Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Sauce.

An easy, home-made version of my favorite jarred marinara sauce made with roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, carrots, and fresh basil!

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I’m pressing pause on the apple, cinnamon, pumpkin-everything recipes, even though we’re a few days away from the official start of fall. My garden is exploding with beautiful summer fruit (now more-so than ever!), and I bet I’m not the only one!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know this year was my first year planting a garden, and you also know I recently harvested dozens of tomatoes. Until now, I’ve been able to pick a couple tomatoes from the garden each day ad incorporate them in simple caprese or garden salads. Last weekend was a game-changer! I had two buckets full of tomatoes and I realized I was going to have to use them up in a large quantity all at once.

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I asked for your opinion on what I should make. Some said marinara, some said salsa, and some said gazpacho. Having spent time in Spain, I loooove gazpacho and was ready to make it until I realized I would be the only one in my family eating it. I was leaning toward marinara sauce, but I dreaded having to peel so many tomatoes. I know the trick about blanching them in boiling water, but it still seemed overly time-consuming. I wanted big flavor without slaving away in the kitchen all day, ya know?

Thankfully, an extended family member suggested an easier alternative to marinara sauce that included roasting the tomatoes first (hooray for not peeling tomatoes!!!). I tweaked her recipe a little bit and included carrots for some sweetness with the onion and garlic.

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Oh, and I roasted a WHOLE head of garlic for this recipe. I’m glad I did, because the garlic flavor was still subtle even with the large quantity I used! Have you ever roasted garlic before? I hadn’t either–but it is SOOOOO easy. Much faster than having to take out individual cloves. Are you ready? It’s done in 3 steps

1). Cut the top (pointy) side of the garlic bulb about 1/3 of the way down, so the tops of the garlic cloves are exposed.

2). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3). Wrap in foil and place in the oven. Ta-da!

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I am probably going to be roasting garlic for everything now! The little garlic foil packet roasted right on the oven rack next to my giant pan of tomatoes and veggies for about 40 minutes. More room on my baking pan = more tomatoes get used!

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When the liquid in the veggies has evaporated and all the tomatoes are shriveled up (lovely imagery, no?), you know they’re ready to take out. For me, that was about 40-45 minutes at 400F. Let them cool a little bit and then get out the food processor.

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Seriously, I love my food processor. It makes fancy sauces so easy. If you don’t have one, use a blender. Scraaaaaaaaaaape all that yummyness off the pan, straight into the food processor. Don’t forget about the garlic!! The cloves are soft and easy to squeeze out, so add them all to the big roasted veggie party. Did I just call it a party? Yes I did.

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Taste and add whatever you think would be good: balsamic vinegar, more olive oil, parmesan cheese, more seasoning, a touch of sugar, fresh basil, etc. I love basil in my sauce, so I added a small handful of leaves and processed them together. My sauce was thick (which I actually like), but you can thin yours out with more olive oil if you prefer a looser sauce.

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What do you like to do with fresh tomatoes? Let me know in the comments!

Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1-2 dozen chopped tomatoes, depending on size. (I used cherry and regular tomatoes, enough to fill 1 large baking sheet)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly cracked sea salt and pepper
  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • Fresh basil (I used about 8 leaves)

1). Pre-heat the oven to 400F. For the roasted garlic: cut off about 1/3 of the top of the garlic bulb (pointy side). Cut enough so the tops of the garlic cloves are now exposed. Place on foil, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap up tightly and bake directly on the oven rack with the tray of tomatoes.

2). Place the chopped tomatoes, carrot, and onion on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3). Remove the garlic and veggies. Let them cool about 15 minutes before scraping into the food processor. Add a small handful of fresh basil. Pulse until smooth. Taste and re-season, if necessary. You may need to add more olive oil for a looser sauce, balsamic vinegar for tang, sugar to sweeten, or more basil based on your preferences!

Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron. Thanks to family for the inspiration!!

 

Caprese Quinoa Salad.

A healthy, easy side dish filled with bright mediterranean flavors!

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Tomatoes + basil = perfection, am I right? I never get tired of that flavor combination.

I know adding mozzarella to the mix is the most traditional option, but I decided to use feta instead. It’s still very mediterranean, but more flavorful in my opinion. Feta is slightly more tangy and salty than mozzarella, and I think it worked great here. If you prefer mozzarella, use it!

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If you have a garden, this is the perfect way to use up a lot of fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients can be so good, am I right? Complicated recipes have their time and place, but this is not one of them, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and you’re good to go!

I served this with grilled chicken breast, but this would be great with fish, pork, beef, whatever! And, if you’re vegetarian, this could become a main dish. You can eat it warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge. The leftovers were great, too!

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Do you like caprese salads? Tell me your opinion in the comments section below!

Caprese Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 10-15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
  • Generous amount of sea salt (about 3/4 tsp) and freshly cracked black pepper (about 1/2 tsp), to taste

1). In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Cook according to package directions, about 15-18 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. Move the quinoa to a large bowl to let it cool.

2). Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl of quinoa, tossing to combine well. Taste and re-season, if necessary. Enjoy immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Servings: about 8 1-cup servings. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 157 Carbs: 17g Fat: 7g Protein: 7g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Points+: 4.
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Baked Pesto Chicken.

Thinly sliced chicken breasts are baked with my lightened-up pesto, then topped with mozzarella cheese! Few ingredients, lots of flavor.

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Last week I shared with you my homemade lightened-up, nut-free basil pesto. One of our favorite ways to use it is on top of chicken! Chicken breast alone doesn’t have much flavor, but the pesto takes care of that little problem. Top it with mozzarella or parmesan cheese and you have a delicious (and easy!) weeknight dinner. If your pesto is already made, you can certainly have this on the table within 30 minutes.

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I served this with a kale chickpea salad (recipe coming soon!), but it is great with just about anything you can think of: pasta, roasted veggies, a big green salad, couscous–whatever you’ve got, it’ll probably work! Leftovers can be reheated as-is, transformed into a sandwich, or cut into bite sized pieces and added to a salad. Get creative!

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This is arguably one of my husband’s favorite dishes, and I love it because it’s so simple to prepare! The lightened-up pesto tricks you into feeling like you’re really indulging, but you’re really not. It clocks in at just under 160 calories, only 6 grams of fat, and a whopping 27 grams of protein!

Baked Pesto Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 thinly sliced chicken breasts, about 1 lb
  • 4 tsp lighter basil pesto
  • 4 tbsp reduced fat mozzarella cheese (parmesan could work well too)
  • salt and pepper

1). Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides before placing them in the baking dish.

2). Carefully spread about a teaspoon of the basil pesto on each chicken breast. Top with 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Servings: 4. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 159 Fat: 6g Carbs: 1g Protein: 27g Points+: 4

Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Lightened-up Homemade Basil Pesto (Nut-Free!)

 All the bright, bold flavors of traditional pesto, but without all the calories! This basil pesto is easy, quick, and versatile.

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Pesto.
So vibrantly green. Slightly salty. Fragrant. Rich. It’s great on sandwiches (like this pesto chicken panini), on pasta, on baked chicken, or even mixed in to rice! That last one is a brand new discovery that I am really excited about. Brown rice alone is bland, but mix in a little pesto and ta-da! Bursting with flavor!

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3 summers ago I planted my first basil plant and successfully kept it alive for several months. This year I decided to plant 2 basil plants, knowing plenty of homemade pesto could be in our future.

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That time is here! My husband and I both love pesto, but the traditional recipes are calorie-laden due to lots of olive oil, nuts, and cheese. So, I went on a hunt for a lighter pesto. Same great flavors, just a little healthier! The biggest difference between this recipe and most others is the absence of pine nuts. Typically either pine nuts or walnuts are used, but not here! Don’t worry, you won’t miss them.

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From start to finish, this whole process probably takes less than 5 minutes (thanks food processor!). Add the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to your food processor and then slowly add in your olive oil. If I have enough basil in my garden, I’ll double the recipe to have on hand or freeze for use during the winter months.

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Lightened-Up Homemade Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 tbsp EVOO
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1). Place the basil leaves, garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper in the food processor. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the 5 tablespoons of olive oil until smooth. Store in a sealed container in the fridge or freeze for future use.

Servings: 10 servings of 1 tbsp each. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 86 Carbs: .8g Fat: 8.3g Protein: 2.3g Fiber: 0.3g Points+:2 
Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/07/skinny-basil-pesto.html

 

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

I love going out to my little herb garden to pick fresh basil for recipes. There is something so satisfying about growing what you eat. As summer comes to a close, I imagine many of you probably have an abundance of basil to be used in the next few weeks. This recipe is perfect for taking advantage of summer’s bounty, specifically fresh basil and tomatoes.

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This salad has bright flavors, making for a light side dish, or it could be a main dish if you are vegetarian/vegan.  Did I mention it is dairy free, gluten free, and incredibly healthy? It is very quick to prepare and gets better the longer it sits because the flavors meddle together. You can easily add more fresh vegetables to if you’d like. I think cucumber would be a lovely addition!

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 25 basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp honey ( or agave to make it vegan)
  • pinch of salt

1). Toss all ingredients together. Allow the salad to sit about 20 minutes (or longer) for the flavors to mingle. Refrigerate or eat! Told you it was easy. : )

Servings: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish. 

Nutritional information per serving as a side dish: Calories: 123 Carbs: 20g Fat: 3g Protein: 4g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 4g 

Recipe adapted from: http://greenlitebites.com/2011/06/20/chickpea-and-tomato-salad-with-fresh-basil/