Coming home

Tonight, after a restorative and “fun”-derful weekend with our friends, I knew I was coming home to a surplus of tomatoes and red bell peppers that were getting on. (this was due to an slightly uber-exuberant grocery trip in NJ near my sister’s house). I had a plan to make sausage-red pepper tomato pasta sauce. When I got home, I dusted off an old recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook. It was a simple concoction of browning the sausage, cooking onions with the thyme and oregano we grow on our balcony, adding red bell peppers, garlic, red wine, tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and my secret ingredient: organic tomato sauce from a can. I was pleased with the balance between spicy (HOT from the red peppers) and sweet (from the tomato sauce). It was a pleasure watching everything cook on low and dissolve into each other. I ladled it on top of Whole Foods Whole Wheat Linguine.

Cost Effectiveness of Cooking:
To make this dish cost effective, I always go to larger scale produce stores or Asian grocery stores which I can find between VA and NJ. I get my red bell peppers for $1.25 a pound. This is one of the few areas I cannot use products from Whole Foods or even conventional grocery stores. Too rich for my blood. The red peppers I currently have are superb–firm and succulent. I used only one in this recipe (because I was tired and only made half a batch of the sauce). In fact, I also got vine ripe tomatoes for a steal, at $0.69 a pound, which were the main reason I needed to make this sauce in the first place!

As I noted above I also used herbs that we grow. I traditionally have grown: basil, oregano, thyme and mint. These are hardy plants that can immensely boost flavor for relatively no work (or fee) at all! I do need to buy my cilantro though and I also like dill quite well so go to asian stores or some such for these.

On the wine. If I didn’t have any on hand, I would have eliminated that step though it does add tone to a meat recipe. I did use this red wine in a box that we found at Whole Foods. Its pretty cheap and good for kitchen wine. Its not really a recommendation for an approach. Its just something we had on hand.

Where I didn’t compromise–my meat. Turkey sausage at Whole Foods is about $5.99 a lb. I used a little more than a half-pound which was two links for $3.29. This is free range turkey sausage (it said on the package) plus no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal by products in the feed–so on the higher quality side.

The pasta at whole foods, at least the whole foods brand of past, I find affordable. Its a $1.69 for the equivalent of a normal box of spaghetti–something of a value, really. They have a variety of healthy grains that they make it from, and a variety of pasta shapes too. We don’t eat it frequently because of the carbs but I always make sure I have at least one or two bags of it as stock inventory in our pantry. I used tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s but right now, the price I am aware of is Whole Foods’ own brand at $1.29 for a normal sized can (15 ounces?).

Cost per serving: What does the grand price come out to? Approximately $0.90 per serving just for the sauce. I made 6 servings — 2 servings each for both my husband and me for dinner and 2 servings left over. With the pasta, the cost increases just slightly, to about $0.96 per serving. I assumed that the four tomatoes I used were nearly two-thirds of a pound. I did not include the cost of the salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Nutritionally, this dish gives you at least 2 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of protein per serving. Check out the nutrition spokes for the whole wheat pasta! It adds 6 grams of fiber and 7 garms of protein per serving with nearly no fat! I am surprised. It seems like a solid “good carb” candidate but still for weight loss, use sparingly. The turkey sausage adds some fat but also completes the protein profile in this recipe.

Potential variation: The nutritional profile for the whole wheat pasta showed that it is pretty complete in terms of its amino acid profile but lacks lysine (I hope I have this correct). It appears to require a complimentary food with a high lysine:Tryptophan ratio to fulfill its requirement as a complete protein. Go know! While turkey meat does fit, it appears that mushrooms (Crimini or Italian) would provide a vegetarian complement and nearly eliminate the fat. Que bueno!

How about you? Any twists to make it healthier or more cost-effective?

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