• Jennifer Stewart

Masking It.

Updated: Jun 24

Have you noticed that it’s a lot easier these days to talk to yourself in public with a mask on?? I suppose I talk to myself more than I’d like to admit. But here I am… telling the World that I do so without shame. A mask allows me to get out my emotions in the moment without feeling afraid that someone is going to judge me or truly hear what I’m saying. And I know I’m not alone. You know you do it too…

There are a lot of things I miss throughout this pandemic… most, of which, are your every day hugs and laughs with coworkers and friends. Dining out and walking outside without thinking everyone has a disease. But there is this one thing that I truly miss the most. And that is smiling at people. Smiling at strangers. Smiling at your neighbor. Smiling at the mailman. Smiling at the person behind you in the grocery store checkout line. My mouth is fairly large and my smile takes up half my face and so having to cover up the one thing that can cause any warmth to a person/stranger makes me extremely sad. A smile can say a lot of things to someone. Kindness, strength, courage, love…. So much love. Smiles are powerful. Smiles are beautiful. Smiles are exactly what the World needs right now.

I have found someone that makes me smile when it comes to food. She’s someone that I happened to follow on Instagram that got me inspired to try some new rotation in my weekly meals. @halfbakedharvest not only is excellent at Food Porn, but her recipes are divine!! Her recent post has put a huge smile on my face that no mask could cover up…. So I’m going to share this with all of you!! And hope she inspires you too!!

slow cooker saucy sunday bolognese pasta.

By Tieghan Gerard


· 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

· 2 medium yellow, onions chopped

· 6 cloves garlic, minced or grated

· 1 pound lean ground beef or chicken

· 3/4 pound ground spicy Italian chicken sausage

· 2 tablespoons dried oregano

· 2 tablespoons dried basil

· kosher salt and black pepper

· 4 carrots, finely chopped

· 4 celery stalks, finely chopped

· 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes

· 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

· 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, such as Sangiovese

· 2 sprigs fresh thyme

· 1 pound rigatoni pasta


· 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

· 2 cups torn sourdough bread

· 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

· 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

· 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes



1. 1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, beef, sausage, oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper. Brown all over breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

2. Transfer the meat to the bowl of your slow cooker. Add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.

3. Remove the thyme. If the sauce is soupy, crank the heat up to high and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. If the sauce needs additional liquid, add 1-2 cups water or beef broth.

4. To make the breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 425° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread, with olive oil, oregano, and a pinch of salt. Bake 10 minutes, until toasted. Crumble the bread into fine crumbs using your fingers or pulse in a food processor. Toss with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain. Use the pasta water to thin the Bolognese sauce, if needed.

6. To serve, divide the pasta among bowls and ladle the bolognese over top. Serve topped with breadcrumbs, parmesan, and fresh herbs. Enjoy!

It’s not anywhere near fall where we live… Texas still has that muggy summer vibe going, which is not my ideal place to be this time of year. Fall makes me want to be snuggly with fires and sweaters and lattes, but alas, I have a garden growing, shorts on, and we’re still dining on our back porch with marigolds and succulents thriving. It’s not perfect… but it’s our kind of perfect. A song has been sitting with me ever since my husband recently played it for me once again. In 1970, Joni Mitchel wrote, composed and recorded her famous song “Big Yellow Taxi” that has captivated us since… it could not have more meaning than in these crazy days. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone??” Ahhhhh… my heart explodes. Nothing could be truer.

I have made it appoint every day to thank God for what we have right now. Either in silent or at the dinner table or in nightly prayers with my babes. Both of children fill me up with their smiles and their giggles each day. A very simple treasure that I take with me. Thank you Joni Mitchell and for Half Baked Harvest for sharing your talents and joys with us. Thank you for reminding us of the little pleasures we can take with us every day. Whether it’s with food, with music or with a smile.

Photo by: @bonnieburkephotography

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