Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tomato Vegetable Pasta Sauce

I am always trying to get the most out of my grocery dollar. Many people are trying to stretch each dollar, but my challenge is compounded in that we have three teenage boys to feed (one that is ALWAYS hungry!!) and a very fussy daughter. All my boys are good eaters and are happy with almost anything I feed them, but Jesse (the one who is always hungry) and Justin are more mindful of what food they eat and they want healthy, filling food and always lots of it!

My daughter is soooo picky. She always has been, since she has been two. I honestly do not know where she gets it from, but she is picky and stuborn (well, I know where the stuborness comes from!), she will dig in her heels and starve before she will eat whatever she deems "uneatable", which is alot. For her I offer lots of eggs and dairy (smoothies are great as I can hid lots in them), plus alot of quick breads and muffins with fruits and vegetables "hidden" inside. If there is something "junkie" and something healthy to choose from, she will pick the unhealthy food every time. Luckily, along with my prayers, she is starting to get some peer pressure and has been starting to nibble on some raw fruits and veggies when she is with her frineds. With the Lord's grace, her eating preferences will change.

Anyone with teenagers know that keeping the fridge and pantry stocked with healthy snacks and providing healthy and filling food on buget is a huge challenge. That is why it is so important to me to buy the most nutritious, vitamin packed foods with my grocery dollars. For instance, I would buy spinach and rominian lettuce over iceburg lettuce, or I will buy a small roast beef and cook and slice it for lunch meat instead of buying over priced and processed meats at the deli.

When I am in a pinch for something fast, easy and frugal I almost always make pasta. We have lots of veggies in our house right now and I am loving all the fresh ingredients we can get, so I totally loaded a basic tomato sauce with some of the extra vegetables in the house. This is a good way to use up any extra vegetable you have in your fridge that you do not want to go to waste. Don't worry about what vegetables you use, I always just use whatever I have on hand. This time I used onions, garlic, celery, carrots, jalapeno peppers, yellow peppers and spinach.

I always soften my vegetables first in a bit of olive oil, then add the garlic and spices, basil and oregano, and just warm them through.

Then I pour over 2 – 3 large cans of tomatoes, either diced or crushed works well.

While the sauce was simmering away, I decided to prepare spaghetti squash as well since it was on a really good sale (I also made some regular pasta for those who prefer it and so everyone could have a bit of both without breaking the bank!). If you have never tried it, you really should. You cut the squash in half, scoop out the insides, then season it with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. I cover them and put them in the microwave for 10 minutes. Once they are soft, all you do is run your fork through it and it comes out in strands that somewhat resemble spaghetti. I find that this works well for many types of sauces, but I prefer it with vegetable tomato sauces.

Once the sauce has simmered for 20 – 30 minutes and your pasta, or in my case, spaghetti squash, is done, toss in the diced spinach and give it a stir.

Fill your plate with the pasta and sauce and top with Parmesan cheese. Add a crusty whole grain bun on the side and you have a great meal that is not too heavy in our warmer weather.

It is hard to state how much a meal costs, as I have noticed that here in Canada we seem to pay more for our food, plus our dollar is different, but this meal cost me around $10 (as I made the crusty buns myself) and feed 5 adult size portions (two boys went back for seconds), one fussy dibbler, and we even had enough left over for my husband to have for lunch the next day.
For more great healthy and frugal tips check out the Nourishing Gourmet!
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