By Cindy Silver, Registered Dietitian

Do you adore homemade meals? Of course, you do. After all, they’re comforting, tasty and nutritious — especially when the ingredients are simple and fresh. Somehow, even though most of us give thumbs up to homemade meals, we go the opposite direction and buy ‘made-for-you’ meals at a restaurant, café or the grocery store. As a registered dietitian, I push my clients, friends and family members to make the leap to really easy homemade. They sometimes resist because they’re in a time crunch or because they are not great meal planners. But, when they take the leap, they never look back. Really easy homemade is just what it sounds like. You think of something you like to eat, you find an easy recipe, shop for the ingredients and make it in your kitchen. There is truly no better meal you will consume than the one you make yourself. Or, better yet, get your kids to help you put that tasty dinner on the family table. Talk about pride…

Nutritional payoffs are plentiful when you cook and eat nutritious, homemade meals on a regular basis. For example, you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease-preventing antioxidants. And, you’ll get less salt, sugar, corn syrup, MSG, food colors, artificial flavors and hydrogenated fats. It’s all good.

So, can I push you to make the leap to really easy homemade cooking? I hope so. Here are 5 specific tips to get you started. And, just after the tips, I’m sharing a favorite recipe that will serve you very well. Please ditch that jar of processed Marinara spaghetti sauce and give my recipe a try. If you do, I’m pretty sure you’ll be hooked on homemade!

5 Easy Ways to Cook the Homemade Way

1. Buy and cook Old Fashioned or Quick oatmeal for 5 ½ minutes, half power, in the microwave.
2. Choose the raw, whole chicken, sprinkle it with herbs and then bake at 350 degrees in your oven for about 1-1 ½ hours – depending on the size of the chicken.
3. Opt for frozen unsweetened mixed berries, thaw them part way and add to your plain yogurt along with a pinch of cinnamon.
4. Make a simple pasta meal with the homemade Marinara spaghetti sauce recipe below.
5. Buy corn tortillas, cut them into fourths and then bake in a single layer for 8-10 min at 400 degrees in your oven – into delicious chips.

Homemade Marinara Spaghetti Sauce

This rich and tasty red sauce will make the whole kitchen smell good!
Kids can help by measuring the ingredients, tearing the basil leaves and stirring, with supervision.

Makes 4 servings

2 Tablespoons Olive oil
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups Crushed tomatoes
4 Tablespoons Water
Pinch Red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon Salt
6-8 Fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1. Heat a medium-size skillet or frying pan on the stove to medium heat.
2. Place olive oil and garlic into the pan. When garlic begins to sizzle, cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring. Garlic will turn golden.
3. Add crushed tomatoes and all remaining ingredients to the pan.
4. Cover pan with a lid and simmer over low heat, stirring once every 5-10 minutes.
5. Simmer sauce for 45-60 minutes to develop flavors.

Nutrition per serving
: 100 calories; 7 gm fat; 1 gm saturated fat; 0 trans fat; 0 cholesterol; 300 mg sodium; 9 gm carbohydrates; 2 gm fiber; 2 gm protein; 15% DV vitamin A; 20% DV vitamin C; 4% DV calcium; 8% DV iron
Cooking Tip: For a change, add 6-8 sliced mushrooms or a cup of leftover, cooked broccoli florets.

What is a simple homemade recipe or meal you make for your family?