Homemade Tomato Sauce

When I was growing up, it never failed that I would wear a white shirt on the day that my mother was preparing pasta with tomato sauce for dinner.

Needless to say I ruined many a white shirt throughout my childhood years.

There's something special about homemade tomato sauce. But, then again, I suppose my youth was spoiled by homemade everything. Since moving out on my own, I have tried a handful of jarred sauces. Most of which I would never buy again. A couple have proved worthy enough to suffice - in a pinch - particularly if it were being used for a baked dish like eggplant parm or lasagna.

Under normal circumstances though, I much prefer to make my own. I can't say that I make it exactly like my mother always did though...

In fact, her tomato sauce making process definitely evolved over the years. When I was really young, tomato sauce was left almost entirely to the crock pot. My mom would sauté the onions and garlic in butter, because we were a family that had yet to discover olive oil. Sometimes she would pull out those glass mason jars from the pantry - filled to the brim with juicy red tomatoes that had been harvested and processed from our bountiful summer garden. Everything would get tossed in the pot, simmer away all day while she was at work and get super thick. When my sister and I got home from school we would sneak spoonfuls, to "test" of course, usually burning our tongues in the process. There would always be homemade meatballs or sausage and a huge loaf of crusty italian bread to go along side.

Well rest assured those gluten-filled days are over.

You could certainly use fresh or jarred tomatoes for this sauce. I use canned - although there is a rather large bag of farmer's market tomatoes in my freezer right now that needs to find a purpose in life... 

This recipe is easily adjusted based on your tastes, needs, or whatever you happen to have on hand. You can customize based on how thick or thin you like your sauce, or even how spicy or sweet. Use fresh herbs instead of dry (although, I personally believe the fresh basil is a must), experiment with different types or textures of tomatoes - have it any way you like and make it your own!

Olive oil, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil - simple, easy ingredients that come together to create something deliciously memorable. This is the stuff that childhood memories are made of. My husband's grandmother - the woman who's Italian tomato sauce brings family members from near and far every holiday season, talking nonstop about her legendary lasagna - might not approve of my version. But she's never had it, so we'll keep that between us for now.

Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 7-8 cups
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 large Shallots, finely diced (or 1 small Onion)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Paste (could also use 1 Tbsp Basil Pesto or 1/2 tsp each of the following dry herbs: Basil, Parsley, Oregano, Thyme)
  • 1/3 cup Sherry or Wine
  • 14-oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 14-oz can Diced Tomatoes
  • 28-oz can Crushed Tomatoes in Puree
  • 3/4 oz Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar, or to taste
  • Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, optional
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  1. In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté shallots until golden and slightly translucent - about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and herb blend and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Pour sherry into pot and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until mostly reduced; occasionally scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon until all the browned bits have been loosened.
  3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine. *Feel free to adjust these ingredients based on how chunky or smooth you like your sauce. For a smoother sauce, use two cans of sauce and nix the diced. For a chunkier sauce, use two cans of diced and nix the sauce. For something in between, use two 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes.*
  4. Turn up the heat to medium-high and allow the sauce to come to a slow boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow sauce to simmer for 25-30 minutes. If you are going to add the red pepper flakes, do so now. *I put the lid on during this stage because I like a looser sauce. If you want it to cook down some, keep the lid off while your sauce is simmering.*
  5. To Finish: Depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes, add up to 1 Tbsp of sugar to sweeten. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finely slice or chop 3/4 oz of fresh basil leaves and stir into sauce - I like a lot of basil, feel free to use less if that is your preference. Remove pot from heat, allowing for carryover simmering, this will help the flavors just added to combine.
  6. Serve with your favorite gluten-free pasta or use for any other favorite Italian dish! P.S. This makes an awesome chicken parm - I'm sure that recipe will make it's way in here eventually...
Nutrition per 1/2 cup Serving: 64 Calories; 3g Fat; 0g Saturated Fat; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Fiber; 2g Protein

Happy gluten-free cooking!


Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Bran Muffins

I was that dorky kid that actually liked bran muffins. Yep. Especially the ones with raisins in them.

Imagine my dismay when being gluten-free meant no more bran muffins.


Every Autumn I collect two things: apples and pumpkins. I make apple sauce or apple butter and toss Ziploc bags full of the stuff into the depths of my chest freezer. 

The pumpkins you ask? Those get special treatment. They get halved, seeded, roasted and gutted. Then they too wait patiently in the freezer until the day they can be transformed into something delightfully delicious.

When I decided I wanted to make muffins with some of my frozen pumpkin, I didn't just want any muffins. I wanted bran muffins. Of course. And the grocery store had cinnamon baking chips on clearance after the holidays - so naturally those would find their way into this recipe as well...

Most commercial oat bran contains only one ingredient: oat bran. That does not, however, guarantee that every brand is 100% certified gluten-free. I do not have Celiac's, and my intolerance is not severe enough that I am required to buy gluten-free oat products. If you have a severe condition, make sure that your oat bran is certified. And make sure the product you're using is not meant to be a cold cereal. You want one that is labeled "hot cereal".

These muffins are delightful. Just sayin'. They could certainly be done in a mini-muffin tin and cooked for about half the time. I considered that option. You could also use a jumbo-muffin pan and make them larger. That would, obviously, require more cooking time. I think that standard muffins are just the right size for breakfast. I serve them with fruit or egg whites - delish!

Pumpkin Pie is one of my all-time favorite desserts. That is what inspired this recipe. The mixture of brown sugar, spices and molasses is what has been going into my mother's pumpkin pie for decades. Yes. Decades. I like the depth of flavor that the molasses adds. And I adore that these muffins are super moist and not overly sweet. I'm actually pretty proud of these little creations. My husband grabbed one off the cooling rack as soon as he walked in the door from work. No questions asked.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Bran Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Oat Bran (the hot cereal - do not use a cold cereal like All Bran - make certain it's gluten-free)
  • 70 grams good quality Gluten-free Flour (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground Cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 large Egg Whites (or 1/3 cup liquid Egg Whites)
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree, canned or fresh (if using fresh, make certain it is drained well)
  • 2 Tbsp Molasses
  • 1/2 cup Almond Milk (I used Almond, you could use any other non-dairy or even regular Skim Milk)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Baking Chips
  • 1-2 Tbsp Turbinado Sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients: oat bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps of brown sugar.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk wet ingredients until well combined: egg whites, pumpkin, molasses, milk, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined; stir in cinnamon baking chips.
  5. Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake muffins for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the certain comes out clean.
  7. Once finished baking, move tin to a cooling rack and cool muffins in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then remove from tin and allow to cool completely on the cooling rack...Unless you want to enjoy one warm and fresh out of the oven. I know I usually do!
*Loosely adapted from Taste of Home*

Happy gluten-free baking!


Turkey Shepherd's Pie

One of my all time favorite meals growing up was Shepherd's Pie. My mother would make it on those cold Connecticut winter nights when we all needed a good warming through. 

She made hers the way my father liked to eat it. Ground beef, yellow corn, and my mother's homemade mashed potatoes, made with sour cream and butter. Once assembled, she would add a few spots of butter to the top so that it would get nice and browned in the oven.

Over the years, I have recreated this dish so many different ways. Initially, I would make it just the way my mother did. Then I started making it with ground turkey, as a healthier option. My last year of college, I went abroad to England for a class. While there I was given the opportunity to have a taste of real British shepherd's pie. This version used green peas and chunks of lamb in a thick gravy. It was delicious...except for the peas. Peas are the only vegetable I dislike greatly enough to avoid.

I did a little research once on traditional shepherd's pie recipes. There are so many "traditional" recipes out there, it's hard to tell which came first - the chicken or the egg. But they are all rather similar when it comes down to the bones. However, not a one of them contained corn as my mother's recipe does...

My younger sister had an obsession with mashed potatoes as a child. They were pretty much the only thing she would eat. But not just any mashed potatoes. Only my mother's mashed potatoes. I actually recall a Thanksgiving spent at my aunt's house where my sister refused to eat her potatoes because they didn't taste like my mom's.

Her secret ingredient is sour cream. She once used cream cheese in a pinch, but they just didn't turn out the same. The sour cream lends a creamy, tangy flavor that I've grown so used to, I too have a hard time enjoying other people's mashed potatoes.

This shepherd's pie is a bit different than my past variations. It uses leftover turkey (I typically toss my Thanksgiving turkey legs and wings into the freezer after dismembering my bird and figure out what to do with them later), but you could certainly use leftover chicken. You could even use beef or lamb and swap out the chicken broth for something more appropriate. I also use mixed vegetables (I prefer frozen but canned would certainly work in a pinch). The mashed potatoes, however, will always remain the same - sour cream and all!

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 4 fresh Sage leaves, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked Turkey or Chicken, shredded/chopped
  • 8 oz low-sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/3 cup Sherry or White Wine
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into like-size chunks
  • 1 Tbsp light stick Butter
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Milk
  • 1/2 cup light Sour Cream
  • 16 oz frozen Mixed Vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans & peas), rinsed and drained
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
Mashed Potatoes:
  1. Place potatoes in a medium pot; fill with cold water until potatoes are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Place on a burner and set to high heat, cover the pot. Watch carefully so potatoes do not boil over. Once the water starts to boil, remove the lid and lower the temp to medium-high. Boil potatoes until tender when poked with a fork, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes well and return to pot, set back on turned off burner. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to potatoes and allow to sit, uncovered, for a few minutes to allow some of the moisture to wick away.
  3. Add milk and mash potatoes with a masher or fork to desired consistency. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Put the lid back on and set aside.
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes. Add sage and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  2. Pour chicken broth into pan and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to break up any bits of onion that might have cooked on. Add turkey and stir to combine.
  3. In a liquid measure, whisk together sherry and corn starch. Add slowly to broth and turkey mixture, whisking continually until well combined. Allow mixture to simmer and thicken for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large casserole dish (I prefer a glass one so you can see the gravy bubbling when the casserole is done cooking), assemble dish as follows. Spoon turkey mixture into base of dish and even out with back of the spoon.
  3. Layer vegetables on top, they don't need to be cooked first, they will cook up in the oven. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top of the vegetable layer.
  4. Spoon mashed potatoes on top of vegetables and even out with the back of a spoon, making sure to push them into all of the corners and nooks and crannies. The mashed potatoes will form a "seal" and allow the bottom layers to basically steam cook from the liquid in the meat mixture. If you wish, put a few spots of butter on top of the potatoes, it will help them form a nice brown crust in the oven. You can also sprinkle the top of the potatoes with 1/2 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese!
  5. Place casserole in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you can see the gravy bubbling away on the bottom layer. I would also recommend putting the dish under a broiler for the last few minutes if you like your potatoes really nice and golden brown.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family and I do!

Happy gluten-free cooking!



The first time I had tiramisu was at a friend's house some years back. I had been thoroughly intrigued, yet somewhat afraid to try it, for a very long time at that point.

Growing up, I had never been a big fan of coffee. Even the flavor of coffee in desserts or other foods was a real turn-off for me. As a teenager, I kept trying coffee-flavored things, even coffee itself, every so often - just to test my tastebuds. It wasn't until late in college, and a few trips to Starbucks, that I finally learned to enjoy the taste of coffee.

Enter Tiramisu. Heaven on a plate. If you want my personal opinion. Which, you wouldn't be here if you didn't. The way my girlfriend made it...well...let's just say it had been "marinating" for more than a few hours. More likely a few days. 
It. Was. Incredible. 
Nuff said.

Thus began my love affair with the delicate, delightful, delicious Italian dessert that has become increasingly more common - particularly in Italian restaurants - over recent years.

The first time I made Tiramisu, a couple years back, I used Brandy as the alcohol of choice. This time, I decided to shake things up a bit. 

Enter Patrón XO Cafe. Ever heard of it? If you haven't, consider yourself missing out my friend. According to the genius minds behind this delightful libation, it is a "coffee liquer made with tequila". These are a few of my favorite things...ahem. What could possibly be better? So, when it came time to whip up this version of Tiramisu, choosing this particular liquor was no contest.

I made my own gluten-free lady fingers for this recipe. You can find the recipe I used (by Celiac Teen) here: Gluten-free Ladyfingers. I followed this recipe exactly, leaving off the additional sprinkling of sugar. It made precisely enough lady fingers for the following Tiramisu recipe. They are a bit more cake-like than your average store-bought ladyfinger, but they soak up the coffee and liquor mixture quite nicely and make for a very light Tiramisu. You can also buy them - if you can find them, that is. Schar makes gluten-free lady fingers, but they can prove difficult to find. If you're lucky enough to be in the vicinity of a local Whole Foods, you might just strike gold. And also, I am officially jealous of you. If you live in a place that Whole Foods dares not tread, as I do, I would recommend ordering them online via Vitacost or another reliable gluten-free grocer. 

Feel free to substitute any type of alcohol you like in this recipe: Rum (a silver rum, not spiced), Brandy, etc. You could also make your own mascarpone if you're feeling really dedicated - trust me, it's easy. This recipe can also easily be doubled to serve a larger crowd. As is, it will serve 6-8 people easily, depending on how big you like your servings. Also feel free to decorate this little beauty any way you like, or not at all. Just promise you won't forgo the dusting of cocoa powder on top!

Gluten-free Tiramisu

Prep Time: 15 minutes + chill time & assembly
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings
  • 3 large Egg Yolks
  • 1/3 cup White Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Skim Milk
  • 1 1/4 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 8 oz Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Coffee or Espresso, strong-brewed
  • 3 Tbsp Patrón XO Cafe
  • 3 oz Gluten-free Ladyfingers (or one complete recipe from above)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, for dusting
  • 4 oz Dark Chocolate Chips + Heavy Cream, optional
  1. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a small saucepan until well blended, on the countertop please. Place saucepan over burner set to medium heat and slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Once mixture reaches a boil, allow to boil gently for 1 minute, continuing to whisk. Remove saucepan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover tightly, and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, combine coffee and liquor. Layer lady fingers in a dish or bowl and drizzle with liquid until soaked. Allow to sit until yolk mixture has finished cooling in fridge.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, beat heavy cream and vanilla extract with a mixer until stiff peaks form (a few minutes).
  4. When yolk mixture has finished cooling, remove from refrigerator and combine with mascarpone until smooth and well blended.
  5. In an 8x8" dish, arrange half of soaked ladyfingers. Spread half of mascarpone mixture on top of ladyfingers. Then spread half of whipped cream on top of the mascarpone. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers, cheese mixture, and whipped cream. Dust with cocoa powder
  6. OPTIONAL: Drizzle with Chocolate Ganache - Place 4 oz dark chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Add enough heavy cream until you can just barely see it peeking out from the chocolate pieces (probably a few tablespoons). Microwave on High for 1 minute; remove and stir. Repeat in 20 second intervals until chocolate mixture has melted and is well combined. No lumps! Allow to cool ever so slightly and transfer to a plastic zip-top bag. Snip a very tiny bit off the corner and use the bag to pipe or drizzle the ganache in any pattern/design that suits your fancy.

*Adapted from Allrecipes.com Tiramisu II*

Happy gluten-free cooking!