Miscellaneous Food Articles Special Occasions

Cooking with Love in the Kitchen

Valentines cooking special

Even though you may not spend much time cooking in the kitchen, wouldn’t you like to treat your love to an easy, delectable and romantic dinner? A special meal is not just about food- it is about the effort and meaning that goes into it. These ideas will make it easy for you to create a memorable meal for Valentine’s Day, or any other time when you want to show someone your love.

Remember when you made a homemade card for your first girlfriend or boy friend and they were so happy they couldn’t stop smiling? You couldn’t figure out what you did that was so great but as you got older you began to realize that giving is best when we give not just ‘things’, but when we give of ourselves. Valentine’s Day is a perfect holiday to give to others by doing something special.

Make it Easy on Yourself

What kind of meal you want- brunch or dinner? Write down your menu and all ingredients from your recipes you’ll need in an organized way. List the stores you need to shop at.

What do you want to serve? Keep it simple – have 3 or 4 items, and not everything has to be homemade. Cook an easy recipe. Get a great dessert -go out and buy the most decadent chocolate cake you can find, or find fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate from your local candy store.

Choose food that your partner likes, not just what you like. This shows that you have put a lot of thought in to this and care, which is the point, right?

Be sure to start several days in advance. If you save everything for the day of the celebration, you’ll be frazzled and in not much of a mood to enjoy this time together.

Remember that this is about Love, not Technique

As with other activities associated with love, cooking does not have to be totally perfect. If something does not come out in time, or if it doesn’t look exactly like the picture in the cookbook, relax. Stay in the mood you set out to create- being grumpy or upset defeats the purpose. Laugh and have fun!

It’s the Total Feeling – Ambiance Counts

Setting your table is important in creating the mood you want to set, which is romance. Use your nicest dishes, silverware and the best, sparkling glasses or crystal you can get.

Choose a color scheme. You may want to use a white tablecloth and add color with the napkins and candles, or two beautiful place mats with matching or contrasting colors. For example, red or soft pink on a white background, with a small container of white flowers and lots of red votive candles looks beautiful.

Turn off the cell phone. Keep music soft and tender, but not so slow that it makes you want to fall asleep.

Just Show That You Care

Show your genuine love in what you say and do. That is what will come across as caring. The fact that you took the time to make this event happen, that you cooked a few things, mostly from scratch, will help this to be a beautiful memory for both of you!


This holiday is really geared to couples – and I want to suggest that you also included others- reach out for someone who may be alone. An elderly neighbor, or someone who has been recently widowed or divorced, someone who is ill and can surely use a lift. It is amazing how a call, a card, a little plant such as a yellow primrose , a pink or red cyclamen, or forced-bulb lavender hyacinth or tulip, will make everyone feel a little better! Most of these treats are under $5.00, but think of the joy that someone will get by this unexpected gesture of love.


Not just with candy but also with a hand-written card, a lunch out together, making a Valentine’s craft such as construction paper and doily hearts to put in the windows, making cupcakes and decorating with all those yummy red candies and icing. Make some time to do this now because they are out on their own all too quickly.

Enjoy your day of love

Marybeth Gregg has been cooking, entertaining and giving cooking advice for almost 20 years. She is well-known for her wonderful cuisine, great parties and started her successful cooking school several years ago. She has been featured in many newspapers, and is currently working on publishing a cookbook and a series of video tapes and dvd’s of cooking lessons. Marybeth has a monthly newsletter full of seasonal cooking tips, recipes and entertaining advice. You can visit her at

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Miscellaneous Food Articles

The Importance of Family Recipes

Potato CakesAs a child I remember waking up early to the smell of my grandmother’s cooking. She would rise at 6 or 7 AM to begin preparing a meal for the family. As usual, this meal would be special. She would know each of our favorite dishes and find the time to make all of them while offering breakfast to the grandchildren, who spent the night frequently. For many people food and family are intimately connected. Modern families have a difficult task when it comes to preserving this connection. How is it possible to make a meal from scratch when you have to work, pick up the kids, clean the house, do the grocery shopping, and carry on relationships with friends and loved ones? We may not be able to do the exact same things in the kitchen that our grandmothers did twenty or thirty years ago, but there are new, innovative ways for both men and women to honor family traditions and preserve the culinary knowledge that has been handed down for generations.

Feeling Full: The Emotional Experience of Food

In her seventh book “The Way To Cook” Julia Child writes “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” Family recipes are a way of keeping our ancestry alive, as well as a part of ourselves. Food appeals to all five of our senses and because of this it can evoke vivid memories of our childhood, of our relationships with family members who have passed away and of who we were during that time period. Food can remind us of experiences long forgotten and allow us to relive feelings of comfort, satisfaction or excitement. Preserving family recipes allows us to access these emotions any time we choose, whether it’s a holiday or a simple occasion we want to make special.

Dedicated to Those Who Came Before Us: The Legacy of Food

Documenting family recipes keeps part of the legacy of our relatives and loved ones alive. Each cook in a family contributes her own flavor and style. Laurie Colwin writes, “No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” As we record the thoughts, ideas and processes of our traditional family meals we create an heirloom that will be handed down to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We build a bridge by which our loved ones can learn about who we are, even after we are gone from this world. Part of knowing the path ahead is to understand where you come from. This legacy of food passed down from one generation to another is a tool, a family tree of foods, a line that can be traced for decades into the past and the future.

Bringing the Family Together: The Heritage of Food

Food is a universal need, eating is something all human beings do. Because of this, meals have been a symbol throughout the ages of sharing, nurturing and loving one another. Remembering, collecting, recording and passing down the recipes your loved ones have passed to you is a wonderful way to honor and immortalize your family. These traditions from the past are part of who you are as an individual. Not only will these recipes allow you to create meals that are a meaningful experience, but they will also inspire you to create your own versions of dishes, to add your own flavor and style. You will take what your family has given to you and infuse it with your own meaning and power. Family ties are bonds that stand the test of time. Preserving family recipes is saving and honoring our heritage so future generations can continue to strengthen those ties. To learn more about recipe collecting and creative projects please visit

About the Author: Kate Walling
Kate Walling is the founder of Sous Chef, Inc. and Her love of food and family tradition combined with her artistic and creative ability has inspired her interactive web site, which offers the newest in online technology and a cookbook project unlike any other. To learn more about the perfect gift for any occasion please visit

Miscellaneous Food Articles

Cook Ahead to Save Time and Money

Pea and Ham SoupWhen budgeting, saving time is a consideration for the frugal as is saving cash. It’s important to do both. One way to save both time and money is to organize your schedule and your pantry and begin to plan your meals in advance. Now don’t panic and think you have to lay out a full week’s menu every Sunday! Planning even one day ahead will make a huge difference in your pocketbook because you’ll eliminate those quick trips to McD’s when supper-time hits and there’s nothing on the stove.

This is especially important if you work full-time or are away from home all day, driving kids to practice, running errands or taking care of your household. Planning your meals and even cooking in advance will tremendously simplify your life .

Meal planning and bulk cooking are both wonderful techniques you can utilize and modify to fit your family’s needs. The idea is simple. You cook and/or prepare your meals ahead of time and then preserve them by either freezing or refrigerating them. This will also help stretch your food budget, since you can cook one large meal and get two or three other meals from it with proper planning.

Start by writing down a list of your family’s favorite meals. Next, prepare a grocery list that coincides with your menu. Since you’re learning to cook in bulk, your shopping list will have to change accordingly so you’re sure to have enough ingredients on hand when the time comes to do the actual cooking.

The most important tool in meal planning and bulk cooking is your freezer. Freezer bags are a great space saver if you have a small freezer. You can fit many in the same space of a few storage containers. Be sure to incorporate lots of quick and easy meals that your family can warm up and serve themselves in the event you’re not at home at dinner time or if you just need to grab something quick.

Menu planning and cooking in advance will help you learn to love your slow cooker, too. It’s a cinch to throw something simple in the crock pot before heading off to work in the morning, and you’ll love coming home to dinner ready to set on the table!

Experiment with different recipes and variations of your favorites. Slow cookers make easy work of cooking whole chickens or roasts which can be frozen or refrigerated for later use very easily as well.

You’re only limited by your imagination and creativity when cooking in bulk for the week ahead. Factor in the time you save by not having to do a lot of after dinner cleanup or dishes, and you’ll be thrilled you took the time to master this valuable homemaking skill for yourself.


About the Author:
Darlene ‘Dee’ Bishop is a Christian minister and speaker, writer, and tightwad extraordinaire. She is the author of Frugal Fancy: Your Guide to Living Better for Less (release date Spring 2009) and the publisher of Frugal Fancy’s Newsletter, a free weekly resource filled with money saving ideas and information. Visit her online athttp://frugalfancy.comfor more information.

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Miscellaneous Food Articles

Once-A-Month Cooking

Vegetarian LasagnaEvery evening, all around the world, the same dilemma faces many homemakers. What can be prepared for tonight’s dinner with a minimum of fuss that will be filling and nutritious?

With a little forward planning, you can have a month of meals waiting in the freezer, ready to be thawed and heated. All you need to do is add simple side dishes or a salad.

This approach is known as Once A Month Cooking (or OAMC for short). The basic principle is that you take your family’s own favourite meals, adapt them for freezing, and then spend a couple of days a month doing all your cooking.

Once A Month Cooking saves in many ways. It takes very little more time or energy to make, say, four meals of lasagne at one time than it takes to make one. But it would take a lot more to make one meal of lasagne on each of four different days.

You can take advantage both of specials at the market and of gluts in the garden. You can improve the health of your family by not relying on pre-made ingredients or on fast food.

I don’t recommend you try new recipes for Once A Month Cooking. It would be terrible for your family to have to eat four meals of a dish they don’t like, and nothing will put them off the idea of OAMC faster. Adapt your family’s favourites and you can’t go wrong. If you want to try something new, make it on a small scale first and make sure it is a hit.

The actual OAMC process is spread over three days, once a month. Let’s look at it in a little more detail.

Day One – Preparation and planning

The first day of my OAMC, I go to the shops. I check what is on special, and what is in season. I take note of what does not look good, too. I come home and check what is in the garden that is in peak condition to be used. This is my research phase.

Next, I clean out and defrost the freezer. I keep a written inventory of what I have in the freezer, and this clean-out helps me to check the inventory is up-to-date.

While the freezer is defrosting, I check my family’s calendar for the next month and count how many dinners I would like to freeze. Then, with the knowledge I gained from my research earlier, I make up a list of what I will cook, and how many meals of each.

The next step is to make up a shopping list, broken up according to where I will be buying each food item. The last stage is to make myself lists showing what I will need to do to prepare and cook the food.

Day Two – Shopping and Chopping Day

The next day is broken up into two distinct phases. I like to get to the shopping centre early in the day while it is still not too busy. I buy all the food I will need, making sure to keep perishable items like meat cool by putting them in a cooler bag as soon as they are purchased.

After coming home and unpacking, I can start the second phase of this day. This is when I peel and chop all my vegetables except onion and garlic (they smell if cut too early), and trim and dice the meat. This is all stored in the refrigerator overnight.

The last job for Day Two is to freeze any meals that will not require further cooking. For example, I like to make Fish Parcels. This is where I place a boneless fillet of fish on a square of aluminium foil and top it with a little butter, lemon juice, herbs, garlic, chilli (or whatever flavorings I like at the time). The fish is wrapped in the foil and frozen. To cook it, I simply place the fish parcels straight from the freezer into a pre-heated oven. I add frozen garlic bread to the oven to heat at the same time, and prepare a simple salad.

Other ideas for meals that can be frozen without being cooked first include marinated chicken wings, lamb chops in marinade, hamburger patties, and so on.

Day Three – Cooking Day

The third day of the OAMC is the big one. But it is made much easier by having so much of the preparation work done the day before.

I start the day by cutting up all my onions and garlic and browning them. Then I brown all my meats. I can do several different kinds of meat simultaneously to save time, but I do them in small batches to avoid over-crowding the pans.

The next step depends on what you are making. Many dishes are fully cooked before being frozen, so they must be assembled and cooked. Others are only partially cooked, and are perhaps properly cooked in a crockpot (slow cooker) after thawing.

But whatever you are cooking, it all goes into labelled containers in the refrigerator to thoroughly cool before being frozen. I use rigid plastic containers, because I have been doing this for years and have bought a few at a time. A cheaper alternative is to use food-quality plastic bags to line a foil or plastic box. The bag is popped out of the box after it is frozen, so the box can be used again.

Using the meals

Once you have your freezer full of dinners, you will find there very little effort required to cook up some pasta to go with the frozen Bolognese Sauce, or some rice to have with the Beef Curry. Since I put tomorrow night’s dinner in the refrigerator to thaw each evening, there is little left to do but re-heat the main course. A salad fresh from the garden is a great accompaniment to any meal and quick to prepare.

Some people might be concerned about the possible loss of so much food in the event of a power failure. The trick is to keep your freezer as full as possible. It doesn’t have to be full of food – I put soda bottles half-full of water in the empty spaces. The idea is that the more frozen volume there is in the freezer, as opposed to air pockets, the longer it will take for the contents to thaw if the power goes off. This approach also makes the freezer work more efficiently, since it will turn on and off less often.

In summary, by concentrating your time and effort (and mess!) into a big cooking session once a month, you can have a freezer full of your family’s favourite meals. This will give you more time, save you money, and give you peace of mind that your family can eat a proper meal every evening.

About the Author:
Christine has written a course on OAMC. This is available at her web site write for more details to Gecko Gully, PO Box 1201, Werribee Plaza, Victoria 3030, Australia.