It’s tempting to dash into the grocery store, cruise the frozen foods aisle and load the cart with all manner of inexpensive, mass-produced foods that you pop in the oven. But you pay a big price in food quality loss as well as chemical and additive gain. Both are easily avoidable once you make the decision to go on adventures in your own kitchen. Once you do, you’ll enjoy meals that taste far better than store varieties, save money and improve your diet.
As an avid cook, I’ve tried, tested and created hundreds of recipes, always starting from scratch. It’s not as tricky or time-consuming as you might think, and the payoff is well worth the effort. I start by buying the highest-quality ingredients I can afford. Sometimes, simple store-brand products serve up adequate makings, so I’m not talking gourmet here. Nor do homespun recipes have to require extensive technical skill to produce. Often, all you need is the most basic kitchen utensils and implements, and you can “cheat” by buying just one or two prepared ingredients if you’re pressed for time.
A simple example is pizza rolls. While pizza rolls are not the healthiest food you’ll put on your plate, it’s a guilty pleasure you can indulge in now and then without concern. Here, I caution readers to take into account any health issues they may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. A doctor or, better yet, a nutritionist, should be the final authority on what you consume and how often.
So, why pizza rolls? Recently, in another thread, a Newsviner mentioned that we shouldn’t stop buying pizza rolls to ensure that the manufacturer stays in business. That’s how much this person loves pizza rolls. I’m here to suggest a better strategy: make your own. Not only is it fun and better tasting, you’ll never have to worry about your favorite foods no longer being available. So let’s start.
Rachael Ray’s “Inside-Out Pizza Rolls” calls for only eight ingredients, and five of them are simply for the dough. A quick shortcut is to buy the pizza dough in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. The next two ingredients are what goes inside the dough: meat sauce (she provides the recipe, but I have a tip for you below) and mozzarella cheese. The final ingredient is one humble egg, lightly beaten with a fork or whisk, that you use to brush the rolls before baking.
If you feel ambitious, you can easily replace the meat sauce with a simple pomodoro sauce, the delicious sauce Italians have made for centuries using fresh ingredients at the end of the growing season. I’ve included it below. Adding your preferred pizza toppings will personalize this recipe and satisfy the different choices of your dining companions.
A few additional tips:
• Save time by doubling the recipe and freezing the leftovers. They'll be easy to reheat (follow directions you might find on a Totino's box of pizza rolls)...and they'll be ready when you are.
• If you’re on city water and it has that lovely chlorine smell and taste, buy gallon bottles of spring water at the grocery store (they’re inexpensive) and use it in your cooking.
• Read labels! If a food product has a paragraph of ingredients and you can’t pronounce one or more of them, put it back on the shelf and keep looking. The best tomato products contain only natural ingredients. I highly recommend Pomi brand.
• Don’t buy canned foods that contain added salt. You don’t need it.
• Add salt carefully. You can always add more, but you can never take it out.
• The meals you make are only going to be as good as the ingredients you use. Don’t skimp if you don’t have to.
• A good cook is one who tastes foods as they’re being prepared. Be fearless!
The way we get and eat our meals is a basic element of living. As schedules and technology make many of us run like hamsters on the wheel, it’s a genuine pleasure to drop back and enjoy homemade meals around the table with people we care about. If you can’t remember the last time you did that, you're overdue for a redux.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
42 ounces (or thereabouts) canned organic tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
fresh basil, chopped
Warm olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cover with lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 60 minutes. Add sugar and salt…and taste! Add chopped basil and stir.