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.

What is Saving My Life Right Now

How was your Monday? I felt like I didn’t move very quickly from one task to another today. My theory is that my body gets to the point where it just has enough and purposely slows down. The weekend was full with late work hours and going to see my daughter in The Addams Family Musical at her high school on Friday and Sunday.

On Sunday evening after the show, Alan and I made a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie and Gluten Free, Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread while listening to Celtic music in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. It felt good to return to a tradition I enjoyed with my children when they were younger and had let go of in the past few years. I am looking forward to the rest of this week and to another celebration– the first day of Spring!!!

So here is where I follow several bloggers who have taken a cue from author Barbara Brown Taylor to answer the question: “What is saving your life right now?” Here is my list of current or ongoing lifesavers.

My Bullet Journal Notebook: I’m not going to stop singing the Bullet Journal’s praises, so if you’ve never heard of it, here’s an in-depth delve from Lazy Genius into the Bullet Journal world. (It really is the ultimate guide and will answer lots of your questions.)


The Bullet Journal is this ridiculously simple analog method of keeping your life together in one place. It works for everyone, is completely customizable, and once you start using it, you will be lost without it. This year, I got Alan on the Bullet Journal train and he’s enjoying using it to keep his life organized. This is my fourth year and I am continually finding new ways to entrust my life to its pages. The good news is, you can start it anytime. Check out the Bullet Journal website for short videos showing what it is and how to use it. Once you start, you won’t look back.

My diffuser: I haven’t been sick once all winter and I credit my diffuser, as well as my diet full of whole and green foods and low in sugar! I have several essential oil blends I’ve made and tested to keep me healthy. I’ll be sharing a few blends this week on Wednesday’s post.

My Blackwing Palomino 602 Pencils: as a left-handed writer, my hand tends to cramp up and get tired fairly quickly. There is a fluid elegance and ease to these pencils that have earned them high praise from many famous creatives.

Glo, formerly YogaGlo, is the primary way I practice yoga. In early December, I signed up for the free trial and never looked back. From 5 minute meditations, to 90 minute yoga classes, from super chill restorative Yin and gently Hatha to a sweaty Vinyasa Flow, there are choices for everyone.

You can search by time length, by instructor, by style, by body part you wish to focus on, by time of day, etc. As I work toward my goal of yoga and meditation everyday, Glo provides me with a feast of opportunities to practice.

Barre3 is the other exercise life-saver that I am in love with. It is a combination of ballet, Pilates, cardio, and yoga and is always low-impact. You will sweat, but you will never jump. Even their Barre3 Burpees are slow and much attention is paid to proper alignment, so my wrists and knees have never been sore afterwards. My butt and legs have, though!

It is a workout unlike any other I’ve experienced and the Barre3 message is body-positive and affirming. They’re never pushing you through a workout so you can look great in a bikini. Their language is aimed at building strength, confidence, and feeling good in your own body. They encourage people to pay attention to how they’re feeling (example: “If there is any tension in your neck, lower your arms, etc.”) and to modify each move to make it their own. Here is $10 off if you decide to join!

I’d love to hear what is saving your life right now! Please share in the comments below. Also, I will be giving away my copy of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and a couple other goodies on Instagram this week. So head over to my Instagram tomorrow Tuesday March 19 to enter. (US only)

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.