help stabilize it.

Creme Fraiche Update

The creme fraiche is not thickening so I am going to warm in it the yogurt maker with a little yogurt starter. Will it be yogurt or creme fraiche? I'll be groovin' with one of these... Far out.

Old Blueberry Pie

The glaze in the blueberry pie must be like formaldehyde. It was been around for weeks and is still good. Good but old. An on-the-run breakfast favorite around here is strawberry milk. Why not blueberry pie milk?

Strawberry Milk

1 c. milk
1 c. strawberries
Sugar to taste
Blend well in blender.

I use frozen strawberries and I leave the tops on. Greens! I add 1-2 T. of sugar.

Blueberry Pie Milk

1 c. milk
1 slice blueberry pie
1/2 c. ice (optional)
Blend well in blender.

Rock Hard Buttermilk Powder

I have a chunk of buttermilk powder that would break a tooth if you tried to bite it. I chipped away at it with a knife and am using the shavings to make homemade creme fraiche.

How to make your own crème fraîche from Bon Appetit

Combine 2 tablespoons of buttermilk with 1 cup of whipping cream in a glass container. Cover and let it sit at room temperature (about 70ºF) for 8 to 24 hours. Don't despair if your cream doesn't thicken after 22 hours; sometimes it happens nearly all at once. When it has thickened, stir well and refrigerate up to 10 days.

Today I am making a lower calorie version using half and half instead of cream and using 1 1/2 t. of buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk. To mix you can shake or slightly warm it but I threw mine in the blender for a good mixing. I had to break up those pebbles of buttermilk powder.

Labor Day

The end of summer. We "celebrated" on Saturday as some family members have to labor on Monday.
The menu:

Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs
Mini Burgers
Sliced Tomatoes
Sauteed Zucchini
Sweet Potato Fries
Fruit Salad
Blueberry Shortcake

Old Marinade

Honey Teriyaki

I found half of a bottle of marinade in the refrigerator that was so old it had a price sticker on it. I used it with mahi mahi.

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

Store Bought Jello

My husband was in the mood for Jello. We were out so we bought some. Ick. He wouldn't eat it. Throw out cheap Jello? Never! I melted it down to make a recipe everyone likes. It gave me a chance to use some old yogurt too. Today I used fresh raspberries.