I love a good giant bowl of spaghetti topped with a heaping spoonful of slow-simmered, meaty tomato sauce just as much as the next carb-loving girl, but in the summer? Yeah, not so much. Summer finally decided to show up this week and it is obnoxiously hot and obnoxiously muggy. Two things that do not go so well with a batch of tomato sauce simmering on the hot stove for hours and hours.
But just because it’s 4,000° outside doesn’t mean I’m cutting out big bowls of pasta. It just means I make a summer-friendly version of tomato sauce!
Not only is this summer-friendly because it only takes 15 minutes, but also because it uses fresh herbs and tomatoes which are coming off like gangbusters in Southern Indiana right now. We’ve been canning and drying Romas as the come off, but I set a shirt-full (other people carry produce in their shirts, right?) just for this pasta sauce.
This sauce is all about the tomatoes. There aren’t a lot of other additions. It’s 100% vegan. And I don’t add a lot of spices. It’s unabashedly tomato-y. Which is why this tomato-lover could plow through heaping bowl after heaping bowl of this stuff. It’s such a different experience from eating standard marinara sauce, but entirely amazing in its own right. I know it sounds weird to describe a pasta dish as light, but that’s exactly what this sauce is. It’s light, brightly-flavored and totally summer-y. I tossed the sauce with some whole wheat pappardelle I made, and then topped it with some shredded parm. It was a perfect summertime dinner.
Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 4 Servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 12-15 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 handful of flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1 handful basil, sliced into ribbons
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the tomatoes and cook until they have released their juices and lost their shape, about 5 minutes. Add in the parsley, basil, salt and pepper and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender until mostly smooth (but a little bit chunky). Toss with fresh cooked pasta.
Other Tomato Recipes
What’s your favorite way to eat a bowl of pasta?
So. I’m in mourning, guys. We watched the series finale of The West Wing this week. If you haven’t been keeping up with my WW obsession on Twitter, then let me tell you—it changed my life. Seriously. Craig and I started watching it (for the first time!) at the beginning of the summer and have been steadily consuming one (or more) episodes a night ever since. The summer of 2013 will forever been known as the Summer of West Wing in our house. There are very few television shows that I can say I truly love, and this was one of them. I really have no idea what to do with myself now. I am (still!) so invested in all the characters and stories. I really don’t want it to be over. I’m not sure I can ever watch another TV show ever again. So I did what any rational person would do in this situation—I made a chicken to drown my sorrows. This is a 100% spoiler free post (to preserve the amazingness of the show for those of you that haven’t watched it), but I will say that this chicken recipe is directly from the bearded mouth of Mr. Tobias Zachary Ziegler. During one of the final episodes of the series, Toby tells C.J. how he roasts a perfect chicken. In fact, his entire quoted recipe is: Stick a lemon up it and throw on some rosemary. A little salt. Sounds good to me.
I’ve roasted a zillion chickens in my life and usually I let the bird bake naked (maybe with a little salt and pepper), but I’ve also done my fair share of chicken flavoring with lemons, oranges, onions, garlic, herbs and spices, too. We roast a chicken ’round here once ever few weeks and I have to say, the simplicity of The Bearded One’s three sentence recipe resulted in some really delicious bird. So often I think flavorings in a small chicken can overpower the deliciousness that is chicken, but not Toby’s chicken. Toby’s chicken rocked. If you’ve never roasted a chicken before, please don’t fear, it is quite possibly one of the easiest (and most impressive!) dishes that you can make. It’s literally two minutes of work followed by…well…that’s it. After it’s in the oven, you’re pretty much finished. We like to roast chickens on days when the schedule is packed. Throw in some root veggies in the roasting pan and you’ve got the easiest dinner on the planet. We used our carrots, onions, potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. Yum! And while roasted chicken itself is delicious, we love roasting chickens for leftovers! Usually I’ll tear up the leftover meat and make it into a mean chicken salad for lunches and then simmer the bones for stock. Three meals, one bird. Good call, Toby. Enjoy!
Toby Ziegler’s Roasted Chicken
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 1 roasting chicken
- 1 lemon, halved
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place a roasting rack in a roasting pan, or rest a cooling rack on a baking sheet or large baking dish. Set aside.
- Remove any giblets from the chicken (if there are any) and wash the bird inside and out, pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the chicken, breast-side-down on the prepared pan. Place the lemon halves and rosemary sprigs into the chicken cavity. Sprinkle salt over the chicken.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160° when inserted in multiple fleshy parts of the chicken and all juices run clear. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
More Fun Chicken Dishes
What’s your absolute, without a doubt, favorite TV show ever?
When I first started this blog three years ago, I was deep in the world of weight loss. And for me, that world was all about the numbers. The number on the scale. The number on the tag in my jeans. The number on the timer on the treadmill. The number of calories in my food tracker. Numbers ruled my world. And that kind of rigidity worked for me. It was exactly what I needed at that time. Keeping track of my calories in and calories out, without a doubt, was the winning method for how I managed to get my health on track. After years of neglecting my body, I needed to swoop back and overcompensate by being strict with my new healthy lifestyle.
I feel like so many of my issues pre-weight loss were due to sheer ignorance, and calorie counting helped remedy that. I really had no idea that getting the McChicken wasn’t any healthier than getting a double quarter pounder with cheese. Or, at the very least, if I did know it, I had constructed a very secure mental firewall to protect me from being conscious of it—especially when I was sitting in the drive-thru. Counting calories made it black and white. Even the strongest firewall couldn’t protect from the facts when they were right in front of me. I am so thankful that I spent the time counting calories and learning about food and my body.
Then, a few years ago, I felt my philosophy start to shift. Maybe it was because I started to reach a more “normal” weight. Maybe it was because I was just sick of the food scale. Maybe it was when I started to explore whole foods more. But whatever the motivation, I found my interest in the nutrition facts waning. After years of keeping track and monitoring every gram of everything, I had built up a foundation of knowledge that allowed me to begin to trust myself again. Without much effort, my eating habits began to moderate. No longer did I need to track every morsel of every food that went into my mouth. But I also no longer felt the need to binge on Chewy Chips Ahoy because no one was “watching”. It wasn’t overnight, but I’d found the mythical land of balance.
Now-a-days, I couldn’t tell you the last time I looked at a nutrition label on a package.
It’s interesting, because a lot of folks find calorie counting restrictive, but I think for me, calorie counting ended up opening my eyes to a whole new world of food education. I started asking myself what’s in this thing that I’m eating? and, at first, I meant numerical. How many calories are in this? How much protein is this? But that question keeps evolving. I still ask myself that question, but it’s a lot more about the ingredients now. Where did this come from? What is this made out of? I’m now so much more interested in what is listed in the ingredients section than how many calories there are.
Honestly, that’s one of the biggest reasons I no longer consult nutrition facts—I feel like the nutrition information of any one food or recipe is only part of the story. And if you aren’t careful, can blind you from the rest of the story.
So where is this going? Well, after much debate, I’ve decided to no longer include nutrition information on my recipes on this blog.
I’ve gone back and forth about this for years, but in recent months, I think you’ve probably noticed that my cooking has been much more focused on the quality of food than the calories in it. Instead of trying to figure out a way to shave a couple hundred calories off, I’ve been more focused using fresh, healthy ingredients—regardless of their calories. It has nothing to do with being anti-calorie counters (after all, like I said, it definitely has its place and it worked for me in the past). It’s more about the evolution of my personal relationship with food. Heck, this whole blog is a scrapbook of my evolution! This is just one more aspect of that.
I’ve been putting the basic nutrition info at the bottom of most of my recipes for years now, and while I get why other people like it and use that information, it’s been an internal struggle for me because that information no longer fits within how I personally eat. Including those facts on every recipe is in direct opposition to how I actually live my daily life. It isn’t honest anymore, and I really, really want to stay honest with you.
The honest truth is: my diet is trending toward foods like whole fat milk and butter and local bacon and freshly baked whole grain breads (and, well, lots of veggies and fruits). The virtues of those things are not told in the nutrition facts label. In fact, if you looked at calories, fat, carbs and protein alone, you might think those things are unhealthy (in some online calorie counters, you get letter grades for the “quality” of food and the things I eat daily consistently get Ds and Fs). I don’t believe they’re unhealthy. But the numbers would make you think differently.
Defining what “healthy” means is different to every person. For some people, it means it has no meat. For others, it means it’s low in carbs. For others still, it means it’s low-calorie. To me, a healthy recipe means real, fresh, whole ingredients that come together to make a dish that is delicious and fuels your body. And that’s what I try to post here (well, most of the time, at least).
Cutting away nutrition facts wasn’t an easy line to draw. Because of where I started with my healthy lifestyle, I totally understand that sometimes, in some situations, for some folks, counting calories is the way to go. And I understand that having that information right at the bottom of a recipe makes that easier. And I understand that for some people keeping track of their calories, eating butter and whole milk and bacon probably doesn’t interest them, and maybe they’ll remove me from their reader, but I have to stick with what I know. And I know that I can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right every time I pop the nutrition label into my recipes.
The truth is, I love food. I love the way food tastes. I love the way it looks. I love the way it smells. I love the way it brings my family together. I love the way to identifies cultures. I love the way it makes me feel. But I don’t love breaking food down into a series of numbers on a label. The story of my food feels like it deserves so much more than just that. I hope you’re cool with that.
I’ve actually tried to remove nutrition facts (albeit, in a more quiet fashion) a few times previously, and have gotten some push back, so I figured this time around, I’d explain my reasoning. I hope it makes some sense. Feel free to ask me any questions (or tell me you think I’m off my rocker). Like I said, I want to stay honest with you guys. Explaining my decision openly also gives me the opportunity to share with you a few of the tools that I like to get nutrition info. Going forward, if you want nutrition info for my recipes, I recommend using one of these guys:
- Quickest and easiest—Laveem Parser—No account needed. You just copy a recipe in, and it automagically spits out the nutrition for your recipe. It isn’t the most accurate of tools but for a quick estimate, it can’t be beat.
- Most accurate—SparkRecipes Recipe Calculator—SparkRecipes is the king of accuracy. Nearly any ingredient you could ever want is listed in their database. You do have to enter each ingredient individual, which is a bit of a pain, but do it once, and it’s always there. Plus, you have the ability to link the recipes directly into your SparkPeople nutrition tracker.
Phew. I feel better. Thanks for reading, my friends. <3
How do you feel about calorie counting? Did you ever do it? Did it work for you?
If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be, without a doubt, pizza. I love pizza! I love thin crust pizza. I love deep dish pizza. I love Chicago style pizza. I love New York style pizza. I love just cheese pizza. I love veggie pizza. I love meat lover’s pizza. I love pizza rolls and pizza mac and cheese. I love it all!
I think what I enjoy the most about pizza is the vast variety that you can get out of the same basic combination—crust, sauce, toppings. That makes pizza totally adaptable to your mood, the weather and what you have kicking around in the kitchen. I think it’s so cool that pizza can be both a junk food and a health food (depending on how it’s made). I love that there are pizzas out there for omnivores, vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free people…pretty much everyone! And I’m amazed at how you can make a winter-inspired pie with roasted potatoes, cream sauce and gorgonzola cheese and it is somehow considered the same dish as a summer-inspired slice packed with nothing but fresh herbs, tomatoes and mozzarella.
Margherita pizza is one of those combinations that sounds too simple to be good. The basic combination of tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella shouldn’t be this flavorful, but it is. Margherita pizza is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) pizza combinations around and it’s stuck around for so long for good reason—it’s crazy easy and crazy good.
My version of the Margherita strays a bit from the traditional. A classic Margherita would be lighter on the sauce, heavier on the cheese and probably have a thinner (and definitely white floury-er) crust. I’ve had my fair share of the classic version (one of my favorite pies being from a restaurant in Philly a few years back), but I was craving a more hearty pizza experience this time around. So I went with a thicker, whole grain crust and topped it with my chunky homemade Margherita tomato sauce made from our homegrown tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of Margherita pizza.
Speaking of fresh herbs, I’m going to be absolutely crushed when it’s time to retire our herb plants for the winter. I’ve gotten so much use out of them this summer! I’ve, obviously, used fresh herbs before, but I think this summer has really been the first time I’ve been using them without the fear of killing the plants or the fear of paying $3 for a tiny packet at the grocery store. We have pots and plots bursting with so many fresh herbs that we could never get through them all in a season (we already have some drying). I almost feel like its my duty to try and use up as much as I can before the first frost of the season. And man, I’m doing my darndest.
If you don’t have a ton of fresh herbs and tomatoes kicking around, fear not! This sauce would work well with canned whole tomatoes (look for the best tasting brands in the Italian food aisle in your grocery store) and a hefty dose of dried Italian herbs. Or, you could just come over here and I can give you an armful of basil. Whichever.
Hearty Margherita Pizza
The superstar of this heartier take on the Italian food classic is the simple homemade herbed tomato sauce. If you can’t get your hands on fresh homegrown tomatoes, skip over to the international foods aisle and pick up a can of whole Roma tomatoes.
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, divided
- 4 large roma tomatoes, chopped
For the Pizza
- 1 batch prepared whole grain pizza dough
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- To prepare the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add in all remaining sauce ingredients, bring a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes have lost their shape and it begins to resemble a chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- To prepare pizza, preheat oven to 475°. Spread the crust into a lightly-greased pizza pan and parbake for 10 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown.
- Remove from oven, spread on tomato sauce, layer on the cheese slices and half the basil ribbons, then drizzle with the olive.
- Continue baking in oven for an addition 10 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and melty. During the last 2-3 minutes of baking, slide the pizza off the pan and directly onto the oven rack for a crispier crust, if desired. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining basil ribbons and season with salt and pepper.
What’s your favorite pizza combination?
My husband and I both lucked out when it comes to food allergies. I only have a minor, teeny, mild allergy to kiwis and bananas. In fact, so minor, that I didn’t even realize it was an allergy until a few years ago when I found out that not everyone’s mouth and tongue burn and turn red when they ate bananas and kiwi (I thought it was just a thing that happens, like the roof of your mouth getting cut up when you eat Cap’n Crunch). Obviously, it isn’t severe enough to stop me from eating them.
We thought Craig was allergy-free, but over the past few years, he’s slowly been honing in on the root of some digestive and skin issues, and after a long and storied investigation (complete with a string of pill-pushing doctors, elimination diets and more research than I think I did during all of college) we think we’ve figured out the culprit—an oat allergy. Poor guy. We were eating oats in various forms almost everyday. Heck, even our soap had oats in it! And everyday, he’d have a reaction, especially bad immediately after he’d consumed or used an oat product.
An oat-only allergy is actually kinda rare (no, it isn’t a gluten allergy or intolerance, he’s fine with other gluten-y things, and he even tried gluten-free oats, which he still had a reaction to), but the second he went cold turkey on the oats, everything started to clear up. It was like night and friggin’ day. We were so happy that we’d figured out what the problem was, but it definitely took some adjusting to become an oat-reduced household (I still eat them sometimes). You’d be amazed at how many things contain oats or oat flour. Breakfast has been a real struggle for him. Before, he could eat overnight oats or oatmeal or a yogurt bowl with granola or granola bars or cereal or multigrain bread, but now, almost all of those options have been cut out. But not anymore!
I’ve been working on an oat-free granola recipe for a while now, and I think I finally figured out a winner. It definitely isn’t your standard granola, but it’s lightly-sweet, crunchy, nutty and tastes absolutely incredible on top of some Greek yogurt or in a bowl with some milk.
The mix-ins of the granola are totally adaptable (below in the recipe you’ll find the amounts for what we usually use), but the base of the granola—AKA: the oat substitute—is what really makes this recipe shine. It uses a combo of puffed brown rice cereal (think: the hippie version of Rice Krispies) and quinoa flakes. Now, quinoa flakes may sound weird, but I bet if you look at your local Whole Foods or health food store, you’ll find them in the same aisle with the oats and other hot cereals, and maybe even in the bulk bins if you’re lucky. Quinoa flakes are just quinoa that is processed in a very similar fashion to old-fashioned oats—the grain is rolled and flattened to make flakes that are quick-cooking and result in more of a porridge than a grain. Which means they work pretty much perfectly for oat-free granola.
I also love the quinoa flakes because quinoa is an incredible source of complete vegetarian protein. Meaning that, in quinoa, you can get all nine amino acids that your body needs to get from food in one food source. Why is this so awesome? Well, a lot of vegetarian sources of protein (beans, grains, etc.) don’t contain all the amino acids, which is totally fine, because you tend to make up for what you’ve neglected in one meal with another, but with quinoa (and other complete proteins, such as soy, hemp seeds, meats, eggs, dairy, and others) you take all the guesswork out. Eat some granola, get all your amino acids. Works for me.
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Makes: 8 cups
- 1 cup quinoa flakes
- 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- 2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
- 2/3 cups unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 2/3 cups unsalted slice almonds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/2 cup dried fruit (blueberries, raisins, cranberries, etc.)
- 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together the quinoa flakes and coconut on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture starts to brown (watch carefully, it’ll burn quickly).
- Pour the roasted quinoa flakes and coconut into a large bowl, add in the brown rice cereal, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, dried fruit and chia seeds and toss to mix. Set aside.
- In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine the brown rice syrup and peanut butter. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds, or until melted and liquidy. Mix in the salt and vanilla extract. Pour mixture over the cereal mixture and toss to coat (try to get everything coated evenly). Dump mixture onto the parchment-covered baking sheet and spread into one layer. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the granola is brown and fragrant. Let cool completely and then store in airtight containers.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Servings Per Recipe: 16
Do you have any food allergies? If you don’t, what food would you be totally crushed if you happened to become allergic to it?
This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks for entering!
Happy Saturday, my friends! I have a rare weekend post for you on this Saturday because today is a very special day in my books, it’s National Can-It Forward Day!
If you follow my homesteading adventures over on The Broken Plow, you know that I am a huge fan of “putting up” food. Canning, for me, is about so much more than the yummy food I get to eat come February (although, that’s an admittedly nice perk, too). I grew up canning. I remember waking up from naps as a kid to the soothing sounds of the pressure cooker processing green beans. I remember wrapping my dark hair up in a white t-shirt so it didn’t get hot while picking tomatoes with my brother in the middle of summer. I remember the excitement I got every time I got to run downstairs to the shelves and grab a new can of food. For me, canning is about so much more than preserving food. When I’m in the kitchen, funneling peach jam or whole tomatoes or pickle brine into hot jars, I feel like I’m connecting to my history. It feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It feels like I’m keeping up a tradition that has been part of my family for generations.
I know a lot of folks don’t have the warm and fuzzies that I do about putting up food. It can be scary! You’ve heard horror stories of exploding jars and bacteria and botulism, but those are just that—horror stories. When done correctly, canning is totally safe, totally easy and insanely rewarding. If you’ve been afraid to try out canning, I urge you to try a batch (jam is a great place to start!).
All day today, my friends at Ball (a local company for me, Hoosier love) are hosting all kinds of awesome online beginner canning classes and demos. It’s a great way to get more information, from the experts, about how to put up food and get yourself totally jazzed to start canning. Here is the schedule:
10:00am-10:45am: Jam making and water bath canning demo by Jessica Piper
10:45am-11:00am: Craft Corner with Jordan DeFrank
11:00am-11:45am: Pickles Demo by Rick Fields
11:45am-12:00pm: Craft Corner with Jordan DeFrank
12:00pm-1:00pm: Special Guest Host Ted Allen canning and cooking demo
1:00pm-1:15pm: Cocktails in Ball Jars hosted by Mason Jar NYC Restaurant
1:15pm-2:00pm: Jam making and water bath canning demo by Jessica Piper (repeated)
Want to tune in? You can check out Ball’s live broadcast page.
And because Ball really wants you to get started canning, they’ve offered up an awesome beginner canning pack to one BTHR reader. In the pack, you’ll get:
- The Ball Canning Discovery Kit—This beginner’s kit contains three pint-sized jars, plus lids and rings, a canning rack that’ll fit in most large stock pots (and fits the three jars perfectly) plus an easy beginner’s illustrated guide for canning.
- The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving—THE bible for canning! I use mine all the time. I’m a little ashamed to admit how jam-covered it is.
- A coupon for a free case of Ball jars—Free jars? Awesome!
Ready to win?
- PRIZE: One Ball canning starter kit.
- TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to start canning.
- GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 at Noon (12pm) EST
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: One
- ELIGIBLE FOLKS: This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only at this time. Sorry international readers! I try to score as many international giveaways as I can. Maybe next time!
- WINNER ANNOUNCED: Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 on this here post!
- LEGALESE: To enter you must be 18 or older. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from the pool of comments on this post. To be considered for the prize, you must be a resident of the U.S. and provide a valid email address. One entry per email address. Once a winner is notified and verified, Ball will be provided with the contact information of the winner and they will be responsible for prize fulfillment. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post. No purchase necessary to win. Entries will close on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at noon (EST). The winner will be contacted by email on or before Wednesday, August 21, 2013. If the winner does not claim the prize within seven days, the original winner forfeits the prize and a second random entry will be chosen from the pool. This contest is sponsored by Ball and is void where prohibited by law.
- DISCLOSURE: I was compensated for posting this review and giveaway with a case of Ball jars and a case of pectin.