Lauren's Recipes

Homemade Italian Red Sauce

Follow Lauren's Instagram for more recipes @myfitkitchen
Follow Lauren's Instagram for more recipes @myfitkitchen

Italian food is in my blood.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me sitting on the kitchen counter watching my 100% Italian mother create delicious traditional Southern Italian food.

My love for cooking was born in my mom’s kitchen acting as her pint sized sous chef climbing the counter top to get herbs and spices from the spice rack.  The recipes used were passed down to her from my grandmother who was born in Naples who had these recipes passed down to her from my great-grandmother.

Each generation put their own style on the original recipes that go back further than anyone in my family can trace.  My mother came up during the low-fat, low cholesterol craze when Americans moved away from traditional ways of eating.  When I was a kid we used low-fat dairy, meat off the bone, and trimmed the fat.

My mark will be to take my mom’s recipes and bring them back to their traditional roots the way my grandmother and great-grandmother used to cook.  Now we know that traditional ways of eating are much healthier in addition to being more flavorful.  In my version of this recipe, for example, I’ve added back the ham hock, which adds a ton of flavor from the natural fats, collagen, and bone marrow.  The result is a red sauce that tastes better and is better for you.

A fresh pot of red sauce was a staple in our kitchen.  It seems like we used red sauce 4 out of 5 nights a week.  It was the blank canvas on which we created our art.  You construct an entire menu for the week around one pot of red sauce, which is exactly what I am going to show you how to do this week.



1 ham hock (including bones)

2 cans (28oz each) of organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 can (28oz) water

1 organic red onion

4 large organic carrots

6 cloves of garlic

1 can of organic tomato paste

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp ground black pepper


Take the ham hock out of the package and set in the crock-pot.* Finely chop the red onion, carrots and garlic and add to the crock pot with the ham hock.**

Combine the rest of the ingredients in the crock-pot. It’s ok if the tomato paste is in one clump because once the sauce heats up it will mix in with the other ingredients. Put the lid on the crock pot, turn it on LOW and let cook for 6-8 hours and occasionally stir.

*If you do not have a crock pot you may put in a large sauce pan. Although I highly recommend investing in a slow cooker because it is convenient and it offers me piece of mind knowing my stove is not on all day.

**I prefer to use ham hock, but other meat on the bone will work well too. I use the hock because it is the extreme shank end of the leg bone and the associated skin, fat, tendons, and muscle. This is where most of the flavor in the sauce comes from.  The more fat and connective tissue the more flavor you will have.  Chicken, for example, wouldn’t have the same amount of flavor because it is low in fat.

From my kitchen to yours with love,


Jerry's Brazilian Picanha


One of my favorite restaurants to go to is a Brazilian churrascaria (or steakhouse).  For any steak lovers or people following the paleo diet, a churrascaria is food heaven.  My favorite in Los Angeles is Libra Steakhouse in Culver City (crushes Fogo de Chao in my opinion).

top sirloin-chart
top sirloin-chart

I usually pick days that I go to Brazilian steakhouses to do intermittent fasting so that I can really eat to my fullest potential and create an insulin sensitive response, but that is another story.  Regardless of how I pre-game, I always make sure to save plenty of room for the prime cut, Picanha.  Picanha is made from the top cap sirloin (also referred to as Coulotte or rump-cap) and is considered the best cut of beef available in many South American countries.  That is saying something when you are talking about countries like Brazil and Argentina that are known world wide for their prime steaks.

As much as I like the dining experience at Brazilian steakhouses, I also like to take something I like in a restaurant and put my own spin on it at home.  Today, I went to the Brentwood farmer's market and had a talk with farmer Jerry from Novy Ranches, one of the top grass-fed farms in the US.  Novy is known for their Angus Beef, which takes grass-fed steak to another level.  In addition to being a farmer, Jerry is also one bad man in the kitchen and on the grill.  Beef is his life and he doesn't mess around.

It is my pleasure to share Jerry's recipe and cooking instructions for Brazilian Picanha.  It is even more of my pleasure to eat it.  Feel free to thank me by inviting me over for dinner!

Recommended Equipment:

cast iron skillet


1 to 2 lbs. grass-fed top cap sirloin, aka coulotte (quality matters!)

3 Tbsp olive oil

coconut oil

1 Tbsp kosher salt (or celtic sea salt)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped


  1. In a mortar, combine the garlic, salt, and olive oil.
  2. Crush the ingredients into a paste.
  3. In a large bowl, apply the paste evenly on both sides of the meat.  Let sit at room temp for at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (176 Celsius for my Canadian friends)
  5. After oven reaches 350 degrees, put cast iron skillet (greased with coconut oil) in oven for 15 minutes.
  6. While skillet gets hot, turn stove top burner to medium-high.
  7. Remove skillet from the oven and place on pre-heated stove top burner.
  8. Put Picanha in the skillet to sear for 2 minutes.
  9. Flip meat and cook for another 2 minutes.
  10. Cover skillet with aluminum foil and place in oven for 25 minutes.  DO NOT cut into meat to check if it is done!

After 25 minutes, remove the skillet from the oven and let meat rest for 10 minutes before you cut into it.  Cut the meat perpendicular to the striations of the meat as this will provide more tender cuts of meat.

Almond Crusted Salmon Salad

2013-03-16 13.30.42
2013-03-16 13.30.42



Salmon filets Crushed Almonds Lemon Zest Milk Spices (Lemon pepper, Cayenne, Dill and Salt) Bacon Mixed Greens or Spinach Goat Cheese Avocado Strawberries Blueberries Apples Walnuts Olive Oil Balsamic


Start by turning the oven on to 400 degrees.

Next put the salmon (make sure if you are using frozen salmon that it is completely defrosted at this point) in a dish and let marinade in a little milk for about 5 minutes. (Putting salmon in milk takes the fishiness out of the salmon and it also allows the coating to stick to the salmon)

While the salmon is marinating, put the bacon on a cookie sheet ALL ALONE. Do not put oil and/or foil on the cookie sheet, the bacon produces enough fat and should not stick. (I use 2 pieces of bacon per salad). Put the bacon in the oven on the center rack and now its time to prepare the salmon coating.

In a large Ziploc bag put the crushed almonds and the zest from ONE lemon. (I use one lemon for two 8oz filets of salmon. So if you are making dinner for 4 then uses two lemons). Next add your spices (lemon pepper, dill, cayenne and salt). The amount you use is to your discretion. Lastly, take the salmon out of the milk marinade and put in the Ziploc bag and evenly coat with the topping. Put the salmon face up in an oven safe pan and set aside.

Check the bacon after prepping the salmon. The bacon should be crisp in order to cut into little bacon bits. Once the bacon is done, cut up and set aside.

Place the salmon on the center rack of the oven (also at 400 degrees) and put a 10min timer on. (The amount of time the salmon is in the oven really depends on how big the filets are and how well you like your fish cooked. I like mine MedRare therefore I check it around 10min and if it is a little pink in the center, I take it out)

While the salmon is cooking, its time to prep the greens. I use the Organic Herb Mix and Organic Spinach from TJ’s. Then put in your blueberries, strawberries, chopped apples, walnuts, goat cheese and avocado. Sprinkle the bacon bits, put the almond salmon on top and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic for the dressing.