Keep it simple

24 Jan

“Anyone who uses the phrase ‘easy as taking candy from a baby’ has never tried taking candy from a baby.”                               -Unknown

I was filling out a Ladies Home Journal survey today about marriage – and one question got me thinking. No, it wasn’t about marriage – instead it was about the recipes I use. (I have no idea what that has to do with marriage but there it was). Do I seek out recipes with few ingredients? Or am I open to long, complicated recipes (probably not the same language – but you get the point!).

Truth be told I abhor recipes with a lengthy list of ingredients – unless of course, the recipe’s description and/or picture make it a “must try.” I am not afraid of trying new ingredients or flavor combinations – that’s the fun in cooking – but I often think the recipe’s creator often believes the long list of ingredients gives the recipe importance and implies that all are crucial for the recipe’s success. Ah but I beg to differ!

Who among us hasn’t been making brownies at 1 a.m. following a child’s midnight realization that it was he/she’s turn to bring in the homeroom snack the next day – or you forgot about your promise to bake for the PTA’s Bake Sale? And naturally you are missing an ingredient.

Who hasn’t been putting the finishing touches on a dinner party – with guests due to arrive within the hour – when suddenly you discover you’re missing an ingredient. Yikes! That’s precisely why and how I learned that some of those ingredients aren’t going to make or break the finished dish! (Caution – if you’re baking, never leave out flour, baking powder or baking soda – those ingredients are deal breakers and cannot be ignored!)

Whether you are a new cook or a seasoned professional, don’t let a recipe’s ingredient listing stop you in your tracks. Unfamiliar with an ingredient? Try it – you might discover something altogether different and exciting. Among my “new ingredient discoveries” over the years?

  • Pine nuts (keep ’em in the freezer- they’ll stay fresh for months)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (worth every penny – you will never use Kraft Parmesan cheese again)
  • Dried guajillo chiles (buy them in a Mexican grocery store – they’re fresher and cheaper)
  • Hearts of Palm (great addition to any salad)

Don’t have an ingredient? Don’t like an ingredient? (I hate mushrooms – they are after all a fungus – so I always leave them out of a recipe!) Not to worry – leave ’em out. In a later blog I’ll share some amazing good substitutes – this post is simply assurance that a recipe will not fail without one or two ingredients – UNLESS OF COURSE YOU ARE BAKING – that’s a whole different story!

And remember too, sometimes a ridiculously simple recipe may be simply amazing. While visiting aforementioned daughter – I got to talking with some other visiting moms about easy recipes. And much to my surprise, they had never heard of a longtime Minneapolis favorite side dish – made with frozen Stouffer’s products ! I’ve served it for years as “the vegetable dish” for dinner parties and the like – and it never falls to draw raves. No need to reveal the true ingredients to your guests. Go ahead – let ’em think you made it from scratch!

Vegetable Souffle

2 12-ounce packages frozen Stouffer’s Spinach Souffle
2 12-ounce packages frozen Stouffer’s Corn Souffle
1 10-ounce package Green Giant Honey Glazed Carrots
or 2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Stack souffles in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish – I put spinach layers on the bottom with corn on top. Spread carrots over the top (or dot with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until puffy. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8

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