Marinara Sauce Recipe

This one is simple but very handy and cost effective (under $5 for ingredients)!  I originally started making Deborah Madison’s version for a pizza sauce in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (amazon affiliate link, it is on page 507) but it has changed a lot, especially with the six pound Costco sized can of crushed tomatoes ($2.69 each).  You can make the equivalent of about 7 jars of store-bought marinara (they’re usually a pound a jar) for a fraction of the cost.  I make a batch put it into freezer ziploc bags, get as much air out as possible, then lay them flat until frozen.  Laying them flat helps with defrosting later on.

My mother in law and I call this one of our “fast food” options because you can take out some sauce, some white rice pasta (tinkyada is our favorite, amazon affiliate link) or quinoa and frozen veggies and you have yourself a dinner you can make with a baby on your hip.

Sometimes I put in mushrooms or red peppers, there are many options, but this is the cheapest and easiest.  If I have fresh herbs I use those, if I am out of fresh garlic I use granulated garlic, so it is flexible.  Here are the photos.


5 quart saucepan with lid or splatter screen

Cutting board, knife


6 pound 10 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 a head of garlic (about 12 cloves) crushed

4 tablespoons of olive oil

4 tablespoons of sugar

3 tablespoons of dried basil

3 tablespoons of dried parsley

1/2 tablespoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt (and to taste)


Heat your pan on medium, add oil and heat until shimmering.  Add your diced onion and fry until translucent.  Then add your sugar, garlic, and spices.  Fry another minute or two and then add the crushed tomatoes slowly (they will splatter coming out of the can).  Add the whole can of tomato paste.  You’ll see a picture below with additional basil and parsley, I started with two tablespoons of each and it wasn’t enough so I added more.  Adjust your spices and seasonings to taste after they’ve had a chance to cook together a little.  Get the sauce to simmer and then reduce to low, put the lid on a little off kilter so that your sauce doesn’t splatter but air can get out.  Cook it for an hour to meld and  reduce the liquid, then taste and adjust your spices as you like.

Once it has cooled, put a quart ziploc bag inside a measuring cup (I use a 2 cup pyrex, amazon affiliate link) on a kitchen scale (amazon affiliate link to the one I use) and set it to zero.  Then you can measure one or two pounds of sauce per bag.  I actually do 2 pound bags because rice pasta soaks sauce up really fast and you need more of it for a meal.  Mark the bag with the date so you make sure to rotate batches in and out of the freezer.  You can also mark if they have extra ingredients, this one is good for wheat free pizza but I make versions with veggies inside for other dinners.

You can also add oregano but I find dried oregano makes my food taste dusty (anyone else find this?) so I use it sparingly or not at all.  It is quite nice fresh but even brand new dried oregano is not my thing.

Springs Preserve Plant Sale

Saturday was the Springs Preserve Plant Sale!  This year we really had a particular plan to fill in the front yard where we’d previously had a bunch of oleanders.  We are leaning toward having a more desert friendly landscape with as many native plants as we can find.  Of course, there were some things that at $7 for one gallon were pricier than Star Nursery but this is a great event to support the Springs Preserve.  E loved that I let her pick a couple plants, at one point she really got into it, carrying a random one gallon plant to our cart (you have to bring your own method of carrying the plants you’re buying or you can use a “plant valet” to stash your plants until you’re ready to pay, by the way).  There were informational tables near the plants and they had kid friendly items to give away like a small turtle squirter at the Desert Tortoise Adoption table or a coloring book at the Las Vegas Wash table.  It is a great outing for kids.

The downside this year over last year’s sale was the weather.  It was chilly and windy, we weren’t sure we’d even want to brave it with the kids (versus my husband going alone) but with Grandma’s help we were able to pull it off.  My favorite new plant is the “Tiny Tangerine” (Bulbine Frutescens) as the blooms are a pretty orange and yellow mix.  Speaking of colors, we have purples, blues, pinks, oranges, yellows, and of course greens in the mix.  Here’s the list of what we got (common names on the right), the Chocolate Flower is a lot of fun, it really smells like chocolate!

Artemisia frigida – 01 Fringed Sage
Chrysactinia mexicana Damianita
Penstemon Petiolatus Petiolate Penstemon
Senna Armata Desert Senna
Psilostrophe cooperi-01 Paper Flower
Penstemon parryi-01 Parry Penstemon
Dalea greggii-01 Trailing Indigo Bush
Berlandiera lyrata-01 Chocolate flower
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue Eyed Grass
Lepidium fremontii Desert Pepeprwood
Sphaeralcea ambigua-01 Desert Globmallow
Gaura Lindheimen Siskiyou Pink Gaura
Penstemon eatonii Firecracker Penstemon
Drosanthemum speciosum “Rosea” Iceplant Royal Dewflower
Lotus rigidus Shrubby Deervetch
Salva x trident
Stanleya pinnata Desert Prince’s Plume
Rhus Trilobata Skunkbush Sumac
Justicia spicigera Mexican Honeysuckle
Xylorhiza tortifolia Mojave Aster
Salvia chamaedryoides Mexican Blue Sage
Isocoma Acradenia Alkali Goldenbush
Bulbine Frutescens Tiny Tangerine

“Tears of Knowledge”

I was always a fan on Anna Quindlen’s Newsweek column a while back so I was primed to enjoy her guest post on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog. It did not disappoint, the NYT paywall goes up on the 28th so read it now if you are interested: The Best Part of Parenting

Because I agree with the baby and toddler paragraphs I trust her vision of the future. I love this passage in particular:

You could read human progress through the tears. The tears of a baby are often a reflex, for a toddler almost always the fruit of frustration or fatigue. The tears of a child begin to be the tears of knowledge. The older heart is more breakable.

It really struck a chord with me as my recent thoughts have pondered this transition. I like the use of the word knowledge because I don’t want to ever shield my children from knowledge in favor of the short term goal of averting sadness. This doesn’t mean I would tell them things without any filter but I can’t, for example, steer them away from false friends because of something I see that they do not.

At any rate, it is a great essay from one of my favorite parenting blogs.

Friends and the Future

E love love loves her little friend A, she talks about her all the time.  I am excited and scared as she enters this stage of wanting to make and making friends.  I’m sure all moms think this but she is a sweet, sensitive little soul and I want her to be strong and have good self esteem but I know she is a fragile little blossom right now.

At the park on Tuesday we were playing on a rocking ship type apparatus and a girl and boy got on.  I’ve been encouraging her to not be scared of kids that are near her on the playground so I greeted them and she said “hi” as well.  Very cool.  They were eating snacks (doritos and cheetos so my allergy mom alarm bells were going off but nothing happened, it just makes me worry a little bit but anyway. . .) and just kind of staring.  They didn’t respond to her greeting but did tell me their names.  We rocked a little while and then they ran off.  E exclaimed “little boy!  little girl!  come back!” but she didn’t seem too distressed.  They returned two more times in passing, the second time she offered them a seat next to her by scooting over.  I was really proud.  Then the wind started to pick up so I told E we should go on the slides and then go home for lunch.  As we got off she said good-bye to the kids and then said “my bend (friend)!”

My heart twinged a little bit.  Those kids were much older than her and in their own world and here she was looking at me with this earnest face.  All I could think of in that moment were the times in grade school when I would cry and cry when people I thought were my friends would tell me otherwise.  I wasn’t thinking about it in the “poor me” context but I had this premonition of the little and big heartaches in the future that I can’t (and probably shouldn’t in most cases) protect my children from.

I know this is just one of the layers of the complicated nature of parenting but it is hard.  I know so keenly about the experience of being a little girl so I wonder if I worry more for E than R but I worry about R in similar way.

We have started to look at pre-schools and the idea of dropping E off somewhere and not being close by scares me greatly.  Both from the physical implications of an allergy incident and the emotional implications of wanting the happiest and the best for her.  I loved school until the social dramas became too soul crushing in middle school so there’s lots to think about.

To end on a happy note, the phrase “think about” reminds me that it is similar to a common phrase for E now.  She holds her pointer finger to her chin and looks up and says “I’m dinning bout it.”  If R touches his face like that she’ll indicate that he’s thinking about something.  If I say I’m thinking about something she tells me I must be thinking about showing her a movie because sometimes that is my response to a movie request (she gets to watch a movie maybe once a week, Mulan and “Dinderedda (Cinderella)” are current favorites).  She’s a sharp one!

Tomato Onion Salad Recipe

First: Happy Nowruz!  I was going to do some portion of a haft seen this year but I think E is still a little young for a gold fish and I forgot to sprout my lentils in time.

This recipe is something my Aunt made when she visited us so we always called it Auntie S’s salad but when I started dating my husband I gradually started to call it “Tomato Onion Salad” and that has stuck.  It is fairly removed from, but along the same lines as, Salad Shirazi (which I adore but my husband isn’t a cucumber fan so I stick to this version, the link goes to one of my favorite cooking blogs, My Persian Kitchen).

I posted photos of this one here, and I usually serve it with just about everything but especially rice dishes like Lima Bean Rice.  I love the flavor of lemon and this has a very assertive lemony and salty flavor.  For smaller portions depending on the tomatoes and onions you have on hand, just adjust your proportions.  As long as the olive oil and lemon juice start equally you can get it to your suited taste with ease.

Another note, if you use fresh lemon juice the flavor seems to meld better but I do like the assertive lemon taste of bottled lemon juice as well.



Cutting Board



3 beefsteak or 6 roma tomatoes

1/2 medium onion

2 teaspoons salt (and to taste)

1/2 teaspoon pepper (and to taste)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil (I like first cold pressed)


Dice the onion finely and put it in the bowl, then do the same with the tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper.  Mix, then add lemon juice and olive oil.  Mix again and taste.  If there is too much lemon for you, add olive oil.  Not enough?  Add lemon juice.  Salt will also tame the lemon taste as well.  I like a lot of it.  Remember that the salt will get some of the water out of the tomatoes and you’ll get more liquid as the salad sits.  This is fine to make ahead but don’t be worried if it looks like a lot of liquid in the bowl when you retrieve it from the fridge.  I drizzle extra olive oil/lemon mixture on my rice when I put the salad on the plate and my siblings and I have been known to drink the last of it from the bowl.

(I posted this to the 4/1/11 Allergy Friendly Friday on Cybele Pascal’s site because the call was for spring recipes and I posted this for Nowruz, there are already some great recipes up there, take a look!)

Persian Lima Bean Rice Recipe

This recipe has gradually been something I’ve made my own.  First, I made it vegetarian by leaving out the beef.  Then, when E’s allergies became fully known I left out the margarine/butter and didn’t serve this dish with cucumber yogurt (there exists ricera’s rice milk yogurt which we do eat but it is vanilla and isn’t suited for this sort of thing).  I took lots of photos to help show this process.  You’ll want to do some prep here and there to make the final assembly easier.  I’ve posted photos here so do look through them to get an idea of all the steps to follow.


Large 5 quart saucepan (I use all clad but it can be nonstick)
Large mesh strainer
Frying pan


2 large peeled and sliced russet potatoes (enough to cover the bottom of the saucepan)
2 15oz cans of lima beans (or 1, or a 10z bag of frozen lima beans, this is really flexible, my daughter loves to eat the beans so I put extra)
1/2 a large onion (use the other half to make tomato onion salad to serve with this)
3 cloves of garlic
1  tablespoon turmeric
6 tablespoons dill weed
1 teaspoon salt and  1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola and 2 tablespoons olive oil
Three cups of basmati rice (Costco sells nice large bags of this, it is a great deal), rinsed until the water runs clear and then soaked at least two hours or overnight


This makes tons of food so you can halve it or use leftovers for lunch the next day.

You have three layers to make, the tahdig (which is the potato crust at the bottom of your pan), the rice, and the lima bean mixture to put between layers of rice.

As stated above, the rice has to be rinsed until the water runs clear, then soaked overnight or at least 2 hours.  I usually do the overnight method.  So, you run water into a bowl with the rice and swish it around with your hand gently.  Drain and repeat until the water is no longer cloudy.  This may take quite a few times.  Cook’s illustrated suggests when rinsing rice you can just run water over it in a sieve but I feel like that would take more water though I’ve never tested the difference.

To make the lima bean portion fry the diced onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft, add turmeric, your crushed garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the dill & salt plus pepper too.  Fry more and then add the rinsed beans if using canned beans or your frozen beans.  Fry until a little brown.  Set aside for now (I sometimes make this in advance and cover it in the fridge until I need it when preparing the rice.

Put rice in the saucepan and fill water to an inch above it.  Bring to a boil and boil about a minute.  Check the rice, put a grain on your finger and use your nail to break it in two.  You want the inside to still be a little hard.  Drain as soon as possible if this is the case and run cold water on the rice so it stops cooking.

Put the saucepan on the stove and put the canola oil to cover the pan bottom.  Heat it on medium high and cover the pan bottom with the potatoes (I put in extra because E likes the soft potatoes but you really just need to cover the bottom of the pan).  Then layer a third of your rice, then 2 tablespoons of dill, then half the lima bean mixture, then rice, 2 tablespoons of dill, lima bean mixture, and then rice on top.  Poke 4 holes in the rice and put a bit of olive oil in each hole (a tablespoon of olive oil total).

Put a dish towel over the pan lid and hold it on with a bowl when it goes on the pan.  Increase the heat to high until when you test a wet finger on the top of the pan’s bottom third it hisses.  Then turn to low for 40 mins to an hour.  When you remove everything to serve you mix the rice and beans and top with the potatoes.  I serve this with a tomato and onion salad with a lemon and olive oil  dressing (recipe to follow).

It gets easier to make but it is kind of a lot of steps. Persian cooking is not usually quick.  Arguably this is far removed from the real thing but people enjoy eating it when I serve it for company.  My siblings don’t mind it either and they are not vegetarians at all.

I am linking this to Cybele Pascal’s allergy friendly friday, here!  I am also linking to Diet, Dessert and Dogs’ Wellness Weekend, click through from some great allergy friendly and vegan ideas!