Friday, May 7, 2010

5 Favorite Tips and Tricks for Fabulous Eats on a Shoestring

I was thinking last night, when I was spending some quality time with DaMama (my wonderful, inspirational, brilliant mom), don't chocolate chip cookies sound perfect for weather like this? (Picture cool weather, semi-cold breeze, dark, foreboding storm clouds gathering on the horizon. And if you listen, you can heat the distant crack of thunder.) Never mind that our favorite shows were about to start, or that I was pretty tired after a stressful day at work (though, when isn't work stressful? Silly, silly me), cookies sounded like the perfect answer to a long day.

Naturally, there were no chocolate chips. None. Nada. Zip, zilch, etc, etc, etc. But, what she did have was a bag of Hershey's dark chocolate kisses. And a mini food-processer. And a hammer. Oh, and a Euro-Chopper. (What is a Euro-Chopper? It's a pointless invention that is suppose to chop food, but instead likes to send small particles of food shooting across the kitchen - chocolate shavings on the light fixture, anyone? Like I guessed, probably no takers.) After trying the Euro Chopper, the hammer, and the mini-foodprocessor, we finally got the chocolate chopped enough for the cookies. At some point, the chocolate got pulverized. But, we were going to have fresh, hot cookies with chocolate in them...by hook or by crook - whatever than means.

That got me to thinking: what tricks and tips are invaluable to me when in the kitchen and looking for a way to accomplish what I need when I'm missing one: ingredient, appliance, time, etc. etc. Here's what I've come up with (see, I did have a point hiding in there somewhere):

1. Part of the frugal mantra I live by: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In the cookies, I reduced the amount of chocolate chips called for (after the EuoChopper fiasco, it seemed quite prudent) and the cookies turned out fine. I reused candies that were not being eaten. And, after all that fun - I tossed the Euro-Chopper in the recycle bin!

2. Re-Invention. The cookies became dark chocolate chip cookies, since there was no milk or semi-sweet chocolate to be had. My favorite part of re-invention? A new recipe!

3. Time troubles? Try re-inventing a recipe for the stovetop rather than using the oven. Example: craving garlic cheese bread - try making garlic griddle toast, and topping it with parsley and cheese. Cook until cheese melts. Save 10-15 minutes. Start eating sooner!!

4. Do more with less. Using less ingredients, I mean. At the start of the year, I cut the number of pantry staples I keep on hand in half. I quickly learned that many things I thought were necessary...in fact, weren't - they were merely convenient. All you have to do is evaluate - what can take the place of something else? Try doing that every 6 months, and you can apply that to your closet, pantry, cabinets, etc. Ideas have a way of presenting themselves to you - just be open to change.

5. Know your substitutions. If this happens to you (needing something you don't have), print out a list of common kitchen substitutions (many cookbooks have them, just make a copy for quick viewing). You'll spend less time looking for it if it's already posted on the side of your fridge or on the inside of a kitchen cabinet.

If you're like me, you don't want to waste your: time, money, or effort. Let me know what tips and tricks you use to make your kitchen life easier!

By the way - the hammer was the best tool for the job...just goes to show, sometimes, you've really got to go back to the basics!

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