Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Great Simple Meal

Well, the falling apart of America has begun with our life. I have no job, and my husband has been cut back to 36 hours. We're retooling our budget and wondering where we go from here. If you think this financial mess is not going to affect you - think again. This will be affecting everyone, and I know that it will be getting worse before it gets better.

So how can we save money and stay afloat at the same time? Start in the kitchen and keep what you buy to the bare minimum. Casseroles don't mean tasteless meals, but it does take creativity. Start with good basic recipes that you can make work in various ways. A great example is to have a good basic red sauce to use for both Mexican and Italian meals.

Hamburger can be a friend for these type of meals, but what can jazz it up is more a combination of meats. I use a little bit of ground breakfast sausage added to the ground beef to add another layer of flavor. Start with a pound of lean ground beef and add 1/4 pound of the breakfast sausage. Before sauteing the mixture, mix it together well, I use my hands and usually add my spices and seasoning here since I don't lose any as I sprinkle all over the stove by doing this.

So what do you want to make? How about a basic pasta meal? Begin with frying and draining the meat. put the meat in a bowl with one layer of paper towing under it to get the rest of the grease out of your meal early. Cut your basics finely for the base of the sauce, that will be one small onion and 3 cloves garlic. Get a pan over a medium high heat until the oil is is rippling, Add one tablespoon of light olive oil and the diced onion for about 3 to five minutes - don't burn it! Add the garlic just until you smell it. Add a drip more of oil and a palm full of dried Italian seasoning (about a heaping tablespoon) and a half a palm of dried basil a to the oil mix it around until you really smell the herbs bloom. Add a 28 ounces can of good crushed tomatoes to the mix and stir well. Turn it down and let it come to a simmer. This should never be over cooked! I usually only bring it back to the simmer, cover it and simmer for another 20 minutes.

This is a basic mix that can be used in a lasagna or a pasta dish. I love to add sauteed zucchini and summer squash or almost any veggie to the sauce with cooked penne pasta or linguine and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. It's really a fast meal if you prep the ingredients and can be a tasty meal. Just add your favorite bread, and voila - a family meal with little effort.

Get the best ingredients you can afford since it makes the flavor great, and remember, it usually tastes even better the second time around. Leftovers rock!

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