Homemade pasta sauce

I like making food for family and friends. It is a type of nurturing. In a time when everyone feels busy and so many of us rely on fast or frozen food, cooking and sharing a meal with another person feels like a gift.

Most of the time the goal is to get a warm meal ready in 30 minutes or less. However, every once in a while I enjoy dedicating time to a meal. I especially like this because my husband and son get excited about the food that I make for them.

Food that takes time and patience has a special significance to me. It feels like a luxury to devote time to meals. So, on occasion, I make special foods. Recently, I took it upon myself to make a tomato-based sauce.

I was lucky enough to obtain a recipe from a friend (Ann S.) whose sauce I long admired. The recipe is simple, elegant and delicious. And it is the sauce that Ann’s Italian family has made forever. If you are ready to get started, here we go…

A good marinara sauce requires few ingredients and a lots of time. Here is the list of ingredients:

2 Cans of tomato puree

2 Cans of warm water

½ yellow onion

Olive Oil

Fresh basil

Fresh garlic

Dried oregano

Dried Italian seasoning

Kosher salt

I put my fresh garlic and yellow onion through my food processor so that I could get small sized pieces. Then, I placed the garlic & onion mixture in a stock pot and sautéed them in olive oil until they were translucent. I poured two cans of tomato puree and two cans of warm water in the stock pot and added the fresh basil. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasonings.

The mixture must cook on medium until it boils. While it is boiling, make certain that you are stirring consistently. Once your sauce has boiled, reduce the heat so that it simmers for two hours. Make certain to stir your sauce every 10-15 minutes. When you are done, your efforts will yield approximately fifteen (15) cups of sauce. Remove the fresh basil from the pot. It is only intended to flavor. Let your sauce cool down properly. Then, I recommend that you freeze some of your sauce for future recipes.

Tomato-based pasta sauce simmering.

Special recommendations

Of course, I do not need to tell you that this sauce can be used anywhere a marinara is needed. However, there are a few things you can do to take recipes to the next level. One thing that my friend does is to drop sausage and peppers into the mix while it is marinating during the two hour simmering process. She removes them from the sauce when it has finished cooking. She then uses them to create incredible sausage sandwiches. I like to use the sauce as a pizza sauce. But, in order to do that I recommend the you finely chop your onions and garlic. This will make a delicious pizza sauce.

What will you add to this recipe?

“Rosemary Does Time*”

Rosemary stepped onto the fourth floor of the courthouse. “Domestics & Civil,” a sign on the wall read. She looked around. A security guard stood near courtroom three. A man sat at a bench looking angry. People eyeballed one another. Didn’t look so civil. 

Rosemary spotted her attorney with another client. A hand-guided suggestion to sit near courtroom four, was the physical communication her attorney gave. Rosemary followed suit.

Thirty minutes, she noted on her diamond-encrusted Tag Hauer. She had come too early. That was just like Rosemary. So fucking eager. That had always been her weakness. The reason she had landed in the big house in the first place. Seven minutes in heaven? Seventeen years in hell.

“At least he was a good provider.” She heard a voice inside her say. She knew that voice. It was mother’s voice saying the thing Rosemary had once heard grandmother say to her mother.

When Rosemary realized that she was pregnant, Ronald was in his fifth year of college. He barely had enough credits to be considered a first semester junior. But, his parents owned the largest insurance company in the State. Ronald got a Director of Marketing title and a nice office. Rosemary got the M-R-S title and a white, two-story house.

Rosemary extended her left hand to look at the engagement ring. She still hadn’t taken off the two-carat diamond. It was a fine piece of jewelry. And it, along with a home filled with objects had pacified her during the marriage. Ronald was good at gifts; bad at surprises.

Like the time he surprised her during a party at their house. She went downstairs to get more paper products and found him fucking one of her friends in the storage room. 

Like the time he surprised her with an STD.

Liked the time he surprised her son with a fast car. Like the times he allowed her son to have a “drink with dad.” Like the times he taught her son to drive drunk. Like the time…

STOP!

She breathed in through her nose. Held her breath for a five count. Exhaled through her mouth.  

She would not grieve Charles. Not like this. Not. Like. This.  

She would grieve Charles by thinking of all the good times they shared together. The bike rides along Linear Trail. Sunday dinners with family and friends. The road trips Ronald planned for them.

Yes, she would even remember Ronald’s role in the good times. After all, he was part of the good times that she had with her son. A double-edged sword of happy memories and sad thoughts. She could see herself getting addicted to the pain.

“Adoption Day!” A family near courtroom three cheered. A pretty brunette started talking into a phone. “This is our Facebook live event.” 

Rosemary looked at the floor. Adoption day. Maybe she should have considered an adoption day. If she had Charles would still be…

No! She stopped herself. She would never have given Charles up. He was a beautiful baby. He was the perfect baby, her baby. She closed her eyes and saw his beautiful face. Dark bushy eyebrows, jet black hair, and full lips; those had been her gifts to him. Love of music and dancing. Zest for life. He had gained all the best of her Puerto Rican heritage.

And, he had gained some of the worst features of her heritage… Reckless, daring, and her father’s machista attitude. Those had been the other attributes he had gained from her side.

No. Ronald was a machista and he wasn’t Latino. “I’m the man, sweetheart.” He said when she requested he consult with her before making family decisions. It did not matter that her father was a machista and Latino. Ronald was a machista and white. Ethnicity didn’t matter to male dominance.

She looked around for Ronald. Of course, he wasn’t going to show up. He had never shown up for the marriage. Why would he show up for its end?

Rosemary thought about her time moving forward. She had been a child, a freshman in college, when she married at 19. She became a mother at 20. Now at 37, she was going to be single and childless. She had never learned who she was. Now, she was losing everything that she had ever been. 

Rosemary stood up. She did not need to be thinking like this. Not like this. She inhaled through her nose. She went to the nearest restroom. The lighting was horrible but at least there was a full-length mirror. Rosemary stood before it, examining her navy pants and matching jacket. She was going for professional and strong. A crisp white button-down shirt and her favorite scarf, the one she bought in Paris, completed her outfit of choice to commemorate the end of her past. 

She brushed her hands through the dark slanted bob. She had cut off over sixteen inches of hair last night. She applied a plum colored gloss on her lips. Rosemary was ready to get regain her freedom. She would do great things with it. And, she would never take her life, herself, for granted. 

Rosemary’s first order of business; take a road trip with her sister. She had never taken advantage of the liberal paid time off she received while working at her in-law’s insurance company. She had, for example, never gone on a girls’ trip. She would do that now.

Rosemary returned to the hall and found her attorney ready to go into the courtroom. They stood at one of the tables and waited for the judge to appear. “Answer the questions,” her lawyer said. Confirm the agreement.

“All rise.” 

Rosemary watched the judge sit on his bench. He was serious looking in his black robe. His black-framed glasses contrasted sharply with his white hair. He motioned her to the witness stand. 

Rosemary raised her right hand. “I do.” She responded when asked about telling the truth. But could she? Could she tell the truth about her relationship? Did she herself even know what the truth was? She knew what her mother had said, “you do the crime; you pay the time.” 

What had been her crime anyway? Giving her virginity up to a frat boy who did not believe in condoms. No. She would not beat herself up about that. No more. Rosemary knew it was time; time for her to get out. She would call it… early release for good behavior.

“I filed.” She looked at the judge’s face. She wondered if he was a parent. “Incompatibility.” She responded to her lawyer’s question. 

She took a breath and braced herself for the question that was about to come. “Yes. But he died. There are no other children under the age of majority. No other children period.”

The judge looked down at his hands. He was a parent. She recognized the discomfort he felt. It was the discomfort every parent now felt around her. 

“Yes, the agreement is fair, just, and equitable.” She responded. 

Rosemary had been surprised by that. She expected Ronald’s family to rally around him. Especially after Charles’s funeral where she had been poisoned by grief; “he’s dead and it’s on you.” She blamed Ronald; threw it in his face. 

“Thank you, your honor.” Rosemary said after the judge wished her luck. 

Out in the hallway, Rosemary thanked her lawyer and walked away. Her seventeen-year sentence commuted. Ready for a freedom she had not wanted, she walked out the courtroom a childless mother and an ex-wife. But, she walked out a woman ready to be focused on herself. Rosemary’s time was now her own.


*A story about love… or at least the end of it. Welcome to my blog. Today, I am excited to share a short story I wrote a few years ago. Copyright 2018 by Amada Acosta Addair (Gabriela Amada Vega Acosta.)

Master of My Multiverse

As a POC child growing up in America, I straddled two universes.

On one hand, I was a part of the America where being on the cheerleading squad, listening to pop, rock, or rap, and watching the latest episode of 90210 were important. On the other, I was a part of an America where being invited to be a dama in a quinceañera, listening to Banda Machos, and watching Muchachitas were equally important.

I think this is often the case for people who immigrate to this country, though I do believe that it can be a part of the lives of people whose family stretches in America for generations. The home life links you to your family’s past and culture while the professional or school life tethers you to mainstream (Anglo) America. When I was younger, this felt like a lot of work, straddling two cultures.

As a POC adult, I find myself with both feet squarely planted in white America and further away from the Latino-landia that surrounded me when I was younger. I pondered for a long time why that was. Here’s what I realized. As a young person, I was inculcated in the Latino world of my parents. My parents attended and sponsored weddings, baby showers, and quinceañeras. I participated in these activities because my parents did not hire babysitters to care for my brothers and I at home while they went out. No. We attended all of those activities. Everyone in our community did the same, it was standard. Result, I was around Spanish, food, friends, and familia.

Now, I live in a largely caucasian world. In my hometown, Latinos make up less than 5% of the population. The majority of my friends are non-Latinos and I have no extended family to lean on for Mexican-style fun. Spanish is spoken for business purposes or to converse with my family members by phone or social media. And, the only other Latina I interact with on a regular (daily) basis is my legal assistant. This means that my mom is not around daily to share the stories of our family, no friend to turn up the music when a good Banda song comes on, and no older aunt to remind me to prepare a family altar for Dia del Muerto. And I can forget about having a posada, who would I even invite?

This question stayed with me for a long while…

How do we, the Americanized children of immigrants, continue to connect to our cultures when we no longer live within our immigrant communities?

 I realized that the effort had to come from me. It was my responsibility to create opportunities for myself to connect to my culture. Here’s a list of the things that I started to do to help me reconnect:

Find organizations that can help you connect with your culture. Join a business or social organizations (check out MANA or your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) or participate in a faith-based communities (in my town, a local Catholic Church holds mass in Spanish every Sunday).

Get lost in the world of entertainment. Read books by POC authors. Find a movie or show on your favorite streaming services (bonus points if you watch it in your native language.) Play music from the artists your parents liked (this will give you a strong wave of nostalgia.)

Force yourself to cook recipes from your culture correctly. The yummy results will transport you to your past and give you a sense of appreciation for the love and work your parents put into meals.

Make it a point to visit your OG community for fun activities and events. When the covid-19 pandemic ends, my goal is to return to Garden City, KS for the 16th of September celebrations that occur annually.

Bring your culture into your own world. For example, if you are in a book club, select a book written by a POC author this way, you share your culture with your non-POC friends.

Finally, learn your native language or teach it to your children. According to a mentor I once had, older generations hesitated to teach their children the native languages because diversity was frowned upon before. My mentor recalled being punished in schools for speaking Spanish, even in a lunchroom setting. However, the tides have turned. Your kid will not be smacked with a ruler on the knuckles for speaking Spanish. Teaching yourself or your children the native language will provide a link to their past or enable them to communicate with family still in the old country. More importantly, in our increasingly multicultural country and ever-shrinking world, knowing more than one language is an asset.

What are the things you do to connect with your culture?

Breaking bad (habits)

I have been a life-long nail biter. I do not know how this habit started or why it began. But, I can remember being as young as six years old and biting my nails.

Since corona commenced, the thought of putting my fingers in my mouth creates a whole new level of anxiety. It is unfortunate that it has taken me this long to acknowledge the overall ickiness of this habit; but, I guess it’s never too late to make a positive change. This change in perspective means that I am finally enjoying pretty nail polishes and lovely hands.

Now, there are many opinions on how to break bad habits. I found several good articles while I prepared this essay that I recommend for anyone who needs proven tools. (Harvard Business Review article and Time Magazine article.) But, I cannot say that I broke my nail biting habit with much forethought.

I started getting nervous about my nail biting. At some point, I realized that the new medical reality added an extra layer of danger and disgust to my habit. Of course, this is an anxiety driven habit where it helps to keep your hands busy. So, one of the things I did during lockdown was to start painting my nails. This led to less incidents of my hands in my mouth.

I still have a ways to go before I can say that I am completely cured of my bad habit. But, I do feel that I have new tools with which I can quell this behavior.

Have you ever had to change behavior? What behavior or habit did you try to change? What worked? What didn’t?

Postponing señora style

As a little girl, I could not wait to get older. I longed to be a classy lady like my mom and aunt Silvia. I admired beautiful women and hoped someday I would be one.

In my teens, I was clueless. Either because I did not have the financial means or a basic understanding of esthetics, I was sloppy. Worse, I knew it. I felt uncomfortable with my curves so I wore clothes as baggy as I could. I would look at girls like my Camacho cousins, always made up and well dressed, and envision the day that I too would be “put together nicely.”

Eventually, things started to come together. During undergrad, I was part of a sorority. I paid attention. From my sisters, I learned tips and tricks to apply makeup, style hair, and coordinate clothes. Law school gave me internal confidence and helped me find my voice.

At 24, I thought I had developed a style of my own. Unfortunately, I stumbled. Impractically high heels, extremely low cut shirts, too-tight dresses. The strong, sexy señorita I felt inside tried to interpret herself by focusing too much on my curves and not enough on the sex appeal of my mind.

As I got older, I found my esthetic. It continues to develop. And, aging is an important part of that development. I am comfortable with the fact that I am in my forties. I don’t lie about my age. I don’t wish to relive my youth. And, I do not see getting older as a problem. I have achieved the style that best fits my personality. Part Maria Felix. Part Mexican loteria’s “La Dama.”

It may be that lovely Latinas like Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, and Sofia Vergara have created unrealistic expectations for us. Or it may be that they have redefined just how long women remain beautiful. Whatever the reason, I am inspired to keep looking lovely. I have no interest in letting myself go.

I exercise (every now and then.) I moisturize everyday. I try to analyze clothing styles and trends to find the things that look the best on me. I foresee me trying to postpone what I would term “Señora Style” as long as I can. To do this, I have created guidelines for myself. These guidelines help accentuate and highlight my beauty without trying to recapture my youth.

Focus on a Feature

When I was younger, I was the worst about trying to show everything off. My dresses were a little too snug, my shirts extremely low cut. I accentuated everything. This provided no focus and truth be told, bordered on boring.

Now, I try to find ways to highlight one special feature at a time. Shirts that show a little chest are now paired with a classic pair of pants or a below the knee skirt. Form fitting dresses now allow for breathability. In fact, I now use a famous Marilyn Monroe quote when it comes to purchasing dresses…

“Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.”

Practically Beautiful

There is nothing worse than aerating a sprawling lawn with four inch stilettos. Yet, this has been me on more than one occasion. I remember once going to a K-state football game with a friend. I wore high heeled boots. By the end of the first quarter, I realized the huge mistake I had made. The problem was that once I developed my twenty-year old girl style, I thought that I had to stick to my “look.” This attempt to “dress my part” came to a head when I met my husband.

“You’re not actually planning to wear those around Disney World?” My love asked incredulously.

“Why not? I wear heels all the time.”

Eventually, I realized that being elegant means knowing how to dress for every occasion. I learned that you can be pretty and well-dressed even when dressed casually. Most importantly, I learned that you are less of a caricature if your look fits the activities in which you are engaging. Now, I encourage you to learn these lessons.

Natural is Nice

When it comes to makeup, I have tried two different schools: all of it- false eyelashes, dark liquid liner, lots of mascara, bright lipstick, goopy lip gloss, bronzer and highlighter everywhere. Or, none at all.

Over time, I have developed the look that makes me most comfortable- real lashes, a few coats of mascara, a soft crayon eyeliner, and a natural lipstick. I have learned that this softer look makes me more timeless. As an added bonus, it keeps my skin looking younger. Finally, it saves me loads of time.

Whatever your position on makeup, remember this…

You are beautiful however you choose. to present yourself to the world. All you need is to think about what will work best for you and create the person that you want to be.

Confidence is Key

So, what more can be said?

Change your hair color and length. Put on the colored contacts or wear the nerdy girl glasses. Unleash your 13 Going on 30 fantasy and try on every piece of clothing you own. Pick out the things that make you feel good about yourself. Wrap yourself in love.

The most important thing that I have learned in my lifetime is this…

Whether you are wearing a ball gown or only perfume confidence is key.

Now it is your turn. Share your top tips or hot hints. Let me know what I could do to help me grow in beauty in confidence. I would love to hear your thoughts. And, I hope reading my thoughts helped you too.