A Summer Relish

Sarah DuensingMy brother Joe caught some nice bass at my parents this past weekend and we went home with a few fillets. The normal procedure is to beer batter and fry them, but I thought I might try something a little different. I marinated the fillets for a few hours in a little vinegar, dill (tiny sprigs are just coming up in the garden), and minced onion. Then I made a relish with the left over dill and onion, tomato, cucumber, avocado, vinegar and salt and pepper. I baked the fish and I can’t say that that was better then beer batter but the relish was so nice and light and it just got better after is sat in the fridge overnight. I have been eating it over goat cheese on toast with a poached egg these last couple mornings. Sorry no pictures–you will just have to imagine its deliciousness.

Here is my best guesstimate of what I put in:
1/4 of an onion, minced
1/2 a medium cucumber, diced
1 T fresh dill, minced
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/2 a med tomato, chopped
2 T white vinegar (maybe a little more)
salt and pepper to taste

Play with it and see what you think!

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Bread….better with beer.

Sarah DuensingI am not usually a hoppy beer drinker–I know, all the cool kids are doing it, but it just isn’t for me. I think it might be my overdeveloped sweet tooth. The bitter just isn’t pleasing. But no matter, I still like to try new things and last last weekend I found myself at Dublin O’Neil’s for a pre St. Patrick’s day boxty and smoked salmon and I branched out. I asked for a taster of Two Brothers Northwind imperial stout! I was thinking that I ought to partake of an Irish brew, but I like the idea of food and drink that doesn’t have to travel around the world to get to me. This is not a hard and fast rule–more of a guideline. I am more than a little partial to French cheeses and books from amazon. Warrensville, Illinois is basically a suburb of Chicago, so not around the corner from Champaign, but at least I could drive there without too much trouble. Plus, I really like their Ebel’s Weiss.

yummy beer bread ingredients go here
I was blown away! It was full and thick and a little sweet and not at all bitter. It is smooth and more than a little pleasant! So I had one with lunch and on the way home I stopped at the grocery and bought a six-pack (for $10.99 or something insane like that–can I just soap box for a sec–shouldn’t local products cost less since they don’t have to travel as far?! sheesh.) But I was happy with it and another one in I decided to make this chedder bacon beer bread with the stout (from a teenager’s blog)! oh em gee! It makes one loaf and that loaf must weigh 8 pounds. It was all dark and dense and delicious.

fiinished beer bread
I have a family beer bread recipe that I have made over the years, but it calls for a stick of melted butter to pour over it and though it is quite nice, it’s just a little too much. You actually have to turn the bread to prevent the butter from settling on the bottom. This one is much better.

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Pasta, Pasta, Pasta!!!

Guest blogger: Joseph Bookwalter
joe bookwalter

I recently bought a bright red imperia pasta maker at an estate sale, I have always wanted one, and 30 bucks seemed pretty reasonable to me. This purchase has lead to pasta gluttony!

Making your own noodles is very easy, quite inexpensive and best of all, simply delicious. Your store-bought pasta is a mix of flour and water and maybe a bit of oil. Your homemade pasta is a rich combination of flour, a little kosher or sea salt, a smav of nutmeg, olive oil and eggs. The combination makes a dense, hearty treat that fits well with beef and mushrooms, smoked turkey and veggies, pesto or a quick mix of butter, anchovies, garlic, capers, parsley and red pepper flakes.

You could feed yourself for weeks with what you already have in your pantry and this simple recipe of hand-made noodles. The combinations are literally endless

Start with a great foundation and anything can be constructed.

combine ingredients

This recipe is made with all-purpose unbleached flour and a bit of semolina, a durum wheat that is high in gluten and perfect for pastas. You roll it out with more semolina to keep it from sticking. If you have whole wheat, “00” super fine, or even fine-ground cornmeal you can experiment with different combinations and tastes.

Here goes:
1 ½ cups a-p unbleached flour
2 T semolina flour
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 t salt
2 t olive oil
a good few shavings fresh nutmeg (if you don’t have fresh nutmeg, I am sad, but continue anyhow!)


Now get dirty. Mix the ingredients with your fingers until it starts to come together. Pay attention to the dough as you mix it. If it is too moist, add a little flour. If it feels good to go, discard any lumps of dough and flour in the bowl. Kneed this mixture until it is slightly elastic, adding a little flour when it gets sticky. It should be smooth and hold its form. Sprinkle some flour or semolina on the counter cover dough with plastic wrap and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

almost there!

Now, for the fun part. Get out your pasta roller and secure it to something sturdy. You can use the roller handle to gain a little leverage on that sucker. Flour the surface well. Cut off a chunk about the size of a deck of cards and press it evenly flattened and fairly thin. Open the pasta roller to its largest opening, 1-6, 1 being the thickest and roll the dough through. Flour if needed, which you will. Fold the dough in half, pressing out any air and re-roll. Flour if needed, probably will, click one space down and roll. Fold in half and roll again. From here on out, I simply roll, flour, go down a size, roll, flour and down a size. You will have to, at some point, cut the pasta sheet into manageable sizes, in half, or thirds. Flour and set aside. Continue rolling to your desired thickness, usually #5, or for nice thin noodles, go down to #6.

At this point, figure out how you want to cut them. Lay on the counter and either leave in sheets for lasagna or ravioli, cut 1 inch thick for a pappardelle, or crank through the fettuccine cut on your pasta machine attachment.

The noodles can air dry for a while on the counter or use a coat hanger and hand dry them.

Boil water with a little salt. Cook until done being careful not to boil over. Toss with your sauce and heat through.

Be sure to warm your serving bowls, plate, garnish and serve with crunchy bread or my mother’s gooey garlic bread.

As simple as this process is, you will get better, and faster at making your own pasta with time and patience.

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Curried Tur(duck)key Soup

Sarah DuensingDue to a Lenten sacrifice of reading (with the exception of cookbooks and travel books,) I have been exploring old recipes and finding cookbooks that I’ve never even opened! I know I’m not the only one. In one called “Maine Ingredients” I found a soup recipe that I knew my son would love. While the weather can’t decide if it is winter or spring here in east-central Illinois, I am certain that it is still soup time.

Ingredients: (serves 6)
6 cups turkey stock (I only had duck stock)
1 cup peeled and chopped apples
1 large onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1cup buttermilk
1 cup cooked diced turkey


  • Simmer stock, apples, onion, salt and curry for 30 minutes.


  • Purée in blender. Add garlic powder, buttermilk and meat to the stock. Heat just to the boiling point, but do not allow to come to a full boil.

Curried Turkey Soup

Truth be told I have been making the cheater version of this with canned chicken noodle, diced apples, and curry—minus the puréeing part.

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soupe de poireaux artichauts aux champignons

The first party I ever planned and hosted was for my college graduation from Indiana University. I still have the grocery and prep list tucked in the cookbook where I found the following recipe for “Goose soup” I don’t even understand why it was called that. So in an obvious attempt to sound hoity and french I call it, “soupe de poireaux artichauts aux champignons” cuz that’s what I think Julia would do. Honestly, I can’t even say that–at least not with my dignity intact.

It is a recipe that I have gone back to again and again because it is so easy and delicious. I made it just last weekend. It is the soup time of year.


8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 med leek, sliced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 quart chicken broth
1 can artichokes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
few shakes of tabasco sauce
1/2 pint whipping cream (or half & half)

Saute mushrooms and leeks in butter over medium heat until tender.


Add flour, stirring until smooth.


Slowly add broth, stirring constantly. Add next 6 ingredients. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add cream and heat slowly until warm.


Serves 4

It is, in fact, better after it has been in the fridge overnight. I eat most for lunch in the following days–and that includes today!

Stay warm out there!

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Pizza Thursday

At our house we have been making pizza on Thursdays for…a few years now! Wow. That qualifies as a tradition, right?  I originally got a dough recipe online, but I have adjusted it so many times that I can’t remember the original and I now claim it as my own. I hope that is okay. I have given it out to every member of my family at one time or another and they all think it’s mine!

As with all things, the more you do something, the easier it becomes, and that is certainly true of pizza dough. At first it seemed a wee bit time consuming so we would occasionally order delivery, but the last time we did that we were irritated by the hour and a half wait, plus the expense(!), and limited topping choices. For pennies and a small investment of time, you can make your own dough and top it with anything you like.

Google for “highest margin on food”–pizza is right up there with soda and pasta. –“A medium pizza from any one of The Big Three chains costs about $2.60 to make. That comes to 25 cents for the dough, $2 for the cheese, and 35 cents for the sauce. Even if you go all the way up to a large with everything, you’re looking at a cost of about $4 to $4.50. Compare these to the retail pricing, and you’re basically getting robbed!”

About an hour before you want to eat combine:
3 cup flour (whatever you have)
1 TBS yeast
1 tsp salt
1 + a smidge TBS olive oil
1 – a smidge TBS honey
1 ½ cups lukewarm water (105º-115º)
–in a mixer or a large bowl, mix until you have a slightly sticky mass, then kneed for 2 minutes more. In my kitchen aid the whole thing takes 6 minutes!
–Transfer dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and place in a slightly warmed oven that is turned off.
Let the dough rest. This can be for 5 minutes or for up to an hour. The longer the better.
–Remove dough from oven and pre-heat oven to 500º
–Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll out to the desired size. I usually have to stretch mine a bit to make it fit nicely.
–Top with sauce, toppings, cheese, whatever your heart desires.
–Bake for 10 min in a 500º oven.
–Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.


This is half of the dough that the above recipe makes.

It is so EASY!


  • on a warm spring day, grill the dough for a few minutes on each side, top and then return to the grill to let the cheese melt. Make sure the grill it HOT!
  • make deep dish by using a 9×13 pan
  • double the recipe and freeze half for next week (freeze in a large zip lock bag). The morning you want to make it, place the bag with the frozen dough in the oven to thaw. When you are ready to make dinner in the evening it will be all thawed and poofy. roll out and add toppings.
  • divide dough for individual pizzas for a child’s birthday
  • add rosemary
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Super Bowl dessert

Around the time the Bears won the super bowl in ’86 we denominated “super bowl dessert.” Our family watched the game each year with our neighbors, The Fultz’s, and Brenda always brought the dessert. It was quite a novelty for my brothers and I at the time. We were allowed very little in the way of junk food, of which my mother classified soda, marshmallow fluff, and cool whip–all things that we desperately wanted to eat.

I am guessing you have seen or eaten a version of this layered dessert at some point:

1st Layer
1 c. flour
1/2 c. nuts
1/2 c. butter, melted
Pat into 9×13 pan and baked at 350 for 10 min

2nd Layer
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. whipped cream ( Cool Whip)
Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until blended.  Fold in the whipped cream.

3rd Layer
2 pkg. instant chocolate pudding
2 c milk
1 t. vanilla
Beat 2 min. on low speed

More whipping cream and chopped nuts.

Make ahead and refrigerate.

It has been many years since I have had super bowl dessert, but I am seriously considering resurrecting this. I think it will pair beautifully with the mozzarella sticks and guacamole that my son wants. Maybe I’ll add venison sliders and chicken wings to this budding menu. Pop open a can of cold Coors Light and it’s a party!!

Remember the Super bowl shuffle!? hee hee

Trivia: Who played the national anthem for the super bowl that year?
I only remember because I fell in love with a trumpeter that day.

No matter what you make, have fun gathering and watching the game with family and friends!

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