Below are 10 of my favorite tid-bits she's passed on to me:
Note: I will elaborate and include recipes on some of these in future posts. Stay tuned...
1. It is entirely possible to make a gourmet meal out of leftovers from your refrigerator.
I'm serious. My mother is a leftover artist! A lot of people throw out or discount leftovers. But to me, it's like throwing money away. If you don't want to eat the leftover food in it's original cooked form, you can turn it into something new! You'd be surprised what you can come up with if you put your mind to it. I like to think that I inherited some of Mom's creative leftover cooking abilities, but she will always be the queen!
2. You can master the art of "Eyeballing" and forgo the use of measuring cups and spoons.
Often times when relaying a recipe to me, Mom will name off the ingredients but without amounts. She'll just say things like, "Until it looks right," or "Until it tastes right," or my favorite, "just eyeball it". She WILL give vague amounts in the form of a question like, "hmmm...probably about half a cup???".
Eyeballing is an art that becomes easier and easier the more you cook. After a while, you're just pouring, sprinkling and dashing like a mad person, while your measuring cups and spoons sit in a drawer or cabinet collecting dust. You still pull them out occasionally when you're cooking a special recipe, but for the most part, they just become part of your kitchen utensil graveyard.
3. An egg cooked inside of toast is possibly one of the greatest wonders of the world.
Some people call them "Eggs in a Basket,"some call them "Egg Holes." I just call them amazing. Seriously. Every bite is like a bite of yolky heaven. Mom made these quite often for our family when I was growing up. She still cooks them from time to time when we visit. It's a pretty simple concept, yet completely genius. The perfect balance of egg white, yolk, toast and butter in every bite is like some kind of flavor miracle. I get addicted to them. Sometimes I make them every morning for breakfast for a solid week. My kids think they're like some kind of magical little food novelty. No really. They pick them up and stare at them with wide eyes of adoration and goofy smiles just before devouring them like little wild animals devouring their prey.
Wait. Maybe that's me....
4. It is perfectly acceptable to cook breakfast for any meal, (especially eggs cooked inside toast.)
Mom may have acquired this bit of info by marrying into my dad's family. My papaw (Dad's dad,) was a lover of breakfast and he passed that love down to his children and grandchildren. Growing up, Mom would often cook breakfast for lunch or dinner. We loved it! I have continued this tradition with my own kids. They get super excited when they know we're having breakfast for dinner!
5. Always, ALWAYS wash collard greens thoroughly before cooking.
I remember very distinctly one time as a child helping Mom prepare collard greens to cook. I was in charge of taking them off the stem and washing the leaves. I must have been doing a terrible job because she made me re-wash them like three different times. She stressed to me that they had to be cleaned very well or we would be having grit with our dinner. As an adult, I learned the hard way that she was right. One time of chewing grit with my collards and I became a champion collard cleaner...or something like that.
6. If it smells okay, it's probably ok.
I often think of my mom when I'm doing the "smell check" on food. She always says, "Just because the date on the container has passed, doesn't mean it's not any good." Then she performs the smell check. If it smells normal and doesn't reek of a dead body, she deems it edible.
I remember one time in particular I asked her if some buttermilk in our refrigerator was still good, as the expiration date had passed. She replied, "Buttermilk is already rotten. You can't go down much from there!" I still laugh every time I think about it.
Now, don't get me wrong, if it's at all questionable - throw it out! If you've got milk in the fridge that expired 2 weeks ago, or raw meat that should've been cooked last week, or leftovers from a restaurant that you don't remember eating at, PLEASE don't smell it (and clean out your refrigerator). Use your common sense.
Speaking of sense, they say smell is our most powerful one. That explains why the smell check works so well. Works for me!
7. Just because your child says "I don't like this," doesn't mean he or she won't eat it.
My mom does not like picky eaters. She says people often say they don't like things that they've never even tried, therefore they don't know if they like them or not. I have to agree with her. One time when I was a kid, she cooked these green spinach noodles. I told her I wasn't going to eat them (the only time in my life I remember being picky.) She said "That's ok, young lady. When you get hungry enough you'll eat them!". Guess what? I ate them. She knew I was judging them by the way they looked and not by the way they tasted.
I think a lot of times people - kids in particular - are only picky in their minds and not their taste buds. A good rule of thumb is to insist that your child (or adult) at least taste something before they decide they don't like it . If they taste it and genuinely don't like it, don't force them to eat it. But down the road, get them to try it again. Maybe even cooked a different way. It may eventually become one of their favorites. Both of my kids have grown to love certain foods that they initially didn't care for. Heck, my sister didn't start liking mushrooms until she was in her thirties. Now she's like a kid with a new toy!
8. Onions make everything taste better.
True story. Mom taught me at an early age that an onion makes all the difference in the world in flavoring foods. (If you don't like onions, refer to #7.). Different onions provide different flavors, depending on whether they're raw or cooked so it's important to use the right onion for the right job.
Ok, so maybe onions don't taste good in everything. But mainly everything - soups, salads, sandwiches, dips, roasts, casseroles, omelettes, sauces, stews, dressings, garnishes - the list goes on!
9. You can feed your family like royalty on a commoner's budget.
My mom is extremely talented in the frugality department. I've seen her on many occasions actually get stuff free by combining sales and coupons. She can basically feed an army with a pocket full of change!
While I'm not good at the whole coupon thing, I do know how to save a buck on dinner. Meat is one of my favorite penny-pinching targets. If you watch for sales, you can stock your freezer with delicious cuts of your favorite meats for half of what you would normally pay. I get slightly high and giddy when I see a "reduced" sticker on a Ribeye... What? I like steak, okay?! And why pay more when you can pay less? That's just good sense, man.
10. Don't be afraid to take a recipe and make it your own.
I've seen Mom throughout the years take a recipe that was already good and make it even better! This has become one of my favorite cooking challenges. I love to experiment with combining recipes and throwing in my own ingredients to come up with something totally new.
With that being said, I don't particularly care for people taking MY recipes and making them better. For instance, my sister Beth, took MY already delicious Squash Casserole and made it even more delicious. I mean, how was that even possible?! I thought I had cornered the market on Squash Casserole. Pshh!
By: Christie Pike