Category Archives: Cooking with Caroline

Cooking with Caroline – Winter 2023

Welcome back to Cooking with Caroline in the dreary month of February!

Anyone else tired of the cold and snow? Since there’s no produce actually in season in Minnesota right now and most produce is expensive, I find myself looking for ways to use canned goods and cheaper vegetables in wholesome and warm recipes. An inexpensive recipe that can simmer on the stove for a few hours? What better way to spend a cold dreary Sunday in February!

So, I bring you an inexpensive and simple recipe that can simmer on a dreary winter weekend day: Grandma Wilson’s Spaghetti. 

Mom didn’t make this a ton when we were kids, but I remember it always being a treat. You simply set the sauce to simmer and come back later to add the meat and vegetables. I promise it’s better than any jar of spaghetti sauce and it’s worth doubling for a few days of leftovers or if you’re feeding a large family.

  • Sauce:
    • One large can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
    • One can tomato paste (6 oz)
    • 6 oz of water
    • ½ t red cayenne pepper
    • ½ t black pepper
    • 1 t salt
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)


Combine the ingredients for the sauce and let simmer on the stove for 2 hours (taste periodically to check levels of spice). Then, brown the ground beef, garlic, and onions. Combine with the sauce and let simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with spaghetti noodles or noodles of your choice.



  • This recipe is a bit spicy, so temper the red cayenne pepper or use a more mild red pepper if you don’t like the heat. 
  • Grandma Wilson always used whole canned tomatoes from her garden – if you choose to use whole tomatoes, plan on needing to simmer it a bit longer. 
  • If you like thicker spaghetti, leave the sauce to simmer uncovered, but if you like thinner sauce, cover it while simmering.
  • Add some tomato sauce before the meat if you find the sauce to be too thick for your liking.

Cooking with Caroline – Summer 2022

It’s August in Minnesota,

and one of my favorite parts of summer is the farmers’ market – I love meandering down rows of colorful vegetables, fragrant herbs, and stunning bouquets of flowers while sipping my morning coffee!

Inevitably, the market often introduces me to something new; whether an herb, cheese, jam, or a new vegetable, I enjoy talking with farmers about what something is and the best way to prepare it. I encourage you to go at least one more time this year and find a vegetable or an herb you’re not familiar with. Talk to the grower and then find a recipe that looks good!

If you need an idea, might I suggest an eggplant? 

Eggplants are nutrient-dense foods that are high in antioxidants and in fiber. The most common ones are Globe/American eggplants (the big round deep purple ones) and Japanese eggplant (the longer thin dark purple ones) and this recipe is a great introduction to either of these varieties. If you’re using a Globe/American, you can either slice it in one-inch slices the long way or slice it in one-inch thick circles the short way. If you’re using a Japanese eggplant, you could slice it once in half the long way,or slice it in one-inch rounds going the short way and put the pieces in a grill pan. Regardless of how you’re cooking it (roasting or grilling), eggplants absorb lots of olive oil, so use it generously.

This recipe is for a grilled eggplant and red pepper baba ganoush – it can be used as a side dish with dinner or an appetizer dish with grilled naan bread (found in most grocery store bakery sections). If you’re serving the baba ganoush and naan bread with dinner, accompany it with a cucumber/tomato/red onion salad, some grilled chicken with Mediterranean seasoning (this one’s my favorite), and a side of feta.

Go find that eggplant, grill it up, and let me know what you think!

 Grilled Naan Bread with Grilled Baba Ganoush 

Serves 6

  • 1 large eggplant, green end trimmed, then cut into one-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red pepper, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for coating vegetables)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (I use ¼ cup or more, but I love cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste

Start the grill at a medium heat.

To make the baba ganoush, brush the eggplant slices and red pepper with olive oil. Place the eggplant slices and the red pepper halves directly on the grill (or in a grill plan if you’re using the smaller Japanese eggplant rounds). Grill the eggplant, turning once until you have good grill marks and the eggplant is tender (8-10 minutes total). Remove the eggplant. Leave the red pepper on a bit longer (maybe 5-7 minutes), turning frequently and remove when it’s cooked through and starting to blister.

While the veggies are cooling slightly, get the naan bread ready to grill by brushing olive oil on both sides of each piece.

Add the eggplant slices and red pepper to a food processor or other Ninja-ish kitchen gadget (a blender WON’T work – you need something much higher powered), then add the 2T olive oil, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, and cumin. Puree until smooth, then taste and add salt accordingly.

Grill the naan bread, turning once, until each piece has gentle grill marks (it won’t take long, 2-3 minutes total). To serve, cut the naan bread into wedges to dip into the baba ganoush, or leave as whole pieces to eat with chicken and salad

—P.S. This recipe is adapted from the book The Gardener and the Grill: The Bounty of the Garden Meets the Sizzle of the Grill, by Karen Alder and Judith Fertig. For anyone that loves to grill and loves to garden, it’s a must-have (buy it and try the Grilled Radicchio and Brussel Sprouts with Hot Bacon Dressing – you can thank me later).

Cooking with Caroline – Spring 2022

Welcome to the new Cooking with Caroline occasional feature on the Becker Building and Remodeling blog! To provide a bit of context, my name is Caroline – I’m Cary’s oldest daughter and Annette’s older sister. You’ve maybe seen me around as an occasional demolition hand on job sites in the summer months, but now Cary and Annette seem to think it’s a good idea to give me an occasional blog post.

Here’s the disclaimer, though: I’m not a professional chef, by any stretch. Let’s not even pretend. But, what I do know is three things: I love cooking, I love cooking for other people, and I love learning about cooking.

So, as I think about our inaugural Cooking with Caroline post, I wanted to pick a recipe that was both approachable (I don’t want you to give up on me before we even start) and flexible (I know we have picky eaters here, it’s all good). The recipe I’m sharing first is one of my favorite ways to usher in our early summer vegetable season in Minnesota – think radishes, peas, early carrots. After what seems like the interminable months of winter, I want to eat vegetables that don’t get stored in a cellar or a jar, and I want to grill on the patio without having to wear copious amounts of clothing just to feel my hands.

The original Soba Noodle Salad (from the April 2015 Cooking Light magazine) calls for both soba (buckwheat) noodles and steamed sugar snap peas, but I don’t particularly enjoy either of those things because they don’t cook up nicely; in my opinion, there are a few ways we can up the game. So, what I’m really sharing with you is my time-tested take-away from this recipe: a yummy pork marinade and a complimentary sauce that can be paired with most any vegetable and grain.

The original recipe calls for slicing a pork loin and marinating it for 30 minutes before grilling, but I’ve found that marinating a whole pork tenderloin overnight and slicing it after grilling makes for more tender and juicy slices. The sauce used for serving can be made in advance and will keep for a couple days in the fridge (I see you, Sunday meal prep people). 

In terms of the vegetable to pair with this recipe, I’m partial to spring veggies since this marinade and sauce plays so nicely with early spring flavors – perhaps slice and steam some carrots or chop some fresh (not cooked) snap peas, then add some sliced radishes because they’re a nice crunch with the final dish. You could also add peas (cooked from frozen, or freshly shucked from the farmers’ market and steamed), cooked edamame beans, raw carrot ribbons (use your vegetable peeler), sliced red bell pepper, or steamed broccoli from the freezer – the veggies truly are flexible. In terms of the grain, if you’re not a lover of soba noodles or you’re not familiar with them, I’d recommend brown rice.

So, with that, here’s a great spring recipe! Find some spring veggies, fire up the grill and let me know what you think.

Spring Pork Marinade and Sauce

Marinade (double if using a tenderloin larger than two pounds):

  • 2T canola oil (or Olive Oil)
  • 2T maple syrup
  • 1T brown sugar
  • 5 tsp soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (ground ginger is fine)

Place the marinade with a 1-2lbpork tenderloin in a zip-lock bag and let sit in the fridge overnight – turn several times if possible.  


  • 3tsp soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 2tsp brown sugar
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper

Make the sauce up to one day ahead, keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Preparation Instructions:

  1. When you’re ready to cook, prepare the brown rice or other grain following the directions on the package. 
  2. The meat doesn’t take long to grill, so prepare the sauce and any vegetable prior to grilling (peeling carrots, slicing radishes, etc.) 
  3. When ready, grill the pork tenderloin on a medium hot grill for 12-15 minutes, turning once; use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the tenderloin and cook to an internal temperature of 140-145°. 
  4. While the meat is cooking, steam or finish cooking the vegetables of your choice. 
  5. When the meat is finished, let it sit, covered in tinfoil, for a few minutes before slicing it.
  6. Serve with the rice, vegetables, and sauce.