Marinara

We love Italian food.   If I thought that we could get away with eating it 4 time a week, we probably would.  I used to buy marinara.  One jar for $2 didn’t seem like a bad buy.  But….when you use a jar and a half when making Chicken Parmesan (our favorite meal next to Pizza) you start to wonder if there if making it yourself is better in the long run.   Once I started making it at home, we haven’t gone back to using the store bought kind.   It doesn’t take as long as you might think.   If you have an hour, you can make this super simple marinara.

This recipe was found when Virginia is for Hunter Gathers did a guest post on Nom Nom Paleo.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in water (I recommend draining the water or else the sauce is super watery)
  • ⅛ teaspoon celery seed (original recipe called for celery salt, but I don’t have that and have always used the celery seed)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon coconut aminos (can be found at Whole Foods or Central Market)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil cut in chiffonade, divided (If you don’t have fresh basil, dried basil works too.  When I use dried basil I tend to add a bit more)

 

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet (I use a deep sided skillet so I only have to use one pan for this) over medium-low heat.  Add in your onions.  I like to caramelize the onions a bit to add some sweetness to the sauce.  If you find that the onions are starting to burn instead of caramelize, add a bit more olive oil.  If you don’t want to caramelize the onions, cook them until they are translucent.

Cooking the onions

Cooking the onions

 

While the onions are cooking, you can prepare the garlic.  The easy was to do it is if you have a garlic press.  I don’t have one, so I cut it by hand.   When you add in the garlic, cook it for about 3 more minutes.

Add in the garlic

Add in the garlic

 

Once the garlic has cooked with the onions, you can add the rest of the ingredients.  (If using fresh basil, put half of it in at this point) If you don’t have a deep sided skillet, you can use a large sauce pot.

Ingredients in the deep sided skillet

Ingredients in the deep sided skillet

Bring the mixture to a simmer.IMG_2391

Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour stirring occasionally.  If the sauce starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat.  Remove the bay leaf and add the rest of the fresh basil if using.

The sauce could now be used if you like a chunky sauce.  I don’t.  So I put it in the blender.

Ready to be blended

Ready to be blended

Almost there!

Almost there!

 

Blend it until you get the desired consistency.  I like my sauce really smooth.  So I will blend it a bit more.

Once you have the consistency you like, you can eat it or store it!

 

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This sauce is so tasty!  I have had several people tell me that they can’t believe that it is homemade.  I am so grateful that I found this recipe.  It has become a staple in our house.   Hopefully it will become one in yours too!

Chocolate Chews

A couple of weekends ago, Trip and I went to a Chocolate Festival.  They gave you tickets, and you got to go to all the different vendors and try their products in exchange for a ticket.  And here is what I took away from the festival.  (I still have chocolate yummies left 2 weeks later!  I am savoring this!)

 

My Haul

My Haul

 

It was hard to not get inspired when trying these different treats.  Like this Snickers bar!  Wish I could make this!

A "snickers" bar

A “snickers” bar

 

Last week, I got this great idea.  I have been snacking on Bark Thins lately.   I was like, “I can do this!”  All I have to do is melt chocolate and put nuts in it and I am good.  Right?

Sounds so easy in theory……..

Ingredients:

  • 24 ounces of dark chocolate chips (I used this because I got them on sale for 20 cents a bag!)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4c almond milk
  • 1c chopped pecans
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

First thing is to melt the chocolate.  You are *supposed* to do it using a double broiler.  BUT…..since I don’t have one, I just melt it on really low and constantly stir.  Place chocolate, butter, vanilla, and almond milk in a pot.  Put on low (or use a double broiler) and constantly stir until melted.

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It should look smooth when it is ready.   Take the chocolate off the burner and add the pecans.  (You could also use any other type of nut that you like, or mix it up!)

Pour the chocolate nut mixture evenly out over two parchment lined cookie sheets.  This is where I messed up.  I thought that one cookie sheet would be enough…..boy was I wrong!  When I only used one sheet, the chocolate didn’t get “thin”.  It was a pretty thick mixture.  So, make sure that you use at least two to get it thinner.  But if you don’t mind the chocolate not being thin, you can use one sheet.  (Either way….it will come out great!)

 

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Sprinkle sea salt over the chocolate.  Put in freezer until the chocolate is set.  Which is about 45 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut the chocolate.  Store the chocolate in the fridge or freezer.  It needs to be kept cold when not eating it, or else it gets really soft.

Chocolate Chews

Chocolate Chews

 

As you can see, the chocolate pieces are not thin like the Bark Thins.  However….they taste amazing!  I liked how soft they are even with being in the freezer.  I still store mine in the freezer.  It did not harden up like you think it would.

You shouldn’t cut them in really big pieces though.  It tends to be rich, even though it was dark chocolate.  The salt does help cut down on some of the sweetness while enhancing the chocolate flavor.

Just one of these squares hits the spot for me when I have a chocolate craving!  It has even been approved by several people at work and by the boyfriend!  Hope you enjoy it too!

Granola

One of my niece’s favorite things I make for her is granola, or “Aunt Amy’s Granola” as she calls it.  Some people think that it takes a long time to make granola, but really is only takes about 30 minutes, including prep time!

What I love about making granola is that I can decide what goes in it!  Dried cranberries, dried blueberries, coconut flakes….you name it!  The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients:

  • 4c quick cooking oats (I use the gluten free ones)
  • 3/4c chopped pecans
  • 1/4c to 1/3c light brown sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1c dried fruit (I like cranberries)
  • 3/4c mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Put the oats, brown sugar, and pecans in a large bowl.  Add the vanilla, olive oil, and water.  You want the mixture to be slightly damp, but not soaked.

Then spread out on a cookie sheet.

Before baking

Before baking

Bake for 10 minutes.  Stir it around and then bake for another 10 minutes.  If after 20 minutes, it is dry, you are done!  If not, bake it for 2 minutes at a time until it is dry.

Dried granola

Dried granola

Let the mixture cool.

Once cooled, you can add the chia seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips.

Add in your fruit and chocolate!

Add in your fruit and chocolate!

I will store mine in the freezer so it lasts longer.  However, from what I have heard, when you have a five year old at home, it doesn’t last long!

Ready to store

Ready to store

I think the bowl says it all!

I think the bowl says it all!