Pasta with Sweet Marinara

When you’re tapped out from cooking the complicated dishes that come along with the holidays, this simple spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce does the trick. It has five ingredients, takes no time to prep, and fills your home with the savory-sweet smell of simmering tomatoes. Pair it with roasted vegetables (or, heck, microwaved peas & carrots) and you’ve got a comforting, complete meal with minimal effort. This is the only way I make red sauce. Serve with your favorite type of pasta.


  • 1 large can diced San Marzano tomatoes (such as Cento), or any organic brand such as Trader Joe’s
  • 1/2 stick butter, preferably unsalted & organic
  • 1 onion, sliced into large chunks (or halved)
  • 1 package (1 lb) pasta of your choice
  • vegetables for roasting or steaming to serve on the side (I like roasted carrots)


Slice onions thickly and saute in a pot over medium-low with the butter, stirring.

Add the diced tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Cover and lower the heat; simmer on very low for at least half an hour, longer if you have the time and want the flavors to blend. This is a good dish for a Sunday when you have time to let it simmer (stirring occasionally) for an hour while it mushes up and makes your house smell amazing. By simmering this long, the onions have a chance to turn soft and sweet and that’s what really makes the sauce come together.

This recipe easily doubles for a crowd. If you’ve got four or more people to feed, use two onions, two large cans of diced tomatoes, and 1 whole stick of butter.

To roast the carrots, simply slice a few into a baking dish lined with foil, and roast in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes or until they’re browned and tender.

I like to drizzle mine with honey for the last five minutes of bake time so they get a little bit of glaze to them. Make sure you watch them so that they just caramelize but don’t burn.

Ladle the sauce on top of your preferred pasta — here I used rotini, because it holds the chunky sauce well — and serve with a side of veggies.




Homemade Cranberry Sauce (with a kick)!

It’s such a weird feeling for me to not be cooking the meal this Thanksgiving, but in truth I couldn’t handle it this year. Between 10-hour workdays, a major move, a husband juggling two jobs, and the fact that my recipes and pots are NOT unpacked, I’m lucky I managed to unearth the simple ingredients and saucepan needed to make my favorite side: Cranberry Sauce with a kick!

Here is the basic recipe (inspired by one of my first copies of Rachael Ray Magazine, from about 2006). I double this so everyone has plenty to take home with their leftovers.



  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (add more if you like; I do!)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries


In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, fresh ginger (or 1/4 tsp ground), orange peel and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the cranberries and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and remove the cinnamon stick (unless, like me, you let it simmer wayyyy longer than 10 minutes so that the sauce turns gelatinous and the cinnamon sticks practically dissolve). Let cool.

Enjoy! And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Two gnocchi recipes

It’s taking us a lot longer to get unpacked and settled into our new house than we expected, so I’m posting a collection of recipes from other bloggers I love as inspiration. Who doesn’t need to expand their recipe box anyway? Gnocchi is one of my most-loved Italian dishes (it’s pronounced NYO-kee), and these are just a few variations I’ve been dying to try. And, once I figure out which box my pots and pans are hiding in, I will!

Pan-Fried Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage

Courtesy: SteamyKitchen

This recipe, from steamy kitchen, shows that gnocchi don’t have to those be hard-as-a-rock, boring-as-heck potato dumplings you may have experienced. With a lightness in the mixing, you can avoid the kind of overworked dough that often leads to tough, chewy gnocchi.

serves 4-6

  • 1/2 cup skim milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmegiano reggiano
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (use a microplane grater) (plus extra reserved for garnishing)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted plus more for dusting (see sifting tip above)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage, plus more for garnish
  • shaved parmegiano reggiano for serving (use vegetable peeler)

Preheat oven to 300F

1. Combine ricotta, pumpkin parmagiano, yolk, zest and salt in large bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle half of the flour on the mixture, gently turn with spatula a few times to incorporate. Dump mixture on clean, lightly floured countertop or you can still do this in the bowl. Sprinkle remaining flour on top of the mixture. Gently knead with your fingertips, just bringing together the mixture until flour is incorporated through. This only should take a minute or two. Any longer and you will be over-kneading.

2. Dust a clean, dry surface with a generous sprinkling of flour. Divide dough into 4 parts. Take one part and roll into a long, 1″ diameter log. Cut gnocchi into 1″ pieces.

3. Heat a large frying pan or saute pan with just 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add a few gnocchi – enough to cover surface but not touch each other. Fry on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, turn and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Remove gnocchi, place on large baking sheet to put into oven to keep warm. Repeat with rest of gnocchi.

4. When all gnocchi is finished, discard butter/oil in pan and clean pan with paper towel. Heat pan on medium heat and when hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add the fresh sage. Let the sage brown and sizzle (but not burn) for a couple of minutes until very fragrant. Remove the sage and discard if you want (or keep it in to eat — as many people in the comments below like to do!) To the pan, add the balsamic vinegar and whisk. Let simmer on low for 1 minute and pour over the gnocchi.

5. Serve with shaved parmegiano reggiano and a sage leaf for garnish.


Butternut Squash & Mascarpone Gnocchi


This recipe comes to us from the Food Wishes blog, and features small-plate gnocchi that are designed more for appetizers or sharing. I love that concept!

Ingredients for about 12 appetizer-sized portions
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, or cream cheese, goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 oz (about 1/2 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (if you’re going to use fake Parmesan cheese for this, don’t even bother)
  • 1 packed cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter for frying, used in batches
  • cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced sage leaves

This blog has great how-to video recipes. His step-by-step instructions for making the gnocchi are very easy to follow, so I’ve decided to share them by video. Gnocchi really is very simple to make, so I hope you are all inspired to take a stab at them now!



Chocolate Avocado Muffins

This is another re-post recipe, because my husband and I are MOVING into our new house today!


This delicious-looking recipe comes to us courtesy of eatmedelicious

Double Chocolate Avocado Muffins
Adapted from Muffin Tin Mania

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium-sized ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened plain soymilk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a food processor or high powered blender such as the Vita-mix, puree the avocado, maple syrup, soymilk, oil, and vanilla extract together until smooth. Add the avocado mixture to the dry ingredients; mix until all the flour is combined. If the mixture is too dry, stir in additional milk. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide the batter between 12 medium-sized muffin cups, and bake for about 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out with just a few crumbs. Let cool before unmolding.

CSA 2011 · Recipes

Brussels Sprouts Gratin & Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts

OK. Not everyone likes Brussels Sprouts. I know this. But, I’m among the rare 5% of people who LOVES them … and luckily, so is my husband! Today, I’ve got two recipes for the little green guys: Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a rich Brussels Sprouts Gratin.

Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup if you wish.

Trim stems and outer leaves from Brussels Sprouts (about 2 pounds). Cut in half and toss on baking sheet with at least a tablespoon of Olive Oil. Season with Kosher Salt.

In a small bowl, mix together one tablespoon of real maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper. (You could also use red pepper flakes if you prefer).

Roast the Brussels Sprouts in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender, stirring at least once. Drizzle with maple-cayenne mixture and roast for one more minute. Remove from oven and serve warm.


Brussels Sprouts Gratin

This really is quite rich. I feel compelled to warn anyone with acid reflux disease or lactose intolerance that they want to medicate accordingly.


  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, outer leaves and stems removed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 2-quart glass baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the Brussels Sprouts and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the Brussels sprouts and coarsely chop.

Transfer to the buttered baking dish and toss with the red pepper flakes (if you are using them), and salt and pepper to taste, then spread out evenly. Pour the cream on top.

Sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs and dot with the butter pieces. Bake the gratin until bubbly and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

The other night when I got home from work after 9, (lots of late nights recently), the gratin rounded out a nice dinner of leftovers that also included buttered toast and roasted potatoes.

Lazy lady dinner.

My Gratin recipe was inspired by this Food Network version.


Fat Kid Mac N’ Cheese

There is nothing healthy about this, whatsoever. Even if you use Smart Balance butter blend sticks or soy creamer, you are still loading up on tons of carbs and artery-clogging dairy here. Because those are the ingredients for traditional mac n’ cheese, and that’s what I made: Full-on, comfort-food, double-the-recipe “Fat Kid” Mac n’ Cheese. Enjoy.

Nostalgic, much?


  • 1 (16 ounce) package macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cup milk
  • 2 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cheese, shredded (I used a blend of cheddar & smoked gruyere)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, buttered


Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.

In a large saucepan melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended.

Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly). Take care not to let it burn.

Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes.

Add shredded cheese bit by bit. Simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add macaroni to the saucepan (or another bowl) and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.

Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (I mixed mine with a bit of melted butter to moisten). Top with a few dollops of butter before putting in the oven. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

This recipe was inspired by the old favorite, Fannie Farmer’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese. 

Modifications: Add peas and/or carrots to the mix; halve the recipe instead of using the whole pound of macaroni; add dijon mustard and/or hot sauce to the mix for a kick; add in crispy bacon pieces if you eat meat.


Breakfast of poor new homeowners

Well, this morning my husband and I passed papers on our very first home: an adorable 4-bedroom, bungalow-style house next to public transit AND a state park reservation. For the first time in over a decade (and in some cases, ever), I will have:

  • More than 1 bedroom
  • More than 1 closet (!)
  • My own laundry
  • A yard (gardening, anyone?)
  • A porch
  • A WATER BILL (no better reason to conserve, right?)

In light of my newfound house-poor status, I thought I’d post my favorite wintertime/cheapo breakfast. No more early-morning pit stops at Dunkin’ Donuts for THIS gal!

“It’s all about the Benjamins” Oatmeal

Photo courtesy of


  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (do not use quick-cooking or instant)
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 banana, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

Directions: Combine oatmeal, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, over medium-high heat,  then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until thickened & creamy. Add the peanut butter, banana, milk and butter; mix gently to combine. Cook for one minute. Serve hot. To reheat, add a little extra milk. (It tastes even better the next day, and has just over 200 calories per serving, so go ahead and double it!)

This makes 2 to 3 servings, and has 4g fiber per serving, plus 7g protein. Carb count is 30g per serving for any diabetics out there.

(Adapted from French Women Don’t Get Fat).

CSA 2011 · Recipes

Caramelized Cauliflower (With BONUS creamy soup!)

Have you ever seen cauliflower that looks like this??

I was baffled when I first saw them, but a sniff/taste test confirmed that they ARE in fact cauliflower as my CSA promised, so I treated them as such — chopping, coating & roasting them at high heat to caramelize ’em up good!

All I did was toss the pieces in olive oil and kosher salt, and roasted them at high heat, 400 F, for about 25 to 35 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Cooking them this way enhances their flavor and makes them nice and tender. You won’t have any of that gross smell you may remember from boiling cauliflower.

When they come out of the oven, cool and taste for seasoning. If they need a little more salt or even pepper, go ahead and add it to your taste!

These were delicious, but I only used some of them as a side dish with pasta one night. So, a few days later, I decided to throw the rest of them into a can of Campbell’s potato soup, heated over low with two cups of almond milk and some oven-roasted parsnips thrown in. I added a bay leaf for flavor, and then I felt like I could use up a few of my CSA red potatoes too, so I cut those up small and threw them in to simmer. It came out REALLY well and used up a ton of my leftovers — and I got three extra meals out of it!


A toast to Saturday: PUMPKIN SANGRIA

Courtesy of Grafton Street in Cambridge, via Daily Candy:

Pumpkin Sangria
Serves 15 to 20


  • 4 bottles cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 bottle pinot grigio
  • ½ bottle brandy
  • ½ bottle ruby port wine
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 orange peel
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 sugar pumpkins
  • ½ oz. cloves
  • 1 l water
  • ½ lb. brown sugar
  • ¼ lb. white sugar
  • 1 oz. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. butter

1. Pour the wine, brandy, and port into a large container.

2. Add the lemon and orange peels and three cinnamon sticks.

3. Let the wine mixture sit while you make the pumpkin puree.

4. Peel the pumpkin. Scrape out the seeds and strings and discard.

5. Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth (to make them easier to remove later). Cut the pumpkin into small pieces and place in a large saucepan with water, brown and white sugars, and remaining cinnamon sticks, vanilla extract, butter, and cloves.

6. Cook over low heat until the pumpkin slices are very soft.

7. Remove the cinnamon and cloves. Blend until smooth.

8. Strain the puree through a fine strainer. Use the wine mixture to thin out the puree and make it easier to strain.

Refrigerate 1-2 days before serving.

CSA 2011 · Recipes

The end of my CSA

Now that it’s mid-fall, my next few posts are going to round out the last of my CSA -based recipes. I’ve made so many exciting dishes since the farm share started in July, and I’m still working through the last of the carrots, parsnips, pumpkins & potatoes I got in the last couple weeks of my CSA. I’m really going to miss it! (But probably not lugging it home on the T every Friday night, especially now that I’m moving farther down the Orange Line).

My CSA ended along with October, which made me so sad. Having a “surprise” in the share box each week really forced me to get creative about recipe planning, and it turned me into a more innovative cook (if I do say so myself).

I’d recommend a CSA to anyone for the simple fact that it gets you closer to your food, to the growers, and to local produce. It also lasts longer than grocery produce, especially if it’s farmed organically, and it can be not only a financial savings long-term but a more SUSTAINABLE way of eating when compared to products that travel hundreds of miles to reach your local supermarket. On top of all this,  you’re  guaranteed to pick up a few new recipes (garlic scapes, anyone?) and techniques that’ll last you all year long.

I am planning on compiling all my CSA recipes into one document available for download, so check back soon to find that! And in the meantime, visit this page to see all my CSA recipes from 2011 in one place.

In the meantime, are you interested in signing up for a CSA for next year? It would make a wonderful Christmas present, and purchasing one now would go a long way toward helping small farmers budget their finances for the coming year just as the winter hits New England.

Here are some resources to find one near you:

And finally, my earlier post about the benefits of joining a CSA.