Well, when it rains around here, it really pours. Two posts in two days – unheard of around these parts. Thanks for the comments on the last entry – having some accountability from the outside makes this a lot easier.
My dinner including my ginormous glass of wine.
I didn’t have to go grocery shopping yesterday – yay! – and Gist and I were able to eat leftovers and I made supper using pantry staples. Breakfast for me was Grape Nuts and milk. For Gist it was a bagel (I buy them fresh and freeze them – you can’t tell the difference when they’re toasted) with cream cheese. Lunch for both of us was last night’s leftovers (Roasted Butternut Pizza with Goat Cheese – this is a great recipe and will definitely be making an appearance) and clementines. Dinner was made from scratch using things around the house. We had ravioli and sauce, salad and bread.
The bread was started on Sunday – I made the famous No Knead Bread.
It has four (five, if you use white and whole wheat flour as I did) ingredients, all pantry staples. It also makes delicious toast for breakfast throughout the week…
Slow cooking the sauce is not only easy but it is super-tasty as well. It also doesn’t take any more effort than making sauce on the stove. Here’s how it’s done – but first another disclaimer: I am not a measuring cook. When I make things it’s a glug of this or a pinch of that, always to my taste – I know that method of cooking and sharing recipes can be frustrating – I apologize in advance for that. Now, on to the sauce…
You will need:
- Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion
- Garlic (I adore garlic – I use 5 cloves)
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Dried Italian Seasoning
- 1 Can Tomato Paste
- 1 Large Can of Tomatoes
- A Few Glugs of Wine (optional)
- Salt & Pepper
- Balsamic Vinegar
Here’s how it’s done! Using a box grater, grate your onion. This is a tip from Rachael Ray and I love it – I find it to be very easy and I shed fewer tears. Also, if you are cooking for people who hate large chunks of onion in their food, this tip is a lifesaver because the pieces of onion just melt into the sauce as it cooks. You can obviously also dice your onion in this step. For the next step you have a choice – one is called “I’m feeling super-lazy” the other is “I love extra steps” If you’re feeling lazy, pre-heat your slow cooker on high. Add two glugs of olive oil. Add your grated onion, garlic (that has either been minced or pressed), red pepper flakes (I like spice, I add a lot – like a teaspoon and a half), Italian seasoning, and tomato paste. Give it a good stir. Let them warm in the slow cooker for about 15 minutes and go do something else – if they warm for longer than 15 minutes because you may have gotten sucked into Facebook, don’t worry everything will be fine.
If you like an extra step, get a deep frying pan out of your cupboard. Add two glugs of olive oil. Heat, on the stove, until the oil is shimmering. Add your onions and saute until they are translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and let them cook until you can smell the garlic cooking. Add the tomato paste, stir it up and let it cook for a minute or two, to get the raw flavor out of the paste and caramelize the sugars a bit. Dump this mixture into your slow cooker.
Now, regardless of what method you’ve used, everything is in the slow cooker. Open your can of tomatoes and dump them in (If canned whole tomatoes are what you buy, you’ll either need to squeeze or chop them). If you’re using it, add the wine. Add some salt and pepper. Now, yesterday I had some grape tomatoes that were almost over-ripe. I knew I’d use some in the salad later, but I didn’t want to waste the rest, so I threw any that I didn’t need for the salad into the slow cooker. Give everything a good stir and slow cook on low for eight to ten hours or on high for six to seven hours. Both of those times are flexible. I prefer to cook my sauce on low and I’ve cooked it for as few as seven hours, and as many as ten hours with no problem. Now you can leave and you’ll have a lovely sauce ready for you at supper time. If you’re around about an hour before you’re planning on serving supper, feel free to toss a handful of frozen spinach an/or a Parmesan cheese rind into the slow cooker – both of these are totally optional – I was home and I had both of those items on hand so that’s what I did yesterday.
A half-hour before you’re ready to eat, add a glug of balsamic to the sauce and stir it up – it adds a nice bright flavor. If you have any fresh herbs like parsley or basil, you can chop them and add them right at the end. Cook your pasta – I used frozen cheese ravioli – and serve with the sauce. Top with some grated Parmesan. This goes very well with a green salad.
A note about the salad – salad fixin’s can get expensive especially if you use the pre-prepared stuff in the supermarket (lettuce in a bag or box, shredded carrots, etc.) When I was working, convenience was king so I bought the $3 box of mixed lettuces. Now, I buy a head of lettuce and spin and chop it at home. I also buy carrots in bunches (I like the bunches with the leaves – that way you know they are super-fresh and you can also blanch the leaves (boil in salted water for 30 seconds, then plunge them in a bowl of ice water) and mix them in your salad, I do the same with radishes. I buy regular cukes and I buy grape or cherry tomatoes – a whole tomato is always too much for a salad for two and they don’t keep once they are cut, so it’s nice to be able to just add a few here and there. I also make my own dressing.
…And cheap, cheap, cheap! How cheap? Well, (and here’s another disclaimer – math is not my best subject but I’ll do my best to figure it out) I didn’t touch my grocery budget for this week to make this meal. When I bought them, the ravioli were on sale for $1 a bag. The bag says it serves six but we usually get five servings from it – two for supper and then three for lunches. That’s $.20 a serving. For the sauce, the tomato paste was $.50 and the canned tomatoes were $1. The onion came from a bag of 10 that cost $1.29. The garlic was $.50 a head, I used a little more than a quarter of a head. The rest of the sauce ingredients – olive oil, vinegar, s&P, dried spices are pantry staples – I always have them and I would say the recipe uses pennies of each – we’ll add a quarter to the total for a nickle per serving. Oh, another thing about the sauce – half of the batch is what I use for a bag of ravioli – the other half gets frozen and put on ravioli later.
The wine is my uber-fancay house wine – Black Box. I love the Black Box – I’ve tried the Cab, Merlot, Shiraz and Pinot Grigio and I like them all. Gist doesn’t drink wine but I like a glass with supper and I use it for cooking. Opening a bottle of wine for these purposes is just not very practical – I either drink the amount of wine I want and end up throwing away a quarter of the bottle or I drink too much : ( The Black Box is perfect for me. It costs $21 at the NH State Liquor Store, it is the equivalent of four bottles of wine and, once opened, it stays fresh for over a month. Is it the best wine I’ve ever had? Um, no. Is it a perfectly drinkable table wine, good for having with dinner every night (and for cooking)? Yes. I’d say I used about $.75 of wine.
The salad’s harder to figure out – I can’t imagine the ingredients for three servings of salad cost more than $2 (why three servings? Gist likes soggy salad *shudder* and she gets a serving for lunch.) That gives us a grand total of $1.15* a serving. That doesn’t count the bread, which probably comes out to pennies a serving so let’s round up and say $1.17 a serving – not bad. Especially when you think about what it would cost if you were eating out.
Today, I’m going to the supermarket – wahoo! – and we’re having Spinach Quiche and salad for supper. Then we’re going to see Watchmen which I’m super-excited about.
* As I mentioned before, my math skills are not the best and I often don’t trust them. This number is an example of that – I added it three times but I still think it’s wrong – it just seems so low…