Category Archives: Reviews

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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Carrot Cake

When I think of Amish food, I think of good, homestyle comfort food. That’s why I was interested in reviewing the recently published Amish Community Cookbook: Simply Delicious Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Homes. I was in the mood for some comfort food and there are lots of comfort food-type recipes in this book…breakfast items, casseroles, main dishes, sides, and desserts. I thought I’d try the Carrot Cake because I really love carrot cake and this one sounded really easy to make.

It was easy, but there are some positives and negatives to this recipe. The positives are that it tastes great, and it has three–yes, three–cups of shredded carrots in it. All those cups of carrots made me feel a little better about eating this cake. The cream cheese icing, which I turned into a thicker frosting, is really good too (but not healthy at all)!

The negative thing about this recipe is that it sunk in the middle when I made it. It was higher at the edges and lower in the middle. I made a batch-and-a-half of frosting to fill in the sunken middle and make the cake appear level. And sprinkled the top with chopped pecans. So it ended up looking fine. I’m not sure if the sunken middle was due to something I did wrong or if it always turns out that way. So if you try this, you’ll have to let me know if your cake sunk or not!

At any rate, everyone I shared this cake with loved it. So I guess that’s the most important thing!

CARROT CAKE adapted from Amish Community Cookbook

Makes a 9×13″ cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups (granulated) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups oil (this may be too much oil; just try 1 cup and the cake may not sink in the middle!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 cups (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

CREAM CHEESE ICING

(Note: I made a batch and a half of the frosting to have enough to generously cover the cake and the sunken middle: 3/4 cup butter, 4.5 ounces cream cheese, 3 tsp. vanilla, 6 cups powdered sugar; I also topped the frosting with 1/3 cup chopped pecans. Below is the original icing recipe from the book)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar or more as needed for consistency (I used 4 cups of powdered sugar because I wanted a thicker frosting)

In large bowl, beat eggs well. Add sugar, beat until creamy. Beat in oil and vanilla. Stir in carrots.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to egg/sugar mixture. Stir in nuts. Pour into ungreased 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350˚F for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Spread with cream cheese icing. Keep cake refrigerated.

If you’ve looked over this recipe and have any ideas why this cake may have sunken in the middle and how to fix that, be sure to let me know! Even with the sunken middle though, I would make this again because it really does taste good. If you’re a carrot cake fan, I’m sure you will like this! Have you made carrot cake before and do you have a favorite recipe for it?

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

Cinnamon-Glazed Carrots

I’ve never been very crazy about raw carrots. But I do like them cooked or roasted. So when I found this recipe for Cinnamon-Glazed Carrots in my review copy of No Excuses Detox, I knew I wanted to make them! As the subtitle says, this book includes 100 recipes to help you eat healthy every day.

Written by Megan Gilmore, No Excuses Detox features recipes that are quick and easy, affordable, and yummy–not the kind of recipes you’d expect to find in a “detox” cookbook. In fact, I was surprised that there are recipes for lots of comfort food-type foods with a healthy twist–like Butternut Mac n’ Cheese, Skillet Breakfast Hash, Speedy Black Bean Burgers, and even Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Lots of great recipes to choose from! But the Cinnamon-Glazed Carrots recipe was calling my name and I had just bought some organic rainbow carrots at Whole Foods, so it was the perfect time for me to try this out.

I used large carrots when I made this, but you can slice your carrots or use baby carrots and if you do, your cooking time will only be about 10 minutes. Since I used large carrots I had to cook mine a little longer. So here’s the recipe–it’s a great way to eat your carrots!

CINNAMON-GLAZED CARROTS from No Excuses Detox

The addition of cinnamon and naturally sweet maple syrup makes these carrots taste like dessert, plus they can be ready in just 15 minutes!–Megan Gilmore

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 pound baby carrots, sliced carrot coins, or halved large carrots
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

In a Dutch oven, melt the coconut oil over medium heat and saute the carrots for 2 minutes. Add the water, which should start bubbling right away, and lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook the carrots for about 10 minutes, until fork-tender (note: since I used larger carrots, my cooking time was more like 15 to 18 minutes). Check the pot periodically to make sure the water doesn’t completely evaporate so the carrots don’t burn.

Once the carrots are tender, raise the heat to cook off any excess water, then stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt (adjust seasonings to taste). Serve warm. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

There are other recipes I want to try in this book. It’s always nice when you can make great-tasting food that’s good for you, too. Do you have some favorite healthy recipes of your own?

Sharing this at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Full Plate Thursday.

Spa Spring Gift Basket

Happy first day of spring! I hope you had a beautiful day! I’m not a big fan of cold winter weather, but I love the warmer days of spring! I love seeing the flowers outside begin to bloom and the longer, sunnier days. I’m really glad spring has arrived!

Something else arrived at my doorstep recently–this Premium Spa Gift Basket, compliments of GourmetGiftBaskets.com. It was just what I needed–a farmhouse-style wire basket filled with lots of pampering spa products like scented lotion, triple milled bath soap, body wash, comfy terry cloth slippers, a 4 points massager, pumice brush, skin smoothing brush, massaging bath brush, wooden foot brush, sea sponge, and loofah. It was such a treat to receive this basket, and I’m enjoying using all the spa items so much! With Easter coming up, this basket would be a great gift for a mom, sister, or friend who needs and would enjoy some pampering. It also makes a great springtime birthday gift. There are several other spa-themed baskets you can choose from at the Gourmet Gift Baskets site, including the Classic Spa Gift Basket and Bath & Snack Gift Basket.

If you’re looking for other Easter gift basket ideas, you’ll find a large selection to choose from at GourmetGiftBaskets.com. They offer baskets filled with candy and toys for the kids. Or Easter cakes, cake pops, popcorn tins, chocolate dipped strawberries, cheesecakes, and other treats for anyone who loves sweets. For healthier eaters, there are baskets of fresh fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. And there are also baskets filled with gourmet meats, cheeses, and crackers–so there’s quite a selection! You’ll have to visit the site to see all that Gourmet Gift Baskets has to offer.

Are you excited spring is here too? And what’s your favorite way to pamper yourself?

Holding Tight to the Permanent One

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“How quickly things change. Life is a given until it isn’t,” writes Amanda as she shares about her father’s battle with cancer.

“For a long time, nothing was certain except that life was uncertain,” Raechel adds, as she describes the brokenness in her childhood home.

Two women, two stories–different, yet not so different from yours or mine. In their new book She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away, authors Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams share experiences in their lives that we all can identify with. As I was reading through my review copy, I realized that even though our stories are different, they’re similar in many ways. Loss, illness, financial setbacks, family relationships–we all can relate to the pain, the stress, the worry, and the uncertainty of life’s ups and downs. But the stories don’t end there. Raechel and Amanda write about how faithful God has been in every situation. And how they found comfort in the Truth of His Word and strength in His promises.

14322622_732489793750_5655470604830158633_nWe live in a world that is temporary and fleeting, but  the authors of She Reads Truth emphasize that in this world of uncertainty, God is permanent, unchanging, and ever-faithful. He is our Rock–the One we can always hold on to, the One who is always holding us. And He specializes in redemption. He redeems our stories in beautiful, unexpected, unpredictable ways.

“Sometimes, by God’s sweet grace, the hard stuff is also the most worth–it stuff.” says Raechel. “Because of God’s proven faithfulness to us, His people, we can put our hands squarely on each other’s shoulders, look one another in the eye, and remind each other that God is at work. Without a doubt. Redemption is always coming.”

In Amanda’s words, “He is the God who penned redemption’s story, from before the beginning of time all the way to the fingertips of eternity’s outstretched hand. He is the God who is not bound by my efforts or held back by my doubt. He is the God who is Love infinite, Love perfected, Love inextinguishable.”

I found this book so encouraging because it points to our everlasting God and His unchanging promises. He is the Permanent One–the Alpha and Omega who is, who was, and who is to come. He has always been there for us and always will be. He takes the brokenness of our lives and creates something beautiful from it. He will never stop loving us and loves us more than we will ever be able to comprehend.

He holds us close by the Truth of His Word. Let’s always hold tight to Him!

Authors Raechel Meyers and Amanda Bible Williams also have an online community called She Reads Truth–to learn more about it, visit SheReadsTruth.com.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.