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A Love Letter to Jesus.

A Love Letter to Jesus..  Katie, that was beautifully written.  One day I hope I have the faith you do.  However, I am writing to thank you for commenting on my blogpost on Irish Beef-Cheddar Hand Pies on abeautifullifeministry.org.  Wishing you all the best and all of God’s blessings.

Maria E. Wolff

Maria’s Cul-de-Sac Kitchen


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Zesty Tomato Veggie Pasta Salad

Memorial Day is coming up, and that means family barbecues and gatherings. So what do you take or prepare this year? This is usually a quandary for me so I spend hours looking through cooking magazines and recipes, hoping to find just the right dish. I’ve always been a big fan of pasta salad, but don’t like rich, creamy dressings, and haven’t found a vinaigrette based pasta salad dressing that I like. So I was delighted when I came across this recipe.

The combination of tomato sauce and salsa is unusual and really makes the dish. Full of wonderful, fresh veggies and herbs; this colorful salad can easily become a full meal salad with the addition of chicken, meat or cheese. It’s healthy, quick and easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious. What else could you ask for? So, take this salad to your next outdoor gathering, graduation or party, and be prepared for compliments and recipe requests!

Diff: Easy     Prep:  20 min + Chilling     Cook: 11 min     Serves: 12



4 cups. uncooked spiral pasta (tricolor or reg)

1 jar (16 oz.) salsa (mild or medium)

1 can (15.5 oz) corn, drained or

2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1 ½ cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 can (8 oz.) no-salt-added tomato sauce

4 T. minced fresh parsley

1 T. red wine vinegar


  1. Fill large pot with water, add salt and oil. Bring to boil.DSC02639

  2. Cook pasta according to directions. Rinse in cold water and drain.DSC02647

  3. In large serving bowl, combine pasta and veggies. Stir to combine.DSC02654

  4. Add liquid ingredients, combine well to blend with pasta mixture.DSC02657

  5. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving as this will allow the flavors to meld.  You can sprinkle additional parsley on top just before serving.DSC02658

  6. Enjoy! Happy Memorial Day!

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Memorial Day. Until next week, wishing you all of God’s blessings, good health and good eating!

Smiles, Maria

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Of Sourdough, English Muffins and Easter Brunch …

Rather than an Easter dinner, how about doing an Easter brunch instead?  Why, you ask?  Two reasons:  Surveys prove that breakfast is the favorite meal of the day, and breakfast foods are generally easier to make.  And there’s just something comfortable and homey about breakfast.  And, for those who want to offer a lighter alternative on the  sweet breakfast fare that usually adorns a brunch table, what could be nicer than serving home made English muffins at your Easter Brunch?  Top these with some home made jam or marmalade, and, oh my goodness, I’d be in heaven!  

Today I’m going to give you two-for-one recipes.  Because the English muffin recipe I’m sharing uses sourdough starter, I’ve included a recipe for a potato based starter.  But first, a little history …

About  4,000 years ago, before the days of commercial yeast, ancient peoples discovered how to leaven bread using starters they created by mixing flour and water with a cooked potato or fruit such as wine grapes, apples or ripe bananas. Organisms in the flour and the germinating fruit would attract the wild yeast spores that were common in the then unpolluted environment, and a starter would be born; and once created and maintained properly, could live for years. And as that starter aged, it would slowly become progressively more sour, hence the term “sourdough.”

I have loved sourdough since my San Francisco days, and became passionate about learning how to make it on my own.  I have made and experimented with a number of sourdough starters over the years, but have found it almost impossible to duplicate a starter using the methods of our ancestors due to pollution, pesticides and chlorinated water. Back in the early 2000’s,  my future husband would come over on the weekends to see me, and I’d proudly show him my newest  attempt  to “catch the wild yeast” starter, and then he’d gamely eat the (usually flat)  bread I’d bake with it (must have been love!)  It took me many tries and wasted weekends before I gave up on the notion of using  “wild yeast” .

Fun Facts:

A Prospector that carried a pot of sourdough strapped to their back was called a “sourdough.”

Sourdough is also a term used to describe an Alaskan old-timer.  

Sourdough Starter:  The Alaskan Connection

We all know about the Forty Niners, the prospectors that flooded to California when gold was discovered in 1849.  Well, once gold was found in the Klondike, many of the Forty-Niners sailed up the coast hoping to strike it rich in Alaska.    

This is Emeril Lagasse’s recipe** for Alaskan sourdough starter using potato water that I found on the Food Network.  Starters can be made from a variety of fruits and vegetables, including grapes, apples and even bananas.  If you’re really passionate about making sourdough, and sourdough starters, you can try to “catch” wild yeast from the air like our pioneering ancestors did.  

This is an interesting recipe because it is similar to what prospectors in the Klondike used. They’d boil up potatoes for dinner, and use the left-over potato water to make their starter by adding flour, just a pinch of yeast and sugar.  This is also a really quick starter recipe because it needs only 8 – 12 hours to mature, instead of a typical flour, water, yeast, sugar starter, which can take 3-5 days to ripen.  

Total Time: 42 min Prep: 10 min Inactive Time: 12 min Cook: 20 min  

Yield: About 3 cups    Level Easy


3 medium baking potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 quart water – I use filtered water
2 1/2 cups potato water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour


1.  In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water. Cook over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes.


2.  Drain the potatoes, reserving water and using potatoes for another use. Cool the cooking liquid to lukewarm (110 degrees F).

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3.  In a large bowl, combine the potato water, dry yeast, and sugar.  Let sit until the yeast blooms and becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not bloom, discard the mixture and begin again with a new yeast.)


4.  Add the flour and stir vigorously to work air into the mixture.  Cover with a towel and let sit in a warm, draft-free place for  8 to 12 hours. (The mixture should become very bubbly and smell slightly sour.)


5.   Use immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.


6.  The Hooch.  Really, that’s what the clear brownish liquid that forms on top of your starter is called.  If you see this, this does not mean your starter has gone bad.   Just stir the hooch back into the starter.  Prospectors used to actually drink this!


Preserving Your Starter: 

Each time you remove a portion of the starter for a recipe, reserve at least 1/4 cup and replace the amount you have taken out with equal amounts of flour and water.

For example, if you remove 1 cup of starter, you must replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk these ingredients into the starter until blended but not completely smooth, cover loosely, and return to the refrigerator.

Also, the starter must be maintained by feeding it every few days. Refresh by removing 1 cup of the starter (give to a friend or discard it) and adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk until blended but not smooth. Cover loosely and return to the refrigerator.

If you plan to be away longer than a week, freeze the starter in a sterilized, airtight freezer container. Thaw the starter 2 days before you plan to bake with it. Refresh as indicated above with 1 cup each of flour and warm water. Cover and leave at room temperature 12 hours or overnight before using.

Or just do like I do, ask a neighbor to feed your starter.  After they look at you like you’re strange, just tell them it’s kind of like a pet!  It is, after all, a live organism!

CAUTION: Never keep your starter tightly closed! The gasses expelled by the yeast will build up pressure and may cause the container (such as a glass jar) to burst!

**Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/potato-water-sourdough-starter-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Sourdough English Muffins

I used a recipe from RedStarYeast.com* to make these English Muffins and used my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix them. For information on how to use different equipment to make these, please refer to the Red Star Yeast website or the link at the end of this post. 


Note:  Water and oil should be 120º to 130º F.  Make sure all other ingredients are at room temperature. 

This recipe makes 14 – 16 muffins

(I only show twelve because me and hubby ate the rest!)


Water ½  cup +

Vegetable Oil 2 tbsp

Sourdough Starter 1 cup

Bread Flour 3 cups

Salt 1 tsp.

Sugar 1 Tbsp.

Active Dry Yeast – 2 ¼ tsp.


1.  Combine yeast, 1 cup flour, salt and sugar. 


2.  Combine water and oil; heat to 120º to 130º F.


3.  Combine sourdough starter, dry mixture, and liquid ingredients in mixing bowl with paddle or beaters for 4 minutes on medium speed.



4.  Gradually add flour and knead with dough hook(s) 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic. (Dough will look a little shiny.)   If you find that the dough is dry, add water ½ to 1 Tbsp. at a time.  If too wet, add 1 Tbsp. flour at a time. 



5.  When dough is ready, remove, shape it into a ball and place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover; let rise for at least an hour; then test dough for readiness by poking it with two fingers.  If indentations remain, dough is ready to use.



6.  On flat surface sprinkled  generously with cornmeal, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 14 to 16 circles (3 to 4 inches in diameter) using a biscuit cutter or whatever you have that size. (All I had was a wineglass!   I really need to get to a kitchen shop!)



7.  Turn to coat topside with cornmeal. Place on greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise until indentation remains after touching. (Sorry, I must of thought this was boring, because I didn’t take a picture!)

8.  Carefully place muffins on a well greased and preheated 325º F electric griddle or fry pan. Bake 10 minutes on each side or until sides are deep golden brown. 


9. Cool on rack. 


10. To serve, split and toast.  Serve along with home made jam, honey or marmalade. These looked so good I had to eat two as soon as they cooled!  Delish!


Wishing everyone a Happy and Joyful Easter, God’s blessing and Happy Eating!

Maria, the Kitchen Guru

*You can substitute Instant (fast-rising) yeast in place of Active DryYeast. When using Instant Yeast, expect your dough to rise faster. Always let your dough rise until ripe. Traditional methods: use equal amounts; Bread Machine: use 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast OR 3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast per cup of flour in your recipe.  

*This recipe is also featured at the foodblog:   My Kitchen Addiction:


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Yummy Chocolate Pudding Cake

Nothing says love like chocolate and flowers on Valentine’s Day!  Hopefully someone will bring you flowers on this special day; then you can give them chocolate!  And there are few things more intensely chocolate than this rich and fudgy pudding cake!  It’s so easy to make, just put all the ingredients in a slow cooker, press a button, and forget about it until the timer goes off.  This is my kind of busy day baking!

Diff:  Easy   Prep:  20 min.  Cook:  6 hrs.  Serves:  10-12



1 pkg. chocolate cake mix (regular)

1 3.9 oz. pkg. instant chocolate pudding

2 cups sour cream

4 eggs

1 c. water

3/4 c. canola oil

6 oz. chopped Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate

Whipped Cream or Ice Cream (optional)


1.  In large bow, mix together first six ingredients

beat onDSC02179 low speed for 30 seconds to blend, then on medium for 2 minutes.





2.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into a five quart slow cooker.



3.  Cover, set slow cooker on low and cook for 6-8DSC02194

hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle

comes out with moist crumbs.






4.  Serve warm in bowls with whipped cream or ice       cream.    Yum!                                             




Can substitute lower fat ingredients if desired.

Can substitue 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips for chopped Baker’s chocolate.

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21 January, 2013 22:30







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