Monday, September 14, 2015

Laila Ali Reminded Me Why I Cook

Spaghetti Bolognese (photo by Andy Mills)

Seldom do I have an opportunity to talk about cooking with a well-known public figure.  But the subject came up recently when I was interviewing Laila Ali for USA Today’s Back to School magazine.  Ali is the daughter of heavyweight boxing legend Mohammad Ali and an undefeated boxing champion herself.  She was discussing the importance of being present in the lives of her two young children, Curtis Jr., 7, and Sydney, 4, and husband Curtis Conway.

Although long retired from boxing, Ali has a heavy travel schedule and hosts several TV shows.  She could easily afford to employ a cook, but she told me she doesn’t.  “I cook dinner every night, and when I'm out of town I cook and freeze dinners before I leave. It runs me a little ragged, but it's all about priorities.”

That reminded me of my own traveling days as a mother.  I too prepared meals before hitting the road.  Knowing I was feeding my family, even though I wasn’t actually in the room to serve them, allowed me to feel less guilty about trying to have it all.

Here’s an easy-to-make dish that freeze well. 
Spaghetti Bolognese – serves 4 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen”
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey 
1 12-ounce can tomato paste + 1 can water 
2 thinly sliced celery stalks 
1 medium chopped onion 
1/4 pound sliced mushrooms 
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon sugar 
1 teaspoon bottled crushed garlic 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
16 ounces spaghetti 
Parmesan cheese (optional)  
Brown the ground beef or turkey in a large dry frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break up the clumps.  When the meat has browned, drain and discard the fat.  If you’re using turkey, there will be very little fat and you can skip draining it.  
Add the tomato paste and water and stir thoroughly.  Add the celery, onion, mushrooms, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper.  Stir again and bring to a boil.   
Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Add up to 1/2 cup more water if the sauce seems too thick.   
Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you like.
          For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"