Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe

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I grew up in an Italian-American family where it was considered a sacrilege if one ate canned pasta sauce. Ever. In fact, I never ate canned sauce unless I happened to be at a friend’s house. My mom, who is not Italian, diligently learned how to make amazing “gravy” as we all called it, from Italian women in my dad’s family and friend group. This gravy always included meatballs and often, sausage. She didn’t make marinara sauce very often, which is a quick meat-free sauce, and when she did, it often seemed over-acidic to me.

 

When I decided to follow a vegetarian diet nearly five years ago, I knew I needed to find a good marinara sauce recipe; one that was rich, garlicky and had just the right balance of acidity and mellow mouthfeel. I bought Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, and liked her marinara sauce recipe. I’ve tweaked it a bit and here is what I make once a week to use on pasta and homemade pizza.

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As I almost always do with recipes, I give you an amount range for a few ingredients. For example, if the tomatoes you are using are sweet and not too acidic, you might not need all the sugar or milk. You also might prefer a less garlicky sauce, so use less garlic. Cooking has a lot to do with personal taste, so adjust it to your liking.

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Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup of water, approximately
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as almond (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil, chopped (optional)

In a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat, heat the olive oil, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until it turns golden, stirring and watching it carefully to prevent burning.

Add water and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any garlic that might be sticking.

Add tomatoes and the salt through milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring gently to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.

Adjust seasonings. Add fresh herbs if desired.

Notes and Options:

This lasts for about a week to ten days in the fridge.

It can also be frozen and thawed for a later time.

Feel free to add dried fennel, basil, thyme, or other dried herbs you prefer.

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A Little Island Addition (Juice Recipe)

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My eyes are doing so well these days! It’s not that I don’t have to be careful when I want to open them when I wake up. I still proceed with caution and a bottle of eye drops in hand, but I have not had an extreme episode of corneal erosion since I started juicing again last month.

Do I get tired of washing, peeling, and cutting up vegetables and fruits and cleaning the juicer afterward? Yes, of course I do, but I just have to remind myself of the alternative (extreme eye pain, puffy, scratchy, red eyes, light sensitivity, migraines…loss of productivity) and then my perspective becomes clearer. It’s a very small portion of time and energy out of my day and the benefit of eye health far outweighs any inconvenience. I’m so thankful for the simplicity of the solution.

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Because my eyes are what I am mainly treating with juice, I’m always using carrots as a base, but this week, for some variety, I added pineapple. So here is the recipe; it makes about three pints, which lasts a couple of days for me and Alan. Feel free to cut it in half.

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  • 10 carrots, tops cut off
  • 4 cups, peeled and cut up pineapple
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
  • 2 oranges, peeled and halved
  • 2 apples, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 1 pear, cut into large pieces

 

Enjoy!

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Starting My Aromatherapy Education

 

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I was a teenager when I first bumped up against the likes of Lavender and Patchouli and a host of herbal and homeopathic medicines that my friend’s mother used in their home for common complaints.

In my late teens I decided I wanted an herb garden. As I worked at a bookstore, I read books on herb gardening and herbal medicine and was fascinated to learn how to make my own lip balm, salt and sugar scrubs, body butter, and more using natural and plant-based ingredients.

When I was raising my children, I read books on homeopathy and natural medicines so that I could limit my kids’ exposure to pharmaceutical drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter. For everyday things like colds and coughs, trouble sleeping, minor earaches, insect repellent, and immune-system building, I went to Nature as often as I could. My kids roll their eyes even now, but I believe it was better for their health.

I also made some of my own cleaning products, incorporating essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus and lemon into my recipes. Cleaning a bathroom or mopping the kitchen became almost a delight because of the pleasant aroma of the oils.

This past December, I decided to join Young Living as a member, which enables me to purchase their products at a discount and also allows me to directly sell to others. For the most part, I am delighted with the quality and ease of use of all the essential oils and blends I’ve purchased. That said, there are other reputable companies that sell essential oils and I purchase from them as well.

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As I began to read Young Living literature and the information that is spread around the internet about essential oils, I felt a need to start an education in aromatherapy. I needed to learn how to safely administer oils to myself and loved ones. I wasn’t completely sure what are the best practices for making blends, butters, salves, balms, etc. But I wanted to learn what those were if I’m going to continue to sell natural body care products.

Looking up recipes on Pinterest is fine and most of the time I love the results, but I clearly needed to know how much and which oils to put together and why.

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Just because a substance is natural doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. (I’ll blog about this subject more in an upcoming post.) And when I’ve heard the dosing advice, particularly for internal use, that friends of mine have been given, I wince, thinking about the possible harm they could be doing to themselves in the name of essential oils and natural remedies/wellness. This can give aromatherapy a bad reputation. Any one of us who sell essential oils or make and sell aromatherapy products owe it to our customers, friends, and family to do this the right way.

Within weeks, I realized how ignorant I was and decided that I wasn’t going to take an essential oil company’s word at face value. Not that I’m assuming they’re lying, but ethically speaking, receiving education from an institution of learning, rather than a commercial enterprise selling the product they’re educating about, seems more responsible. I needed to go to school and that’s what I’ve been doing.

I signed up for two free webinars with Andrea Butje at Aromahead Institute. Following those, I enrolled in two online classes at Aromahead. I also signed up for a free 18-hour online class from New York Institute for Aromatic Studies taught by Jade Shutes. I’m thoroughly enjoying this class and am considering enrolling in classes there eventually as well. My goal is to at least become a Level 1 Certified Aromatherapist so that I am knowledgable enough to formulate my own blends and products for sale, and to be able to use aromatherapy for myself, family, and friends in a responsible manner. And who knows where this path will lead?

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Finger Lakes Wines I’m Loving

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I seem to be on a foodie trail lately, so I’ll just go with it. I wanted to share my current favorite local wines with you. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Finger Lakes Region, you already know how much fun we have here. New wineries seem to spring up overnight around these lakes.

Last year, for Mother’s Day, we went over to Keuka Lake to Hunt Country, Dr Frank’s, and Heron Hill for a tasting at each. That was my first time at those wineries and I enjoyed interacting with the staff, tasting their delicious offerings and the views of Keuka Lake as well.

So here are my late winter picks:

Wagner Vineyard’s Vintner’s Riesling is one I picked out at Trumansburg Wine & Spirits about a month ago and immediately fell in love with. Sorry, out-of-towners, but you can only purchase this at local stores. Which means you will have to come visit! It’s a great price and easy to pair with light meals.

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Six Mile Creek Vineyard’s Ithaca Red is all berry jam and spices. Yum. This wine was one of the only things I could sample at last year’s Downtown Ithaca Chili Festival. It’s a fun wine to share with a friend on a cold day.

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Hector Wine Company’s Soul White is a semi-dry blend that I enjoy drinking anytime. Alan and I brought a bottle to the first Big Mean BBQ that we attended together to drink along with our fare from the Silo Food Truck. So it brings back happy memories for me whenever I taste it.

Hector Wine Company’s 2016 Riesling is their semi-dry wine that Jason served us after our show there a couple of weeks ago. Cheerful, fruity and perfect for a celebration.

There you are, dear readers! It’s Friday, so pick up a bottle of fabulous Finger Lakes wine, make a delicious dinner and enjoy your evening.

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In Search of Soup (Recipe)

Happy International Women’s Day! This post won’t directly relate to this celebration of women; it’s about soup. However, soup is nurturing, soothing, and kind to us, and maybe a bit like a mother, grandmother, good friend, or Mother Earth. 

I don’t know what has been my problem this last fall and winter, but I just didn’t feel like making or eating soup. The idea would pop up occasionally, but I couldn’t get inspired enough to make a soup that I really wanted. This is so unusual for me; my kids could tell you how they ate soup two or three times a week fall through spring as they grew up. Maybe that’s it: I burned out.

Anyway, this week, I think I finally turned a corner. The weather here in Interlaken, NY, is still snowy and cold. The Spring birds might be singing, but Winter is stubbornly holding on.

My daughter has nightly rehearsals for the musical Shrek at school and I’m trying to ensure she gets something nutritious in her before she goes back to school each night for four hours.

Today, as I was thinking about what to make, I remembered a soup recipe I was given last year from a young man I worked with last year at a cafe in Trumansburg. His version was sweet potato and kale, which was delicious, but today, I decided I wanted to swap in spinach. So I did.

Here’s the recipe, simple and comforting. I give you a range of amounts, because it’s really ok to make more or less. This is a very flexible recipe, as are most soups, so make as much or as little as you’d like.

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Sweet Potato-Spinach Soup (serves 4 or more)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 sweet potatoes (I used yams), peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 6-10 cups water
  • 1-2 bouillon cubes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3-4 handfuls baby spinach ( or a bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped)
  • salt to taste

In a soup pot, heat oil, add onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add sweet potatoes, and saute a few more minutes, stirring often. Add water, nutritional yeast, bouillon and red pepper, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft enough to eat, and add spinach. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Feel free to add rice or noodles if desired.

 

 

Mystery and Poetry, Two Constant Companions

Since my seventh birthday, I have pretty much been addicted to mysteries. My mom’s friends, Pat and Judy, gave me a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries that year and my mind was opened to the scary, thrilling, who-done-it genre and I’ve never looked back. Sure, I’ve read some disappointing ones full of boring characters or convoluted plots that made me yawn, but, overall, I’ve found mysteries to be soothing and reassuring that no matter what is wrong in the world, by the end of the book, the odd little detective will have solved it and I can go to sleep confident that right triumphs.

I received Louise Penny’s latest book, Glass Houses, as a birthday gift this past year and I just finished it on Sunday. Her series is a little bit cozy, but only on the edges. It has all the depth of a novel, because she goes deep with her characters and most of them carry on from book to book. If you haven’t read her books yet, this is the year to give them a try. Three Pines is an imaginary village outside of Montreal, full of lovable, quirky people that you will want to read more about. No matter what evil they come up against, the townspeople live their unique lives and pull together when they’re needed. This story has to do with a hooded figure showing up in Three Pines, the drug trade in Montreal, and, of course, a murder. That’s all I’m saying. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

The other genre I’ve always kept close to me is poetry. I’ve got a poetry book or two going at all times…and so should you. Poetry is for everyone. If you don’t think so, maybe you need to keep looking. Mary Oliver, anyone? I just finished reading (again) Everything Is Waiting for You by David Whyte. Do you ever get days where life seems too much? Where emotions are overwhelming and tears break out for the smallest reason? Maybe it’s my Italian blood, or because I’m an HSP/ INFJ, or because I’ve been through lots of change in my life the past few years, but this happens often. On those days, I read poetry. Something elegant, simple and deep that speaks to the heart of sadness, the edge of elation, down to the bottom and all the way to the top of the emotional gamut. Thank you, David Whyte for breaking open your soul and writing down what spills out. I suggest you, dear reader, get one of his poetry collections and let it sink in. You need it, I’m telling you.

So, what are some of your favorite genres? What are you reading right now?

Baked Oatmeal for a Cheery Morning (Recipe)

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I was first introduced to baked oatmeal many years ago by my Mennonite in-laws and I’m forever grateful. It was a revelation! A breakfast unlike any I’d ever had: in between a soft, custard-like cake and a bowl of oatmeal. Only it stuck to my ribs longer because it contained eggs, butter, milk, and sugar.

If you know me at all, you know I can’t eat dairy, so I altered a recipe I found in a Cooking Light magazine. This is what I fed to my two kids several times a month and they gobbled it up happily. They would even eat it left-over the next morning. Recently, I made it for Alan, who’d never tasted Baked Oatmeal before, and he liked it enough that he ate it left-over the next morning as well.

 

So here it is:

If you’re feeding more than two or three, I’d double the recipe and put it in a 9×13 baking dish.

Baked Oatmeal

  • 2 cups rolled oats (mine are gluten free)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk ( I use dairy free milk, such as almond or cashew milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use coconut oil, vegan butter, etc.)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk, applesauce, melted butter or coconut oil, and egg. Mix well. Add in the rolled oats, brown sugar, and baking powder. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 baking pan. Bake 20-22 minutes. Serve warm.

Wasn’t that simple? I hope you like it as much as we all do!

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