garden fresh yellow tomato sauce

The freshest tomatoes are from your own garden! I am not good at gardening…yet! One day, I want to have a beautiful bountiful vegetable garden.  For now, I have a pretty sweet hook up with a neighbourhood Ama (grandma in Taiwanese) who just happens to have rows and rows of delicious nutritious vegetables! My sister in law was out for a walk one day and this lovely adorable Ama just happened to ask her if she was interested in buying some garden vegetables. Now we get a variety of weekly fresh veggies!

DSC_0054.JPGLast week we got large yellow tomatoes. They have a milder taste than the usual red tomatoes and have a subtle sweetness. It works really well in this sauce. Of course you can substitute any tomato you have. For this recipe I would stay away from the canned tomatoes though, because you won’t be simmering the sauce for long and fresh ones have a lighter taste, making this sauce bright and fresh.

what you need:

  • 4 large yellow tomatoes
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 medium red onion (or any onion)
  • 5 green olives, pitted and chopped roughly
  • 1 pinch red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (I use grape-seed oil)
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 basil leaves (chopped finely but save 1-2 leaves for garnish)
  • fresh parmesan cheese grated on top when serving (*optional)

what to do:

  1. Wash tomatoes and roughly chop.
  2. Dice onion (small pieces, not too big).
  3. In a sauce pan or pot, heat cooking oil for 1 minute or two. Add onions and stir occasionally, preventing them from burning (keep heat at medium or medium low) – not quite caramelizing the onions but just cooking until they are slightly translucent.
  4. Add tomatoes, stirring to mix everything. Season lightly with salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
  5. Cover and turn the heat to low, about 10 minutes is enough, stirring 2-3 times.
  6. While your sauce is simmering you can cook your desired pasta (I used bowties).
  7. Remove sauce from heat and add chopped olives.
  8. Drain pasta when it is cooked and add as much sauce as desired – toss gently with chopped basil, green onion. Garnish with basil leaves and grated parmesan over top and serve.
  9. Enjoy! *Store left over sauce in mason jar or airtight container in the fridge for meals the next day!

fresh & spicy saucy spaghetti


ready in 15 and bursting with flavour

When you’ve worked all day and everyone comes home starving, being able to make dinner in a short amount of time (and minimal effort!) is key.  It drives me crazy when my family is so hungry they start grabbing snacks (crackers, cheese, etc) and it’s like…wait – I’m making dinner, just wait! You know how it is…if there’s snacking, then no one is actually hungry for dinner, so then they don’t eat very much at dinner…but then they’re hungry an hour later when it’s bedtime and want more snacks! I am guilty of this too – I remember doing this to my mom as a kid.

Well this dish won’t make them wait long at all – you can get it done in 15 minutes!  It’s super simple and very flavourful, even my husband who isn’t a big fan of pasta enjoyed it. The trick is timing – to get everything done within 15 minutes you have to multitask a little bit. But I’ve written it all out for you to follow step by step, I promise you can do it! Give it a try and share with me how it goes!

I was lucky enough to have all local fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market or my garden, which made everything taste really extra special. If you can find your ingredients locally, try it!

prep: 5 min      cook: 12 min       yield: 2-3 servings

what you need:

  • 2 generous cups of grape tomatoes (or cherry or any small tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 handful of chives
  • 2 banana peppers (or you can use cubanelle or anaheim peppers)
  • about 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • spaghetti (dry, about 1/4 of 500g package)
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)
  • basil leaves (optional)

what to do:

  1. Fill up a kettle to max and turn it on.
  2. Get a large pot, fill it with 1″ of water, lid on, on high heat.
  3. Rinse tomatoes and cut in half. (Fastest way is to have them sandwiched between two bottoms of two plates and slice all at the same time).
  4. Smash garlic and remove skin – chop finely.
  5. Wash peppers, remove top and seeds then slice into bite size strips or chunks.
  6. By now the kettle should be boiled – add the water to your large pot. Add one tbsp of salt to the water.  Put the lid back on.
  7. In a large non-stick pan on medium, add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add peppers, garlic and tomatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 1-2 minutes. Once you smell the garlic and the tomatoes start to release their liquid, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with lid and turn the heat down to low.
  8. Add dry pasta to boiling water – cook for about 8-9 minutes (each package / brand may differ slightly).
  9. At about 4 minutes into cooking your pasta, turn off the heat for the tomatoes.
  10. At this time you can wash and roughly chop the chives.
  11. Once the pasta is al dente, save a little bit of the pasta water (about 1/4 cup) and drain the rest.
  12. Toss pasta and tomato mixture in a large serving dish. Top with crumbled feta and chives, then toss to combine everything. If it seems dry, add 1 tbsp of pasta cooking liquid at a time to moisten. Top with fresh basil leaves if desired.
  13. Serve warm and enjoy!

butternut squash spaghetti sauce

butternut squash spaghetti sauce

embracing the fall season

We’ve had to say goodbye to summer (although the weather has been wonderful! We finally got a lengthy warm September!) – but now we’re saying hello to fall and the grocery store is full of Ontario produce goodness. Amongst one of my favourites is the butternut squash.  It is sweet, hearty, and maintains good texture when cooked. It’s packed with Vitamin A, beta-carotenes, and other amazing nutrients. A classic spaghetti sauce would have celery, onion, garlic and carrots as the base – I find replacing the carrot with butternut squash gives it a slightly sweeter taste (great for the kids!). This recipe tastes fantastic on it’s own and is hearty like a stew, or you can serve it up with some pasta (spaghetti, penne, etc) and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

prep: 20 min   cook: 1 hour   yield: serves 4-6

what you need:

  • ~450 g lean ground beef
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 gloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 700 g tomato sauce or tomato pure or diced tomatoes (I like to buy the ones in the tall glass jars)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes *optional
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • cooking oil (I used grape seed oil)

what to do:

  1. Prep your vegetables by thoroughly washing and then peeling them. Remove onion peel and dice into small pieces. Peel butternut squash, remove seeds, and dice into small chunks. Dice celery as well – you want your veggies diced about the same size.
  2. Roughly chop garlic after removing peel.
  3. In a large pot add about 1 1/2 tbsp cooking oil on medium – high heat. Add diced vegetables & garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning but you want some even browning to occur.
  4. Add ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon roughly. Sauté for another few minutes, until beef doesn’t look very pink anymore.
  5. Add chilli flakes and oregano, salt and pepper. Continue to sauté, stirring for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add tomato puree and bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn it down to simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the squash is tender it is ready! It actually tastes better though as it sits with some time – so if you have made it head, leave the lid on and just allow the flavours to marry until you are ready to serve. I love storing it in small portions in mason jars for a quick ready meal for the boss (my baby who turned 1 recently!).
  8. Enjoy!