Failures and Wins (Apple Cake with Bourbon, Cardamom, and Thyme)

When it comes to cooking and baking, I’m no quitter.  I will try and try again if something doesn’t work out.  In my last post you may have read that I had a terrible day in which most things went horribly wrong.  One of those things was a cake.  I wanted to bake a seasonal cake – something to go with the perfect autumn weather we’ve been having here in the Midwest.

For reasons which befuddle me, the cake was a colossal disaster.  I ended its short life by throwing it, defeated, into the garbage can.  I just don’t get it.  I bake all the time.  I know ratios of flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.  I understand sizes and shapes of cake pans in relation to baking time.  This one just got away from me.

I had an off day.  Cake 1, Sara 0.  But not for long.

Continue reading “Failures and Wins (Apple Cake with Bourbon, Cardamom, and Thyme)”

Hog #50 (Pork Chili)

Going to the market is one of my favorite things.  But so is not going to the market.

I love looking in the fridge and pantry at dinner time and realizing that I have everything I need to make a dish.  Especially after the day I had yesterday.

6:45 a.m. came way too early yesterday and almost everything that happened after the alarm went off wasn’t ideal.  Do you ever have those days when you feel like you’re just one step behind?  Or those days that you should just spend in bed with a good book and a cuddly pet?  Well, that was yesterday.  All.  Day.

The Halloween costumes we ordered were too small.  Like, waaay too small.

I opened our front door on my forehead so hard I saw stars.  Now it’s swollen and starting to bruise.

The cake I baked fell in the middle.  It went in the trash.  Ugh.

Fraudulent charges were made on my credit card.

That was my day.  Luckily, dinner was the easy part.  As you all know, over the summer I bought a quarter of a hog (#50) with my friend Sarah.  Slowly but surely, we’re eating our way through all the porky goodness.

We had one package of ground pork left, and chili was just what the doctor ordered after the day I had.  Chili is one of those dishes when a recipe isn’t really necessary.  You just add what you like or what you have on hand and voila!  Chili!

I went for ground pork, red onions, garlic, vinegar, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, and my favorite spices.  But really, the beauty of chili is that it’s flexible.

So, take a peek in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Here in Nebraska it’s cold and wet outside.  Weather like this demands chili.  Throw it all in a pot, let it simmer away, eat it and forget about your bad day.

You Write What You Eat

I wanted to share with you, dear readers, my first professional food-related writing.  I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to write a restaurant review for The Omaha World-Herald.  The restaurant is called Ponzu Sushi and Grill.

Huge thanks to my dear friend and food writer Sarah Baker Hansen, for the opportunity.  Check out her articles and reviews at The OWH website and also her blog, Omavore.

I look forward to contributing more to my city’s newspaper!



To Conquer the Cookie

Growing up, my mother always seemed to bake the most perfect chocolate chip cookies.  I used to think her success was genetic, as my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies were nothing short of life-changing.  Oh, how wrong I was when I tried to follow in their culinary footsteps.  I absolutely could not bake a decent chocolate chip cookie.

For quite some time, I avoided said cookie at all costs.  I knew inevitably they would be terrible.  They would either spread over the entire surface of the baking sheet or they would cool on the counter into chocolate chip hockey pucks.  Neither option was desirable, to say the least.

No amount of milk could save my cookies.

Continue reading “To Conquer the Cookie”

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

“Less cake, more meat!”

This was the single comment left on my last post.  The post about cake.  I know I post a lot about desserts.  I know this.

As I was writing, this song happened to pop up.  It seems fitting, no?  The great Dizzy Gillespie had it right:  Hey Pete! Let’s Eat More Meat!

So, this post is about meat.  Pork, more specifically.  A few months ago, I drove with my friend Sarah, to a heritage breed hog farm about 75 miles straight south of Omaha.  It’s called TD Niche Pork, and it’s run by a lifelong hog farmer named Travis Dunekacke.  After our visit, Sarah and I decided we’d go in on a hog together.  We each ended up with a quarter of Berkshire Hog #50.

Let me tell you.  There was something strange and equally delicious about having 45 pounds of pork in our deep freezer.  Chops, roasts, bacon, ham steaks, hocks, and even the heart, were tucked neatly in a box and placed with love in our freezer.  That was July, and our stash is dwindling.  Without a doubt, sustainably-raised (and local) pork has a much richer flavor than anything you can get at the grocery store.  I’m on a mission to convert those that have yet to taste the true pork flavor of a happy hog.

Just look at it.  How lovely is that, right?

With this gorgeous 3-pound pork shoulder, I wanted to make sure it had tons of flavor, and I wanted to do something relatively simple with it.  I chose to slather it in garlic, adobo seasoning, and oregano and roast it in the oven for a couple of hours.

The dish is traditionally called Pernil, and it comes from Puerto Rico.  And it was absolutely delicious.  Seriously delicious.  And it made our house smell amazing.

This was the result of two hours in the oven (I apologize for the poor quality of the photo).  It was perfectly cooked and was so tender and juicy.  I chose to chop it up and make small tacos with a red cabbage slaw on top.  I served them with a side of spicy black beans.  Yum.  I plan to use the leftover pork in a chili.  Oh my, I can only imagine how tasty that will be!

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)


One 3-pound, bone-in pork shoulder
4-5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Using a small knife, pierce the pork shoulder in several places, making sure not to go too deep with the knife, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 inches in depth.  Place on plate or synthetic cutting board.

Smash garlic cloves and mince finely.  Sprinkle salt, oregano, and black pepper over the garlic.  Using the flat side of your knife, mash the ingredients into a paste.  If you’re uncomfortable with this method, you can use a food processor or mortar and pestle instead.

In a small bowl, combine the adobo seasoning, olive oil, and white wine vinegar.  Add the garlic/oregano mixture, and stir to combine.

Making sure to get mixture into the slits in the pork, slather the garlic mixture all over.  Wrap the pork shoulder in plastic cling film and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Allow meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Unwrap pork and place, fat side up, in roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.

Roast for at least 2 hours, uncovered.  At that point, using an instant-read thermometer, check the pork.  A thermometer inserted into the center of the pork should read 180ºF.  If not, leave in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.

If your pork is at the correct temperature, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with your favorite side dish, or chop up, squeeze a little lime over it and serve in corn tortillas with slaw and black beans.

Cake Walk

Always with the cake, right?  You’re thinking, “Geez, Sara, do you only bake cakes??  Can’t/won’t you do anything else??”  Of course I will.  But right now, I want to bake cakes.  Lots of them.  All the time.  I want to have a bake sale every day at my house.  Maybe even a cake walk, sort of like musical chairs.  Yes!  That is what I want.

Okay, so the cake you see above is one of two that I made in the same week.  No joke.  It is a brown sugar bundt cake with diced pears (and apples, if you want).  Oh boy.  It was gooood.

Continue reading “Cake Walk”

Most of the Time

“Most of the time…I can handle whatever I stumble upon.”

This song by Bob Dylan came on my iTunes this morning as I was drinking my coffee, alone, in my living room.  I know it’s about a breakup, but that one line really hit home with me. Usually, I can handle whatever comes my way; I can juggle several tasks with ease.  But lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m juggling entirely too many sharp objects.  I just can’t manage to find my rhythm.  Forgive me.

I’ve felt a distinct sense of guilt lately for not posting much on this blog.  The fall semester crept up on me when I wasn’t looking and I fell into reading two novels within the first month of classes.  I have been cooking and musing, believe me.  I have.  And I’ve been taking photos, as well.  I just haven’t placed any of it on the blog.  Here goes, in short form:

I made “shelf” dill pickles, in which I filled the jars with cucumbers, various herbs and spices, and topped them off with the vinegar/water/salt/sugar solution.  At that point, I kept them open (covered with cheese cloth) on the shelf of our pantry for 4 days.  Now, they’re sealed up and in the fridge.

Continue reading “Most of the Time”

One Scoop At A Time – Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream

Wow, you guys.  I am shocked at how long it has been since I’ve posted anything!  I’m super sorry!  I guess I was enjoying my summer off a little too much and time got away from me!

Scott and I went to Florida a couple of weeks ago in order to celebrate our marriage with his side of the family.  We spent time on the beach, in the pool, walking around, eating tons of seafood, and generally enjoying ourselves.  When we returned, we welcomed a new member to our furry family: Truman.

Yeah, he’s totally cute, right?  Well, you can imagine that having a puppy around (with an injured arm) can be quite a handful.  You’d be right!  Not only that, but I’ve also started classes again.  I love the campus in the fall, it’s so beautiful and fresh and new!  I am taking quite a few classes, but I’ll do my best to maintain the blog!  Bear with me.

Continue reading “One Scoop At A Time – Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream”

One Lovely Blog Award!

I was lucky enough to be nominated by Sweet Little Thang for the “One Lovely Blog” Award!  I feel so honored, given that my blog is new(ish) and there are so many beautiful blogs out there!  So, thank you!!

Here are the rules:

1.    Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
2.    Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.
3.    Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire or are inspired by.
4.    Contact your nominees to let them know and link back to them.

Okay, here goes:

1.    I am a newlywed (June 2, 2012)!
2.    I could eat an entire jar of dill pickles in one sitting.
3.    My all-time favorite show is Seinfeld, and I’m sure I could recite pretty much any episode.
4.    I’ve never been to New York City.
5.    I used to live in Paris.
6.    My mother has the most beautiful name, Vivian.
7.    I would love to have a scooter someday.

Blogs I admire or am inspired by:

Seven Spoons


Simply Breakfast

Go Cook Yourself

Always With Butter

Spoon Fork Bacon

Food In Jars

A Periodic Table

Food Loves Writing

Sequel Sequel

Pastry Affair

Cannelle et Vanille

Snazzy Biscuits

Fresh Juice

Fix Me A Snack

Tarte Au Citron et Aux Amandes (Lemon and Almond Tart)

As the saying goes, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.”  Now, I would never claim to have the culinary skills of the venerable Julia Child, but hey, I can imitate, and that’s good enough for me.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Sara, we’ve already seen Julie and Julia, we don’t need to read about your misadventures in cookery.”  But hear me out.  I promise I won’t take you down a self-reflective road of discovery on my way to inner peace; I just want to tell you what I did last weekend.  That’s all.

My very good friends, Sarah and Matthew, are part of a roaming pot-luck group and it was their turn to host last Sunday.  Sarah is a food writer for our local paper and also maintains a blog.  She pointed out to me that Julia Child’s 100th birthday is on August 15th, and she wanted to have a celebratory pot-luck in honor of her; all items were to come from Julia’s own cookbooks.  I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I was instantly rolling recipes around in my head in preparation for the Big Night.

All the makings of a perfect tart crust.

Continue reading “Tarte Au Citron et Aux Amandes (Lemon and Almond Tart)”