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~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (2/24/12) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Just when I thought Spring was in the air, Winter pulls me back in.  I spent yesterday in my kitchen doing a WHVL-TV/Kitchen Encounters shoot dressed in a lightweight turtleneck with my back doors wide open.  It was sunny and almost 50 degrees.  Today, I find myself listening to the wind howl while watching the snow fall.  I am typing this with a fire in the family room fireplace wearing a lovely ensemble of snuggly classic gray sweatpants with a white sweatshirt!

I received two questions from a reader via e-mail this week.  I think I mentioned this before, but we've added an Email Me button on the header below the Kitchen Encounters banner.  It seems to be catching on, and, it is a great way for anyone to contact me with questions, comments or requests and get an almost immediate response (as I check my e-mails regularly each day)!

PICT2686Q.  Alice asks:  Do you have or can you recommend a favorite brand of store-bought spaghetti sauce?  Also, do you have any quick tips for making any brand of store-bought sauce taste homemade?  I work full-time and have four kids, ages 8-15, and I just don't have the time to make homemade sauce.  By the way, I really do enjoy your blog and your explanations.  For me, it's all of the pictures that I find the most helpful.  

I've been following you for over a month now and so far you've taught me how to chop an onion, I've made your easy roasted chicken breasts twice, and, my boys love your crockpot sweet potato chili.  My husband I and I watched your video for corned beef and we're making that for dinner next weekend!  Thank-you!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Firstly, thank-you Alice!  I've said this before, but it is feedback like this that makes writing a cooking blog totally worth my effort.  I COMPLETELY understand your situation.  Working moms and dads with even one child nowadays have a hard time keeping up. While I mostly cook things from scratch, I admire working parents who WANT to find the time and a way to cook a meal for their family each night.  That's what I consider "heirloom", and trust me, they will remember you and thank you for it (someday)!

PICT0518To answer your questions,  I've tested store-bought pasta sauces and settled on Rao's as my #1 choice.  It contains no artificial colors or preservatives, just: tomatoes, EVOO, onions, salt, garlic, basil, black pepper and oregano.  Like any cook who wants to transition store-bought into homemade, I add about 1/4 cup of red wine to the simmering sauce. Since I do make my own pasta sauce, and have it on-hand in the freezer at all times, I also add about 2 cups of my homemade sauce.  A substitution for the 2 cups of homemade, would be 1, 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes.  If you want to add some spice to your sauce, add some red pepper flakes!

To make a quick meat sauce:  In a skillet, lightly season (with salt and pepper) 1 total pound of ground beef and/or sausage, 1 medium diced onion and 8 ounces of sliced white mushrooms in 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO.  Add to sauce and simmer gently for 15-30 minutes!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or, email me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


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