Have a Whole Foods Holiday: Roast Tomato Sauce

Hi guys and gals! I’m kicking off a Whole Foods Holiday series today {pause for a round of applause} with a wonderful step-by-step from the awesome magician/Mom behind a site I’ve shared with you before, Se7en. {Here’s the Travelling Tuesday where I showed you around her place!} Mrs. Se7en and her Se7en + 1 kididdles do some amazing things in the kitchen. Often involving food. But also arts and crafts. And homeschool. Today she’s introducing a simple way to make your own Tomato Sauce in Se7en easy steps!

Born up a tree!


Many folks think that cooking from scratch is quite unachievable, and it is easier to just buy instant meals, instant sauces and well instant everything!!! What we have discovered as a family is that we eat more and more food, cooking from scratch. It all began with having an allergic child and I started reading food labels.

While I was looking for allergens, I discovered just what we were eating and I didn’t want to feed it to our children. The trouble with pre-prepared food is that it is packed with heaps of sugar, and filled with unnecessary additives and colorants. We made a decision to start cooking from scratch. It is not only healthier but it is a whole lot cheaper. Remember the more an item of food has been processed or packaged and the further it has traveled the more expensive it is going to be. Often it is just so much easier to buy bulk and save and make a batch of something.

It wasn’t really an overnight switch, just a consistent and conscious effort to change and eagerness to try new recipes with our kids.

Now don’t for a moment think that cooking from scratch means that we spend hours bent over a sweltering stove and neither do we have fields of vegetables growing in our backyard. Okay, I confess we do keep our salad planted in the garden!!! It just turns out that not only is it a lot cheaper to cook from scratch, but it is a lot of fun. And I want food with my kids to be fun, I want them to enjoy the process of food preparation and I want them to feel a sense of pride in a meal well-prepared.

We started by baking our own bread and then we moved onto pasta and before we knew it we were cooking all our meals from scratch. My older kids have become adept at them and I tell you, you will never want to eat shop bought pasta again — you just won’t!!! The first few attempts were a grand mess, and nothing like the smooth ease that you see when watching the “Food Channel,” but practice really does breed success.

Today I am going to show a really easy way to make sauce and a standard recipe in our house: Fresh Roast Tomato Sauce From Scratch in Se7en Steps:

Let’s Meet The Players:

  • A Batch of tomatoes.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Crushed garlic, you can use whole garlic cloves as well.


Let’s Play The Game:

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    1. Begin by roughly chopping your tomatoes – I usually cut them into eight… quick and easy, no time for perfection!!!

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    2. Pop your chopped tomatoes into a roasting pan.

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    3. Lavish salt and freshly ground pepper onto your tomatoes And pop your crushed garlic into the mix as well. If you only have cloves of garlic – all the better. Drop the whole cloves into the tomato mix

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    4. Sprinkle some olive oil over your tomatoes and then pop the tray of tomatoes into a hot oven and leave them there to roast.

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    5. When your tomatoes start to brown then you take them from the oven and leave them to cool.

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    6. Once they have cooled you can put your roast tomatoes through the blender.

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    7. Blend away and keep it in the largest jar you can find on the shelf in the refrigerator.

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    And the Se7en + 1th Step:
  9. 8. Now when we make the sauce we keep it really simple, and then add whatever we want to it later when we use it for our meals. You can use your sauce in so many ways:
    • Plain with a few crushed basil leaves on fresh pasta, top it with a pile of parmesan.
    • As the topping for a pizza, We use it for lunch a lot. Roll out your batch of pizza dough, top with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and it is almost instant pizza.
    • Brown an onion or two and add the sauce and you have a fabulous sauce for Spaghetti and Meatballs.
    • Brown some onions and mince and then add your tomato sauce and you have almost instant bolognaise sauce.


Really a jar of tomato sauce is indispensable, so quick to make and then so useful in any number of dishes. If you would like to try more recipes like these then feel free to follow the link:


Thank you so much for sharing with us, Se7en! So glad you were willing to share some well-tested (and good-tasting) wisdom with us today!
Note to the readers:

After reading the recipe, I asked Se7en if you needed to peel the tomatoes because I wondered if you’d notice the peels in the sauce. She replied:

I am the laziest cook in the world and when a recipe asks for peeled tomatoes I often skip it and then I always regret it. However, with this recipe the skins are so soft after the roasting, and then once you have blended them you don’t notice them at all… really – and I have a few fussy folk who would mention it!!!

Thought you’d like to know! More Whole Foods Holiday is coming your way soon!


P.S. It’s not too late to join the Whole Foods Holidays party. Get in touch if you have something you want to share! Or, if you already have something on your blog that you’d like to link to, let me know — I might just host a little link-up for this occasion. 🙂

One Recipe For Three Countries: Spicy Sausage Stir Fry

I am loving being back into the kitchen — now that I’m beginning to get the hang of navigating the local grocery store. {How weird is it to feel like a foreigner in the grocery store you’ve been going to since you were a kid?} I’ve almost completely stopped converting prices back into Rand in my head, but I still do it every once in a while.

{I’m looking at you, strawberries. Why are you so expensive?}

A few nights ago I made a tasty little dinner that I was happy to discover works just as well in North Carolina as it did in South Africa and in Scotland. And if it’s that foolproof I thought you might dig it too!

I also took pictures of it ages ago and forgot to share.

It’s a Sausage Stir Fry that I started making in Scotland because I had it down to a science and it fed the Hubs and myself for around Three Quid — £3 = $4.75 = ZAR 38.50. {But it is slightly more expensive in the US and in South Africa because food is DERN cheap in Britain. I miss it!}

Here’s what you need so that you, too, can enjoy this hometastic goodness. What? Yes, of course I’ll make notes beside every ingredient. I haven’t hit my word quotient for the day.

Sizzling Sausage Stir Fry — Serves 2 (and a half)

  • Sausage. As long as it’s not ground (minced) it seems to work fine. But I try go for something a little bit spicy. 1 lb/500 grams — decide how much you need for your crew.
  • Three small bell peppers (Or more. A bag of frozen peppers is faster and works, but fresh is a little betta.)
  • 1 small onion, sliced (If onions give the baby you’re still nursing gas, skip this step.)
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced (I use a peeler and just zoop that baby into nice and thin strips.)
  • 1 TSBP + 1 tsp olive oil, separated (A vegetable oil or sunflower oil will do. I suppose.)
  • 2 – 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (If you want to use the stuff from the jar, go ahead wid dat, but last month’s Consumer Report said fresh is better. Should I say minced or diced?)
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger (Did you know you can peel ginger, drop it in a sandwich bag and keep it in the freezer for ages? Take some out and grate it and slap the rest back in the icebox! Your mouth will thank you. Make sure you say icebox.)
  • 4 TSBP Soy Sauce (Because I said so.)
  • 1 TBSP honey (Or more.)
  • 2 TBSP orange juice (A different citrusy juice will probably be okay. I think I even tried apple juice once. But not lemon or lime juice. That’s pushing it.)
  • 1 TBSP Cornstarch (Add a little more if your sauce don’t wanna thicken in the pot.)
  • Egg Noodles (You can read the package and decide how much you need based on how many you’re serving. I trust you with this important task.)

Optional Extras for K.I.U.A.N (Kicking It Up A Notch):

  • A generous shaking of crushed red chill flakes (1 tsp)
  • A not-so-generous shaking of chili powder (1/4 tsp)
  • A moderately generous shaking of Paprika (Unless Paprika is the name of someone you know.) (1/2 tsp)

Now here we go.

Start by slicing your sausage with a bias cut because prettier food tastes better. My Mother-in-Love and I often talk about how true that is.


Your garlic doesn’t have to be so pretty. Mince it up and remind me to show you a technique for that later.


That’s my old cutting board, back in South Africa somewhere…sigh…twas a weddin’ gift…

Grate your ginger while you’re at it.


That little zester with its handy backside for catching stuff is in a box in SA waiting to come this way. I hope.

Slice your bell peppers and zoop your carrot till they look good enough to eat.


Slice an onion if the comment next to the onion ingredient doesn’t apply to you.

Getcha a good pan or a wok and warm up a teensy bit of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Give the garlic a little head start. Then brown your sausage with an occasional stir. When it suits ya. But don’t make your sausage feel neglected.


While it’s browning, mix together the soy sauce, ginger, OJ, honey, and cornstarch. Stir in the optional extras for K.I.U.A.N. if you want your stir fry to be ssspicy.

Get in there with the strength the Good Lord gave you and work out those cornstarch clumps with a fork.


How’s your sausage? If it has browned nicely, then move on to the next step. If not, wait a while, stir a while, wait a while, then move on to the next step.

Dump your sausage on a plate for a minute and set it aside. Tell the sausage it hasn’t been set aside, it’s been set apart.

Add that last TSBP of olive oil to the pan. Give the onions a minute head start if they’re joining your party. If not, let the bell peppers and carrots crash right in.


If you like your veg to stay crunchier, sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. If you like your veg softer, 5 to 6 minutes. If you don’t care whether it has any nutritional value at all, just let it go as long as you fancy.

During this interlude, while occasionally stirring, it’s a good time to cook your egg noodles. Feel free to listen to music at the same time. U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb remains one of my all-time favorite albums if you’d like a recommendation.

When the peppers feel close to achieving your crunch factor, move them to the side. Give your sauce one last stir/cornstarch clump hunt, and dump it into the centre of the pan.

Wait for your sauce to begin to thicken and bubble, then stir it through the veggies.

{Note to self, and maybe for you, too: set aside some sausage for the Bear, who won’t eat it all spicy & peppery}

Add the {remaining} sausage back into the pan, stir until it’s all heated through and the sauce is nice and thick.


Put a generous helping of egg noodles in bowls for serving. Top with a generous helping of your magical Sausage Stir Fry.

Stick a fork in, because it’s done.


The final product is much prettier in person. My South African kitchen had dim lighting.

And there it is. Simple enough to work in three countries, and we enjoyed it every time. Dinner will be on the table before Bono sings “Yahweh.” But wait for it, because that’s an amazing song.

If you give this a bash, I’d love to hear how it goes. Hope you enjoy it! Born Up A Tree!


Extremely important notification: If you click that link to the U2 Album and buy it on Amazon, I get a tiny kick back. Just though ya should know.

Important Weekly Update

Hey Guys and Gals. I have several important things to tell you.

1. I tried this Baked Chicken with Peaches recipe this week and it was super easy and really good. The chicken breasts are so ginormous here that I only used four (and halved the rest of the recipe) and still had chicken left over for chicken pot pie two nights later, and a little chicken salad for lunch today. Score! I feel morally compelled to share this recipe with you. Not sharing it would, ethically, just be wrong.

But why are the chicken breasts so big here? I don’t know whether to be happy or concerned. Or both.


2. This season of transition is great, and hard at the same time. {Could I say grard?} I cry. On a regular basis. I laugh a lot, too. But these sweet boys of mine are a gift in the process. I shared at Signposts today about how they keep me looking up. If you’ve ever fussed at your kids and then regretted it, click over…you might be encouraged.

3. Tomorrow. October 29, 2011. Meet me back here for a giveaway. Three readers will win 25 free Christmas cards at Shutterfly! And that’s 25 cards for each reader, in case you were worried you’d win and have to figure out how to divide 25 by 3.

So don’t forget to drop by tomorrow! Entering will be easy, so don’t worry about studying up in preparation. And don’t forget to try those peaches.


Thai Shepherd’s Pie

A few days ago I mentioned on a Facebook status how thankful I was for Thai Shepherd’s Pie. It’s an easy meal and I’m always happy with the results. A few folks asked for the recipe, so I thought I’d put it here for you all to see, try, enjoy, and mayhaps ask questions or share results.


Let me get you started with a couple of quick tips:

  • I usually plan Shepherd’s Pie when there is also another mashed potato side dish on the menu within a few days of this meal. I make extra mashed potatoes to cover both events and cut the work load.
  • Although some people seem to have trouble with freezing mashed potatoes, I’ve found that if I’m just using them to top a Shepherd’s Pie, I can let them defrost during the day and use them in the evening. (Or even speed up the process defrosting in the microwave.)
  • I highly recommend doubling the amount you think your peeps will eat and freezing half. It is awesome to pull the meat and the potatoes out of the freezer in the morning and have an instant dinner, with just a little assembly and oven usage required. See?


The ingredients:

2 Tbsp sunflower oil

500 g minced beef or 1 lb of ground beef, depending on which continent you find yourself (I often use double that and leave just about everything else the same, and the Beef & Ostrich mince we get here in SA works fine, too.)

1 – 2 Tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste (Green is fine too — and I use 3 – 4, esp. if I’m doubling, we like da spicy! Warning: all pastes are not created equal.)

1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced (I’ve used 1/2 a normal onion & it was fine.)

1 x 400 ml can coconut milk (That’s like a normal-sized can in the States. Lowfat is just as good and like 1/4 of the calories!!)

1 tsp castor sugar (I think this is superfine sugar in the US, but there’s a big discussion about it at Chowhound. I’m pretty sure superfine sugar will work just as well.)

1 Tbsp fish sauce (this is weird and you may not use it for anything else, but it’s worth it. It’ll keep in the fridge for ages.)

a large handful of fresh basil leaves (Not a train smash if you don’t want to spring for this.)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

And the veggies — I’ve put lots of different veggies in this and never been disappointed. I usually add more than what’s called for to make things go further. I’d say pick two (the first two are recommended in the original recipe):

125 g (a healthy handful) fresh green beans, topped, tailed and chopped into small pieces

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped

1 or 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces

peas (but just add them at the last minute)

*frozen kernel corn — which I use in additional to a couple of other veggies, but it only gets added later — instructions coming.

Mashed potatoes — whatever you would normally do in this department will work fine. Mashed sweet potatoes would probably be a tasty alternative.


The Magic:

Heat the oil. Brown the beef over a high heat.

Add the pepper, green beans and onions (or whatever you’re using for veggies except peas and corn) and stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes.

Stir in the curry paste and coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened.

Add the sugar, fish sauce, and basil leaves. Give it a taste and see if you want a lil salt or peppa. If you want peas, add them now.

(Note: if you want to stop here and eat this with egg noodles or rice instead of turning it into Shepherd’s Pie, feel free! I have tried each method and prefer the Pie.)

Next, pour your newfound mixture of beefy curry delight into a baking dish. Any size’ll do as long as you have enough mashed potatoes to cover it.

Cover the beefy goodness layer with a layer of frozen corn. Mmm-hmm, still frozen, cos it’s easy like that.

Slap on a healthy slathering of mashed potatoes. (If you don’t have enough it’ll be soupy but still taste okay.) Spread them around nicely, but be careful if there’s a lot of liquid! Use a fork to create lots of nice peaks and troughs because they’ll brown nicely when you bake it.

Bake at 200°C/400°F, 25-30 minutes, or until the insides are bubbling and those lovely peaks you just made are browning nicely. Feel free to turn the oven up to grill/broil for the browning effect if you get impatient.

Yum yum!


Hope you enjoy! Born-up-a-tree!


How long have you known me?

Have we known each other for more than a few years? If you knew me before I flew across the pond to spend a few years in Edinburgh, you would probably have summed me up, if asked, with a few simple descriptive words or phrases:

  1. Girl who loves Jesus.
  2. Pretty happy most of the time.
  3. Hates vegetables like few people I’ve ever met.
  4. Loves bacon like few people I’ve ever met.
  5. Can devour a chicken supreme combo with fries and Mountain Dew from Bojangles like she’s getting paid.

If I’m real honest, I think either number three or four, or perhaps number five, might’ve come at the top of the descriptive list.

But. Good News.

If you’ve known me for that long and were beginning to get concerned about my cholesterol level or my heavy sodium intake, there is good news. I’ve really been reformed. And a majority of the blame for the reformation belongs in Hero Hubs’ corner. When we were engaged and discussing our future together, he pointed out two important facts:

  1. He is eight years older than me.
  2. Heart disease runs in his family.

He summed up these two points with the comment, “If you want me to be around for a while, we’re going to have to eat differently.” My twenty-five year old eyes grew wider than a four year old kid who’s about to sit on Santa’s lap for the first time. And the journey to healthier eating began. (more…)

Bears Can Colour, Too

A few weeks ago I was finally so tired of looking at a bare wall above our fireplace I was willing to do something about it. With budgetary constraints and a desire to spend on other things before decorating, I decided to get creative with what we had to put something on the wall.

I had the lovely flower painting you see below, which was a gift from our neighbour for our anniversary. We call the flower “Hettie” because Hettie is the name of the neighbour who painted it. But Hettie was a bit too small to take up the whole wall by herself.

I also had this three-space picture frame from Ikea which had boring, ugly standard photos in it. I was really bummed when I got it home (two years ago) and realised it wasn’t meant to be opened to replace the photos. But for £5, I held onto it and figured we could work some magic sometime. Hero Hubs pulled out the staples for me, and I printed out some inspirational words, on regular old computer paper right here at home, and arranged them to suit my exceptionally refined taste. 😉

Hero Hubs made a wee picture frame for me a while back with some wood we’d picked up for free, and I decided to paint it black. And then the magic that makes this the favourite thing hanging in our home began.

I printed out the words “for God so loved the world” in a few different fonts and styles, and gave them to the Bear to colour. I gave him the colours I wanted him to use, and he went to town of his own accord. When he took the blue crayon and made circles that reminded me of the shape of the world, I was completely convinced that he was a genius and fell in love with this little drawing he’d created in three minutes or less.

So with the back of an Otees box ready as backing, I carefully arranged the Bear’s first fine arts project in Hero Hubs’ frame, and felt that the communal effort art project was ready to grace the naked wall.

What do you think of our family art project?

Perhaps we have a budding Van Gogh in the crib! Let’s hope his ears stay in tact.