Buying Produce: Fresh vs. Frozen

Buying Fresh Produce:

The biggest thing to remember when buying fresh produce is what you’re actually going to use right away. I’ve been guilty of buying fresh produce and letting it go bad right before my eyes, because I simply buy too much.

The thing to remember is that you can pick and choose exactly how much you want. You don’t have to buy the whole bunch of bananas or grapes or tomatoes. It’s completely in your control, and if you’ve got green bags, you’ve got a longer life for your produce.

These are products I always buy fresh:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Banana
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Clementines
  • Zucchini
  • Summer Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Portabello Mushrooms

Other than these beauties, I run right over to the frozen section and stock up my freezer with delicious fruits and veggies.

Buying Frozen Produce:

Frozen produce is a great money saver, and they are almost always on sale. I always buy the store-brand, because there’s truly no difference except in the price. I use frozen veggies all the time, and frozen fruits are incredible in smoothies.

  • Broccoli
  • Mixed Vegetables
  • Veggie Steamers
  • Spinach
  • Pearl Onions
  • Mixed Berries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches

Baking: What spices do you need?

Your baked goods all depend on your delicious spices. There are really only a few spices utilized in the delicious desserts seen in this cookbook, and really they’re all you need for decadent desserts. You won’t be breaking the bank stocking up on any of these spices, but your dessert will be rich and delicious.

  • Vanilla Extract
  • Baking Powder
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Baking Soda
  • Light Brown Sugar
  • Nutmeg

DSC_0828Featured recipe: Strawberry and Banana Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Cooking: What spices do you need?

Using spices in cooking is imperative to your dish’s success and succulent flavor. Just because you’re working with the same ingredients, doesn’t mean you’re eating the same meals. Spices are the key to paradise of cooking; you don’t need a full spice cabinet but you do need some basics to get your started on your culinary journey in college.

  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Chicken Bullion Cubes
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt
  • Cumin
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Roasted Vegetable Seasoning
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Paprika
  • Whole Bay Leaves
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Parsley

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Featured: Spice Rub for the Roasted Salmon

How to Safely Defrost Meat

Dealing with Freezer Burn:

A proactive way to keep this from happening, is to wrap your meat with some cling-wrap and seal it in an air-tight bag before freezing it. I’ve found freezer burn only happens when I pop the meat in in the original package. Taking a few minutes to seal it up yourself relieves you from worrying about pesky freezer burn.

What it looks like is a bit of white or grey meat; what happened is freezer burn, trust me it’s not mold. I freaked out the first time it happened to me and threw away a whole package of lovely ground beef that was perfectly fine.

I’ve tried cooking the meat that suffered from freezer burn and unfortunately there’s no way to save it once it’s been burned. Simply remove the portion that suffered from freezer burn, and continue cooking your remaining beef as normal.

Defrosting Meat:

Some people defrost their meat out on the counter-top, but I always defrost my meat in the refrigerator. I never know exactly when I’m getting back from classes, and by having it in the fridge I never have to worry about it spoiling.

It takes about 12-24 hours for meat to defrost, depending on how large your portion is. If you’re simply defrosting a couple of pre-made burgers, it won’t take nearly as long as a whole package of ground beef or steak.

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Feature recipe: Homemade Chili-Spiced Tacos

How to Safely Defrost Poultry

First of all, you never, ever defrost poultry under warm water. It is dangerous, and will just absolutely ruin your product. I always buy my poultry in bulk and stick most of it directly in the freezer. This means I really only need to buy poultry once every six months or so, and it really cuts down on my food bill.

The trick to buying in bulk is not to freeze in bulk. Before you pop your poultry into the freezer, separate your portions in freezer-safe bags squeezing the extra air out. This way you won’t have to defrost an entire 24-breast package when you just want one for dinner.

If you know you’re going to be working with poultry a few days in advance, take out your poultry and put it in the fridge to let it defrost naturally. Breasts, wings, and thighs generally take 24 hours to defrost, but a whole chicken will take anywhere between 1 and 3 days depending on the size.

After you’ve defrosted your poultry, rinse off the ice and any other juices that may have melted along with your ice. Pat the poultry dry and make sure your surface and your hands are clean to avoid and encounters with salmonella.

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Featured recipe: Classic Chicken Parmesan with Linguine

How To Safely Defrost Seafood

Unless it’s a special occasion, when I buy seafood I generally buy it frozen. Storing it is actually quite simple: the fillets are usually prepackaged and then grouped together in a larger bag. To defrost them, all you need to do is take out the number of individual fillets that you want to cook with that evening.

If you know that you’re having fish the day before, take out your frozen fillet and let it naturally defrost in your refrigerator. Keep it in the package and wait about 12-24 hours for it to fully de-frost.

If you decide to have fish on a whim, all you need to do is fully submerge your fillet, still in the bag, in a bowl of cold water for about half an hour. The cold water will melt the ice and then you’ll be able to work with your fillet. Never use warm water. It will ruin your fish fillet.

Either way you decide defrost your fish, make sure that after it is fully defrosted you rinse your fish well to help lessen the intensity of the fishy flavor. This taste becomes enhanced during the freezing process, but is easily rinsed away with water and some lemon juice.

Rubbing fish with spices, lemon juice, or even crusting them with breadcrumbs or cheese gets you a flavor you’ll never believe was previously frozen.

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Featured recipe: Spice Rubbed Roasted Salmon

Spicy Chicken and Cheese Nachos

Category: Freshman Year
Servings: 1 person
Prep-Time:  3 minutes
Cook-Time: 2 minutes

Why is this a survival recipe?

Nachos in the microwave give you a nice, indulgent, and cheesy meal in about 45 seconds. I always have cooked chicken in my fridge, shredded cheese, and salsa, so I figured that combining them would only lead to goodness. I eat this when I don’t feel like making a big elaborate dinner, or when I’m having friends over.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 handfuls of Tortilla Chips
  • 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheese
  • 2-3 tsp of Hot Salsa
  • 1/2 cup of Cooked Chicken

Step one: Arrange your chicken over your tortilla chips

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Step two: Arrange your cheese evenly

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Step three: Microwave for about 15-30 seconds

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Step four: Top with hot salsa and dig in

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Sheppard’s Pie

Category: Senior Year
Servings: 4-6 people
Prep-Time:  10 minutes 
Cook-Time: 30-35 minutes

Why is this a survival recipe?

Making Sheppard’s pie is so easy and so delicious. My mom has been making this in our house for years and I loved learning how to make it for myself. If you don’t have time to make your own mashed potatoes, I sometimes use the instant mash and it;s just as good.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups of Mashed Potatoes
  • 1/4 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 cup of Frozen Peas
  • 1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup

Step one: Season your beef with salt and pepper and brown fully on medium high heat.

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Step two: Preheat your oven to 35o; if your mashed potatoes aren’t made, do this now. (See Garlic “Smashed” Potatoes)

Step three: Pour in your can of cream of mushroom soup and your peas and cook until the soup is bubbling

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Step four: Pour in your hamburger mixture first; then scoop on your potatoes and flatten with the back of a spoon

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Step five: Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, and let rest for 5 minutes

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Step six: Dig in and enjoy your easy Sheppard’s pie

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Spice Rubbed Roasted Salmon with Sauteed Veggies

Category: Senior Year/Gluten Free
Servings: 1 person
Prep-Time:  5 minutes
Cook-Time: 15-20 minutes

Why is this a survival recipe?

I love cooking with fish, and when I can afford it I always get fresh fillets.  This spice rub paired with fresh lemon makes your fish taste delicious, and it’s always flaky and light and wonderful.

If you have a Gluten Allergy, make sure all of your products and brands are gluten free.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Salmon Fillet
  • 1 whole Lemon, juiced
  • To taste: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Roasted Vegetables Seasoning
  • Zucchini, Broccoli, Summer Squash etc

Step one: Preheat your oven to 400; squeeze half of your lemon over your fillet and cover it liberally

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Step two: Make your rub and massage it into the salmon fillet

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Step three: In a baking dish, roast your salmon for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like your fish. 15 minutes will be medium, 20 minutes will be well done. Saute your vegetables while your salmon is cooking.

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Step four: Let your salmon rest covered for 5 minutes.

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Step five: Plate and squeeze the second half of your lemon over your fish and enjoy

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Roasted Shrimp with White Rice

Category: Senior Year/Gluten Free
Servings: 1-2 people
Prep-Time:  5 minutes
Cook-Time: 15 minutes

Why is this a survival recipe?

Shrimp and rice are another classic combination that is surprisingly filling. White Basmati rice cooks insanely quickly; it’s finished in about 15 minutes, and is perfectly light and well matched with the lightness of the shrimp.

If you have a Gluten Allergy, make sure all of your products and brands are gluten free.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of  Basmati rice, cooked
  • 6 shrimp
  • EVOO
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Butter to taste

Step one: Put on your rice and cook  according to the directions on the package

Step two: 5 minutes into your rice, preheat your oven to 400 and devain your shrimp

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Step three: Season your shrimp with EVOO, salt and pepper and lay them on a lined cookie sheet

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Step four: Roast your shrimp for 5-8 minutes

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Step six: Melt a bit of butter over your rice, place your shrimp on the rice and enjoy!

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