Monthly Archives: October 2015

“On Top Of Spaghetti, All Covered With Cheese…”

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I recently discovered the love of my life. They’re soft and a bit spicy and ever so good with a mug of coffee or tea. Wawa Pumpkin Spice Muffins, you are my destiny.

My gawd, these are tasty things. They’re sweet and there’s a nice little cinnamon and streusel swirl that goes through them and they’re moist and delicious and I just about died when I looked up the calorie count (630!), grams of sugar (45 grams!!) and let’s not even look at the fat content.

Okay, I did. 35 grams, or 54% of your daily requirement, for those of you keeping score at home. I’m not, and never have been, one of those people who eat a lot of junk. I keep some candy in my desk at work (Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups), ice cream in the freezer (I really love a good vanilla with the flecks of bean in it) and if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I think cookies are a food group unto themselves. But to sit down and mindlessly munch my way through a whole bag of sour cream potato chips or Haribos? Not my bag.

But every once in a while I take a look at what I’ve been eating and see if I can do better and lately I’ve become a little alarmed with all the sugar I’ve been scarfing down lately. When I was recovering from the surgery and the treatment, my sense of taste went out the window and all I could really taste was anything that was sweet. My taste buds are still coming around (it takes over a year, believe it or not), but it turns out the experts aren’t too far off when they say that sugar is addictive. Or, at the very least, it’s pretty easy to become dependant on the stuff.

And you don’t need me to tell you that it’s in everything. Everything. You can’t pick up anything that isn’t full of it and the amounts are alarming, to say the least. I mean, there’s 20 grams of it in a container of yogurt (which is at the lower end of the scale), and that’s just the fruit-flavored kind and not that…crap…that comes with mini chocolate chips.

So, time to do better. I bought a few cups of my favorite yogurt for my work breakfasts next week, but that’s going to get swapped out for some hot cereal or homemade muffins. I can give up my glass of chocolate milk before I go to bed and be happy with a plain glass of milk and a not-too-sweet cookie or two. I don’t need to go completely down a sugar-free road; I just want to be a little more mindful of how much I’m eating.

Which brings me to this recipe for homemade tomato sauce. Pasta’s on the menu at chez littleredyarn a lot and if I’m making some kind of baked pasta dish, I will grab a jar of sauce at the market. Some of them (Newman’s comes to mind) are actually pretty good and reasonably priced. So just for fun I checked the sugar content (I had an open jar in the fridge) and it turns out there’s 7 grams of the stuff per half a cup. Which doesn’t sound all that terrible, but just for kicks I weighed how many grams a tablespoon of sugar is since I’m a geek and that’s what we do. Anyway, that comes in at 10 grams, which means there’s almost a full tablespoon of sugar in a half cup of sauce. That’s kind of a lot.

Mamma mia!

Mamma mia!

So, without getting all preachy, here’s my go-to recipe for homemade tomato sauce. It’s the kind you can make a lot of since it’s really quick to make and it freezes beautifully. It uses canned plum tomatoes and dried herbs, so it’s perfect for the winter. It’s totally vegetarian and best of all? There’s only 2 teaspoons of honey in 2 quarts of sauce and if your canned tomatoes aren’t too acidic, you could even leave that out.

I like my sauce on the chunkier side, so I just chop up the tomatoes a little bit. If you prefer a smoother sauce, give the tomatoes a whirl in your blender before you put them in the pot.


Dee’s Tomato Sauce

  • 3-4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of finely diced yellow onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup red wine (I usually have little airplane bottles of Pinot Noir on hand)
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf, broken in half
  • ½ tsp each of dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • ¼ tsp of dried rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of chopped Italian parsley
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  1. Warm up the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy sauce pot. Add the onions and the salt. Let the onions cook until they soften and begin to color, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and give everything a good stir. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes or so.
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine and tomato paste. Stir and bring it sauce up to a boil. Lower the heat and add the basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Give it a stir, partially cover the pot and let it simmer for about a half hour or so.
  4. Add the parsley and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Done.
  5. Enjoy!
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“I Sure Do Like Those Christmas Cookies, Sugar”

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When my boyfriend and I got together ten years ago, we thought it would be a fun idea to make a whole bunch of cookies for Christmas.

It made sense. We both liked to bake and since we weren’t going to spend the holiday together (sob!), we could “share the wealth” with our families and friends. Besides, everyone likes cookies.

So we bought butter and sugar and chocolate and I brought down my food processor. We ground nuts and creamed butter and dipped and spooned and flattened balls of dough. We both dug out recipes we loved and it seemed every time we turned around one of us was saying, “Oh! We have to make these. They’re just too good.”

And we baked and baked and baked some more. We had cooling racks on every empty horizontal spot in the apartment. We bought way, way too many zippered storage bags.

Finally, after a couple of weekends of doing this, we took a count of how many cookies we had.

536.

Yes, you read that right. 536 cookies, And that’s not counting the ones we ate along the way.

We gave away a lot of cookies that year. We had our own stash of cookies until March. Let me repeat that. March.

We had cookies until Easter. Easter, people.

And we still love cookies. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I will never, ever turn down a homemade cookie. One of the many (ahem) cookies we made that Christmas were these linzer torte bars. Bar cookies are great for when you want cookies but don’t feel like futzing around too much. And these are basically thumbprint cookies without all that faffing around.

Cuppa?

Cuppa?

Two things, though. The recipe doesn’t call for salt and the dough definitely needs a pinch of it. I know, you don’t think about salt in cookies, but most recipes do call for a tiny smidge of it. You could probably go all hipster and add a very small sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt to the top, but it’s just easier to add maybe an eighth of a teaspoon to the dough itself and not get that huge salt hit on your tongue, which I don’t particularly care for.

And it goes without saying that they’ll only be as good as your jam or fruit spread is. I used Bonne Maman’s apricot preserves in this and it worked beautifully. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.

And I had a stubborn craving for these almond cookies this week, which are also great with a brew. I haven’t made them in forever and once I pulled the recipe out, I remembered why. The recipe, as written, calls for “solid vegetable shortening”, or Crisco.

Eww. I don’t use Crisco. Actually, most almond cookie recipes call for lard, which as you can figure out, has no place in my vegetarian kitchen. So I’ll hold off on making these until I can find a substitute for the solid vegetable shortening. Yes, I can use butter, but butter isn’t used in Asian cooking. Hmm.

Clearly more research is needed. Time to fire up the Kitchen Aid.


Almond Cookies (from Martin Yan’s “Chinese Cooking For Dummies”)

  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 32 almond halves
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place the balls (ahem) 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press and almond half into the center of each ball.
  5. Bake until golden brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy!