Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cooking for the Family

I'm heading off tomorrow for a week-long business trip. When I'm away for this long I try to set aside some time to cook for the family before I leave. While there have been times that I've left them to fend for themselves, most of the time I stock up the fridge with a soup, a sauce and possibly something sweet to tide them over. 

With these staples on hand all you need is some rice or pasta, or a green salad, and you've got a meal. I cooked the lentils separately so they can sprinkle them on a salad, or add them to the soup. You could even mix a little of the meat sauce with the soup.  Kind of mix and match meals.

Curried Vegetable Soup
2 leeks (washed and thinly sliced)
3 carrots (peeled and sliced)
3 stalks of celery
1 small butternut squash (diced into 1/2 pieces)
12 oz chopped tomatoes (I like fresh, but you can use canned)
1 yellow squash (quartered then cut into 1/2 pieces)
2 zucchini (same as above)
2 teaspoons yellow curry
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
3-4 leaves of chopped kale or collard greens
1 quart vegetable stock (I like Pacific brand)
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your stock pot. Saute the leeks until they just start to brown. Add the carrots, butternut squash, celery, and spices. Saute for another 15 minutes. Add the stock, water, tomatoes, yellow and zucchini squashes and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender. Add the chopped greens and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes.  If your soup is too thick just add a little bit more water. You can serve it with a dollop of plain yogurt, or a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese.

Quick Meat Sauce
1/2 large sweet white onion (cut into crescents, or diced)
1 lb of ground beef (organic is best)
12 oz of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 tsp dried cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
Pecorino Romano
Salt and pepper, to taste.

Saute the onions until they just start to brown. Add the ground beef and cook slowly over medium to low heat. Add the spices and tomatoes,  cover the pan, and make sure it's gently simmering. Cook for 1.5 hours.  This simple sauce is always a big hit with my daughter and her friends. I always serve it with Pecorino Romano cheese, which I think is the secret ingredient because I gave the recipe to a friend and when she made it her daughter said, "This doesn't taste like Laurie's." She followed the recipe, but opted for the Kraft cheese in the green container which she said in hindsight was a mistake. Yep, that seems to be the secret ingredient.

I did make a little something sweet and that's coming in the next post.

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