New packaging, old lesson: Save bucks with some DIY in the kitchen

Quaker Overnight Oats and muesli

Quaker’s new Overnight Oats are the same thing as muesli. I’m sure Quaker’s tastes good, but I’d rather pocket the $1.99 and mix up the oatmeal myself. Photo by Laura Groch

My grocery store gives customers free samples of new products weekly. Two of them prompted me to write today.

They come from two companies whose other products I have used for years and know and love. One is Quaker Oats — which produces a most wholesome and economical breakfast food and baking ingredient. The other is Kraft, well known for its tasty cheeses and other foods.
Yet I can’t vote for either of their two new products.

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Don’t fear the artichoke. Here’s how to steam and conquer it

artichokes

Don’t fear the fierce-looking artichoke. Instead, learn to conquer and eat it. Here’s how. (Photo by Laura Groch)

It pains me to see food misused. I once nearly keeled over while watching a cooking-show host take some very fine lobsters, remove all the meat from the shells, then puree it, mix it with other stuff and pour it into a baking dish. Oh! what a terrible way to treat beautiful, succulent lobster meat!

Similarly, I was shocked to see on another show a vendor at an open-air market slicing all the leaves off an artichoke to reach the tender (and yes, delicious) heart. Oh! what a waste of tasty leaves!

But I can understand it — somewhat. You may be familiar with jarred artichoke hearts, Continue reading

Safe at home: Those pesky ‘best by’ dates

"Best by" dates aren't absolutes. Most canned foods are perfectly fine for up to five years. (Photo by Laura Groch)

“Best by” dates aren’t absolutes. Most canned foods are perfectly fine for up to five years. (Photo by Laura Groch)

 

For the past three months, I’ve been feeding myself poison.

That is, if you count “Use by,” “Best by” and “Sell by” dates as absolutes when it comes to wholesome food.

Obviously, I don’t.

We’ve recently seen stories about how wasteful Americans are with their food, and how Continue reading

Lettuce try some new ways to do salad

Radish leaves are edible, so why not try them in a salad?

Radish leaves are edible, so why not try them in a salad? (Photo by Laura Groch)

With California’s winter rains flooding out some lettuce farms, greens are going up in price nationwide. Some reports say that lettuce is going for $3.99 a head.

Well, if you use your head, you can still enjoy salads without going broke. Stores and farmers markets still have plenty of less-expensive green leaves to fill your salad bowls.

Green and red cabbage come to my mind first, especially green. Just slice the leaves into Continue reading

Too much arugula? Polenta to the rescue

Polenta With Arugula

Polenta With Arugula (topped with mushrooms I also had on hand) was a delicious solution to the problem of overabundance. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Can a Californian have too much arugula?

Well — maybe.

I’m a fan of this peppery little salad green, and one day at the supermarket I was seduced by the sight of a large plastic container of arugula  — one pound — on sale — for $1.69.

I could not resist.

So I brought it home. And I started adding handfuls to my salads.

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Valentine’s Day cookies spread the love, too

Toffee Bars, Almond Roca Bars

Almond Roca Bars or Toffee Bars are a sweet way to show the love. Photo by Laura Groch

December was a bit of an unsettled month for us. A death in the family meant our Christmas celebrations were low-key.

Homebaked cookies are my usual contribution to holiday cheer. But I didn’t bake for myself, or friends, or family. Missed the annual cookie exchange, too.

But we did have some very nice homemade cookies at the funeral reception, Continue reading

Thrifty/nifty hints for holiday baking and beyond

pie crust

Build up the edge of the pie crust to help keep the uncooked filling (pecan pie here) from spilling as you maneuver it into the oven. Photo by Laura Groch

We’re coming up on prime holiday cooking season, so I wanted to share a couple of thrifty-nifty hints today.

• The first one is about baking, and more specifically, pie crusts. I have made my share of pies, and while they usually turn out pretty well, getting custard-type pies, like, well, custard, or pumpkin, or pecan into the oven without spilling the filling can be a bit fraught.

It dawned on me one day that things didn’t have to be that precarious. I’m not a huge fan Continue reading