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Polenta and flowers


Last month, I ended up with a bag of course cornmeal, of which I needed only a half a cup and I was trying to think of something to do with it. My husband whose father's side of the family is Italian, loves polenta so I figured I'd give it a try. I used Alton Brown's recipe, with some modifications and I'd thought I'd share since Leo dubbed it the "best polenta I've ever had." If you like a more traditional flavor, Brown's is excellent. This is just a more robust version.


  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 c finely chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 c coarse ground cornmeal
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 c shredded extra sharp cheddar
  • Olive oil for frying

To taste:

  • salt (used about 1tsp)
  • sambal/chili paste (used about 1.5 Tbs)


  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano divided
  • 1 shallot cut in half
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed but whole
  • thumbnail size piece of parmigiano-reggiano rind if you have any

Preheat oven to 350F

Cook bacon in a dutch oven or other oven-safe saucepan, until crisp and set aside. Remove all but 2 Tbs of the rendered fat. Cook shallots in fat over low heat until translucent. Add garlic, cook until tender. Add broth, bring to a boil, whisk in cornmeal. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook for 36 mins whisking ingredients every 12 minutes. Check for doneness and cook longer, if needed.

While the polenta cooks, chop bacon into small pieces.

Once polenta is cooked and while still hot, stir in butter and allow to melt. Add sambal to taste. Add bacon and cheddar and season with salt as desired, remembering to taste a bite with some bacon to ensure you don't over salt.

Polenta is ready to serve at this point. To get the results in the photo, do the following:

Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9" x 9" cake pan. Pour polenta into cake pan and allow to chill until completely cool. Use the freezer for faster results

While polenta cools, add tomatoes to a small sauce pan, with olive oil, shallot, garlic, 2 sprigs oregano and cheese rind. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove shallot, garlic, oregano and cheese. If the wateriness bugs you, you can cook the tomatoes with the cover off, but I like it and mix it in with the polenta when I eat it.

Once cool, turn onto a cutting board, removing parchment paper. cut into 16 squares by dividing into 4 pieces in each direction. Add olive oil to a non-stick skillet and add polenta, working in smaller batches so as not to crowed. Cook each side until golden brown. Serve on top of tomatoes adding some chopped oregano for garnish.

In the garden

For those of you who don't like polenta, here are some shots from the garden

Hydrangea starting to bloom

Spiral buds of the jasmine

Bowl of Beauty peony

Same bloom, different angle

It's canning time and our local farms have oodles of amazing berries. I started canning last year and one thing I've realized is that I really really hate cleaning old labels off of perfectly good jars and I dislike it enough that I'd rather buy more jars than reuse the existing ones. Madness. And frankly, my handwriting is nothing to write home to mom.

hand written labels
You should see how bad it is when I'm not trying to write neatly

It wasn't until I was putting together a selection of goodies for father's day, that I hit upon a solution for canned goods that I'll be storing for our own use. I'll still use stickers for stuff I give as gifts, since toppers and tags are easy to lose, but for our own use, these work great and they add a nice polished touch to items given as gifts.

father's day
Four types of jams/jellies, reusable plastic jar lids and the best gummy bears on earth

For regular sized two piece canning lids, these paper labels sit right atop the lid and under the ring, no glue needed. For other sized jars or single piece lids, you can punch a hole in the label to make a tag, and tie it on with a pretty little ribbon. I used heavy weight paper so that they would be opaque and resistant to humidity but regular printer paper should work too.

Since this solution works well for me, I thought others might like it too, so I've put together a selection of PDFs you can download and use yourself. They come in two styles, 8 toppers to a page.

PDF forms allow you type in the info

Plain PDF can be printed and filled in by hand

Fill in with PDF fill in by hand
The PDF forms are formatted with coordinating text and allow you to create 8 identical labels in one quick step. Great for big batches of canned goods If you aren't able to use forms or you have lovely hand writing, use the print and fill labels. Lines are included to keep your writing neat.

Download the PDFs from the following options

Label Style


all 8

All 8 styles on one page.

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Red labels, great for berries

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Orange labels great for marmalade and citrus

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Peach labels, great for peaches, of course

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Yellow labels great for marmalade and citrus

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Green labels, great for pickles and mint jellies

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Purple labels, great for berries and plums

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Burgundy labels, great for berries and plums

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Brown labels, great for apple butters and pie filling

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand

Using the fill in forms in Adobe Acrobat Reader

Be sure you have a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. I cannot promise that these forms will work in other programs.

Note: If you have a full version of Adobe Acrobat, you can also go in and change the text formatting and location using the Forms tools. These files are not locked in any way. These files can also be opened and edited in Adobe Illustrator, if you wish to change the color of the decorative elements or change the typeface.

Once you've opened your PDF, it's a simple matter to enter your own customized text into the labels. For any of the PDFs containing just one style of label, all labels will update if you change one of them. For the labels showing 8 different labels on a single page, each label is edited individually.

How to edit the labels in acrobat

Once you are done, print out your toppers/tags on heavy paper or card stock and cut them out. They can be glued onto lids or left loose under the ring or you can punch a hole in them and use them as tags.

Happy Canning!

Crunch time

It's been Crazypants City, population, Marnie, lately. We rolled out a redesign of our self service site, at work. Wait, is that Thea you see? Why yes it is. Oh and hey, did you just see Panda over here too? I think you might have. We cranked out that new site in an absurdly short period of time, with two trips to the mothership, for me, and a lot of extra hours. We're still cleaning things up, improving, adding, subtracting, but it's good to have the bulk of it live.

And for you knitters, you may know that Twist Collective has a new edition going live in a couple weeks so it's crunch time there as well. Being completely entrenched in the process, I become both incredible attached to the edition and also, oddly numb to it too, so that I am never quite sure how it will be received. It's like saying the same word over and over until it sounds suddenly foreign.

But there are some things in life that don't care about schedules and work and traveling. Things like delicious local strawberries that must (MUST) be made into jams and jellies.

Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Wine Jelly_05

I made a batch of less sugar strawberry jam in big jars and a small batch of strawberry wine jelly (click image for recipe) just because it sounded so interesting. The former has all the sweet and tart flavor of the amazing hood berries that grow here and the latter tastes almost like honey, with just a hint of wine flavor. It's supposed to be great on a cheese plate, but I like it just fine on toast.

I also have managed a little more dog abuse sewing.

SophiaBag_24 SophiaBag_18

This is from an Amy Butler pattern. While I find her fabrics a little over the top for my taste (says she with the new bag that looks like it was made from a Hawaiian shirt) her patterns are worth every penny for their detailed instructions and professional construction. I would happily recommend them.

Next week, one of my oldest and dearest friends comes to visit for the week, and then we launch the new Twist and then, perhaps, I will take a three day nap and eat all the buttered toast with homemade jam I can fit in my mouth.

Getting your greens


A fat squirrel on our patchy but quite green lawn. The girls are not fans.

Dastardly Squirrel

Yummy green olives, capers and artichoke hearts combined to make a delicious spread. Check click the image for a link to the recipe.

Artichoke Olive Crostini

Not green, but a recipe recommended by the same site, is a buttery tomato sauce I've garnished with bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

Tomato sauce

And lastly a quick little spiral striped (jog free, baby!) hat in soft superwash merino left over from another design.

Spiral Stripe Hat

I'm thinking I may rip the ribbing and rework it a little tighter (but not too much so) just to make sure it holds up to some wind. I wanted something loose and slouchy and not inclined to give me terrible hat head. I could sleep in this thing, it's so comfortable.

Slow cooking


I'm working on some unbloggable stuff so I hope you'll forgive me for talking food instead. I'll even throw a doggy fix in at the end.

My birthday is coming up and my parents freakin' spoiled me.


My first slow cooker with more bells and whistles than a bell and whistle factory. (I have clearly missed my calling as a writer.) The combination of working from home and being on a tight, oh-my-god-we-just-bought-a-house-budget, has meant I've done a lot more cooking much more from scratch and this is another tool in my arsenal.

I'm keeping track of any recipes I make so I can reference them later when I'm trying to decide what to make for the week.

I started with some slow cooked pork, that was good on the first day, but got even better than next day shredded, marinated in lime and mixed into a fresh salad

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin Slow Cooked Pork, revenge of the leftovers

Yah, not much to look at since they were both shot at night, but they tasted good.

And of course, I had to make pot roast. I think that's law if you eat meat and own a slow cooker, right?

Pot Roast with red wine garlic sauce

Some pork chili soon followed, another "must make" for a slow cooker.

Slow cooked pork chili

And finally, I reworked my favorite short ribs recipe for my newfangled contraption

Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Recipes can be had by clicking any of the images.
I am finding that key to making the most of these dishes is to add something fresh, like a healthy sprinkle of fresh herbs, or cheese and chopped red onion. A little something to brighten up the dish makes all the difference.

And, while I have been cooking for us, I also picked up a book on (don't judge me) cooking for the dogs. So far, I really like it. Many of the recipes require no special ingredients, just stuff you might have around the house and the book is written by a chef, a vet and a canine nutritionist (is that really a thing?) so there's no worry of giving your dogs something that will hurt them.

Peanut Terrifics Peanut Terrifics

The dogs have been losing their MINDS over these Peanut Terrifics. I need to adjust the recipe a little to account for the all natural peanut butter but these will definitely be made again.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the food makin' category.

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