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.

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

App for dinner: Put antipasto into play

antipasto2

Create an appetizing antipasto-for-dinner plate using goodies from the fridge, and “special” snacks from the pantry.

Sometimes you get tired of figuring out what’s for dinner. Sometimes  it’s just too dang hot to cook (or even think about cooking). Sometimes you aren’t up to preparing a meal, but don’t want to drag yourself out to a restaurant (or even to the phone to order in).

So — what’s for dinner? Time to put out an appetizing dinner of appetizers. More Continue reading

Save your green with easy-to-mix salad dressing

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. Photo by Laura Groch

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. All you need is a simple recipe like this one. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know I keep returning to certain themes: Thrift in the kitchen. Eating real food. Preparing food yourself so you know what’s in it.

So in this season of salads and cold dishes — and especially for the picnic-happy holiday that is July 4 — I wanted to bring you a recipe that hits all those notes.

It’s a simple recipe for an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing (not the kind of white Continue reading

Unscrambling a mystery after all these years

 

scrambled eggs

Lift the cooked part of the scrambled egg with a flexible spatula, letting the uncooked egg flow into the empty spot. What a revelation! Photo by Laura Groch

Sometimes things that are easy to cook turn out to be not so.

Take scrambled eggs. Millions of people manage to cook scrambled eggs every day without a problem.

Not me. For years — I’m embarrassed to say how many — I’ve been scrambling my eggs “wrong.”

Continue reading

Pancakes: Squaring the circle

baked pancakes

Who says pancakes have to be round? Baking them on a cookie sheet makes the job go twice as fast, too. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Oooh, pancakes! What a fun breakfast treat! And yet what a pain in the neck they can be for us cooks, who have to keep working while everyone is eating, and while trying to eat our own pancakes, which invariably grow cold while we are tending the griddle.

Even for the two of us, making pancakes seems always to be a major production. So I tested a different way of making them that lets everyone eat together: Bake them in a flat Continue reading

Thrifty/Nifty: Five easy tips for food shopping

Marking dates on cans and bottles as they come into the pantry helps you keep rotating the older items to the front. Photo by Laura Groch

Marking dates on cans and bottles as they come into the pantry helps you keep rotating the older items to the front. Photo by Laura Groch

We’re well past the holiday hangover, but perhaps still paying the bills for it. I’m thinking we’re overdue for some Thrifty/Nifty tips to help make shopping and managing a kitchen a little easier:

— Look high when you choose  produce, especially when it’s piled high and deep. The stuff at the front, which is within everyone’s reach, is what’s been handled most. Reach farther back, or higher, in the pile to choose a pear or tomato or head of lettuce that hasn’t been bruised and battered by everyone else.

— Remember to look low on store shelves. We naturally scan shelves at eye level, Continue reading

Easy, hearty shepherd’s pie takes the edge off winter

shepherd's pie

A scoop of piping-hot shepherd’s pie will warm you on a cold evening. Photo by Laura Groch

Wet, wintry weather makes me want hearty, hot meals. Soups and stews come to mind, warming the kitchen as they cook and warming the body as we eat.

The humble but sturdy shepherd’s pie also fills the bill. This is an easy-to-make, forgiving dish that can be as economical or as extravagant as your budget allows.

It’s also extremely flexible: You can use whatever’s at hand without having to rigidly adhere to a list of ingredients, which freaks out some cooks.

(And p.s., looking ahead to Super Bowl feeds, this would be just as bowl-worthy as chili for your crew.)

My pie — baked in a casserole dish, not necessarily a pie plate (see? flexible) — Continue reading