It all started when we went to do our usual weekly grocery run. All we had to grab was snacks and drinks for game night with some new folks. Once there, it was busy. I was worried by the turn out. Looking around, there were faces of many folks who looked frightened. Maybe of not having enough food for their kids, maybe they had run out to get cleaning supplies. Everyone wanted to make sure they COULD get what they needed before it ran out and they couldn’t. We decided to return later that night and finish our trip after all had quieted down….
This turned into a 4 day search for toilet paper (we did find some by a miracle). The point was made to get any ingredients we were low on so we wouldn’t have to return or make little trips, seeing as those would be uncertain, if they were even possible. We were finishing stocking up the new house anyways after 2 months of gathering little by little so overall, we were in good enough shape to not worry. I do hope everyone else was able to get enough to not worry too.
The spice drawer was the main concern to have in good order. Spices are the longest lasting ingredient and we get one or 2 every month when they run out. Discovering a new way to make instant potatoes not taste like grainy, runny, flavourless mush was a goal I had set. Fresh potatoes from the produce aisle might be hard to come by during this baited-breath moment. No one knew. The easy 3 things to add were minced garlic, black pepper, and chives.
REBECCA’S CHEAT POTATOES EST TIME: 5 min
Ingredients: Dried Minced Garlic, Black Pepper, Chopped Chives, Instant Potatoes and listed ingredients for the potatoes on the package
Put some garlic to the water so it reconstitutes while heating, remove from heat once boiling,
Add the milk, mix in the potatoes, and then the chives. Pepper to taste
Being generous with the pepper helps the flavor immensely, so don’t be shy on the last step!
To make them not watery and a bit thicker, try adding the wet ingredient measurements with dry ingredient measuring cups. One of the things I shared with my friend I met in California on Camp Pendleton that she did not know: There are 2 different types of measuring utensils to use for wet vs dry. Pyrex I have found some have different printings of dry on the right of the handle if it is closest to you and wet on the left. Smaller stackable measuring cups usually correspond to dry ingredients best.
In our house, the rule I go by for cooking meals that have 3 foods is: 1 spiced, 1 sauced, and one plain. Not only does this keep me sane with keeping my counter uncluttered during cooking, but it helps with getting everything cooked in under an hour each night. Most things only require me to do 5 minutes of assembly and then I let it cook. Attention-wise, I appreciate this as I can put away dishes or start laundry in between the food becoming delicious. It makes me feel like I’ve earned my dinner too when I get my chores done and I can then sit and enjoy the meal instead of rushing to the next “to-do” item. We usually only eat meat once a day for dinner. This saved us money on our grocery bill and also allowed me to make a killer meal with the best flavor since I can take my time. We rotate through chicken, pork, beef, fish, and a processed meat like ham or pepperoni or a seafood.
I will say, we never do a plain meat dish. Easy sauces that keep in the fridge and you don’t use a lot of each time include: Italian dressing on chicken, teriyaki (try it with salmon and bake it), bbq for pork chops, duck sauce mixed with orange juice as a glaze for wild game, Worcestershire compliments beef, and soy sauce for oriental dishes.
KIR’S ORANGE CHICKEN WINGS OR DRUMSTICKS EST TIME: 45 min bake, 5 to assemble
Ingredients: 1 part Orange Juice, 2 parts Duck Sauce, Salt, Pepper, Chicken style of your choice.
Line a pan or baking sheet with foil, move rack higher up in oven, heat oven to 375
lay our chicken with 1” spaces and add salt and pepper, mix orange juice with duck sauce
Baste chicken before putting in oven and every 15 min (2 more times) Give last baste right after removal from oven.
Good vinegars and oils on hand will aid you in making your own custom marinades too! Try digging out a spice blend from your collection and mixing it with an oil, then pouring it onto a ziplock with a protein. Marinade for an hour, flipping the bag over once to coat evenly. Vinegars can be used to soak tougher cuts of meat to help with softening the fibres so it will be tender. Doing this overnight in the fridge can totally change the texture of your next dish. We now have Tarragon or Chive infused vinegar at the Apothecary that I cannot WAIT to get my hands on and use for larger crock pot meals! Adding a little bit of balsamic to some olive oil on a plate, and you have a great dipping sauce for bread is you have no butter.
Veggies are mostly steamed or microwaved for time’s sake and plain. We like the pure taste of ours but someone with kids may have trouble getting them to eat things that way. I put them in a pyrex measuring cup taller than it is wide and add a little water to the bottom. Then, I get a slice of paper towel wet and lay it across the top. The important thing here is to steam them, not boil them, so only about half an inch to an inch of water should be added.
Our other favoured method is roasting them. This is easy too as just lining a cookie sheet and putting them on and spread out is about all you really need to do. If you want a good crisp, add a spray of oil to the tops and for a twist, grab some Cajun seasoning or Old Bay and sprinkle it over. Then, just throw the pan in the oven once it is heated and let it cook. Once you see crispy edges, it is done.
The old standby of some garlic salt and a squeeze of lemon is always a welcomed zesty and fun taste for broccoli. If you appreciate more spice, add some red pepper flakes and cracked black pepper to your sweet corn. If all else fails, cheese it. We are in Wisconsin after all! Although, my husband’s favourite recipe for asparagus specifically is below, seeing as spring is here and he loves it, we make it once a week.
CHRIS’ “ASPARA-MOUSSE” EST TIME: 5 min (10 min if thicker stalks)
Ingredients: Oil of your choice, Old Bay Seasoning, Trimmed Asparagus Spears
In a frying pan, add 2 tbsp oil and heat, add asparagus and stir fry. Coat with Old Bay generously in pan and mix. Give it 5 minutes then plate.
The last category is a side. We are big on potatoes as you’ve already read, but we love our rice and noodles too. Plain white rice is really nice when you have spiced and sauced dishes that go with it (the teriyaki salmon, Chris’ Aspara-Mousse, and sticky rice are one of our go to meals). If we are already planning on plain veggies though, how do you make these sides stand out? With Parsley! Easy Egg noodles once drained can have some pizzazz and colour with a little salt, a tbsp. of butter per 2 servings and a pile of parsley. Just mix it up and serve. The rice is just as easy. If you have bouillon cubes at home or stock bases for soups, use those. Add 1 bouillon cube per serving so it isn’t too salty to the rice water. Again add the same measurements of butter that we used for the noodles and parsley to the water then add your rice as instructed. Let cook and VIOLA, flavoured rice to compliment your meals. This is an alternative to stir fry rice is we are doing a simpler meal or are short on time.
Potatoes we like baked, sliced, fried, grated, with cheese or onions, and so forth. Our Cajun spice mix is only a $1 and we put it on ours for a nice zing (and on green beans too for a new take). My only tip for fresh potatoes is to soak any homemade American fries/hash browns or the like, in water for about 15 min to wash off the excess starch so you will get crispy results instead of soggy if you are deep frying. Make sure to pat them dry beforehand too. I made that mistake for many years before I learned that trick. Rosemary is a great garnish on them or even thyme. Try adding some ginger to deepen the profile if you want to surprise some adventurous eaters!
So what have you been doing with food to keep the old or usual interesting to eat? I’d love to hear if you have any ideas to share that I could learn. Let me know if you try any dishes and what you think. Be safe!