Food at home.

Another re-post.

I love to cook.  I can’t begin to explain how much I love to be in the kitchen, trying out new recipes.  Sometimes, I love “comfort food”, but other times I love to expand the repertoire into new cuisines or cooking styles.

I adore Italian food and I love to whip up a quick, simple pasta with crusty bread and a crunchy, fresh salad.  I also love fried food, such as fried okra or fried chicken.  And sometimes I have to whip up a meatloaf with some potatoes and carrots on the side.  And then there’s Chinese food.  Oh, my gosh, Beef Lo Mein is my favorite!  And this cold weather is really making me crave some corn and crab chowder!

I love having my kitchen stocked with all the herbs and spices I could imagine – and using them!  My bookcase is full of recipe books ranging from slow cooker to smoothies, from American classics to Indian food.  The options go on and on and on…  When I go to a bookstore, you can bet that I am going straight for the cooking section.  My  wish list includes several new cookbooks on Amazon.

I get such a rush from going to a farmer’s market, produce store, or even a grocery store.  I love all the colors and varieties you can find at so many different places.  The seasonal variety inspires us to create new recipes with what we have on hand.  Not only is it fresh, but it is highest in nutritional content when it’s in season.  And it’s cheaper.

The other addiction I have is kitchen gadgets and tools.  I don’t randomly buy whatever I see on the shelf, but tea towels are my weakness.  Oh, my gosh.  I try to buy appliances that are decent brand and price.  I have bought the cheapest thing on the shelf before and been very sorry, so I try to make them part of my Christmas and birthday wish lists.  I shop around and find the exact one I want, because Hubs will buy it, but he can’t walk into the store unsure of the brand and model.  The cooking utensils I have are some that we received for our wedding.  The same goes for my pots and pans.  I picked out some good ones that I planned on using for my entire life.

Dishes are another story.  I have never found that set of dishes that I absolutely love and can’t live without.  I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.  I’ve always wanted that perfect set of dishes that brings out the “wow” factor for presenting my cooking.  Honestly, plain white round or square dishes have always sufficed, thus far, since my cuisine varies over the course of the week.

I’ve challenged myself over time with various goals:

I love this dish at this restaurant, can I make something like it at home?

Is there a new technique I can try that I’ve always been afraid of?

Would I enjoy trying a completely foreign cuisine?

Can I make this dish as fresh as possible, for as cheaply as possible?

Our little family is currently on a budget with the job search, but there are still so many options out there!  My challenge to myself is to make these dishes healthy, but cheap.  There was a time when we could pretty much buy any brand we wanted to, but we are watching our pennies now.  I love sales but, unfortunately, they dictate what I can and can’t purchase for now.  So now, meal planning is a big deal to me.  I try to supplement what I already have in the pantry with a few extra items from the store.

Imagination is the key to budgeting your grocery bill.  Look for the sales, use coupons if you can, don’t overextend your budget, use those filler items such as rice and barley, and look for fresh, fresh, fresh!  The ingenuity you use can fire your inspiration to a new level.  Who knows what you can cook up in your mind?  The possibilities are endless.

Happy cooking!

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