Updated 2009-08-05 12:38:28 ID=453:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

Real Food is Cheap!

I usually do all the grocery shopping myself, but the other day when I had a bigger grocery list than usual, my husband went with me. When they rang up the bill and we heard the amount, he confirmed my opinion. He said "you got all that for fifty-six dollars-Real Food IS Cheap!" I'll tell you why.

Some people might think that I like to do things the hard way. I mean why do I go to the trouble of making a spaghetti sauce from scratch when all I have to do is twist off a lid from a can or bottle? For two reasons. First of all I can control the spices and salt, but most important --it's cheaper.

I believe in this axiom: the less processed an ingredient is, the cheaper it is. Not only that, but also the less steps involved in getting food to the consumer, the more a food's flavor and natural health properties are maintained. So where do I do most of my shopping? In the health food store in every food market --the produce section. Not only are vegetables naturally good for you, they are Nature's best bargains!

Reading the recipes on this website, you can see that we love vegetables! They're so versatile and low-cost. You can do so much with them! But the trick is careful preparation and getting them seasoned right. Most inexperienced cooks chronically over cook under season vegetables. Junk foods may not have nutritional value, but they do get the seasoning right.

We just had a function (See the Blog "Simpler is Better") at our family ranch house where my husband and I did all the cooking for several winemakers and a prominent Sangiovese wine expert and family from Tuscany. We knew it was going to be a hot day so we made several chilled recipes --many from our website. We had LOTS of vegetables because we knew the visiting Italians would love them, plus we knew the vegetable dishes we made traditionally pair well with Sangiovese wine, so the winemakers should like them too.

We had Caponata, Roasted Peppers Italian Style, Grilled zucchini with mint, Grilled Eggplant with oregano, and freshly made fruit platters all served chilled. All the guests loved them just like I thought they would! Several people went back for "thirds and fourths!" And the kids LOVED them too!

The main reason for this was because the vegetables were properly seasoned with a little salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Of course we also had some Italian meats and cheese to complete the offering, but we were really surprised that most of the meat and cheese was left. All the guests dove into the vegetables! Our Italian guests, thanked us for making these vegetable and fruit offerings and told us that they all had really missed vegetables and fruit since being in the U.S.

Now the main point I'm making here is that Nature's best foods, vegetables and fruit, if properly seasoned and prepared are smart solutions to keeping your grocery bill down, eating healthier and a tasty solution for your everyday menu.

Buy produce when in season. For example when in season vegetables such as zucchini are readily available and cheap. You can simply roast them on a grill, add a little salt, pepper and fresh herbs and that's it. Or you can use it in a pasta dish such as Orecchiette with Zucchini, stuff them such as Stuffed Zucchini or in soup or stew, or saute it with sausage for a one-dish skillet supper. This is just one example of a fresh vegetable's adaptability that you can really stretch your dollars with.

All it takes is a little imagination and the right seasoning to turn "boring" vegetables into a delicious appetizer or entree that you won't have to plead with your family and friends to try. And it will help your family's 'bottom line" as well --because "real food is cheap!"

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A tip from Sue!

The Practical Cook

At the heart of great cooking is a practical cook. Don’t experiment with a new recipe for company.

Use tried and true recipes for those occasions so you can reduce your worries and enjoy the meal and entertaining.