Thursday, July 25, 2013

4 good lasagna & tomato sauce recipes, and some advice (feed your teen girls already, for heaven's sake quit pushing your food baggage on them):

     Two of the best Italian food recipes I've found have come from America's Test Kitchen (on PBS). The same guy also works under the name Cook's Country. I'm not sure what the difference is, but moving on: the first recipe is spinach lasagna. They have a good meat lasagna recipe, and an interesting vegetable one, and a white lasagna that I'd like to try. The one I usually make is the spinach one. I like their version because it's a good foundation recipe; it's still good when modified or supplemented. I know they are very scientific and precise, and probably wouldn't want their recipe changed, but this is real life, which means things are sometimes gonna get changed around for one reason or another. The world isn't going to end because a recipe isn't followed to the Nth degree. Anyway, this is a keeper:

spinach lasagna:

     While we're on the subject of lasagna, here's a recipe that I've made a few times. It's always good, but it does have a lot of ingredients, especially meat, so it's not cheap. It calls itself "The World's Best Lasagna" and yes, it's quite good. It's the polar opposite of vegetarian, but it is very filling. My only modification was adding more sauce and cheese; I thought the recipe was too dry but that is my preference, not a criticism:

     The next recipe is a basic tomato sauce recipe, and it is really, really good. I've spent years putting together sauces that took days to simmer, and had so many ingredients, and while they were all fine, this particular recipe is a real treasure because it is simple, super affordable, and quick. I've tried doing the recipe with modified ingredient amounts, or not doing it in the same order, but its best when followed exactly. The magic ingredient is butter. Butter! In a tomato sauce, no less. But it's true. I've made it with virgin olive oil, and I've made it with a blend of melted evoo and butter, and the butter one is the yummiest (go figure). Truth be told, it has taken me a long time to learn to love butter. I still don't like butter as a toast topping, or on corn, popcorn, vegetables, etc., but as an ingredient, it is pretty much magical.
     All the moms around me are on perma-diets, which means their daughters are on perma-diets, and when my kids have friends eat over, there is much plate licking because the poor things have just gotten their first hit of butter and are instantly addicted. May I step up on a soap box for a moment? FEED YOUR DAMN KIDS. If they are little, they are growing and need food. If they are teens? Forget about it. They really need food. Forcing teenagers to watch what they eat is just nuts, and girl teens need a crap load of food, too, not just the boys. Their bodies are growing and changing, their brains are developing, they need nutrition. I'm of the opinion that teens are like pregnant women. They are hormonal, i.e. they are moody and sleepy and hungry and horny. We give pregnant women allowances, why don't we do the same with teens, especially teen girls?
     I'm not talking about junk food; that's no good. I'm talking real food. They need it, and if you're withholding or putting judgement or emotional value on a hungry teen, you're out of line. I have FEELINGS about this. My car may be the laughingstock of the neighborhood, my clothes may be Wal-Mart clearance rags, my house may be furnished with garage sale stuff, but my kids aren't hungry. I grew up extremely poor and extremely hungry, and this is a hot button issue for me.
     I am really, really, reeeeaaaallly tired of A: my kids coming home from a friend's house with food issues, i.e. "Oh no, I can't eat that, it's got so many calories, I've just got to lose some weight," or B: those same friends coming over and eating and saying "My mom would kill me if she knew I was eating spaghetti, or having seconds, or eating bread, etc." Quit making your daughters crazy already. The world is on top of that little detail, you don't need to add to it. They will be taught to hate their bodies, fear food, and treat themselves as second class citizens without you. Also, I've noticed that well fed kids tend not to have room for hot wings, soda, candy, and so on. Your kid comes home from my house well fed and SANS any body issues, I'd appreciate a little reciprocity in this area. Kid number two is especially susceptible to this kind of thing. I can tell who is a professional dieter, or afraid of food, or actively constructing body issues, because Kid two comes home and parrots all of it. She's a natural actress and mimic, and sometimes that means echoing bullshit. I swear to god, some days it feels like I'm building up the kids just to send them out to get knocked down. This is not an unstudied opinion, this little rant of mine. I've worked through my own eating disorder, a lifelong battle with body dysmorphia, chronic illness, a thyroid that packed fifty unmovable pounds onto an already overly curvy frame (in other words, I'm hellish chubby and trying to make peace with it) and now I'm trying to get two kids to adulthood with a minimum of their own baggage. Please don't add to it. Be honest. Say "I'm afraid of food, or, I'm afraid of weight gain because this world is shockingly ugly and hateful to overweight people, especially women, or,  I'm battling to regain the body I had as a seventeen year old in high school." Don't say "Do you really need that?" to a hungry teen. Come on people, butter has its place. Some stuff really is better with it, and do I need to say it? Life is short.
     Stepping down.

     So the America's Test Kitchen basic tomato sauce recipe is a good one. My only caveat is that it's nicer to use fresh tomatoes, like Roma plum ones, in the summer, and if you are using the canned tomatoes, it's worth it to spend a little more and get organic. It pains my frugal/broke heart to say this, but it's true. The Glen Muir canned ones are usually good. Whichever tomatoes you get, make sure you check the sodium levels on the ingredient label. I've ruined this recipe by using cheap canned tomatoes that had super high salt in them. It's better to go low salt, tastewise, and hey, it doesn't hurt your heart, either. You add salt to the sauce, anyway, so you can adjust it to your liking.

     here's the recipe:

     Adding butter to tomato sauce is a big thing online right now, everyone's happily addicted. There's a very, very simple recipe with just three ingredients on Smitten Kitchen. I've tried this, and yes, it's good, but I like the Test Kitchen one because it's year round, not dependent on summer produce, cheaper, and I dunno, I think I like a little more spice in my sauce. Still, this is a good one (and Smitten Kitchen is a good resource, period; just wonderful writing and pictures and recipes. I just love SK).


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