Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce

Isn’t it amazing that you can plant a $4 pack of tomatoes seedlings in the spring and Vine to Spaghetti sauceget 100’s of vine fresh tomatoes a couple of months later?  Garden fresh food is hands down the most amazing thing to cook with.  You can take a stroll across your yard and pluck ripe vegetables  & herbs right off the vine.  And if you love to cook, with a small amount of patience and a little work you can turn a ripe tomato into homemade spaghetti sauce!

What you need:

  • 20-24 large Roma tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic gloves peeled and cut in ½
  • 2 tablespoons tomatoes paste
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh basil
  • EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes if you like a little heat!

What you do:

  • Wash & remove the core from the tomatoes, set aside.
  • Bring large pot of water to a boil.
  • In small batches, drop the tomatoes into the water and boil until the skin starts to naturally peel.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and drop them into an ice bath.
  • Remove the skins from the tomatoes.
  • Repeat the above 2 steps until all tomatoes are peeled.
  • Crush the tomatoes using your hands until they are in small chunks.
  • Add EVOO to a large stockpot pan and sauté garlic for 30 seconds.  Do not burn!
  • Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 3 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, fresh basil, pinch of sugar, red pepper flakes and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until reduced and sauce is thickened (make sure you boil the water out otherwise it’s really runny).
  • Remove basil stems and large chunks of garlic.
  • Optional: Let the sauce cool and puree in a food processor or blender if you like your sauce smoother vs. Chunky.

Basil Simple Syrup

Even though I made a boat load of pesto and have been eating caprese salads several photo-1times per week, I still have basil coming out of my ears.  I hate to waste any food, especially food I grew myself, so I have been searching for new things to try using basil.

When a neighbor came down and asked to use some basil, naturally, I was curious what she was using it for.  What she said blew my mind.  Basil simply syrup for watermelon cocktails!  Being that it’s a holiday weekend, that sounded like a perfect way to use some of my basil.

This took only 10 minutes to make and tastes lovely!  It’s obviously sweet with the sugar, but if you didn’t know it was basil, you’d have that “what do I taste?” thought.  While I haven’t tried it in a drink yet (it is only 11am), I am excited to give it a whirl when guests arrive.  I’ll likely add it to a vodka soda with lime, or even in a watermelon margarita.  It would also be yummy drizzled over some fresh fruit or over vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

What you need: 

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup loose packed basil

What you do:

  • Heat ingredients over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.
  • Remove from heat, and allow to steep for about 15 minutes.
  • Strain syrup.
  •  for about a week in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container.

Garden Fresh Basil Pesto

Do you remember when I planted my 1st garden?  I doubted my green thumb, big Basil Planttime.  However, thanks to the Miracle Grow Soil and some good sun and rain, my 1st garden is thriving.  In fact, I have fresh basil coming out of my ears!  I’ve been making 1 million caprese salads but wasn’t sure what else to do with it.  In comes the pesto.

I haven’t been a huge fan of pesto in the past but I love basil so I wasn’t sure why.  I think it is likely because a traditional basil is made with pine nuts.  I’m not a huge fan.  So, I figured I would substitute almonds for the pine nuts and see how I liked it.

I started with a small batch and loved it!  I plan to make a boat load more and freeze the sauce in small enough portions (ice-cube trays perhaps?) that I can take one out at a time and use them for dinners during the week.

This time around I served it over a store-bought (gasp) gnocchi along side salmon and a caprese salad.  It was divine!

Salmon dinner

What you need:

  • 1 cup basil leaves (loose)
  • ½ cup Toasted Almonds (I used slivers)
  • ¾ cup EVOO (you can use more or less depending on how thick you want the pesto)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice (do this to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

What you do:

  • Lightly toast the almonds in a pan or oven
    Toasted Almonds
  • Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add more oil if you want the pesto thinner.

  • Serve over any sort of pasta you like or even over fish!
    PestoGnocchi with Pesto

Gooey Butter Cake

I am not a huge cake fan. However, this cake is crazy good. My mom used to make it for us when I was younger. While I had never forgotten about it, I haven’t made it in at least 10 years. Mostly because I could never remember the recipe. Well, thanks to a recent move, I found the recipe jotted down on a piece of scratch paper. And since it happens to be my birthday today, I thought I’d make myself a birthday cake.

This cake has minimal ingredients, but they are all the right ones. I mean any time you have butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese, you can’t go wrong. It is beyond moist (ugh, I hate that word!!) and incredible sweet and just a little chewy. There is no frosting but you don’t need it. If you don’t try this cake you are missing out.

Happy Birthday to me!

Recipe Screen Shot:


Cake Mix, Egg, Butter

Powdered Sugar, Egg, Cream Cheese Spread

Powdered Sugar, Egg, Cream Cheese Spread

Homemade marinara sauce

I enjoy making things from scratch because you know exactly what’s in it.  You don’t photohave to sacrifice any taste and can do so using fresh, healthy ingredients all while reducing the sodium.  When I realized Spring was “technically” here (although you wouldn’t know it from all the snow on the ground) and I still had 14 jars of my fresh canned tomatoes, I knew I needed to get cracking on using them.  What’s the point of all that work if you don’t use them in the winter when fresh produce isn’t available!

I found a great homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and tweaked it a bit to my liking.  It’s incredible and can give Rao’s sauce a run for their money.  Yeah, I said it!

This recipe makes about the same amount you would get when buying 2 jars from the store.  You can eat this with spaghetti, meatball sandwiches, lasagna or whatever else you like marinara sauce on.

FYI: While its way better with home canned tomatoes, you could certainly make it with store-bought.  Although it won’t be the same!


What you need:

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts / 64 oz canned tomatoes (you can use stewed tomatoes from the grocery store.  I recommend low sodium!)
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh basil
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spicy)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

What you do:

  • Add EVOO to a pan and saute garlic for 30 seconds.  Do not burn!
  • Add tomato paste and stir until combined
  • Add canned tomatoes, fresh basil, pinch of sugar, red pepper flakes and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until reduced and sauce is thickened

    Homemade meatball sandwich!!


Meatball Sandwich

Meatball Sandwich

Easy weekday shrimp

Well…I feel like a total blogger slacker. It’s been a month since my last post! While I’d like to blame it on being extremely busy, that isn’t totally the case. I have had a bachelorette party, a wedding and a dog show (Burton got a 5 point major!!) since my last post. But, I have also had plenty of time to relax. I blame my need for relaxing days on old man winter. He has been brutal! I haven’t even been able to enjoy snowboarding or other outside activities, too frigid for this chick.

I have found time to do a TON of cooking though. I know…cooking + relaxing = chubby. Well, not exactly. Remember, eat portions in moderation and you can enjoy better food!

I pulled together this simple shrimp recipe tonight and served it with baked sweet potatoes. While it wasn’t the “best shrimp ever”, it was simple and tasty enough for a week night. So I’d say, give it a try!

What you need:
1 pound shell on shrimp
1 stick butter, melted
2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
Mrs. Dash salt free table blend
Salt and Pepper to taste

What you do:

Pour melted butter in you oven safe pan
Lay sliced lemons over butter
Lay shrimp on top
Season generously with Mrs. Dash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for 15 minutes at 350



Mixed berry sauce

What’s my inspiration?

Whenever I have leftover berries that are still good, but not fresh enough to eat plain, I simply toss them into a ziplock bag I keep in the freezer.  I then use them for smoothies in the summer.  I had a huge bag full of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  They were taking up prime freezer real estate so I decided I better do something with them, especially since the warm months made for frozen smoothies has past.

I had stuff to make pancakes and whipped cream on hand, so I figured making a berry sauce would be my best option.  I used a very simple approach to this sauce and it was incredibly tasty!  This isn’t has healthy as eating fresh berries due to the sugar in the sauce, but it’s a fun weekend treat.

What you need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen berries (any kind you like!)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon water

What you do:

  • Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
  • Add berries to the sugar/water mixture and bring back to a boil.  Simmer, stirring frequently, in the pot for 10 minutes or until sauce starts to reduce and thicken.
  • Mix together corn starch and water in a small bowl, stir into berry mixture
  • Simmer for 5 more minutes, or until sauce is desired thickness.
  • Remove from heat and enjoy over pancakes, waffles, or even ice cream!