If you need advice on just about anything, ask a mother. Seriously, mothers are often the best resource when it comes to answering all sorts of practical questions like how to get a grass stain out of jeans, how to bring down a fever, and, of course, how to get your child to eat vegetables. I know lots of clever mommies these days, some I have met on the playground, and others I have known all my life. My friend Jenny is one of these clever moms. I first met her about ten years ago when she married one of my childhood friends and we have been friendly ever since. Jenny and I have a lot in common these days, most notably that we are both mothers of active and fun children.
Jenny's son is about one year older than my daughter and we joke that they are already boyfriend-girlfriend. Her son takes my daughter on romantic races in his Little Tykes car, taking care that her feet are securely perched on the dashboard so that she won't stub her toes. Then, post backyard grand-prix, they exchange strong hugs which slightly resemble football tackling moves. At meal time they sit together in pint-size chairs at a miniature table feeding each other bits of food off their trays. Last month, when we were at their house, Jenny's son fed my daughter some pasta with homemade tomato sauce and she went wild, acting like it was the best thing she had ever tasted. To confirm her notion I tasted it myself, she was right, it was delicious. Noting my daughter's glee over the tasty sauce I asked Jenny for her recipe. She was glad to share the basics of it, admitting she had never written it down since the ingredients change a little every time she makes it. Naturally, the lack of written notes did not deter me, in fact, I viewed it as the perfect Naptime Chef challenge.
Jenny devised her basic marinara recipe as a way to feed her son vegetables he would not eat in their raw state. I knew Jenny was smart, but upon hearing the basis of her recipe theory I realized that she is, actually, brilliant. Every other week Jenny makes a simple tomato sauce packed full of vegetables and freezes it in individual portions. Then, when mealtime arrives, she thaws the sauce and adds it to whatever pasta dish she is making. Taking her cue I quickly got to work, starting with a straightforward variety of vegetables I would like my daughter to consume: onion, garlic, red pepper, carrots and tomatoes. Making the sauce, following the instructions below, took a very short amount of time. When it was complete I poured individual portions into snack-size freezer bags and lined them up in my freezer. As expected, they froze beautifully and thawed well when it was time for dinner. Thankfully my daughter seemed to recall the taste of the sauce from her play-date, gobbling up a huge bowl of alphabet shaped pasta stirred with sauce and grated cheese. I immediately called Jenny to thank her for the great idea. She was thrilled to hear about my success in devising the recipe and agreed that it should be shared with all of you. So here it is, from one clever mommy to another.
Naptime's Kid-Friendly Tomato Sauce - inspired by our friend Jenny
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes
Salt & Pepper
Note: It is perfectly fine to experiment with adding more vegetables, here are some suggestions I have tried: Celery, Chopped Spinach, Green Peppers. It is also fine to add more seasonings like fresh chopped Basil, or fresh Rosemary if you would like.
1. Heat oil in a heavy, deep pan. (I usually use my dutch oven.)
2. Add onion and garlic, cook until soft. About 10 minutes.
3. Add carrots and peppers, cook until soft. About 10 minutes.
4. Add canned tomatoes. Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
5. While the sauce is simmering taste it from time to time, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
6. When the sauce is thickened remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.
7. Pour the cooled sauce into a food processor and blend until totally smooth.
8. Pour into individual baggies, or however you want to divide up the individual portions, and freeze.
9. Thaw portions individually as needed.
Naptime Recipe Props: This recipe is ideal because it is made from basic, healthy, ingredients and is infinitely flexible. As long as you stick to the basic base of tomatoes with onion and garlic you can add or subtract just about any vegetable you want. I recommend starting with the basic ingredients above, then add new vegetables with each new batch.
Naptime Stopwatch: This recipe took about an hour to make from start to finish. I find that thawing from the freezer takes about an hour as well.
Naptime Reviews: Obviously my daughter loves this sauce, and my husband and I do, too. I've started using it with lots of the pasta dishes I make, including my favorite basic lasagna recipe. Adjust the vegetables to suit your own tastes, I guarantee the family will love it.