Tag Archives: tomatoes

The Tale of Three San Marzano Sauces – Part I


Once upon a time, a newlywed couple took their honeymoon vacation to Italy, on the the Amalfi Coast. When out to dinner one night, he ordered The Manicotti.

“Manicotti?” She asked in disbelief. “We come all the way to Italy and you order manicotti?!”

But it was the best manicotti they ever had.

She ate her words. And more bites of his manicotti than he would have liked.

One reason?

The Tomatoes.

She always had a fondness for tomatoes. In fact, it was her favorite vegetable. He, however, thought they were, well, “Ewwwww….” He could handle cooked tomatoes, and sometimes, sauces.

While they were exploring the Amalfi coast, menus listed tomatoes as just tomatoes, not as a specific variety. It wasn’t until they returned from their honeymoon that they learned that the local tomatoes they were eating were of the San Marzano variety and grown in the rich, volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius.

She started to cook with San Marzano tomatoes. {The Italian-grown kind can be found canned. The variety can be grown elsewhere, but they don’t taste the same when they are not grown in volcanic soil. You can read more about that here.} He loved them so much that he’d even eat a San Marzano Pasta without meat!

You see, one of their easy go-to meals was a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. She liked to make this on a busy weeknight because she didn’t have to think. All it took was a little olive oil, half of a diced onion (optional, if available), a pound of ground beef, a jar of marinara and a half of a box of spaghetti {or angel hair pasta, as he likes}. Dinner. DONE.

Until he found…

Jarred San Marzano Pasta Sauces


I’ve kind of been stuck on my same jar of marinara sauce for ages: Ragu Parmesan and Romano. Now we all know that jarred marinara sauces contain waayyyyyy too much sugar and sodium. My jar has 10 grams of sugar and 590 mg of sodium per serving. Ouch.

I’ve tried to switch. I’ve tried other no-sugar added, low-sodium sauces and even “natural” or “organic” ones. I’ve always reverted back to my same old favorite sauce. When it’s something I like better and I can get it on sale for only a dollar or two per jar, the decision is easy! But not necessarily better.

I’ve even tried making a labor-intensive, all-day sauce that smelled so good. But when all was said and done, I was highly disappointed.

Then, Rob found some San Marzano sauces online! I started to watch for them in the store. One day, I found three different brands – JACKPOT! I bought them all.

photo 1(1)


Stay tuned tomorrow for the reviews!

Now? I’m trying to get better about making my own. I know fresh, homemade marinara sauce is healthier when I can control the ingredients. I’m in search for the best tasting one. Here are a few I will be making in the next coming weeks:

Six Minute Marinara Sauce by Lisa at Snack-Girl
Roasted Vegetable Marinara by Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen
Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce by Kath at In the Kitchen with Kath


This week:







So I’ve changed up our Run Streak. I’ve found that my back feels much better when I get a nice walk in during the day. To keep active, my Active Streak will include an hour walk every day up until we leave for Oz this fall. On the days when I feel like I don’t have time to walk or workout, that is when I must run a mile because a mile takes minimal time. There’s no way we can’t fit a mile in! So this is a pretty easily written schedule!

  • Monday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Tuesday Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Wednesday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Thursday – Run 1 mile in the am
  • Friday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Saturday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Sunday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile

What is your favorite homemade marinara recipe?

I’m looking to try some new ones out in the coming weeks!




The Roasted Tomato Dressing that I Want to Pour over Everything


If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know by now that I absolutely, positively loooooooooovvvvvvveeee tomatoes. With a capital L.

Last week, I discovered this Roasted Tomato Dressing.

And now I want to pour it on everything.

I could eat it with a spoon. That’s dangerous though. With all of that olive oil in it, it’s only meant to be a dressing. So I tried to make it count. I spooned some over my greens. I put a dollop on my 90-Second Egg Sandwich. I put a couple of generous spoonfuls over a nice medium-rare sirloin steak. Mmmm…

I can’t even begin to tell you how good this is.

If you like tomatoes as much as I do…

You. Must. Make This. NOW.

I did change the recipe, slightly, though. Here’s what I did:

  • Realizing that I was out of red wine vinegar, I used the Champagne balsamic that I had on hand. I’m sure that gives it a somewhat different flavor. But I’d like to try it with lots of different vinegars to change it up. Or do I? I love it the way it is.
  • I did not add garlic because I used garlic-infused olive oil when roasting the tomatoes.
  • I used my high quality Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil when I drizzled it into my food processor. This is not exactly a change, per se. But I try to use my best quality as a finishing oil, not always for cooking.

Now I want to experiment with it. Or do I? It’s Perfect. Just the Way It Is…

Some thoughts:

  • Try using different vinegars.
  • Try using almond oil. {I received some for Christmas and have yet to use it.}
  • Change the ratio of olive oil to tomatoes to lighten it up a bit.
  • Perhaps even turn it into an awesome tomato sauce??

The last one reminded me of Jodi’s Bowl of Love that I once read about. I currently stick to a jarred version that I know is high in sugar and sodium. But we haven’t found anything else to win us over and replace the old standby. But if I can cut or eliminate the oil in this baby, I might have the perfect tomato sauce!

If my Roasted Tomato Dressing discovery wasn’t enough… Later in the week, this recipe was delivered to my inbox: Chicken with a Tomato-Ginger Vinaigrette. I was totally seduced. Coincidence? I think not… I think I know what I”m making the next time I have the girls over for dinner!

Now it’s time for:




*This week, I’m trying out Plated. It’s a service that delivers all of the necessary fresh, ingredients {except for a basic few that you should already have on hand} to your door along with the recipes. I’ve been watching it for months now, but wanted to make sure there were two meals that I could make for Rob before testing it out. I also got 50% off my first two dishes for two people. You can, too, by clicking here. I’ll review next week!



  • Salsa Caprese
  • Quick & Easy Bowls I’m going to change up my usual Mexican concoction with an Italian one:
    1. Base – handful of spinach or other greens
    2. Grain/Starch – I was going to add 1/3 cup of pasta, but I’m thinking if I do a cold salad, I’m going to just double the protein
    3. Protein – 1/2 can garbanzo beans, drained
    4. Veggies – 1/3 can Italian diced tomatoes, drained and 1/3 onion sauteed with 1 zucchini
    5. FatFeta – using a light cheese because my sauce is made with lots of olive oil!
    6. SauceRoasted Tomato Dressing…. YAAYAYYAYAYAYYAYA!!!!
  • Snacks – fruit, string cheese and dark chocolate



  • Monday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 3, Day 1
  • Tuesday – Recumbent Bike/Yoga
  • Wednesday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 3, Day 2
  • Thursday – REST
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Week 3, Day 3
  • Sunday – Recumbent Bike/Yoga

What is your favorite homemade dressing?

What is your favorite tomato sauce recipe?


Snack Lunches


You know what I’ve been absolutely loving lately?


Well, you should have known that by the title.

Anyway, what are Snack Lunches? They are foods that I’d probably normally bring to work to snack on or munch on at home between meals. Instead, I’ve been bringing my snacks to work with me as meals. What’s interesting is that while some look low in calories, they do fill me up! I don’t really need any other snacks later in the day. Here is one of my favorites:

Snack Lunch Cucumber, Capress & Egg

Cucumbers, Hard Boiled Egg & Poorman’s Caprese 

I usually add a fruit to my lunch bag {not pictured above} to round out my Snack Lunch and to have something slightly sweet. As of late, I’ve been noshing on cherries, watermelon and grapes. Like here:

Snack Lunch

Grapes, 1.5 oz Muenster Cheese & Veggies with Hummus

I also have my daily piece of Dove dark chocolate. I do bring one of my pre-portioned bag of 100 calories worth of nuts along, too. {I adore the Rosemary Marcona Almonds from Trader Joe’s!} However, I don’t always end up eating them. I may eat them after work if I have a run scheduled that night. But lately it’s just been me crunching on a cucumber while I keep the pooches separated while they eat. {Shamrock tries to eat the adult food, while Sophie tries to eat the puppy food!}

leftover Tuscan pork chop and veggies with hummus

Leftover Tuscan Pork Chop & Veggies with Hummus

Above is yesterday’s Snack Lunch. On a whim, I chopped up the leftover pork chop from the night before and threw it into my lunch. I didn’t think cold pork sounded that appetizing {I don’t like cold leftover turkey from Thanksgiving!}, but it was actually a really tasty addition!

In some ways, I think of these Snack Lunches as antipasti platters. You know, those plates with an assortment of cheeses, meats, fruits, olives… Yes! I forgot to add that I sometimes add olives to my Snack Lunches!

One day, I picked up a little snack box from Target. Did you know that they offer these in the deli section?!

Snack Lunch-Target

Trail Mix, Spicy Summer Sausage, two types of Cheese & Pretzels

Sure, that Snack Lunch above wasn’t quite as healthy as my others since it lacked veggies. But I did see several different variations of this snack box in the deli section. Some had hummus and veggies. Some included fruit. There were ones with tuna salad and crackers. I probably could have chosen a more healthy option. Don’t worry, I still had plenty of cukes form the Farmers’ Market. I’ve been eating them like crazy right now!

I seriously feel like I can’t get tired of snacks for lunch. I brought some leftovers and a salad to work a couple of times recently, but what I really wanted my Snack Lunch instead. What’s also great is that since you pre-portion all of your snacks before you leave the house, portion control should not be an issue.

Here’s my formula for a healthy Snack Lunch:

  • Protein (chicken, pork chop, cottage cheese, cheese cubes, hummus)
  • Veggies (to eat plain or with dip, hummus, guacamole)
  • Fruit (Right now, I like ones that are chopped into pieces or bite-sized rather than an apple or orange – such as raspberries, melon, cherries)
  • Optional: Healthy Fat (guacamole, olives, a drizzle of olive oil over roasted veggies.)

You could also add a whole grain, too. I love that these are so simple to put together and it helps me use up whatever I’ve got in my fridge.

Do you ever eat your snacks as your lunch?

What kind of foods would you put in your ideal healthy Snack Lunch?


Farmers’ Market Find: Ground Cherries


This year, we decided to skip the weekly CSA box. While I love everything a CSA stands for and loved getting fresh, organic foods, there are a few reasons why we decided to take the year off.

  1. The price went up. Now, the CSA wasn’t a bad deal to begin with, but you’ll see why it doesn’t make sense for us in the next point.
  2. The shares are too big. We split our share with a friend last year and it was still too much food. Some of the food went uneaten and spoiled. I did, however, like the challenge of trying to use everything up by the week’s end.
  3. The smaller shares they offered last year were not available this year. I may have considered that option otherwise.
  4. We didn’t always like everything that came in the box. Although I loved to try new-to-me produce!
  5. We can walk to our local Farmers’ Market!
  6. Our Farmers’ Market is a Division of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, which means that everything sold must be local – within a limited radius of St. Paul, MN.

So every Saturday this summer, we’ve been walking to our local Farmers’ Market.  {Although, with Rob’s knee injury we had to drive last weekend. I may be walking down by myself for a few weeks.}

What’s great about the Farmers’ Market is that we can select what we know we like and will be able to eat that week. Last weekend, we bought:

  • Mixed Greens
  • Cucumbers (for me!)
  • Tomatoes (for me!)
  • Chinese Broccoli {I had intended to  attempt to make Pad See-Iew.}
  • Sweet Corn
  • Onions
  • Green Onions
  • And these beautiful radishes!

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Rob doesn’t like radishes. But I sliced them up and put them on my salads all week. I love their color, crunch and slightly bracing zest of flavor. How much did they cost? $1. And only half of them are shown here.

We also discovered something new…

Ground Cherries

Ground Cherries!

I asked what they were and I was encouraged to try a sample. The woman described them as like a tomato, but sweeter. She opened the husk and showed me that the fruit inside. I took a bite. Wow! I wasn’t sure what to think. They were so… different.

She said that they can be eaten raw, are often added to salads and are great for making salsa. I bought some. And I even made Rob try one when we got home. He was apprehensive because he is not a fan of raw tomatoes. But they don’t exactly taste like tomatoes. Sure, they remind you of a tomato once you pop the fruit from the husk. And the husk itself, surrounding the fruit, is reminiscent of that of a tomatillo.

Ground Cherries 3

But when you take a bite, the flavor is unique. And the texture is a bit different, too. Just check out the middle:

Ground Cherries 2

I put them in the fridge when I got home and kind of forgot about them. When I found them later in the week, I sat down and ate almost the whole bag as a snack – only about 74 calories for a whole cup! They are a fruit that you can’t eat too fast, because you have to peel the husk off of each one before popping it into your mouth. That way, you eat them more slowly.

Yesterday, I had them in a salad. {Husks removed beforehand, of course!} They were the perfect addition in terms of flavor. The only trouble I had was stabbing them with my fork. One even popped right out of my bowl. Those little suckers. Get into my belly already!

I also read that they are a good cereal topper like so many other fruits. So I added a few to my granola and milk yesterday morning as well. They complemented each other well in terms of texture and flavor. I’ve also seen recipes for pies and cupcakes using ground cherries. I’ve even seen a picture of them chocolate-dipped!

So what do they taste like?

Some websites I’ve read describe them as tasting like a pineapple or a strawberry. Uh, no, not really. And those aren’t even similar fruits, so I found that to be a weird descriptor. I think you are going to just have to give them a try for yourself!

Oh. And Rob even liked them!

I am going to make it a point to try to get something new at each Farmers’ Market we visit. You know how I love to do that!

What produce have you recently tried for the first time?


Which Food Box to Keep?


Subscription Box Saturday – Food Box Edition

I know I subscribe to a lot of monthly boxes. But I really try to follow this rule: Only subscribe to one box of any kind. However, I’ve broken this rule with food/snack boxes. I belong to two. It’s tough deciding which one to keep! Generally speaking, I think I like my Love with Food box a little bit better. Why? They introduce me to new products that not only taste good, but are often healthy or just better in terms of the quality of ingredients and processes used. I also love the themes. However, I do get some tasty items in my Goodies box as well. And that one’s only $7! It’s hard to quit that! Here’s a comparison of the May contents.

Subscription Box: Love with Food

Premise: Sample the best gourmet food products delivered to your door!”

Cost: $10/month + $2 shipping. (Special deals if you purchase more than one month at a time)

Extra Benefits: Review products, share recipes and refer friends for points toward free products.

What’s Special: For each box shipped and each order placed, a meal is donated to a hungry child.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

From Left, Clockwise:

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves: I’ve received Bonne Maman in a few different boxes now. I’ve always loved this product since I first had it in France nearly 20 years ago. So it’s a welcome treat! I also love the mini sample jars they come in, which I reuse like in this post.

Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning Blend: We haven’t used this yet, but I’ve read that a little can go a long way! I intend to add it to pasta sauce or to season veggies this summer! Maybe I’ll even switch up my usual popcorn routine with a sprinkle, too. Did you know that of everywhere I’ve been, I think New Orleans has some of the best food in the world?!

Mrs. May’s Naturals Strawberry Pineapple Crunch: While these little nuggets tasted good because the ingredients went well together, I thought that the clusters were a little big. It seemed like a lot of calories for just a few little bites! This was the box’s “mystery item” which must be something they recently started. Instead of the insert stating what the product is, you have to go online to find our more info.

LWF insert

Caffe Borsa Hand Drip Single Origin Coffee: I’m stashing this away for a trip when coffee might not be available.

Snapz Crisps – Tomato Crunch: I love tomatoes. They are one of my favorite things on this planet. I was so excited to try these at only 40 calories a bag. The flavor, though, was very concentrated and a lot sweeter than I expected. I could only eat half the bag until it got to be a little too much. I was surprised how satisfied I was on just 20 calories. I think these would be great in a salad to have that added crunch without the carbs or fat of croutons or nuts. Have you tried these before?

Bali’s Best Latte Candy: These were the first to come out of the box! I enjoyed one while Rob had the other. Love these! There is not much  more to say. Coffee-flavored candies? I’m in!

Biscotti Bari Authentic Almond Biscotti: I love biscotti and the almond, almost amaretto flavor of this hit the spot. Yesiree – tastes authentic to me!

“Great Full” Vegan Sweet Potato Cookie by the Cookie Department: The phrase “Vegan Sweet Potato Wellness Cookie” just made the cookie sound disgusting to me. I am not a sweet potato fan. In addition, it sounded like a lame attempt to come up with a cookie for a vegan.

NOT SO! This cookie was delightful! I was completely surprised. I loved, particularly, the molasses flavor. This was the big surprise of the box for me. My only gripe: It uses the words Vegan and Wellness to make it sound like a healthy cookie. But when I look at the fiber and protein content, it’s not all that impressive, especially since one cookie is 2 servings!


Subscription Box: Goodies

Premise: “Receive a monthly Taster’s Box filled with exciting snacks for you to enjoy. The monthly Taster’s Box includes 5-8 trial-sized snacks and treats enabling you to discover your favorite new goodies.”

Cost: $7/month, includes shipping

Extra Benefits: Review and rate products, upload photos and complete a profile to earn points and unlock rewards.

What’s Special: I guess I’d have to say the price. Although Goodies is a company owned by Wal-mart.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: I think Goodies stopped doing themes about two months ago. You now receive a note in the box instructing to go online to learn more about the products, rather than receiving an insert describing them. When I logged in online, this month’s header read:

May 2013 – Taster’s Box

Sweet and sour. Smoky and spicy. Fresh and refreshing. We’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to flavor this month.

Goodies May Contents

Blurry May Goodies Box Contents

From Left, Clockwise:

Bronco Bob’s Mango Chipotle Sauce: I haven’t tried this yet, but I intend to make the recipe on the back on a night when Rob is out golfing. {You know, that whole fins and feathers thing… oh and mango.}

Zico Coconut Water: I have just started to learn about coconut water by following Paleo bloggers. I’ve found some that I like and some that I don’t. My list of Goodies online wants me to rate a chocolate-flavored coconut water. WHAT?! I certainly did not receive a chocolate one! This big bottle was 4 servings. I poured two into a water bottle to sip on two separate days. It was good, but not the best I’ve had. Still loving the ones with pulp thanks to Kristen at Change of Pace!

Super Seedz Sea Salt Pumpkin Seeds: Tasty change from the normal popcorn or almonds I eat as a savory snack!


Wholly Guacomole: I love when subscription boxes know that they can’t send you something, but really want you to try it. So they send you a coupon for a free package! While it’s just as easy to buy an avocado and mash to make your own guacamole, sometimes it’s just nice to have a quick little package to take to work. I like the 100 calorie packs that are just the right serving size without worrying about when you are going to use up the rest of the avocado before it browns too much.That is what I’m going to buy with this coupon!

Chipotle BBQ Beanitos: You know how I feel about BBQ flavors. So I saved these for Rob. I did steal a chip or two and we were both really surprised how the bean element gave these chips so much flavor! Oh boy, I’d love to try another variety.


Blue Raspberry and Pink Lemonade Gummy Straws: These do not interest me. They are going straight home with grandma to my nephew. He’ll love ’em! It’s my job as the aunt to sugar him up, right?!

California Olive Ranch Olive Oil: I so want to do a post about olive oil… the labeling, the flavors etc. I used one of the two sample packages when sauteing some veggies this past week. However, I tasted a little on its own and realized that this was too good for sauteing; it should have been a finishing oil! Also, it’s cold pressed – a bonus. More to come on that in a future post.


Numi Moroccan Mint Tea: I am on a tea kick and this one was refreshing and did not disappoint! Plus a coupon to order more.

Numi Mint Tea

These two boxes were excellent this month, so I’m still having a hard time choosing just one. Enjoy the rest of your memorial day weekend!

When it comes to flavor, which spices or sauces knock your socks off?


Mediterranean Salsa Dip


I was inspired to post this recipe today by Katie over at Wish & Whimsy. She was inquiring about a healthy dish to bring to Christmas dinner. It got me thinking about the appetizer I’m bringing to a holiday party this weekend. It’s easy and one that people rave about and ask me for the recipe every time! Plus it’s something fresh and different from all of the heavy stuff you find at most holiday parties.

I think I found the recipe online years ago, but I’ve come to learn that it’s originally a Pampered Chef recipe that is paired next to hummus. Here is my adaptation:

Mediterranean Salsa Dip

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small (4.25 oz) can diced or chopped black olives
  • 2 plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 2 (4 oz) packages of crumbled feta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Just mix together and serve with your favorite chips, bread or pita slices. I use blue corn tortilla chips. Sometimes I use the garlic and herb feta, too! You can make ahead and chill to let the flavors meld; but it tastes great right away, too.

P.S. This is actually a doubled recipe, but I always make it that way because people devour it! {Plus, I plan to keep a small container for myself this time. I might just top a black bean burger with it!}

That simple!

What’s your favorite easy go-to holiday recipe?