Guest Post: Author Erica Bauermeister offers a Recipe and a Giveaway!

51be1lrnnnl_sl500_aa240_Erica Bauermeister is the author of The School of Essential Ingredients, one of my favorite books so far this year! In my review I stated that my only complaint about this delectable book was the lack of recipes. Erica, taking me seriously, wrote a guest post for me and included a recipe for Tom’s Pasta Sauce. Thank you, Erica, for the guest post and the wonderful recipe.. I can’t wait to try it!! Maybe I’ll make it for the hub on Valentine’s Day.. hmmmm.

The idea for The School of Essential Ingredients came from a cooking class I took in Seattle, but the approach that Lillian, the chef/teacher in the novel, has toward food came from my experience of living in Italy for two years. While I was there I learned to see food as a conversation between ingredients rather than a lock-step set of rules I needed to follow. At first, that dialogue between ingredients felt as if it, too, was in a foreign language along with the Italian, but over time I learned to relax, to immerse myself in the flavors and textures of the ingredients, to worry less about using recipes. In short, I learned to play with my food.

droppedimageAnd what I learned is that cooking is a very forgiving activity. Switching out one ingredient for another is a creative act, not a destructive one. Coming out from behind the protective wall of a recipe allows us to come into closer contact with the food itself. Thinking of a recipe as an ice-breaker, a conversation starter, opens up endless possibilities.

So here’s a recipe to get you started, because in her review Lisa asked for one so very nicely. A bit of background: Tom is a bit of a mystery to the other characters in The School of Essential Ingredients, who know only that he carries with him a deep and personal sorrow. It is Lillian, the cooking teacher, who instinctively knows that participating in the creation of a pasta sauce from scratch will be one way to help him heal.

I offer this recipe with the hope that you will feel invited/directed/inspired to experiment. What would happen, for example, if you grated some orange peel into your sauce? Or used chicken sausage, or ground lamb with a bit of fresh rosemary? How might those bursts of creativity affect the life of someone you love?

Tom’s Pasta Sauce

Note: For best results, use Knorr’s extra-large soft chicken bouillon cubes.
Crush the whole tomatoes in a food processor, or chop them finely by hand.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 extra-large soft chicken bouillon cube (see note)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup red wine
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed (see note)
1 cup tomato sauce (more if you want)
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne pasta
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-low heat until bubbles form. Crush the half bouillon cube into the oil and mix thoroughly. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until translucent.

2. Add ground sausage, increase heat to medium, and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add milk and simmer until absorbed. (Don’t worry if it looks strange at first; the milk will mellow the wine and make for a wonderful, lush sauce.) Add wine, reduce heat to low, and simmer until wine is absorbed. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-3 hours, covered if you want a rich, but slightly thinner sauce, uncovered if you want a thicker sauce and the smell to roam through your house.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook penne pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Ladle sauce over pasta; top with grated parmesan cheese if desired, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Do you play with your food? Erica would like to hear about it! She has generously offered three copies of The School of Essential Ingredients to help me celebrate my big 100K hit milestone! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book, all you need to do is send an email by Wednesday, Feb. 18th, to Erica at bookgiveaway@ericabauermeister.com telling her about your favorite dish. She will choose 3 winners from those entries. Please be sure to state in your email that you came from Books on the Brain. Good Luck!

<—–Oh! And please check out my left sidebar for other great 100K Celebration Giveaways!

The Great Sweet Potato Debate

imagesThis year I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner myself.  Usually our only obligation is to show up at my mom’s house with a side dish, a bottle of wine, and a couple of well behaved kids (ha!  THAT is the hard part!) but this year, my mother went and broke her hand (on purpose, perhaps, to get out of making dinner?  Hmmm.) It’s in a cast and it’s making everything difficult for her to manage.  I’m more than happy to make dinner, but it may not be up to my mother’s very high standards.  She will just have to be ok with that!  

So I was at the gym this morning with my good friend Carrie.  Carrie, the perfect hostess.  Carrie, the gourmet cook.  Carrie, who effortlessly throws a sit down Thanksgiving dinner for 25 year after year.  We started talking about Thanksgiving when she said she had this new recipe for sweet potatoes that she was going to try.. something about peeling and cubing and baking.. Huh??  In our family, we open up 3 or 4 cans of Princella sweet potatoes, cook ’em, mash ’em with butter, brown sugar, and hot milk, top ’em with marshmallows and brown them in the oven.  Sweet Jesus, they are to die for.  As I was telling her how they were done in our house, Carrie was mesmerized.  She had never eaten sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  She said something like, “Why marshmallows?”  Seriously, you have to ask?

For me, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the time to get gourmet.  It’s not the time to pull out the cookbooks and try something new, get experimental, or worry about calories or fat content.  It’s a nostalgic time, an opportunity to make all the traditional recipes you’ve had since childhood.  But I suppose every family is different.  Personally I can’t imagine Thanksgiving dinner without sweet potatoes and marshmallows, and I’d be willing to bet that most of middle-America eats them that way.  Am I right?

How do YOU do sweet potatoes?

Random Stuff

A couple of things:

Why do 10 year old girls feel the need to change their clothes 5 or 6 times a day??  And why does something worn for less than an hour need to go in the hamper??  And when can children be reasonably expected to do their own laundry?

Why do 9 year old girls HATE to brush their hair?  And is it a reflection of my parenting skills if I allow her to walk around looking like she was raised by wolves in order to avoid a battle?

Why is there a sudden interest in my review of Loose Girl, a review I wrote back in April?  Can anyone explain why I would have 40+ hits today on that almost 4 month old review??  The book came out June 3rd (not today, not this week).  Why the sudden interest?  Hmmmm.

What’s for dinner?  WHO CARES!!  I’m so sick of hearing this question!!  I’m sick of trying to dream up something new night after night!!  I have such a problem with this in the summer.  We end up eating grilled cheese or hot dogs for lack of inspiration.  So my question to you is, What’s for dinner? Bonus points if you include an easy recipe.

How often do you change the sheets on your bed?  Be honest.  Do real people, with children and multiple beds, really change all the sheets on all the beds every week?  I’m so sick of this chore.  How old do my kids have to be before they can be trained to do it themselves?  

Ok, I’ll stop bitching about stuff now.  Just a reminder- my Queen of the Road giveaway ends tonight.  The Safety of Secrets giveaway started today and goes through August 8th.  Good luck!