Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Vegetable That Makes Me Feel Guilty

Photo by Sam Mills
At this very moment I have three major league zucchini staring at me on the kitchen counter.   There used to be four.  I put one out of its misery by slicing it up and frying it for a few minutes in butter.  Zucchini seem impervious to rot and if not cooked would probably last forever.

I didn’t buy these zucchini.  They were a gift from Kenny, a softball buddy of Bart’s.  I can barely grow cherry tomatoes in my pathetic garden (a gaggle of pots on my deck), but Kenny, who lives just a few miles away, raises baseball bat-size zucchini and then gives them all away.  Kenny doesn’t cook.

Mom Cooking Tip 4

Can’t face another dinner of leftovers? Instead of tossing them in the trash or shoving them to the back of the fridge and waiting for the mold to grow, divide them into one-person portions. Transfer to freezer bags or wrap each portion in foil, attach a label of the contents + a date and pop into the freezer. In a few weeks, you’ll be thrilled to discover a pre-cooked meal waiting for you. Just don’t wait a few years to defrost it.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 3

Every week grocery stores have sales on select items like these: whole chickens for 99 cents per pound, 8 ears corn for $2, 3 8-ounce cans tomato sauce for $1. Shopping these sales can save you considerable money over time. But some stores quietly offer daily sales of perishables—meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables and bakery items—if you know where to look. They’re usually hidden in some obscure corner at the back of the store. If the expiration date is close at hand, you can pick up items at half-price or less, although you will need to cook or freeze them within 24 hours.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Soup As a Meal

Bean, Vegetable and Sausage Soup (photo by Andy Mills)
I used to associate soup with being sick.  I’d be lying in bed, and my grandmother would bring me a bowl of homemade chicken soup.  I’d slurp it up and feel better.

Actually, I think this is a false memory.  My grandmother lived too far away to bring me soup, although whenever we visited her chicken soup was invariably on the menu.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 3

Is your dinner tasting blah? Want a quick fix? Add a few dashes of soy sauce. This trick is especially good with tomato-based sauces, but you can put it on just about anything. I wouldn’t try it with a chocolate dessert, though.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 2

When you go to the grocery store, the best way to save money is to have a list and buy only what’s on it. Don’t be tempted by the cookie aisle. No ice cream today. Unfortunately I don’t always listen to my own advice. Just yesterday I noticed cans of black beans on sale for 50 cents each. I could barely carry my 10-can purchase to the car.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Need Something New to Cook?

Days go by when I’m on autopilot in the kitchen.  It’s roast chicken one night, followed by chicken fajitas the next.  If there’s still chicken left, it becomes chicken salad. 

Then I turn to spaghetti for a night or two, and after that, lentil soup and salad.  Veggie burgers or turkey burgers might pop up occasionally, and I try to keep a bag of frozen shrimp handy.

What snaps me out of this routine

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do You Speak Chocolate?

I was never good at languages, but speaking chocolate comes naturally. It dates back to my childhood, when my father, a dentist no less, designated the top drawer of the dining room bureau as “the candy drawer.” He had a sweet tooth, and never did a day go by when he, my brother and I didn’t visit this special hideout. I don’t know why he told us about it. Maybe we caught him sneaking into it one evening, and we promised not to tell our mother IF we could visit the drawer ourselves.

I was interested only in the chocolate candy, and over the years I got to sample everything from the basic Hershey Bar to Whitman’s Sampler and store-bought fudge. As a teenager, I tried making fudge myself, but I never managed to get it to firm up. I didn’t care because it was just as tasty eating it with a spoon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Are You Afraid of Spices?

Cauliflower with Potatoes
When I was growing up, I didn’t know what a spice was.  I don’t think I heard the word “garlic” until I got my first full-time job at 21.  I grew up in a coal-mining town in Western Pennsylvania, and my mother’s cooking consisted of bland dishes—boiled chicken, meatloaf, brisket, sardine salad and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Spaghetti came out of a Chef Boyardee can.  Sitting down for dinner was a duty, not a delight.

Dorm food wasn’t much better.  The highlight was toasted English muffins, served about once every two weeks for breakfast.  Food was fuel, nothing more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What's Your Emergency Meal?

Spaghetti with Clam Sauce
Everyone needs to have an emergency meal—something you can make at the last minute when dining-out plans fall through, your phone service is dead or it’s 3 a.m. and you’re too hungry to sleep.

College students fall back on ramen soup and cereal. No refrigeration is necessary. Who needs milk on your cereal if you’re desperate?

Mom Money-Saving Tip 1

If you use a lot of cheese, it's cheaper to buy a two-pound block and then slice or grate it yourself as needed. Store it in an airtight container.

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Mom Cooking Tip 2

Fancy cooks may say, “I use only fresh garlic!” Well, I say, feel free to use bottled chopped garlic. No peeling cloves, no mashing pulp,and no scraping a garlic press. And no stinky garlic fingers! (You might have stinky garlic breath, though.)

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