Fruit, Recipes, Sides

Cranberry Mint Relish + What To Do With All That Mint

A refreshing take on a traditional cranberry relish!

Cranberry Mint Relish + Ideas for Preserving Fresh Mint |

My favorite part of any holiday meal is the cranberry sauce. I’m picky about it though–it can’t be canned, and it can’t have nuts. I used to be a purist and only liked the traditional cranberry orange relish. But these gingered cranberry-apricot sauce and cranberry-pineapple sauce have opened up the doors for some experimentation. So this weekend, when I had a bag of cranberries in one hand and a ginormously huge mint plant in the other that had to be used up before the weather goes whacko this week, I thought, what the heck, and threw some mint in the mix. And you know what? It was pretty awesome. Adding mint to traditional cranberry relish seems pretty novel [but I’m sure others have done it] and it lends a little pop to this sweet-tart side dish. You should totally try it this fall! And it only takes a few minutes to make so you’ve got nothing to lose. 🙂

Cranberry Mint Relish + Ideas for Preserving Fresh Mint | thepajamachef.comAs for all the rest of that mint plant… quite a bit went into that jar of mint sugar on the left and those jars of mint extract on the right. There are tons of tutorials online for both delicacies, but I just layered fresh mint with sugar in one jar and have been shaking it once a day since Sunday. In about a week it’s supposed to be ready to enjoy. I can’t wait! And to make the mint extract I added vodka [eeeekkkkk] to mint that had been gently mashed in a mason jar. There’s a technical term for “mashed” but it’s escaping me at the moment. 🙂 Easy easy! My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I needed some cheap alcohol for cooking. Hahaha. COOKING not drinking, haha don’t worry. That’s how you do things in homemade-everything-land. We’ll see how they turn out. I’ll have to give you guys an update, k? In the meantime, this cranberry mint relish is FAB so don’t wait til Thanksgiving to enjoy. I can’t wait to taste it on turkey!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Carnitas
three years ago: Best Pancakes Ever
four years ago: Pumpkin French Toast Sandwich

Cranberry Mint Relish

  • Servings: 6
  • Print


  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and dried
  • 1 orange, scrubbed clean and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar


Place cranberries, orange, mint, and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor. Pulse until processed to desired consistency. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to set flavors.

Blogging Tips

How To: Create a Recipe Index on WordPress

How To Create a Recipe Index on WordPress | The Pajama Chef

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this tutorial, let’s talk about why food bloggers should have a Recipe Index. [If you want an example, my Recipe Index is located along the top of my blog, and when you click on it, you are directed here.] It’s a requirement for membership in the Secret Recipe Club, and was something I didn’t quite understand at first when I was first looking to join about a year after starting my blog. However, I have since found that it’s incredibly helpful for many reasons, both for you and your readers. But it can be confusing, time consuming, and challenging to create.

Here are a few reasons why I think having a Recipe Index is super important:

  • Basically, without an index, readers might miss relevant information if it is not phrased exactly as they expect. Tags and searches are not perfect, and neither is spelling [your own or others’]. Having a index where you can see a list of recipes without taking the time to go through pages and pages opens up another avenue for blog growth, site traffic, and more followers. It shows readers you are serious with what you do [even if it’s just a family recipe blog! I don’t develop most of my recipes personally but I do organize what I blog about for easier use.
  • Having a blog index helps new readers immensely–especially when people are coming to your site without a specific link to your favorite muffins or recent stellar leftover remake. People will find highlighted recipes from Pinterest, links you’ve shared in blog hops, or by searching online. But what about people coming to your blog because you gave them a link, because they were assigned to you in the Secret Recipe Club, because your spouse/parents/siblings/BFF/neighbor gave out the link and told them to look for this really awesome cookie recipe that had chocolate in them. You have seventeen chocolate recipes. Without a Recipe Index, it’s harder to scroll through to find out that you only have four chocolate cookie recipes–the rest are for cake or pie or cheesecake or brownies or whatever.
  • Last but not least, it helps with your own personal organization and blog planning.
    • You can quickly go to one page on your blog and see what category of recipes you have blogged a lot about [for me, it’s main dishes–nearly half of my recipes are what I’d consider lunch or dinner food]… as well as what you haven’t [Beverages. 3. THREE!]. This can help you if you’re trying to diversify what is available for your readers.
    • You can also find your recipes more easily, without having to navigate through pages of search results or hitting the “older entries” button over and over. This can be helpful if you’ve been blogging for a few years and want to link up similar recipes, or even just for your own cooking and baking needs.

I know there are many other reasons why a Recipe Index is VIP. But I’ve been wordy enough. Let’s get to the how to, shall we?

The following tutorial for creating a Recipe Index is for WordPress blogs. My blog is created using the free WordPress [dot com, not self-hosted–dot org], but I believe that the basic administrative software that runs both the free and paid versions looks the same.

Before you begin: In order to use this method to create a Recipe Index, your recipes must be organized using Categories in either list or dropdown format. If you are using a Category Cloud, I suggest that you go to the Widgets section [under the Appearance option on the left menu] and create a Categories area. You can always remove that after you have initially established your Recipe Index. If you don’t organize your blog with Categories [i.e. Appetizers, Beverages, etc.] but rather use those terms [Appetizers, Beverages] as tags, you can adapt this tutorial but the process will not be exactly the same.

Step 1: Have two tabs open in your browser. The first should be your blog homepage. The second should be your Dashboard.

Step 2: When logged into Dashboard, click on the Pages option on the left menu. That will redirect you to the main Pages page.


Click on ‘Add New’ and create a new page called Recipes.

Add new

Step 3: Go to your blog homepage, and look at your Categories. Mine are organized as Appetizers, Beverages, Bread, Breakfast, Desserts, Main Dishes, and Sides.

Category List

Within those categories I have subcategories [i.e. Egg Dishes within Breakfast], but we’ll come back to that later.  After the Recipes page has been created, it should show up on your homepage like this.

Sample homepageObviously the exact placement varies due to your theme, but you get the idea.

Step 4: Next, go back to your Dashboard, then go to the Pages option, ‘Add New’–just like in Step 2. This time, create a page for each category [Appetizers, Beverages, etc.–use the categories you have created for your own blog]. Except this time, after you have typed the category name in the ‘Enter title here’ section, go over to Page Attributes on the right. Click on the ‘Parent’ dropdown box and then on Recipes.

Add new with parent

This will create a menu hierarchy, which makes your Appetizer page appear underneath the Recipe tab when it is highlighted by a reader [instead of creating another tab along the top of your blog].

Example menu

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 with all your Categories that you have used for Recipes in the past. They should automatically populate the menu like mine has in the above image, and should appear on the Dashboard side in a hierarchy, too.

Dashboard pages view

Step 6: Go back to the original Recipe page you created. Type the names of each Category you chose, and then create links to the new pages for them. Alternatively, you can create images and then link the images like I did, but to begin, using text will be simpler.

Recipes page

Step 7: The rest of this process is the most time consuming, and unfortunately there is really no simple fix, so I suggest to go about this in a systematic way over time. It’s a good activity to do while you’re watching TV, as it doesn’t require a great deal of concentration. This is the time when you need to type in all the names of your recipes, using your Category drop down that you were looking at in Step 3 to help compile the index. I use different methods for Categories with and without subcategories.

  • Categories without subcategories [i.e. Appetizers, Beverages, Bread]: click on the Category page like this. Go to the Page you created for that type of recipe like this, and just type in the name of each recipe title, then link it up. When you are clicking to add the link, you can speed the process up by searching to link to existing content. That is much faster than loading each blog post within a category and then copying and pasting the link. 
  • Categories with subcategories [i.e. Breakfast]: click on the Category subpage like this, and basically do the same thing, except adding headings within the Page you are editing. Here’s an example of my Breakfast page.

Step 8: Maintenance. This is very important! Now that you see how long it takes to prepare a Recipe Index, you’ll want to maintain it. I try to update mine every week when I do my menu plan, so that I never get too far behind. If I go longer than a week or so, then I tend to use my method in Step 7 to determine which posts are missing from the index.


If you’ve never used Categories, my best advice for replicating this with tags is to think about your process for creating the tags. Are the tags ingredients? Types of foods [muffins, cookies, chicken dishes, etc.]? Recipe sources? Once you know how you created your tags, brainstorm a way to corral all those recipes into a list and adapt my method to fit your organization system. The process might have to look a little different, especially since tags don’t have drop down menus, and not all tags show up on tag clouds, but you can do it. You might have to do it from within the Dashboard but where there’s a will, there’s a way. [Category and Tag lists are within the Posts section on Dashboard, by the way.] It might take time, but do it a little a time and it’ll get done, I promise!

I hope this tutorial for creating a Recipe Index is helpful. Please let me know in the comments or by email [pajamachef at gmail dot com] if you have questions, suggestions, or if I have omitted something important. I usually do recipes, not tutorials so that is entirely possible. This post was just something requested within the Secret Recipe Club group on Facebook, and since I love organization [I’m a librarian, after all]… I jumped at the chance to write down my process. I am also happy to help you think through ways to organize your recipes, so feel free to contact me about that too.

Good luck and Happy Recipe Indexing!! 🙂

for those of you on Blogger, check out Sarah’s post over at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. 🙂

Main Dishes, Pizza, Recipes

The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever [+ Pizza How-To]

The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever + a Pizza How-To

Remember yesterday? And the most amazing pizza crust ever? Made out of cornmeal [who knew?] Well today is your lucky day, because I am going to introduce you to the best pizza sauce I ever had.

Before, my problems with homemade pizza included a crust that never crisped, sauce without flavor, and cheese that didn’t brown. Well, I fixed the crust–and this recipe fixes the sauce.

My major gripe with homemade pizza sauce was that it wasn’t flavorful enough. I do want to taste tomatoes, but I also want more flavor and spice. More like a restaurant pizza sauce. When I saw a recipe on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures that claimed to be more like a restaurant sauce, I knew I had to try it. And I’m so glad I did.

This sauce is different than any other pizza sauce I’ve made from scratch. This sauce tastes like more than just tomatoes! The herbs shine through and make their presence known, and there is just enough tang and sweetness to make everyone happy as can be. Except when the pizza is all gone. It’s also really easy. No cooking required–just throw it in a bowl, mix it up, and it’s ready for your pizza! What more can you ask for?

The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever

from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

  • 28 ounces tomato puree
  • 1 1/2-3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients except salt and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk together. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, taste, and add more salt if needed. Store in the refrigerator until use or up to 1 week. Can also be frozen.

That’s it! How simple. I love it.

The finished products.

The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever + a Pizza How-To
The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever + a Pizza How-To

Here’s how we made up those pizzas:

  1. Make the dough–cornmeal pizza dough–please!
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 way in advance. The hotter the better!
  3. Spread dough in two pans–his & hers. This time, I made a deep dish pizza for me in a 9″ springform pan and his was rolled thin on a 16×12″ rectangular baking  sheet [but was not that big–not sure of the exact dimensions.]
  4. Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until crust starts to brown and is not doughy.
  5. Brush edge of crust with olive oil.
  6. Top each pizza with sauce, a little mozzarella cheese, toppings, and more mozzarella cheese. My pizza was chopped deli ham and onions, while my husband wanted pepperoni. I love putting the toppings between a layer of cheese [25% of cheese below the toppings and 75% above makes for cheese the browns like a restaurant!]
  7. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until done.
  8. Eat and enjoy! Be sure to let it rest about 5 minutes before cutting so the cheese and toppings don’t slide off.