Mushroom and Black Olive Marinara
This red sauce takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and an hour and twenty minutes to cook. It will make a large batch – enough for two lasagnas, or the topping to a pound of your favorite pasta.
The first step is important. Introducing the garlic and onion to the oil first will allow it to be infused with these intense flavors, providing an essential component to this sauce. The secret to this sauce is to chop the carrots, onion, and celery in a food processor (separately) until they are finely chopped, but not minced. This allows the vegetables to melt into the sauce as you cook it down, while the mushrooms and olives provide the chunky texture. I love that this sauce requires no sugar – common in jarred sauce. The carrots provide natural sweetness.
I make this sauce on New Year’s Day and decide what to do with it that day. It is incredibly versatile, and makes a great sauce for lasagna, baked ziti, or any favorite pasta dish that requires a red sauce. I serve it with garlic bread and a big salad.
Here’s what you need:
- 2 jars of 29 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1.5 tablespoons dried basil
- 3 large carrots, finely chopped
- 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- one small can of sliced black olives
- 1 package of sliced white mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
Here’s what you do:
- In a large sauce pot, heat oil over low/medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and saute for ten minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery, olives, and mushrooms, and saute for ten more minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and basil, and simmer for one hour, uncovered.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
There are few things I would rather have for dessert other than cake. Skip the fancy stuff, my first choice is a big cupcake with mounds and mounds of buttercream frosting. I knew Sophia took after me when she tasted David’s whipped cream frosted birthday cake last May, with a total look of disappointment on her face. David scrapes the frosting off cake, while to Sophia and I, well, it just isn’t a cake without buttercream. Cecilia is still at the point where she is happy that a one year old is getting cake.
So, I wanted to make something special for labor day weekend, and thought I might try my hand at my Nona’s buttercream frosting. I’ve failed miserably at it before. Buttercream is a talent that few posses. This last batch came out pretty darn good, and I thought I would share the recipe before I forget what on earth I did to make it great. By the way, did I mention that there is nothing better to my three year old than cupcakes made from a jumbo cupcake pan? I scored extra points with my little girls by making this buttercream their favorite color (of the week)… PINK.
This frosts about 12 cupcakes, or a two layer cake with heavy tops of buttercream. The trick is to keep the butter from getting too warm. Don’t try to microwave it or let it sit out in the heat to get it to room temperature. The passing point happens too quick. It’s a tricky proposition – if it is too chilled, you get lumps of butter when you try to mix it. If it is too warm, and you’ll end up with a soupy frosting. Remember, when you mix, it will increase the temp.
This takes about 10 minutes to prepare…plus time to soften your butter and frost your cake.
Here’s what you need:
- 4 cups of confectioners sugar
- 1 stick of butter, softened…slightly cooler than room temperature.
- 3.5 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 drops of your favorite food coloring (optional)
Here’s what you do:
- In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, milk and vanilla, and beat at a slow speed to incorporate. Go slow – the powdered sugar can go flying everywhere at first!
- Increase speed to medium, and beat for two more minutes. If it a little thick, add a tablespoon more of milk, one at a time. Add food coloring (optional) and mix until blended.
- After you frost your cake, refrigerate.
I get a ton of emails from my fellow veggies for tips on preparing a tastier Tofurky. David and the girls LOVE a good roast Tofurky dinner complete with all the fixin’s – I’ll make it few times a month. They like to call it Thanksgiving night. Learn from my trial and error – here are my tips for preparing a perfect Tofurky!
1. Allow yourself enough time to dethaw completely, and at least 1.5 hours to cook. Tofurkys can be dethawed or cooked frozen, but I have had much better luck if it is dethawed. For a juicier tofurky, you’ll want to dethaw it ahead of time. I pop mine in the fridge when I get home from the market, and take it out the next day to cook. This also significantly cuts down on the amount of time you need to cook it. Don’t forget to remove the plastic casing…
2. Choose your baking vessel wisely. Don’t try to cram your Tofurky into a too tight baking dish with no room to cover tightly. It will create problems with cooking evenly, and might burn the top and bottom of your Tofurky. My favorite is a dutch oven (like this one I have) because it does a great job of evenly distributing heat, and is big enough to fit the entire Tofurky with a tight fitting lid.
3. Don’t skip the baste! Basting the Tofurky creates moisture and flavor. I cut up 3 medium red potatoes (quartered), and 1/3 cup chives, chopped, and a few handfuls of baby carrots, and place them around the Tofurky before I baste. The veggies come out tender, and with this delicious carmelized roasted taste from the baste. Try this baste next time you cook one. Pour half of it on top, cover, and cook for 1 hour, 15 minutes at 350. Take out of oven, pour the remaining baste, and cook an additional ten minutes…I keep mine covered.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of a savory herb, likes herbs de provence, or sage
On the gravy…you can either make mama’s gravy, or heat the gravy up that the Tofurky comes with. If you use the Tofurky gravy, stir often, and bring it to a boil before immediately removing from the heat.
Good luck, and happy roasting!