Marinara Sauce for Mondays (or Any Night of the Week)

Here is a reprise of my weeknight mealtime go-to. I’m Italian-American and no matter what diet fads come and go, I’m never giving up pasta. Mine is gluten-free, of course, and drowned in Marinara. (This is my favorite brand.) It is such a fast, easy recipe, there is no need to purchase that sorry excuse for pasta sauce from the market ever again!!!

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This sauce can be made in about 15 minutes, start to finish, which is probably quicker than it’ll take your pasta water to boil. When I’m feeling tired, lazy, or like I need some comfort, I make this recipe. Pasta, salad, vegan meatballs from Minimalist Baker (or your favorite store bought version), and dinner is on the table.

It’s also great to dip pieces of gluten-free bread sticks, or vegan meatballs into at a party. I served gluten-free focaccia from Sarah Bakes Gluten Free and vegan meatballs from Minimalist Baker with a bowl of Marinara at this year’s Super Bowl Party, and all of our meat/dairy/gluten-eating friends couldn’t get enough!!!

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.

Healthy Fudge: A Childhood Recipe, Revamped

Today I’ll be sharing a recipe from my early childhood. When I was small, my mom kept us well with home-cooked meals that included plenty of unprocessed, whole foods, and very little sugar. One of the treats she would make for us included “Healthy Fudge”. The original recipe contained peanut butter, wheat germ, and powdered milk, none of which I can tolerate today. So I revamped it and enjoy it as much, if not more, than the original.

Healthy Fudge

makes about 16 balls

1/2 cup cashew butter (or almond butter or tahini)

1/2 cup molasses, honey or (1/4 cup of each)

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus extra for rolling

1 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or raisins (optional)

Place all ingredients except chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and stir together with a spoon. Add in chocolate chips if using. Put some coconut into a small bowl.

Form into 1-inch balls, roll in coconut, and place in an air-tight container. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Turmeric, Two Ways (Recipes)

Some of my readers may remember my post from last year, when I wrote about living with Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome (RCES) and how juicing is one of the main ways I keep that beast under control.

The importance of juicing is primarily about lowering inflammation in my body, but I don’t rely on juicing alone to do this job. Enough sleep, exercise, proper overall nutrition, and managing stress levels are also factors. In the past six months, I’ve been regularly drinking green tea and taking Turmeric to assist with inflammation reduction. I actually buy Turmeric by the pound both to use in cooking and to fill veggie capsules myself–it’s much more economical this way.

I love simple ways to incorporate Turmeric into my diet, so today I am sharing two quick and easy recipes: one is a Thai Yam-Carrot Soup recipe and one is Turmeric Hot Cocoa recipe. I’m guessing by now, you’ve heard about Turmeric’s amazing benefits, but in case you haven’t, here’s a link to get you started.

Thai Yam-Carrot Soup

Serves 8, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions or combination of onions, shallots, leeks (basically whatever you have on hand)

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 2 teaspoons

1 Tablespoon of curry powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

4 cups broth or water ( I used Not Chick’n bouillon cubes)

1 large or 2 medium-sized yams, peeled and cut into half inch pieces

2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced

1 can coconut milk

Juice of 1/2-1 lime, depending on taste

1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Heat oil in pan, add onions and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking/burning.

Add ginger, salt, and curry powder and stir to coat onions. Add water or broth, yams and carrots, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until yams and carrots are soft. Turn off heat. Add can of coconut milk.

Blend with an immersion blender or regular blender. (Make sure you take the center out of the blender lid and cover with a towel if you blend while the soup is hot!!! Otherwise the top will burst off and hot soup will fly everywhere. I learned this the hard way).

Recipe adapted from www.comfybelly.com

Turmeric Hot Cocoa

Serves 1, dairy free, gluten free, vegan 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • A pinch of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend well. 
  2. In a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, whisking often, remove from heat, taste, and adjust sweetness if desired.adapted from https://www.natalieshealth.com/cacao-turmeric-maca-hot-chocolate/

If you make either of these recipes, I’d love to know how it turned out! Or if you have favorite anti-inflammatory foods you recommend, feel free to share in comments.

A Scone For Tuesday

If you are a person who eats gluten free and dairy free, you know how rare it is to find a cafe or restaurant that offers pastries and baked goods that you can indulge in. So often places may offer a gluten free option, but it contains dairy. Or it’s vegan, but it contains wheat or spelt flour. (I’m looking at you, Greenstar!) I keep hoping things will change, and that chefs everywhere will discover that it is very possible to create interesting and fabulous things to eat without gluten and dairy. Anyway…the next best thing is to make your own and bring it along when you’re meeting a friend for coffee, so you won’t feel left out of Normalville.

Here is an easy and delicious scone recipe, in case you’ve been hankering for one like I was. These are gluten free vegan scones adapted from a recipe found on the blog Sarah Bakes Gluten Free. It’s a great starting point, and I’ve been known to add lemon or orange zest, cinnamon, pumpkin, nuts, dried fruit to make all kinds of scones. Last time I made them, I doubled the recipe and then made half of the dough with blueberries and half with chocolate chunks.

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Gluten Free Vegan Scones

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend

1/2 cup sugar, plus more for scone tops

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter (I use the soy free version)

1/2 cup almond milk plus more for scone tops (or other non-dairy milk of choice)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, dried fruit, chopped nuts, chocolate chips or chunks or a combination

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in vegan butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is pea-sized. Pour in the milk and stir to combine. Add in the fruit/nuts of choice.

On floured surface and with floured hands, shape dough into a 12 inch circle. Cut dough into 8 triangles and place on lined baking sheet. Dip fingers in almond milk and wet tops of scones. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 16-18 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on rack before eating. Store in airtight container.

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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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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.

 

 

Day 10: Good Friends and Sushi Dates

9F3F83E8-76E3-4054-A04B-5ADF8994DD4FI needed today to be the Tuesday it turned out to be. The pressure to make, create, be brilliant, to learn new skills was weighing on me.

The “Not Enough” and “Too” gremlins were barking loud, “Not enough–not enough creativity, not enough skill, not enough ability, not enough time, etc.” “Too–Too fat, too dumb, too stupid, too slow, too untalented, too late, too old, etc. ” After working out and cleaning the house this morning, I just wanted to go back underneath the covers and hide from them.

But my friend was coming over for lunch, so I chopped fennel, carrots and leeks and sautéed them in olive oil, added white wine, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, white beans, salt, pepper and oregano and brought it to a simmer in my Le Creuset French Oven.

(I adore that piece of cookware. It’s purple, it cooks like a dream, cleans up easily and I’ve wanted one for twenty years. Actually, I adore French cookware and bakeware in general.)

We had roasted beets and butternut squash earlier to add to the salad. So there was the roasted vegetables and homemade vinaigrette. And of course the gluten free vegan carrot cake I made yesterday for dessert.

I’m so glad my friend came. My spirit was lifted, I calmed down, the gremlins’ barking faded away and we had a lovely afternoon catching up. We ate lunch unhurriedly, then took our cake and coffee to the gazebo.

What a relaxing time with the view of lake and now-harvested cornfields surrounding us. We drank in the natural beauty and nourished our souls with real conversation.

When she left, I took a nap and then tried to drum up enthusiasm and an idea for dinner. As I sat in the darkening bedroom practicing my ukulele, Alan came in and asked if I’d like to go to Capital Corner, the sushi restaurant we love in Ithaca. YES! Of course, I did.

So off to Ithaca we went and had a quiet and delicious sushi dinner. Miso soup for me first, of course. It’s so simple yet always richly comforting. If you live around here, you ought to try Capital Corner if you haven’t. They never disappoint.

When we finished, Alan said, “I want Starbucks.” I did too. Since we had to go up to the mall, we stopped at the Starbucks in Target where he got a Pumpkin Spice Latte and I got a Coffee Frappuccino with almond milk, no whipped cream or dairy and an extra shot of espresso.

We searched for a Halloween store, but the mall had none, so we went to Party City. That store had more Halloween items than last year. We tried on hats and masks and noted prices on pieces we need for our costumes. I got a couple of things for my costume. Then we headed to Wegmans and came home.

Oh, and the gremlins are gone. At least for today.

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