OK guys, it's like this...
Until 1975 cooking was an all day, full of fat thing. This is 1999. We have a whole millennium of new experience, attitudes
and busy schedules behind us and a full new millennium to go. Life is precious. Cooking is only a profession to those who get paid for it. It is an art... but a forgiving
art. Who, in who-ever's name, intended us to follow any recipe with diligence? Diligence is for relationships. This is only a meal. One in millions. Relax. Enjoy the process of
stirring and conjuring if you have the time or need the therapy. If not ... improvise. When the holy spirits call for careful stirring ... pull out the electric egg beat and give it proper _____!
When the superiors (like the recipe) ask for cream cheese. Hey ... go for the light or fat free stuff. No one in this prepared
foods world will ever notice. And guess what? It won't give you nightmares and Martha Stewart will not emerge from your closet at midnight in a swirl of white fog to lead you off to "stuff it up
your cranberry" land.
If the recipe calls for sour cream, again, go for the light stuff. If it calls for butter, use margarine... or better still,
cut the oil, butter or margarine in half and cut the cooking time down by a few minutes. The fat is there to make the loaf or muffin moist. Find something else to make it moist. If it calls for ½ cup
butter, use ¼ cup butter and say you're doing cranberry muffins.... use ¼ cup mashed cranberries or mashed banana or apple sauce. Moist is moist. It can come from fat, liquid or less cooking time. You be
the judge. It's your kitchen and your waistline and your life expectancy and ultimately... you have to eat this stuff.
Then there's the matter of fiber...
Most recipes that call for white flour turn out just as well if you switch half the recommended amount of white flour with whole-wheat
flour. Gee... now you're half way there. Sneak in a tablespoon full of bran, wheat germ or oat bran and you'll live in peace forever. Hey, you could even take all those magazines out of the bathroom!
There are many ways to reduce fat in your diet. One way is with the stock that you use. You can boil a chicken and call it
chicken stock or you can boil a chicken carcass (just the bones that are left over after you eat the meat), let the stock cool in your fridge until any fat that is in the stock rises to the surface and hardens,
scrape it off and now you have low fat chicken stock.
Then, there is vegetable stock. This one makes much more sense from a practical point of view. We keep buying all these
vegetables, that we mean to eat before the next shopping trip, but never get a chance to cook. The crisper in your fridge starts to take on more of a "rotter" function. On grocery night, when I'm putting
my fresh new veggies away, I clean out the older ones and throw them in the slow cooker. I cover them with water, add a little salt, and by the time they have come to a boil, I have the rest of the groceries
put away. I turn the slow cooker down to simmer and go to bed. The next morning I run the whole lot through a colander to strain off the mushy veggies and fill my ice cube trays with the stock.
This is vegetable stock. A freebie and well worth the 3 minutes it takes to make it. Use it in soups and stir-fries or cook your rice or couscous in it.
Speaking of Famines...
Hey... so the money's tight. It happens to all of us at one time or another. Sometimes it happens continually. There's
no need to eat crap. Good food doesn't have to be expensive. As a matter of fact, being broke can often lead to better eating habits. You have to plan your meals, write out a very strict shopping
list from your menus and forget the impulse buying. This is when you learn to enjoy analyzing the really great marketing techniques at your favorite store. You can allow yourself to be amused by them but
not prompted to buy. It allows you to leave the store within budget and better still ... in a good mood. There is a certain feeling of pride in the intelligent self-control you can develop during these
So "eat well while you're broke" you say? Ya.... go for the soups, grains and beans. Make a big pot of vegetable soup,
bake some oatmeal muffins and enjoy your pastas. Make things in big batches and freeze some. There is comfort in knowing that there are as many meals in your freezer as there are days left to your next
available grocery budget.
Rice and beans can be made in so many ways that you can enjoy a different flavour every night. Substitute meat with soaked lentils
in just about any curry or chili style recipe. Hey... beans have been known to raise entire nations and I personally believe that this is true because the nutritional content in beans and rice will leave you
energized so you can get on with the problem of making some cash.
Take a browse through the sauce section and conjure up a few to dress up a plain bowl of rice or pasta Some of these sauces are
designed to use up that stuff in your pantry that never seems to go away. Now that's what I call making good use of what you've got!
Speaking of Feasts...
There is nothing that tells your soul that life is good and everything is OK like having a feast. A feast with all your friends and
family at a lush table, stacked high with great food and lavishly ornamented with flowers and candles. Somehow this tradition is ingrained in our personalities. Could be because it's been going on since
the dawn of man.
You don't need an excuse to have a feast. Do it anytime. If you feel you need an excuse ... make one up. Spring, the first
snow fall, baby lost her first tooth, you conquered the dust bunny invasion... anything goes. Just do it. Enjoy the therapy of fussing over your favorite people. It's a sharing, caring world and we
need to share and care to feel vital and alive. It's part of our souls... just like food.