1/17/2020 Food For Thought

(Jan. 17, 2020) Childhood obesity rate has more than tripled over the past four decades.

One factor that cannot be ignored is the increased TV, computer and smart phone usage. While modern technology is a valuable tool, it should not consume one’s daily activities.

Crime is another reason obesity is escalating in poor neighborhoods. Decreased safe places for children to play or simply take a walk has turned the scales in an unhealthy direction.

Changes in food environments that make “junk” food and beverages more available, affordable and appealing has skyrocketed, and is sending harmful messages to children and adults alike. Education must be implemented to a higher degree if change is to occur.

Eating healthy is a way of life and adjustments are key if children are to develop good habits. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats are always good choices, but that does not mean one has to give up starches.

These ingredients are popular among children and are very affordable for those on a strict budget.

One of my favorite ways to get children to eat their vegetables is to incorporate them into a meat sauce. The textures of the sauce are a great way to “disguise” the healthy additions. 

In addition, the shredded vegetables will act as a natural thickener and give the overall sauce more depth of flavor. Following are a few, simple tips that will enhance your veggie, meat sauce.

Sauces are fortified broths. Chicken stock adds another level of flavor, and at the same time counteracts the acidity of the tomatoes. If one is a vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Baking soda also helps neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes. When baking soda is added, a foaming action will occur. This is a good thing but use it sparingly as excessive amounts will cause bitterness.

Canned tomatoes are a great way to economize and are available year-round. Homegrown tomatoes are seasonal and can be quite pricy when making big batches of sauce. 

But if one chooses to use fresh tomatoes, Roma are the preferred choice. They have less juice and fewer seeds.

Always remove the seeds from tomatoes when preparing a sauce. The seeds are bitter and unattractive. Visual appeal is just as important as the taste.

Spaghetti is typically the pasta associated with meat sauce. Thin spaghetti is just as good and helps save calories. Angel pasta is much lighter but the thinness of the pasta might not support the meat sauce.

Experimentation and personal preference will guide you to conclusion.

If your children have a liking for traditional meat sauce over pasta, consider the following veggie, meat sauce for a healthier approach. Ground turkey and Italian turkey sausage replace the customary ground beef and pork sausage.

Ground turkey has a tendency to break down over long periods of cooking and you might want to cut half of the turkey with ground beef. Just make sure you strain all of the fat.

Another advantage of making your own sauce is that it allows you to control the intake of sodium and sugar. 

The following recipe yields about four servings for a family of four. Freeze the rest for future meals. Enjoy!

Veggie, Meat Sauce over Thin Spaghetti

4 pounds ground turkey

2 pounds Italian turkey sausage

3 cups mushrooms, stems removed

1 small eggplant, peeled and quartered

3 zucchinis

3 yellow squashes

8 large cloves of garlic

3 large yellow onions, quartered

3 large carrots, peeled and quartered

2 green peppers, stems removed, seeded, and quartered

3 celery stalks, sliced

chicken broth

5 (28-ounce) cans good quality crushed tomatoes

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

2 tablespoons dried crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons each dried basil, oregano

2 tablespoons dried thyme

kosher salt to taste

5 bay leaves

several pinches of baking soda

3 tablespoons chicken base

5 tablespoons heavy cream

1 (16 ounce) box of thin spaghetti

1.  In a large Dutch oven, sauté ground turkey until the meat is cooked. Remove casings from sausage, break into small pieces, and again sauté until cooked.

Drain any fat, but do not remove the browned pieces in the bottom of the pan. This is considered the caviar of flavor. Set meat aside.

2.  Slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.

3.  Working in small batches, place mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, squash, garlic, onions, carrots, green peppers and celery in a food processor and pulse until mixture is finely chopped.

4.  In the same Dutch oven (do not clean), add enough chicken stock to cover the chopped vegetables. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally, and check to make sure there is enough chicken broth.

5.  Add meat, tomatoes, tomato paste, seasonings, baking soda, chicken base and heavy cream and cook uncovered for 1 more hour. The sauce will reduce, so it is important to stir it occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

6.  When the sauce is almost done, adjust the seasonings if necessary. Cook pasta according to the instructions on the box.

7.  Presentation – Serve more sauce than pasta; the sauce has fewer calories.

Secret Ingredient – Diet. “It took more than a day to put it on. It will take more than a day to take it off.” 

– Anonymous

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