I’ve been wanting to try this recipe all summer. Several of my favorite blogs had posted it over the past couple of months and everyone raved about it. We had it for dinner earlier this week, and I can finally say I see what all the hype was about. It’s great because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand, so I could see it being a “go to” meal when other dinner plans did not pan out for whatever reason (which happens fairly often around here). I also have an over abundance of fresh oregano and marjoram in my herb garden right now that I’m trying to use up before we get our first frost in a month or so.

The dish was a breeze to put together. I did make a few changes from the original recipe. Since Hurricane Irene pretty much did away with the vegetable garden, I had to buy cherry tomatoes…and, they just weren’t the best. They diddn’t release very much liquid when they burst open, so I added some vermouth to help compensate and deglaze the pan. It imparted a definite flavor into the pan sauce, which wasn’t a bad thing. However, I felt like it distracted from the flavor of the tomatoes a bit. I’m looking forward to trying this dish again soon with some better quality tomatoes. I would play it by ear, and if you feel like you need a little more liquid, add a splash of white wine.

Did you know that September is National Mushroom Month? I didn’t. It seems as if every day of every month is a different National Food  Holiday.  I figured with the slight chill of Fall in the air… what is a better way to welcome it than a delicious soup?

There is this fabulous little carryout place here called Sea Star Cafe. The owners are there, everyday, churning out wonderful sandwiches and homemade soups. They are very small, but take a ton of pride in what they offer. Most items are cold sandwiches. There’s usually one “special” that is a hot sandwich, their Cuban is to die for! And, there is usually 2 or 3 soups that rotate on a daily basis. One of my favorite soups is mushroom-brie bisque. I’m not a huge fan of mushroom (love the flavor, hate the texture), so I stayed away from it for years. One day my girlfriend had gotten it with her lunch, and I stole a bite. I was hooked!

I was also pregnant at the time, so as luck would have it, I developed a craving for this soup. Sea Star closes for a few months in the off-season, and I had to come up with a version I could make at home. I’ve played around with a couple of batches since last fall and think I’ve finally got it!

This soup is rich, silky, and delicious. It’s also a breeze to make. I made it for a lunch date with a girlfriend. Even with an infant and a toddler to look after, I didn’t break a sweat getting everything ready. So easy! I  think the wedge of brie, as opposed to the small wheel, is better for this application. It seemed to melt down better. Next time around I might try a Camembert cheese, switch things up a bit! I hope everyone is as ready for Fall as I am. Enjoy!

We always plant a garden in our backyard in the summertime. The tomato and pepper harvests seem to vary from year to year, but the one vegetable I can always count on to have an over abundance all season long is green beans. They’re easy to grow, easy to take care of, and they just keep giving and giving. Will enjoyed plenty of them in his baby food this summer, and we love to enjoy them simple steamed or sautéed with a bit of olive oil and garlic. Even with eating them two or three times a week with dinner, I STILL always have more than I know what to do with. Enter the dilly bean. I started canning them 2 or 3 years ago now, and they’re always a favorite around our house. While we’re fans of pretty much anything pickled in this house – dilly beans really stand apart from your “standards”. They are packed with wonderful dill flavor. So crispy and delicious. You can also pig out on the whole jar, and don’t have to feel that guilty about it. Try them as a garnish for your next Bloody Mary, instead of a boring stalk of celery!

Pickled items are a great introduction to canning because you don’t need a ton of special equipment, and due to the high acidity of the brine – it’s virtually impossible for any bacteria to survive. Things like botulism, I hear they are not so good. At any rate, feel free to play around with the spice combinations. The only thing you want to adhere to for certain would be the water/vinegar/salt ratio.

I’ve always been a firm believer in pork cuts in a tomato sauce. It adds an unbelievable richness and depth of flavor that cannot be attained with simply beef. But, to make a proper “gravy”, it’s an all day process. Browning the sausage, beef, and pork. Sauteing the onions and tomato paste, reducing down the sauce for-ever. Delicious, but time consuming.

My mom always made spaghetti sauce to use up leftover ham. Apparently, her mother opted to use ham in her sauce as well. It’s delicious, easy, and a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill spaghetti sauce using ground beef. Since I’ve got a house full of boys, I opt to add ham as well as ground beef. But, feel free to make the recipe using exclusively ham. Great way to use up those Easter leftovers!