I've had this idea for a very long time. The winter of 1992-1993 was my first in Alaska. I was living in a small cabin with no running water and on a very tight budget. I was working 24 hours a week for $10/hour and my roommate was collecting a few hundred dollars a month in unemployment. We ate like kings.
At some point during the winter I had the idea for a book. Something along the lines of "Living Large on Next to Nothing" that would focus primarily on food but would be more than a simple cookbook. We may have been poor but we were having the time of our lives, and on several occasions we sat around and laughed about how happy we were in our poverty.
Some years later my brother Pete said something that has always stuck with me: Don't let anyone chop your garlic, grind your pepper or squeeze your lemons. Pete's a chef - a real, honest-to-goodness chef that has trained in France, cooked professionally in places as varied as Alaska, the Virgin Islands and North Carolina, and is a real genius in the kitchen.
One other piece of wisdom that I heard first from my father but is a widely espoused bit of advice: It's not how much you make, it's how much you spend. While I may not have been saving toward retirement during the winter of '92 I have grown to really appreciate this line of financial thinking. Frugal is not a bad word. Debt might be.
Why read my blog? To attract and keep a mate, of course! What else is there?
All of you young single guys and girls, this one's for you: Learn to cook well and you will be healthier and happier for the rest of your days.
Guys, you may not realize it but ladies like a man that can cook. Whether you are dating a woman that's a Julia Childs clone or one that can burn water, they all like a man that can hold his own in the kitchen. Cooking for yourself - really cooking, not just re-heating a frozen lasagna or boiling some ramen noodles - also helps keep you healthier. By the way, healthy people are attractive people. Cooking for yourself is also a great way to spend less money on food, and one thing ladies really love is a man that's good with money.
Girls, you all know that a man loves a lady that can cook. If you're the kind of young lady that's looking for a husband, don't kid yourself into thinking that the kitchen isn't as important as the bedroom to married bliss. OK, maybe not quite as important, but you get my drift. I'll repeat the same advice I gave the guys: Cooking for yourself - really cooking, not just re-heating a frozen lasagna or boiling some ramen noodles - also helps keep you healthier. By the way, healthy people are attractive people. Cooking for yourself is also a great way to spend less money on food, and one thing guys really love is a woman that's not a spending machine.
I'm going to try to post recipes and ideas that are tailored for the single person. I'll try to keep things reasonably healthy but there will be times that I add cheese to the bacon and laugh maniacally about it. I rarely measure things very closely so most of my measurements will be either guesses or suggestions. Experiment!
So for my first recipe, a simple marinara sauce:
1 can (28oz) Crushed Tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
Basil - 1 Tbsp or so
Oregano - 1 tsp or so
Crushed Red Pepper - one shake
Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Optional - one finely grated carrot
Chop your onion as coarsely or as finely as you like. Crush the peeled garlic cloves with the flat of your blade before chopping them very finely. If you prefer a sweeter sauce or just want more vegetables, grate your carrot Open your can of tomatoes now.
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until nearly clear. Add the garlic and the spices (if you're using the carrot, add it with the garlic). Cook for a minute or so until the garlic starts getting golden around the edges.
Add your tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Stir well to incorporate your seasoned oil into the tomatoes. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until you reach a low boil. Cover and simmer for a few minutes or just turn off the heat and serve over noodles.
I love to add black olives to this recipe. Add them with the tomatoes and if you really like black olives add a bit of the black olive juice as well. Sometimes I use whole olives, other times I cut them in half lengthwise.
If you're single and you're eating alone, this should make enough sauce to feed you 4-6 times. This sauce freezes well.
Some pasta tips: add a lot of salt (a tablespoon or two) to your pasta water just before you add the noodles. You'll end up pouring most of the salt down the drain with the pasta water but you'll also impart a nice saltiness to the noodles themselves. Don't rinse your pasta. Don't oil your noodles. Return the drained noodles to the pot they were cooked in and stir in a small amount of the sauce. This will help keep the noodles from sticking together.
Next week I'll put up a recipe for the best garlic bread ever.