Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cooking like Grandma

Cooking can be fun and relaxing. Recipes can come from a book or from the imagination of the cook. When creating a new dish, my family will ask, “What is it?” It is simply, “Mother’s or Grandmother’s imagination!” This is the way my grandmother cooked all the time and if you asked what was in the dish, it was ‘a pinch of this and a dash of that…...’ I never saw a cookbook or even a loose recipe at Grandma’s house. I spent my summers with Grandma and even stayed a whole school year. I do tell the ingredients in my dish, but usually after everyone has tried it, in the event I put something in that they are not fond of. This is a way of getting them to like something they never liked before. Another way of cooking is to start with a recipe and make it your own by adding or subtracting ingredients or simply adjusting the ingredients to our liking. Some recipes are changed because of being too fattening or contains an ingredient someone can’t have or simply to please the taste buds.
I especially like to use ‘Grandmother’s imagination’ when I run short on meat. Making a one dish meal is a way of stretching 2 servings of meat to feed 3-4 people or 4 servings to feed 6-8. Cooking like this does not take a lot of time. I can usually have something like this ready well within the hour. I pull out my favorite pan, called an ‘every day pan’ because you can use it pretty much every day. If I only had one pan in my kitchen, this would be the one. However, a skillet or a Dutch oven will work as well. I put just a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the pan and sauté meat that has been cut into strips or bites or ground or chopped and then add what I might compliment the dish that day; which could be onions, peppers (yellow, red, orange or green) and garlic. Often, I put celery, carrots and potatoes. If the mood strikes I might deglaze the pan with red or white wine, mostly, it’s either water or chicken broth and the amount is based upon whether I want to make a soup or a stew or just a main dish meal. I might add some rice or pasta to the dish to thicken it or to make it go further if it seems a little small for the amount of people. Adding one or two cans of beans, like cannellini, great northern, pinto or kidney will make a more nutritious dish as you add more fiber. Most recipes call for the beans to be drained of all liquid, I just dump the whole can into the pan. I always add the beans last and heat them through. I don’t like mushy beans.
Sometimes I add spices to this kind of a dish.  If I want Italian, add Italian spices and a can of diced or crushed tomatoes.  Mexican you would add taco seasoning and serve with cheese and sour cream.  To become Cajun, add Cajun spices and the meat would be sausage.
Sides are not a problem with these dishes as they can be very simple since you already have a lot of vegetables in the main dish. Buttered bread (store bought or homemade) is the simplest. My family love corn bread. A side salad will go nicely or Cole slaw. For dessert, if you have room, ice cream or simply pound cake.

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