We all get stuck in our habits and routines. Lunch at 12:30 even if you’re not hungry. Stay home on Sunday morning even though there’s a delicious bakery down the street. Buy the same brands, eat the same foods. When you always do something, the habit gets so ingrained that it becomes hard to imagine the other possibilities. If you always buy your granola, why would you consider making it? Store-bought pesto – easy! While these quick grabs can definitely be a time saver, there are some days when you have the time and it’s totally worth it (and even an improvement) to make your own. For some reason this past weekend I was inspired to try making what for me are usually store bought foods – pita bread and marinara sauce. The results: delicious!
Now you might remember that I’ve gone through some different food experiments while writing this blog. I’ve dealt with acid reflux (still do), I tried an elimination diet, and I tried some low FODMAP recipes. I became frustrated when nothing in particular seemed to make me feel 100% better and I started to wonder: is this a part of getting older? Did I develop some kind of strange allergy or disease? Is this permanent? Was I dealing with some serious pre-wedding stress last year? I didn’t feel stressed. Whatever it was, it has seemed to resolve itself somewhat for the time being and I am thrilled! I’ve focused less on avoiding certain foods and more on enjoying the food I do eat while not eating too much. It’s still a balancing act, but I’m finding my way and in the process I am thrilled to reintroduce myself to many of those foods I avoided before – hello garlic, onions, oranges, and lemons! Who knows how long this will last…
Eating these foods again has greatly expanded my recipe possibilities, which is why I took on the homemade pita and marinara projects. Nothing can beat the smell and warmth of fresh bread from the oven and I figured warm pita would be no different. Having made homemade bread and pizza several times, I figured pita bread was totally do-able. It takes a bit of babysitting to make, but is overall the quickest baking yeast bread that I know of – it bakes in less than 5 minutes. We served the pita bread with chicken shawarma, hummus, and veggies, using the pita as an edible utensil to scoop up all the yummy juices from the chicken.
As for marinara sauce, we always bought the jars of sauce when I was growing up. Prego, Ragu, Barilla – whatever brand we bought, marinara sauce seemed like one of those canned foods that saved time and wasn’t overly processed. It’s only recently having heard my co-workers talk about making sauce at home that I considered the possibility. I looked up a recipe and was surprised how quick and relatively simple it sounded to make. Sure you start with canned tomatoes, (especially this time of year) but at least you’re simmering the sauce with the flavors and fresh herbs yourself. I’d say it’s a nice step up from buying jars of sauce and the flavor was wonderful. I layered my homemade sauce into a hearty lasagna and served it with a fresh green salad.
I know how easy it is to just do what you’ve always done, but sometimes you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to eat your own homemade food whether it’s bread, sauce, or even yogurt. When you have the time to experiment, take a look around and see what you might be able to make yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself, could I make that? Sometimes you just have to see with new eyes.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
adapted from theKitchn.com
1 T. butter or olive oil (I used butter, but you can use olive oil to make it vegan)
one 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
one 14-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
one 8-oz can pure tomato sauce
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
fresh basil in chiffonade
1/2 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme
salt to taste – 1/4 tsp. to start
a pinch of sugar
There are a couple approaches you can take with your tomatoes here. For a chunky sauce, carefully quarter each tomato (being careful not to burst the juices into your face – trust me) and add to the sauce as instructed. For a smoother sauce, pulse your tomatoes in a food processor before adding to your sauce. OR wait until your sauce is done simmering and carefully blend in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Either way I would recommend prepping your tomatoes at least by opening the cans before you get your onions going so that you don’t burn your garlic when the time comes to add the tomatoes. Whatever you do, the sauce will be great.
To start your sauce, in a large skillet melt your butter over medium heat. Add your onion and saute for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, less than a minute and then add your tomatoes, juice and all. Add the tomato sauce, salt, bay leaf, oregano, and thyme. Save the fresh basil for the end. Bring to a simmer and turn down to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Remove the bay leaf and taste your sauce. Adjust flavors as needed – a pinch of sugar, more salt, some black pepper. Add your basil, stir to incorporate and remove from heat. Use for your favorite ravioli, lasagna, or even garlic bread.