When life gives you portobellos and peppers, sauté them

portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes

Portobello mushrooms are great in a stir-fry fajita-style with peppers, onions and tomatoes. Photo by Laura Groch

Necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes bargains can be the parents of creativity. Especially in the kitchen.

I snagged a package of three portobello mushroom caps for 99 cents in the marked-down produce section of my supermarket recently. I knew portobellos were expensive, so this was truly a deal. But if you can’t figure out what to do with your deal, it’s money down the drain.

I also picked up a bag of three bell peppers for 99 cents. Hmmm. I had Continue reading

Five more ideas on how to eat in the heat

Bleah! It’s still searingly hot outside. (Too hot for grilling, imho.) Who wants to cook anything, even if your kitchen is in air-conditioned comfort? OK, A/C does help. But still. Who wants to eat a heavy cooked meal when it’s 100 degrees out? (Have some more water.)

sandwich

Sandwiches can save the day when it’s fiendishly hot, but try ’em with some different sturdy bread or rolls. (Photo by Laura Groch)

So what can we do to feed ourselves and beat the heat, short of eating ice cream three times a day? (wait, not such a bad strategy …) Here are some reminders of cool basics for summertime meals that might spark your imagination. (Find more ideas here.)

• Remember the “beeg salad”? Invite it to dinner. On a bed of lettuces and/or greens (raw kale, cabbage shreds), add something starchy and/or grainy (cooked quinoa, pasta, bulgur, beans, potatoes), some cooked meat, chicken, tuna or hard-boiled eggs, veggies galore (tomato, chopped celery, onion, shredded carrot, cucumber, zucchini, olives, cooked Continue reading

Thrifty/Nifty: Six painless ways to save water in the kitchen

water jug, saving water

Fill a jug with water as you wait for it to warm up (or cool down). Use that water elsewhere instead of sending it down the drain. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Water conservation is a big deal right now in California, but no matter where  you live, we can probably agree that no one wants (or needs) higher water bills. Here are a few painless ways I save water in the kitchen that might work for you:

The first tool in my arsenal is an empty milk jug. Next time you empty a gallon milk or orange juice container (or a half-gallon one, whatever), rinse it out and keep it by the sink. (If you have room, keep a couple there.) Next time you need to run the water until it’s hot (or cold), capture that water in the jugs. Use it later to fill pasta  pots, coffeemakers, the dog’s dish, etc. (Or keep a few filled jugs under the sink to add to your earthquake supplies.)

Continue reading

More than one turkey in this kitchen: Some of my kitchen disasters

apple-cranberry crisp

My Thanksgiving blunder yielded a sparkling clean fridge, and this warm apple-cranberry crisp. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Being an experienced cook — even of the home variety — doesn’t guarantee perfection. Memories lapse, attention wanders, and before you know it, disaster strikes.

One lesson I learned early is not to cook when I’m angry. Many years ago, my husband and I were experimenting with what was then a new food on the American scene — tofu. I couldn’t tell you today what we were bickering about, but as we argued, we stir-fried the heck out of that poor block of soy. By the time we were finished, so was the tofu — a pulverized mess. And we had to eat it, because there was nothing else.

On another afternoon (also many years ago), Continue reading

Didn’t seed that coming: A new way with pomegranates?

pomegranate seeds on salad

A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds adds a bright touch to this simple green salad. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Cheery, colorful pomegranates are in season and ready to brighten our tables. Pomegranates are especially touted for their antioxidant properties these days, plus they are high in Vitamin C and a good source of fiber, says the POM Council.

But before we start cooking and eating, let’s decorate!

The fruits keep for a long time without refrigeration, so use them in a colorful display on your table or kitchen counter. Feature them in a large bowl or basket, and tuck in greenery, pine cones, cinnamon sticks or the like. Or mound them in a bowl with silver or gold round glass ornaments.

Now let’s talk juice. The flesh-covered seeds, called arils, are beautiful Continue reading

Two simple tips to keep your pantry (or fridge) cleaner

Repurposing lids of various types and depths underneath jars and bottles that tend to drip will help keep your pantry shelves cleaner. Photo by Laura Groch

Repurposing lids of various types and depths underneath jars and bottles that tend to drip will help keep your pantry shelves cleaner. Also, note rubber band around oil bottle, second from left. Photo by Laura Groch

Labor Day now having come and gone, it’s fitting to post something about reducing one’s labors in the kitchen. So, time for a thrifty/nifty pair of hints:

Next time you are ready to toss a jar or container with a sturdy, fair-sized and relatively deep lid, wash it and hang onto it for a while. (Note: Do not save more than three. Just saying.) These make great “coasters” for various bottles and jars that tend to drip and make a mess in the fridge or pantry. Yes, Continue reading

Go healthy: Five (OK, six) ways to trim the fat

pizza, half slice of pizza

Half a slice of pizza is better than none. (And you can also ask that half the cheese be used on it!)

Sorry for the hiatus! Been settling down to my new job. … :<)

So the doctor just told you it’s time to adjust the food intake: Cut the fat and cholesterol, tone down the salt, increase the fiber. But if you love burgers and pizza and ice cream, what’s a person to do?
Well, let’s face it — we know what we must do. But we can make adjustments to help the “medicine go down” a little more easily — and still keep eating (some of) the foods we love.
For most of us, changing our diets isn’t “all or nothing.” Being diagnosed with Continue reading

Thrifty/Nifty: Salad and sandwich makers, here’s a way to get it together

thrifty, nifty, consumer help, techniques, time-savers, veggies

All together now: Keep your sandwich/salad players in one container to speed your kitchen preparation. (Photo by Laura Groch)

I make a lot of sandwiches, and a lot of salads. Besides your basic greens, I add a lot of veggies to both: onions, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radishes. I was forever searching in my fridge for each ingredient, which I had thoughtfully stored in its own little ex-cream cheese or hummus or butter tub.

One day I bought some new containers on sale (of course), in a larger size. Continue reading

Soft-boiled eggs and Winnipeg: Thank you, Mrs. Carsted

soft-boiled egg, egg cup

The simple egg took on a whole new dimension for us when we dove into the soft-boiled version. (c) Photo by Laura Groch 2014

 

One of my favorite leisure-morning breakfasts is the soft-boiled egg. I love eggs anyway, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but the soft-boiled egg is special to me for several reasons. I enjoy the ritual of timing the eggs, of fishing them out of the hot water and centering them in the little blue-flowered egg cups my Continue reading

Thrifty/Nifty: Think at the sink

It’s official: California is once again in the throes of a drought — our worst in about 100 years. We’re being asked to cut water use. Here’s a simple water-saving tip, no matter what state you live in.

We’ve all been guilty of running water into the kitchen sink as we wait for it to warm up (or cool down, depending on Southern California’s season). Next time you finish the contents of a plastic juice or milk jug — preferably a gallon, but two half-gallons will work too — wash it out thoroughly and then sit it by the sink. (Wash and save the lid, too.) Next time you need hot water, run the water into the jug first. I find that after I fill a gallon jug, the water is warm enough (or cool enough) for me.

Cap the jug and use the contents for other things: Fill your coffeemaker or teapot. Fill the pasta or soup pot. Water plants. Replenish your pet’s water dish. I’m sure you’ll come up with more ideas.  That’s a gallon of water saved, and money in my pocket.

I also stash half-gallon jugs of water in my bathroom cabinets for possible emergency use. (That’s about the only emergency supplies I have, but at least it’s something.) I write a date on them with an indelible marker, and then rotate the jugs every few months. I usually use the water on plants, then refill the jugs, redate them, and re-stash them. Save water, save money, and be a little bit more prepared!