Images & recipes © Christine Mercer-Vernon unless noted otherwise. Please play nice when sharing and give proper credit and link backs.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Day


Snow day.


Bird-prints.


Sick jelly bean.


Baking.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down for the count...

I knew at some point this winter the Jelly Bean would be home sick.


She's powered through so far with barely a sniffle and dry cough here and there.

That all changed in the past few days.

My poor little bean has pneumonia. :[

She's been a pillar of health so far in her little life.  I've avoided all antibiotics for her up until two months ago when she developed a sudden and quick onset sinus infection.

I was devastated to dose her with antiobiotics. Devastated!

I'm not a fan.  I've not taken them myself for at least 10-12 years.

We tend to just power our way through illnesses around here. Avoiding medications and OTC as much as possible.

We carefully watch and home remedy our way through fevers. Fevers are the body's way of fighting infections I try to not fear them. I also don't ignore them and responsibly take my daughter to the doctor when they persist.



I've been dosing the bean with homemade cough remedy to ease her coughs and give her enough relief to sleep in small blocks of time.

Usually I just dose with a spoonful of raw honey and it quiets her cough almost immediately. 

If things progress I add in a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Knowing that several of her school friends have already been diagnosed this week with pneumonia I decided to step up the antiviral/antimicrobial/antibacterial power by adding fresh garlic and turmeric.

I'm always looking for home remedies that utilize the best of the best in antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial herbs and spices.  When I found this remedy on Gwen's Nest I immediately added the garlic and turmeric to my mixture, seriously, like at 1:21 am, because my poor bean's coughing was relentless and it was breaking my heart.

Turmeric is a wonder spice in itself and I always have some on hand (I buy organic, here's an article on the benefits of Turmeric).

It's been working wonders with her coughing fits at night, that is… until last night.

I distinctly heard a change in her cough as the night went on. Up hourly to dose her, I could tell it wasn't lasting as long as it normally does. I knew we crossed over from a persistent cough to something more serious, so first thing this morning we headed into the pediatrician.

I love our pediatrician.  First he commended me on realizing the benefits of a fever. Then inquired as to what if anything I had been giving her. I told her of our home remedy, in which he had a great conversation with me about and completely approved of it.

Even though she must take antibiotics, he was thrilled with my concoction and asked me to keep dosing her with it and keep up the yogurts and cultured milk products I've been giving her too (probiotics folks, healthy gut flora, especially when taking antibiotics).

It made me feel good today to hear our pediatrician support home remedies and even discuss the turn in medicine to start realizing our bodies natural ways of fighting infection and not to inhibit them and the benefits that home remedies can contribute to recovery.

But, of course, persistent fevers and mucus producing coughs should and always be seen by a doctor. 


Homemade Cough Remedy

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: Home Remedy garlic honey lemon turmeric

Ingredients (a little over 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Raw Honey (if you have a local source all the better)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed whole so it stays together but is open leaking juices
  • Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground Turmeric
  • small pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
MIx the honey, turmeric, pepper and lemon juice very well.

  • Gently stir in the garlic.
  • I keep this in the refrigerator.
  • Replace garlic every 24 hours.
  • Dosing is simply a teaspoonful as needed.
This works great for dry, persistent coughs.


This IS NOT a replacement for proper medical care. 


Fevers, coughs which produce mucus, etc. should ALWAYS be seen by a doctor.


This remedy only serves the purpose of temporarily relieving dry annoying coughs, in which it does a great job of doing. 


It does not and will not cure infections, please see a doctor if a cough persists and becomes worse.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leftovers: Uses for Chuck Roast

I'm so confused by this weather.


One day it's in the teens/twenties and could totally snow… but it doesn't.

The next day, the temps go up and we have rain. Boo.



The Jelly Bean and I would love to see snow. The HE would not.

*sigh*

Last night I worked until 2 am launching a new website for a client.  Today I have a raging headache and I'm sooooo tired and buried under work.

Thank goodness for coffee.

My hopes of finishing off our de-cluttering and all out, whole-house cleanout over the weekend did not happen.  I mean it happened, it's just not finished.

The amount of paperwork one accumulates in 16 years is astounding.

And depressing. All those trees. :[

We're getting close, but I'm figuring another 1-2 weekends yet. I just want to be done so I can get back to painting.

Thank goodness for leftovers.

It means, way less cooking, one less thing to do.

I made a huge 3.5 pound chuck roast the other day in the oven. Which left our tiny family with a ton of leftovers, which I turned into several rounds of Hot Roast Beef sandwiches and some bone-warming beef vegetable soup.

hot roast beef sandwich on homemade gluten free bun.

Hot Roast Beef sandwiches are favorites around here, and they are a super easy way to use up leftover roast beef:

Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: leftovers homemade entree sandwich gluten-free soy-free chuck roast roast gravy broth

Ingredients
  • leftover shredded chuck roast or other roasted beef
  • provolone, cheddar, or other cheese of choice
  • leftover gravy or stock or juices from cooked chuck roast
  • Rolls, Buns or bread
Instructions
You will need a gravy. If you have leftover from the night your served your roast, simply reheat it. If you reserved the cooking liquid from your roast, go ahead and make your gravy (or you can use any beef stock/broth).


For Gluten Free gravy: Use 1 tablespoon Cornstarch for each 1 cup of liquid. Mix the cornstarch with the cold broth then heat on the stovetop over medium high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove immediately from heat.

For Regular Gravy: Either use the cornstarch method above or 2 tablespoons of flour. Melt a little butter in a heated pan over medium heat. Whisk in your flour and cook for a minute or two, slowly stir in your stock, whisking to combine well and heat until thickened, stirring constantly.


Once you have your Heated Gravy, add your shredded roast and stir until heated through:

  • I like to aim for a thick, meaty sandwich so I keep my meat to gravy ratio high. Generally about 1 cup of gravy to 1.5 to 2 cups of beef.
  • Heat your buns if desired, top with shredded beef/gravy and top with cheese.
  • Yum.
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I also turned a good portion of our leftover roast beef into soup. I like to keep some organic boxed beef broth in my pantry, just in case, it stores about 4-6 months, so if our power goes out, I can easily use it to whip up a simple meal. I keep an eye on expirations, and had some that needed used up.

Despite the fact that I just made beef stock and froze some, I opted to use up a soon expiring one from my pantry instead.



You'll notice corn is missing from this soup.  The pretty yellow does make a difference. Unfortunately, if you haven't noticed, there's a bit of a shortage of corn at the store. Most particularly in the organic and frozen cases.

A bit disturbing, but from what I can find, it's due to bad weather and higher production of corn for ethanol use??? No matter, it makes me mad that I didn't freeze any local corn this year.  Time got away from me and now I regret it.

In addition, this needed to be a FAST meal, so I used some 'convenience' veggies to move things along. This is my base method for beef vegetable soup and I use it often.

Fast Leftover Roast Beef Vegetable Soup

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Keywords: stove top entree homemade leftovers soup/stew gluten-free soy-free broth carrots chuck roast green beans

Ingredients (about 4)
  • 1.5-2 cups shredded leftover cooked beef roast
  • 4 cups beef stock/broth
  • 3-4 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Heaping cupful of sliced carrots
  • Heaping cupful of cut green beans
  • 1 medium to large russet potato, cubed
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • small glob of fat/oil
  • handful of parsley, fresh or dried
  • sea salt and pepper
Any additional add-ins you would like:
  • cooked pasta
  • cooked quinoa
  • cooked rice
  • additional vegetables such as peas, corn, lima beans, etc.
  • fresh spinach for topping
Instructions


Prepare all ingredients first.


Heat a small glob of rendered fat or oil (I used coconut oil) over low heat.


Saute onion until soft and somewhat translucent.

Add garlic and saute for a 2-3 minutes to soften.

i used some frozen leftover tomato paste

Add a small amount of beef stock/broth and stir to combine.


Add tomato paste and stir until completely dissolved.

Add remaining beef stock/broth and stir well.


Add all raw, unfrozen vegetables except small one's such as peas or corn: carrots, potatoes, 
etc.

Increase heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes, do not boil.



When vegetables are tender, add any frozen or small vegetables: green beans (or peas and corn), parsley, and shredded beef.


Stir just to combine and heat through.


Remove and serve immediately with any add-ins you desire to add bulk to the soup:
  • Add a handful of fresh spinach to your bowl, ladle hot soup over.
  • 1/4 cup pasta, quinoa, or rice to each bowl.
  • Have fun, make it your own, use up those leftovers!
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Friday, January 13, 2012

I Love PB&Jam, or rather my take on gluten free cooking


PB & Homemade Blueberry Jam on freshly baked GF Bread
Having celiac disease means that eating gluten free is a way of life for me, but if you follow my posts I think I do myself a great disservice as a blogger by not making a huge deal out of it.
I'm definitely not a typical celiac.
I don't spend my time thinking about what I can't have and coming up with ways to recreate those foods. Most of which are usually junk foods anyway.

Sure I miss real, homemade pasta. One of these days (it's on my 2012 goal list) I'll come up with a suitable homemade gluten free recipe for some sort of pasta.
Instead, I try to celebrate the foods I can have and turn them into everyday meals that my entire family can enjoy. Meals that the non-celiac and celiac can enjoy together without an issue being made out of it.
Recipes that my followers, whether they are gluten free or not, can look at and use as valid recipes for their families without thinking, 'eh, that's a gluten free recipe' and moving on.
Of course, I still feel pangs of exclusion at events that so obviously don't provide me suitable gluten free options. I try not to dwell.

Leftover Chuck Roast Vegetable soup... recipe next week!
While most bloggers work hard to carve out a specific market, say the gluten free community, I'm really hoping to find a balance between both, because quite honestly we do all live together, especially under one roof.
Plus, I cook a lot of really great things that do not and should not require a gluten free label, like my homemade tomato sauce, or my stocks, right?

So anyway, one thing is certain, gluten free foods and ingredients are generally expensive.

Therefore, controlling our grocery bills, balancing a gluten free diet, as well as a soy-free/food coloring free diet for the jelly bean, and a not-a-thing-is-off-limits mealplan for the HE, means my basic pantry is not geared toward any one diet but rather a balanced blending of all three.
There are just some compromises we don't make, like breads.  I bake both gluten free and good old-fashioned real gluten containing wheat breads.  It's just cheaper that way.
See that photo up there?  That was one bangin' PB&J that I ate yesterday from a fresh loaf of gluten free bread I had just baked.  I follow a dedicated gluten free food blogger that came up with a great recipe that meets my limited GF pantry.  I'll be giving a full report next week but my first initial baking of this bread turned out pretty good.

I'm on a huge bread mission over the next week to find, once and for all, gluten free and regular homemade bread recipes that we all enjoy and that are a good fit for my basic pantry ingredients.

I usually make a simple regular whole wheat bread in my bread machine but it's just ok. Despite my tinkering it's dense and not a huge favorite of the HE. I've finally carved out some time to  play with several recipes I've had bookmarked to find some easy, faithful favorites that I can pass on to you.

As the next few weeks unfold, I'll have lots of new recipes, plus I'll start to take you through my basic pantry and guide you through the transition of going homemade with time-saving tips too.

So enjoy your weekend and here's another photo of what's coming up next week, LASAGNA (which will be demo'd simultaneously gluten free and regular)...

my gluten free lasagana

Please stop drooling on your keyboard and enjoy your weekend!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Warm Spiced Chunky Applesauce


For the past few years one of my biggest goals has been to simplify our food pantry, make as much as possible from scratch, feed us healthier foods, and save us money on grocery bills, all without losing my mind or it becoming my only career.

Simplifying has really become the key.  We're all so spoiled with the choices and brainwashed by advertisements selling how certain brands bring us together as a family.

Seriously, when I got teary-eyed during a mayonnaise commercial the hype hit home and I knew it was time to really evaluate everything I included in my pantry.

Based on the results of my survey, so far it seems a lot of people are looking to go homemade and learn more about my simplified pantry. I'm working on some posts to break it all down.

I will say that the one thing I try to do, is be as creative as possible with what I keep on hand.

I strongly feel that success in the kitchen is not measured by how many fancy recipes you can create but how well you utilize what you have. Less is more.

Last night we had what I like to call Leftover Pizza.  Basically, I had some leftover ham, not enough for another meal, but it was just enough to top some homemade pizza with.  



I wanted to serve it up with some fruit, since it's quite cold out, I thought warm applesauce would just be delightful, so I grabbed a few apples from the 2 bushels worth I have sitting in the garage (of which I need to get made into applesauce and a few other preserves) and got to work.

If you've ever gobbled up warm freshly made apple butter, this is a quicker, not as rich, substitute.

Warm Spiced Chunky Applesauce

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Keywords: stove top appetizer dessert snack gluten-free soy-free vegan apples cinnamon

Ingredients (5-6 Half Cup Servings)
  • 4 cooking apples (golden delicious, fuji, cortland, honeycrisp, any firm variety. avoid softer cooking apples such as rome)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice*
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp raw sugar such as mascado (turbinado) or whatever you have, optional
These are optional, if you do not care for or have cloves or allspice, simply substitute cinnamon.
    Instructions


    Peel, core and cute apples into cubes.


    Add to medium sized pan with water.

    Bring to boil then reduce immediately to a simmer. Stir frequently so they don't scorch or stick.


    Once apples are softened, about 10 minutes (depends on your cube size and apple variety), smash them up with a potato masher or fork until you have a nice mix of chunks and 'sauce'.

    Stir in spices and taste carefully (very hot).


    If needed, stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar. It's not always necessary, just depends on the apple variety you choose. If apples are somewhat tart, the sugar will help bring out the spices.

    Let cool about 10-15 minutes.

    Serve warm. Inhale deeply.
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    This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday, where you can find a lot of great ideas from around the blogosphere for living simply.

    Click here to go Go check them out!

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Mangia Mangia Homemade Meatballs

    So today I have for you the second in three big Italian recipe posts.

    The first was for my Homemade Tomato Sauce, aka Gravy.



    This one is for my Homemade Meatballs and coming up yet… the ultimate Lasagna How-to!

    It's like the trifecta of Italian food posts.

    But first, a couple of things:

    • First, I need a favor from you. If you haven't visited my LAL Facebook page, please take a moment to pop on over and answer a little survey (or click here to go right to the survey) I have going to help me dial in a more clear direction for some upcoming posts. You can also like it if you want, or not, no worries.
    • Second, have you visited my new Recipe page yet? I finally installed Recipage, which is a pretty awesome service that allows my recipes to be searchable on a multitude of levels as well as printer-friendly and with plenty of options for social media sharing (nudge nudge) as well. It was created by food blogger Emily of Daily Garnish and her husband Casey, and is pretty… darn… awesome.
    I still have all my canning and preserving recipes to add in, but don't worry, they are still on my blog, you can use the search feature on the upper left to locate the original posts.

    And while you're there, if you follow this blog from a reader or email service, you might want to pop on over and check out my pretty new design and layout. :]

    Ok, so let's get our meatballs on, or um, well, you know what I mean:

    Homemade Italian Meatballs

    by Christine Mercer-Vernon
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Keywords: bake slow-cooker saute appetizer entree homemade gluten-free soy-free ground turkey onion garlic meatballs

    Ingredients (4-6)
      For each 1 lb of ground beef (although you can use ground poultry as well):
      • 1/4 of a medium/large or 1/2 of a small yellow onion, finely chopped
      • 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil, rendered fat, or coconut oil
      • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
      • 1 tablespoon dried oregano or marjoram (or a little of both)
      • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
      • 1 teaspoon dried basil, optional
      • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      • 4-6 twists fresh ground pepper
      • 1/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs (or regular if not GF)
      • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
      • 1 egg
      *In the summer I use fresh herbs from my garden and you'll want to use about 2-1/2 times the amount in fresh than you would with dried herbs. I generally just grab large handfuls of each. Wash, dry, and chop them finely. In addition, if you are not overly fond of oregano, marjoram is not quite as potent, I prefer marjoram whenever possible, although I never quite grow enough of it.
        Instructions
        Preheat oven to 400 degrees.




        This part is optional, you can add raw onion to your mixture, but I prefer the flavor imparted by sautéing my onions first: Preheat a cast iron, or other pan over low heat, with fat/oil.
        • When hot, add chopped onion and sauté on low until onions are softened and somewhat translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
        • Be patient and cook over low heat, we are softening them, not frying them.
        • When onions are almost done, add garlic and continue to stir and cook just until onions are softened.



        While onions are cooking, in a large bowl, add ground beef and remaining ingredients.


        • Add cooked onions and garlic and mix everything well.


        For consistent sized meatballs, use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to scoop out a heaping tablespoonful.
        • Using both hands (you can wet them first to keep mixture from sticking, but I don't) gently squeeze the mixture back and forth between both hands about 4-6 times to press it together but not smash it into mush.


        Roll into a ball and place on tray leaving just enough space around each meatball for air circulation.

        Place tray in oven and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.


        Remove to cool slightly.


        Serve immediately or transfer to a crockpot full of tomato sauce (see my recipe) and set to low where they can hang out here for hours, just be sure to stir occasionally.

        They can also be refrigerated and added to a crockpot the next day to reheat or warm in sauce as well.

        These freeze great too! Freeze any extras (sans sauce) for a quick and easy dinner.
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        Friday, January 6, 2012

        My Own Homemade Tomato Sauce


        I love tomato sauce.

        I mean LOVE tomato sauce.

        Raw tomatoes… eh, I'm not the biggest fan.

        Weird, I know, but I know I'm not the only one, right???

        I rarely, ever, buy pre-made sauce, sometimes I will, like when we are going on vacation and it just seems more practical or time efficient when I have a million things to pack.

        At home though, I try to save us some money and make a
        giant batch every once and a while, then portion it out and freeze it.

        I've canned it in the past, but freezing is way easier.  Boiling water canning of tomato sauce makes me nervous so I do what your supposed to and add lemon juice, but when it's small batches like this, it's easier to freeze. Plus adding acidity to something I just spent all day trying to lessen is a little defeatist to me. Canning just tomato puree is another story.

        Up until this summer I was growing my own, incredibly awesome
        Roma tomatoes at a community garden.
        So awesome they were stolen.
        No joke.

        So I quit the whole community garden thing and now I have to buy my tomatoes until we move out the woods. I already miss all my jars of canned homegrown tomato puree.

        Being winter there's not any great fresh options so canned is the only way to go.  I try not to stress about the BPA by buying organic, but still...

        Grrrr.

        Anyway, cost wise I have about $9-10 tops in a giant ass batch of sauce.  The herbs I had, the onions cost between $1-2, I bought a ton of them when they were on sale a while back, and the  organic tomato puree was a steal at just under $2 a can because they were on sale and I had coupons for them!

        This is a good, simmer it all day kind of sauce
        (or gravy as my family calls it), so plan on making it on your day off.

        If you take one weekend a month to do some major cooking you can save yourself a lot of time and money the rest of the month.

        I made sauce and beef stock at the same time, and was prepping to make lasagna, and making meatballs and a loaf of italian bread (not gluten free), and cookies.

        Ok. It was a little much. I would suggest NOT doing all that at once, I was a little stressed, as was my stove, but spaced out over a weekend, it's no big deal.

        If you've grown your own tomatoes and have some stored or canned your own tomato puree your set and I'm a wee bit envious. ;]

        So let's get on with it… as usual, I've added some notes and tips at the bottom of this post.
        I'm going to add one note here, don't freak out about not having 'exact measurements', part of cooking homemade is cooking by feel and taste. Sure my sauce turns out a little different each time, but it always tastes good. :]

        HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE aka Italian Gravy
        This is big batch ingredient roll call, halve or quarter the recipe as needed.





        • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut in half (2 if you are making a large batch)

        Then for each 28 oz can (or 1 Quart) of Tomato Puree:

        • 1 small onion (I prefer yellow)
        • 3-4 garlic cloves (adjust this is you seriously hate garlic, but it's not overpowering trust met)
        • Basil (I like a good amount)
        • Oregano (don't go too crazy, this herb can get overpowering, start with about 1 Tbsp)
        • Thyme (add about the same amount you did of Oregano)
        • Rosemary
        • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
        • few grinds of pepper
        • 1-2 Tbsp sugar (I used mascobado)



        1. Peel and finely chop/mince your onion. Mince your garlic.

        I use my super awesome Pampered Chef Food Chopper that I've had for over 10 years! Even still I spent the next two hours with watering eyes until I finally got smart and washed my face and glasses, after which they stopped.


        2. Add a few glugs of olive oil to your pan and heat on low.

        Olive oil is not a high heat oil to keep it low, we're going to saute our onions not deep fry them.


        3A. Add your onions and saute them gently until they are cooked and somewhat translucent.  Once they have reached this stage add your minced garlic and cook a few minutes more to soften the garlic.

        stack all of your basil leaves

        chop your basil to 1/4 inch size pieces


        chop your rosemary as fine as possible

        3B. While your onions are cooking, wash and chop your herbs.

        For 4 cans of tomato puree, I used a giant handful of basil (the leaves were pretty huge despite how the photo looks), and a 5" sprig of rosemary (I would have used double this but it's all I had).

        You can use dried if you do not have fresh. Start with about 1 Tbsp of Basil and 1 tsp of Rosemary (crush it if it's not crushed before measuring).


        4. When your onions and garlic are done add the tomato puree and stir well.


        5. Add your rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and carrot, give it a good stir to incorporate.


        6. Now add your salt, a few grinds of pepper, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Stir really well and increase heat to medium stirring frequently until you get a good simmer going.


        7. Once simmering you will need to reduce the temperature to get as low of a simmer you can so that it's still cooking but not exploding all over your kitchen.

        If you have a splatter screen go ahead and stick that on there, although I will warn you that it will most likely react with the screen.  The sauce will turn black. I knock any good sauce back in but rinse the screen every so often so that yucky sauce doesn't fall back in.

        You can also set a lid on top tilted so steam can escape. You don't want to keep the evaporating liquid in your sauce, let it out.


        8. Now you just need to be patient.  Every once and a while go give it a stir.
        • After about 2 hours I start taste testing.  Add more herbs if needed, salt (a little then let it simmer a while before adding more).  If it's really tasting acidic add 1 Tbsp of sugar and let it simmer for about 45-60 minutes before you check again.  I added about 3 more Tbsp until I was done.  I like to taste and evaluate every hour, then make SMALL adjustments, you can always add more of something, but you cannot take away.
        • If you use less acidic tomatoes, like Roma, you won't need quite as much sugar.
        • And that carrot???  That's a family trick, it's in there to help reduce the acidity as well.
        • I simmered mine about 5 hours… I totally forgot to check the time. It's going to depend on how much 'water' is in your tomatoes.
        • See the water around the edge of mine up in the above photo, I could have simmered a little longer but was really pressed for time.  It will taste fine, you'll just have some liquid seep say if you make lasagna.
        • When your sauce has stopped seeping liquid on the top, it's done.
        • You want a nice thick sauce but not so thick you can build little sculptures out of it, it should be flowing but thick enough to 'cling' to food and not seep liquid or too much liquid.
        • When it's done, let it cool completely before you refrigerate or freeze it.
        • Once cool, remove that carrot and compost it or throw it away or feed it to the dog.

        ----------------------------------
        NOTES:

        • No matter what, don't be impatient, keep your heat low. This is a slow process.
        • No matter what, don't taste your sauce 5 minutes after adding all of the ingredients together. Don't even judge it half way through, taste for tweaking purposes only, wait until the end to really start eating it by the spoonful. Give the flavors time to develop. And honestly, I like to refrigerate mine a day before eating it, it just tastes better.
        • In my personal opinion, you can't really overdo Basil, but you definitely can Oregano and Thyme. If you are newbie start with small additions of these and gradually increase, allowing time for the sauce to simmer and develop the flavor before tasting again.
        • I used a full head of garlic for four cans of puree and quite honestly, had I not needed the other heads I had left for the rest of my cooking I would have added more.
        • In the summer when I have a multitude of fresh herbs growing in my garden, I'll throw in a hefty portion of marjoram instead of oregano.


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