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!!

 

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

 

Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This roasted red pepper sauce is really unique and different, but in a great way! I served it over salmon but it would be great on tilapia, chicken, or mixed with steamed/sauteed vegetables, too. My husband took a bite of this and said, “wow, I’ve never had anything like this before!” and loved it. The food processor does all the work in this recipe, all you have to do is mix it up and spoon it over your perfectly cooked salmon!

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This sauce can be described as slightly sweet, tangy, nutty, and very savory. With just a spoonful of this sauce the entire filet of salmon was transformed from a simple dish to an interesting one. I love that this is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal but could also be a great dish to serve to company. The recipe makes enough that you will likely have leftovers unless you cook for 6, so be sure to plan different ideas for the leftovers!

Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds (original recipe calls for toasted, sliced almonds)
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 6 wild-caught salmon fillets, skinned (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

1) In a small food processor, combine the sunflower seeds, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pulse until smooth.

2) Prepare salmon by preferred method–roasted (400F for 20 minutes) or in a pan (5 minutes per side over medium heat until fish is opaque). Spoon sauce over salmon and serve.

Servings: 6 Nutritional Information for sauce per serving: Calories: 67 Fat: 6g Carbs: 2g Fiber: 1g Protein: 1g 

WW PointsPlus for sauce: 2.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.handletheheat.com/2013/08/grilled-salmon-and-zucchini-with-red-pepper-sauce.html 

Blue Cheese & Greek Yogurt Aioli

If you like the tangy taste of blue cheese, you are going to love this aioli recipe! When I see the word aioli, I think of a creamy, unique sauce to put on top of sandwiches and burgers. Unfortunately, it also conjures up the word mayonnaise, as that is the base ingredient for aiolis. I personally am not a fan of mayo, and thankfully neither is my husband. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to mayonnaise, all you need is plain Greek yogurt. It’s surprising how well it takes on the task of becoming a silky smooth base for dips and aiolis. The flavorful blue cheese and dijon mustards blend beautifully into the yogurt and can be easily slathered on a bun for a more gourmet burger.

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Photo: Grass-fed beef burger on a homemade wheat bun, topped with arugula and blue cheese aioli.

This blue cheese aioli packs a potent flavor punch, so keep in mind that a little bit can go a long way. Limit the amount to about one tablespoon per sandwich; any more than that, and you may not be able to taste the other ingredients of your burger! Did I mention how healthy it is? There’s 3g of protein per serving!

Blue Cheese & Greek Yogurt “Aioli”

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of plain, non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1). Combine all ingredients together in a bowl with a wire whisk or fork until well mixed. Serve and enjoy!

Servings: about 12. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 29 Carbs: 1g Fat: 1g Protein: 3g Sugar: 1g Fiber: 0g

WW PointsPlus: 1 Old Points: 1

Recipe adapted from: http://www.afamilyfeast.com/blue-cheese-aioli/ 

Homemade Skinny Tzatziki Sauce


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Tzatziki.

Hard to spell, fun to say, and absolutely delightful in any Greek flavored dish!

Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt-based sauce that has dill, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice. It actually incredibly healthy because the main ingredient is Greek yogurt. I used 0% fat plain Greek yogurt and it worked great!

The cucumber adds a bright freshness that is unique and light. The sauce is creamy and cool, perfect for spring and summer.

Best of all, this recipe is fat free and low calorie!

In the next couple weeks I will add a couple of recipe ideas for using this sauce. Truth be told, however, it is great even for simply dipping fresh carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery, etc. (And so much healthier than dipping the crudites in ranch dressing like many people do!) I’ve also used it as a replacement for dressing in a Greek salad!

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This recipe is so easy! Be sure to taste the sauce and adjust it to your taste. If you think 1 tbsp of lemon is too much, start with 1 tsp. If it needs more dill, add it! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Homemade Skinny Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz fat free greek yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and peeled
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried dill (or 1 Tbsp fresh, but I never seem to have fresh on hand!)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

1) Finely shred cucumber using a grater. Squeeze excess liquid out of the shredded cucumber.

2) In a medium bowl, mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

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Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com 

Nutritional Information per 1/4 cup serving (makes 8 servings): Calories: 18 Fat: 0g Carbs: 1.7g Protein: 2.6g