Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunrise Bike Rides

Okay, so this is cheating a bit. This image is from last year, around the times the leaves fell. But where I lived this summer, there wasn't anywhere to bike (at least not without risking getting hit by an 18-wheeler, a normal driver, or say, flying road debris) and so now that I'm back, I've started biking again.

My favorite time to bike is in the morning, when the sun is first rising. The bugs aren't out then and most people aren't either (fewer times I have to call out "on your left"). Plus, when I start the day out with a decent bike ride--that is, 12+ miles--then my whole day seems to go better. Of course, I can't pull that off every morning. I have teaching to attend to, or coursework, or just plain needing to get little things done and out of the way. But I think that morning, around sunrise, is one of the best times of the day. I think it's the one reason I look forward to the days getting means that sunrise comes a little later.

I can't possibly be the only person who bikes that looks at this thing. Where do you like to bike and when?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amaretto Marinara

Sorry for the longer than expected delay in getting this posted. I have moved back to school and the weather here is gorgeous so I have been out enjoying it--and before that was the 2 day drive and the packing/unpacking--well, nonetheless, this is the pizza/pasta sauce I wrote about in my previous post.

As with any of these recipes, feel free to adjust the seasonings to your preference. I like my pasta and pizza sauces chunky, but if you don't, just drop the stick blender in and give it a whirl.

Amaretto Marinara

1 teaspoon olive oil
½ large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
4-5 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-oz can tomatoes in sauce (chopped or diced)
2 ounces amaretto liquer
¼ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf (optional)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon original Tabasco sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons black pepper

Saute onions over medium heat in olive oil until they turn lightly golden. Stir in garlic powder and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to cook 4-5 minutes or until most of the water has cooked out of them and the onions are beginning to brown. Add in the tomato paste and the can of chopped or diced tomatoes. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the amaretto and seasonings. Allow to simmer 20-25 minutes (over medium-low to low heat), or until it becomes thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings to preference. Fish out the bay leaf before serving.

Hint: Add a pinch of sugar and then a pinch of salt if the flavor is okay, but a little flat. This will depend somewhat on the brand and style of tomato paste and canned tomatoes you use.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pizza Sauce, Coming Soon!

I've gone to the beach twice in the past three weeks to see a friend who will soon be moving across the country (she's a Marine and being relocated to a new base). I've had a great time both weekends I was down there--cooking, picking blueberries, seeing other friends, playing with her daughter. And while I was down there, we made pizza. She's not a big pizza (or bread) eater and I'm not really either, unless it's socially. But I'm about breaded out right now.

Since she'll be moving soon, I didn't want her to buy a lot of special things just for me to cook with (though it was nice of her to offer) and I didn't want to haul a lot of stuff with me or buy it there. It somehow removes some of the fun when Wal*Mart is right around the corner complete with all the supplies you need. We pretended it wasn't there for the most part.

The first time I made the sauce (which I'll be posting soon), I was flying blind. But a marinara-style sauce really isnt' that difficult as long as you don't have a cold or something else that effects your sense of taste/smell. The key was trying to make sure we got as much as we could, nutrient wise, out of the tomatoes--after all, why make pizza any less nutritionally sound than it already is? Tomatoes have alcohol-soluble nutrients, meaning you need some sort of alcohol (say, red wine) to fully benefit.

For alcohol my options were tequila (three different types, all her husband's), Jagermeister, or amaretto. I chose the amaretto. Its natural sugars combined with the earthy-nutty flavor of the almonds complimented the sauce nicely. Of course, dried oregano and other herbs--plus a lot of onion, garlic, and mushrooms, didn't hurt either!