Monday, April 30, 2012

What You Should Have Eaten #53

I like to consider myself an expert when it comes to food. I’ve been eating it all my life, so I think that affords me some consideration.

I’ve been cooking for a considerably shorter amount of time, but it does run in the family. My grandfather owned and ran a deli then a coffee shop in a little town in Indiana, and my dad has always been a great cook. My sister and my mom are also no slouches in the kitchen.

Besides the occasional sandwich or bowl of cereal, I never cooked for myself until I got my second apartment in college. Anything fixed in my first apartment was usually something frozen and thrown in the microwave. At that time I still doing most of my meals on campus.

My parents bought me my first cook book, a copy of “Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book” that’s still in my kitchen. It’s pretty basic as far as the types of recipes it includes, but it includes TONS of them.

Right now I’m working my way through Rachael Ray’s “365: No Repeats.” It’s a mostly incredible book that I’m about halfway through. It’s taking me slightly longer than a year to get through because I only get to cook from it once a week. I’m a single father of three wonderful kiddos. I learned early on that the key to keeping your sanity while raising a family alone (well, mostly alone) is to have a steady routine. Between homework, baths/showers, extra-curricular activities, and somewhat early bedtimes, I just don’t have the time to cook during the week. Saturdays are a lot more flexible, but I like to fix something fun for the kids, so I rotate grilled meals (burgers, hot dogs, steaks), taco nights, hamburger helper, etc. These are sure-fire meals that I KNOW they’ll eat. Sunday nights, though, those are for me. That’s when I bust out Rachel and get my cook on. I usually end up doing a slight (maybe major on occasion) variation on the dish to make it a bit more kid friendly, but I try and encourage them to try new foods and dishes.

One thing I’m going to attempt in the coming weeks is to fix these Rachael Ray recipes while keeping an eye on how much money I’m spending. I won’t lie; some of her recipes can result in high grocery bills. I’m going to see what substitutes can be made in order to make the recipes a little more cost friendly.

One thing I DON’T tend to skimp on, though, is alcohol. As I think about what to type here, though, I find that my reasoning for not getting the cheap stuff could also be used to not skimp on ingredients for my meals.

It’s not always true that you get what you pay for, but I find if you spend a little more on alcohol, you’re going to be buying a better product. It’s taken me about 13 years to figure this out.

I was pretty much a straight-and-narrow kid growing up. Before turning 21, I know of one beer I had (a Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde). I’m not 100% sure that I finished it. Once I turned 21, though, I did my best to catch up for lost time. In college, my beer of choice was Miller Genuine Draft. After college, I graduated to Amberbock. Sometime after my first kid was born, maybe around 2005, I discovered craft and high-gravity beer. My life was changed. I joined the UFO Club at Nashville Flying Saucer. I discovered some good places to buy good beer. I’m not necessarily snobby about beer, but I usually won’t drink any big domestics like Budweiser or Miller if other options are available.

I’ve also recently started paying attention to the various brands of liquor I’m buying. I can’t afford the TOP top shelf stuff, but I’ll spend a bit more and stay away from the stuff that feels like it’s melting your throat when you drink it. I like Viking Fjord vodka and New Amsterdam gin. I’ve recently discovered Oronoco rum, and I’ve got a bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila that I haven’t opened yet.

My liquor cabinet also contains a wide assortment of liqueurs, from your more common peach schnapps and blue curacaos to your slightly more off-the-wall piscos, Fernet Branca and Galliano. I have WAY more licorice-flavored spirits in my cabinet than I’d like. I hate the stuff. Tastes nasty.

I've peppered this post with pictures of the liquor cabinet and various pieces of glassware I've got. I like to collect beer and shot glasses. Whenever I travel, I pick up a shot glass from the city I'm in. Whenever I plan a trip to The Flying Saucer, I try and go on Wednesday nights when they sell special brewery glasses. It's a hell of a collection to try and move, though. I also collect beer bottle labels, but sometimes there aren't I collect the bottle. I've also also discovered growlers. Half-gallon of beer? Don't mind if I do.

Next week I’ll be posting meals again. These will be recipes I cook for my family on Sundays, and we’ll see how they turn out. I’ll also be including a mixed drink or two with the meals. Feel free to comment on any of the dishes or drinks. Have recommendations on substitutions? Please, let me know.

BIG BIG BIG REMINDER: When I can remember to add this to the bottom of my posts, I’m going to whore myself out with an impassioned plea: click on the ads. PLEASE click on the ads. I don’t care if you exit out of it immediately or actually look around. This isn’t some professional blog where I believe in the products I’m shilling. These are automatic ads placed by Google. But when you click ads, I get a little bit of money, and as a single father of three, every penny from every source helps. So I’m going to keep this tiny bit of begging at the bottom of my posts, and I hope you’ll take an extra 10 seconds after reading my blog to click on an ad. The only thing it costs you is time. :) Thanks so much!

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