Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fresh Roasted Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce was part of my life and family gatherings as far back as I can remember. As a child, I didn't like tomato sauce and my grandma (Ma) would make me noodles or gnocchi with butter. I am not sure when I started to like sauce, but it is now one of my favorites. My Mom and Ma make their own slow cooked sauce (you probably already guessed they are Italian). The slow cooked sauce is great, but I also enjoy a quicker cooking sauce.

I never had bottled sauces until I left home and went to college.
It was quicker and I didn't want to deal with the fuss of making sauce from scratch. By the time I got to graduate school, I realized that bottled sauces were not for me any longer. They are high in sodium, sugar, and contain unneeded ingredients. In an effort to cut out more processed foods, I cut out the bottled sauces. I quickly learned that making sauce does not have to be expensive and time consuming. The main ingredients are readily available in any grocery store and are affordable. One can make a quick sauce with plain, no salt added tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, sauteed onions, garlic, and spices.

If you are not a fan of canned tomatoes or want to go fresh, a quick sauce is still a delicious option. Organic tomatoes are available in most grocery stores and farmers markets and can easily be roasted and turned into a quick sauce. A sauce containing organic and roasted tomatoes is one of our favorite sauces to serve over gluten free pasta. The following dish is served with a fresh salad.
  • Three lbs tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (if fresh, use more)
  • 1/2 tsp basil (if fresh, use more)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (if fresh, use more)
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the core. Place the tomatoes face down on a rimmed baking sheet. Peel and crush the garlic cloves and add them to the sheet along with the onions and carrots. Sprinkle the spices over the vegetables and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until they are tender, about 45 minutes.

When the vegetables are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and use tongs to place the vegetables and juices into a food processor or blender. Pulse several times until th
e sauce has reached the desired consistency. Serve warm over your favorite gluten free pasta and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homemade Letters For Baby Zach

All of our nephews and niece have received name letters with hand painted designs by me. I usually use the theme of the baby room. If a theme has not been designated, then I paint what I like for them. I like the letters because is something they can play with or keep displayed. My hope is that it will help them to learn how to spell their names. Here are some examples of some that I have made. I haven’t taken pictures of all of them and I wish I would have!

It seems like 2011 is the year for babies. Many of my friends and some family members are pregnant. I know of at least six women who are pregnant right now. It is an exciting time! One of the first due is Kelly and she is having a baby boy named Zach. The theme for his room is monkeys and I couldn’t resist drawing monkey themed letters for his room. I had so much fun painting the letters for him.

This past weekend was Kelly's shower and it was fun to celebrate Kelly becoming a new Mom. I was delighted that Kelly and Jed (her fiancĂ©) liked the letters. They even inspired Jed to start thinking about painting a mural in Zach’s room! Every little kid should have art in their life!

Kelly encouraged me to continue to create and wondered why she hadn’t seen art from me before in our friendship. As I thought about it I also wondered myself. Sometimes I am surrounded by other people who create and I feel there is no room for me. As a teenager and young adult, I used to spend hours drawing in my sketch books. The older I get, the less I crack open my sketch book and pick up an art utensil. Part of the trouble is the doubt that I succumb too as I tell myself that I am not any good. In reality, it doesn’t matter if I have any talent. It is something that brings me joy and I should do it without reservation and without judgment. I should do it for the peace that it brings me.

To those of you that have the same reservations, I hope you will find inspiration in your life for art. Thanks, Kelly!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chocolate Lavender Cake by Wholesome Chow

It is a new year and over the past four months, I have become a new me. More like an improved me. I hope to change my blog up a bit with a redesign, fresh image and logo, etc. One of the changes is to add a review of vegan and gluten free products. I am not sure a blog is the best place to do this. Maybe I should start a dedicated blog for this? Or maybe even a website?

I don't want to wait to make a decision before I highlight an awesome company that I came across last year. The company is Wholesome Chow and they make vegan decadent baking mixes. They use all-natural and organic ingredients. They are allergen friendly by excluding eggs, dairy/casein, and peanut/nut from their products. They even have a gluten free line of mixes!

I don't remember how I stumbled upon this company, but I am delighted that I did! During one of their sales, I purchased three gluten free baking mixes. Below is a picture of their new package design. I love the design and the best part is that their packaging is compostable!

John's birthday was in early January and I decided to make him a cake. Normally I would make a cake from scratch, but GF baking is still a bit of a challenge and an experiment. I have realized that it is ok to have help from mixes. Especially ones that don't contain chemicals, additives, coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and animal products. I can stand behind organic, vegan, and gluten free. So, why not?

I made the Chocolate Lavender cake and a homemade rich chocolate frosting. I served it to John (of course!) and my parents (who aren't vegan). My Dad would not try it because it was the dreaded v-word! That just meant more for me, John, and my Mom. Good thing for us because we all loved the flavor and consistency.
The cake was light in texture, rich in flavor, and moist. The lavender was a perfect pairing with the chocolate. I had never had the combination before, but I most certainly want it again. The most exciting part was that the cake did not taste GF at all. Instead, it tasted like a normal and delicious cake! This may not seem like much to most, but many GF baked goods taste nothing like the original baked goods they attempt to mirror. They taste grainy, starchy, and crunchy. This cake was nothing like that and gave me hope. Maybe GF, vegan baking isn't so bad?

The only thing I would have changed was the flavor of the frosting, which was all my doing. It worked well with the cake, but a vanilla lemon icing would be perfect for this cake. I could see the chocolate, lavender, lemon, vanilla flavoring at a summer or spring gathering. I think I'll have to buy this mix again and try my icing idea.

Lucky for me, I have two more mixes to try. Now, I just need a special occasion to try them- OR- maybe not! :-) If you are looking for a GF, vegan cake mix (or just a vegan cake mix), I recommend stopping by the Wholesome Chow website and placing an order today!