Healthy Cooking: The one recipe you need in your back pocket, and your freezer

With Make Ahead Sweet and Sour Sauce on hand, you can throw together a meal with some cooked, cubed meat, veggies and rice. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

With Make Ahead Sweet and Sour Sauce on hand, you can throw together a meal with some cooked, cubed meat, veggies and rice. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

I know recipes. I can discern if they are brilliant (or a disaster) with a piercing gaze, the way your mom knew you’d been kissed at the party you swore you didn’t attend. So believe me when I tell you that my recipe for sweet and sour sauce will change your life. Or, at a minimum, your weeknight dinners.

Why the big sell? This sauce is so easy to make, you can whip up several batches at once. It keeps in the freezer for up to three months, and you don't need to thaw it in advance. The sauce cheerfully defrosts under a running tap while you gather cooked, cubed chicken or pork tenderloin, shrimp, scallops, tofu or even Brie to make a meal. In fact, my 15-year-old son decided that his carryout dumplings would benefit from a sweet and sour dipping sauce and so he made a batch completely on his own. I promise, you can too.

Start with a can of pineapple tidbits, in juice, not syrup, please. Drain the can into a bowl to separate the juice from the fruit. (No cans of pineapple in the pantry? Use 3/4 cup of orange or apple juice and move on.) Set the pineapple chunks aside. Feel free to nibble on them as you cook, because you need only a few tablespoons of pineapple for the recipe.

Whisk together the juice, cornstarch and soy sauce in a saucepan. As your healthy cooking guru, I strongly recommend using less sodium soy sauce. If you sample as you go, you may find that 2 tablespoons of even the lower sodium soy sauce tastes like one too many. And if you plan on using the sauce as a dip like my son did, go ahead and decrease the soy sauce by half. But if you’re adding any protein, you will want the second tablespoon for its savory umami undertones.

Then add the remaining ingredients and some reserved pineapple, cook until the sauce thickens, and you’re done. Use it immediately, or let it cool to room temperature. The easiest way to pour your sweet and sour sauce into a freezer ziptop bag is to place the open bag in a wide-mouthed pint glass or jar and pull the bag edges over the lip. Pour the sauce, seal and then freeze the bag lying flat. The frozen bags will be less than half an inch thick, which is why they store easily and defrost quickly.

It’s a little unusual to recommend a sauce as a solution to healthy eating. But unlike many sauces, this one has no fat or cholesterol. And keeping it on hand prevents you from making a poor food choice during the witching hour when hunger and exhaustion collide. Also, it may inspire you to cook more meals at home, say, a Sweet and Sour Glazed Pork Roast. Trust me. I know recipes.

Make Ahead Sweet and Sour Sauce can store easily in your freezer. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

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Make Ahead Sweet and Sour Sauce

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled in a medium saucepan. For an easy dinner, warm thawed sweet and sour sauce on the stovetop over medium heat. Toss with 1 pound of cooked, cubed meat or chopped steamed carrots, snow peas and tofu. Serve with brown rice and garnish with chopped green onion.


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