Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

You know those recipes for pizza and pasta sauces? The ones with the 15 ingredients and the hours of simmering to get that authentic taste?

This isn’t one of them.

My cooking style is best described as no-nonsense.

We like to make flatbread pizzas, and we prefer a sweeter pizza sauce.

Store bought ones always taste a little flat, and even though they are often on sale, I can do better on my own.

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Pizza Sauce

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 6 oz can Tomato Paste
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Dried Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a small microwave safe container that has a lid, combine the contents of the can of tomato paste and a splash of olive oil. 

  2. Add spices to taste. And I mean really taste - add them in, mix it thoroughly and taste it. Add more of what is missing.

  3. If sauce is too thick, mix in a little water.

  4. Microwave with the lid covering the dish but not on tightly (let steam escape, but use the lid to protect the top of the microwave if it explodes). Heat in 20 second intervals stirring after each until sauce reaches desired temperature.

Recipe Notes

This creates a thick, sweet sauce which we like to use on flatbread pizza.

Because it is thick, it is also a good sauce for zoodles (those "noodles" made from spiralized zucchini) since those tend to be watery and will dilute the sauce to a better pasta sauce texture.

Leftovers can be refrigerated, or frozen.

This does not keep long in the refrigerator because it contains no preservatives, but does well in a freezer bag and reheats just fine.

Teeny Tiny Tip: Better Buns

A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500-word essay

Low-carb life has it’s challenges.

Take hamburger buns. They aren’t very good for you – white flour is pretty much persona non grata in a Type-2 Diabetes household.

The special low-carb versions? Not very much taste, super expensive and when you read the label, not really impressively better for you.

We swapped to Whole Wheat English Muffins. Technically, because we like the Trader Joe’s brand (not a paid endorsement – just our favorite), they are called “British Muffins”.

The nutrition* is better where it counts.

Whole Wheat muffins have better nutrition than standard hamburger buns.
Nutrition info from Myfitnesspal.com

And they are more flexible – if you have a surplus of hamburger buns in the house, your choices are pretty much hamburgers. If you have a surplus of British Muffins, you can always use them for as a base for quick pizzas, sandwiches or, I suppose, breakfast.

 

*I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. You should never take advice from a paper crafter without consulting an actual professional.

Super quick guacamole

Three ingredients, no chopping!

Guacamole is magic.

Simple ingredients, quick prep, and super versatile. Depending on where you put it, it’s a dip, a spread or main ingredient.

That doesn’t mean the recipe can’t be abused – I saw a celebrity chef on PBS once take 18 minutes to create “classic guacamole” and it involved five different roasted vegetables and sweet peas.

More importantly, though, the recipe can be super simplified.

I have a basic recipe (which requires six ingredients and takes 5 minutes) and this one, which requires three items and takes less than 60 seconds.

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Super Quick Guacamole

Also called "Cheater's Guac" at SuzerSpace

Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to Large Avocado Ripe
  • 3 teaspoons Chunky Style Tomato Salsa
  • 1 splash Lime Juice

Instructions

  1. Remove the pit from the avocado, and scoop flesh from the peel. 

  2. In a bowl, add the salsa to the avocado. Use a fork to smash.

  3. When close to the desired consistency, add the splash of lime juice and stir to combine

Recipe Notes

Top guacamole tip: Only make what you can consume in one sitting. Sure, there are a million tricks for keeping it from turning brown, but it is really best served fresh.

The best (and safest) way to pit an avocado

I’m sorry I didn’t post this last week in time for Cinco de Mayo, but it was while I was looking up recipes for dinner that night that I realized, again, that sometimes the Internet lies.

Post after post, video after video, all explaining and showing what has come to be believed as the best way to pit an avocado.

I’ll link to this one for you, but you probably don’t have to see it. Using a very big knife, you are supposed to cut all around the avocado pit, creating a nearly cut in half item that needs to be twisted apart. Once the parts are separated, you are to smack the pit with the big knife to remove it.

I have several issues with this technique, but I’ll limit myself to two here:

  1. What is up with all the huge knives in the avocado videos? When ripe, you don’t need German or Japanese forged steel to force them open.
  2. I don’t know about you, but usually when I’m making guacamole, alcohol is involved. Smashing down toward my hand with a sharp knife doesn’t feel like a recipe for success (pun intended, sorry).
In my opinion, here is really the best way to pit an avocado.

Using a butter knife, cut into the avocado the normal way, cutting down until you hit the pit, and the running the knife all the way around until you come back to where you started.

Instead of twisting the pieces apart at this point, rotate the avocado and cut around the pit again, creating four quarters that are now held together by the bit.

Cutting an avocado into quarters is a safer way to remove the pit

With your hand, remove the quarter sections of the avocado, one by one.

cutting an avocado into quarters is a better way to remove the pit

The pit will stick to the last section, but enough of it will stick out that it will be easy to grip with your fingers and remove it.

Slice up the remaining quarters to use as needed, or smash them to make guacamole.

Teeny Tiny Tip: Orange Cubes

A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500-word essay

At work, we somehow wandered down a conversational path that took us from fruits we don’t like to eat (canned fruit cocktail) to fruits that are good frozen, and most of the ideas offered were ones I already knew.

Someone threw out the idea of frozen orange slices in drinks for the summer.

It was late on Friday afternoon. I was already looking forward to Happy Hour. Suddenly I couldn’t hear anything else anymore because frozen orange cubes in a cocktail just sounded amazing.

Repeated testing throughout the weekend proved that to be correct.

Two tips:

  1. Remove as much of the white part of the orange as possible (it gets weird when frozen). Supreming them is an option; I just peeled them very close.
  2. Separate the slices slightly when freezing so they don’t form a frozen orange ball.

SuzerSauce

It’s not pretty, but it’s a pretty tasty condiment

Every good food establishment has it’s special sauce.

Some go as far as to call them “secret” which sounds even more special, but in truth, most of the mainstream ones (or the one’s with cult followings) have their recipes appear in copycat versions on various websites.

Until recently, I’ve been pretty content to put bottled barbecue sauce on my veggie burgers. Mr SuzerSpace is a fan of Worcestershire.

But a few weeks ago, Mr. SuzerSpace and I were browsing in a high end kitchen store and stumbled upon an “artisan” hamburger condiment. They wanted $14.95 for 8 ounces, and the ingredient list was right on the back (has to – it’s the law). There was nothing special in the list.

After laughing ourselves to tears in the aisle, Mr. SuzerSpace remembered a burger place he really enjoyed in Wisconsin, known for it’s secret sauce recipe.

And I recalled a totally different burger place from my high school years in Texas, which sadly appears to have closed this past January.

And then we went home to make dinner. After all the story telling, it had to be burgers. And we definitely needed our own sauce.

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SuzerSauce

Prep Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Heaping Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
  • 4-5 sliced pickled Jalapeños, diced
  • 1/4 tablespoon pickle relish
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl (preferably one with a lid) combine all ingredients.
  2. Spread on bun for hamburger, or use as a spread for sandwiches
  3. Leftovers keep refrigerated for weeks - stir before using.

 

Foolproof rice

A super easy method for cooking a main dish staple

I’m not sure if this is a recipe or a teeny tiny tip, so I’ll categorize it as both.

Making rice always seems more difficult than it should be. There’s that magic formula of water vs. rice and cooking time with the lid on that generally didn’t really work out that well for me. So I bought a rice cooker, and for about 10 years never gave rice a second thought.

Then last summer, a co-worker gifted me a box from one of the meal subscription services, and it contained a stuffed pepper recipe that featured a new-to-me method of rice cooking. And I’ve never gone back to the rice cooker – in fact, it has moved from the kitchen to the basement, along with other one-trick appliances that aren’t earning their keep.

The technique is ridiculously simple – you just prepare rice as if it were pasta.

Cook rice like pasta for a foolproof dish

Bring a pot of water to boil, add rice, continue to boil uncovered until the rice is cooked to your desired finish. Drain and serve.

Never too crunchy or too soggy. The only caveat on this method is to make sure the holes in your colander are small enough to catch the rice and not let it all go down the drain.

Foolproof Rice

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice

Directions

  1. Bring a medium to large pot of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add rice to pot, reduce heat slightly so it doesn’t boil over and stir.
  3. Keep rice cooking at a boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Test occasionally beginning at about the 15 minute mark (longer if you are using brown rice).
  5. Remove from heat when rice is cooked to your desired finish. Drain and serve. Don’t forget to freeze the leftovers.

Teeny Tiny Tip: Microwave Splatter Shield

A cool trick that doesn’t require a 500 word essay

I’m a big fan of kitchen gadget stores. I love to browse the catalogs, websites and the actual aisles, looking at tools, appliances and decorator items.

But I rarely buy anything. I like to be resourceful and use what I have. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

Take microwave splatter shields. Really good idea. I hate, hate, hate to clean the microwave (true fact: more than once I’ve thought about just buying a new one instead of scrubbing something off the ceiling of the existing one). But they seem really expensive for what they are.

Last winter, in a fit of organizing, I threw away or gave away all my mismatched plastic food storage containers and switched over to glass. At the last second, I snatched two very sturdy lids back from the pile.

Why? Because they were the perfect size to use as splatter shields for my  bowls. They cover almost all of the top of the bowl, but let a little space exist on the corners for steam to escape.

And they are sturdy enough to use as a placemat/trivet for the hot item to be carried from the microwave to the coffee table.

You do eat all your meals on your coffee table, right? 🙂

Teeny Tiny Tip: Lunch

Batch cook to fill the freezer with ready to go meals

Cook ahead and freeze lunch meals so have a healthy, tasty and economical choice available.

Quick, tasty lunches for work used to be a challenge.

I’d look for the best prices on frozen entrees, but they tended to either be good but expensive or cheap and disapppointing. And almost all of them seemed high in carbs and sodium.

Those cups of instant mac ‘n cheese seem tempting, but they also fall into the expensive and high sodium camp.

My solution is to do a batch cook on Sunday afternoon of one type of meal. Once it cools, part it out into 5 or 6 lunch-serving sized zip bags into the freezer. If you do this every other Sunday, and vary the meals you make, you end up with a variety of freezer entrees to choose from on days when dinner doesn’t yield nice leftovers. It’s also good in a pinch on a weeknight when you are starving and just don’t feel like cooking.

I don’t have a big deep-freeze. I just pack the bags flat to take up less room. And it isn’t really very time consuming – I have a couple of easy meals I make that don’t require much hands-on time, so I can craft while they cook.

And the math ends up as amazing – this box of maccaroni and cheese was 29 cents. To make it a more interesting meal I added lentils to the water as it was boiling before adding the noodles and then added a bit of a low-sodium taco season packet when I made the cheese sauce. With the addition of the lentils, this made six lunches.

 

Baked Tofu

Tofu isn’t scary. Really.

Tofu is kind of like the opposite of Fight Club.

EVERYONE talks about tofu. I read so much about making tofu that it scared me.

I will confess it took me a few tries to nail down a solid system. My general cooking technique for most food involves skipping any steps I don’t want to do or don’t have a gadget to do it with.

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