If you haven't noticed, I've been trying to incorporate a little more substance into my blogs recently, so it's not just my occasional accounts of ridiculous things that happen in our house or an excuse to post the latest adorable photos of Nora.
My goal is to make this blog a fair reflection of myself, meaning there will always be a lot of stories about the everyday stuff involving me, my family and Nora, but there are a few things I've realized I don't usually mention that are actually fairly significant components of who I am. A couple of these things are crafting and making every effort to always be clever and creative with new projects, and cooking. I've introduced the crafting element and hope to be able to incorporate it more into my regular blogging. As for cooking, I don't think I've afforded it the attention I feel it deserves, for as much as I cook out of pure enjoyment as well as frugality. So here we go.
I come from a cooking family. My family is German-Hungarian, and my grandmother loves and LIVES to cook. And we all appreciate that very much, as we all love and live to eat. My grandmother was a cook for Sac State for many years; my mom has been a cook for the school district at different schools (we always joked that she was following my brother as he got older and changed schools) for several years too. (Who knows... maybe she'll continue the pattern and soon make her way to Sac State to follow in my grandmother's footsteps and cook for my brother yet again.) I have not always been a good cook, and I don't claim to be one now either. All I know is that I used to be a terrible cook and as a teenager, feared for my poor future children's eating habits as I would be incapable of cooking anything more than microwave burritos; today, I have been cooking and trying out recipes for several years now and am able to make a decent meal nearly every night for Nick and I (and Nora too, even though her meals usually only consist of some form of pureed vegetable, but still cooking, right?).
I really truly enjoy cooking - I find it both relaxing and rejuvenating to come home from work and create a meal. I like that we save a lot of money by eating in. I like that I feel confident enough now to try new things, whether it's a recipe I came across online or something I've invented all on my own. There are a couple of things that make cooking every night a much more manageable and efficient endeavor for a mom who works full-time away from home: keeping it simple, and planning meals in advance. Both of these end up saving us a lot of money in the end, since I avoid anything too complicated that involves hard-to-find or expensive ingredients, and I purchase all of these ingredients ahead of time when I do my weekend grocery shopping with meals already planned out - that way I know exactly what I need (and most importantly what I DON'T need) when I do my shopping and can therefore find better deals and shop the sales. Planning and shopping ahead also help me avoid last-minute shopping (where I would normally end up spending much more because I'm more rushed, making one quick stop, and willing to pay top-dollar if necessary in order to buy what I need and save time), or even worse, getting off work at 5pm and realizing I have no dinner plan and no energy to go shopping and still make a meal, resulting in us eating out and wasting money on a less-than-healthy dinner.
So enough preaching on the benefits of home-cooking and budget-friendly menu planning for now - here's a recipe. It's my own invention and very simple with inexpensive ingredients - I made it for dinner last night for the first time. (FYI, for my own creations such as this one, measurements are always approximate... use your own judgement and adjust to fit your taste.)
:: Spicy Italian Sausage Fettucini ::
1 lb - ground Italian sausage (I used Target's Archer Farms brand, but also like Johnsonville)
12 oz - packaged fettucini noodles
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup - chopped fresh or frozen spinach
6 oz / 1 small can of tomato sauce
1 tsp - dried rosemary
1 tsp - dried red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1 cup - Italian cheese (I used Target's Market Pantry blend of shredded mozzarella, asiago, romano)
1/4 cup - grated parmesan cheese
1) Break up the sausage and brown in a large pan over medium-low heat, stirring as it cooks. Fill another large pot with water and add 1/2 tsp salt and about 1 tsp of olive oil, and heat to boiling.
2) Once the sausage is mostly cooked through after about 10 minutes, add the garlic, green onions, rosemary, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook together for about 3 minutes or until garlic and onions are golden (but not brown, since garlic will get bitter if over-cooked).
3) Add pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions while sausage mixture is cooking.
4) Add tomatoes, spinach, and tomato sauce to the sausage mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and cook over low heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
5) Drain the pasta and return to large pot; pour sausage/sauce mixture over pasta and add the cheese, stirring to coat pasta with the sauce and melt the cheese. Serve hot and top with extra cheese if desired. (I also made fresh bread from frozen bread dough - a sourdough baguette or garlic bread would also be really yummy.)