Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dinner: Baked Pasta

On cold winter nights when I am feeling less than ambitious, I make Baked Pasta. Baked Pasta is a commoner's dish that makes me feel comfortably common. Rather than follow the recipe for the red sauce below, you should take liberties and make your own (even if it's canned). I have several friends who may shun this particular red sauce (including my near and dear husband). But it is what it is. And it is easy to me. (On a side note-- this is a great make-it-in-the-morning-so-you-can-throw-it-in-the-oven-at-night dish.)

1/2 lb. ground beef (or more if you are a meat lover...which I am not)
1 small white or yellow onion, diced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons minced basil (or 2 tsp. dried basil)
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt to taste
1 pound pasta-boiled and drained (use whatever shape you have on hand--I generally use penne or farfalle)
shredded mozzarella cheese (I use 1 pound--but you may use as much as you want, depending on how cheesy you are.)

Brown ground beef with onion. Drain fat (unless you are trying to fatten your children...which is one of my current goals). Add crushed tomatoes, sauce, basil, brown sugar, and salt. Simmer sauce while you boil pasta and shred cheese. Put a ladle full of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Layer sauce, pasta, and cheese, in no particular order. But, do top with last bit of sauce and last bit of cheese. Bake when good and ready, at 350° until bubbling. Serve alongside crusty bread (that you bought...because you didn't have time to bake any).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lunch: Adults Only Tuna Sandwich

Each day I fix my four-year-old daughter one of three possibilities for lunch: a bowl of yogurt topped with granola, a fluffernut sandwich (more on that next week), or an ambitious bowl of macaroni and cheese. I tire of these possibilities; and after fixing her plate I always ask myself, "but what should I eat?". Well, a few days ago I concocted a tuna sandwich that makes me excited about eating lunch. Here's hoping you will take a few minutes to fix a slightly nicer lunch for yourself than you will for your children.

serves 1-2 (depending on how hungry you are, and how late you put off eating lunch)

1 can albacore tuna
1/4 of a red onion-minced
1/2 of a lemon's juice
1 tsp. lemon peel
diced avocado
dash of white pepper
dollop of mayonnaise

Add everything to a bowl and mix well. Eat as a salad alongside crusty bread, or find some sort of cracker to scoop it up, or settle for dressing up the same bread your children eat.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Breakfast: Oatmeal Cookie Style Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a perfect food. It is easy to cook. It is easily influenced by other flavors. It is healthy. My kids eat it. At our house, we eat oatmeal from both ends of the spectrum--steel cut fancy oatmeal all the way to generic brand instant oatmeal from the cheapest grocery store. This year, I started experimenting with oatmeal. After several tries, I came up with a flavor to beat all, if I do say so myself. I chose instant oatmeal because I usually make this on a school day morning when time is of the essence. It is so full of tastiness, it reminds me of eating an oatmeal cookie. If your children have yet to develop a taste for almonds, omit them if you must.

serves 4

4 cups water
2 cups instant oatmeal (more depending on desired consistency)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds

Bring water to a boil. Add oatmeal. Stir over low heat. Add extracts, brown sugar, coconut, and almonds. Mix. Add more oatmeal or anything else. Serve. Watch your children smile.