Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes…….

You all know by now, how much I love pasta. I love tomatoes too…..especially homemade ones (home grown). So when you are given fresh tomatoes, you just gotta make a good marinara sauce. It’s so easy and so delicious. I’ve been to a few good Italian restaurants, where they serve hot Italian bread with little bowls of marinara sauce for dipping. When I take that first bite, I die….seriously. So good. Well,  I wanted to make my own dipping sauce! But of course, I couldn’t resist pouring some over spaghetti as well.

Now, this would work with canned whole tomatoes too. But I am telling you all…..the fresh tomatoes…fresh garlic…..fresh, fresh, fresh. So, go to your garden now and pick some tomatoes. If you don’t have a garden, sneak into your neighbors garden and borrow some of their tomatoes. 🙂

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Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes

5 or 6 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped in quarters
3 cloves of fresh garlic, roughly chopped
6 leafs of fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
leaves of 3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
4 leafs of fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or 1 fresh jalapeno
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Dump everything into a big pot, on medium low heat. Give it a good stir and cover for about 15 minutes. give it another stir and continue to cook until everything gets really soft and the peels of the tomatoes start to come off. With a fork, pick out the tomato skins and discard. Turn the heat to low. At this point, I use an emersion blender (hand blender) and carefully start blending till smooth. If you don’t have an emersion blender, put everything into a blender or food processor and blitz until you have a nice smooth texture. Dump the sauce back into your pot on the stove and continue to cook on low for another 15 – 20 minutes. Ready to eat, but it’s even better the next day.

Things to do with your marinara sauce:

– dipping sauce for some good Italian bread, or cheese sticks
– pasta sauce
– pizza sauce
– for chicken or eggplant parmesan


Sticky Chewy Chocolate Cupcakes…..

Someone told me recently, that they don’t really care for chocolate. Hmmm, I can’t ever imagine saying that. Well, I tell you what…..if you are not a fan of chocolate, you sure wont like this cupcake. It’s a rich chocolate cake, topped with an even richer chocolate frosting. I am not a huge frosting lover. I much prefer the cake. But this frosting…..this is like eating fudge, as in those decadent squares of creamy fudge candy. You will be surprised to see how easy it is to make. It will remind you of a ganache, especially the way it sets up. But it’s different. I must warn you….it is sweet and very rich. I don’t pile it on because it is so rich. A little goes a long way. You may remember that I use this frosting on my boston cream pie cupcakes. It’s also a great dip for some fresh juicy strawberries, as it sets up when chilled….not like a chocolate shell….but more like a firm, touchable coating. Everything is good dipped in this chocolate frosting. I would probably even dip some potatoes in it!! Blahhhh, just kidding. 🙂

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Sticky Chewy Chocolate Cupcakes

1  1/2 cups flour
1  1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1  1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1  cup buttermilk
3/4 cup hot coffee or hot water
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl of a large stand mixer. Add the eggs, buttermilk and oil and mix for 2 minutes.  Turn off the mixer and stir in the hot coffee.  Line muffin pan with cupcake liners and fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake for  18-20 minutes. Makes 22 cupcakes.


1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1  1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tblsp. butter

Mix together the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter, in a saucepan. Stir just until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.   Gently spoon over cupcakes.
Frosting will set up like a soft fudge candy. If you chill them, the frosting will set up even more. Either way….they are delicious.



Chicken Enchilada Stack………

I had some  leftover chicken and was pretty tired of making chicken salad. Blahh. So I decided to make some enchiladas. When I make enchiladas, I don’t roll them. I either layer the tortillas and the rest of the good stuff into a casserole dish, or I make individual stacks for each person. It looks impressive and fun, and it doesn’t get all soggy and mushy like an enchilada casserole sometimes gets. You can use any of your favorite enchilada ingredients……just cheese, or beef or chicken…..or even eggs. Now, I prefer a green sauce, but you can use a red sauce if that’s your preference. A stack of 3 tortillas per person is a good serving, but 2 is plenty if you want to add some Spanish rice on the side. This is a great dish for yourself, or for guests! I think you are going to like this one.

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Chicken Enchilada Stack

This is for 2 stacks (2 people)

6  corn tortillas
approx. 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 of  small onion, sliced thin
1 poblano chile, sliced thin (or small can of green chiles)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 medium size can of green enchilada sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Garnish: sour cream and avocado

In a skillet with a bit of oil, saute the onion slices, garlic and chile slices. Add the shredded cooked chicken. Keep warm at low heat. Heat enchilada sauce in  sauce pan. Heat tortillas by either frying them lightly in oil or giving them a zap in the microwave.

Now you can start building your stacks! How fun, right?
Place a tortilla on each plate. Add some of the chicken mixture on the tortilla. Add a bit of cheese and place another tortilla on top of that. Then add more chicken, cheese and another tortilla. Pour heated enchilada sauce on top of stacks. Top with cheese. Garnish with sour cream and avocado.
Now, you have cute stacks of delicious-ness.

A nice cold margarita would be great with this. Oh yessssssss.

Oh, and if you prefer a vegetarian version, substitute the chicken with potatoes! It’s really good.

Nutty Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies…………..

That title is a mouthful huh? Well, so is this cookie! Chocolate…yep. Chewy…yep. Crunch…yep. Sweet..yep. Salty…yep. This cookie has it all. It is happiness dancing in your mouth. It has that swoon factor and as my friend Patti would call it, its a moaner. I must warn you…it’s a messy cookie. A stick to your fingers, cookie. But trust me, you won’t mind at all. I was going to keep this cookie in my secret cookie stash, but I just cant. I just have to share it with the universe. It’s the right thing to do! The first time I made these, I made my own caramel sauce. But then when I decided to share the recipe, I tried them with store bought caramel candies. I figured a lot of people wouldn’t want to mess with making a caramel sauce. So, see there? Now you have no reason to NOT make these. The other thing is, I use sliced toasted almonds for the nut factor. But you can use pretty much any nut you want. Just promise me that you will make these…..soon….like maybe right after you read this. Like, stop reading and go..


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Nutty Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies

1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup finely ground oats (just give oats a blitz in the food processor)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup TOASTED almonds (or pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts)
approximately 10-15 store-bought caramel candies

Heat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place caramel candies and 2 tsp water or milk in a heat proof bowl. Place in microwave just until caramels are soft enough to mix into a thick gooey sauce. Set aside.

Mix butter and sugars until creamy and smooth. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate pieces. Drop scoops (1/4 cup of dough) onto baking sheets, about 2″ apart. Pick up a scoop of dough off the baking sheet, roll lightly in the toasted nuts and place back on the baking sheet. Or just press the nuts onto the dough scoops. (rolling them in the nuts is easier)
Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet. Drizzle cookies with caramel. **Sprinkle some sea salt on the caramel drizzle and allow to set for at least 30 minutes. If you have any cookies left to store, be sure to store between layers of wax paper, because the caramel will be sticky.

** You can either mix the salt right into your melted caramels, or sprinkle the salt onto the caramel drizzled cookies.

Summer Orzo Salad…………..


If you’re looking for a light summer salad that isn’t heavy, but yet very filling, you will like this salad. It’s super quick to put together and it’s delicious. For those of you who are not familiar with orzo, it looks like big, fat rice, but it’ actually a pasta. I use in it in soups all of the time. You can find it in most grocery stores, Trader Joe’s, etc. It cooks up super quickly. It’s a nice little change from your average pasta salad. I’m posting my favorite version….YUM….but like I say with all recipes, make it your own and switch it up. But seriously, you really should try it exactly like this. Only, don’t overdo it on the red onion like I did when I served it to a friend recently. I watched her as she politely pushed her onions aside. Her little pile of onions soon turned into a rather large mound. They sure were pretty little slivers of purpleness. 🙂 I commented that I had over done it on the onion and she gave me a soft, polite “oh”. Hahaahahahaha. I really think the onion makes this salad, but just don’t go crazy.

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Summer Orzo Salad

Approx 2 cups of dry packaged or boxed orzo
1/2 of a small red onion, thinly siced
1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
a big handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp blackpepper
your favorite Greek or Italian salad dressing ( I use Paul Newman’s Robust Italian)

Cook your orzo according to packed directions. DO NOT OVER COOK. You don’t want mooshy pasta. Ick. Drain and throw it into a big ol bowl. Add the onion, feta cheese and black pepper. Add dressing to your taste. Keep in mind, that pasta really absorbs the dressing. So, when it’s serving time, you may have to add more dressing. Sometimes I end up using a whole bottle of dressing. Yep, true.

See! I told you it was easy!