Sunday, March 22, 2020

Rediscovering tomato sauce, homemade

HALLIE EPHRON: With the world shut down, dinner has become the premier event of the day in our house. A silver lining has been rediscovering the wonders of homemade tomato sauce. 

Over the years I've adapted to the convenience of jarred sauces. Expensive jarred sauces. But last week I fell back on making my own and vive la difference! It is so simple, so cheap, and so much more tomato-y and delicious.

So herewith, I share my recipe with you which came to me, ages ago, from a friends Italian mother (thanks, Mrs. Baciagalupo!)

Tomato sauce (makes about a quart)

1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
6 oz water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (or more if you like it hotter)
Sugar - just a little, maybe 2 tsp
Balsamic vinegar - just a little, maybe 1 T
Salt to taste
2 T of olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat
2. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent and starting to caramelize
3. Add garlic, cook for a minute or two
4. Dump in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and the water (enough to fill the empty 6-oz tomato paste can)
5. Add oregano, basil, hot pepper flakes, sugar, balsamic vinegar
6. Heat over medium heat then lower to a simmer - cover and cook for at least an hour
7. Taste - add a bit more salt, sugar, or vinegar... if you think it needs pepping up

And here's the eggplant parm (and spaghetti) I made with the sauce. 

Eggplant parm is just 
- an eggplant sliced 1/4" thin, the pieces salted and left to stand for a half hour until they 'sweat' - dry them, dip in beaten egg and breadcrumbs, and fry in vegetable oil until brown; drain on paper towel
- Layer a baking dish: sauce on the bottom, a layer of eggplant slices, sauce, a layer of eggplant slices, sauce... until you run out of eggplant; top with a layer of grated mozzarella cheese topped with grated Parmesan cheese
- Bake covered at 350 for about 25 minutes; uncover and cook another 10 minutes or until browned

What's your go-to comfort food that you CAN get ready made but that's so much better when you do it from scratch?

69 comments:

  1. Yum to homemade tomato sauce . . . . thanks for sharing the recipes.

    Macaroni and cheese is my go-to comfort food . . . so easy to make and oh, so good . . . .

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    1. NOT so easy to make! I've tried a gazillion recipes and only recently found one that delivers the creamy cheesiness with a chewy top... but I am a fussy eater.

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    2. I tried a fabulous recipe from NYT cooking when our kids were here in February. You don't cook the macaroni ahead, just mix it with a combo of milk, cheese (lots), and cottage cheese--all blended smooth. Everyone loved it! Google Julia Moskin's creamy macaroni and cheese...

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    3. I made that cottage cheese and no-precook macaromi recipe once when I had kids here. Thought it was good, VERY convenient and easy. But taste-wise not as good as the America's Test Kitchen recipe which requires a lot more time to make the thick rich sauce (starting with a roux and then slowly thicken stirring and stirring...). Here's my version, based on theirs:

      MAC & CHEESE
      For 6

      ---Topping
      3 T butter
      1/3 c breadcrumbs
      1/8 lb grated cheddar
      2 T grated parm

      MELT butter and mix the other ingredients into it. Set aside.

      --- MACARONI
      ½ box of pasta
      Boil in salted water
      Drain and reserve 1 c cooking water

      --- SAUCE
      1/3 stick of butter
      2 ½ T flour
      1 ½ c whole milk
      1/3 lb cheddar
      1/8 lb parm cheese

      Melt butter; stir in flour
      Cook roux 3 minutes
      Whisk in milk and bring sauce to boil, whisking constantly
      Simmer, whisking occasionally 3 minutes until it thickens (this is the part that takes a while)
      Stir in cheeses, ½ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper – til smooth

      -- MIX TOGETHER
      Mix together sauce, macaroni, reserved cooking water
      Transfer to buttered baking dish
      Top with topping
      Bake @400 20-25 minutes

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    4. Hallie, your mac and cheese is quite similar to my mom’s recipe. I always make the sauce while the pasta cooks . . . no crumb topping, though . . . shredded cheese on top instead.

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    5. I make a great one with cheddar and Velveeta.

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  2. That looks so good, Hallie! I have a half dozen batched of homemade sauce in the freezer from the summer's tomatoes (roasted with garlic and basil and then whirred in the food processor) I need to remember to use.

    My homemade comfort food is fresh bread and good butter. You can't beat it!

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    1. Edith, I agree, I make bread about twice a week. I do start it in the bread machine, then take out the dough, knead it and shape it and bake it in the oven. I've tried about 60 different recipes from the 2 bread machine cookbooks I have and these days, I'm trying even more varieties just to keep the brain cells moving.

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    2. So jealous - bread is something I have never mastered.

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  3. Sounds delicious Hallie, thanks for sharing. I've been in the kitchen a lot since we've been home all day, every day, for so long...Anyway, yesterday I frosted a chocolate cake, and we ate some last night. I made a really intricate 2 day to prepare Catalan beef stew and I've made some fancy soups. But right now, I'm looking at take-out!

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    Replies
    1. Take-out has never looked better, that's for sure. Here's a link to an excellent article that came to us via Marcia Talley - food safety during the covid-9 outbreak: https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html

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    2. Several local businesses are offering curbside take-out. We're trying to figure out how to incorporate this into our weekly meals (since we aren't going to be in a money-crunch - not with The Hubby working for the government and me working for a company that manufactures medical supplies along with Post-its).

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    3. At least as of now (because who knows what will be happening tomorrow or next week) we're trying to get take out delivered once or twice a week, to support local restaurants and to give the cook (me!) a break.

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  4. I made a tomato sauce a lot like yours just yesterday.
    My go-to comfort food is chicken pie. I made one this week : much better than a bought one and not so difficult to make.

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    1. Chicken pie - going to look up a recipe now. I've got all the ingredients. Danielle, if you're still there, can you paste the recipe into a comment?

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  5. I used to make sauce with canned tomatoes all the time, before I discovered Trader Joe's organic marinara sauce. Chicken parmesan tonight! Dinner is the highlight of our days, too. I'll make a pineapple upside-down cake in a cast iron frying pan for my husband's birthday later this week.

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    1. I love pineapple upside down cake so much taht I bought an oversized cast iron frying pan just to make it in. The darned thing's nearly too heavy to lift, but you get that perfect caramelized crust with it. Adding to my supermarekt list.

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    2. I have a box of yellow cake mix and a can of pineapple in a big Ziploc bag in a cabinet. Brown sugar is in its big jar, candied cherries are in the fridge. One of these days, a pineapple upside down cake is going to happen.

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  6. The tomato sauce sounds delicious. I make my own when I fix my spaghetti casserole. Dinner has become more of a focus at our house now, too. I'm making the big dishes that last, like meat loaf and roast and beef stew, and most recently, chicken noodle casserole. My husband scored some more chicken at the grocery, so I'll make a different chicken casserole next.

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    Replies
    1. None of us are scoffing at casseroles these days.

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    2. Maybe Amy Klobuchar will share Minnesota recipes for them, now that she isn't still running for office?

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  7. I made a double batch of sauce this week! And I also took some escarole soup out of the freezer. Fond memories of our cooking day!

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    1. Still remembering the meatballs you made, Nikki. And the soup, the soup, the sublime soup!

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    2. And don’t forget dessert! Roberta—patience! They must be thinner!
      😂😂😂

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  8. I'm all in on the big stuff that lasts a week. I'm just feeding myself, so leftovers are my friends. A Sunday pot roast can make it to Taco Tuesday, a couple of excellent sandwiches, and Gotta Go Soup by Friday. This past week I had chicken and rice, which hooked up with some leftover beans to become chicken burritos last night. If I'm cooking for many but not for a formal occasion, my go-to is a 9 x 13 dish of manicotti. I'll have to try your tomato sauce, Hallie. It sounds delicious and easy--certainly easier than a recipe for bolognese a friend shared the other day. It took two different kinds of wine and had to simmer all day. I will try it one of these days, but not today.

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    1. OMG bolognese is another animal entirely. My go-to recipe starts with a pork shoulder. A whole one. And ends two days later. It has a half a bottle of red wine and NO tomatoes in it. It is sublime. But a reach that requires incoming company to muster.

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    2. Ooh, Hallie, I want to try that some time!

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  9. Hard to find a jarred sauce that isn't too sweet or too bitter--thanks for the home-made recipe! Comfort foods that you can buy--soups! Home-made is always better--this week it's been beef stew, potato soup, and chili. But meatloaf with mashed potatoes is sounding good for supper tonight!

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    1. For us it's paprika chicken with mushrooms & sour cream and flat noodles. Trying to maximize the number of meals. Minimize the shopping trps.

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  10. Hi all! You are so creative… I have eggs I don’t want to go bad… Any ideas? I read somewhere that you can scramble them, but not cook them, and then freeze them. Anyone know about this? xxxx

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    1. Hank, I was just thinking about doing this. We were given two dozen eggs once, just before we were to leave for three weeks, so I have done it before.

      What you do is open the eggs and pour by twos into a little bowl. Stir the eggs just enough to break the yolk and incorporate it into the white evenly. Freeze in Ziploc bags, with as much air out as possible.

      These work great for scrambled eggs or omelets, or for recipes that call for two eggs. Mine kept in the freezer for months.

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    2. Thanks for the information, Karen. A food wholesaler near us is offering produce and grocery items at great prices--including 30-ct eggs. Now I know what to do with them!

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    3. Thanks, Karen - I had no idea!

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    4. There's a huge Amish/Mennonite community in Ohio, and another near our farm in Kentucky. I've learned a lot of tricks from being around them. Happy to pass them on.

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    5. Hank,

      can you boil some eggs? Perhaps some of the eggs can be used for baking bread or cookies? The last two times the local organic grocery shop did not have the wheat free dairy free bread that I liked and I have a bread mix, though it called for a special bread mix machine. I wondered if it was possible to mix the indegrients (sp?) by hand and bake bread? I just baked vegan scones yesterday.

      Diana

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  11. Oh, my, that sounds good. I just bought a 28-oz can of that same kind of tomatoes.

    My best homemade item is bread. I have a foolproof recipe, does not require kneading or any special pans, and makes four loaves of whole wheat bread. I got the recipe from a weekly community newspaper, now long defunct, and I've now made it for close to 35 years. I usually give one loaf away and freeze two. But not for long, because the first loaf goes fast.

    I was going to ask if you wanted the recipe, but silly me. Here it is:

    Easy No-Knead Bread
    This recipe was in the Forest Hills Journal in the mid-1980’s.

    Use the largest bowl you have. Add 5 cups warm water. It shouldn’t be hot; it should feel about right for a baby’s bath. Then sprinkle in 2 packages of dry yeast. Don’t stir it; just sprinkle it in the water. Let stand 2 or 3 minutes, then add:

    8 T honey (1/2 Cup)
    8 T shortening (Crisco works great)
    8 tsp.salt (about 2 ½ T)
    6 C flour

    Beat these ingredients together for three minutes. Then add 6 more cups of flour. Stir additional flour in well. I usually use a wooden spoon. Don’t tear at the dough, just use the back of the spoon and keep smooshing until it’s smooth. It will still be a soft dough.

    Cover the bowl. Set it in a warm place. By a heat vent, on top of the refrigerator, or on the washer or dryer while they’re running—all good places. I sometimes put it on the table in the sun. It should not be in a draft, or the bread will not rise as well. Let rise until the dough is doubled in size.

    Stir it down with the back of the spoon, smooshing instead of tearing the dough.

    Grease four 9 by 5 loaf pans. Tip the bowl and let the dough “fall” into the pans, cutting it with a metal spoon when you have enough in each pan. Mound the tops of the loaves by pushing down on each side and ends. Cover the loaf pans with a dish towel. Let them rise again in a warm place until not quite doubled.

    Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes for the large pans, or 30 minutes for the small ones. Flip the loaves out of the pans when taking them from the oven. (If you let them sit in the pans they will “sweat” and be soggy.)

    If you like a soft crust, brush the tops of the loaves with butter and cover lightly with a towel while they cool on the rack. If you prefer a crisp crust, let leaves cool on a rack without covering them.

    You can use sugar instead of honey and exchange about 2 or 3 cups of whole wheat flour for the white. I use 9 cups whole wheat flour, and 3 cups unbleached flour.

    To show you how foolproof this bread is, instead of using 5 cups of water once, I used 6 cups. It rose all over the table, but the bread still turned out fine. Also, I didn’t let the dough rise a second time in the pans, I just put it in the oven. It needed more time, about 55 minutes total, but the bread is still wonderful. Enjoy!

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    1. I am SO making this. Have you ever made half the recipe? (I don't have that many loaf pans... or room in my freezer for the bread we don't eat right away)

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    2. Um, I don't remember whether I have or not. Maybe you could share with a neighbor?

      The yeast is the only thing that wouldn't be easy to divide, but you could get around that by using the kind that comes in a jar.

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    3. I was going to ask that, too. Karen. I don't have enough pans, or freezer/fridge space, to make 4 loaves. Can you use butter or vegetable oil instead of the shortening?

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    4. Since the recipe calls for 2 packets of yeast, use just one to make half a batch.

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  12. Shalom Reds and fans. As a bachelor, I don’t cook very much. I have a roommate who will happily eat anything I cook. But beyond that I don’t cook. My piece de la resistance, has to be lasagna. I did go to a pool party a few years back. Our host simply asked that we bring food. So I made two 9” by 13” aluminum pans of lasagna. One classic. One vegetarian (with eggplant). It was really good. I ate a few large pieces myself. There were perhaps 50 or 60 people there and we all ate good. (I can’t eat as much as I used to in one sitting. Someone must have been eating leftovers for weeks. I do bake bread (out of a box). No machine. Just kneading by hand. And it does taste good when it’s still hot. I did go to a graduation party and a pig roast, last year and I know I brought something to each, that I made, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what.

    I like hoarding recipes. I will definitely clip this one. This will be the second Sunday that our church has been closed and broadcasting a service on Facebook and YouTube live.

    Hey guys, reach out to your friends and see how they’re doing. This whole situation is extremely tough for many. I am starting a part time job tomorrow in an “essential” business and I can make my rent if not much more. However, a lot will struggle, if this doesn’t resolve itself sooner rather than later. I fear the worst and hope for the best.

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    1. What David said... reach out.
      (And for a guy who can cook lasagne for 50 and roast a pig, you sound like a pretty darned good cook. Just disinclined.)

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  13. The Hubby and I love homemade sauce. Everyone else in the house, not so much.

    Mac n cheese is our favorite as well. Instant Pot has a recipe and I may break it out and try it to see how it goes.

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    1. Can you make mac and cheese from scratch?

      Diana

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    2. Yes. I made a baked mac and cheese a few years ago (I wonder if the recipe is somewhere in my pile). The Hubby and I loved it. The kids, not so much. Of course.

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  14. I cook the way I play the piano, "by ear," so I can't share recipes, unless-- with unusual discipline-- I am testing a recipe for an article (I do some food writing). But in the same way that the late actress Doris Roberts (I was interviewing her) once told me "I do a lot of things with chicken," I do a lot of things with anything in the pantry. I did an assessment of my pantry, and there appears to be an inordinate amount of oatmeal, a fair amount of eggs in the fridge, a lot of tea, and a lot of raisins. And heaps of olive oil, and frozen butter (I buy it whenever it's on sale). So, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal pudding (like rice pudding, but not quite?), oatmeal cakes, and maybe, eventually, oatmeal stuffing for my inordinate amount of chicken (frozen in my freezer, canned in my pantry). I've looked at the spices I never use, and wondered if chicken with cardamom and raisins over oatmeal might be a palatable thing. If I put oatmeal in the food processor or the coffee grinder, would I have oatmeal flour? Could I use it instead of regular flour? Enquiring minds want to know, and may soon discover the answer.

    And my question, which I've been asking all week-- is pickle relish a vegetable?

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    1. NOW I know why my local market was clean out of oatmeal!

      Oatmeal is the main ingredient in Lucy Burdette's granola - I made a batch of it last week. It's also delicious topping for an apple (or any fruit) crumble.

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    2. Ellen, your baking questions (and questions about oatmeal flour) can be answered on King Arthur Flour's help line, by phone or on their facebook page. I've used that frequently and they are just so nice. Nothing you ask is too easy or silly. The answers are clear and I love that they are there.

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  15. Hallie, LOVE your recipe for homemade tomato sauce. Luckily, I already have a tiny can of tomato paste that I was going to use for making pizza.

    Question: Can your homemake tomato sauce be used for homemade pizza? I got a gluten free non dairy pizza dough mix from the local organic grocery shop and I was thinking of making deep dish pizza.

    Thanks!

    Diana

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    1. I’ve never made pizza - anyone know if you can use the same sauce?

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    2. Hallie, I have only made pizza using Boboli crust from my college days. This will be the first time I made pizza from scratch!

      Diana

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  16. Baked ziti is on the menu tonight.
    Green pepper, chopped
    Onion chopped,
    Ziti, half box, al dente
    Oregano, crushed fennel seeds, basil, pepper flakes, salt to taste
    Couple tablespoons tomato paste
    Squirt anchovy paste
    Olive oil
    Garlic to taste
    Quattro fromagio if you have it
    Otherwise get creative with what cheese you’ve got
    One small can diced tomatoes

    Cook onion and peppers in oil until soft. Add herbs. Add tomato paste and anchovy paste. Cook a bit longer. Add garlic.

    Combine with drained pasta. Stir in lotsa cheese, leaving enough for the top.

    Bake at 350 until bubbly and brown on top.

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    1. Yum, Ann. Would work with penne, I think. Which is what I have.

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    2. Actually I think I used penne!

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  17. Uhoh. I forgot a key ingredient. Chop up a few Italian sausages and brown with the onions and peppers. Duh. I use about one per person but use your own judgement

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  18. Trying to think of Comfort food that I can make from scratch.

    Banana bread? Lentil soup? We bought the lentils from the local organic grocery shop and made our own lentil soup. So yummy and comforting during these cold days. it has been in the 40s/50s in northern California. It is cold for California.

    Diana

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  19. Cooking for one means way too much leftovers, at least for me, especially that comfort food we are all turning to right now. I watched and learned from Mom and she grew up cooking for 8 or 9. Even 40 years later cooking small cooking is my challenge. I think I can half your recipe, Hallie, and freeze in plastic bags in smaller portions. Go to comfort food for me? Homemade mac and cheese is a good one. I read your ATK recipe, mine's is similar. I don't use bread crmbs, I soften a yellow onion in the butter then add the flour and a little dry mustard to the white sauce and only cheddar cheese. I have the makings for my old potato soup, well I do need new milk. I'm walking to the little Mexican market later today. New milk is on the list. When my sister showed up two weeks ago, she had some beef from the steers my nephew raised. It was supposed to go a cousin but now its mine. Last weekend I used a package of ground beef to doctor up a bottled sauce that was just a little past it's use by date, the sauce not the beef. Good beef made great sauce.

    Comfort food usually means "heavier" foods to me. Stews, cheesy casseroles and chocolate. James Beard's brownies used to be the go to recipe for me. They are great and I can take to the office. Hmm, I may be baking this evening. Confession - if I make this recipe during the day I'll probably eat half of it, in little bits. I really like it.

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    1. Cooking for one means you don’t need to replenish as often —

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  20. Pasta prima vera (sort of) is my go-to easy-to-make and satisfying meal:

    I start with sliced onions, mushrooms and red pepper in oil to soften
    Add in canned tomatoes chopped up, along with any fresh ones lying around that need cooking (add sugar at this point to cut the acid of the toms)
    Add in a generous amount of Greek feta (comes from sheep's milk; bought at our local Italian grocery store), which makes the sauce creamy and lovely
    Add in sliced zucchini -- don't overcook them to mush

    Time all that to coincide with the cooking of whatever pasta you like to eat; make sure to reserve a large mug of the cooking water to pour into the pasta after draining the pot so the noodles don't stick together

    Before serving, fold fresh spinach into the sauce until just wilted (it doesn't need to actually cook)

    Serve with fresh grated parmesan and fresh olives

    Yum. And make sure to make enough for leftovers the next day(s)

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    1. Oops - by "fresh" olives I just meant not canned olives

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    2. Ooh that sounds good Adding fetah and spinach to the shopping list

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  21. Sorry Hallie, I just came back and I don't use a recipe for my chicken pies.
    I only make a roux in which I put leftovers of chicken and vegetables that I have in the refrigerator and put it in a pie crust.
    These days, I put more and more vegetables and less chicken as I eat less meat.

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  22. Hallie, your sauce recipe sounds delicious and I make something very similar, just have never used a recipe. I've got 3 big cans of Italian tomatoes in the pantry! They are like gold now.

    I was trying to plan some meals using what I have in the pantry and freezer, and every idea turned out to be soup. I guess soup is my go-to!

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  23. And now I want spaghetti! Thanks for the recipe - I love a good sauce!

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  24. One of my go-to comfort food recipes is the chicken and dumplings from simply recipes.

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