food

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This idea has really started to resonate with me.  After a Christmas party that carried a nearly $20/head charge, the Super Bowl, and my birthday coming up, entertaining has just been on my mind.  I try to stay away from entertaining as a topic here because there are many excellent blogs that cover it.  However, I did want to make this post.

 

So from personal experience I can say that parties are expensive.  Buying food, wine, beer, and cocktails can cost hundreds of dollars before party favors or plastic china (you know, the good stuff).  These tips will help control the costs and make the party fun.

1. Do Not Be Afraid to Have a Liquor Potluck 

Unless the cook has a reputation as a wine collector or beer expert, she should not be afraid to ask others to bring the booze.  This eases the financial burden on the cook and scratches off at least one store from her errand list.  More importantly, it lets others take a role in the party.  Guests that enjoy wine or have a favorite beer or mix a great cocktail are more than happy to share their passion.  Also, having others share their liquor will broaden everyone’s alcohol horizons.

2.  Make the Expensive Items

While it okay to buy from the store, sometimes this is not always the best strategy.  If a home cook can prepare a dish more cheaply than it can be purchased (barbecued items are a good example) the cook should strongly consider making it rather than buying it.

3.  Leave Healthy at the Store

A party is a time to eat junk food, fried foods, and desserts; all of those things that most people eschew during the normal work week.  This means that the party host does not need to worry about buying the best organic produce, reduced fat cheeses, or leaner cuts of meat.  All of these things cost money though their absence will scarcely be missed by partygoers.

4.  Buy in Bulk

In larger cities, most cooks know someone who has a wholesale club membership or have one themselves.  Because the cook is preparing food for a large number of people, this is the ideal to use those memberships.  If such a store is not available, the cook should still try to buy things is as large of cans as possible to lower the per unit cost.  Lastly, depending on the store, the cook may be able to negotiate a lower price on a larger order.

5.  It is Okay to Limit the Wow

While it is generally good to have one or two signature dishes at a party, not everything needs to be made with filet, lobster, and shrimp.  Sometimes the best dishes are the cheapest.

This is a little trick I have used many times when trying to remove fats and oils from cooking healthy.  Instead of sauteing in oil, many types of food can be sauted in broth or stock or soy sauce.  The liquid, especially if it is contains a little bit of fat, will prevent the food from burning and will act as a medium of transfer.

To do this:

  1. Heat the skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 to 1/4 inch high.  That should be less than a quarter of a cup.
  2. Add the food and cook as normal.   

Now, the texture of the finished product will be different.  The broth or stock is not going to crisp up the food being sauted like an oil would, but it is going to be much lower in fat and, for many dishes, the cooking liquid will add flavor.

Other Tips About Oil

Whenever possible, cook with heart healthy oils like olive oil.  Olive oil contains a good amount of fat, but doctors have shown how the fats from olive oils can be good for the body when taken in small doses.  So no matter which oil is used,  keep the amount of oil to a bare minimum.

When eating out, ask the chefs to limit the amount of oil they use or eliminate it entirely.  One of my personal vices is Chinese food, but it is heavy and fatty, even the non-deep fried items.  I have taken to asking the chef to make the dishes without oil.  They tend to look a little puzzeled at first, but then prepare a dish that tastes almost exactly like the heavy, oily dish.

So I’m having one of those nights where I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what recipe to share and all that came to me was “Recipe: Chocolate Chips.” 

1) Drive to the store 2) Buy cookie dough 3) Drive home 4) Read instructions.

And I think maybe my subconcious is telling me something.  With one major deadline over and another coming up, I think I am going to hug find the boy and make a mess in the kitchen because that’s why I cook.  I cook because my dad pulled me into the kitchen and we made a mess.  The food might not have tasted great (though my Dad is an excellent cook), but we had a lot of fun.

So if you’re reading this, feel free to stop.  Head into the kitchen and make some memories of your own.  I’ll be back tomorrow starting off my first Theme Week covering new and unique spices.  Let’s spend today and tomorrow remembering that food is more than just sustenance for the body, it’s sustenance of the spirit, too.