Home Herb Garden-
I have the exact opposite of a green thumb, I kill just about every plant I bring into my home with one exception: herbs. Well, to be fair I keep them outside and being that I live in Southern California this is not hard to maintain at all. My point is they are extremely easy to care for and will undoubtedly change the way you cook, eat and feel. I believe these simple, fresh additions are little magic workers for every dish; bringing brightness, flavor, health benefits, color, and texture, I simply cannot rave enough about how much I love herbs. If you have them on hand (and growing them organically!) it is that much easier to grab them and toss them into your meal plan. Often times when I am making a dish for myself I start with a basis of ingredients and then throw in what would seem to be complimentary to those components, I really enjoy this freedom in cooking and when you have fresh herbs ready to go you can elevate your dishes with just the perfect fresh flavor of and herb, if I didn’t have them ready to go I would probably miss out on so many opportunities to incorporate these amazing flavor boosters! Making a sandwich? Add some basil, did you know how many variations of basil there are? Purple basil is a new favorite. Making a cocktail? Mint, thyme or cilantro. Sauces? Salads? The possibilities are literally endless. Lately, I have been obsessed with adding fresh herbs to a simple olive oil/lemon dressing, whatever I feel like in that moment and I’ll put that right over lightly steamed veggies, voila. Once you cross over to using fresh herbs on the daily you’ll wonder how you survived any differently!
This is an area of your grocery budget that you should allow yourself to spend a little more $$$. In many ways I live pretty frugally and shop that way more often then not but when it comes to oils you really get what you pay for and as a result I splurge in this area. Olive oil alone has been the center of several controversies, is it really extra virgin? While I may not be an expert on the topic of olive oil controversies I do know you can taste and actually feel the difference of good oils vs. bad. Oils are typically used in small, conservative amounts but they can make or break a dish for sure, if you’ve ever experienced a rancid oil you’ll know what I mean. And different oils should be used for different things things like the temperature, duration of cooking, flavor profile, mouth feel and amount of oil all play a role in the selection process. It’s helpful to know which oils belong where. Having a basic knowledge of oils will help you select the best oil for a dish you are making and makes you that much stronger as an intuitive cook. For example, coconut oil (best to go organic on this one) does really well at high heat and can be easily incorporated into sweet or savory dishes I have also found that when incorporated into some raw desserts it serves as a stabilizer and promotes a much nicer mouth-feel. There are several books on oils alone because they are just that important, long story short do your research, only buy the amount of oil you can use in a reasonable amount of time as to keep them fresh and break out of your comfort zone (ie. olive oil for everything!).
In an ideal world we would all only buy what we know we can eat, compost waste, eat all of our left-overs, etc. But for most of us we waste, it’s a fact of life. But what if we were actually missing out on turning some of our food scraps into drool worthy masterpieces? If you have never made your own vegetable stock from veggie scraps you are missing out on a world of flavor and it really is as simple as boiling water. Grab a container of some sort and keep it near as you are chopping veggies and throw the scraps into as you go, it helps with clean up as well. When you feel you have enough scraps saved up (there really is no exact measurement) boil them up in a pot filled with filtered water, let it simmer a while, strain and store. Furthermore, you can put some of the stock into ice trays, freeze them and save them longer! Stale bread, unless it has gone moldy this is perfect for making croutons, bread crumbs, etc. go crazy with it. Mushy tomatoes=salsa, gazpacho, marinara. Beet/dandelion greens= Sauté them, juice them, add to a pasta dish but please don’t waste them! I think you get the point here, it’s pretty simple ways to turn these ingredients into something amazing and all it really takes is thinking outside the box and experimenting.
There are so many more simple tips (and they are actually simple!) but I’ll save that for another day! Love, light and happy cooking.