Kale Marinara Sauce

This is a very easy way to add nutrition to a convenient, inexpensive, real-food meal anyone can cook!  Other dark-green leafy vegetables, such as Swiss chard, can be substituted for kale.

To make 2 servings, you will need:

  • a big handful of spaghetti noodles (For more protein, fiber, and B vitamins, use whole-wheat spaghetti.  We buy the 5-pound bag from Gordon Food Service; it’s affordably priced, tastes good, and has a smooth texture.)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of prepared spaghetti sauce (In most grocery stores, it’s easy to find affordable sauce that doesn’t contain soybean oil or added sugar and that’s high in Vitamin C and fiber.)
  • 3 or 4 leaves of raw kale (This is a great way to use leftovers after making another recipe with kale–most stores make you buy kale in big bunches!)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cooking pots, and a lid for the larger pot
  • spaghetti twonger or fork
  • large spoon
  • colander (pasta-draining sieve)

Fill the larger pot with water, place over high heat, and cover.

Wash the kale.  Tear the leafy part away from the main stem.  Compost or discard the stems.  Tear or chop the leaves into small pieces.

When the water boils, remove lid and add spaghetti (breaking in half if desired).  Turn down heat a little.  Stir occasionally with spaghetti twonger/fork until cooked to desired softness.

Cook kale in oil in the smaller pot over medium heat, stirring frequently with spoon.

When kale is noticeably less fluffy and beginning to brown at the edges, add sauce.  Mix thoroughly.  Heat until bubbling.

Drain spaghetti in colander.

Divide spaghetti onto plates and top with sauce.  (If you happen to be fighting off a cold, crush a clove of raw garlic onto your portion and stir it in!)  Eat!


Adding kale to spaghetti works for me!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop and Real Food Friday for more great meal ideas!


Roasted Tomatoes

Late last summer, we took a tip from our CSA farm‘s newsletter and converted some of our surplus tomatoes into roasted tomatoes, which we froze and later used in a spaghetti sauce.  This year, when I’m not pregnant and feeling weird about food, I am even more excited about delicious roasted tomatoes, and some experimentation has shown us that they’re even easier to make than we’d thought.

Roasted tomatoes are very flavorful, kind of sweet.  If you season the oil in which you roast them, they can serve as pasta sauce all by themselves.  They’re also delicious in omelets.  Roasting reduces the volume of tomatoes so that you can freeze them in less space than diced raw tomatoes–and freezing doesn’t really change their texture and flavor.  Roasted tomatoes also last longer in the refrigerator than fresh ones.

Even over-ripe or slightly under-ripe tomatoes roast well.  As long as they’re not moldy and don’t smell terrible, go ahead and use them, even if they’re past the point when you would eat them raw.  You can even use the good parts of a big tomato that’s gone partly bad.

Our farm advises roasting the tomatoes at a relatively low temperature, like 200F, for an hour or more.  Apparently this eventually will give them the texture and flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.  I don’t like sun-dried tomatoes, so I stopped earlier, while the tomatoes were still somewhat juicy.

We’ve now discovered that if you roast tomatoes like any other vegetable, at 400F, they are just as tasty and are ready sooner!  Just be careful not to burn them.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Trim the stems out of the tomatoes and remove any rotten spots.
  2. Take out the biggest clumps of seedy pulpy stuff.  Eat them.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces.
  4. In a bowl, combine olive oil (about 1 Tbsp. per tomato) with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and basil to taste.
  5. Place tomato chunks in the bowl and toss with a slotted spoon.
  6. Scoop out the tomato chunks and spread them in a single layer in a glass or ceramic baking pan.  If you only have metal pans, you may want to line them with parchment paper to prevent the acid in the tomatoes from reacting with the metal.
  7. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes.  Stir.  If they are beginning to brown, bake another 5 minutes before you check them again; otherwise, give them another 10.  Keep baking until they look very cooked and smell delicious!
  8. If not serving the roasted tomatoes immediately, store them in a glass jar in the refrigerator, or freeze them.
  9. Make sure to eat the delicious oil left in the baking pan!  Soak it up with bread, or toss leftover cooked rice into the pan and stir it around to pick up the oil, if you don’t have any better ideas.
  10. If you have trouble removing blackened tomato juice from the pan, try this frugal scouring powder!

Roasting tomatoes works for me!  Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more great food ideas.  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more ways to make the most of your resources.

Emergency Creamy Tomato Soup (healthier!)

Okay, it wasn’t really an emergency.  It was just that our eight-year-old Nicholas really wanted creamy tomato soup for dinner when both parents were recovering–more weakly than we’d hoped–from a stomach virus that the kid had several days earlier.  Daniel and I both were very sick Monday, a little better Tuesday, and then I went back to work yesterday but regretted it by mid-afternoon.  On the way home, I was dizzy and gurgling ominously in the lower abdomen, so instead of stopping to buy the chicken soup Daniel had requested, I went straight home, thinking I would go to the store later.  Nicholas was excited to go to the store and had decided he wanted tomato soup.  We even had a coupon for new Campbell’s 100% Natural (the existence of which makes me want to stop buying their other soups, because you see what they’re saying there?).

But I never got better enough to leave the house.  An hour past our usual dinnertime, I was still lying around moaning and had just added heartburn to my list of woes.  I didn’t even feel capable of heating up and stirring canned soup if we’d had some available.

Daniel to the rescue!  His first step was looking at a recipe for creamy tomato soup in the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, which he describes as, “where I look when I want something classic and American.”  The recipe called for a large can of diced tomato.  What we had was homemade marinara sauce.  Since Nicholas is a fan of the creamy tomato soup at Panera Bread, which is Italian-flavored, we figured this would work.  Daniel cut the recipe in half and used it as a guideline for how to combine milk and tomatoes without curdling.  The result was this recipe: Read more…

Less Acid Spaghetti Sauce, January 20 Version

Spaghetti with marinara sauce is my favorite food.  However, tomato sauce and spices can be irritating to a stomach that’s been having that burning “acid” feeling or a tongue with inflamed taste buds at the very back.  I have been having both problems lately…but I really wanted to make a new batch of spaghetti sauce…so I tried to make a mellow one, and I used a trick I read online to reduce the acid, and it really seemed to work!  This sauce is tasty but didn’t burn my mouth or stomach at all, even though I ate a big portion and then licked the pot! 🙂

This recipe must be higher in sodium than most of my homemade sauces because it contains seaweed and baking soda as well as salt.  If you are on a low-sodium diet, leave out the salt and then add salt to your portion if you think it’s necessary–you’ll probably use less that way.

Other factors influencing this batch of sauce were that we happened to have run out of oregano, somehow, without anyone putting in on a shopping list, and that we were so low on fresh garlic that I knew it wouldn’t be enough for a whole pot of sauce and decided to use granulated garlic instead.  Spaghetti sauce is very flexible about this sort of thing.

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, September 16 Version (with apple!)

This most recent in my series of spaghetti sauce recipes is good for “Guess the Mystery Ingredient” if you like to play that game.  I added the apple, and added it early in the cooking process, because I was concerned that the mostly-green pepper would give this sauce a sharp, tangy flavor.  I have disliked green peppers since my first pregnancy (when they invariably gave me stomachaches) because of that sharpness, so when we get a green pepper in our farm share I set it out at room temperature and hope it ripens to another, sweeter color.  Sometimes they do; sometimes they just start to shrivel up and need to be used.  This one got about halfway.  Cooking green pepper for a good long time, especially in oil, also helps to mellow its flavor and acidity.

But the apple really did the trick!  I think this is my tastiest sauce in a while.  The onion, pepper, apple, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and basil all came from the farm, so this is a seasonal Pennsylvania recipe!  (The kale also was from the farm, actually, back in June, when we froze some of it to use later.)

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, January 7 Version (with turnip!)

This most recent in my series of spaghetti sauce recipes is thick and non-peppery, ideal for use in Stuffed Shells.

We got a winter farm share this year, and last week it included two turnips, just two, a big one and a small one.  When we divided the veggies with our friends, we got the small turnip.  It’s hard to figure out what to do with just one turnip!  I had no plans for it until I was getting out the onions for this sauce and decided on a whim to try using the turnip, too.  You cannot taste it in the finished sauce, but it added nutrients!  It also sweetened the sauce so that I did not need to add any honey or sugar to reduce the “bite”.

Our farm crate also included an entire grocery bag stuffed full of greenhouse-grown kale, in tight clumps with much smaller, curlier leaves than the kale we normally get in the summer.  The “2 small heads” used in this recipe produced about 4 cups of shredded kale.

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, August 20 Version

Food on Fridays

This is part of my ongoing documentation of spaghetti sauce variations.  Like the sauce I made around this time last year, this one contains the seasonal vegetables we happened to have on hand, but they were a little different this time.  This sauce has about the maximum basil flavor I can stand.

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, May 7 Version

Well . . . I decided last summer that I was going to write down what I put into every batch of spaghetti sauce, to give better inspiration to readers learning the sauce-making skill set . . . and then for various reasons I didn’t do it with the next 3 batches.  But here’s another one!

This is a very basic one, meaning it tastes like good marinara sauce with nothing unusual about it.  Although it makes use of in-season vegetables, I actually had frozen them before I was ready to make sauce, so this is a variant that could be reproduced any time of year. Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, August 29 Version

Some people have complained that my Marinara Sauce recipe is too vague.  They’re right–it’s more like general guidelines for making sauce, not very helpful if you’ve never done it before.  My sauce-making technique is constantly evolving, and every batch is different.  I decided to write down what I do each time I make a batch of sauce and post these “recipes” to give aspiring sauce chefs a more detailed idea of how it’s done. Read more…

Chickicheesinara Sauce

A decade ago, my friend Alison posted some recipes online, and several times since then she’d mentioned her Chickicheesinara Sauce for spaghetti . . . but for some reason, I never got around to trying it until just a few weeks ago!  Not only did my whole family like it, but also I noticed something important about it: The consistency is very similar to meat sauce.  If you are accustomed to putting ground meat in spaghetti sauce, but now you’re fasting from meat for Lent or overall trying to eat less meat or just looking for a change of pace, this recipe is for you! Read more…

Canned Fish Concepts

These are not exactly recipes, more like general “how to cook” ideas that work for me. I prefer ideas like this to specific recipes because they’re easy to remember without digging out a recipe card.

Our family is mostly vegetarian. We do like fish, but we live far from the ocean, where fish tends to be expensive…except for frozen, battered fish, which is tasty but almost always made with white fish that are low in omega-3 fatty acids. We’re concerned about mercury in tuna, but canned salmon almost always is wild Alaskan salmon, which is low in pollutants and only about $2 for the large can. Recently, we read that sardines are a nutritional “superfood”, and then I saw some in Big Lots for 75c a can, so we tried them. We didn’t really care for the strong flavor…but then we tried the concept below, and we really liked them that way! Read more…

Marinara Sauce

This recipe will save you money compared to buying prepared sauce for your spaghetti, lasagna, or pizza. It’s healthier than most jarred sauces. Read more…