It’s Recipe Friday and I can’t think of a recipe I want to share. Maybe it’s because we’ve been having the same old thing lately and I haven’t come up with anything that’s really new. Or maybe it’s because my recent posts with pictures have set the bar too high in my mind and I don’t have any good pictures.
Anyway, I thought I’d do something a bit different and just share some of my favorite tips for making cooking easier and food tastier.
- I do a lot of cooking with ground beef because it’s easy and relatively inexpensive. Plus, I always have some on hand in the freezer. But I never freeze it as it was packaged at the store. Instead, I buy 3 – 4 lb packages (cheaper yet when they are buy-one-get-one-free). When I get home, I break them up into 1 lb portions and put each portion in a quart-sized Ziploc bag. Then I flatten it out as thin as it will go to fill the bag to the edges. Then, when I want to make one of my many ground beef recipes, I can just open the Ziploc and microwave the meat on the thaw setting. Because the meat is pressed thin it thaws more evenly and I don’t end up with some parts that are cooked and others that are still frozen. This trick will work with any ground meat.
- I love garlic. I’ve purchased the pre-chopped jars of garlic in the past, but the taste gets strong and bitter pretty quickly even in the refrigerator. This last summer someone gave me a gift basket with a bag of whole garlic cloves in it. At first, I would hand chop the garlic to put it in various dishes. But for Christmas my husband got me a really nice garlic press from Crate & Barrel. I have used flimsy garlic presses before and they were more trouble than they were worth. But this one is nice and sturdy and does a great job of getting all the garlicy goodness out of a garlic clove with less mess. Mmmmm, garlic!
- The other night we were watching one of the late night shows, and they had a chef on there who was showing the host how to make something, I don’t even remember what. But what I do remember is that she had a bowl of salt and said, “I call this a little bowl of compliments.” I thought that was such a great comment because adding a little fresh salt does bring out the flavors so much in any dish. It doesn’t matter if you have already put in canned ingredients that were salted – adding some extra salt at the very end of the cooking process (plus a little pepper, though that always makes me sneeze) makes everything taste better.
- When cooking any sort of pasta I always add a tablespoon or so of light olive oil to the water. I don’t measure it, I just pour some in. This helps keep the pasta from sticking together when you drain it. For some pastas, such as angel hair, it also helps to add another tablespoon of olive oil after you have drained it and stir it around to keep the pasta from sticking.
- Not everything has to be from scratch to be tasty. I can’t remember the last time I made homemade spaghetti sauce (in fact, have I ever done that? I don’t think so. If I did, it was a looooong time ago.) There are so many good brands of spaghetti sauce these days, such as Bertolli or Classico (though I still don’t like Ragu). Just add a little ground beef, sausage, or turkey, cook up some pasta, and you have a meal.
- Rice-a-Roni can be turned into an endless number of different skillet meals. I have already posted at least one of my favorites, and will probably post some additional ones that I’ve come up with in the future. But you can create your own very easily. Add your favorite meat and vegables to a Rice-a-Roni flavor you like, and you have a one skillet meal. You just have to make sure your vegetables are in for the right amount of time to be cooked to your liking, and that you add a small amount of water to accommodate the cooking of the vegetables.
Well, that’s all the tips for today. I hope they are helpful to someone. I know they make my cooking easy and my family never complains about what’s for dinner.