Five More Tips to Improve Your Home-cooked Meals

Macaroni and Cheese?

Get Inspired with Cookbooks—There are many ways to find cooking inspiration these days. Cooking shows abound, online cooking sites provide a great deal of information, but good old cookbooks are still a real pleasure once you get into the idea of cooking at home. There are literally thousands of used cookbooks floating around out there. Look on Amazon.com, or go to the cookbook section and browse next time you visit your favorite used bookstore. Even the library has cookbooks. If you browse a bit you are sure to find something interesting. Then next time you get bored with the same old chicken tacos you will have an instant resource. Boredom breeds eating out unnecessarily, and perhaps blowing your food budget.

Read the Recipe—Once you find an interesting recipe, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, even if you are sure you know what it says. I once messed up a brownie recipe because it combined the chocolate with the flour and I (thinking I knew what the author was going to say) had already combined it with the sugar. Every recipe is different. If you read it first you’ll save yourself some unfortunate surprises. It also helps to get everything lined up, or what chefs call mise en place. Then it is easy to follow the directions.

Use Good Ingredients—Many people think that frugality means getting the cheapest stuff possible at all times. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is really all about getting the best things you can afford for the purpose you have in mind. Besides being one of the great pleasures in life, good food is one of the main building blocks of good health. There are ways to cut down the expense of high quality ingredients, as I have discussed on these pages from time to time. See what you can find in your location in the way of farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and food coops. It may be work, but it is well worth the time and effort.

The Right Tools—In the first installment of this series I discussed good knives. If you want to cook well enough to do it every day, get yourself some good pots, pans, and other tools. You will need at least one or two pots of different sizes, and several frying or sauté pans, as well as wooden spoons, tongs and other gadgets. To understand what you need, here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09mini.html

Butter—Here is a fun and easy way to make your food taste better. Add a little REAL butter when appropriate. Butter can be used to thicken a sauce. It can be flavored and put on all kinds of things from pasta to steak. I am talking about the real thing here. Americans were lied to about the health effects of butter. It is time to rediscover a sublime pleasure. Used judiciously, butter can change how your home cooked meals taste. Here is a slideshow on making compound (flavored) butter: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/how-to-make-compound-butter.html

 

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