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Homemade Marinara

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There is no need to keep buying pre-made jarred marinara when making your own is a no brainer! Trust me on this. If you’re like me and use marinara almost all year round for a multitude of things then this will make your life easier. You’ll also be happy knowing that your marinara isn’t loaded in added sugar and some other random crap that doesn’t belong in there. This recipe can make about two pint-sized mason jars and can store them for later use.

I use this marinara for my Braciole & Italian Sausage that many of you have gone crazy over. Even my Minestrone Soup and if you want in the Mediterranean Meatloaf! This is really the base for a lot of my tomato related sauces and other Italian dishes that I’ll be sharing in the coming days. But let this recipe again encourage you to take away and add the things you love most to make your very own version. Buon appetito!

INGREDIENTS
2 pint-sized jars OR 6 – 8 servings

Olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
10 large fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 2 teaspoon dried basil)
1 can (32 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (32 oz.) tomato sauce

In a deep, large skillet drizzle the bottom with olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, salt and pepper together for about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the basil, stir for a minute then add the can of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir everything together thoroughly and let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour or until it’s thickened.  Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and add more salt to taste.

Should you like a more smooth texture to the marinara like I do, then pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and pulse to your desired texture.

NOTE: Make a day ahead of time for best flavor.

Blueberry Thyme Greek Yogurt

I’ve developed a recent obsession with homemade jam since I successfully concocted my Blueberry Thyme Jam. Normally I stay away from jams, preserves, jellies etc. from the store because they’re overly sweet and you can’t taste the natural flavor of the fruit. Being able to make your own, you can control what goes inside it and how much sugar you use. So needless to say, I’m extremely excited about this!

The other day I noticed an unopened container of plain Greek yogurt in the fridge and thought I must try this with my jam. Usually when I eat yogurt, I won’t buy any of the flavored ones for the same reason as I mentioned earlier and it pretty much sucks too because there’s nothing better than having something different every once in a while other than granola, raw honey and/or fresh berries… mixing vanilla (even almond) extract in there to perk it up. Now I can fully enjoy a fruit flavored yogurt and I can control how much goes in there. This is the best damn tasting Greek yogurt I’ve had in YEARS! Seriously, it’s worth making this jam just to have this. Don’t go out buying store bought jam and mixing it into your yogurt. It’s not the same at all.

Seriously, the perfect light breakfast, snack and even a healthier dessert alternative. You don’t really need to make many excuses for yourself just to have it 😉

 

INGREDIENTS

Plain Greek yogurt (whole fat, low-fat or even non-fat is fine)
NWS’s Blueberry Nectarine & Thyme Jam

There’s no real recipe or science to this. Simply put however much Greek yogurt suits your appetite into a bowl and mix in the jam with a spoon; putting in however much or little you want to your desired taste. And enjoy!

Blueberry Thyme Jam

Printable Version

I know by the name of it, it might sound bizarre but it really isn’t. Thyme has a citrus, lemony note to it and goes great with fruits. I’ve made my own version replacing half of the sugar with agave syrup for a not-so overly sweet jam that can very well go with any breakfast. From toast to pancakes or crepes, even a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You may want to try it with some soft cheeses like brie as well.

You can easily make some of the best jam at home with very little work by following this recipe and use it as a general guideline to make others as well. If you’ve never made jam before, you’ll realize how simple it is and want to get creative with it. Not only that but it’s always a plus when you can control the amount of sugar that goes in it. If you want to, you can always replace the agave syrup with real maple syrup (not Aunt Jemima!) for a more concentrated flavor.

Homemade goodies like this are such a timeless idea and an inexpensive gift to give friends and family all year round. It means most knowing that you made it yourself and can share your recipe along with it. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS
Yields 13 oz. (about 1 ½ cups)

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup filtered water
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Mash everything up with a masher as much as possible unless you prefer more chunks of fruit. Let it come to a simmer, reduce heat to low allowing it to simmer for 30 – 45 minutes. Stir a few times throughout, scraping down the sides. When the consistency is thick, almost like pudding then remove from heat allowing it to cool for about 30 minutes.

Store your jam in a mason jar and refrigerate for up to a month.

NOTE: As long as you chop the thyme fine it will disintegrate by the time it’s done.

 

Roasted Tarragon Asparagus

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Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables to enjoy all year round because it goes great with both light dishes and heavier meals like comfort food in the winter time. It also doesn’t require a ton of other things to go with it for it to taste good. For the most part this is my default way of cooking asparagus. Sometimes I will eat this as a side dish, blend it with other veggies to make a soup or simply wrap it in pancetta but one of the best things ever is chopping it up and throwing it in a salad like my Everything Chopped Salad or my Herb Goat Cheese & Beet Salad. Either way it’s super flavorful and of course healthy.

This recipe doesn’t include garlic but a lot of times I will crush one large garlic clove and sprinkle it on top with the rest of the ingredients below. For you garlic lovers, you may want to do this!

INGREDIENTS
4 – 6 servings

cooking spray
1 bunch (about 1 lb.) asparagus, bottoms trimmed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F degrees and spray a baking dish with the cooking spray. Place the asparagus evenly onto the baking dish and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and rub the dried tarragon between the palms of your hands over the asparagus. Finish by drizzling the top with olive oil.

Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus is. It should be ready when it’s sizzling and bright green in color.

Lobster Saffron Risotto

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Risotto is often known as a heavier meal suitable for colder days. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With just the right combination of ingredients you can still enjoy risotto during the Summer using lighter flavors and fresh ingredients. A little bit can go a long way without leaving you starved. And you won’t be so stuffed to the point of not able to eat your dessert as well. If you’re looking for a easy and elegant Summer dinner, this is definitely a great option. It can’t get any better than lobster, lemon and saffron. When making this pour yourself and your guests some of the white wine and have a head start.

INGREDIENTS
4 – 6 servings

1 pound (about 2) lobster tails
4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 large pinch saffron threads
½ cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
5 cups chicken stock
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and let them boil for about 7-10minutes or until the tails curl and the meat is opaque white. Pull the lobsters out onto a plate and let them cool. Use kitchen shears to cut through the top of the shell down the center and pull apart the shell to remove the meat. Slice the lobster meat into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil and keep warm on low heat.

In a large deep saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the crushed garlic, saffron and arborio rice, stir to get the rice coated in butter and lightly toasted for a minute. Pour in the white wine, stir and let simmer for 2 minutes. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and give it a quick stir.

Then start adding about a ½ cup of chicken stock at a time, stirring until most is absorbed and repeat until the rice is tender and creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese, lemon zest, pepper and salt to taste. Top with the chunks of lobster and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Spicy Giardiniera

Printable Version

Here’s a fresh and tangy Italian “relish” so to speak with a twisted kick of spicy Thai chili peppers. I recently started growing Thai chilies out here in this intense Summer heat and clearly peppers thrive on extremely hot days because there’s a couple dozen chilies growing all at once. With so many harvested I was a little lost with what to do with them until a friend of mine came up with a brilliant idea to make a burn your mouth version of Giardiniera.

In Italy it’s called “sotto aceti” literally meaning “under vinegar.” It’s usually served with your antipasto just like olives are and in the U.S. you’ll find it either in its whole pieces or chopped fine put into a spicy beef sandwich. However you choose to enjoy it is entirely up to you. Personally, being the grazer that I am, I love picking the veggies out of the jar one by one munching away or thrown in a very elaborate salad.

In this particular version I added a few extra favorite things that I thought would be a great fit; lupini beans, radishes and garlic. You can’t go wrong with most veggies when it comes to making a brine and marinating in a jar of olive oil and vinegar. Let me know how yours turns out!

INGREDIENTS

1 quart mason jar
2 cups blanched cauliflower florets
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 large celery stalks, chopped 1 in. pieces
½ red bell pepper, seeded & chopped 1 in. pieces
2 large radishes, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
¼ cup kosher salt
5 Thai chilies, sliced (or your choice of chilies)
¼ cup lupini beans (optional)
3 large pepperoncinis, sliced (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
¼ cup filtered water

Place the cauliflower, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, radishes, garlic and salt in a large glass bowl and fill it with filtered water until all the veggies are covered. Use your hands to gently mix the veggies around until most of the salt dissolves. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate overnight for at least 24 hours.

Drain the glass bowl of veggies in a colander and rinse them with cold water then transfer back to the bowl. Add the lupine beans, Thai chilies, pepperoncinis, olive oil, vinegar and water. And gently mix everything together with a large spoon. Lastly, transfer everything into the mason jar as much as you can.

Refrigerate for a couple of days or longer to your desired taste.

 

Herb Goat Cheese & Beet Salad

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I’ve written about not being a big salad person in a past salad recipe blog; unless it’s packed with tons of things to keep me interested enough to eat it let alone finish it. And that usually involves not just a bunch of flavorful veggies but also meat as well. This particular salad recipe would leave me sounding incredibly hypocritical. But, I’m gonna have to say there are very few exceptions to the rule. LOL! Mainly because it has HERBED GOAT CHEESE IN IT!!!

As much as I’m not into chain restaurants or chain anything for that matter; this salad was inspired by the French Country Salad from one of my few favorite chain restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve been holding myself back from sharing this tasty re-creation because a lot of people don’t like beets. But I have to tell you, there’s something about the candied pecans and the herbaceous, creamy flavors of the goat cheese that merry so well with earthy beets. You just have to try it to understand. I could not get past the dirty taste of beets for so long until I came across this salad. I’m very thankful the waitress forgot to tell the kitchen to omit the beets when I ordered it or I’d be here today still loathing it.

Yet again, another simple, fresh, clean and satisfying dish that isn’t roughage alone. And get this, dairy from goats is naturally lactose free. And a much healthier alternative to cow derived dairy products!

INGREDIENTS
4 servings

DRESSING

1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
1 large garlic clove, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl whisk everything together and set aside.

SALAD

1 head red leaf lettuce, rough chopped
4 cups baby spinach, rough chopped
1 bunch roasted tarragon asparagus, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can sliced beets
4 oz. herbed goat cheese
½ cup chopped candied pecans

Toss everything into a large salad bowl, crumble the goat cheese on top with your fingers, slowly drizzle the dressing over the top and gently fold everything together.

Blueberry Lemonade

Printable Version

Some of the best things about Summer is all the drinks you can make with fresh ingredients to help you stay cool and feeling refreshed. Lemonade happens to be one of my favorites because lemon goes with almost everything AND it’s not heavy. It’s so much better for you than drinking soda or anything else that has high fructose corn syrup or any other sugar substitute. If you’re looking to make an adult drink, feel free to add some alcohol of your choice. I prefer a good quality vodka but I know many would love rum as well. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup lemon juice (approx. 4 lemons)
2 cups ice
Cold water

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat whisk the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves to make a simple syrup. Add the blueberries and let it come to a boil. Once it’s boiling crush the blueberries using a masher, turn off the heat and let it sit to cool.

Fill a pitcher with about 2 cups of ice and the lemon juice. Once the blueberry simple syrup has cooled, pour that into the pitch and fill the rest with cold water. Add as much or little water to your desired sweetness.

Salmon w/ Mango Mint Salsa

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Salmon is one of my favorite fishes because there isn’t a single way to cook it that I don’t like. It’s by far one of the healthiest fish out there next to tuna. Instead of masking it’s natural glory by drowning it in butter I’ve decided to complement it with a fresh mango mint salsa that you’re gonna love! With fresh ingredients paired with this Omega-3 fatty acid rich dish leaves you with no empty calories and a yummy Super Food meal to divulge in. I gotta say though, when I made this the other day I couldn’t help myself to eat more mango salsa with some tortilla chips.

INGREDIENTS
4 – 6 servings

MANGO MINT SALSA

2 mangoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
1 small handful cilantro, finely chopped
4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together into a bowl and set aside.

PAN SEARED SALMON

4 – 6 (5 oz.) pieces salmon
Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat and sear the salmon on one side for about 4 minutes until you see a lightly golden crust on the bottom. Then, flip them over to cook for about another two minutes. Give it more or less time depending on how thick the salmon is.

Top the salmon with some of the fresh mango salsa.

Peachy Cherry Smoothie

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Summer is only a few weeks away but it’s already reached an easy 100 degrees here. When it’s too hot the last thing I want is something heavy in my gut. A great jump start to a refreshing day is with my Peachy Cherry Smoothie. It’s light, fresh, slightly sweet and packed with fibrous flavor.

I’ve been taking into consideration for a lot of peoples lactose intolerance with SOME healthy dishes. I’m sorry but if there’s one thing I can not live without is cheese. But when it comes to using milk there are better alternatives. So, if you’re lactose intolerant then this is perfect for you. I use kefir which is about 99% lactose free. It’s thick, creamy and very good for you. It has plenty of probiotics and protein for your morning start or as a health dessert.

And of course take this as a helping hand to get creative with your own smoothies as well. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
1 serving

1 peach, sliced (or 8 frozen slices)
1 cup frozen pitted cherries
1 cup plain kefir
1/8 cup Naked Green Machine

Blend all the fruit and kefir together in a food processor. Once everything seems to be broken up for the most part, pour in the Naked Green Machine as its processing. Add more if needed. A good way to tell you have enough is when everything is moving freely and not stuck to the sides.