Monday, April 4, 2011

Out of Hibernation

I’m back.

Folks, the truth is that I haven’t written for 4 ½ months because I had so little to actually write about this winter. My menus were monotonous to say the least. I can’t, with any amount of self-respect, tell you how many times I made chili. Sad thing is, my kids just kept eating it.

I hate to pass the buck here, but that crazy winter weather zapped the creativity right out of my DNA. I think a lot of it centered around the fact that going to the grocery required a Herculean effort just to get to the car let alone the actual store.

See, we live down a ¼ mile gravel lane in the country and we don’t own a car with 4-wheel drive. Stupid, really, but it is what it is. Add on top of that the fact that we have a sizeable little hill in front of our house that turns into some sort of unearthly demon mountain once it’s covered with snow or ice. Really, it’s like having Mt. Everest between your front door and your minivan, and every time I even thought about running out to the store to whip up something fun and creative in the kitchen, the demon mountain immediately suffocated the idea.

Ah, but spring is here (I hope) and while our home in the country can be rather daunting in the winter, I can’t think of a better place to be in the spring. So my creative wheels are turning again, thus my fingers have begun their typing.

Yet I can’t deny the fact that the muse did strike a couple of times this winter, lending some recipes that will most definitely go in the Smucker Family Cookbook. The one I’m going to share with you today is one of my favorites and by far one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

I know I have in the past decried convenience foods for all the harmful things they add to our diets and, henceforth, our bodies. So perhaps you could call the following recipe kind of hypocritical because it does rely on one little glorious tube of a bright green concoction that I affectionately call “basil paste”. You find it in the produce section, usually close to the area where fresh herbs are sold. No, this is not a fresh herb, I know. But on the tube it says that “it’s made from organic basil” so that makes me feel a little better about myself.

Okay, enough self-berating and onto the recipe:

Mai’s Pasta Sauce

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

½ c. finely chopped onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. basil paste (if there isn’t a foot of snow outside my door and Mt. Everest to climb, I’d use 2-3 tbsp. chopped, fresh basil instead of the paste here.)

1, 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I’d go for the best quality here. I like to get the cans with the exotic sounding names like “Cento” or “Furmanos” but then I usually see on the back of the can that it’s actually packaged in some remote town in Indiana. Oh, well, it still sounds cooler than “Hunts”.)

1 tsp. coarse salt

1 tbsp. raw sugar

A couple turns of freshly crushed pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Saute your onions and garlic for about a minute or so, just till things start smelling good. Add your paste, scoot it around the pan with the onions and garlic, then add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and pepper. At that point, I let it simmer for about 15 minutes or so, just to marry the flavors a bit. Then give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as you like.

Honestly, I love this sauce. I haven’t bought a jar of spaghetti sauce for probably 6 months now. The flavor is so fresh and lively, and when I set a bowl of pasta with this sauce on it in front of my kids for lunch, they absolutely devour it with huge smiles on their messy little faces. Need I say more.


  1. Glad you are back! I missed your posts.
    I always wondered about that paste. Glad to know it is safe to use! :-)
    I've been reading My Life in France by Julia Child and been thinking about you and how much you would enjoy reading it if you haven't already!

  2. Laura, thanks so much for the comment--it's good to be back:)
    And, no, I have not read My Life in France but I think I'm definitely going to pick it up now that you've recommended it! I've been looking for a new read...thanks!

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  4. Hi Maile! Great blog and thanks for the pasta sauce recipe. I was in a cooking rut but then tried your pasta sauce and loved it. It was super easy and way better than store bought. Looking forward to trying your lemon bar recipe :)

  5. Thanks so much for the comment, Michele, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the pasta sauce! Let me know how the lemon bars go!

  6. I want to make sauce again. I haven't since my oldest was in a baby walker while i cooked down pounds and pounds of farmer's market bargain tomatoes one August...3 years ago...

  7. I hear ya. I'm hoping this summer to stockpile a lot more from our garden and roadside stands now that our youngest is a year older. Maybe it's all pipe dreams but a girl's gotta try!