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.

Supplies

5 quart saucepan with lid or splatter screen

Cutting board, knife

Ingredients

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)

Directions

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.

A Visit to Star Nursery

This is a great outing for kids, we went to Star Nursery this weekend (go early, it is warming up fast and it gets busy there as well).  They have a small fish and turtle pond and you get to pull your kids and purchases around in a red wagon.  They love it!

We planted garlic, carrots, tomatoes (better boy, early girl, and cherry varieties – this article suggested some but we had luck with early girl last year), pumpkin, snap pea, strawberries (two varieties), cilantro, basil, dill, parsley, and apple mint.  We also planted two flowering plants (cassias) and a nectarine and peach tree.  I love fruit trees, we have a pomegranate working along already and a large fig tree.  You can see the peach tree blossom in the shot above with the nectarine we bought behind it.  I also splurged (ok, it was $3.99 and we had a 20% off coupon off the back of the water authority 2011 calendar) on a kneeling pad so I can kneel on it for weeding.  It is awesome!  Oh, and a pair of gardening gloves so that I can work with R watching me and grab him with clean hands if he suddenly wants to be picked up.

I put the herbs in a container but if one of them takes over I’ll do some moving around.  Won’t it be great if I can just grab a handful when I’m cooking?  I had luck with mint last year and basil the year before that.  Here’s hoping!

We also took the kids out in the bike trailer to the park and had a great time.  R actually fell asleep both ways and we got some good family exercise in.  I love my new bike, my husband got it for my birthday and it is a Specialized Ariel (not the same model, mine is blue but maybe bike shops have a different selection?).  The shop in boulder city gave us 10% off which really helped and I found a helmet at Costco this past week.

I will take some pictures of the tomatoes, etc. once I am done putting the mulch down around them.  The article I linked to above said to pick varieties that mature in 70 days or less because you don’t want to hit the high heat.  Then you can encourage fruiting again later in summer for another crop but at above 90 degrees the flowers will fall from the tomatoes so you have to plant now and buy the bigger plants, not the little 6 packs.  Of course if I planned better I could have started my own seedlings for cheaper on the porch a while back but I don’t have that much time.

I love spring!

Vegetable and Bean Soup Recipe

(Shared on the 4/8/11 Allergy Friendly Friday page at Cybele Pascal’s blog, check it out for great ideas and recipes!)

Grandma is holding R as I type, let me see if I can get this into the computer (usually I use my iPod Touch but for heavy typing it is annoying to use). . .

Here is a link to the photos I posted yesterday, I picked my favorite “in progress” shot and placed it above, I really like the shower of water drops on the drained beans.  The final picture is the soup straight from the pot yesterday.  E was a good helper but she is sick so she wasn’t as content as usual to be cooking.  R needed attention as I was finishing prep but that is how it goes.  You could do a lot of chopping the night before if your kids are better at being patient then, just put the potatoes in water to soak in the fridge after chopping so they don’t get brown.  I’ve read that you should cook right after chopping (something about cell walls in veggies) but I am not sure the nutrient level goes down much, if at all.

So I like to use Bob’s Red Mill’s 13 Bean Soup Mix, I use Subscribe and save with free shipping to get it for $13.29 (you can always cancel the subscription right after or do a long schedule, I do 6 months, and when they’re about to re-ship they email you with a week of time so you can cancel/check for better prices), then divide the bag in half by weight so each portion of beans for 4 quarts of soup is $1.67.  Here’s an amazon affiliate link (disclosure: I get some percentage of the sale with that link).

My friend asked for this one after her daughter enjoyed it.  It makes me so happy when people enjoy what I make!  This is a variation on a soup my mom made for us as kids so I dedicate my first recipe post to her.  She also taught me to cook especially after I had my first baby.  Thank you muttie!

With that, on with the recipe!

Supplies

5 quart pot

Colander (Sieve)

Large Bowl

Knife, Peeler, Cutting Board

Ingredients

14.5 Ounces of Dried Beans (my mix has Navy, Black, Red, Pinto, Limas, Large Limas, Garbanzo, Great Northern, Kidney Beans, Black-eyed, Yellow Split, Green Split Peas, and Lentils.)

1/2 medium onion, diced

7 ounces celery (about 3 stalks), chopped

7 ounces peeled and chopped carrots (about 6 or 7)

2 pounds russet potatoes, chopped in 2 inch chunks (you can use other kinds but the soup might not get as thick)

6 ounce can of tomato paste

3 tablespoons dried parsley (I was out of fresh)

4 teaspoons granulated garlic (out of fresh, I usually use 4 cloves, minced)

1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

2 teaspoons turmeric (no worries if you don’t have this, I love turmeric though!)

2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or regular is fine, if you like a more assertive smoky flavour, use more)

1 tablespoon salt (plus to taste)

1 tablespoon pepper

4 tablespoons olive or canola oil

4 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

Directions

The night before, soak your beans in a big bowl covered with two inches or so of water.  The next day, put your pot on the stove and heat it on medium (I have an electric stove so I use the middle setting, it should be high enough to get your oil shimmering).  Chop your onions, add your oil to the pan and add onions once the oil shimmers when you tilt the pan.

While the onions fry (stirring occasionally), chop your celery, carrots, and potatoes.  You can also mince your garlic now.  After the onions are softening, add garlic and your spices (in the pictures I added the salt and pepper later with the potatoes but you can do what you like).  Stir to mix and let everything fry for a minute.

Now add your carrots and celery, mix and fry another minute or two.  I had to read Green Eggs and Ham to E at this point (she was on the counter watching) so I ended up cooking too long and needed to deglaze the pan.  This is where you pour a splash or water (I use the water in my tea kettle) into the pan and stir to get the nice fried bits off the bottom.  If you have a non-stick pot you won’t have to do this.

Add your potatoes and stir.  Drain and rinse your beans.  Add the whole can of tomato paste and stir.  Now add your beans, then 4 cups of broth (the whole box if you buy it in quarts, I had E help open it, it is a nice way to give a child ownership of a meal to let them help as much as they can).

I usually don’t measure the water I add, I fill the rest of the pot with water until it hits the rivets.  This time it was 3 cups.  If you add more veggies or have less for some reason, you’d end up adding differing amount of water.  Bring the soup to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low.  I reduced it to the “warm” setting (my settings are warm, low, 3, 4, and 5) and it took 2-3 hours at this setting for the beans to be cooked.  If you cook too long it is still really tasty but the beans come apart.  This makes me think it would be a great crock pot recipe but I haven’t tried that yet.

Serve with a dash of lemon juice and salt (my favorite style) or with tabasco sauce (my husband likes this, though it has vinegar of a type E can’t have we keep it in the house because she doesn’t eat it, it is one of the few “unsafe” things we keep).

This served 3 adults, 1 toddler, and 1 baby (he ate a mashed potato from the pot) for dinner (with some allergy free biscuits made by my mother in law, they are so good!) and provided a container for my husband’s lunch tomorrow.  It will also be lunch for the rest of us today.

As always, soup is better the second and third day.