An Introduction to Faux Gourmet

June 6, 2007 at 10:49 pm | Posted in cooking, frugality | Leave a comment

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I’m kind of poor lately.

I’m not destitute by any means, but in between graduate school, the house, savings, my upcoming wedding and honeymoon I don’t have much all too left to be frivolous with. I live comfortably, I don’t want for anything essential, but I have to be kind of a spendthrift in some areas so that I can be fiscally responsible for a future that will someday (hopefully) involve a family.

One of the areas that I’ve had to really cut back on is food. Somehow, in the last five years or so, I’ve managed to develop a taste for really expensive food. I wasn’t always this way. i was raised on pretty simple fares – no one in my family was big into spices or exotic foods. Coming from Irish stock, we were raised on simple, working class foods. Almost every meal consisted of meat, potato, and a vegetable or two. There were some exceptions that we all enjoyed, but it was never far from the original design. A few years ago, my brother was dating a girl whose mother was Italian. At Christmas time, she brought over all these amazing cookies and baked goods that she, her mother, and grandmother had made together. When I say they were amazing, I really have to stress what I’m talking about. They were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. They looked like they came straight from a high class bakery – perfect, almost uniform, and as delicious as they were pleasant to look at. My Mom brought this to my attention as she compared them to her own Christmas cookies, and I could only think of one thing to say ” The Italians are bakers, Mom. The Irish are boilers.” This isn’t to say that my Mom isn’t a good cook. In fact, I love her food and always look forward to her famous corned beef and cabbage, pot roast, and stews. My Mom’s potato and leek soup will knock the mittens off your kittens. It’s just not in our blood to serve lobster steak with mango chutney and a light avocado foam for the family dinner.

As an adult, I’ve struggled with cooking. With a busy work and school schedule, and especially now that my fiance and I tend to have different work schedules, it always seemed easier to meet a friend at a restaurant or get take out for one. Now that I’ve been cutting back on costs, restaurant made dinner every night just isn’t an option. I’ve had to take matters into my own hands. I have to find ways to make budget practical foods become gourmet-ish. I have to start cooking in faux-gourmet style.

To do this, I’ve designed some recipes that are budget friendly and so fancy you could serve them at a dinner party and no one would even guess it cost you under $10 bucks. I’ve been stocking my shelves and freezers with some faux-gourmet staples. Frozen chicken breast, which I never buy unless it’s BOGO, is a big one. Frozen shrimp also comes in really handy. Parmesan cheese, canned vegetables like asparagus and corn, rice, and whole wheat pasta – which my grocery store often has for $1 a box – are must haves for this shabby chic five star production. I’ve also taken the initial splurge to make sure my lazy susan is jam packed with spices. It’s cheating for sure, but you can get some really good quality freeze dried spices to keep on hand. You can use mixed spices for more than what the label may suggest. Secret: I use a pork seasoning that I picked up for almost every meat dish I cook. Take that, Wolfgang Puck!

I also try to pick up seasonal fruits, especially berries to keep on hand because they’re great natural sweeteners and can make an awesome sauce when simmered and prepped. Local veggies like squash, tomatoes, and onions can make really great vegetarian dishes for literally under a dollar per serving. I’ve learned that it my palate appreciates food that’s good, even if it’s not served to me in three courses and as expensive as my monthly car insurance payment.

I’ll be posting recipes from time to time, and if anyone out there as some similar recipes let me know.

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