At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I wrote about my love of fresh herbs a few weeks ago in this post.  This love is relatively new, but I now grow many of my own herbs throughout the year.  Basil is one of my favorite herbs.  I grow a little of my own, but will buy it in bulk if I can find it.  For about 6 weeks this summer, we got huge bundles of it in our boxes.  In addition, I also bought an additional two pounds early in the season.  I do several things with this basil.  First, I make pesto.  Second, I make marinara sauce. If there is any leftover (and there often is!), I freeze it. 

Basil Pesto
4 c. fresh basil leaves (make sure they're pretty, with no brown spots and unwilted)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4-6 T. olive oil
1 t. lemon juice
1/3 c. walnuts

In food processor or blender, combine 1 c. basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and walnuts.  This gets all the non-herb ingredients mixed together.  Add more basil as the basil is combined.  Add a little water if you have trouble blending it together.  Use fresh or store in the freezer. 

Freezing pesto is super easy.  I put it in ice cube trays or mini muffin cups and throw it in the freezer.  When they are frozen, I put the cubes in baggies.  These keep forever and are great for a quick meal.

I use the pesto plain on hot pasta with a little parmesan cheese.  I also use it to punch up tomato-based pasta sauces on occasion.  My favorite way to use it is as an alternative to pizza sauce.  Top it with parmesan, chicken, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, onions, etc.  Delicious...

While it is certainly easier to buy a can of spaghetti sauce at the store, none are as good as homemade.  I like to think that my recipe is pretty easy, and a little work at the front end pays off huge with this amazing sauce: 

Homemade Marinara Sauce
1-2 T. Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted) OR the equivalent in fresh tomatoes (I have several bags frozen from abundant times, so I sometimes use those)
1 T. minced fresh rosemary
a pinch or two of red pepper flakes
2 c. fresh (or frozen) basil, chopped

Heat oil in large pot.  When oil is hot, add onion and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant.  Add in tomatoes, rosemary and red pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes on a low simmer, stirring regularly.  As the sauce starts to cook down and come together, add the basil.  Cook for about 15 more minutes, tasting for salt and maybe more pepper. 

I serve this over pasta chunky like it is or will use my immersion blender to make it nice and smooth.  Sometimes I cook it down even further and spice it up a little more and use it for pizza sauce.  More often, I freeze it in meal-sized containers and serve with pasta or eggplant parmesan. 

Freezing basil is easy.  I make sure it's clean, then put it in baggies and freeze it.  Sometimes I spread it on a cookie sheet first and then put it in baggies after it's frozen, but the end results are the same.  I use it in any cooked recipe that calls for basil.  It will not turn out as fresh and green as fresh basil, but the taste is the same.  I can't tell the difference, and it's a great way to carry over the taste of summer well into the winter.

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