Archives for February 2011

slow-cooked meat sauce

Nesting is an odd compulsion. While I’m buying out the store of newborn diapers, wiping down the baseboards in the closet, and vaccuming every last Cheerio out of the car, I know in the back of my mind that I don’t need to be doing this. In fact, I probably should not be doing this. The baby surely doesn’t care if the corners are full of dust bunnies and I should be squirreling away my energy for the sleep deprivation to come.

Instead I squirrel away diapers and meals. The latest Ziploc to grace my freezer is full of this wonderful slow-cooked meat sauce, made in the Crock Pot in a quantity enough to feed an army. Or enough for several meals for two sleep-deprived parents and one bouncing two year-old. The flavors are rich, the sauce is thick, and it is a truly easy comfort food.

To make it, you’ll need red wine, an onion, a little sugar, basil and oregano (fresh if you have them, dried if you don’t), tomato sauce, tomato paste*, crushed tomatoes, garlic, carrots, salt, and the meat of your choice. I use ground beef but turkey, pork and sausage would all work well.

*I use store-brand tomato sauce and paste because I like a deal. Just read the ingredients carefully; they should contain little more than tomatoes. I’ve seen scary store brands that contain corn syrup.

Oh, and roasted peppers. Locally grown…in the Napa Valley. And crushed red pepper. All forms of pepper magically escaped my ingredients photo.

Brown the ground beef and drain as much fat as you can manage.

Mince (or twist!) the garlic. This is one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets.

Chop the onion, peppers and carrots.

Saute the onions, carrots and garlic in a bit of butter or olive oil until tender. Toss in the roasted peppers during the last few minutes.

Now comes Lucy’s favorite part: stirring everything together. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, switching to high and removing the lid for the last hour to thicken the sauce. If you like, finish it with a little milk or cream and parmesan cheese.

When I no longer have time to worry about the Cheerios in the car and the dust bunnies in the closet, I will be happy that this rich meat sauce is in my freezer for dinner. It’s so easy that I may even have time to whip up another batch with a newborn strapped to my chest and a toddler tugging at my leg.

Or maybe not.


Slow-Cooked Meat Sauce

This recipe makes a large batch, so plan on feeding a crowd or freeze portions of cooled sauce in airtight containers for up to 3 months.

Yield: Approximately 10 cups of sauce Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 7-8 hours

Special Equipment: Slow Cooker

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef, sausage, turkey or pork
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 c chopped roasted red peppers
  • 29 oz can tomato sauce
  • 29 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 c red wine
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. Brown meat with 1 tsp of the kosher salt. Drain of fat and spoon meat into bowl of slow cooker.

2. Mince the garlic and dice the onions and carrots. Heat butter or olive oil on medium in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the carrots and onion and saute 6-7 minutes, or until carrots are tender and onion is translucent. Add the roasted peppers and saute 2 minutes more. Carefully spoon vegetables into bowl of slow cooker.

3. To the slow cooker add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, sugar, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt. Stir well, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. During the last hour, switch heat to high and remove the lid to thicken the sauce. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. If desired, stir in 1/2 cup milk or cream and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese before serving.

bacon compost cookies

It was nearly 1 year ago to the day that I first discovered the Compost Cookie, the only cookie to ever change my world. It seemed like an odd recipe at first: used coffee grounds, snack foods, corn syrup. But the first batch blew me away. With the second batch I began the tweaking process (I now make them with Kettle Salt & Pepper chips, pretzel sticks instead of twists, Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips, graham crackers freshly whirred in the food processor instead of the packaged crumbs, refrigerate full day before baking and omit the coffee grounds). I suppose it’s fitting that 1 year and 20 batches later I’m finally taking the recipe to the next level.

To all of you who are saying right now, “bacon doesn’t belong in cookies!” read the recipe first; there are stranger ingredients in these cookies. Don’t proceed unless you’re feeling a bit adventurous. And also don’t mock them ’till you’ve tried them.

To those of you who I just heard saying “bacon in cookies? F—- yeah!”, read on, my friends.

Start by frying up some bacon. Chopping into pieces before frying lends a crispier texture without overcooking.

Make the dough (step by step photos in my first compost cookie post) as you usually would, complete with potato chips, pretzels, graham crumbs, oats and chocolate chips.

Here’s where we veer off the beaten path: peanut butter chips. Butterscotch can be an overwhelming flavor for some and I think peanut butter pairs better with bacon.

Bacon. In a cookie that already has a fair amount of salty crunch, it’s not that strange.

Alright, it’s a teeny bit strange to see meat in your cookie dough. But is there anywhere that bacon doesn’t belong? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, now we must wait. Measure balls of dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour (I like to wait a whole day—I find it yields a better cookie. Just refrigerate as long as you can). Right before you’re ready to bake, roll them between your palms to make them smooth and place on a baking sheet*.

*The cookies pictured were made smaller for a party. Your balls should be much bigger (hee hee!) if you follow the recipe at the bottom of the post.

When they’re done the edges should be darker brown and slightly crispy, while the middles should be pale. They may look under-baked, but resist the temptation to stick them back in the oven.

Once cooled they’ll look more like this, with chewy centers and crispy edges. Perfect.

Expand your cookie repertoire. Take a risk. The results will be well worth it. Cookie carnivores, unite!



Bacon Compost Cookies, adapted from Christina Tosi’s recipe from Live with Regis and Kelly

Prep Time: 20 minutes Chill Time: at least 1 hour Bake Time: 9-11 minutes

Special Equipment: Stand mixer. Seriously, you need this.

Makes 15 6 oz cookies.

  • 1 c Butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 c Sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Syrup
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 3/4 c AP Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 c oats (not the quick-cooking variety)
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c peanut butter chips
  • 3/4 c crushed potato chips (use a thick, substantial chip such as a kettle chip for best results)
  • 3/4 c crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 c crumbled bacon pieces

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars, and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

2. On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

3. When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 sec just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

4. On same low speed, add in the chocolate chips, graham crumbs, oats and peanut butter chips and mix for 30-45 sec until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in the chips, pretzels and bacon last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

5. Using a 6 oz ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 1 week. DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

6. Heat oven to 400F. When oven is ready, arrange your chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4″ apart in any direction. Bake 9-11 min. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread. At 9 min the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don’t match up and your cookies stills seem pale and doughy on the surface.

7. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, cookies will keep fresh 5 days. In the freezer, cookies will keep fresh 1 month.


ragu bolognese

Ages ago, a publisher sent me this fantastic book in hopes that I’d do a review or a giveaway. I had every intention of trying a few recipes, snapping some photos, and then putting it up for grabs to you lovely readers. But you see, I kind of can’t let go of it. It’s pretty much become my pasta bible.

Why am I so attached to it? Well, first of all: it’s pretty. Instead of glossy shots of steaming noodles and pots of sauces, there are graphic color blocks in the shapes of different pastas.

Some of them are downright framable.

But the second and most important reason I love this book is that it tells you how to make nearly every type of pasta and every type of sauce known to man (or at least to Italians). You can follow an entire recipe (homemade noodles from scratch, along with its recommended paired sauce), or take it one piece at a time (I’ve been experimenting with sauces and *gulp* buying dry noodles at the store).

I’ll try my hand at homemade gnocchi and tagliatelle one of these days. But for now, I’ll continue making this ragù bolognese like a broken record. It’s that good.

It starts with three meats: pork, beef, and pancetta (I’ve been substituting unsmoked bacon and it works just fine).

Next: onion, diced tomatoes, milk, olive oil, butter, white wine, celery, carrots, garlic and chicken stock (not pictured).

A word of warning about this sauce: it’s not a quick, throw-together at the last minute type of meal. Make it when you’ve got some time to attend to it. The results will be well worth it. Plus, it makes a very large batch and you can freeze half for later.

Begin by dicing the celery, carrots, onion, garlic and pancetta (or bacon).

Saute with the butter and olive oil for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables become tender.

Add the meat in a few batches, taking the time to break up any chunks with your spatula. I use ground meat (unless there is an extremely short line at the butcher counter, in which case I will purchase minced) and it helps if you break up the pieces as small as possible.

Fry for 15-20 minutes, until some crispy browned bits appear.

Deglaze with the wine, then add the milk, chicken stock, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 4 hours.

While cooking, the sauce is going to look something like this. Do not be afraid. It’s more of an oil-based sauce (I know, I know—when you think ragu you think thick and tomato-ey, but this is a traditional version), and it’s not the prettiest to look at, but boy does it make up for it in taste.

When the 4 hours is up, adjust the seasoning one last time. Cook your favorite noodles (the recipe calls for tagliatelle but I had fettuccine on hand. I’m probably breaking some sacred Italian rule of sauce pairing but hey, I’m a rebel) and saute with a little bit of the sauce and a tiny bit of pasta water.

This may be the perfect Sunday supper. A warm, crusty bread, a green salad, and a steaming bowl of bolognese with parmesan on top? Heaven.

Enjoy. And if you’re looking to expand your pasta repertoire, I can’t recommend this book enough. And it’s not because I got it for free—everything I have made from it has been genuinely fantastic. And that’s why I can’t bear part with it.


Below is the original recipe, and here are my substitutions:

  • ground meat, not minced
  • beef, not veal
  • unsmoked bacon in place of pancetta
  • no chicken livers (duh)
  • fettuccine instead of tagliatelle (I have also used pappardelle and rigatoni; both of which work well)
  • I find that it serves more like 10 than 8. I like to freeze half of the sauce and we get two dinners out of the other half (this is Lucy’s favorite pasta, by the way).


Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese from The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy

This sauce is a million miles from the “Bol” that we Brits like to serve with pasta, which is about as close to the real McCoy as our chile con carne is to a true version. It is orange, not red; it is more oil-than water-based; it is delicate, creamy, aromatic and subtle. This is one of many recipes where the cooking technique is as important to the finished dish as the ingredients–buy best-quality pancetta and Parmesan, spend as much money as you can afford on the eggs and flour for your pasta (or the packaged tagliatelle), and the few pennies remaining on the other ingredients. There are words to describe how good this is, but they shouldn’t appear in print…

Serves 8

  • 1 3/4 pounds dried, or 2 1/4 pounds fresh, tagliatelle
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan, to serve

Ragù Bolognese

  • 1 lb minced pork
  • 1 lb minced veal (or beef)
  • 3 1/2 oz chicken livers (optional)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 7 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 oz pancetta (not smoked), cut in strips
  • 1 1/3 c white wine
  • 2 1/4 c milk
  • 14 oz canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 c beef or chicken stock (optional; otherwise an additional 1 c milk)

It is worth having the butcher mince the meats coarsely (1/3 inch thick) for the improved texture. Peel and dice the carrot, dice the celery, chop the onion, and slice the garlic.

Take a very wide frying pan (12″) and melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and pancetta along with a good pinch of salt, and saute for 10-15 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high and add the meat in 4-5 additions, allowing time for any water to evaporate, stirring and breaking up any lumps with a spoon. After the last addition, wait until the pan starts to sputter slightly, then decrease the heat to medium and fry, stirring occasionally, until the meat has browned with a fair portion of crispy bits—about 15-20 minutes. Deglaze with the wine, then transfer to a saucepan along with the milk, tomatoes and stock as well as a good grinding of pepper and more salt to taste. Cook at a very low simmer, uncovered, for about 4 hours until the sauce is thick, more oil-than water-based (add a little stock or water if it dries too much or too quickly). When ready, the liquid will be as thick as heavy cream and, stirred up, the whole should be somewhat porridgy. Adjust the seasoning one last time.

The addition of bay and/or dried red pepper flakes along with the meat is heretical, if not displeasing.

Heat the ragù in a frying pan with a little pasta water. Drain the boiled pasta when marginally undercooked, then add to the sauce to finish cooking for about 20 seconds, with some butter. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.


hot-button foods: the results

Thank you everyone for taking the most hated foods quiz! If you missed it, you can still check it out right here.

I learned a lot from peeking at your answers. Namely that anchovies aren’t as hated as I thought, liver is exactly as hated as I thought, and us licorice loathers come thisclose to eking out a victory over the Red Vine eaters.

Read through the full results below! Oh, and above is a picture of my husband’s butt. Because I can.


1. Cilantro

A) Love it! 78%!

B) Tastes like dish soap. 21%


2. Maple Syrup

A) Only the real stuff for me. 51%

B) Pass the Mrs. Butterworth’s, please! 49%

I’m in the Mrs. Butterworth’s crowd. Sorry, relatives in Vermont.


3. Tomatoes

A) Gross. 3%
B) Only if they’re cooked in a sauce or disguised in some way. 19%

C) Raw, cooked—bring ‘em on! 77%


4. Anchovies

A) Not with a ten-foot pole. 30%

B) In sauces/salad dressings I don’t mind. 54%

C) Love those little salty buggers. 14%

My dad makes a killer Caesar with lots of anchovies in the dressing. I’ll post the recipe soon.


5. Liver

A) Isn’t that the part of the body that processes…umm, yeah. Not for me. 88%

B) It’s a delicacy, yo! 12%

I was forced to eat a fried chicken liver in Indiana once. It tasted like excrement. I’m still in recovery.


6. Raisins

A) Nope. 17%

B) Raw, but not baked in stuff. 19%

C) Baked in stuff but not raw. 9%

D) I’ll eat them any way you give em to me. 53%


7. Nuts

A) Nope. 1%

B) Some types are okay. 23%

C) I’m allergic. 3%

D) I love eating nuts! 71%


8. Spicy Foods

A) The more stars the better! 36%

B) Moderate spice is okay. 53%

C) I can’t handle it. 10%


9. Artificial Sweeteners

A) Sipping Diet Coke as we speak. 19%

B) Sometimes. Depends on what it is. 45%

C) No way. Only real sugar will do. 34%

I’m with the majority on this one. Diet soda? Sometimes. But Splenda for baking? Blasphemous.


10. Licorice (and/or fennel or anise flavors)

A) Red Vines are like crack. 51%

B) Yuck. 49%

A few more votes and we could have won! C’mon, people!


11. Brussels Sprouts

A) Yum! 57%

B) Too green and…brussely. 43%


12. Cottage Cheese

A) Kind of reminds me of puke. 30%

B) Love it. 70%

I have to admit I had no idea cottage cheese was such a turnoff for some people! I guess the texture can be a little…off-putting. But it tastes great.


13. Fish and Seafood

A) No way. Too…fishy. 8%

B) Some types are okay. 34%

C) Love me some fish! 56%


14. Tofu

A) Mushy blocks of white pasty gunk? No thank you. 56%

B) I love mushy white blocks of pasty gunk! 43%

For more difficult test questions I used to write clues for my 7th graders within the answers. I think you can tell which way I fall on this one.


15. Coffee

A) Yuck. 14%

B) I’ll drink it if no other source of caffeine is available. 12%

C) I love coffee! I looooove it! I need it! Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. 73%


16. Eggs

A) Nope. 6%

B) Any way but hardboiled. 9%

C) Love eggs. Love. 83%


17. Mushrooms

A) Fungus? Nope. Don’t think so. 23%

B) Only if they’re the “magic” kind. 4%

C) Shrooms make my heart sing. 72%


18. Raw and/or undercooked meat

A) The rarer the better. 26%

B) A little pink is okay. 56%

C) Charred, please. 14%


19. Onions

A) Make me cry with joy. 59%

B) Okay if cooked in things (sauces, soups, etc.) 37%

C) Make me cry. Period. 2%


20. Mayonnaise

A) Goopy, fatty white junk? No thanks. 26%

B) Okay if in salad dressings, potato salad, etc. but not spread on a sandwich. 18%

C) Goopy, fatty white junk? Bring it! 56%

Praise be to Best Foods. And Paula Deen.


21. Peas

A) Remind me of the Exorcist. 12%

B) Are little green dots of yum. 87%


22. My husband’s butt

A) Super fine. 100%

By a landslide.


Thanks again everyone for participating! It was fun! And educational. And hilarious. And totally like a Cosmo quiz except not about sex.

Okay, it was about sex if you have a dirty mind.


hot-button foods

I know you’ve got a list of foods you just don’t like. Mine includes licorice (or anything with fennel or anise), scallops, and octopus. My husband won’t touch celery, ginger, or cilantro. My brother prefers to keep a safe distance from tomatoes. And my father-in-law (a.k.a. the human garbage disposal) will eat anything but liver.

Most foods that turn us off induce the gag reflex for lots of others, too. So in the name of science I’ve come up with a fun (short, anonymous) quiz to see which foods really make us run for the hills. Give it a spin and I’ll post the stats soon! Also, if you think I’ve missed some important hurl-generating food, leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the quiz.

Have fun!