Monday, October 27, 2014

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Homemade pizza sauce: fresh, tasty, and ready in less than 30 minutes!

I love a good, homemade pizza. The most important thing next to the crust is the sauce. I'm one of those that likes a good amount of sauce on my pizza. If it doesn't have enough, I need a little extra for dipping.

It really only takes a few good ingredients to make an excellent sauce: crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flake, basil, and oregano. I've included the measurements for both dry and fresh herbs. Just remember, if using dry herbs: add them to the sauce at the beginning of the simmering stage. Dry herbs can withstand longer cooking times and actually need the simmering time to bloom their flavors. Fresh herbs are more fragile and need to be added at the very end to preserve the fresh flavor and appearance.

I actually took a little hiatus from making my homemade pizza sauce, until recently. I found a store bought brand that actually tasted pretty close to homemade. It became my favorite sauce until recently when our grocery store stopped carrying it! Of course, that always happens when I find something I really like. It's okay, homemade sauce is always best. Plus, this recipe is easy to make ahead and freezes really well.This recipe makes the equivalent of two jars of the other sauce I was using. I generally use half of this sauce for our pizza and freeze an extra jar for a future use.

Homemade Pizza Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, or 3 teaspoons of fresh basil
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 1-28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 teaspoon fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium size saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add finely chopped onions, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flake and saute for about 1 minutes or until fragrant. Adjust heat to medium/low and add crushed tomatoes. Stir in sugar, basil (if using fresh, add at the very end), salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until slightly thickened.

2. Allow sauce to sit uncovered for 10 minutes to cool slightly before using. Sauce will thicken slightly as it stands. Use immediately for pizza or cool completely and store in jars in refrigerator or freezer.

From Tasteful Cuisine

Need some tips on preserving oregano and other herbs? Now is the time to start harvesting your herbs for winter!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

A delicious pumpkin cake, rolled up and filled with a rich cream cheese filling. It's surprisingly simple and easy to make!

Today is Columbus Day and I've had a wonderful day off at home. It's been rainy here the last couple of days, so it's been the perfect weather to stay in and get some things done. I now have a clean house, dinner in the crock pot, and a freshly baked pumpkin roll to enjoy for dessert.

I have not had a pumpkin roll in a long time and I decided it was time to resurrect this recipe. Pumpkin recipes are all over the internet and food blogs right now. I like traditional pumpkin recipes (pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, etc.) but I don't get as creative with pumpkin as I have seen other bloggers do. So you will  see a few pumpkin recipes from me this fall, but nothing too nontraditional.

Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar 

  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash or two of salt
  • Powdered sugar for decorating, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a Jelly Roll pan with shortening and line with parchment paper. Grease and flour the parchment paper. Sprinkle a thin, dish towel with powdered sugar.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set Aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Beat in pumpkin puree.

3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 13-15 or until the top of the cake springs back when touched with finger or toothpick (cake may bake faster if using a dark, non-stick pan). Remove from oven and loosen cake around the edges with knife. Immediately turn cake onto prepared towel. Starting with the narrow end, roll up cake and towel together. Cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar and salt and whip on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

5. Carefully unroll cake and evenly spread filling over the cake. Roll cake back up and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Decorate with additional powdered sugar, if desired.

Slightly Adapted from Libby's

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Freshly baked chicken, tossed with grapes, celery, red onion, and a delicious homemade dressing. These sandwiches are perfect for a party or a way to dress up your weekly lunch routine!

I originally got this recipe for chicken salad sandwiches from my mom. She received the original recipe from a friend several years ago and made her own changes to the recipe. I have since made adjustments to my mom's version. I remember when I first saw the recipe, it sounded like such a strange combination. Chicken, grapes, red onion, celery and walnuts all mixed together with mayo and other seasonings/condiments. Once I took a bite I was hooked. The salad is so fresh tasting and satisfyingly filling with all the protein and fresh fruit/veggies. The addition of walnuts adds a nice crunch to the salad. I sometimes omit the walnuts if I am taking these sandwiches to a get together (just in case someone is allergic). The sandwiches still taste great with or without them.

I hosted a baby shower over the weekend for my sister-in-law. I kept the menu relatively simple: Chicken salad sandwiches, fruit salad, a veggie tray, Mexican tortilla pinwheels (made by my Mother-in-law) and a chocolate cake. Most everything I was able to make ahead of time and finish preparing the day of. I did prepare this chicken salad that morning, as I don't like it too chilled (the chicken tastes best when it is still fresh) but it does keeps well if you need to make it ahead of time.

The recipe is relatively simple. Simply, baked up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken into small cubes and toss with celery, red onion, and red grapes. For the dressing mix together: mayonnaise, cream cheese, Dijon mustard and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and stir until coated. You may need to add a little more mayonnaise if it looks dry. I always prefer to start with the smallest amount possible and go from there.

I like to serve the chicken salad on a nice, buttery croissant roll. Cut in half or smaller desired portions and secure the sandwich with a toothpick. These little sandwiches are perfect for a baby/wedding shower or nice luncheon.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 4 cups cooked (3 if they are large, 4 if they are smaller in size)
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay chicken breasts on baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Pound chicken breasts until even thickness. Remove plastic wrap, discard. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with a little salt. Bake chicken for about 20 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow chicken to rest for about 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Cut chicken into cubes. Cooked chicken should measure about 4 cups.

2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, grapes, celery, and red onion. In a smaller bowl, mix together the mayo, cream cheese, Dijon, and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss to coat. If needed, add more mayo to desired consistency.

3. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Taste before serving and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve on croissants or desired bread of choice.