Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clean-out-your-fridge Pasta sauce with Spaghetti

Not sure how meal planning goes in your house, oh, it doesn't...well, hopefully this give you some guidance.  

Usually on Sunday nights we go around the table and everyone gets a chance to throw out a meal suggestion or request for the following week, then I plan the meals according to what is going on each night (for example tonight is a Crock Pot Chicken and Barley Vegetable Stew from Iowa Girl Eats so there is something ready, warm and nutritious to devour between swim lessons and my early volleyball game). Tomorrow night is swim, 3 parent teacher conferences and piano...not sure I'm going to win the homemade healthy meal battle tomorrow night.  Sometimes you just have to willing to throw up the white flag in surrender. I digress. 

Landon, being the youngest and having the least complex taste buds, asked for spaghetti.  That is completely understandable for an 8 year old boy who would rather just eat hot dogs everyday, but It sure bursts my creative juices bubble...what am I supposed to do with that?!?!?

After mulling it over a bit, I decided it would be a great opportunity to use up some of the leftover ingredients in the fridge from the weekend...now we're talking, since I HATE throwing anything away.  

So, upon a quick glance through my fridge, I decide that the sauce will start with some red bell peppers, pizza sauce, marinara and sausage all left from the pizzas on Saturday night and then might as well throw in the shredded carrots for good measure.  

This just goes to show that you can put just about anything into certain dishes. In fact, Jerry asked me if I used up the open jar of salsa from the fridge, I hadn't, but he's catching on quickly! 

Round out the sauce with one fresh tomato, green peppers, zucchini, onion, garlic, let them cook down a bit before adding the first can of diced tomatoes as well as some Italian seasoning.  The sauce started with just one can of diced tomatoes but a second was added after the initial simmering had taken place and it just wasn't saucy enough.  

Now, I realize that is a lot of veggies but even if we let the kids pick out one that they don't like, they are still getting a decent serving of veggies in the meal.  I throw veggies into every dish I make and sometimes they don't even notice or maybe they have just resorted the fact that the veggies are going to be there and just stop fighting it.

That simmered away until the family was home and ready to partake.  

Now, onto the pasta...I'm not a huge pasta fan...there I said it!  I'd rather save my carbs to accompany cheese, hummus, guacamole or even ketchup, not as a main component of my meal.  But, I insist on the kids eating what I like most of the time, so I can suck it up on occasion and eat their meal of choice. 

Despite having a lifetime supply of pasta that I bought at a club store some time in the last decade, I decided I wanted to go with the healthier whole grain pasta for Jerry and I, at the very least; another attempt to bring some nutrition to the table.  (Now that I think about it, last time I made a similar meal, Jerry and I were served spaghetti squash...not sure he was too thrilled with that).

So, I got two large pots of salt water boiling to make the respective pastas.  (Because of the way the salt bonds to the water molecules, the water has to reach a higher temperature before boiling, helping the pasta to cook faster...in case anyone is interested in any of the scientific principles behind all of this good stuff.)

Before straining the noodles, I used a ladle to reserve about a cup of the pasta water to pour back into the noodles.  As the pasta cools, the starches continue to absorb water, so saving pasta water to add back helps to keep the spaghetti from sticking together too badly.  Once that was absorbed, I tossed with some olive oil before serving.  

As it turns out, the Clean-Out-Your-Fridge Pasta Sauce was a big hit with the family as was the whole grain pasta...I think that will be a new staple in our house as we move towards healthier grains and away from white bread and rice, now we can add pasta to the category as well.  

What are some ways you like to use up ingredients in your fridge?  How about sneak some extra vegetables into your kids meals?  I know there are some pretty clever people out there reading this and I'd love to hear what your thoughts.