Summer is wrapping up and “back to school” is knocking at my door!
It feels like just last week I was writing my “Taste of California Summer” blog for June. Every summer seems to go by too fast. It doesn’t seem to matter if the summer brings you carefree, childlike thrills or adult-like relax and chill-out celebrations, this season always comes to an end too darn quickly. This year was what I like to call a slow, busy summer around here.
Can you believe there is an actual “National Lasagna Day”? July 29—a whole day dedicated to eating this delicious dish!
There is nothing better than a hearty home-cooked meal, and lasagna is the ultimate comfort food. To participate in National Lasagna Day, I’m taking one of the most traditional Italian recipes and upgrading it with a healthy twist. I’m excited to introduce you to my family’s favorite lasagna recipes using my Sweet Potato Tomato Sauce.
So many memories surface when summer arrives. I can’t help but think of my childhood and the carefree days between June and September. The responsibilities that came with school disappeared, opening the doors to childhood freedom!
WOW! Kids make life the best kind of busy, and so does being involved with the family business and managing my own brand. Keeping me on my toes, as a mom to three wonderful children, I often find myself pressed for time. Passionate about my profession and caring for others, I am a big believer in enjoying the small things in life. Hiking and enjoying the beauty of nature is just one tip from me to you I really want to share.
As a mom and the daughter of a farmer, Natalia Fritz has always appreciated the health benefits, locally sourced production, and top quality of the ingredients she uses in her cooking. So almost 10 years ago, when the idea came to her and her husband of replacing the overgrown blackberry bushes at Fritz Winery, it is not surprising that she and Clay came up with the idea of planting olive trees. The idea was not only to prevent potential vineyard diseases but also to be able to extract excellent extra virgin olive oil.
For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed cooking. My intrigue began when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I remember my friend Sara received a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven for her 5th birthday, I was instantly fascinated and curious (and probably a tinge jealous). I think I told the Birthday Fairy and Santa for years and years that that is what I wanted. And because I never got one (I also asked for bikes and typewriters and clothes and other toys, so please don’t think my parents or Santa or the Birthday Fairy neglected me), my desire for cooking never faded. It just got stronger.
Like many, many other parents out there, I value providing homemade meals for my family as often as possible. Healthy habits with whole foods have become a basic priority here. So often I find myself thinking about what I am going to cook over the next few days. I LOVE meal planning, and I love sorting through cookbooks and magazines as I imagine pulling together different dishes to complete our meals. So much inspiration out there!
These days my house is filled with three growing kids and a hungry husband. During our busiest days (which feels like every day) I love knowing I can quickly create a well balanced and tasty meal by using my sweet potato tomato sauce. From pasta to pizza, sloppy joes to lasagna roll-ups – I know we’re getting at least 75% vegetables per serving. Pretty cool! And, by combining great flavor with a whole score of health benefits, this sauce brings the sweet potato to play with every bite!
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a farmer’s daughter gets excited by fresh from-the-earth produce. I love it! When your food actually does something good for you and your family, with no preservatives, no additives, no chemicals – that’s what I’m alllll… about. Now I know we’re all busy and we don’t have time between basketball & baseball practice, music lessons, and homework help to be a professional chef who cooks fresh food all day, every day. But there’s no excuse not to try. Why is it that we use our busy schedules as an excuse to skip real ingredients and compromise? Personally, I am over it!
• 1 box of your favorite brand ziti or penne shaped pasta
• 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
• 1 jar Natalia’s Sweet Potato Tomato Sauce
• 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
• ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese + ¼ cup for final garnish
• ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
• 1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
Preheat your oven to 375.
Get out a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.
Cook your ziti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. (I add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to the water)
Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot it was boiled in. Add the chicken, basil and spinach. Mix to combine.
Add a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of the baking dish - about 2 tablespoons. Pour half of the pasta mix into the pan. Sprinkle half of the cheeses (in any order) over the pasta. Pour and spread half the remaining sauce over the pasta in the baking dish. Add the second half of the pasta on top. Layer with cheeses, and then the last of the sauce.
Bake for 22-25 minutes until cheese is very melted. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with remaining Parmesan Cheese.
Pair this dish with: 2013 Fritz Estate Zinfandel
By Natalia Fritz
Natalia's Kitchen Blog http://blog.nataliaskitchen.net/
To be more specific, spilling sweet potatoes into marinara sauce. This is exactly how Natalia’s Sweet Potato Tomato Sauce was created, kicking off a healthy and delicious alternative to traditional sauces.
“You know the saying, “don’t cry over spilt milk”? Well, in this case it’s spilt pureed sweet potatoes into a pan of marinara sauce intended for the pasta she was making for her family. A happy accident, I must say!…”