Sunday, March 23, 2014

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Back in February, I told you about the great deal I got on Roma tomatoes and multi-colored peppers at Aldi. You can read about it HERE. Well, I'm finally getting around to sharing with you my way of making homemade marinara sauce.

I've been making it this way for years. I really don't measure anything, or have a "recipe" written down. I just kind of eye-ball everything, tasting and adjusting along the way if necessary. I will do my best to explain how I do it, so you can give a try too! (It's so much better than store-bought marinara sauce, and once you've made your own, it's hard to go back to store-bought).

 Here's what you'll need:  tomatoes (I use Roma - what's pictured here was about 12 lbs.); yellow onions (about 2 cups; chopped), garlic (6-7 cloves; sliced), extra virgin olive oil (about 3-4 Tblsp), red wine (about 1 cup - I just use cooking wine), Kosher salt (about 1-1/2 Tblsp), freshly ground black pepper (about 1 tsp) & fresh basil (about 1/2 cup).

Equipment needed: Two large pots and a food mill.

 Cut the tomatoes in half, cross-wise. This will expose the tomato's 2-3 seed chambers. Over the side of the sink with the food disposer, squeeze the tomato so that the seeds and all that jelly looking stuff squeezes out. (Hint: If you have a piece of tomato in each hand, you can squeeze both and then use the tomatoes to kind of wipe the opposite tomato to get all of the seeds and stuff to fall out into the sink). You can see in the last photo what it looks like without the seeds. It doesn't have to be perfect. A few seeds are okay, but all of the "stuff" in there will just water down your sauce, and you don't want that. We're making marinara, not tomato juice!

 Next cut each tomato half in half again, so you end up with tomato quarters. Place your pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato quarters and give it a good, gentle stir (that pot is pretty full right now), working the onions and garlic up from the bottom of the pot.

Sprinkle with kosher salt and give it about 6-7 grinds of pepper (about 1 tsp). Add the wine. Remember that basil I harvested last summer and put in the freezer? THAT is going to make this sauce! I just pull out a handful of frozen leaves, and give them a crumble, right on top of the tomatoes.

Cook over medium to medium-high heat (uncovered), stirring every 15 - 20 minutes. You want to keep them at a good simmer. The tomatoes will start to cook down, and concentrate. After about an hour, I get in there with a masher, and help to break the tomatoes down even more (if you don't have any type of masher, you can use a wooden spoon). Continue to simmer, stirring every so often, until it reaches the consistency shown in the last picture here.

 Now comes the fun part. Place the food mill fitted with medium holed disc over a large pot. Ladle some of the sauce into the food mill and turn clockwise with one hand, while holding the handle of the food mill with the other hand.  Every 4-5 turns, do one turn counter-clockwise to clean up the skins. Continue to pass the sauce through the food mill in the same manner. When there are too many skins in the food mill, you'll need to clean it out before continuing.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the mill, before taking it to the sink to clean! You don't want to miss all of that yumminess on the bottom!

 This is what you'll end up with when you're done. At this point, you can put it into freezer containers and place into the freezer, or if you are into the whole canning thing, you can do that with it too!

In my home, this is like a pot of gold! Nothing makes my husband happier than coming home and seeing and smelling this. I can have dinner already prepared, and my husband will say "I have to have some pasta"!

What can I say? He's Italian!

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mint Buttercream Frosting

Last night I hosted the ladies at my house for our monthly Bunco night. Being that it was also St. Patrick's Day, I felt the need to prepare something green to eat! I was already serving the traditional corned beef and cabbage along with some other appetizers, so I needed something sweet!

Over the weekend, I hit Michael's with a 40% off coupon, plus take an additional 20% off your purchase coupon. I bought myself a 14" decorator bag and a 1M tip - perfect for making pretty cupcakes!  Cupcakes it was!

For the cupcakes - I turned, once again, to one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes - Simple 'N' Delicious Chocolate Cake from Allrecipes. Why mess with something that is perfect already! I was up baking cupcakes at 6:30 a.m., so they could cool and be ready to frost at lunch time.

Here's the frosting recipe:
<Printable Recipe>
Mint Buttercream 

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
4-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp pure mint extract
1/8 tsp popcorn salt
5-6 Tblsp heavy cream (to reach desired consistency)
Wilton® Kelly Green Icing Coloring

  1. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixture and beat until creamed.
  2. Add powdered sugar - a bit at a time, alternating with the cream, mixing well between additions until all of the sugar and cream have been added.
  3. Add the salt and mint extract and beat on medium for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Dip a toothpick into the icing coloring and run it through the whipped frosting. Beat an additional 2 minutes to distribute coloring.
  5. Fill decorator bag fitted with either a 1M or 2D tip with the frosting. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes in a circular motion, starting from the outside and working towards the middle. Top with an Andes mint or sprinkles (if desired).
Adapted from Allrecipes

I loved how the mint buttercream complimented the chocolate cupcakes. They turned out so cute, and everyone loved them!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Mango Salsa

Yesterday marked the start of Lent for the 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world. Lent is a time of preparation - preparing our minds, bodies and souls. For those of us that practice the faith, this means refraining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. It's a great time to work at eating healthier . . . many people often giving up sweets, candy, cookies or soda for these 40 days.


  This month, as part of the Allrecipes Allstar program, I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mazola® Corn Oil. (I received a sample from Mazola® to facilitate my review, as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.)

I was glad to see that one of the recipes that we were asked to review was a fish recipe.  Healthy, and meatless to boot! I decided to prepare it for our Ash Wednesday dinner. I did make a couple of adjustments to the original recipe to fit my family's dietary needs (neither hubs nor I can eat grapefruit).  You can find the original recipe HERE.

We really enjoyed this! It's good to know that Mazola® is providing heart healthy recipes that I know my family will enjoy! 

You can find out more about Mazola® Corn Oil, including healthy eating tips HERE.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Mango Salsa
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 lb salmon fillet (cut into 4 pieces)
2 tsp Mazola® Corn Oil

For the Salsa:
2 cups mango, diced
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup sweet bell peppers, diced (I used a mixture of red, yellow & orange)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
Juice of 1 orange
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay salmon fillets on top.
  2. Combined paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, oregano, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper and brown sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Brush the salmon fillets with the corn oil. Sprinkle the rub generously on top of each fillet, and rub it around to coat the tops and sides of the fillets.
  4. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily (depending on the thickness of your fillets).
  5. While the fish is baking, combined the salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  6. Serve the salsa on top of the baked salmon.
 Adapted from Allrecipes
Buon Appetito!