Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Cookbooks Reflect Eras of Your Life

Seafood Pie
I learned to cook from books because my mother was not too skilled in the kitchen.  She made good chocolate chip cookies, but it was downhill after that.  Her go-to guide was “The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man’s Heart,” originally published in 1903.  I wasn’t a fan. 

Much more interesting to me was “Joy of Cooking,” a book I heard of when I got my first apartment in New York after college.  I bought a copy and was thrilled with the huge variety of recipes, although many of the dishes I picked out to cook were on the bland side.  That was probably my fault because I was afraid of seasonings.

That changed when my mother bought me “The Spice Cookbook.”  Here were recipes with major flavor.  During my four years of cooking for myself and my roommate, I toggled between “Joy” and “Spice.”  They’re still in a prominent place in my kitchen, and whenever I pick them up I remember my young and fun days in The Big Apple.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 25

When freezing liquids, make sure there is about 1 inch of empty space between the top of the liquid and the lid of the container. The liquid will expand slightly when frozen and can push the lid off.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 24

Save money by making your own garlic mayonnaise: mix 2 tablespoons store-bought mayonnaise with 1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic, 1/8 teaspoon dried dill and a few drops olive oil. The olive oil gives the mayonnaise a slightly golden hue and suggests it’s homemade.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Woks

Stir-Fried Shrimp and Vegetables
Last night it was a face-off between shrimp and tofu.  The shrimp won (no leftovers), but the fight  was close.  The contenders:

1 pound (21-25 per pound) raw shrimp - cost $5.77 (on sale)
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into small squares - cost $1.49

Stir-Fried Tofu and Vegetables

Cooking two dishes at the same time is stressful. Here are some tricks I learned:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 24

To make a quick dessert pie crust, mix 1/2 15-ounce package crushed, cream-filled cookies with 1 tablespoon melted butter and press into a pie pan. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 23

Grate your own cheddar, mozzarella and other hard cheeses as needed. Not only will you save money but also your opened package of cheese will be less likely to get moldy.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Injuries in the Kitchen

Spicy Baked Chicken Legs
I haven’t hurt myself lately in the kitchen, but I still have a cooking scar on my right hand.  It came from boiling blueberry juice that overflowed the pie pan when I was taking it out of the oven.  That’s when I learned to bake a fruit pie on a cookie sheet.

The skin on my knuckles finally healed after I removed some of it while grating mozzarella cheese.  Now I pay more attention to what I’m doing.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 23

To prevent salt grains from sticking together in a salt shaker, add 1/4 teaspoon uncooked rice grains to the shaker to absorb moisture.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 22

Kitchen scissors will save you time and money. Use them to quickly cut up whole chickens and pizzas, snip fresh herbs into small pieces or quarter canned tomatoes.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Important Is Color in Food?

One of the most exciting food sightings of my childhood was a turquoise popsicle.  Food was not turquoise in my little coal-mining town.  Until then, the only blue food I’d ever eaten was a blueberry.  Pizza was a novelty item covered in red sauce, and it smelled strange because of the Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.  Egg Foo Yung, an oddly named dish I later learned was an omelet, was equally surprising and wonderful.

Photo by Andy Mills
These foods had two things in common – they were colorful, and they weren’t boiled chicken or any of the other tasteless concoctions I was apt to find on my plate at mealtimes.  I began to associate “exotic” flavors with bright colors.  Now I know that intensely colored vegetables are rich in antioxidants, a great hidden benefit.

Photo by Andy Mills
I still like colorful foods, and I like them even better when presented in colorful bowls.  I bet even boiled chicken served in a bright blue bowl would be delicious.

Photo by Andy Mills

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 22

When you’re cooking rice, make extra, cool to room temperature and freeze in a plastic bag. Remove from the freezer a few hours before reheating or microwave to defrost.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 21

Shop at the farmers’ market when it’s about to close. Selection will be more limited, but vendors may give you a better price on what’s left.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Get 6 Meals from 1 Rotisserie Chicken…and That’s Feeding 2 People

Vegetable and Chicken Soup
I’ve always considered myself thrifty, but maybe I’m going to an extreme here. 

On the one hand, I’ve never forgotten my budgeting days right after college when I truied to spend just $1 per dinner.  Food was much cheaper then, but my New York City salary was equally low--just under $100 per week.  I ate meat every night because that’s how I was raised.

On the other hand, I’m now older, wiser and more adventurous.  I know I won’t die or become malnourished if meat isn’t on the menu every day.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mom Money-Saving Tip 20

Learn to love lentils. They’re a very cheap form of protein, and there are more than a dozen varieties. Use them in soup, as a substitute for rice or as a main dish. Add spices and cooked vegetables for extra flavor.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Mom Cooking Tip 21

If you have questions for the Meat Department, shop in the morning when the butcher is more likely to be available.

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