Category Archives: Sauces/Toppings/Gravies

Easy Marinara Sauce

Good, simple recipes are the best, especially when they don’t take long to make! I found a lot of recipes like this in my review copy of Simplify Supper, by Krista Numbers (softcover). There are lots of Italian and Tex-Mex-style dishes, as well as all-American classics like BBQ Ribs, Southern-Style Baked Beans, and Chicken Noodle Soup. And great color photos of the recipes too. Overall, it’s a great cookbook to have when you want to make a delicious dinner that’s quick and easy.

The very first recipe in the book, and the one I tried out, is Homemade Marinara Sauce and it is really good! It’s great served over pasta, but it also makes a wonderful dipping sauce (I enjoyed dipping my favorite store-bought Rosemary Sea Salt rolls in it!). This marinara sauce has a rich, tomatoey flavor and is thick and chunky. The seasonings, onion, and garlic all give it a great flavor. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out:

HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE from Simplify Supper

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and stir about 5 minutes until evenly caramelized. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook another five minutes until garlic is fragrant.

Add chicken broth and use to deglaze bottom of pot.

Add sugar, tomato paste, and undrained diced tomatoes. Stir to combine all ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce reaches desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I love tomatoey-flavored dishes–and this sauce is perfect for tomato-lovers! And it’s always nice when you can make homemade sauce. Do you make your own homemade pasta sauces?

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.

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Fresh Cranberry Sauce

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It doesn’t seem possible that Thanksgiving was yesterday! The big meal we all look forward to has come and gone. The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and countless side dishes and desserts shared with family and friends…it’s all a pleasant memory now, unless you’re still enjoying the leftovers.

in_winters_kitchen_150dpi_rgb_1Most likely, you probably had cranberry sauce as one of the side items on your table or buffet. I was never much of a fan of cranberry sauce as a kid, but I like it now, especially if it’s homemade. As I was reading a review copy of the book In Winter’s Kitchen, by Beth Dooley, I found a recipe for cranberry sauce which I decided I had to try, since I’ve never made homemade cranberry sauce.

In Winter’s Kitchen is not actually a cookbook, although there is a small recipe section at the back of the book. It’s part memoir–the author shares stories of her family’s past Thanksgiving meals and winter meal traditions–and part informational guide to the local food movement Dooley discovered when she relocated years ago from New Jersey to Minnesota. She provides lots of information and insight on the benefits of eating locally–grown, fresh, organic, in-season foods. The book is well-written and very informational if you are wanting to learn more about farm-to-table foods.

I really liked the flavors in this cranberry sauce recipe–it’s sweet, but not too sweet and has a slight cranberry tartness. It’s much, much better than the sauce you buy in a can and it’s so easy to make–so hopefully you’ll get a chance to try it out sometime during the holiday season.

CRANBERRY SAUCE from In Winter’s Kitchen 

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or orange juice (I used apple cider)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, honey, or maple syrup (I used 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 maple syrup)

In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries and cider or orange juice to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the berries have popped open, about three to five minutes. Stir in sugar, honey, or maple syrup.

NOTE: The original recipe doesn’t say to do this, but after stirring in the honey and maple syrup, I continued to simmer the mixture an additional 5 minutes, then let it cool. The mixture will thicken as it cools, and then you can transfer the sauce into a small serving bowl.

Not only does this cranberry sauce taste great, it adds a nice touch of tradition to winter meals. Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and are having a nice holiday weekend!

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

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I bought some salted caramel sauce earlier this summer at the grocery store, and I could hardly tell that it was salted! So I made a note to try making a homemade salted caramel sauce sometime, and I finally had the chance. This Easy Salted Caramel Sauce is definitely salted and has a great buttery, sweet-salty flavor!

My recipe uses both granulated sugar and brown sugar–if you use dark brown sugar (see jar of sauce right behind the plate of apples in the photo), your sauce will have a darker color and just a very slightly stronger caramel flavor. If you use light brown sugar (see jar of sauce in background), your sauce will be lighter in color and slightly more buttery in flavor. I’ve made it both ways and I like both–the difference is not that big and the caramel sauce tastes great both ways!

Use this caramel sauce as a topping over ice cream, as a fruit dip for apples or pears, or drizzle it over cakes or muffins…it adds a great flavor when you’re wanting something sweet, salty, and caramel-y! I like drizzling it over apples, and the apples I used here are called SweeTango® apples (I received a few complimentary apples to try out), which are crisp and sweet with a little tart punch. They tasted great with this caramel sauce!

EASY SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE by NancyC

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (dark brown sugar with give you a deeper-colored caramel sauce)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half (light cream)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cut into slices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or sea salt (for less of a salted flavor, just use 1 teaspoon)

Mix the sugars, heavy and light creams, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir gently for 15 minutes while ingredients are melting and cooking–mixture will thicken slightly. Turn up heat to medium and cook for another 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, as mixture comes to a full boil. Then let mixture continue boiling for an additional 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove sauce from heat and stir in salt. Cool caramel sauce for about 15 minutes and pour into a canning/mason jar.

Use caramel sauce warm or let cool in jar another 15 to 20 minutes before storing in the refrigerator, tightly covered, until ready to use. The caramel sauce can be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

To reheat, place uncovered jar in microwave and heat for 30 seconds; remove and stir sauce, then heat for an additional 30 seconds (or longer, if needed) and stir again before using.

I love the flavor of caramel, especially in the fall. You can’t beat caramel and apples together! Do you have a favorite caramel treat?

Red Plum Freezer Jam

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I’ve never made freezer jam before (or any kind of jam for that matter). My friend Ann gave me some plum jam she had made with red plums from a tree in her backyard. She had so many plums, she had enough to give me a bunch to make my own plum jam, too!

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Ann found the recipe she used over at The Prepared Pantry. This plum jam is really yummy–sweet with a little tartness, and much, much better than store-bought! It’s opaque in color and has a thick, creamy consistency, so it’s a little different from your typical jam. It was easier to make than I thought, so I’ll definitely be making more homemade jam in the future! If you love plums, I think you’ll really like this jam. Even if you’ve never made jam before, you should give this a try. Since it’s freezer jam, you don’t need to bother with sterilizing jars or doing the other steps involved in traditional canning.

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You don’t even need to have special canning jars–for the batch I made, I used clean glass jars I had saved from other foods like peanut butter, ice cream topping, pasta sauce…any jar with a tight-fitting lid will do. If you don’t have jars, you can also use plastic containers.

The original recipe doesn’t say how long you can store the jam, but according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation

  • Freezer/refrigerator jams and jellies are a distinct category of products that have to be stored in the refrigerator (usually up to 3 weeks) or frozen for up to a year.
  • Freezer jams also have to be stored in the refrigerator after thawing and will only retain good quality for 3 to 4 weeks after opening. They are subject to more syneresis (“weeping” or separation of liquid from the gel) than cooked jams and jellies.

So it sounds like the jars of jam will keep in the freezer up to a year unopened, but once you open them, use them within 3 to 4 weeks. This particular jam can be used straight from the freezer, so I keep even my opened jars in the freezer–the consistency is still smooth and spreadable right from the freezer.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try making your own jam!

RED PLUM FREEZER JAM from The Prepared Pantry, with additional tips added

Makes enough to fill 5 pint-sized jam jars

  • 3 cups chopped and cooked plums, unpeeled (you’ll need about 8 cups of chopped, uncooked plums–this may give you a little more than 3 cups cooked, but it’s better to have too much than not enough; you can always save the extra cooked plums for something else–like adding to a smoothie or making a fruit topping!)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 package pectin (Ann and I used Sure-Jell)
  • 4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup

Wash and dry the five pint-sized jam jars (or use bigger jars and fewer) or plastic containers. Make sure the lids fit tightly.

Remove the stones from the unpeeled plums and chop into fine pieces (you’ll need 7 to 8 cups of chopped plums). Cook the plums until bubbly and soft, stirring mixture constantly as it cooks. I cooked my plums on low to medium low, switching between the 2 and 3 setting on my electric range stove top for about 30 minutes, and then cooked another 5 minutes on the 4 setting. The consistency will be kind of like chunky tomato sauce–here’s what mine looked like

Measure the cooked plums to make sure you have 3 cups (if you have extra, save the rest for another use). Place the 3 cups of cooked plums in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the lemon juice.

Using the paddle attachment, stir in the pectin thoroughly. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and let the mixer run for 10 minutes (there will be some spattering of the mixture during this mixing time, so make sure your mixer is set on the lowest setting). Then let mixture sit for 20 minutes.

Add the corn syrup into the fruit mixture  (the corn syrup reduces the likelihood of sugar crystallization). Add the sugar and stir with the mixer until it is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 5 minutes.

Immediately pour jam into your prepared containers leaving 1/2-inch clearance at the top to allow for expansion of mixture while freezing. Let the jars stand on the counter for 24 hours to allow the pectin to set, then freeze.

This is great on toast and English muffins! You can even spread it on pancakes and waffles if you want!

Notes:
–Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer incorporates air into the jam. If you don’t have a paddle attachment, use the regular beaters.

–Once the pectin begins to set, thickening the jam, do not stir. Continuing to stir will break down the pectin and make the jam more syrupy (which is OK if you decide you want to use it as a syrup or topping for pancakes, waffles, or even ice cream!)

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What a nice way to start the day! Enjoy your plum jam!

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt-Cucumber Dip)

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I recently made this Greek dip, Tzatziki, and was instantly hooked on it as soon as I tasted it! I adapted this from a recipe I found at About.com, which explains that this very healthy dip or sauce is often served “…on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki” (small pieces of meat and veggies grilled on a skewer). You can also use it as a dip for raw veggies and crackers, or as a sauce for grilled meats and cooked veggies. It’s very easy to make and a perfect cool, creamy recipe for summer!

TZATZIKI

  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • dash of salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (drain or strain any excess liquid from yogurt)
  • 1 cup light sour cream (or substitute another cup of Greek yogurt)
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill (start with the lower amount and then add more dill if you want a stronger dill flavor)
  • sprig of fresh dill for garnish (optional)

In a medium-size bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, minced garlic,  and salt and pepper if desired. Mix until well combined. In another medium bowl, blend the yogurt with the sour cream, using a whisk (you can omit this step if you’re substituting another cup of plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream). Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt-sour cream mixture (or yogurt) and mix well. Add the diced cucumbers and dill, and blend everything well. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Just before serving, garnish with a sprig of fresh dill if desired. (NOTE: You can store this in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days; stir mixture before serving).

I like using Tzatziki as a sauce over sliced cucumbers. Have you made Tzatziki before? How do you like to use it?