A few years back, when I decided that in the way of eating my family deserved better, I found myself in a quandry. You see, when you cut processed and boxed food out of your diet you cut out a lot of convenience- at first glance. Because of the lack of teaching basic fundamentals in the kitchen, most of us don’t know how to cook quickly and from scratch. The truth of the matter is that if you master a few certain sauces, you can make a gourmet meal in the amount of time it takes to cook up Hamburger Helper.
I hesitate to use the word “sauce” because I am concerned that those reading this will think of the little buckets of BBQ sauce handed out with the non-food items we eat from the drive thru windows. But in real cooking, a sauce is the body of the dish, it brings the ingredients together. It’s the part of the dish you can’t leave behind, why do you think the French love sauces and bread. You have to have the wonderful bread to soak up every last bit of sauce left on the platter- either that or you will find yourself using your fingers which is frowned upon in certain circles.
Anyway, as I say we were cutting box dinners out of our lives. This may sound funny, but around my house we really liked the Tuna Helper. I added peas and carrots to it and this made a tasty lunch for me and the kiddos. So, I really wanted to figure out how to recreate that at home. I knew that somewhere was a real food version of the powdered sauce that came in the box. I stumbled upon a recipe for Bechamel Sauce, it sounded creamy and good. Once I had made it and tasted it I knew that this was the sauce I had been wanting for our lunches. I cooked up some pasta combined it with the sauce, tuna, and peas. What a tasty dish and so, so simple. I must admit that the first batch of Bechamel was a bit thick, but with a little practice it was perfect. My daughter, Savannah, quickly picked it up and now makes a mean sauce without ever consulting a cookbook.
This sauce goes well with any sort of poultry, fish, shellfish, and most vegetables. A great addition to the basic sauce is garlic, as a matter of fact, garlic is the basic recipe for our family. I add garlic to just about everything given that this is an herb that has so many great health benefits. Once you learn this sauce, quick meals made from real food are easy to assemble and are as nutritional as they are tasty. Recipes of this type are what folks need to be able to make meals that have the convenience and speed of boxed dinners but the nutrition of whole foods. Now some of you may take a look at the ingredients and worry about fat and calories. However, read the ingredient labels on the ingredients- butter, milk, wheat, garlic, salt. Now, go read the ingredients label on the boxed dinners in the pantry. Stark contrast in the least.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (real butter not margarine)
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk with 1/4 tsp of salt
1 clove of garlic minced (optional)
In a heavy saucepan or 9 inch cast iron skillet (which is what I use), melt the butter then stir in the flour , by the way this is what is called a Rue. Cook together at a foam, but not hot enough to brown the flour add the garlic at this time. After 2 minutes, stir in milk. Stir quickly with a wire wisk or slotted metal spoon and bring to a boil, boil for approximately 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste.
All done- its that easy.
An easy recipe using this sauce would be to add 2 cups of diced cooked turkey (or chicken), 1 cup of cooked peas or carrots, and 16 oz of cooked pasta and heat through- this will feed up to 6 people. You don’t get much easier than that!
What is your favorite easy and healthy meal?