Monthly Archives: January 2007

January Centerpiece of the Month

One of the food blogging events that I’m just becoming aware of is the Centerpiece of the Month event, hosted by Janelle of


This has actually been my centerpiece for a while – my decorating style is primarily Tuscan/traditional, and I like the flowers because they bring some softness to all that iron and wood. Also, I love candles, and when lit, the tealights add a soft glow to the room in addition to making it smell great.

Still not sure what I’m going to do for February yet, any ideas?


“Two Meals in One” Bolognese Sauce

Like I said, this month has been all about the convenience factor for me. I’ve been too under the weather to do any major cooking, so even my attempts at home were semi-homemade at best.

Case in point, this lasagna:


I doctored up some jarred Ragu to make the Bolognese sauce, and used egg pasta sheets from the fresh aisle at Whole Foods. I’m sure that everyone reading has made lasagna before, so I’m just going to give you the recipe for the Bolognese. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m just glad that I finally got the opportunity to break in my new Emile Henry lasagna pan.

Shortcut Bolognese Sauce

2 jars Ragu (Marinara or Meat, your choice)
2 large onions, diced
2 sweet peppers (red or green), diced
1 stick Margherita pepperoni, diced
5 carrots, diced
1/2 lb. loose Sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp. olive oil

Saute veggies in olive oil until they begin to soften, and then add meat – saute until browned. Drain fat, and then deglaze pan with wine and cook over medium heat until it reduces by half. Add tomato sauce, and allow to simmer for at least an hour, but less than two.

So anyway, we had quite a bit of sauce left after making the lasagna, so we waited a couple of days and made the Italian equivalent of pastitsio by cooking and buttering (plus adding Parmesan cheese to) fresh fusilli (we got ours at Jungle Jim’s, but non-Ohioans can also get it on the web on the Isola site.) We placed the already cooked fusilli on the bottom of a casserole dish.


On top of the pasta, we placed the reheated bolognese and sprinkled it with a bit of Parmesan:


And on top, went a very tasty bechamel sauce (we used this recipe, which husband was kind enough to cook PERFECTLY.) We sprinkled this with a little more Parmesan as well.


After about 40 minutes of baking (let it go more if you like the bechamel to get a darker brown), this was the finished product:


Not pretty to look at, but boy did it hit the spot! Like my husband quipped to me tonight, “there’s nothing like having your leftovers generate leftovers.” Too bad I’m too late to get in on the Leftover Tuesdays event.


Sugo di Carne

I’m slowly trying to get caught up on cataloging what I ate in January, and this is the first of what I hope will be quite a few posts over the next few days.

One of my Godsends in January was already prepared (and easy-to-prepare) food. There’s nothing more convenient than getting the husband to stop at the North Market on the way home for some pho or something else yummy. Then, we made this discovery:

Sugo di Carne

If you happen to see Sugo di Carne on display at Pastaria, don’t hesitate to pick up as much as you can, as quickly as you can, as it was delicious, comforting, and a breeze to make into a dinner by mixing it with some bowtie noodles. They rotate their selections, and it’s been showing up once or twice biweekly. Well worth every penny, so much so, that we had them make a special order for us, and froze the leftovers for a later date.

ETA: I’m taking back my recommendation for the Sugo di Carne at Pastaria – they recently changed chefs, and the new version made with pork and lardons is not appetizing to my palate at all. 2/11/07

Friday Roundup 1/26/07

Sorry about the amount of time it’s been since my last post. With the health problems I have, I never know when my condition is going to flare up – when it does, I barely have enough energy to function, let alone cook or go out or even think about eating. I’ve been eating a lot of convenience foods this month, and have only left the house a handful of times. So it ended up turning into an unexpected three week hiatus. But I’m feeling much better and hopefully will get back in the swing of things soon.

I already have a bunch of stuff to post about, since I did manage to cook a couple of meals this past month. Plus I still have to post about December’s Christmas cookies (and here it is almost Valentine’s Day already!)

Tom Barlow posts a nice list of Columbus restaurants that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. Remember to make your reservations early, folks. My husband and I are either going to celebrate on the weekend before or after, or maybe go out of town to a bed and breakfast or something. Haven’t decided yet.

Interesting reading. I’ve been made aware that the Columbus Health Department’s inspection reports for local restaurants are now online. I have to say, I was honestly surprised. Places that I thought would pass with flying colors had some severe deficiencies, while some I expected to have a nightmare record had no problems whatsoever. I can’t put too much stock in that, though. I’ve spent my time in the restaurant industry. If I think too hard about that stuff, I’d never go out to eat again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lisa the Restaurant Widow waxed poetic about one of my favorite local meat shops, Thurns. And then graced us with a wonderful recipe for Knackwurst and Kraut to use up those purchases. This place is the greatest – I went after Rosie did a great writeup of the place and mentioned it when we had dinner.

If you haven’t been yet, don’t hesitate for a second to go. It’s one of Columbus’ hidden treasures. You’ll thank yourself as soon as you walk in and the smoky smell hits you in the face. ๐Ÿ™‚ Word of warning, though – they don’t take plastic, so make sure you have cash or your checkbook with you if you go.

So Dispatch readers think Bob Evans has the best breakfast? Oy. Not to pooh pooh the opinion of Dispatch readers…but Bob Evans?? I think my mission this year is to convince my visitors to go outside of their comfort zone a bit and try some non-chain restaurants. One of these days I’ll do a post on the best breakfasts in town, and believe me — Bob Evans is not on that list. The Northstar Cafe definitely is. ๐Ÿ™‚

This week’s poll question is about one of my favorite subjects – chocolates and sweets. They want to know who has the city’s best sweetheart treats? No surprise here, for me it’s Pure Imagination all the way! Cast your vote by Monday to enter to win a $25 gift card from one of the winning restaurants.

Lots of recipes and stuff to list here, since it’s been a few weeks since my last roundup.

Savory recipes I’ve earmarked to try (and there’s a ton of them, bear with me!) are Zuppa Toscana from the Columbus Dispatch, Cauliflower Soup with Gorgonzola from 101 Cookbooks, Red Potato, Turkey Sausage, and Kale Soup from A Fridge Full of Food, Red Wine Beef Stew with Lentils and Whisky from Anne’s Food, Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts, Shiitakes and Scallions from Bay Area Bites, Troffiete in a Spicy Tomato-Bacon Sauce from Blue Lotus, Chicken Pot Pie from Chez Megane, Cauliflower Gratin from Chocolate & Zucchini, Frikadellen from Cookin’ with Cyndi, Cheesy Grits and Eggs from Copperpots, Spiced Honey Chicken Tagine from Cucina Bella, Zucchini Souffle from The Culinary Chase, Bread Dumpling Soup from Eat, Macaroni and Cheese with Buffalo Chicken from Fancy Toast, Sesame Marinated Steak on Spinach and Soba Noodles from Coconut & Lime, Ricotta and Herb Dumplings from Fresh Approach Cooking, Leek Fritters from Gluten-Free By the Bay, Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast from Kalyn’s Kitchen, Macaroni Gratin from Leite’s Culinaria, Individual Sausage and Egg Casseroles from Little Spatula, Beef Braised in Red Wine with Creamy Polenta from Lox, Stock and Barrel, Black Summer Truffle Penne from Morsels & Musings, Linguica Chili from Slashfood, Tarocco Orange Chicken ala Panda Express from Rubber Slippers in Italy, Caramelized Onion Quiche and Greek Meatballs from Simply Recipes, Gulaschsuppe and Pork Fillet with Sherry Sauce and Polenta Flans from thepassionatecook, andย Cheese Dumplings in Chicken Broth from What Did You Eat?

In sweet recipes, I’m bookmarking Creme Brulee for Two from A cat in the kitchen, Chocolate Nut Truffle from Anne’s Food, Chocolate Custard Tart with Homegrown Raspberries from Bron Marshall, Guinness Stout Brownies and Small Batch Chattanooga Chew Chews from Cookie Madness, Chocolate Walnut Tart with Cajeta from crispy waffle, Sticky Buns from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Sables au chocolat et a la fleur de sel from foodbeam, Simple Mixed Berries Gratin from La Tartine Gourmand, andย Chocolate Crepe Cake by masak-masak.

In informative posts, the Columbus Dispatch instructs us on how to roast garlic, Anthony from Bachelor Cooking shows us how to make homemade paneer, Helen from Beyond Salmon shows us how to make pasta dough, Calendula & Concrete present us with a nifty link to an online tool for planning a vegetable garden, Chez Pim gives us a primer on Pad Thai for beginners, Brys of Cookthink tells us how to prep (and use) avocados, Katerina from Daily Unadventures in Cooking shows us how to clean a spice grinder or coffee grinder and how to use lemongrass, and Slashfood talks about freezing fresh herbs.

In other news, Frank Bruni checks in on the subject of photography in restaurants. Now, I’m approaching this from a purely food photography perspective, and will be the first to admit that I’m one of these fools who uses a flash (if I don’t, my pictures don’t come out with my crappy point and shoot digital camera). I try to be considerate, and go at times other than when it’s busy, or be seated away from other people, etc. But I’m finding that I’m not taking as many pictures as I used to because I don’t want to be perceived as rude. I think I need to stop being so paranoid – it’s not like I set up a photo shoot in the dining room or use a tripod or make the wait staff pose or anything. And really, is it that much different than taking a shot of the people at the table? I usually only take one shot, two tops of each dish. What’s your take on it? It seems to be a very controversial subject.

Am I the only one surprised that Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s are owned by the same company? Am I the last to know? In retrospect, I can see how their business models are similar. Good to know, since I’m a big fan of both stores.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for sticking around while I’ve been not feeling well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Friday Roundup 1/5/07

Short week for me because I posted a roundup so recently – but still lots of good posts in the few days since then. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last week, Dispatch readers voted the Cheesecake Factory as the best dessert in town – while I agree that they have excellent cheesecake, I would have gone with Pistachio myself. ๐Ÿ™‚ This week, they’d like your vote on the best Japanese food in Columbus. Voice your opinion by Monday to enter to win a $25 restaurant gift card.

This week, the recipes I’ve kept to try at a later date are Hoppin’ John from A Mingling of Tastes, Walnut and Chocolate Rugelach from Alpineberry, Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta from Chez Mรฉgane, Meatballs in Saffron-Almond Sauce from Chicken Fried Gourmet, Drunken Pasta from Cream Puffs in Venice, Curry Chicken and Broccoli Casserole from Cumin & Coriander, Pasta with Swiss Chard and Onion from dinner for one, Meyer Lemon Bites from Erin’s Kitchen, Fondue Mac and Cheese from Married…with Dinner, and Beef Bourguignon from Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow.


In educational posts, this week, Brys at Cookthink shows us how to prep (and use) fennel, and Food Chronicles gives us a primer on spices, and Kathryn from Limes & Lycopene shows us what five servings of vegetables actually looks like, and in the same vein, Megnut shows us what 200 calories of food looks like. Definitely enlightening.

To say that this post from a fellow foodie pissed me off is an understatement. Why don’t you just round us all up and ship us off to an island where you don’t have to see us like they used to do with the lepers? I’m not a waitress, but don’t care if my waitperson is fat/skinny/whatever, as long as they are friendly and competent.

I’m having refrigerator lust over Sylvie’s new fridge. When I finally get around to remodeling my kitchen, that’s the model I want. Definitely. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was just over at Trader Joe’s a couple of days ago, and I didn’t see these! I want some, but don’t want to make a special trip to TJ’s to get them because I know I’ll end up leaving with way more than those…

Until next week, folks…

Mac-n-Cheese Off: Right off the Back of the Mueller’s Box

Kevin from Seriously Good put out the call for a one-off event in honor of macaroni and cheese.

When it comes to macaroni and cheese, I’ll be the first to admit – I’m an old traditionalist. While I enjoy the myriad of ways to prepare mac and cheese, my old standby is off the back of a box, jazzed up a bit (only for me), because I happen to enjoy the flavor of truffles.

New Year's Day Dinner

That’s right – my favorite mac and cheese (plebian as it is) is off the back of an old Mueller’s box, jazzed up on my plate with a sprinkle of truffle salt. Fantastic. Paired with some excellent artisan smoked ham from City Barbecue, and some Italian green beans simmered with bacon and onion, it made a lovely dinner this New Year’s Day.

Mueller’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard (optional)
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. margarine or butter
2 c. (8 oz) shredded American or Cheddar cheese, divided
8 oz. Mueller’s Elbows (about 2 cups), cooked 5 minutes and drained

In medium saucepan, combine corn starch, salt, dry mustard and pepper; stir in milk. Add margarine. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 3/4 cups cheese until melted. Add elbows. Pour into greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake uncovered in 375 degree oven 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

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