Turn Jar Pasta Sauce into Homemade Sauce

Expecting company for dinner? Impress your guests and be a kitchen superstar by turning bought jar sauce into homemade sauce in 5 easy steps!
Expecting company for dinner? Impress your guests and be a kitchen superstar by turning bought jar sauce into homemade sauce in 5 easy steps!
Making homemade pasta sauce does not have to be difficult. Especially if you “cheat” a little by using store bought jar sauce along with some other fabulous ingredients. That’s how my dad does it and it’s always delicious! I’m here today to give away his secrets so that you can turn a jar of store bought pasta sauce into a mouthwatering “homemade” pasta sauce.

Here’s how to turn jar sauce into homemade sauce in 5 easy steps:

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 jars pasta sauce – I like the “plain” ones with only basil added best.
  • 1 lb cooked ground beef
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini – optional, but I like to add because it adds some veggies in “disguise”
  • 1 large carrot – shredded
  • 1 can mushrooms – optional
  • 1/2 an onion – chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian Dressing
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp basil

Expecting company for dinner? Impress your guests and be a kitchen superstar by turning bought jar sauce into homemade sauce in 5 easy steps!

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Cook ground beef and chopped onion together in a large pot until meat is cooked through.
  2. Shred zucchini and carrots while beef is cooking.
  3. Add the zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, sauce, dressing and spices to the cooked ground beef.
  4. Stir together.
  5. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Serve over spaghetti noodles (or any pasta you like) or use in other dishes like lasagna. I usually like to freeze half of this batch for later use as a quick and easy meal. Bonus!
Expecting company for dinner? Impress your guests and be a kitchen superstar by turning bought jar sauce into homemade sauce in 5 easy steps!
Homemade Pasta Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 2 jars pasta sauce - I like the "plain" ones with only basil added best
  • 1 lb cooked ground beef
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini - optional, but I like to add because it adds some veggies in "disguise"
  • 1 large carrot - shredded
  • 1 can mushrooms - optional
  • ½ an onion - chopped
  • ¼ cup Italian Dressing
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp basil
Instructions
  1. Cook ground beef and chopped onion together in a large pot until meat is cooked through.
  2. Shred zucchini and carrots while beef is cooking.
  3. Add the zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, sauce, dressing and spices to the cooked ground beef.
  4. Stir together.
  5. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

Smooth, velvety, and lick your lips delicious, this Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce is the perfect topping for ice cream. You’ll never buy store bought hot fudge again! 

Smooth, velvety, and lick your lips delicious, this Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce is the perfect topping for ice cream. You'll never buy store bought hot fudge again!

This recipe is my husband’s personal favorite. He loves hot fudge sauce!  He’s even convinced me on several occasions to get hot fudge instead of my usual caramel when we stop at Dairy Queen or McDonald’s for an ice cream treat.

This hot fudge sauce is so easy to whip together and once you make, you will never go back to store bought!  You can use it immediately or store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. (Heat it in the microwave before serving).

Here’s how to make homemade hot fudge sauce:

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • ⅛ tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate chips by heating them in the microwave for 30 seconds then stirring and microwaving again until chocolate is melted.
  2. Transfer to a sauce pan over low heat and add butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add cream in small amounts until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Stir frequently until heated, but not boiling.
  5. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Prefer Caramel Sauce? Check out my two ingredient Slow Cooker Caramel Sauce recipe here!

I’ad love to know what flavor of ice cream is your favourite? How about your favourite Sundae topping?

5 Easy and Healthy Breakfasts for Hectic Mornings

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

Mornings can be such a crazy, hectic time.

Especially if you’ve got kids that go to school, you have to be at work or any of you have an early morning appointment or activity.  It can be a real struggle to get everyone dressed, fed, packed and out the door to your event/school/work in a timely fashion.

Even on days when we don’t have to be out early, I know it can be SO tempting to pull out the cereal, or make a piece of toast and call it good. Plus, who has time to get creative in the kitchen for breakfast? We want quick, easy AND healthy, but usually compromise on the healthy end of things…

But it’s honestly easier than you think to make healthy breakfasts that are delicious and nutrient rich, keeping tummies fuller, longer.

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn't have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

Here are five easy and healthy breakfasts that are perfect for hectic mornings:

OATMEAL

I used to despise oatmeal. But as I’ve grown older and found recipes I like, oatmeal is one of my favourite things to make for breakfast. I’ve got two recipes that I like to switch up.

homemade instant oatmeal packets

The first being Homemade Instant Oatmeal packets. I love the fact that I can whip up a whole bunch of packets (just like buying them from the store!) in no time and have breakfast on hand for quite a few weeks. My second favourite oatmeal is this Overnight Refrigerator oatmeal.

Both of these oatmeal recipes are very versatile when it comes to adding toppings that you like. I’m a big fan of adding raspberries or strawberries. Nut butters, nuts and seeds would also be great additions.

SMOOTHIES

Smoothies are delicious and so satisfying! Not to mention a breeze to put together. Currently our favourite combination is frozen strawberries, banana, yogurt, protein powder, and either juice or water. Sometims I like to add spinach or kale, or frozen berries, or frozen peaches.

This Tropical Pineapple Peach Slushie might also be a great dairy-free option:

Pineapple and Peach Slushie

What’s your favourite smoothie combination?

EGG TOAST

My husband’s most common breakfast request is egg toast. It’s a notch up from plain scrambled eggs or plain toast. 🙂 To make it, I simply scramble up some eggs with some milk and a touch of salt and pepper. Then I divide the eggs between some whole grain toast, then top it all with some shredded cheese.

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn't have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

FRENCH TOAST

Not the quickest breakfast on the list, but it’s still quite easy to put together! Plus, this french toast is perfect for freezing leftovers, then popping in the toaster. We like to top ours with butter, real maple syrup and sometimes fruit and whipping cream. French toast is also a hit with me because of the egg mixture it’s coated in, giving it more protein than pancakes or waffles.

Easy French Toast

FRUIT SALAD WITH GREEK YOGURT

If I could just eat fruit for breakfast, I would! I love, love a big bowl of fruit salad. But to give it more protein, thus making us fuller for longer, I serve it with some Greek yogurt. I can’t quite do plain Greek yogurt yet, so I usually buy vanilla flavoured yogurt.  As for the fruit salad, I just cut up what fruit we have on hand. Which is usually apples, strawberries, bananas, oranges and sometimes berries or mango.

What are your quick and easy healthy breakfast ideas?

Peanut Chicken Pasta

This Peanut Chicken Pasta is a favourite of ours for a quick and tasty weeknight dinner. It’s a hit with everyone!

I realized the other day that I haven’t made one of our favourite dinners in a while so I thought I’d do it up, then give you the recipe! It’s perfect for my peanut butter loving husband and daughter. I happen to love it too because it’s tasty and I feel like it’s fairly healthy. Plus, it’s easy, that’s my motto in life I think. Especially when it comes to cooking. 😉

I hope you enjoy one of our family’s favourite dinners, Peanut Chicken Pasta:

Peanut Chicken Pasta
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, diced
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Cup chicken bouillon or broth
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 green or red pepper
  • Pasta of your choice (or rice)
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta or rice.
  2. Cook chicken in a skillet.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, honey, soy sauce, peanut butter, cornstarch, ginger, garlic and optional hot pepper flakes.
  4. Pour mixture into skillet with chicken, stirring constantly until thickened.
  5. Add green pepper until heated.
  6. Serve over hot pasta or rice.

 

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

These Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins are packed with healthful ingredients like zucchini, whole wheat flour, apple sauce and make a great on-the-go snack.


Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

The best zucchini chocolate chip muffins ever! Moist, sweet, packed with shredded zucchini, perfect spices, chocolate chips and all sorts of healthful ingredients!  I like to make these into mini muffins because I find my daughter enjoys them more that way. 🙂 Plus, you can’t actually taste the zucchini so she’s getting a vegetable that she wouldn’t normally eat.

These muffins will be perfect when zucchini growing season is upon us. Use up that bounty!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
If you want to make mini muffins, fill about 36 mini muffin liners with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 13 - 15 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • ⅓ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Oil
  • ½ cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 cup Shredded Zucchini
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, oil, apple sauce, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, egg, vanilla, milk and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  4. Stir until just moistened.
  5. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips..
  6. Fill prepared muffin cups ⅔ full.
  7. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

For this Chicken Broccoli Alfredo meal, you take some chicken, broccoli, Alfredo sauce, and bacon bits, toss it all into a freezer bag. That’s it. Then to cook it, throw it in the slow cooker for a super simple, family pleasing dinner!

For this Chicken Broccoli Alfredo meal, you take some chicken, broccoli, Alfredo sauce, and bacon bits, toss it all into a freezer bag. That's it. Then to cook it, throw it in the slow cooker for a super simple, family pleasing dinner!

This Chicken Broccoli Alfredo is easy, easy, easy! Easy to put together, and easy to cook! My favourite kind of meal. 🙂 It’s a family-friendly meal that goes from the freezer to the slow cooker, making dinnertime a breeze. The recipe calls for a bag of frozen broccoli, but I find a bag of broccoli and cauliflower is just as good! It’s delicious served over pasta or rice.

Here’s how to make Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo:

Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
 
These ingredients make enough for one meal that feeds about 4 people.
Ingredients
  • 1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 jars of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 bag of Frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 Green Pepper, diced (optional)
  • ½ cup real bacon
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a large freezer bag.
Freezing and Serving Directions:
  1. Freeze in a freezer bag for 3 months in a refrigerator freezer or 6 months in a deep freezer.
  2. To serve, defrost in fridge then place contents into slow cooker.
  3. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
  4. Serve over pasta (with parmesan cheese if you like), with a salad and/or veggies.

 

Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie

This recipe for the ultimate comfort food, Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie is one of our family’s favourite. Ground beef and veggies smothered in a tasty gravy, topped with delicious mashed potatoes. Yum yum!

This freezer-friendly Shepherd’s Pie is one of those easy to prepare comfort foods. It’s a simple meal that uses ingredients that you usually have on hand. It’s perfect for the freezer to cook another day, or you can make it ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it for dinner. This recipe includes the use of beef gravy or Shepherd’s Pie gravy, which adds a delicious touch of flavour to the Shepherd’s Pie and keeps it moist and tender.

Here’s how to make Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie:

Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd's Pie
 
These ingredients make enough for two 8x8 baking pans that will feed about 4 people each.
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 bag mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • About 10 medium potatoes
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 package Shepherd's Pie gravy mix, prepared as per instructions
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut potatoes.
  2. Cook in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes, drain.
  3. Add butter, milk and mash then set aside.
  4. In a large pan, add ground beef, onion, and garlic and cook until browned.
  5. Add bag of frozen mixed vegetables, heat through.
  6. In the meantime prepare gravy mix as per instructions.
  7. Stir gravy into meat and vegetable mix.
  8. Transfer to freezer safe baking dish.
  9. Top with mashed potato mix and sprinkle with cheddar cheese, if desired.
Freezing and Serving Directions
  1. Once assembled, cover freezer safe baking dish really well. Place in freezer.
  2. To serve, defrost, then preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Then bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

 

Freezer Mashed Potatoes

These Freezer Mashed Potatoes are one of my husband’s specialties. After I made them one time, he decided we needed to eat them more often, so he takes it upon himself to make up a fresh batch every once in a while. Makes me happy, because I happen to think they’re delicious too!

Normally, potatoes don’t freezer well, but because there’s all sorts of yummy additions, these freeze very well! They also pair very nicely with the Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham I have here.

The added sour cream, cream cheese, butter and salt & pepper make for a really delicious combination of flavours. Sometimes, they don’t even make it to the freezer before we eat them 😉

Here’s how to make Freezer Mashed Potatoes:

Freezer Mashed Potatoes
Serves: two 8x8 pans
 
Ingredients
  • 10 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 4 ounces Sour Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to cover top, optional
Instructions
  1. Boil potatoes until cooked through.
  2. Drain water and smash potatoes until smooth.
  3. Add in cream cheese, sour cream, salt, black pepper and butter.
  4. Mash and combine until fluffy.
  5. Divide among two 8x8 aluminum freezer pans.
  6. Sprinkled cheddar cheese over top, if desired.
  7. Cover, label and freeze.
To Serve:
  1. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

 

Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham

I’ve got another Fill the Freezer February recipe post for you! This time it’s for a delicious maple pineapple ham that can be made in the slow cooker. I actually changed this recipe up a bit from the one available in the Fill the Freezer February pack. I wanted to use what I had on hand and so I omitted the brown sugar (mine was rock hard) and used some canned pineapple instead. This actually makes me happier, because I feel like there’s less sugar that way!

I’ve made a very similar version to this several times in the past and it’s always a hit with everyone. I whipped up two batches of freezer mashed potatoes to serve with this.

Here’s how to make Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham:

Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Small can of Pineapple with Juice
  • 1 Pre-Cooked ham
Instructions
  1. Place Dijon mustard, maple syrup and pineapple and juice into a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place ham into a large freezer bag.
  3. Pour sauce over top of the ham.
  4. Seal Bag. Freeze.
To Serve:
  1. Place ham and sauce in a slow cooker. (Can still be frozen)
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours.

 

Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells (Fill the Freezer February)

First up in my Fill The Freezer February task, is these delicious Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells! (I sincerely hope my photography skills only improve with each meal I make…my apologies.) These are so delicious and are actually quite simple to put together! They were a hit with everyone in my family and I need to make another batch because I planned to make two for the freezer, but only one made it there! I served these with a caesar salad and some carrot sticks.

I also love my KitchenAid mixer so I try to do as much as I can with it in the kitchen and these proved that I can create the whole “stuffing” part with the mixer. Including shredding the chicken! That is a win in my books, especially when I’m working with a stiffer food thing. (Saves my wrists.)

These Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells could be quite versatile. I think they’d be great with spinach added, as much pesto as you’d like and I’m sure most variety of cheeses would be wonderful. You could even try adding a bit of tomato sauce.

Here’s how to make freezer friendly Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells:

Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells
 
This recipe makes enough for two pans of stuffed shells that will feed about four people each.
Ingredients
  • 1 box of jumbo pasta shells
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups fresh grated Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese + extra for topping
  • 6 Tbsp prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta shells only until al dente. (The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked.)
  2. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the extra cheese for the topping.
  4. Fill the pasta shells with the filling.
  5. Freezing and Serving Directions
  6. Place stuffed shells in an aluminum baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle the extra cheese over shells.
  8. Cover well.
  9. To serve, defrost, then preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!