Monday, March 24, 2014

Four Burner plus Oven Kinda Weekend.

Jen's Lunches This Week (#4)
I was a cookin' fiend this weekend, folks. Had all four burners plus the oven going yesterday - WOOT!! Apparently to make up for being an über slacker the last two weeks. Felt really good, to be active in the kitchen and making things. It's cheap-ish therapy - for me, anyway. 

Here's a quick list of what occurred in my kitchen between Saturday and Sunday:
- New batch of Greek yogurt, with whole milk.
- Batch of Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce, which I combined with Food Merchants Organic Polenta, for quick and tasty lunches this week. 
- Cooked 1 lb. of lacinato kale and 1/2 lb. baby spinach, cooled it and squeezed all the water out.
- Steamed a bunch of asparagus (as in one bunch, not like so much that I'm generalizing as "a bunch").
- Cooked up 2 cups of red quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of wild rice.
The only things I didn't do, but need to to in short order, were prepare a gorgeous head of leaf lettuce for salads; roast 8 large and lovely brussel sprouts; deal with a large head of broccoli. 

Yogurt Notes
I've been reading up on the nutritional difference between skim, 2% and whole milk. A few years' ago, our house switched from skim to 2%, with a caveat that we don't use a lot. Mainly for cooking/baking, the odd bowl of cereal, a glass of chocolate milk to go with Spouse's PB&J sammich. So it's not like between the two of us, we're drinking a gallon a day or anything. 

But recently, I have been reading up on whole milk. I never realized, first of all, that skim is 1% fat, 2% is well duh, and whole milk is only 3% fat. For whatever reason, I made a very mistaken assumption that whole milk was at least 5% or higher in fat, so it really was quite the eye opener to find out that it's only 3%. 

Tthere have been a few studies released in the last two years, that point to the overall nutrition of whole milk to be higher than skim or 2% milks. One issue is that skim and 2% are not "whole" foods, technically. They've been tinkered with, to lessen the fat content, plus, in doing so, the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (which is the good kind), is much lower in skim & 2%, than in whole milks. 

Another recent study has shown that whole milk helps our bodies stay leaner. Is it because it's creamier and more filling that we eat less? Is it because there's a natural compound of some sort, in whole milk, that gets lost in creating skim and 2% milks? No idea, but very interesting to contemplate, and something on which to keep watch.

The last 3-4 batches of yogurt I've made has been made with Hartzler's Family Dairy Whole Milk, which is the same price per half-gallon, as skim or 2%. It is noticeably creamier and tastier. The tastier could be psychosomatic, I will admit, but still. 

Also wanted to reiterate for any new readers, one batch of homemade yogurt creates 9 servings (1 cup each) for $4.45. I hold one back as a starter for the next batch, so if you just want to count 8 servings for $4.45 - that's $.56 per serving. 

Tomato Sauce Notes
So Marcella Hazan. This amazing woman died last September, and I remember reading some of the homages to her. She sounds like she was a really neat lady, who influenced a LOT of people (both professional chefs and regular people), and I'm bummed I didn't know of her that well before she died. 

What I can say is, the woman sure made some awesome stuff with only a few ingredients. Her famous tomato sauce has 3 ingredients. Three. One, two, three. That is it. Tomatoes, butter, onion. 

This is seriously all you have to do to make it at home (and you will lick the damn bowl, I swear). Side note: assuming your surfaces and utensils aren't cross-contaminated, this recipe is gluten-free. 

One 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatos (if you can find San Marzano tomatoes all the better)
5 T of butter
One medium onion, cut in half 

Place these three items in a 3 quart or larger pan on medium heat (with the onions flat side down). Stir occasionally, so the butter melts and until it begins to simmer. Turn the heat to low medium, so the sauce maintains a gentle simmer. As the mixture begins to heat, use the side of your spoon, to break up the whole tomatoes into smaller chunks. Mix as you feel comfortable. Cook for 45 minutes at the gentle simmer, or until you think it looks/tastes ready. Add salt if you want, but I never think it needs any, personally. Remove the onion and serve. 
Just before I removed the onion pieces.
That's it. 

In less than an hour you have enough tomato sauce for a pound of pasta, and so good that seriously, no one will believe you made it with only three ingredients. 

Here's how awesome and easy it is: I got punked at the grocery, thinking I purchased chopped tomatoes (I was already kinda cheating), and when I opened the can, it was just sauce. There were no discernible tomato chunks at all. And this sauce was still tasty as hell. I added 4 supa ripe tomatoes that needed to be used, but would have done that no matter what kind of tomatoes were in the can. (They were getting gross so it was use 'em or compost 'em.)

After the sauce was done, I took a roll of the organic polenta and threw it in, then used my OXO potato masher to mush it into the sauce. I let it warm up a little, then removed it to cool, so I could put it in bowls for my five lunches this week. After I maybe tasted it. Twice. OKAY - 5 times. I wanted to be sure it wasn't poison!


Had the first portion for lunch today and it was divine. You could add some herbs or parmesan cheese, but why? It is stunning all by itself. 

I did the math on MyFitnessPal: it was 223 calories for a one cup of tomato sauce and polenta. 
With a cup of my homemade Greek, whole milk yogurt and fruit, it's 490 calories for my lunch. 
YUM. Bless your kind soul, Marcella Hazan.
Rest of the cooking
The other items I made will eventually become a version of my spinach, quinoa and wild rice casserole. I am hoping the combined volume of the kale and baby spinach will be similar to the frozen spinach I would normally buy, but I figure, if not, the added asparagus will help. 

Are you already aware of Marcella Hazan? 
What other recipes of hers do you like? 

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