Posts Tagged: beach town baking

Holiday Gift Ideas 2016

I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again. I decided to start Holiday gift shopping as soon as possible this year and spent the weekend finding fabulous and affordable gifts that I’m going to get my friends this season. I’ve gathered all my ideas and put together a list of my favorite Holiday Gift Ideas 2016.

1) Bombas Ski and Snowboard Socks

If you’ve never heard of Bombas, take note. Bombas is all about comfortable socks and paying it forward. For every pair of socks purchased, a pair is donated.  Cool, right? They also have an awesome ‘happiness guaranteed’ return policy. I’m in love with these ski and snowboard socks designed by Olympic Gold Medal snowboarder Hannah Teter. They are midweight performance socks made with high-grade merino wool. Buy a pair for your best girlfriend and while you’re at it, pick up one for yourself.

2) J.Jill Textured Wrap Scarf

092761_essThis lightweight fashionable scarf comes in 3 colors to choose from and is sold online at J.Jill. With chunky stitching and an oh so soft texture this scarf will keep you cozy through the winter months.




3) Kate Spade Thermal Mug

Save some paper cups this season and buy your friends this gold stripe thermal mug from Kate Spade. Made with  BPA-, phthalate-, and lead-free construction, this beautiful mug allows you to sip and savor safely. I love that the lid has an open/close feature!



4) Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale

I think these scales are the most reliable, economical kitchen scales around. I use them at my bakery as well as at the beach loft. They come in a variety of colors and are readily available on




5) Voluspa Spruce Cuttings Candle

This is one of my favorite candles to burn over the Holidays. I love the Spruce Cuttings scent and the two wicks. Not only is it pleasant, but it really permeates nicely throughout my loft.


6) Beach House Brunch cookbook

Beach House Brunch 9781510702899

Well of course I had to recommend my cookbook Beach House Brunch! It’s perfect for anytime of the year – whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather or wanting to bake up brunch favorites like Italian Sausage Casserole, Blueberry Pancakes, Omelets, and Cranbery Walnut French Toast. Purchase my book on Amazon.

Oh and while you’re on Amazon, pre-order my third cookbook Farm to Table Desserts!


7) Ellie Alexander’s Caught Bread Handed

I recently came across this fantastic bakeshop mystery series by author Ellie Alexander.  Ellie currently has four titles out, Meet Your Baker, A Batter of Life and Death, On Thin Icing, Caught Bread Handed, and soon to be a fifth with Fudge and Jury (January 3, 2017). The story’s protagonist is Baker Jules Capshaw. Looking for some reprieve from a busy career as a cruise ship pastry chef, Jules retreats to her hometown of Ashland, Oregon to help out at her mother’s bakery Torte. But her dream of peace and quiet quickly dissipates into a cloud of murder, mystery, drama and love.


8) Chewbacca Slippers with Sound

Okay, okay, I know this one’s a bit silly but gosh it’s fun. These Chewbacca slippers emit two different Wookiee roars when you walk. Stay warm and entertain your friends and family at the same time! These are available on



9) Alex and Ani Personalized Charm Initial Bracelet

These personalized charm bracelets make such a nice gift because of their distinctive quality.  Offered by Alex and Ani, they are available in gold or silver finishes. The charms are stamped with script lettering giving the bracelet an elegant, timeless look.



10) Holiday Gingerbread Leggings by ModCloth


One of my favorite online clothing shops is ModCloth. I’m a big fan of all their clothes, but especially their leggings. These Holiday leggings have super cute gingerbread printed on them making them perfect Christmas morning attire. Your friends will love them!




Happy Holidays!

beach town baking

Fast Homemade Vegetable Stock, by Doug

Hi Everyone! I want to introduce you to Doug, ‘The Kitchen Professor’, who writes a wonderful blog of the same name. He is an expert on antique cast iron cooking among other things related to food, recipes and the kitchen! I’m thrilled to have him as a guest blogger this month. He has decided to share with all of you his fast homemade vegetable stock. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

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And now….Doug!


I am always out of vegetable stock when I need it. After you read this post, you will be liberated from store bought stock. The great thing about making vegetable stock is that it is so quick and simple to do. However, if you’re anything like me, when you hear “vegetable stock” you picture a can or even a little bullion cube.

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Here are the ingredients for a basic stock:

  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium yellow or sweet onion
  • 4 baby bella mushrooms (regular, button mushrooms are fine.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 carrots, no need to peel
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika (Non smoked is just as good.)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 quarts of cool water
  • Optional: Kosher Salt to flavor
  • Optional: Other vegetable scraps if you have them.*


If you are watching your salt intake, then you can skip the salt altogether.


One great kitchen hack for vegetable broth is to save your vegetable cuttings through a week or two. Put them in a zip top freezer bag (a 1 quart size is perfect) each day, squeeze most of the air out, and toss it in the freezer. When you have a full quart or so, you can make your broth.


Here are some other veggies that go well in a stock:

  • red, yellow, orange, and green bell peppers
  • fennel
  • fresh herbs of all types especially thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage


Here is the hardware:


  • Cutting board
  • A Chef’s knife (see my favorite chef’s knives)
  • Large stock pot, 4 quarts is just right. Go larger if you don’t have a 4 quart pot.
  • A strainer or colander.


Here is what to do:


  1. Make sure to rinse all your produce. It isn’t critical to dry it off very well. From a safety standpoint, just make sure it isn’t slippery while you are cutting. And, make sure your knife is well sharpened.
  2. Coarsely chop the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. The exact size isn’t too important.
  3. Add the oil olive, all the veggies, bay leaf, paprika, salt, and black pepper to a large stock pot.
  4. Heat to medium and allow the veggies to sweat for about 8 minutes. Stir it occasionally. This step will add some complexity to the dish.
  5. Add the water to veggies in the stock pot and cover.
  6. Heat at high until the stock boils
  7. Reduce the heat to low/simmer.
  8. Simmer for 15 minutes, up to an hour if you have the time.
  9. Strain the stock through the colander or strainer. Here is my lazy method: just ladle the liquid through the strainer, while holding the strainer over the pot.
  10. Use the stock right away. Or, let it cool, off the heat, of course, for about an hour.
  11. I move the liquid over to an airtight container, like a couple of canning jars.



Making homemade vegetable stock is easy. You’ll never find yourself panicked when you realize that you’re out of vegetable stock.


A couple other advantages are:

  • You can control exactly what is in your stock so you can avoid sodium or preservatives if that is important to you.
  • You can save money since canned vegetable broths is mostly water.
  • You can use your veggie scraps in a smart way.


If you have any tips for making stock or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.



Doug isn’t really a professor at all, but he geeks out in the kitchen. He can barely follow a recipe and uses them as guidelines. Doug blogs about knives and keeping them sharp to cutting boards to cooking in antique cast iron. Check out more at The Kitchen Professor!

Beach House Baking Release Party

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Happy Summer everyone! Last week was the much anticipated Beach House Baking release party held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach.  After a month full of emails, phone calls and taste testing, the Beach House Baking Release Party went off without a hitch.

I’m thrilled to share with all of you some memorable shots from the party. And if you haven’t checked out my book yet, Beach House Baking is now available for purchase on Amazon here. It’s full of great summer and beach-inspired recipes for everyone!

First up – dessert! I baked up a variety of sweets from my book and created a beachy dessert table for guests to pick and choose from. The recipes I made from my book included: PCH (pina colada highway) cupcakes, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes, Blueberry Lavender Pie, Tsunamis and Coco Hut Macaroons.

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The reception was held at Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern in the St. Regis Monarch Beach, where I was the former pastry chef. Below are just some of the delicious canapés they served: avocado spheres filled with Dungeness crab, fried chicken bites, crispy kale chips, kobe beef sliders.

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I was thrilled to have some very special guest bloggers and editors on hand. Anita Lau of Mad Hungry Woman, Valerie Mitchell of Mama Likes to Cook, Shelby Barone of OC Mom’s Blog, Caryn Bailey of Rockin Mama, Angela Saldana of Momfluential, Priscilla Mayfield of Orange Coast Magazine and Cathy Thomas of OC Register/ Cathy Thomas Cooks.

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Guests spent the evening perusing through my new book in between sips of champagne and my Berry Sangria.

looking at book looking at book 2 dan reading bookamanda and daniel reading book

Lots of friends came out to partake in the celebration, too!

val and justin 1 kate, lei and seyie christina and lei mac at dessert tablejustin amina and moval and justin_3 tracy, val, christina, george dr o and lei allie, heather, lei   seyie, kate, lei

All in all, it was a hugely successful event that was enjoyed by everyone!


beach town baking

A visit to Memphis Cafe for Fried Chicken

It was 6pm Sunday night when the fried chicken craving hit hard. But it was a little too late to drive to Chateau Marmont in Hollywood for their amazing fried chicken Sunday dinner (sad face).  So I jumped online and started doing some research with the hopes of finding an alluring Orange County restaurant serving up this classic Southern dish.

It didn’t take too long before I stumbled upon Memphis Café in Costa Mesa in north Orange County. I made my reservation, jumped in the beach mobile and headed north.

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About 30 minutes later, we landed in Memphis. I would’ve gone right past it had I not been carefully following the Maps app.  The restaurant is in a discreet, non-distinct building and I began questioning whether I had made the right decision for dinner.

We decided to sit in the backyard patio to enjoy the  beautiful cool evening weather. I felt like we were in Memphis sitting in someone’s backyard – plastic chairs and all. Yeah, it was pretty cool. (sidenote: those empty tables were packed when we arrived).


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We were stoked to learn that Happy Hour was still going on when we arrived so we immediately ordered their $5 margaritas to start the evening off right.

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After ordering, we were served their homemade cornbread. It was hearty, moist and flavorful. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but trust me, no butter is needed on these delicious treats. I LOVE butter so you gotta know that this cornbread must have been THAT good.

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We decided to start with two items off their Happy Hour menu: fried okra and Dungeness crab cakes. The fried okra passed with flying colors. The corn meal coating was super crispy and the accompanying spicy aioli took this dish over the top. Hands down, the best fried okra I’ve had to date.

Regarding the crab cakes: a valiant effort, but if you want to get blown away, head to Wildfish in Newport Beach.

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Now for the reason I came: Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The chicken was moist and the skin super crispy. It is served practically deboned which makes eating it somewhat less authentic. I wanted to get my hands greasy, folks! The collard greens had a nice vinegary tang. That huge fried round thang you see is a hush puppy. They were good although a little too large for my liking.

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If you feel like you need a little more something-something to fill your tummy, order a side order of Hoppin’ John. It’s a classic Southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas with a hit of tabasco.

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Must’ve been a pretty darn good meal since I ate everything on my plate.

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I will be going back to  Memphis Café for sure. It had a welcoming laid back atmosphere, friendly attentive service and delicious food.

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Oh and in case you were wondering, we left PK on the car roof while we ate so he could watch the planes take off from John Wayne Airport.



beach town baking

Rice Krispies VW Van

Last week I received a request to make an edible VW Van for a surprise birthday event. I considered making it out of cake, but then quickly determined that rice krispies was the better choice for carving and sculpting the van’s 3D shape.

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I found a rectangular shoe box about 12-x 5-x 5-inches and lined it with two criss-crossed sheets of aluminum. Make sure the shoebox you use is slightly larger than the size you want the final sculpture to be since you’ll be carving it down. Also, make sure to grease the foil with pan spray before you add the rice krispies mixture. This will ensure easy removal later.

I used the original rice krispies treats recipe that you find online. A 5X batch fit the shoe box perfectly. Make sure to press down the mixture firmly as you want it to be a very well-compacted sculpture that you can cleanly carve.

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I let the mixture set up overnight and it easily popped out the next morning.

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Now came the fun part – carving! I used a serrated knife to carve out the shape of the VW van. If you make a mistake you can use the scraps to fill in any gaps. Just squish some in your hand and mold it to the sculpture as needed. I used both round and square cutters to make the wheel wells. Don’t forget to cut out four smaller wheels from the scraps to place in the wheel wells later.

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Before long, the basic shape was there and it was time to cover with fondant.

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Before covering with fondant, make sure to spread some buttercream onto the whole sculpture. This will act like glue and also give the fondant a smoother appearance. Roll out the fondant to about 1/4-inch thick. I covered the whole sculpture with white fondant and then went over it with colored fondant for the side paneling and windows. I covered the four small wheels with black fondant, raised the whole sculpture (I used a row of plastic hot cup lids glued down to the board) and then inserted the wheels. I then added the windows, door handles, lights, bumpers and flap top.

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Allot yourself about 3 to 4 hours to complete the decorating.  It takes some time but it’s totally worth it in the end!

beach town baking

Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

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Newsflash: I purchased my first crock pot a few weeks ago! I’ve been using it every chance I get cooking up all sorts of delicious stews, chilis, braises and soups at the beach house. My local market had a sale on pork tenderloin so I decided to pick one up and try it in my “magic” pot (this recipe is solid proof that a crock pot really is magic at its finest…and delicious)!

The pork is cooked in a mixture of balsamic, Worcestershire, garlic and cinnamon. The result is fork tender pork (yes, fork tender!) with the perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness and acidity.

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The cooking liquid is so easy to prepare. Just whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl, and then pour over the meat. Don’t worry if the liquid doesn’t cover the entire meat. It will cook just fine.

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I served the pork with cauliflower puree (cauliflower, half and half, grated parmesan, salt and pepper) and some broccolini sautéed with garlic and olive oil. After working a long day at the bakery, this was the perfect meal to come home to!

Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin


  • 2 to 2 1/2lb pork tenderloin (boneless)
  • 1 1/2 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup modena balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Large cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground)


Wash and pat dry the tenderloin. Place in your crock pot.
In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Slowly pour over tenderloin.Set crock pot for 7 hours on low.
Remove pork from crock pot and pour about 2 cups of the liquid into a large saucepan. Bring to a low rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce the liquid to 1 cup. If you want a thicker sauce, cook it longer. While reducing the sauce, break apart the pork with a fork and place on serving platter. Drizzle the sauce over pork. Enjoy!


Springtime Pinwheels

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Happy Spring everyone!

I must admit that there hasn’t been a noticeable weather change here in Southern California since the start of the new season. Seventy degrees and sunny seems to be the norm these days! But there has been a noticeable change in what I’ve been baking up at the beach house. Every treat I’ve been creating seems to have bright colors and fun monikers to match.

One of my favorite cookies that I’ve been playing around with has to be these pink pinwheels. I made a basic butter shortbread cookie, colored half of the dough and rolled them up in a log. The end result is a delicious cookie that is fun to look at and eat!

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This cookie is a rolled cookie so you can make the dough ahead of time and bake off only the amount you need.

As you can imagine, these cookies take some time and effort to make so plan accordingly. The process involves three steps of chilling the dough to make sure they retain their round shape: 1) after the dough is made 2) after the dough is rolled out 3) after the dough is rolled up.

I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions, just ask!

Shortbread Pinwheels


  • 12oz unsalted butter (soft)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups colored sprinkles or non pareils


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Remove half of the dough from mixer, transfer it to a floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Add 2 to 3 drops of gel food color (I used red, but feel free to use your favorite color) to the remaining dough in the mixer and mix on low just until combined. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Remove doughs from refrigerator. Roll each one out to a 1/4-inch thick rectangle about 12"x14" on a piece of parchment paper. Place the two rectangular pieces of doughs in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
Remove the rolled doughs from the refrigerator and flip over the colored dough on to the non colored dough. Remove parchment carefully from the top. Now slowly and tightly roll up the dough starting at one of the long edges. Place rolled log of cookie dough back into the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Spread the sprinkles/non pareils on a flat tray. Remove cookie log from the refrigerator. Using a damp paper towel, slightly moisten the log. Then roll the log in the sprinkles to coat. Transfer dough to a cutting board and using a sharp chef's knife, slice it into 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined sheet tray.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, just until the cookie is set. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Beach House Baking now available for pre-sale!



Beach House Baking cookbook

I’m proud to announce that my long-awaited cookbook, Beach House Baking, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! This project has been my baby, and I’m ecstatic that my dream of writing my very own cookbook is finally coming true. And if you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the blog and book title, we (the publisher and I) decided to change our minds about the name midway into this process, but fear not, the concept is still the same: Beach House Baking chronicles my baking adventures in some of my most favorite places to be– beaches!

The book includes some of my favorite recipes for cupcakes, cookies, frozen pops, ice cream sandwiches and pies. The last chapter is called Classics, and includes some of my all-time favorite recipes that I make over and over again, like my Apple Cider Donuts and my Berry Trifle. These are my tried and true favorites that have been hits with my family and friends, and I can’t wait for other people to share it with their loved ones now. Yummm!

Beach House Baking won’t officially release until May 6, but you can pre-order it now to make sure you get it hot off the presses and receive it just in time for Mother’s Day. If you order 2–one for you and one for your mom– shipping is free!

For those of you who may not be that into baking, you’ll still enjoy the beautiful photos of the beach and sweet treats taken by my photographer Chau Vuong. Her photos are exquisite and will make you want to try out all my recipes!

Click here to pre-order your copy now!


beach town baking

Chocolate Sweetheart Shortbread Cookies

chocolate sweetheart shortbread cookies

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’re without plans, don’t fret– I’ve got an easy way to sweeten up your day with my favorite chocolate shortbread cookie recipe. These cookies are super easy to make, and chances are, you probably have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry!

chocolate sweetheart shortbread cookies

I love darker chocolate, so my preferred cocoa powder to use for my Chocolate Sweetheart Shortbread Cookies is Cacoa Barry Extra Brute. The dark chocolate contrasts well with the white chocolate that I dip the cookies in, too. Whichever cocoa powder you decide to use, make sure that it’s a high-quality one since chocolate is the main attraction of this show, and you want to make sure that the very best chocolate flavor shines in your cookies.

Whip these cookies up now to enjoy on Valentine’s Day—they stay perfectly buttery and delicious for days, so you can definitely make them in advance.

chocolate sweetheart shortbread cookies chocolate sweetheart shortbread cookies


Remember to save some for your sweetheart, too! Pack them in a tin and top it off with a bow; I can guarantee that he or she will go nuts for these sweet little treats, and that you’ll score some points for sure!

Chocolate Sweetheart Shortbread Cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Course crystal sugar (for sprinkling)
  • White chocolate (melted, for dipping. optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in the flour mixture until just combined (do not overmix).

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out ¼-inch thick. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Flour the cutter and reroll scraps as necessary. Arrange 1 inch apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle coarse crystal sugar over hearts.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool completely before serving or dipping in chocolate.

What are your favorite baked treats to make for Valentine’s Day?

beach town baking


Chef Lei’s Best Pizza Sauce Recipe

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The other week, I offered to watch my friend’s 9-year old son for the evening so that she could have a relaxing night off from motherhood. Instead of taking him out for dinner, I decided to have a pizza night at home! And not delivery pizza (cue the DiGiorno jokes)– I decided to make pizzas at home as a fun and creative activity. Needless to say, it was a hit!

We topped our pizzas with green peppers, mozzarella and pepperoni. But what really stood out was the pizza sauce. Just thinking about it makes me drool. Yes, it was that good! So good, in fact, that I just had to share it with all of you on this blog post.

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I used oregano and fresh garlic and threw in paprika at the last minute to add a delicious flavor of pepper and some mild heat. I added a generous serving of sugar, which is needed to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

This pizza sauce recipe is so simple to make, takes 2 quick minutes to whip up and yields about 2 cups of sauce.

Best Pizza Sauce


  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

beach town baking


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