Updated 2010-08-11 19:41:57 ID=618:1

© 2010 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

August - No Kitchen-Cooking Survival School

Because of our kitchen remodel, and not having a kitchen to cook in, we'll have no new home-made recipe offerings this month. But, out of desperation, I HAVE learned a few tidbits about how to make do without a kitchen and still have healthy,home-cooked food, that I'll share with you.

In case you haven't noticed, elsewhere on our website, I've been documenting our ordeal of living through a kitchen remodel. (Please see my Blogs.)

In the four weeks (so far) that we've been without a kitchen, I've learned about food resources out there to buy that make pretty good meals by just a bit of altering.And they're pretty reasonably priced! In fact my weekly food-cost has averaged LESS than what I was spending cooking from scratch! How do I explain this?

I think, when I normally buy "raw products" (especially vegetables) there's a lot of excess leaves, layers etc. (and I pay by poundage) that's has to be cut out to the best inner cores. Hence I'm paying for a lot of excess non-use layers to make the recipe entree.

The frozen meals that I've been buying are flash-frozen and at their prime of the vegetables and protein source (seafood, chicken or beef) and I'm only paying for what we actually eat. This has given me a new take on what I think about (some) frozen foods out there.

The trick to using the "Ready to Cook" meals, is (in most cases) DON'T use their accompanying sauces! Rather, use a little white wine and add your own fresh spices and herbs (i.e. Olive oil, garlic , butter or seasonings. ) This gives the meal a really fresh taste and it eliminates the high amount of salt that's "the main seasonings ingredient" of most frozen ready-to cook meals.

We also like a bigger proportion of vegetables to meat, and if I stick with a good-quality frozen vegetable-based meal, it generally turns out pretty well. All you need to serve up a tasty meal is (when you don't have access to your normal stove) is an electric skillet or microwave oven. You can cook these meals in either, though the electric skillet gives it a fresher taste and tastes better than a lot of restaurant food out there and is so much more healthy! But the "trick" is, be sure to taste the separate sauce first, and only use it you like its taste-but be careful of the high sodium content.

In particular, the brands of frozen food that I have found to be most consumer-friendly, healthy to eat and comparable to home-made food are the following brands:
Birds Eye Garlic Shrimp, Birds Eye Garlic Chicken, Eating Right Chicken Chow Mein, Eating Right Beef Teriyaki, Eating Right Mediterranean Style Chicken, Contessa Shrimp Primavera, Contessa Shrimp Stir-Fry.

Green Giant also makes a line of frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables (with a separate horrible-tasting accompanying sauce that you should throw out!) that all you do is add your own chicken, pork or beef. When we made these, we anticipated making them and we grilled the "meat additions" ahead of time, so all we did at the last minute the following dinnertime, was throw in the meat in bite-sized pieces at the last minute, after the vegetables were ALMOST cooked. You don't want to over-cook the vegetables!

Being "Kitchen-Exiled" is tough on us serious cooks! But it sure is nice to know that with just the bare basics of some kind of sink to wash the dishes in and an electric skillet or microwave, and a few fresh ingredients, plus a nice salad and a glass of wine, you can still enjoy healthy, good-tasting food that won' break the budget.

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A tip from Sue!

Get a Black Pepper Mill

There's nothing that substitutes for freshly cracked black pepper. You can find pepper mills in all price ranges. Just get one that looks like it will hold up well over continual use. Freshly cracked black pepper can really enhance the smell and final taste of a recipe!