Cooking from scratch – what’s for dinner?

Really, I don’t understand the constant yammering  that cooking from scratch takes more time.

The cooking part is the easy part, if you ask me. I made this Tuna Casserole in about 30 minutes time about two hours prior to dinner, during naptime.

IMG_1497

Recipe for this tuna casserole at the bottom of the post.

It all comes down to the ingredients. Which means you need to have a good grocery list going.

So let’s start at the beginning: First, a grocery list begins in your kitchen. We have a white board on the pantry door where all family members who can write are responsible for noting down an item that is ALMOST out. You don’t wait for the ketchup bottle to be empty before writing it down, nor do you wait until you run out of toilet paper.

Second, the bigger portion of your groceries should consist of whole foods. Foods that do not have labels or packaging. Fresh fruits and vegetables (or frozen, which is better than canned, depending on the season), dairy (non-fat free is better than fat free, but that is another day’s post), and things like breads (unless you bake your own regularly).

Third, the other big portion of your groceries should consist of staples. Staples are things you consider versatile, nutritious, are non-perishable, and can often be bought in bulk. These items include things like pasta and couscous or other grains, canned tomatos, rice, beans and lentils, flax seeds, nuts and other seeds, condiments (like ketchup) and mustard, oils and vinegars. That kind of thing.

A smaller portion of your list should be meat and fish, unless you are vegetarian or vegan. Meat in particular should be bought by a butcher rather than a grocery store, if possible, so that you can see what you’re getting, particularly if you select ground versions of meat, like beef or chicken. To keep costs down, we take a cooler to the butcher, and buy a week or two weeks’ worth of meat (usually around payday), and have it packaged in such a way that we can freeze most of it.

Once you have these items on hand, cooking quick, nutritious meals can be simple and don’t necessarily require a weekly menu plan (although for some families, such a meal plan is the backbone of  meal time).

If you don’t have a crockpot (slowcooker), it is well worth the investment. You can make large amounts of things like sauces and stews or chilis and simply freeze them in smaller portions.

Take today. Having noticed how much meat we have consumed in the past three days I thought it would be a good idea to eat something without meat for supper tonight. The dilemma I faced however is this:

The kids must like it. (Mommy, I don’t like sauce on my pasta!)
DH must feel satisfied afterwards. (He likes his meats and potatos but is also big on vegetables, especially fresh and raw ones used mostly for salads. Vegetarian meals are tricky…)
It would be nice to eat something a little different than the usual pasta with tomato sauce, or rice with fish fillets (or sticks).

I opened my cupboards and freezer and found the following:

Canned tuna in water.
Frozen tomato sauce I made from scratch and in bulk in the crockpot weeks ago.
Various types of pasta.

Hello Tuna Casserole!

Here’s the recipe:

about 2 tbsp of olive oil
1-2 cans of tuna, drained (I used the last can today and immediately placed “canned tuna” on the grocery list)
1 large mason jar of tomato sauce (home made is preferred here)
1 tsp of pickled capers, rinsed under water (optional)
1 package of pasta (shells are nice as they contain the sauce better)
fresh chervil, parsley or chives (optional)
salt (to season the pasta cooking water)

Defrost the tomato sauce if it’s coming from your freeze.
In a large pan or pot, heat the oil and add the capers. Do not overheat.
Add the drained tuna, and mix well.
Add the tomato sauce and simmer, slightly covered, for as long as it takes to cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta as per the directions on the package, to al dente. Drain the pasta, making sure all the water is stirred or shaken out (particularly if you use shells).
Pour a little more oil in a casserole dish, add the pasta, and stir well to coat. (This is not absolutely necessary.)
Stir the sauce in with the pasta, cover the casserole dish, and place in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes to heat through.

Just before serving, snip some fresh herbs on top of either the casserole, or the portion on the plate.

Final note: the whole family ate seconds. Even the I don’t like sauce kid!

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4 thoughts on “Cooking from scratch – what’s for dinner?

  1. Love your post. I completely agree with you as you can see from my blog, I’m a home cookin’ kind a gal. Good job! I’ll be checking your blog regularly now. Thanks for the new recipe.

    • Oops, you’re right. Fish is not part of the vegetarian diet. Sorry about my incorrect use of tags. You can however use the basis for this recipe with broccholi, for example, or mushrooms, instead of tuna or salmon.

      Thanks for your comment!

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