The BEST Homemade Pizza Sauce

Homemade sauces are the best. Maybe you’re fine with the jar kind, but don’t settle for second best when you can easily make your own! This recipe is one I use every time I make pizza, it literally takes five minutes and you’re good to go.

Here’s what you will need:
1 Jar of Crushed Tomatoes or Tomato Puree
Italian Seasoning
Basil – fresh is good but dried works too!
Crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic
Salt & Pepper

For the pizza: I made a margherita for me, which included fresh basil and mozzarella but you can top it with anything you like!

I make my pizza sauce the night before so the spices have time to really jive with the tomatoes but if you’re rushed on time, you can make it and eat immediately.  My recipe will make enough for two 10 inch pizzas, so if you are looking to feed more people than that, I suggest doubling the recipe.

Directions:

Pour half of the jar of crushed or pureed tomatoes into a bowl for mixing. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. I really don’t measure out the rest of my seasonings – just do a generous dump of Italian, basil and garlic then mix everything up really well.

Refrigerate over night for optimal flavor.

When you’re ready to bake your pizza, spread the sauce generously over the pizza crust.

Then top with your favorite toppings! I cut up fresh mozzarella and basil for a classic margherita pizza.

Bake in the oven until crust begins to brown – usually takes about 20 minutes. Voila! You now have a delicious, home made pizza AND sauce. Enjoy 🙂

Making the Most of Two Days in L.A.

We just got back from a wonderful road trip up Highway 1 in California and Oregon. The weather was beautiful – no humidity, mosquitos or rain. The trip began in Los Angeles, and while we have been there before, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit!

In this post, I’ll recap what we did, where we ate, stayed and how to make the most of your time in a city where traffic sometimes throws a wrench in your best laid plans.

Where We Stayed

I chose to book through Airbnb this time for our two nights in Los Angeles. Hotels can kind of be pricey and since we were heading out after a studio tour on day 3, picked a spot that was just a few blocks away from that. Our host, Kathy, was lovely! We talked with her a little bit when we checked in to “The Lavender Cottage” and discovered she used to work for CNN and knew Anderson Cooper. She now does lighting for theater and retail stores, but has worked in the film/TV industry for a very long time.

Included with the room were two bikes! We didn’t use them, but this would be a great option for someone wanting to explore the immediate area.

Where We Ate

Cinnaholic. If you watch Shark Tank, you may remember this vegan cinnamon roll place from an episode a few years ago. I made a note of it and we stopped to get some on our way to the Nixon Presidential Library. Holy Cow were they good!

In-N-Out, obviously! Haha. It doesn’t get more West Coast than In-N-Out burgers, so we had two meals at the famous joint. Personally, I think their special sauce is pretty gross. The first meal there, I’d asked them to leave it off but that didn’t get communicated and I scraped most of it off after tasting it. Adam liked it, but to me it tasted like a mixture of pickles, onion and mayo. Bleh. The second meal there was way better as they got my order right.

We also had dinner at an amazing Lebanese place in Culver City called Almaza.  I had falafel with hummus, rice and Adam got the chicken shawarma. The portions were huge, food was excellent, but the service was somewhat lacking. Maybe it was an off night, but they were slow to take our order and slow to bring our check. I would still eat here again, but that was definitely a down side to the restaurant.

I also had a birthday cake milkshake from Milk Bar, owned by Christina Tosi from Master Chef. It was good; a bit over priced and more just for Instagramming in my opinion. If I went back, I’d try the actual cake, but it’s really not all that different from other dessert shops.

Shop my look: Striped Dress, Converse


What We Did

Our plane landed around 8:30 am PST, so that gave us a full day to explore. Last time, we went to President Reagan’s Presidential Library and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go to Nixon’s this time. It’s about an hour drive outside of L.A., but if you enjoy history or politics, worthwhile to go. I know I learned a lot!

Shop my look: Free People Denim Jacket, Striped Dress, Kate Spade Cat Purse, Converse

Once we left there, I drug Adam to an AMAZING library that had an aquarium, huge children’s department and several stories of materials. We also checked out The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A., which was a mad house of people trying to take photos for Instagram.

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Most of the first day was gone by the time we got done in downtown and West Hollywood, so we decided to check in to our Airbnb for the night.

Day two started off with a hike behind the Hollywood sign. I am really glad we waited to do this hike then, because it was overcast and breezy and it was a tough trail to climb. If you are interested in doing the hike, get out there early as parking was FULL when we left and the crowds were increasing. Here’s the link to where we parked (Bronson Canyon) and the actual hike we took. Make sure you summit Mt. Lee to get behind the sign – another path takes you to a viewpoint of the front instead (which is also nice, but if that’s where you go thinking you’ll be behind it, that’s not the right path to take).

We then did a little location hunting, seeking out some filming locations for The Office and Silicon Valley.

From there, we ended our day at Santa Monica Pier and walked down to Venice Beach. The cultural vibes between the two are so different! Santa Monica is much more upscale and Venice has a hipster vibe.

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Day three, our final morning in L.A., started off with a tour of the Sony Pictures Studio. Last time we did the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and decided to take a different one to see how they compared. I felt like Sony had more history – their lot had many classic films (like Wizard of Oz) filmed there and our tour guide was the voice of Young Tod in Disney’s Fox and the Hound.

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We also got to go on the set of The Goldbergs, see cars from Ghost Busters, Breaking Bad and my favorite, tour the Jeopardy set! The tour took about two hours and was definitely worth it. It is an all walking tour, so no carts like the one at Warner Brothers.

If You’ve Never Been 

Obviously, there are some top spots I’ve left out because I have been to L.A. before! If you are looking for other things to do, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame or attend a taping of a live event, check out my older post with what we did back in 2016.

making the Most of Two Days In

Half Liter BBQ

There’s a new hip BBQ joint in town! Half Liter Food and Beer Hall opened in Broad Ripple a few months ago; one side of the establishment is German food and the other Texas style BBQ.

The seating is open, so walk in, find a spot and start figuring out what you want to order. During the summer, the patio doors are up and if you sit outside or on the upper level, which overlooks the Monon Trail, you will have to wait in a line to order your food.

We went on a Saturday night and the place was hoppin’! Not only can you get brisket, but ribs, pulled pork, fish, sausage and chicken are all on the menu. There’s great selection of sides and some vegetarian options as well, although no meatless options for vegans.

They also have house made beer, whisky and plenty of other cocktails on the menu if you enjoy an adult beverage with your BBQ.

We both got the pulled pork platter with sides of fries, fresh fruit and macaroni and cheese. The portions were big and everything was delicious! I especially liked a few extra smoked burnt ends in my pork – that just gives it an extra kick in my opinion.

There are three different sauces to choose from – a Texas pit sauce, Bourbon and cola and the Carolina BBQ, which is mustard based. We both liked the Bourbon and cola the best – slather it on that gorgeous pulled pork!

And once you finish your meal, hang out in the game area and play some washers or corn hole with friends and family.

Five Books Set in Indiana You HAVE to Read

When you think about the Hoosier state, you probably don’t think about books – after all we’re generally known for the Indianapolis 500, basketball and corn. But there have been some great stories set here and many are by Hoosiers themselves!

Here are five titles set in Indiana that everyone should read.

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Last Words by Michael Koryta

Ten years ago, Sarah Martin, a teenage girl from Garrison, Indiana disappeared inside a rural Indiana cave. Her boyfriend swore she was right behind him, but can’t recall what happened in the inky darkness and ultimately, only one teen emerged that day. No one is able to find her except for Ridley Barnes, a seasoned explorer who surfaced with her lifeless body a few days after the incident.  Barnes has no memory of where or how he found her and everyone in the small town believes he’s responsible for her death. But with no evidence to prove his involvement, the Garrison police department has no choice but to release Barnes.

Markus Novak, a private investigator from Florida, is sent to re-open the case and see if he can solve the ten-year-old mystery of Sarah Martin’s death. He’s not particularly interested in a case that’s gone cold, but his job is on the line and if he can’t prove to his boss that he can work on something other than his own wife’s death, he’ll likely lose his job. But the people of Garrison seem to distrust Novak even more than Barnes and it’s not until Novak himself gets trapped in the cave that the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together.

Written by Bloomington native Michael Koryta, Last Words is a suspenseful and engrossing read that will appeal to fans crime mysteries. Indiana natives will recognize the setting in the book from the Indiana Cave Trail network of caves.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel and Gus meet in a support group for kids with cancer, which is not the most romantic of places to find the love of your life.

Yet the two bond over books; one title,  An Imperial Affliction, especially connects them and Gus surprises Hazel with tickets to Amsterdam to meet the author so they can find out why he ended the story the way he did.

Set in Indianapolis, Indiana, The Fault in Our Stars is both delightful and heartbreaking at the same time, painting a very real picture of what life can be like for teens who suffer from cancer.

John Green lives in Indianapolis, which serves as the backdrop for several of his young adult novels. Many of the places in his books are real places in the Circle City and even though the movie version was not filmed here, it can be fun to go looking for all the places Hazel and Gus hung out in the novel.

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Come and Get Me by August Norman

Award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman returns to Indiana University to accept an award, and she’s not exactly thrilled to be back in the town that holds some haunting memories from her college years.

When a young college student goes missing, Caitlin become involved in the case and is forced to confront her own trauma, dealing with the same police force that screwed her case up years ago.

Loosely based on the Lauren Spierer case that still remains unsolved today,  Come and Get Me is a must read. Hoosiers will enjoy the setting – all the places in the book are very real, and if you’re familiar with Bloomington at all, you will likely have a clear picture painted in your head as the events in the story unfold.

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Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

While the World’s Fair is being built in Chicago, H.H. Holmes is building his murder house a few blocks away.

Holmes murdered at least twenty-seven people, defrauded countless others and investigators were horrified to find gas chambers, sound proof rooms and torture tables when they raided his building.

Based on the true story of one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Devil in the White City isn’t set in Indiana for most of the book but it has strong ties to the state.

Holmes’ third wife was from Franklin, Indiana (the town where I work!) and for a short time, lived in Indianapolis while the police were pursing him. Here, he committed one of his last murders in a home in Irvington, and it was a gruesome one.

I included this one since it has strong ties to the Hoosier state and interest should peak in the next few years with the adaptation of the true crime non-fiction title into a Hulu mini series produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

Jen Greenley is kinda famous – everyone always wants to know what she’s wearing, who she’s with and where she’s going next.

But when the school administration asks her to befriend a new student, who happens to be an undercover Hollywood movie star, she’s about to find out she’s not the only “teen idol” at her high school.

Bloomington, Indiana native Meg Cabot is the GOAT when it comes to YA/teen lit. The author behind book-to-movie classics such as “The Princess Diaries”, her charming and witty style make for light reads.

Teen Idol is set in the Hoosier state and it was also the author’s first stand alone novel after writing several series.