Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and wondered: what made my food taste so good?? If we are talking fine dining, you can probably bet that the food was particularly well seasoned and prepared in a manner that made the key ingredients shine. But if we are talking fast food, you can also probably bet that what made the food taste so good was MSG or another mystery ingredient that we don’t actually want to know.
You know the fantastic news?? You can replicate that well-seasoned fine dining meal. Typically all it takes is a slightly above average level of skill in the kitchen. 90% of the flavor has to do with basic skills and techniques that anyone can learn. Sure, some things you can’t do at home unless you have a blast freezer or sous vide…but seriously, you can experiment and learn to cook things you thought only that super fancy restaurant serves down the street. Yes, you might burn a couple of things in the process, but guess what: so did every young chef at their first job.
Let me tell you what you can’t replicate. That great taco or burger at the fast food chain you go to late at night. You can certainly make something with more flavor, but you can’t make the exact same tasting taco or burger because you don’t have ingredients in your house like Propylene Glycol or Silicon Dioxide (a.k.a. Sand). I have come to a point in my food journey where I WILL NOT and DO NOT WANT to submit my body to food that is made questionably too fast. It has either been sitting somewhere too long, has too many preservatives, or has undergone some chemical alteration to make it taste a certain way. This is a big stepping-stone for me.
I am able to identify how I will feel after eating fast food before I am in the parking lot. Not only that, I think about how the animals that were killed for that restaurant were treated. Let’s face it; they did not have a pretty life. If I am going to eat meat, I really want to know that the farmer respected his livestock. Seriously, these things actually go through my head when I think about going to a fast food restaurant when I’m starving and it seems like the easy solution.
This way of thinking doesn’t have to be an overnight change. It was a gradual process for me, and I’m still learning. I want to give you as many tips as possibly so that you don’t even miss out on a craving. You can probably make that taco or burger WAY better anyways.
One example of how I satisfy cravings is with my love for French fries. I love them and I do still crave them. Not as much as I used to, thank goodness! My solution to the craving is roasted potatoes with ketchup (Made without High fructose corn syrup). I just cut up some potatoes, toss ’em in oil, and plenty of salt. Then I roast them at 400 degrees until they get good and crispy. It satisfies that craving AND I don’t feel bad afterwards.
Let me give you a few other menu ideas:
I found this fantastic Stir Fried Rice recipe from Alton Brown. If you are ever browsing recipes and come across a recipe with his name on it, you can usually trust it’s going to work. He focuses on the science behind the recipe, which is incredibly interesting, if you have the time to read some of his writing. Obviously, he is a really fantastic Foodie Thinker…top notch.
As I promised, here is an Almond Baked Oatmeal recipe that is particularly delicious. This one has almonds and cherry, which is a lovely combination. This was even better the next day! Mr. Foodie Thinker has somewhat of an aversion to most oatmeal, but he enjoyed this with no complaints.
We also had this Tuscan White Bean soup, which turned out really nice with some dried baby lima beans I needed to use up. I soaked them ahead of time and cooked them separate before adding to the soup. If you are running short on time, the canned beans the recipe suggests would be equally as good. I’ve just been working on using some ingredients in my pantry that have been sitting around for too long, which is rather rewarding!
We also made some Muffuletta sandwiches with some homemade bread. This was our quick dinner night. I just chopped a jar of green olives with pimentos, marinated them in a bit of olive oil, dried oregano and garlic. I spread that mixture on the bread (crusty rolls are even better). I used some sliced ham, hard salami, and provolone on each sandwich. Pay attention to the ingredient list for these items. Avoid Nitrates or mystery ingredients. Then I wrapped them in foil and toasted them in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes or until the cheese melted.
PLEASE post any ideas or links you have to recipes that make cooking at home more appealing than eating out.