Back To School Survival Guide

I have had this Julia Child picture, framed and hanging on my wall for years. It makes me smile, it reminds me to slow down, and it’s a delightful prompt for someone like me who has a bit of a hard time asking for help.

juliachild-silvia-baldini

 

“Back to School” is one of those times I wish I had a team of professional handlers, shadowing me and making my life just a little less muddy. I don’t. Therefore the last couple of weeks have been, more or less, hell and spent arming the whole family with new soccer shoes, tennis outfits, cellos, violins and let’s not forget, discovering the virtues of my new favorite, Mode Podge Glue and did I mention consulting about new cute outfits?

I also have had to organize 2 birthday’s celebrations, inclusive of multi-layered, glittery cakes, I have been at one open house, a welcome back coffee, I had a drum stick drama and I worked on a lengthy time line project. I cannot wait for week 3 in September.
I have commiserated with many of the parents and apparently I’m not the only one with these kinds of issues. Generally speaking back to school is a war zone for all.

One place where I do better than the organizational inferno of my kids closets and their activities, it’s the kitchen. My pantry is ready to go and my fridge and freezers are stocked up for lunches, snacks, dinners and post games hunger freak-outs—I didn’t know, before becoming a mother and a wife, men turn in to famished werewolves immediately after sport practice.

Furthermore, since I suspect, you are like me at home and don’t employ a swarm of chefs and pot washers ready to chop, prep and clean at your command, I thought you might enjoy learning about my 5 favorite, ready to go meals and pantry helpers that make my life easier and my dinners more enjoyable.

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  1. Roasted Tomatoes Sauce It’s a simple, healthy, quick but brilliant way to make a tomatoes sauce. The full power, garlicky flavor and the smooth consistency make it a perfect versatile companion  for pastas , soups and a phenomenal base for sauces and stews. I make it in large batches and freeze it in my latest obsession, stand alone ziplock bags.
  2. Bolognese- We all have a bolognese recipes. This is my version and It reminds me of home. My kids know the taste so well by now, if I change the recipe even by one ingredient they complain. It’s a slow cooked project I usually do once a months on a weekend. I like to lace a mix  of equal parts of double ground veal, pork and beef with a small amount of cumin and nutmeg and once it’s cooked and cooled  I freeze it in pre weighted portions. I use it on pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, polenta or semolina.
  3. Olive Oil Frozen Herbs- This is my favorite last minute flavor trick and a great way to preserve all the herbs I grow in summer. I wash, dry and chop finely my leafy herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro and tarragon.  I put them in ice cube containers packing at least half of the cube and cover them with good olive oil. I then freeze them, pop them out and keep them in ziplock bags ready to use in sauces and sautés. Read more about Olive Oil in my sharing corner post about Alina Lawrence, she is the fab owner of Olivette.
  4. End of Summer Minestrone- I make huge pots of this healthy and hearty minestrone. It’s loaded with beans and good vegetables. I add cooked orzo, barley, pasta or rice and finish it with parmesan and crispy pancetta for a full power one dish meal.
  5. Mashed Potatoes for the week-I keep a container of home made mashed potatoes in the fridge. They last for a good 5 to 7 days. They are a smart and efficient way to produce a meal in less than 10 minutes. Just add bolognese, cheese, a fried egg, peas and bacon, sausages for a cozy dinner or use them to top left over stews, grilled salmon,  or really what ever you  have in the fridge, sprinkle them with a mix of cheddar and parmesan, then brown them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

So welcome back to school with an empathizing nod to all of you trying to get a last minutes cello delivered to your door!

Roasted Tomato Sauce
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8/12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8/12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8/12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8/12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 lb full flavor ripe tomatoes
  • 4/6 peeled garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven at 350F
  2. Halve the tomatoes and arrange them in an oven proof dish lined with parchment. I like them tightly packed but not on top of each other.
  3. Season with the salt, drizzle the olive oil evenly. Scatter the garlic and basil on the tomatoes.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and lightly charred. Pass through a sieve or a food mill and discard the seeds and the skins. Use immediately as a great pasta sauce or preserve in zip lock bags and freeze.
Recipe Notes

The seeds and skin of the tomatoes are best removed as they can cause allergies and irritate the stomach.

Tomatoes cook and taste better if the pepper is added after cooking.

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Bolognese My Way
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour plus
Servings Prep Time
12 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour plus
Bolognese My Way
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour plus
Servings Prep Time
12 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour plus
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup grounded prosciutto or mortadella
  • 1 pound double ground veal
  • 1 pound double ground beef
  • 1 pound double ground pork
  • 1/2 tsp grounded cumin
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 small glass red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 4 cups tomato passata
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 bouquet garni tie bay leaves, parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme together
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Warm a couple of spoons of table spoon of olive oil in a large heavy bottom pan then add the onion, clergy and carrots and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until soft but not colored. Add the prosciutto or mortadella and keep cooking for an extra 10 minutes on a low flame. Then rise the heat and brown the veal, pork and beef turning frequently.
  2. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom and reduce the alcohol for a couple of minutes, lower the flame.
  3. Season with the nutmeg, cumin and salt and pepper. Add the tomato concentrate and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the passata, the stock and the bouquet garni.
  4. Cook on slow heat for at lest an hour. Taste for seasoning and fish out the herbs before serving or freezing.
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End Of Summer Minestrone
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
45-50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
45-50 minutes
End Of Summer Minestrone
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
45-50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
45-50 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 chopped carrot
  • 2 medium chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cup smoked bacon or pancetta cubed
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 1 quart stock chicken or vegetables
  • 1 cup beans cooked or canned
  • 1 cup chopped stewed tomatoes passata
  • 1 bunch kale leaves or large spinach cleaned and deveined
  • 2 medium zucchini cubed
  • 2 cups green beans sliced in small sections
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bouquet garni tie together rosemary, parsley, thyme, 1 bay leaf
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Warm olive the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots . Cook 3 to 5 minutes to soften. Add the bacon or pancetta and crisp.
  3. Stir in the beans. Stew slowly for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock and bouquet garland season. Add the parmesan rind. Bring to a boil and slow simmer for 25-30 minutes until soft vegetable are soft.
  4. Remove from heat. Discard the bouquet garni and parmesan rind and with an immersion blender whiz to a chunky consistency. YOu can also use a blender or a food processor.
  5. Return the soup to the pot on a medium/slow heat and add remaining vegetables. Cook for 15/ 20 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked but with a bit a of a bite.
  6. Serve warm or room temperature. Garnish with pesto, crunchy pancetta, a grain and some parsley.
Recipe Notes

Freeze before adding kale, beans and zucchini for up to 6 months.

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