Homemade Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

I make a lot of pastas and pizzas…. A LOT.

But I can’t help it – I’m Italian! Well, pretty sure I was in a past life at least.

So when a gal cooks a ton of pastas and pizzas, a gal has got to have a trusty marinara sauce that she can rely on. And I just so happen to have a great one that’s quite easy to make, especially in large batches.

Here’s how….

First, wrangle up some basic ingredients. A few aromatics, a couple of herbs & spices and of course, tomatoes. I prefer San Marzano tomatoes but any canned plum tomato will be fine.

Marinara Sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and cook down some onions and garlic. Throw in some red chili flakes, oregano, fennel seeds and cook for an additional minute or two.

Marinara Sauce

While the aromatics are doing their magic, crush up a few cans of tomatoes. And because it’s fun to play with your food, I use my hands to do this.

Marinara Sauce

Add the crushed tomatoes and the juices to the pot and stir in some chopped Italian parsley and bay leaves.

Marinara Sauce

Simmer the ingredients, partially covered until it has reduced and thickened.

Marinara Sauce

Add the basil and puree the ingredients until smooth. Season with additional salt, pepper and that’s it!

Marinara Sauce

Simple to make and a delicious addition to any recipe that calls for a marinara. The sauce also freezes beautifully so you can always have it on hand.

Marinara Sauce

Told ya it was easy.

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Marinara Sauce
Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 28-ounce cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes (or standard plum tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
kosher salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar, as needed

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until they have become soft and translucent. Stir in the red chili flakes, oregano, fennel seeds and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

While the aromatics cook, pour the tomatoes into a large bowl with its juices. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes and discard any tough core pieces that may remain. Pour the crushed tomatoes and juices into the pot. Stir in the parsley and bay leaves. Allow the contents to come to a soft boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 30-40 minutes, occasionally stirring. Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Using an immersion blender (or standard blender), puree the sauce until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Depending on the tomatoes, you may need to add a bit of sugar to cut down some of the acidity.

The sauce can be used immediately or can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days. You may also freeze the sauce for up to a few months, however, this recipe is not intended for pressure canning/jarring. Pressure canning/jarring recipes require a high amount of acidity to avoid harmful bacteria.

 

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes + Cuisinart GIVEAWAY!

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

I love experimenting with new recipes. It’s challenging, fun and when the dish is successfully completed, it’s totally gratifying.

But after a long day, week, or heck–even an afternoon, all I want to eat is something quick and comforting. Fried SPAM with rice, instant spicy ramen or a trusted ol’ sandwich. And for me, the latter usually means a BLT or a grilled cheese of some type.

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

One of my fav grilled cheeses is so simple but deliciously satisfying. It’s made with Kings Hawaiian sliced bread that has been lightly buttered and then grilled with pepper jack cheese, thin slices of Roma tomatoes, sliced avocados, and a thin spread of grainy mustard. So.Freaking.Good.

In honor of the humble sandwich, one of our rad readers will have the chance to win a Cuisinart Griddler® Grill & Panini Press!

Cuisinart-GR-11-1

Isn’t she a beauty?! Not only will you be able to whip up the most delectable sammies but you can also remove the plates to grill burgers, steaks, and anything else that your heart may desire. Now that is multi-functional!

How to enter: This GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for entering!

Leave a comment and tell us what is your favorite sandwich.

For extra chances to win, leave a separate comment for each indicating which of the below you did:

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The deadline to enter is Friday, March 8th at 5pm (PST) and the winner will be notified the next day.

Best of luck, Friends!!!!

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

I could eat breakfast all day long. Savory items, sweet items….so many options! And what other meal can you order a dessert for your main entree? (French toast, pancakes and all other types of sweet goodness…)

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

My only problem is that I can rarely eat breakfast first thing in the morning. At most I’ll have coffee or a smoothie because it takes a few hours for my tummy to wake up.

But that is why Brunch is so brilliant!

You get the chance to enjoy all the delish breakfast-like dishes hours after you manage to roll out of bed. And the icing on the cake? It’s totally acceptable to start sipping on cocktails way before noon!

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

At brunches, I tend to gravitate towards any and all types of Eggs Benedict dishes. Rich and decadent hollandaise sauce with an ooey-gooey poached egg—how could you go wrong with that?!

This wonderful offering is a nod to my beloved Eggs Benedict with an attempt to make a slightly figure-friendly version by swapping out the hollandaise for pesto. Now before you start getting all worked up, I realize pesto isn’t totally healthy but it’s a tad lighter than the (mouthwatering) egg yolk and butter laden sauce. The bright herbaceous flavor also helps balance the rich egg yolk. And since I had some great veggies on hand, I thought they would make a wonderful base in lieu of the muffin.

The next time you host brunch, consider making this rustic beauty! It’s quite simple but really is a showstopper that will definitely impress your guests.

And of course, Mimosas are a MUST. Or a Bloody Mary. Or an Irish Coffee. Well…you get my drift.

Happy Friday Friends…and make time for Brunch this weekend!

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Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Arugula Pesto
2 Packed Cups Fresh Arugula Leaves
1/2 Cup Sweet Basil
½ Cup Roasted Pine Nuts
2-3 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Approximately ½ – ¾ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Vegetable Medley
1 Shallot, finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
2 Cups Crimini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, quartered
1 Ripe Avocado, diced
Lemon Juice
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Poached Eggs
1 Teaspoon White Vinegar
2 Fresh Eggs

Prepare the pesto. In a food processor, pulse garlic and pine nuts. Add arugula, basil, cheese, lemon juice, and salt/pepper. With the food processor on, stream in olive oil and blend until the pesto is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down sides in between steps. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Refrigerate until ready to be used.

Bring a heavy saucepan that has been filled with a few inches of water to a rolling boil. Add in the vinegar and slightly lower the heat. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Take a spoon and swirl it around quickly in the saucepan to make a whirlpool of the water. Slowly pour the egg into the middle of the whirlpool. The movement of the whirlpool will help the egg form but you can also use a spoon to help it along. After about 3-4 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg and drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the other egg. Cover the saucepan and turn the heat down to low to keep the water warm.

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the shallots and garlic over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and continuing cooking for an additional 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and toss in the avocado and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a few squeezes of lemon. Toss to incorporate.

To serve, add a few spoonfuls of the vegetable medley to a plate. Using the slotted spoon, dip one of the poached eggs into the hot water to warm the egg and blot dry. Place the egg on top of the vegetables and generously spoon the pesto on top. Repeat with the 2nd dish. Enjoy!

Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

What is your Comfort Food?

Mac ‘n Cheese? Chicken Noodle Soup? PB and J sammies?

No matter what it is—one thing holds true for everyone. Comfort Food does exactly what it’s named for….it brings us comfort—and perhaps transports us back to a time of happiness, safety and love.

And for me, that is what Vietnamese food is.

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

It’s about the “everyday” dishes my family would sit down to at dinner time. A plethora of dishes to be eaten with jasmine rice….fried fish, stuffed squid, various stir-fry veggies, soups, and stinky stuff that just tastes so damn good. And wouldn’t you know it? When I was young, I would complain all the time about it to Mom and say “cơm (rice) again?!” Because at that time, I wanted to eat what all my friends were eating…spaghetti, pizza, burgers, etc. But Mom would always say, “Just wait—one day, you’ll miss this”. And darnit! She was right! Moms…..how do they just know?!

This simple tofu dish is something we would eat quite often. It’s quick and tasty—balancing salty and sweet together. I cheat and buy already fried tofu squares at my local Asian markets which makes this dish SUPER quick and easy. But if you don’t have that available, cube up firm tofu and use paper towels to dry them off. Fry them in oil until golden brown and then throw them into the sauce. Easy Peasy!

So tell me, Friends….what’s your go-to Comfort Foods?

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Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:

4 Cups Fried Tofu
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup Shallots, diced
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
1 Red Jalapeno, thinly sliced
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
Black Pepper
Garnish with additional scallions and cilantro

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat and cook garlic and shallots for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until softened. Stir in ketchup and fish sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Toss in fried tofu and coat evenly. Season with black pepper and garnish with additional scallions and fresh cilantro. Serve with steamed rice and Enjoy!

Refreshing Greek Salad…..Opa!

Greek Salad

It’s been unusually warm these past few weeks — not your typical fall weather at all. Not that I’m really complaining but it does make me turn to lighter dishes instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen.

The other day I picked up a bunch of produce at my weekly farmer’s market and decided to make a refreshing Greek Salad for lunch.

Greek Salad

The salad is full of bright flavors from the fresh veggies, feta and the olives. Delish! And the leftovers were the perfect accompaniment to the Spanakopita I made the next day.

Up next, flaky and buttery Spanakopita!

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Greek Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Cucumbers, diced
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, diced
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
½ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Feta Cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
½ Cup Quality Olive Oil
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

For a good chunk of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes.

I thought they were mealy and rather “bleh” in flavor. I’d pick them out of salads, burgers, well….pretty much out of everything.

And you know what the problem was? For the first 20+ years of my life, I was eating BAD tomatoes!

Because when you take a bite out of a gorgeous tomato at its peak in the season, it’s absolutely delicious! They’re sweet and juicy with the right balance of acidity. And last summer, I even found myself growing the most beautiful Early Girl Tomatoes via our Topsy Turvy. (For the record, the Topsy Turvy is awesome!)

Needless to say, I was missing out for so many years!

 

 

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are in Bruschetta. The simplicity of ingredients paired with the herbaceous basil  really highlights the true flavor of the tomato. On its own, it’s quite fabulous but I decided to add a spin by throwing in some smoked mozzarella cheese I stumbled on at my local specialty market. It was perfect!

And on warm summer nights like we’ve been having, I could eat Bruschetta every day! Mom would be proud that I’m eating my veggies :)

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Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Serves 4 as an Appetizer or 2 for a Light Meal

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Tomatoes, diced
½ Cup Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, leaves torn
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cheese, basil, garlic, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with your choice of flat bread or toasted baguettes.

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

I love Condiments.

Hot sauces, dips, salsas, flavored ketchup, sauces…… I’m completely obsessed. No salsa bar is safe from me and I am without a doubt the reason why many food spots charge extra for sauces these days.

But when condiments can also be considered a “dip” or even a side dish—-well then it’s brilliant! And my Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo does just that!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Traditional Pico de Gallo is known for its bright flavors from the citrus and cilantro. These components play so well with the slight heat from the chilies and coolness of tomatoes. To add a different flair, I threw in fresh corn for a bit of sweetness and crunch. The whole combination married so well together and for me, depicted summer at its best.

This Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo is extremely versatile as well. Serve it as a dip with chips or veggies. Layer it in tacos or over freshly grilled meat or fish. You can even serve it as a side dish!

But one thing is for sure, be sure you make A LOT of it because you will definitely gobble it all up!

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Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

2 Cups Fresh Tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 Cup Whole Corn Kernels
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
½ Tablespoon Serrano Chili, finely diced and seeded
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1-2 Pinches Ground Cumin
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.