Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Basic Marinara Sauce, Zucchini Boats and Healthy Cookies!

Life speeds up and this blog suffers!  It’s a good thing I don’t do this for a living!

I have several recipes to share this time, I did a bunch of cooking over the weekend.  I have been trying to cook over the weekend for the entire week so all I have to do when I get home after work is throw something in the oven or microwave to warm up then add a salad (that I have already prepared, stored in a big container in the fridge).  So far it has worked out pretty well and the husband has been willing to chip in if he gets home before me and start the process of warming up dinner.

The first is my basic marinara sauce; I make a big batch when I make it then freeze it in portions for different meals.  I have to confess, this recipe probably changes every time I make it.  I'm big on tasting and adjusting as I cook.  This one is the base, there are often little changes here and there based on how sweet or salty things are.  When you are making it make sure to taste and adjust to your liking.  The longer this sauce sits together the better it tastes.  I often let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days before freezing to allow everything to really come together.

Basic Marinara Sauce

1 T olive oil (use the light stuff for cooking, you don’t need extra virgin here)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped (I love garlic, do this to your taste)
½ tsp salt
3 large cans whole stewed tomatoes
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
½ T rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 C beef stock (not broth - nonfat and low sodium, GF too!)


1.      Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat (I use my Dutch oven)
2.      Chop all of the fresh veggies and the garlic, set the garlic aside
3.      Add oil to the pot and let it warm
4.      Drop all of the chopped veggies into the pot, add the salt and stir well, after a couple of minutes add in the chopped garlic, cook all until the veggies are getting soft
5.      Dump the canned tomatoes, juice and all, into the pot and add the herbs and beef stock as well
6.      Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover and let it go for at least 45 minutes (I let mine cook for an hour or more to really let the flavors come together)
7.      Remove the lid and let it cook for another 30 minutes, reducing down a bit
8.      Cool, remove the bay leaves and put whatever you will be using during the week in the refrigerator and freeze the rest, it warms up very easily for use later.

The next recipe is one I love because it gets a lot of veggies in and it’s a good way to eat Italian-inspired food without one bit of pasta.  I got the idea watching an episode of one of Rachel Ray’s many shows; it looked too good not to try.  I didn’t go find the recipe, I did what I always do, I watched her do it then I just winged it myself.  My version doesn’t have any bread; I decided it didn’t need it.  This freezes really well for another dinner or, my favorite, leftovers for lunch!

Zucchini Boats with chicken Italian sausage
Serves 6-8 (each person gets one boat)

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. chicken Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 cups basic marinara (your own or store bought)
4 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise with seeds removed
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
¾ C shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.      Heat skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil
3.      Drop in onion, bell pepper and mushrooms with ½ tsp of salt, sauté until the onion begins to soften
4.      While the veggies are cooking remove the sausage from the casings into a bowl
5.      Once the onion has started to soften add the sausage, breaking it up as it browns
6.      Add the marinara to the skillet once the sausage has browned, turn down, cover and simmer about 20 minutes
7.      While the “stuffing” is simmering, slice each zucchini in half lengthwise (think boat) and scoop out the seeds with a spoon to make room for the stuffing
8.      Spray a baking dish with some oil then lay each of the zucchini boats in the dish with the inside facing up, sprinkle with remaining salt and red pepper flakes
9.      Spoon the sauce/stuffing into each of the boats carefully, fill them a little above the top, go back and add if you have any left over
10.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top of everything
11.  Cover with foil and bake covered for about 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and getting brown in spots
12.  Serve one boat with a good side salad and some GF bread (if you have a big eater plan on them having two boats, that’s what my husband always does)

For the next recipe I’m going to be lazy and just direct you to a website that I love, www.skinnytaste.com.  I know I have sent you there before.  She just has an endless supply of recipes, all of which are really good!  The recipe is for Healthy Cookies (http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/02/healthy-cookies.html).  I made these over the weekend and they were good, they even got a thumbs up from my husband.  I made them without any changes, though the next time I’m going to try adding some mini chocolate chips.  Try them; they are easy and really yummy!  The next recipe I will be trying from there are the Skinny No-Bake Cookies (http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/11/skinny-no-bake-cookies.html).  Great stuff!

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