Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but I’m a mom. And a grad student. And a few other things.

I am NOT an old Italian grandmother, or a professional chef, or the type of person who can spend hours carefully crafting a perfect tomato sauce. The last thing I spent hours on was… well, probably Pinterest. Whoops.

The point is, if I want a clean Italian meal, it has to be fast and easy. This sauce meets that criteria! Pair it with your pre-made Turkey-Veggie Meatballs and you can have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes easily. In fact, I really just call this Ten Minute Tomato Sauce for alliteration – it takes even less time to throw the ingredients together, or you can let it simmer for however long you have!

To keep this sauce simple, I rely on a few convenience items.IMG_5463 For those of you who are super strict clean-eaters, you may not like these additions – and, if you have the time to make your own ingredients from scratch, then by all means go ahead! But if you, like me, find yourself frantically staring at an empty stove around 5:30 every night, use the convenience items where appropriate. The ingredients here, though store-bought and obviously more processed, are still relatively clean options without lots of added ingredients or preservatives (there will be some in just about any store-bought item, but you can keep them to a minimum). And they cut prep time down from all day to just a few minutes. But, when possible, choose “no salt” or “low-sodium” options!

As you’ve probably realized by now, I don’t like chopping things. So I do a rough chop, and then use my immersion blender to do the rest of the work for me (the immersion blender is a kitchen must-have for me!). If you don’t have an immersion blender – BUY ONE! Seriously. And, while you’re waiting for it to ship, just chop the onion, celery and garlic more finely by hand.

IMG_5461

This is a fairly bright sauce, because I like the acidity of the tomatoes. If you’d prefer a more mellow sauce, use a heavier hand with the onion, celery and beef stock (the additional veggies will balance the additional liquid once blended, so you should have a similarly thick finished product).

We love this sauce with the Turkey-Veggie meatballs. Once you have everything puréed, you can toss them into the sauce straight from the freezer to heat! You could also add plain ground turkey or even white beans for an alternative protein boost (just make sure both are thoroughly cooked before adding to sauce). Serve with whole grain pasta, zuchinni noodles, or a mix of both! This sauce comes out thick, rich and delicious – no one will ever know that you didn’t spend all day slaving over it!

IMG_5460

Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped

1/2 c. celery, roughly chopped

1 t. olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 cans plain tomato sauce

1.5 c. beef stock

2 t. tomato paste

2 T. Italian seasoning blend (or mix your own)

2 t. honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Sweat the chopped onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes, or until they begin to soften. Crush garlic cloves with side of knife, and add to pot. Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, Italian seasoning, and honey, and stir ingredients well to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes (or longer, if you have the time). Then purée with immersion blender until vegetables and garlic are well chopped.

If adding meatballs or additional protein, add to puréed sauce, heat thoroughly and then serve.

IMG_5459Enjoy!

What’s your must-have kitchen item?

Advertisements
Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

IMG_5381I’ve spent most of my life in Texas, where approximately 300 days of the year it is too hot to want to cook. We definitely do our share of grilling around here, but sometimes a cool, refreshing salad seems more appealing than anything else. However, my problem with salad is that it’s a little like eating air – I can finish it and still feel like I’ve eaten nothing. So there’s no way I can make a meal out of it without adding a LOT of protein!

Tonight was definitely a salad night, because I was short on time and it’s getting quite warm and sunny. I also found a nice bunch of fresh cilantro and a pretty mango at the store, and had a half avocado I needed to use up – so I based my meal around those three items. My resulting creation got two thumbs up from both me and my carnivorous hubby, which makes it a huge success in my book!

This salad is perfect for a meal, IMG_5386because it’s a great balance of protein and veggies, blending hearty black beans and fresh baby spinach with bright fruit juices and cilantro. Topped with a cool, creamy avocado-based dressing, you’re getting a super dose of vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. I strongly recommend mixing up the black beans and letting them marinate while you prep the rest of the salad! The longer than can sit, the better the flavors with meld and intensify. The jalapeño is definitely optional in here. There’s plenty of flavor without it, but I like the extra kick! Just be sure you taste your jalapeño and adjust the amount depending on the heat level.

And even though this salad already has plenty of protein, if you have a house full of carnivores, feel free to top this salad with the meat of your choice – or grilled fish would be especially delicious!

Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 c. cooked black beans* (or 1 can – though it will be slightly less), rinsed and drained
1 T. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 an orange (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. red onion thinly sliced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
Optional – chopped jalapeño
4 c. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 mango, diced

Dressing:
1 small or 1/2 large avocado (approx. 1 cup)
2 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 c. unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of your choice)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix black beans, olive oil, orange juice and zest, red onion, and cilantro (and jalapeño, if you’re using it!) and set aside to marinate. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth – add milk until you reach the desired consistency.

To serve, combine divide spinach among 4 bowls. Top with black bean mixture, then drizzle with dressing and sprinkle mango on top. Add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper, if desired.

IMG_5383
Enjoy!

*Black beans are one of my favorite meal prep items. I like to make mine in the slow cooker, then divide into one cup servings and freeze.

Do you have a favorite salad combination?

Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread

IMG_5253I always have a hard time coming up with lunch ideas. Really, as a meal, it’s pretty inconveniently timed – right in the middle of work, school, and baby naps and feedings. Usually what happens is that I end up not having time to stop and even think about lunch until about 1 pm, by which point I’m starving and will eat just about anything and everything I can find.

Meal prep has helped me so much with getting healthier lunches faster. I love easy grab and go items like pitas, or quick salads which can be put together in minutes if veggies are pre-washed and chopped. However, both of those items can get a bit bland and boring without some sort of spread to liven them up.

IMG_5254The problem with most veggie spread recipes out there is that they call for cream cheese, which is delicious, but not the most nutritious. I much prefer to sub protein-rich greek yogurt, but those recipes tend to rely on pre-mixed dressing packages which often contain ingredients that are neither clean nor pronounceable. Is this really what you want to put in your body when you could eat REAL food instead?

This spread goes together quickly with a food processor, and you can store it in the fridge to use throughout the week. It is loaded with vegetables, and is perfect for spreading on sandwiches, topping grilled chicken or fish, or drizzling over salad (thin it out with milk if you want a more traditional salad dressing consistency). You can also customize it with any vegetables or seasonings you like – these are some of my favorite suggestions, but I often vary it with whatever is in the fridge!

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread

Makes approximately 4 cups of spread

IMG_5259Ingredients

1/2 c. each of red onion, celery, red pepper, and cauliflower (or sub veggies of your choice)

2 c. fresh spinach

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 c. plain greek yogurt

1/2 t. thyme

1 t. dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Roughly chop large vegetables and add to food processor, along with spinach and garlic. Process until finely ground, then add greek yogurt and spices. Process until well mixed (or stir by hand). Feel free to adjust measurements on ingredients if you would like your spread to be thicker/thinner.

Today, I was able to put together lunch in less than five minutes by smearing this veggie spread inside a whole-wheat pita pocket, adding additional spinach and chopped chicken that I grilled last night, and then reheating leftover spaghetti squash on the side! Hubby and I also picked up some great strawberries yesterday, so I put those on my plate as well (I shared with him – not all those are mine!).

Veggie SpreadEnjoy!

Do you have a go-to lunch recipe?

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread

Recipe Review: Sweet Potato Banana Bites from The Lean Green Bean

Somehow, out of the three of us, I seem to be the only one in my house that likes sweet potato.

Everyone else’s feelings are more like this:

Sweet PotatoThe good news is that means more sweet potato for me. The bad news is that it also usually means I have leftovers. So when I found a delicious looking recipe for Sweet Potato Banana Bites on The Lean Green Bean (a great blog from a fellow mom and healthy eater!), I figured it would be a perfect use for the sweet potato sitting in my fridge!

IMG_5213

I mixed them up this morning in less than 5 minutes (while entertaining the baby! That is skill!), and popped them in the oven before the Little Man’s first nap. For the record, while sweet potato by itself causes the sad face, sweet potato + banana is apparently baby approved!

Verdict: Quick and delicious! I drizzled a few with honey and enjoyed them for a pre-workout snack. The Lean Green Bean put dark chocolate in hers, which I think would have been AMAZING, but since my challenge is working on cutting out added sugar, I went with chia seeds for some texture. I think they are better with a little bit of crunch, so mixing in chopped nuts or chia seeds is a good option. Next time I may try them with crunchy peanut butter to get the same effect! The original recipe makes 14 mini muffins, but I have a weird almost OCD thing about not using all the muffin slots, so I made smaller muffins and got 24 out of the recipe – each was a perfect two-bite treat!

IMG_5224Sweet Potato Banana Bites

Recipe from The Lean Green Bean

Makes 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

1/2 c. cooked sweet potato (approximately 1 medium sized potato)

1/2 c. banana

1/4 c. nut butter (I used almond butter)

2 eggs

Cinnamon, to taste

Optional: Chia seeds, or other mix-ins

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mash sweet potato and banana together until smooth. Add in nut butter, eggs, and cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Spoon into greased mini-muffin tray, and bake – 18 minutes for 14 muffins, or 14 minutes for 24 muffins.

IMG_5223Enjoy! And check out The Lean Green Bean for more great recipes!

IMG_5222

Recipe Review: Sweet Potato Banana Bites from The Lean Green Bean