Recipes: The simpler, the better

January 23, 2013

Healthful food starts by cooking from scratch. And an added bonus? Cooking at home, from scratch, is going to lead to big-time savings.

That's advice from someone who knows her stuff.

Chef Sanaa Abourezk, owner of Sanaa’s 8th Street Gourmet in Sioux Falls, talked this week about simple and inexpensive dishes during a cooking class at Hy-Vee on South Minnesota Avenue.

Sanaa said she once heard from someone that “if you have a half-hour to watch a cooking show, you have an half an hour to cook.” Still, we all know that despite how easy it seems, people don’t always do it (and yes, I’m guilty of watching something, or reading something, and THINKING about doing it).

But Sanaa showed off some truly simple – and tasty – recipes that could become family favorites even on busy weeknights.

Processed foods are not good for us. They just aren’t – and Americans eat a lot of them. That’s why cooking from scratch, and knowing exactly what goes into your food, is so important. Sanaa showed the class how to make a simple tomato sauce and urged us not to buy Ragu or some other commercially-manufactured pasta sauce.

Her tomato sauce is simple: About six tablespoons of olive oil, some garlic and a can of tomato sauce. You can add a little bit of water, depending on how thick you want it.

The stuff in the jar not only costs you more, but it has a bunch of extra ingredients to preserve it, and increase the shelf life, which is often three to six months.

“I shiver at the idea of meat on the shelf for six months,” she said of the sauces that have “meat” in them.

So the most important thing for cooking at home is to have a simple recipe. Sanaa said she’s read recipes with multiple pages and dozens of ingredients. Those prove confusing, and difficult – and you’re probably going to give up before you finish reading the entire recipe.

“The idea is, if the recipe is simple enough, you do it,” Sanaa said. “In my opinion, the simpler the recipe, the healthier it is.”

Another tip from Sanaa: Whenever you cook, make two trays. Cook one and freeze one for later.

“So some night when you don’t want to cook, you can have something you made with no additives, no preservatives,” she said.

Sanaa made four recipes in about an hour’s time, and said all of them totaled about $25. She used lentils for one, which are high in protein, fiber and iron, and unlike other beans, only take about 15 minutes to cook. They’re also cheap.

Another tip from Sanaa? If you can't get fresh veggies, chose frozen over canned. They're closest to the real thing.

Sanaa has a blog with YouTube videos for tons of of her recipes:

Her restaurant in downtown Sioux Falls (at 8th and Railroad) also has plenty of delicious (and healthy) options. She also has a variety of options for people who want meals that are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian.