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.

Eeeek…it’s my 1st garden!

It’s no secret I love to cook. And being able to have fresh picked ingredients for my meals is a dream. But this girl isn’t known for having a green thumb. In fact, my hubby typically takes care of watering the indoor plants. However, now that we live in “the cabin” full time and I actually have a yard, this year it was time. Time to have my own farm fresh ingredients grown by me!

I am starting with more of a simple garden with plants I am hoping are easier to grow since they need full sun. And full sun I have! I planted tomatoes, jalapeño and cilantro so I can make fresh pico de gallo. I planted basil for my favorite caprese salad and chives just because I can use them on anything.

I vow to water my garden and only cook the best of dishes with my ingredients. If anyone has any tips for me as I embark on this new adventure, please share!

Happy Sunday everyone!




Grilled Bread and Marinated Tomato Salad

Source: Food & Wine Magazine

What’s my inspiration?

I have eyed up the heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers Market for years.  I love tomatoes, but these little bad boys looked questionable.  They vary in color and the dark maroon ones look like they are overdone or rotten.  However, it takes quite a bit to scare me away from trying new foods so I picked up a bunch.   I used a recipe from the tried and true food and wine magazine.   This recipe was outstanding.  And the heirloom tomatoes were delicious!  The tasted slightly more sweet than a grape or cherry tomatoes.  I advise you run out and pick up a batch of these heirloom tomatoes before their season has passed.


Heirloom Tomato


  • I used crumbled feta cheese instead of ricotta salata.  I bet goat cheese would also be amazing.
  • Serve this with Tequila Lime Cajun Shrimp  for an impressive dinner

What you need:

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf country bread (12 ounces), sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 bunches arugula (6 ounces each), stems discarded
  • 5 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (1 1/4 cups)

What you do:

  • On a cutting board, using the flat side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic clove to a paste with a pinch of salt; transfer to a large bowl.


  • Add the tomatoes, onion, vinegar and the 3/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture stand at room temperature, stirring a few times, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.
  • Light a grill. Brush the bread with olive oil and grill over high heat until toasted and lightly charred in spots, 1 minute per side. Let cool slightly, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the bread and arugula to the tomatoes along with the ricotta salata and toss to combine. Serve right away.

Canned Salsa

What’s my inspiration?

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!  Any Farmers market in the late summer has tomatoes galore and although this is a belated post, I wanted to share.  I make tons of Pico de Gallo in the summer, but wanted a way to preserve the goodness year round.  I haven’t canned a thing in my life so this was new to me.  Luckily, my mother in law was also thinking of canning salsa so we took the opportunity to try this together.  The results?  A tasty batch of salsa sitting in my cupboards that I can enjoy through the cold winter months.  I suppose you could follow this recipe with grocery store ingredients anytime of the year, but I would advice you keep this recipe in mind for next Farmers Market season and give it a try.  It was super fun and a very gratifying experience!  For me, there was a major sense of accomplishment when the cans ACTUALLY sealed.  Next year I hope to try my hand at canning other farm fresh produce.

What you need:

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 banana peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped (use seeds for more heat or remove seeds for less heat)
  • 3 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 – 6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 garlic cloves diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1-tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 8 pint canning jars with lids and rings


  • Plan an extra 1-2 hours to chop everything…it takes a while!
  • We put ¼ cup brown and white sugar in.  It was good, but a little too sweet for my taste.  I reduced the amount in the recipe above.  If you like a sweeter salsa, add more sugar.
  • If you want to make ½ the salsa mild and ½ hot, use 2 pots and add more jalapeño and cayenne pepper to the “hot” salsa pot.  Just make sure to label the jars when you can the salsa.
  • Don’t like red, yellow or white onion?  Use all the same kind!
  • Don’t like green pepper?  Use red, orange or yellow!
  • You get the point; if you don’t like something, substitute something else or omit it.

What you do:

  • Combine all ingredients in 1 or 2 large pots depending on the size.
  • Simmer on stove until thick, about 3 hours.
  • Sterilize the jars and lids:  this can be done in boiling water for 5 minutes OR in a dishwasher.
  • Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top.
  • Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
  • Fill large stockpot halfway with water.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, and then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars.

    Salsa Jars in Water


  • Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars.
  • Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool.
  • Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all).
  • Refrigerate after opening.

Caprese Salad

What’s my inspiration?

Caprese salad is easy to make, filled with fresh healthy tomatoes and beautiful in color.  It’s accented with tasty, aromatic basil, which is one of my all time favorite herbs.  This is something anyone can make in no time at all and can be served as a side salad or eaten as a light lunch or dinner. Feel free to shake it up by using different sized tomatoes and mozzarella balls or slices. You will love this one!

Tip 1:
Make it fun and serve it on a cute plate or bowl.

Tip 2:
If you choose to, you can use large slices of tomatoes layered with mozzarella medallions. Be creative and have fun with the presentation!

Tip 3:
It should be equal amounts of tomatoes to mozzarella.  You can make this salad as small or large as you wish.

Tip 4:
It tastes great made fresh and served immediately, or equally as good made the night before and served the next day.  This just gives the salad a little time to marinate.

What you need:

  • 1-container small cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in ½ (About 30-40 tomatoes)
  • 1-container small mozzarella balls, quartered
  • 6-7 large fresh basil leaves, julienne
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Salt and cracked pepper

What you do:

Combine sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil in a bowl.  Drizzle enough balsamic vinaigrette and EVOO over to lightly coat. Season with salt & pepper to taste and enjoy!

10 Ingredients – 3 ways to eat!

Farmers Market Fresh!

Pico De Gallo & Chips
Flat Bread Pizza

Source: Melissa Aune

What inspired me:

During the spring, summer and into the fall, my husband and I walk the 2 miles up to the farmers market in downtown St. Paul.  Coffee and “green” bags in hand; most of our walk is spent strolling down the walking path along the mighty Mississippi River.  We pick up fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for the week.  Whatever is in season, we buy and plan our weekly menu around those ingredients.  They also have gorgeous bouquets of flowers for $6!  When we shop, we scout out each vendor’s products for freshness, price, and quantity and look for the best deal.
For these particular recipe’s, we buy tomatoes, jalapeños, onions and cilantro.  The best part, we usually get all of it for fewer than 10 bucks.  We like to “spread the wealth” among the vendors and not buy everything at one place either.  Not like $2 bucks at each vendor is much, but it makes me feel more helpful for some reason.

When we get home, I wash everything immediately and make a huge batch of the Pico de Gallo.  We always eat some of it with chips but it can also be made into flat bread pizza or bruschetta topping.  I usually have enough of the individual ingredients (onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro) left to last the rest of the week for salads and other meals.  Some days we are able to find fresh-baked flatbread from local bakeries that bring their products to the market. Depending on what you like and what’s available, you can pick up any kind of flat bread for this dish.  You can go with whole wheat or whole grain to make these recipes healthier. When luck strikes just right, I have also run into some great cheese vendors who sell fresh mozzarella.

These recipes are quite versatile and tasty!  They can be used as appetizers at a cocktail party or the Flat Bread Pizza can be used as the main course on a summer night with a fresh salad.  Serve them up with Fresca margarita’s and you will be good to go!

What you need:

  • 4-5 Tomatoes diced
  • 2-3 Jalapeños diced & seeds removed (Depending on how much heat you liked)
  • 1-2 Onions diced
  • ½ cup Cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 Lime
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • Flat Bread
  • Fresh Mozzarella sliced
  • Chips
  • Salt for seasoning (I know, this makes 11 ingredients)

What you do:

Pico de Gallo:

Combine diced tomatoes, jalapeños, onion & cilantro in bowl.  Add juice from 1 lime, Worcestershire sauce and season with salt to taste.  **If you like your Pico de Gallo spicy, leave in some of the Jalapeño seeds.

Choice 1: Eat with Chips!

Choice 2: Bruschetta

Heat oven to 375

Slice flatbread into small pieces about 2” x 4”.  Place on cookie sheet and drizzle with EVOO, place in oven and toast for 10-15 minutes or until slightly crisp.  Remove from oven and spoon Pico de Gallo on and top with a slice of Mozzarella cheese.  Place back in oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and topping is warm.

Serve while warm

Choice 3: Flat Bread Pizza

Heat oven to 375

Drizzle flat bread with EVOO.  Spoon Pico de Gallo onto the flat bread and lay sliced Mozzarella cheese on top.  Cook in oven for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and topping is warm.