Your special sauce made while the pasta cooks

Real food pasta photo
In the time it takes to cook pasta, you can make a healthy sauce that matches your current mood.

There are times when I don’t have a clue what I am having for dinner, beyond that it is pasta. I choose the noodle type by how much time I have, put the water on to boil, and only then do I decide what the sauce will be.

Note: I deliberately present this dish as a concept, rather than a recipe. Recipes take a long time to follow, and you often don’t have the exact ingredients cited in the recipe. You will make more real-food meals at home if you have concepts stored in your memory, and can work with the ingredients you have on hand.

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Real food variety: Around the world with a pot of stew

One of the best parts about cooking real food, is that you can change your mind in an instant. You might feel like Thai food on Saturday when you are shopping, but on Wednesday, you are leaning to Mexican. I’m spoiled, but I am spoiled because I have those choices. This article illustrates the freedom of real food with total transformations of basic crock-pot stew.

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Healthy Cream of Anything Soup

It’s June, but it’s also a blustery. and cold. Soup required. There is nothing faster, or more comforting than a bowl of hot soup. Good pre-made soup is very expensive. Cheap soup is not good. All but the premium-priced, organic, canned or packaged soups have an ingredients list that would test a professional chemist’s knowledge. And if you think you are doing yourself a favor to buy a ready-made version from a large grocery store, really do yourself a favor and request a nutrition statement.

There is a real-food option. In fact, homemade soup is a very simple meal. This post will just cover my cream soup method, but just increase the broth, and you have a non-cream version.

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Real-food Hummus on the fly

Real food hummus lunch photo
Small servings of hummus can be made easily without a food processor.

Hummus is high on a healthy food scale. The main ingredient is beans, a vegetable source of protein that costs little. The additions are simple, whole ingredients without down-sides. To buy ready-made hummus is costly, and to make it, easy. Throw ingredients in a food processor — done. However, I usually take it one step down the simplicity scale by skipping the food processor for small quantities of hummus.

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No crackers? No problem!

No crackers? No problem!

Real food crackers photoCrackers have a short life span in my house. They disappear like potato chips, so I protect myself by rarely bringing crackers home. Crackers seem like healthy food, but if you check the nutrition information, you will find that most are loaded with salt and fat, plus come with a long list of additives. My general rule is that if I can’t pronounce an ingredient, I shouldn’t eat it. Crackers have plenty of tongue-twisting words in the ingredient list.They can also be pricey for the nutrition they deliver. You can easily make a much better cracker from tortillas.

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Real food Eggs Bendict (not necessarily authentic)

Easy recipe for eggs benedict photo
A version of Eggs Benedict anyone can make -- healthier, too.

Have you ever noticed that Eggs Benedict is expensive, even in restaurants that specialize in cheap, hearty breakfasts? And it’s not a dish that most people make at home. Hollandaise Sauce, the heavenly topping that turns poached eggs into Benedict, is a royal pain to make. It’s one of those sauces that involves plenty of stirring over a hot water bath, and has 17 different ways to fail. OK, there are probably fewer than 17 ways to mess up this sauce, but one recipe comes with its own “fix the sauce” page. See here — I am not joking. However, I have a “faux” Hollandaise sauce that is healthier and works every time. Even better, you make it in the microwave.

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Chicken stock the easy way

You can buy good chicken stock today. If you are willing to pony up some serious money, you can buy great chicken stock. However, I have never seen honest-to-goodness stock in a tetra pack. Homemade stock is thick, often solid when cold from the gelatin released from the bones.

My secret for making stock easily comes from being lazy. I hated making stock, but the only tough part was stripping the carcass. I no longer do that. I remember the last time — a turkey. I spent a long time with my fingers covered in juice and bits of meat, two bowls going — one for the meat, one for the bones. In the end, I had a very small pile of saturated meat. I decided on the spot it was not worth it.

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Creative license creates family favorite pitas

Pita with tomato, onion and cheese on a pita image
A few ingredients, and ten minutes puts this on your table.

This pita recipe was a staple through most of the time I raised my kids, and is a family favorite. Read the family story behind the dish. It takes around 5 minutes to cook and little time to put together. Use this idea as a launch for your own ideas, maybe even your own family tradition.

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Real food faster than fast food

Real food meal with grilled chicken sandwich and salad photo
Grilled chicken sandwich and salad in 10 minutes from frozen real food.

I’ve often claimed that I can make real food faster than picking up fast food — and people laugh at me. So, it became a habit to glance at the clock when I started and finished to prove, perhaps even to myself, that I was telling true.This meal took less than 10 minutes from idea to table.

The hamburger bun (from a local bakery) and chicken strips were in the freezer. I freeze the chicken strips individually, and split my buns before freezing. I always have a basic salad dressing on hand. So …

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Creating real food sides on the fly

Real food fast: Cucumber salad photo
This crisp, cool salad can be made in the few minutes just before you serve dinner. Perfect with spicy food.

The difference between a good meal and a great meal is often the little sides or condiments you add to the main dish. This little cucumber salad is perfect to prepare as you wait for the meal to cook.

Don’t think of this idea as a recipe, more like a concept. My sides are often inspired as I gather the ingredients for the meal.

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