Thursday, June 3, 2010

Goal: Do not to cry while making dinner

Today I had many goals. The day started with trying to make the most of my work day to trying not to get drenched on the way home.

Above are the two books I picked up, Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle and Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Both are for book club, one for my old book club and another for my new book club. The current plan is to try and read both and choose the club based on the book. My old book club I found through a high school friend. Last August I went to happy hour with her and her roommate when she studied abroad in Russia. We got talking and she invited me to her book club. I did really like this book club, but after 4 books, six months and no good friends I decided to move on. I went on and found a chick lit book club. The club is new and seems like a lot of fun, so I joined. Of course the night my new book club announced the June book and date, I got invited to my old book club for the same date. Feeling a little regret, I reserved both books from my local library and am going to let fate decide which meeting I go to in the end of June.

As I mentioned above, I was quite aware when I left work that there were lightning strikes within 15 miles, thank you weather bug!, but I was determined. So, I headed off toward the library. As I had checked out my two books, the librarian and I heard a solid roll of thunder and off I went into the rain with my books safely in a plastic bag (that the librarian insisted I take).

And, even though I was fully drenched by the time I walked into my apartment, I did learn about the bus route between the library (and consequently work) and my apartment. After jumping into the shower and throwing on my pajama's, I was ready to start dinner.

Be forewarned, I do not really measure anything and use whatever is in my kitchen! It is half the fun. Sorry!!!!

Tonight we had one of my favorites, sausage and peppers! The ingredients (pictured above) included frozen peppers, Roma sausages (they were on sale), store brand spaghetti noodles, Ragu, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 a tomato, olive oil, fresh basil, freshly ground pepper, and Parmesan cheese to top it all off. Now, normally I buy my pasta whole grain from Whole Foods but I was busy this week.... As I collect my ingredients I also put the water on the stove to boil.

My little experiment of the evening involved my onion. We do not always go through an entire onion in a meal, so last time I used the onion I threw it in the freezer. I have always heard that if you freeze your onion, your eyes won't tear up while cutting it. This is in fact true. My one suggestion is to run the onion under hot water for a quick second to make it easier to cut. So, my goal for today is indeed complete and I can now, with full confidence, recommend freezing onions, especially if you only use 1/2 of one like I usually do.

After chopping the onion into strips and throwing it into the pan on the stove, I chopped up the sausage.

Now as a "B-more, Hon!" native, I love Chesapeake style anything, but honestly the only reason I bought these was because the were on sale and they were out of my usual mild sweet sausage. Another great substitute are hot spicy sausages. I sliced these babies up, and threw them in the pan with the onions that were caramelizing.

Next, I chopped up the 1/2 of a tomato I had left from my lunch this week. I am infamous for throwing anything in the fridge on my lunchtime salad. Tonight I could tell that my tomato was about to turn the corner to no return. This means I have to use it or I will lose it (and I hate to throw out food). Some of the tomato gets thrown into my salad for lunch while the rest stays on the cutting board to accompany my dinner once the sausages cook thoroughly.

Once the sausage no longer looks pink, I pour in what is left of my Ragu (about 1/3 a cup). You can easily replace Ragu with a can of diced tomatoes. Honestly, tonight I had to get rid of the end of the Ragu. After the Ragu goes in, pour 1/4 cup of red wine into the Ragu jar, close the jar and shake vigorously. Reopen the jar and pour the wine (and Ragu remnants) into the pan. If you use a can of diced tomatoes just add a little wine to the pan.

Once the Ragu goes in, toss in 1/2 the bag of frozen peppers and the diced tomato. Stir.

My overall feeling toward fresh and frozen vegetable is as follows. If you are going to cook it anyway, buy frozen. Frozen vegetables are by far cheaper (usually a dollar or less for a bag of store brand) and hold nutrients better than fresh if they are not local. Frozen veggies are frozen right after they are picked, preserving all the vitamins and minerals.

For lunch, I often have a salad (with everything from the fridge) or veggies and hummus. Therefore, I do buy my fair share of fresh vegetables, but they are reserved for when I eat vegetables raw.

My only real exception to this rule is asparagus and broccoli. I always buy asparagus fresh, simply because it is my favorite. And, Jay loves broccoli, so on occasion I buy it fresh for him.

Stir. This is when I usually turn up the heat (if not already on full blast). Once the Ragu begins to boil, I turn the heat down (mid to low heat), grind in the pepper, toss in a healthy handful of fresh basil and cover the pan with a cookie sheet.

Quick note about basil. I found it was much easier, cheaper and nicer to maintain my little basil plant (right with his iris friends). Who doesn't love fresh basil.

At about this time, your water should be boiling so throw those spaghetti noodles in that pot and set the timer for 8 minutes.

By the time your noodles are done, so are the sausage and peppers. After dishing out the meal, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and garnish with some more fresh basil. And, viola! dinner is served.

This can feed up to 6 people depending on how much Ragu you add or if you use canned diced tomatoes. This time, I only got three servings out of this dish because my sauce was thicker and my boyfriend hungrier. Usually, I freeze whatever is left (don't forget to label it with the date and what it is!) for an easy meal on a hectic night. Tonight, I only froze enough for one person which is ok since my boyfriend is in physical therapy school and it is not uncommon for me eat alone one night a week.

And, for all those wondering, the Chesapeake style sausage was a nice variation from the norm!