Food

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

I first heard that phrase applied to refraining from managing other people’s lives inappropriately, but I find it also works very well in some cooking situations.

Don’t check on the rice! To make good rice, cook confidently. The package tells you how much water per cup of uncooked rice. Put that much water (or broth) in a pot, with a little salt, and bring it to a full boil. Pour in the rice and stir it once to spread it around. Put the lid on tight, turn down the heat to the lowest temperature, and leave it alone. After the cooking time*, take the pot off the heat and still leave it alone. Leave the lid on and let it sit for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Now is the time to note any changes for next time. Maybe you like a different texture, so next time cook it less for chewier rice or longer for softer. Experiment with adding seasonings at the beginning of the cooking, so it permeates the rice. To make yellow rice, start with either brown or white rice and add chopped green onion, garlic, celery salt, and turmeric. The turmeric makes it yellow. The onion, garlic, and celery give it the unique flavor. The more expensive packets of yellow rice use saffron as well as turmeric. If you have saffron that’s good, but turmeric is much less costly than saffron and can stand alone in this recipe.

 

* About 50 minutes for brown rice, about 20 minutes for white.

 

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Is It True? Freezing Food in Glass Jars

“They” generally advise against freezing foods in glass containers. Liquids expand as they freeze, so if you do it wrong, the internal pressure will break the glass and then you’ve got shrapnel all in your freezer. It’s not safe to eat food whose glass container broke; tiny bits of glass may be in it. Also, if a container slithers out of the top freezer section of your fridge, like they do out of mine, the glass will be all over the kitchen.

On the other hand, there’s been some alarming news about the dangers of keeping food in prolonged contact with plastics. So, I Googled around some. If you do it right, you can use glass containers to freeze foods. Freezing liquids in glass is more risky, but can be done if you don’t mind the occasional problem.

Use tempered glass, like canning jars, or containers specifically designed for freezing.

Leave 3/4 inch space at the top so the food has room to expand as it freezes.

My Experience with Hello Fresh

I got a discount offer to try the Hello Fresh home meal delivery program. They send all the ingredients and a large illustrated instruction card for each meal. You have to do the cooking, but everything is provided except salt, pepper, and oil. I signed up for three meals for two people, resulting in six meals for just me.

A big attraction was having the groceries delivered to my door by UPS. I forgot I’d have to pick it up off the mat and carry it in. The food plus the hefty freezer packs were quite heavy for me (degenerative joint disease). I got it inside without hurting myself and opened the box. It was like that dramatic moment on Chopped when the competing cooks open the mystery food basket.

The non-meat ingredients for each recipe were in a bag labeled with the recipe name. The vacuum-packed meats were all at the bottom of the box where it’s colder.

The packing was very skillful. The tomato for the Frico Cheeseburger with Broccoli survived shipping with no bruising. I was impressed. The creating chefs thought I was going to stand at the stove stirring chopped onion with vinegar and sugar to make onion jam. That’s too much for me, so I just sliced the purple onion to put on the burger raw. They also thought I was going to bake round piles of shredded cheese to make crispy “fricos.” That’s probably great, but I just sprinkled the cheese over the oven-roasted broccoli. The ground beef was excellent, and the bun reasonably interesting. Roasted broccoli pieces taste much more interesting than boiled or steamed.

Next, the pork roast with oven-roasted vegetables. Again, oven roasting makes far more interesting vegetables than water-based cooking. The small potatoes looked okay on the outside, but about half of them were rotten on the inside. The tomato was underripe and mealy. The purple onion and zucchini were great. The pork roasts were high quality and delicious. Each of their servings was two servings for me.

The chicken quesadillas called for lots of chopping and mixing. I skipped making separate pico de gallo and just put the ingredients in the tortilla with the cooked vegetables and chicken cubes. I thought the pineapple with the cooked onions and peppers would taste odd, but it fit right in once cooked together in the seasonings. I didn’t understand why the instructions called for cubing and cooking one boneless skinless chicken breast and do whatever you want with the other one. Why put in two? What I did with the other one was threw it out because it was a funny yellow color and rough texture, though it smelled okay.

This program costs more than twice what it costs me to buy and transport groceries myself. It’s almost twice as delicious. The super thing about it is not having to decide what to cook and make sure I have all the ingredients. Most of the thinking was taken care of, but because of my physical limitations, I had trouble with parts of the cooking process.

I enjoyed the discount trial, but to continue wouldn’t be frugal.

Dislike avocado? Or just want a new idea?

Avocados are a great source of potassium, fiber, essential fatty acids, and a bunch of other great stuff. But what if you don’t like the texture, or the color? What if you’d rather eat chocolate pudding? On the other hand, what if lactose intolerance bars you from enjoying pudding?

Not to worry, there’s an alternative: avocado chocolate pudding. At first, I was skeptical. So skeptical in fact that I almost let the avocado go bad before trying it. I tried it just in time.

The recipes on the internet call for things I don’t have, like coconut milk, so I just left those out. I mixed up the good part of the avocado (must be soft), 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder, and a bunch of sugar, maybe 2-3 tablespoons. If you have less of a sweet tooth than I do, start with less, you can always add more. Smush it all together and add enough water to get a pudding texture.

It looked like pudding. Summoning my courage, I tasted a little. Tastes like sweet chocolate. The texture is exactly the texture of chocolate pudding. Yay!

Refrigerate for best effect.

It’s not the Sodium, It’s the Balance

All my life I had low-normal blood pressure, except when exposed to petrochemically-based fragrances and grooming products, then it spiked. The fairly low blood pressure was fine and dandy, until I got where it wasn’t safe for me to cook anymore. I switched to frozen dinners (mainly Marie Callender’s – they don’t taste fakey like some brands). I noticed my blood pressure started running a bit high. Not horrible like the petrochemical spikes, but too high for complacency.

Prepared foods often have higher levels of sodium than scratch cooking, and high sodium intake is often associated with high blood pressure. So I Googled around and learned, or re-learned, that part of managing sodium levels is not just reducing sodium, but balancing it with potassium.

The sites I found talked about eating potassium-rich foods like peas and bananas. There’s only so many bananas and peas I’m going to realistically eat. Eating them did lower my pressure some, but not enough, and I knew I’d eventually drift away from eating that way. So I bought some potassium tablets and added them to my weekly minder pill-keeping-track-thingy.

Well, wow. Within a few days my pressure was back to my normal 117 or so over 73 or so. I think I’ll take the potassium tablets maybe five days out of seven instead of every day, because there is such as thing as TOO MUCH potassium. If you take too much it can cause irregular heartbeat and even cardiac arrest.

That drawer under the oven

Who knew? On some ovens, that drawer I’ve been keeping baking dishes in is intended for keeping food warm. They keep one dish warm while the others finish cooking, or to keep the whole dinner warm if there’s a delay in sitting down to eat. They don’t cook food, just keep it warm at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not all drawers under the oven are designed to do that. The owners manual will say.

Ice, Ice, Baby

A couple of days before Hurricane Matthew got here I took my largest food storage containers, filled them with water, and put them in the freezer. On Friday, the power was out for thirteen hours. Because of the large ice blocks, the temperature never went below thirty degrees and I didn’t lose any food.

 

 

 

Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Kindle preview: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00HQKOQBG&asin=B00HQKOQBG&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_gITAxbZWT7SRJ

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=marie+brack