Saturday, February 23


Have you ever read Katy and the Big Snow?  It's one of my children's very favourite bed time stories.  Well, we had our own "big snow" this past week, much to my children's delight.  A February blizzard that smelled of spring, and brought the city to a stand still.   The snow began falling as I drove home from my son's school.  That soft, wet, fluffy, spring snow that seems to muffle even the most garish sounds into a calm, serene silence.  Then the blizzard hit, and dumped a hefty seven inches on us in a matter of two hours.  The heaviest, wettest snow that we've had here in drought-prone and fire-plagued Colorado in many, many years. 

I woke early the next morning, to drink in the peacefulness with my morning coffee.  The utter calm of a pristine blanket of fresh snow!  Then bundled up and began to dig out.  Oh how I love spring snow!  It hit me as soon as I stepped outside - the crisp air, the heady smell of damp earth, and the faintest hint of wood smoke from a distant fire that danced through the heavy air.  Rivulets fog drifted like lost spirits down the empty street.  Schools and offices were closed, and the neighbourhood children were giddy, and eager to play as their parents, armed with snow shovels and blowers, prepared to uncover the driveways and sidewalks.  Neighbor waved to neighbor, and we all gathered at the corner to chat in the most amiable way.  Everyone was in a marvelous mood.  It's as if we were all, for once, in agreement, saying this is why we live in Colorado.  Funny how a blizzard can bring people together.

I love being snowbound for another reason, as well.  It rekindles my creativity in the kitchen.  Since I can't get to the market, it gives me an excuse to go through my pantry, through the bottom drawers of my refrigerator looking for creative ways to use what I find hiding there.  I know, if nothing else, I can make a simple pantry marinara sauce to top any kind of pasta I may have stashed away.

This marinara sauce is so easy and quick, and uses only the staples that I regularly keep in my pantry and refrigerator.  My grandmother used to always add a spoonful of sugar to her marinara sauces.  I, on the other hand, like to add one or two grated organic carrots, and leave out the sugar completely.  The carrots absorb some of the acidity from the tomatoes and add a touch of natural sweetness that the sauce needs.  (Not to mention, add an extra serving of veggies, that are nearly hidden from the keen eyes of your children.)

Pantry Marinara Sauce

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped (or 1/2 tsp onion powder)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (or 1/3 tsp garlic powder)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
28 oz canned or jarred diced, organic tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 medium organic carrots, peeled and grated
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (keep in mind, the heat will intensify as the sauce cooks)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, 3 -5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes, water, carrots, and herbs.  Bring to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  Cover, reduced heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Pour the sauce into a blender and pulse one or two times.  (Be sure to remove the centre portion of the blender lid and cover it loosely with a clean towel!)  Serve over your favourite pasta (or pizza) and top with shaved Parmesan.

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