Through writing out these recipes, there are some kitchen tips that keep popping up! Everything from how much salt to use, which cooking oil to use, to which meat/seafood to buy. I’ll do my best to document them here.
Under Seasoning Food (Especially salt)
- You’ll cook more if you like what to cook. It’s a fact. Salt will help add flavor to any dish, increasing your chances of you liking what you create. When I first started cooking, I was hesitant to add a lot of salt since I was always concerned I would oversalt my food. Yes, oversalting can happen, but it’s much harder to do than you think. My advice would be to add how much salt you think you need and then double it.
- Keep in mind, you have no idea how much salt restaurants put in your food! They don’t list salt quantities on their menus – they don’t know want you to know! I have found that when cooking most of my own meals and living an active lifestyle, I run a higher risk of being salt deficient. Moral of the story, pile it on! As a budding home chef, you’re consuming less salt than you think!
Buying Spices in bulk
- Buying spices in bulk will make you feel like the richest person in the world – try it next time you’re at the grocery store. You will feel like a king. Just save any spice containers you already have and keep refilling them!
- The key to buying meat is transparency. The more information you have the better choice you can make for your health and your wallet. When at the grocery store opt for organic, grass-fed meat whenever possible. Yes, it will be more expensive but it will even out in the long run as your meat portion sizes decrease and you add more delicious vegetable side dishes to your meals such as Cauliflower Faux-tato Salad and Sweet Potato Haystacks.
Buying Seafood On-Sale:
- Don’t have your mind made up before you get to the fish counter. There are always plenty of options: Salmon, trout, shrimp, the fish of the day and sometimes even lobster tail or swordfish. And usually one or more of them will be on-sale! It’s no secret that seafood isn’t the cheapest food at the grocery store, so at Cafe4111, we strive to give you the confidence to take advantage of any deal they offer. It adds to the excitement, helps your wallet and leads to amazing spontaneous meals.
- We recommend eating fresh seafood within 2 days of purchase, around here it is usually served every Sunday night. Opt for fresh, wild caught whenever possible, but, at the end of the day, a diet that contains homecooked seafood is better than one that does not.
Buying Vegetables In Season
- Purchase vegetables when they are in season. This will lead to more variety in your diet along with tastier and cheaper meals because your ingredients are fresher and plentiful. When a type of vegetable is out of season near your area, what you will find in the grocery store will have been picked too early (think about how long it takes to ship produce from across the equator where the seasons are flipped) and therefore will usually be smaller (less bang for your buck) and less tasty. Check out the Seasonal Food Guide for a list of fresh vegetables available in your area by month.
Chopped versus Pre-Chopped Fruit/Vegetables:
- A quick way to make that expensive chef’s knife pay for itself: chop up your own food whenever possible. Not only do you get to practice your knife skills and chop the food to the size you want, but you’ll save money every time you do it. Example:
- Large mango (~11 oz): $1 + a couple minutes to peel and slice
- Pre-chopped mango pieces (~11 oz): $5
Oil Smoke Point:
- Exceeding an oil’s smoke point (temperature at which oil literally begins to smoke) will cause the oil to decompose and lose its health benefits. See this article for an explanation of different oils and their smoke points. My rule: I use avocado oil for baking (Smoke Point ~ 500F), grapeseed oil for sautéing (Smoke Point ~450F), and olive oil for dressings/sauce (Smoke Point ~ 325F).
- To test whether the oil is hot enough that the meat will sizzle when it hits the pan (inarguably one of the best sounds in the world), use a couple drops of water. If the water droplets pop and bubble off immediately, you’re good to go.
Using a Brush:
- Using a brush is the trick to coating your fish or vegetables in a thin layer of oil to prevent them from drying out while in the oven. Glugging out oil all over your food is not only wasteful but can make it taste greasy. You can substitute for a paintbrush, just double check to make sure that it is clean!