Essentials that are always in my kitchen and are included in most all my recipes are: garlic, olive oil, and Italian seasoning. While seasonings can be expensive, Italian Season (oregano, basil, thyme, and sometimes sage) is a great addition and is an easy way to flavor things up! Garlic also has a salty attribute which can help enhance flavor without a bunch (if any) of added table salt.
Marinara Pasta Sauce
*2 cloves of garlic chopped - the smaller the chop, the stronger the flavor that is released
*4 large tomatoes
*Italian seasoning and black pepper
Tomato trick: Bring a pot of water to a boil (enough to cover the tomatoes). Cut the stem side off the tomatoes, flip it over and then cut an X on the bottom of the tomato with the tip of the knife. Usually piercing it in one direction and then the other makes a good X. Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. When the skins start to peel back, pull the tomatoes out of the water and let cool. The tomato skins come off with great ease.
Chop up the cooled tomatoes into small pieces. Put a deep pan or pot on the stove at a medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, pour in 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot put the garlic in the pan to simmer.
After one minute or so put the cut tomatoes in the pan. Also add two tablespoons of Italian seasoning and a teaspoon of pepper. If you feel the need, add a teaspoon of salt! Let simmer for 20 minutes.
Possible additions when available:
*A can of tomato sauce to make the marinara go a bit further
*Ground beef or turkey - brown in a pan and add to the sauce
*Finley chopped mushrooms - brown in a pan and add to sauce
*Bell peppers and onions - Saute in the pan with the oil and garlic before adding the tomatoes, for more of a Cajun feel. You can also add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and/or Cajun seasoning to kick it up
*Chicken - pour this sauce over browned chicken breasts, thighs, or legs in a deep oven safe pan (you want the sauce to fully cover the chicken). Let it cook in the over for 45 min to an hour, for a nice chicken cacciatore. I also appreciate using a crock pot for this process creating a very tender and flavorful meal!
Carrots and Potatoes
*3 cloves of garlic chopped
*4 Potatoes chopped (red or russet work best)
*5 carrots chopped into spears
*1/2 cup of Olive oil
*1 tbs of Italian seasoning or 3 stems of fresh rosemary, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
A note on rosemary: fresh rosemary is very common and easy to grow (I in fact had a bush in my backyard and didn't know for quite some time), so it is likely that your neighbor, school, or church may have a bush you can borrow from. As always, be sure to ask before you take. Fresh rosemary provides a ton of flavor and can enhance many dishes. It gives this dish in particular a huge boost. If it isn't available you can use the Italian seasoning.
This is an incredibly easy and delicious side to make. You throw all of the ingredients above into a oven safe platter. You will pour half the olive oil in and mix everything up. Stick the pan into a 375* preheated oven and let cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the remainder of the olive oil and mix again. Let cook for another 30 minutes or until the veggies are soft.
It also necessary sometimes to add a bit more oil if everything seems to be very dry. Red potatoes will also take longer to cook than russet potatoes.