Every time I travel without my husband, which lately has been pretty often, I make sure the freezer and cupboards are stocked with healthy food he can eat while I am gone. He could eat at the restaurant, but as I have mentioned in previous posts, I don’t think eating restaurant food on a daily basis is healthy. I like to leave him with easy, tasty, yet, healthy fare that will make him want to come home to eat even if I am not there.
The usual grocery list before my trips includes several bags of organic frozen green beans and peas. I buy frozen so I don’t have to worry about rotting food if he is busier than usual and can’t get home for his meals. I also stock organic, raw chicken tenders, which I portion and freeze, (so that he can thaw them as he needs them) organic tomato sauce and whole wheat linguini, which cooks really fast.
I am getting ready to leave again for Christmas, and while he’ll be able to join us for a couple of days, he will be home alone for some time. He loves Italian sausage, and has asked me to buy some for him. Unfortunately I know that all the packaged sausage available at our grocery store has monosodium glutamate (MSG) alongisde other questionable ingredients. I know this because every time he comes with me to the store he stops at the meat cooler to read the labels, he always comes empty handed and disappointed.
When we have the chance to go to Whole Foods Market, we buy a good amount of its store-made sausage and freeze it. This time, however, I can’t make the two-hour trip to my own food heaven, so I offered to make our own sausage (not encased because that would be too time consuming, but loose, like breakfast sausage). He seems to like the idea, so I have been scouring recipes and have realized that the basic recipe is extremely simple: ground pork, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and parsley. If you want a spicy version add garlic and crushed red peppers.
Of course the meat counters at specialty stores have all kinds of fancy sausage; I have seen apples, apricots, and an amazing variety of peppers mixed with ground meat and stuffed in the casings, but I like to stick to the basics, at least for the first couple of times I make it. I am making one variation using ground chicken, because my supermarket doesn’t carry organic ground pork.
He can’t eat this sausage in a bun, but he can pan fry it or broil it and add it to pasta. This is so easy that I feel a little guilty about having bought all those sausages in the past, except for the fact that every now and again I too enjoy a sausage in a bun. Next on my list is finding an easy bratwurst recipe…does anyone have one?
NPR’s Homemade Spicy Italian Sausage
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
• 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
• 2 pounds ground chicken
1. Toast fennel seed in a pan over medium heat until it becomes fragrant, let cool and grind.
2. In a large bowl mix meat with the rest of the ingredients with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
3. Portion into freezer bags to store.
4. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge, and pan fry it with a little olive oil until browned evenly. You can also spread it over a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and broil until done, mixing every couple of minutes for even browning.
5. Add it to pizza, or to a basic marinara for a delicious pasta sauce.
Olivia Blanco Mullins is a journalist and has been eating healthy most of her life, as her parents have owned health food stores for more than 20 years. Currently she lives in Manhattan, Kansas, where her husband owns an Italian restaurant .