Cooking at Home – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Cooking at Home

how to cook everything fastI love to cook.

As a child, I spent a lot of time at my maternal grandmother’s farm, out in the country of South Georgia. She lived on a dirt road off of a graded dirt road on several acres that were idyllic for exploring, complete with its own pond. There were chickens and pigs; I tried to make one of the pigs my pet, naming it Cindy… as I recall the pig wasn’t too interested in the friendship. The farm included an old smokehouse and I can still conjure up its smokey smell. I loved the time with “Gramma Liddie Mae” and learned many of my basic cooking skills from her. She made buttermilk biscuits in a huge wooden bowl which now sits in my mom’s kitchen. Sadly, mom has promised that bowl to my Aunt Dolly….grrrrr…

Now that I am home everyday after three years of weekly traveling, I am cooking most days… something The Man (eating) and I (cooking) both enjoy. When traveling I only cooked on weekends and my entree “repertoire” didn’t need a lot of variety. For a weekend cook, I needed six or eight dishes to keep The Man happy. I discovered early in my retirement, that I had to expand my dishes if I planned to wow him on a daily basis.

Fondue baked in a pumpkin. Recipe at epicurious.com

Fondue baked in a pumpkin. Recipe at epicurious.com

I have discovered that wowing The Man does not require complicated recipes or fancy ingredients. It does require quality ingredients, a pantry stocked with core ingredients and the willingness to try new recipes. Shopping at Costco allows access to quality ingredients at exceptional prices (the cost of membership is quickly recouped in savings); a stand-up freezer provides the ability to buy in larger quantities (as Costco requires) and fill the pantry; the internet and cookbooks provide the pathway to culinary adventure.

Recipes with six or less ingredients keep it easy and quick and still create tasty dishes. My most recent discovery is baby carrots (I buy the ready-to-cook/eat bags) sauteed in EVOO and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar… easy and takes about ten minutes.

To further inspire me into the kitchen, I read a Time Magazine article written by Foodist, Mark Bittman, and Author of numerous cookbooks including “How to Cook Everything Fast”. The article, “The Truth About Home Cooking”,  addresses the importance of cooking and eating at home. It’s healthier; it’s less expensive and easier than one might think. In addition to the philosophy and advocacy of cooking at home, the article includes lists of what it takes to create and sustain a well-stocked pantry.

Bittman suggests shopping the perimeter of the grocery store for the fresh foods, something I’ve done for years, but his lists also include frozen/dried fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, beans and nuts plus canned staples to have on hand.

Bulk bins at Whole Foods Market, South Weymouth, Massachusetts

Bulk bins at Whole Foods Market, South Weymouth, Massachusetts

Healthy canned foods are more common these days and by studying labels you can find organic, gluten-free, low-sodium, non-GMO and less-preservative selections. Again, Costco is a good bet in the canned and jarred area; the percentage of healthier choices available has grown exponentially since The Man and I joined in 1985… back in the Price Club days…

Grocery and Specialty Food Markets are installing and expanding their bulk aisles. Whole Foods Market and Kroger have impressive bulk selections that include spices, herbs, nuts, beans, rice, flour and dried fruits such as apricots and cranberries. I discovered panko in the bulk aisle of our local WinCo at about a third the price of the packaged version. Of course, all of these stores offer specialty cheeses to round out many recipes found in Bittman’s cookbooks.

So inspired by the article, I purchased Bittman’s “The Mini Minimalist”, a set of four small books with easy and quick recipes for everyday. While writing this article, I took a break and made “Real Onion Sour Cream Dip” to go with fresh, raw celery, carrots and cucumber slices. The recipe has only 5 ingredients including the oil to cook the onions and “a pinch” of salt. As I complete this writing, the dip is marinating in the fridge. The recipe recommends twenty-four hours in the fridge… that’s not going to happen…

IMG_20141205_194200 Updated 12/6/2014. As mentioned above, I made Bittman’s Fresh Onion Sour Cream Dip while writing my post. When I tasted it before putting in the fridge, it tasted like sour cream… six hours later… bam… the onion had married the sour cream to create an onion dip. For The Man and me, just a little too sweet. Next time I make this dip, I will omit the sugar… but it’s a keeper here at The Manse…

 

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