Steph’s Tomato Sauce

Ah, the pièce de résistance to my great Italian recipes, the tomato sauce! This is probably the recipe that I get asked about most frequently. I almost NEVER use bottled tomato sauce in my cooking unless it’s an emergency. Sorry, but growing up with homemade tomato sauce has made me a tomato sauce snob! Once you make this sauce for the first time, you will see how easy it is and how much better it tastes compared to bottled sauces. One of the things I really hate about bottled sauce is that they have a sweet taste to them. Blech! I don’t want my sauce to be sweet! This recipe is kind of a hybrid between my grandmother’s sauce recipe and my step-grandmother’s recipe.

This particular recipe has no meat in it. However, You can certainly crank up the flavor of the sauce by adding ground meat (or meatballs!), italian sausage, and even ribs!

Steph’s Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce

– 1 28-ounce can tomato puree

– 2 tbs. tomato paste

– 1 large green bell pepper, quartered

– 1 white onion, chopped into large pieces

– 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

– 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

– 2-3 dried bay leaves

– 2-3 fresh basil leaves

– 1/2 cup red wine (I usually use a cabarnet or merlot)

– 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, plus extra for seasoning sauce while it cooks to your taste.

Directions:

1. Heat a large sauce pan to medium high heat. Cut the pepper and onion into large pieces that can easily be scooped out once the sauce is cooked. Once pan is heated, add in olive oil, peppers, garlic cloves, and onion. Cook the veggies for approximately 5 minutes or until edges turn brown.

2. Lower heat to low. Add in tomato sauce and puree. Fill one of the empty cans with water and add to pot. Add in paste, salt and pepper, bay leaves, basil leaves, and red wine. Stir to mix in all of the ingredients and then simmer on low heat for at least 4 hours.

2. Once sauce is done cooking, use a slotted spoon to scoop out pepper, onion, bay and basil leaves, and garlic cloves.

Notes:
– You should stir your sauce once every 30-40 minutes or so. Every time I go to stir, I will also taste a bit of the sauce and I always end up adding additional salt and pepper, and sometimes a little more wine. Making a good tomato sauce is a process!

– I always have a lot of sauce left over so I end up freezing it in different size containers. I will use some larger ones that have enough for additional meals, but then I also use small sauce/salad dressing containers because they give me the perfect amount of sauce for homemade pizzas! Make sure you cool the sauce to room temperature before freezing. To re-heat sauce, remove from container and simmer on low heat.

– In terms of the serving size of this recipe, I would say it makes enough for about 6-8 people, but it really depends on what you are going to use it on. Different dishes and pastas require a different amount of sauce. If you are a family of 2 to 4 people, this will be plenty for probably 2 dinners.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

You know how I said I try to make healthy recipes whenever possible? Well, this one is the complete opposite of healthy. But you know what? Sometimes you gotta splurge and a birthday is the perfect excuse for splurging! No, it’s not my birthday, but it was my mom’s birthday and I wanted to surprise her with a delicious birthday treat! One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to improve not just my cooking skills, but also my baking skills. You see, aside from chocolate chip cookies and quick breads, my baking skills aren’t so great. I spent the last few days scouring the internet trying to figure out what kind of cupcakes I would make for my mom. Like mother, like daughter, my mom and I are both chocoholics.  So, I knew one thing – they needed to be chocolate. The more chocolatey, the better! The other thing I knew was that I was hesitant to make these completely from scratch. I didn’t want to risk them not rising or not tasting good and since I didn’t have much time, I decided to use a “doctored” cake mix recipe. By adding just a few extra ingredients, these cupcakes have more of the homemade taste that I was going for.  For the frosting, I whipped up my own chocolate cream cheese frosting.  Overall, these cupcakes came out great and I would definitely make them again. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

From All Recipes

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

Makes 24 cupcakes

– 1 box devil’s food cake mix

– 1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

– 1 cup sour cream

– 1 cup vegetable oil*

– 4 eggs

– 1/2 cup milk

– 1 1/2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and mix all ingredients in a large bowl except the chocolate chips. Once all of the other ingredients are mixed together, add in chocolate chips.

2. Place cupcake liners into muffin pan and pour batter into cups filling each cup approximately 3/4 of the way. Bake for 19-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for the frosting (24 cupcakes):

– 2 8-ounce boxes of cream cheese, softened

– 8 cups confectioner’s sugar

– 4 Tbs. shortening*

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

– 3 1/2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder

– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Directions:

1. Using a hand mixer or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream cream cheese, butter, and shortening together. Add in vanilla extract and cocoa powder and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. Add in confectioner’s sugar, one cup at at time until sugar is completely combined.

Notes:
– The original recipe calls for 1 cup of vegetable oil. This seems like a lot to me.  I only added about 3/4 of a cup.

– You might want to chill the frosting for about 10 or 15 minutes before frosting if you plan to use a piping bag and decorating tip to frost your cupcakes.

– When I first read this recipe and saw that it required shortening, I kind of cringed, however, after reading the comments from everyone, it is recommended to make your frosting a little more stable. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to though!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread


When it comes to quick breads, I have a few recipes in my repertoire, but this blueberry zucchini bread is my new favorite. If you have never used zucchini in your baking, you might be thinking that this sounds like a horrible idea, but let me put those bad thoughts to rest. The zucchini makes the bread perfectly moist and the blueberries give this bread a sweet burst of flavor! Because this bread is not too sweet, it would be a great snack and even breakfast! I had a lot of zucchini left over in my fridge after making my baked zucchini and squash recipe the other day and it looked like it was starting to go bad so I wanted to use it up quick! My first thought was to just throw it in a quick bread, but after looking around My Baking Addiction, I came across this recipe for blueberry zucchini bread. I am a big fan of using cranberries in quick breads and I don’t know how I never thought to put blueberries in the batter given the similar texture and tart flavor they have. Anyway, as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it and I just so happened to have a container of fresh blueberries in my fridge just waiting to be eaten.

I followed the original recipe pretty closely except for a few things. First, I used a stick of butter instead of the vegetable oil because I have used oil before in quick breads and it seems to make the bread more dense. Personally, I prefer the texture and flavor that butter gives. Plus, it’s a little healthier than using vegetable oil. The second thing I changed was the flour, I didn’t have whole wheat flour on hand, so I just used all-purpose flour. The only other thing I changed was the amount of sugar. I didn’t want this bread to be too sweet, so I cut back on the brown sugar and the white sugar. I used 1/4 a cup of each instead of a 1/2 cup each that the original recipe calls for. I’ve listed my changes below, but if you want to see the original recipe, click here.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

Makes 1 loaf

– 2 eggs, beaten

– 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

– 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed

– 1/4 cup white sugar

– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 cup grated zucchini

– 1 cup fresh blueberries

– 1/2 tsp. baking powder

– 1/8 tsp. baking soda

– 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan.

2. Beat eggs, vanilla, sugars, and butter together in a large bowl. Fold in zucchini.

3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add flour mixture in with the rest of the batter and mix until combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

4. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for approximately 55-60 minutes, or until you insert a knife and it comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or dish to cool completely.

Notes:
– I sprinkled some oatmeal on the top of my bread before sticking it in the oven to give it a wholesome look. You could also try sprinkling some brown sugar!
– Want to make this bread a little more nutritious? Try adding in a 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed!

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

I make these roasted potatoes quite often as a side dish with chicken, fish, steak, and even sandwiches or burgers. They are much healthier than frying and are pretty simple to make! My favorite part about these potatoes is the addition of fresh rosemary. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to use in my recipes. It smells and tastes SO good! If you want to make it a little healthier, you can use sweet potatoes!

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

Serves 4

– 3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes
– 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
– 1 Tbs. garlic, minced
– 2 Tbs. chopped rosemary
– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, combine potatoes, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Spread onto a greased baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Flip potatoes once or twice while cooking so that they can brown on all sides.

Baked Zucchini and Squash


I have been in a side dish rut lately. I feel like I always make the same side dishes and I have been wanting to try some different veggie side dishes aside from my typical steamed broccoli, asparagus, and salads. I saw a big display of zucchini and squash last weekend at my grocery store and decided to try to come up with a simple and yummy recipe for them! This recipe is super easy to make and the Parmesan cheese gives the zucchini and squash a nice crisp!

Baked Zucchini and Squash

Ingredients:

Serves 4

– 2 medium zucchini and 2 medium squash, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
– 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
– 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, combine zucchini, squash, cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread onto greased baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown*. Flip halfway through so that the veggies can brown on both sides.

*Notes: The Parmesan cheese can burn if you don’t keep an eye on the veggies, so be careful!

Baked Shrimp Scampi


I’m typically not a big fan of shrimp, but this shrimp scampi recipe meets my approval! My grandma used to make this shrimp scampi all of the time when she used to be a cook in a restaurant with my great-grandmother. While many scampi recipes are cooked on the stove, I like to bake mine in the oven with some breadcrumbs! I recommend serving the shrimp with my pasta aglio e olio, roasted potatoes, or steamed veggies!

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients:

Serves 4

– 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I also like to cut the tails off, but you can certainly leave them on if you want!)
– 1 tsp. salt
– 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
– 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
– 1 1/2 Tbs. white wine
– 2 Tbs. butter
– 1 1/2 Tbs. bread crumbs
– salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a pie dish or small baking dish, arrange shrimp in a single layer.

2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, and white wine. Whisk together and drizzle evenly over the shrimp. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the shrimp.

3. Cut butter into small cubes and place a cube of the butter over each piece of the shrimp.

4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.