Fantastic homemade food doesn't have to be costly. These tips will help you cook like a pro without breaking your bank account.
Often, the best advice for cooking at home comes from those who do it for a living. Pippa Calland, a 2008 winner on the Food Network chef competition show “Chopped,” runs Mid St8 Taco at the West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania.
She shared with MONEY associate editor Susie Poppick some of her favorite ideas for saving a few bucks—while still turning out a delicious home-cooked meal.
1. Learn “forgiving” techniques. Pot roasts and other braises give you room for error, and you can use less expensive meat cuts. Bone-in chuck roast is $7 a pound, vs. boneless rib eye at $13.
2. Keep a sharp knife. Good knives reduce waste when you trim fat. The best tool is a simple sharpening stone (about $40); keep the blade at a 20-degree angle.
3. Plan ahead. A few days before you plan on cooking, write out a list of ingredients so when you go to the store you buy only the amount of each item you will actually need. Cooking from home saves you money only if you use your purchases completely. (And everyone knows how easy it is to get carried away at the grocery store.)
4. Work with whole spices. Ground spices are quicker to go bad. It’s easy to toast and grind spices yourself—you’ll need a cheap coffee grinder. Using coarse salt instead of salt from a shaker allows you to season more accurately.
5. Pre-heat pans. Always let that cast-iron skillet heat up before you put fat in the pan. You’ll be able to use less butter or oil to create a nonstick surface, and the food you cook will absorb less of it.
6. Skip store dressings. They cost $3 to $5 a bottle, and who knows what’s in them? Easy recipe: one tablespoon of olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt, and pepper. Toss with cherry tomatoes and arugula.
Read next: 10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer
According to a new court ruling
A New Jersey man who was burned by a plate of hot fajitas while dining at Applebee’s can’t sue the restaurant over his injuries, according to an appellate court.
Hiram Jimenez took the chain restaurant to court because he said his waitress failed to alert him that his meal was hot. After being served, the court ruling says he bowed his head to pray over the crackling plate, and some oil popped and burned his face. Jimenez says he then panicked and knocked the plate in his lap, causing more burns, none of which resulted in scars, according to court records.
He filed suit seeking damages on the grounds that he suffered “serious and permanent” injuries “solely as a result of (Applebee’s) negligence when he came in contact with a dangerous and hazardous condition, specifically, ‘a plate of hot food’.”
A trial judge dismissed the suit, finding Applebee’s had no duty to warn Jimenez “against a danger that is open and obvious” like a sizzling hot plate of fajitas. Jimenez appealed, but an appellate panel confirmed the lower court ruling, saying Applebee’s can’t be held responsible because the hot food posed an a risk that should be “self-evident” and thus “approached with due care.”
[H/T USA Today]
Peel off lid. Pour boiling water. Steep for three minutes. Stir well and serve.
Thursday marks the 105th birthday of Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, whose instant noodles revolutionized the food world, and Google is honoring this king of quick cuisine with a new Google Doodle.
As TIME wrote back in 2006, “In 1958, Momofuku Ando, an unassuming entrepreneur living in Osaka, created the instant noodle — and a continent has been feasting on his invention ever since.”
However, the road was not easy for the founder of Nissin Food Products. Ando struggled to find the right balance and create noodles that were tasty but did not become mush when boiled. The secret, learned from his wife, was to spray the noodles with chicken soup and then fry them in tempura oil.
The instant noodle, a dietary staple for every college student from Asia to America, had come to fruition.
Ando was born during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1910, moved to Japan at the age of 23 became a Japanese citizen following World War II. He died in Osaka on Jan. 5, 2007, at the age of 96.
That's the kind of revolutionary idea McDonald's wants to hear about at SXSW, the hipster festival where the fast food chain will be a big presence in the hopes of winning over millennials.
How’s this for an odd, arguably desperate pairing? McDonald’s, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, and which has struggled mightily to gain favor with trendy millennial consumers, is serving as a “Super Sponsor” at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual music, movies, and ideas festival in Austin that’s a magnet for everything young, hip, and forward-thinking.
Not only will the McDonald’s logo be splashed throughout Austin during the mid-March festival, the fast food giant will be handing out food free of charge to attendees and will welcome startups to pitch ideas that could change how the company does business. “We want to be in the flow of ideas, offering our scale to interesting partners, with the intent to make the lives of millions of people who use McDonald’s a bit simpler and even more enjoyable,” McDonald’s explains of its decision to be a part of SXSW.
There will be three separate days for pitch sessions, each focused on a different topic, such as “Reinventing the Restaurant Experience” and “Mobilizing the Transportation and Delivery Revolution.” For the latter, startups are supposed to take the fact that “our existing idea of door-to-door delivery and drive-thru will soon be obsolete” into consideration when pitching innovations. Those with the best pitches could get a chance to win a trip to McDonald’s Illinois headquarters to explain their concepts to company leaders, and potentially become partners.
Apparently, McDonald’s really wants to hear about so-called “moon shots,” i.e. big ideas that stretch the imagination and may at first seem impossible, but which could prove ground-breaking and transformative if they ultimately come to fruition. Like so:
Imagine a world where drones could deliver you food while you’re driving down the highway. Seems crazy now, but technology is increasingly revolutionizing our everyday lives.
This kind of thinking is quite a step up for a company whose most recent “Big Idea” was bringing back Chicken Selects to the menu.
Gathering solid business ideas is probably not the primary reason McDonald’s is invading SXSW, however. More likely, the company is hoping to make inroads with influential hipsters and millennials, the generation that shows far greater preference for Starbucks and fast casual restaurants like Panera and Chipotle than it does for McDonald’s and other fast food players.
Yet millennials are famously difficult to win over with advertising, and the McDonald’s brand is often polarizing, attracting haters and critics no matter what move it makes. So the company’s supersized presence at the youth-dominated festival seems puzzling to some.
“The usual SXSW crowd is not the [McDonald’s] crowd. [Attendees are] usually edgier, healthier, more techy, definitely more millennial,” Wendy Liebmann, CEO of the WSL Strategic Retail consultant firm, told MarketWatch. “McDonald’s may see this as an opportunity to show it’s become hipper, trendier and [be] using SXSW as a platform to be seen differently.”
In which case, look out Burning Man festival goers. McDonald’s may be coming after you next.
Just think of the pun possibilities
Ice cream icons Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (a.k.a. the dairy deities behind Ben & Jerry’s) are in favor of a new flavor idea.
“Ben and I have had previous experiences with substances,” added Greenfield, whose namesake company makes flavors like Satisfy My Bowl and Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Encore Edition. “I think legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing, rather than putting people in jail for not hurting anyone.”
Does that mean cannabis-flavored edible marijuana ice cream will be on the shelf next to Half-Baked and Cherry Garcia in Washington, Alaska and Colorado, where weed is now legal? Potentially, but it’s not up to Cohen and Greenfield, who sold the company to Unilever in 2001. As Greenfield describes, “It’s not my decision. If it were my decision, I’d be doing it, but fortunately we have wiser heads at the company that figure those things out.”
Colorado sold nearly five million edibles last year.
The fast food giant is changing its sourcing policies
McDonald’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, has pledged to reform the world’s largest restaurant chain into a “modern, progressive burger company.” He has taken a major step in that direction with today’s announcement that McDonald’s will stop selling chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used in drugs prescribed to humans. The overuse of those antibiotics is likely a major cause of the rise of “super bugs” that increasingly resist such drugs. Public-health advocates are hailing McDonald’s announcement as a major victory.
The phase-out will occur over the next two years, as McDonald’s works with its suppliers, which include the meatpacking giant Tyson Foods. Chickens used by McDonald’s will still be treated with antibiotics that aren’t used in medicine for humans.
Easterbrook started his new job just three days ago. This move is clearly intended to set the tone for his tenure as he takes on the massive challenges McDonald’s is facing.
A big part of that challenge is to revamp the company’s image. Mainly thanks to its size, McDonald’s is often made the whipping-boy for the ills of corporate America, and particularly the food industry. In any discussion of our unhealthy diets or our growing wealth disparities, it’s a safe bet that McDonald’s will come up, often along with Wal-Mart.
The decision on antibiotics, though, shows that McDonald’s still enjoys formidable industrial power. Few institutions can dictate terms to the powerful meatpacking industry, but that’s essentially what McDonald’s is doing here. And it means that other meat buyers will likely follow suit.
When it comes to chicken in particular, Chik-fil-A, as the country’s largest buyer of chicken, has even more clout. It announced a year ago that over the following five years, it would stop buying chicken raised with antibiotics of any kind.
The number of bacterial infections that resist antibiotics has leaped in recent years, with more than 2 million reported each year. About 23,000 people die from the infections. Public-health experts have long warned that the use of antibiotics in livestock is the main culprit.
Read next: 5 Reasons Why McDonald’s Will Win in 2015
It's the lack of overlapping flavors, scientists say
Indian food is lauded for its curries, mouth-burning spices and complex flavor pairings. With its use of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other pungent ingredients, the resulting taste combinations are unlike anything found elsewhere around the world. But scientists in India have now discovered exactly why Indian food is so good — it’s the fewer number of overlapping flavors in ingredients.
Researchers at the Indian Institute for Technology examined how frequently overlapping flavor compounds factored into a dish’s ingredients. They reviewed thousands of recipes on TarlaDalal.com, scrutinizing the subtle molecular-level differences that distinguish the cuisine, reports the Washington Post.
“We found that average flavor sharing in Indian cuisine was significantly lesser than expected,” researchers wrote.
In Western cuisines, ingredients are usually paired together for their similar flavors. However, an average Indian dish includes at least seven ingredients, most of which do not contain overlapping flavors. Cayenne, green bell pepper, coriander and garam masala are usually paired with ingredients that have no chemical overlap, but each ingredient brings a unique component when incorporated into the final meal. This creates knockout dishes for a cuisine that uses approximately 200 of the estimated 381 ingredients known in the world.
It's kind of like a DIY jacuzzi.
Type Diet Coke and Mentos into YouTube’s search engine and you’ll be rewarded with more than 150,000 videos of people recording themselves getting into a sticky situation with this amateur science experiment.
The most recent variation on the theme involves a teenager spending his free time filling his bathtub with Coke Zero, taping Mentos all over his body and then jumping into the tub. He recorded the event and it’s a fascinating study in science, DIY Jacuzzi tub making and the extremes to which some people will go to amuse themselves.
Don’t try this at home, kids, because the one thing this video doesn’t show is the young man trying to clean up the bathroom after this experiment.
A symptom-by-symptom guide to the eats that will soothe (or strengthen) your symptoms
When you’re under the weather, the last thing you want is to eat something that makes you feel worse. But what if the last thing you want is chicken soup or crackers, and you’re craving ice cream or a glass of wine? It depends on what’s wrong with you, experts say. Here are common symptoms and expert suggestions on foods that help—and hinder—relief.
You’ve got the runs
For diarrhea caused by a stomach virus or a meal that didn’t agree with you, try the BRAT diet, says James Lee, MD, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. “Many different things can cause diarrhea, such as Crohn’s disease or colitis,” he says, so see your doctor if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or sooner if signs of dehydration appear, or if diarrhea is accompanied by fever, blood, severe pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.
Best foods: The BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without skin are also safe bets.
Worst foods: Sugarless candy and gum containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners, which aren’t digestible and can trigger diarrhea. Other foods that can cause gas and bloating include onions, apples, broccoli, cabbages, and beans. Dairy may also aggravate diarrhea, as well as alcohol and caffeine.
Constipation can occur when not eating enough fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and veggies, which stimulate digestion. “Adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day,” says Dr. Lee.
Best foods: High-fiber whole grain breads, nuts, beans, prunes, oatmeal, flaxseed, broccoli, pears, and apples. (Here are the 20 best foods for fiber.) Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day also helps get things moving, says Dr. Lee.
Worst foods: Chocolate, dairy products, iron supplements, narcotics (pain medications) and some blood and anti-depression medications may worsen constipation.
Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat
You’re feeling nauseous
Feeling queasy makes all foods sound unappealing, but the right ones can ease symptoms by calming stomach acids, says Dr. Lee. “In general, keep food portions small and odors to a minimum.”
Best foods: Saltine crackers or pretzels can help, says Dr. Lee, as does small quantities of dry toast or cereal. Ginger or lemon tea, fresh or frozen lemon slices, and peppermint also work.
Worst foods: Greasy, spicy, or oily foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can make nausea worse.
It hurts to swallow
Best foods: Combine peppermint tea (lukewarm, not hot)—which has analgesic and anesthetic effects—and Manuka honey, which is known for its wound-healing properties. Soft, creamy foods such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and custards are also soothing.
Worst foods: Avoid hot liquids and hard, scratchy foods such as potato chips, nuts, and granola. The acidic juices from raw fruits and vegetables, as well as orange juice, grape juice, and lemonade can also irritate a sore throat.
Read more: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks
Your entire body aches
Foods that ease muscle aches depend on the specific reason for the body aches, says Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “For general muscle aches, food containing magnesium or calcium may help ease soreness,” she says.
Best foods: Magnesium-containing foods include nuts, bananas, beans, leafy greens, and avocados. Foods high in calcium such as canned salmon, yogurt, dark-green leafy greens, and orange juice fortified with calcium also lessen muscle cramping and pain.
Worst foods: Anything that dehydrates you can worsen muscle aches, says Dr. Arthur, particularly alcohol and caffeine.
Your head hurts
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of headaches, says Dr. Arthur, so it’s best to treat that cause first and see if it relieves your pain.
Best foods: Water and other fluids are your best bet. “Drink a bottle of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you feel better,” says Dr. Arthur. Caffeine is known for drying you out, but ironically, it can help in small doses. “But for each cup of tea or coffee, drink an equal amount of water to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Arthur says.
Worst foods: Headache-triggering foods include artificial sweeteners, MSG (found in sauces and soy sauce), aged cheeses (blue, stilton) that contain tyramine, plus chocolate, red wine, hot dogs, deli meats, and dried fruit. MSG is metabolized to glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, says Dr. Arthur. Tyramine links to increased blood pressure, which can trigger headaches.
Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health
You have an earache
Earaches typically accompany other symptoms, says Dr. Arthur, “so they’re not correlated with any food in general.” Since they occur most often with upper respiratory infections, however, foods that clear up congestion can help earaches as well.
Best foods: Clear fluids and chicken soup ease congestion by loosening up mucous in nasal passages. Omega-3s found in salmon and nuts decrease inflammation, and vitamin C found in dark leafy greens, berries, and citrus boost the immune system, says Dr. Arthur.
Worst foods: Dairy can thicken phlegm and worsen congestion, with the exception of yogurt, which contains probiotics, says Dr. Arthur. “Stay away from processed and packaged foods, too, which increase inflammation and lengthen the recovery process.”
You’re red and itchy
A rash could be a symptom of an allergy, says Dr. Arthur. “Keep a detailed food journal to look for links to foods that seem to trigger a rash.”
Best foods: Omega-3 containing foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines) and walnut and flax seed oils, as well as foods high in protein are all important for skin health, says Dr. Arthur. “Skin is made up of proteins, so a diet adequate in protein is necessary for skin protein synthesis.”
Worst foods: The most common foods that cause itching are nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, berries, soy, wheat, and milk, says Debra Jaliman, MD, dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist ($9, amazon.com).
You have a runny nose
When you have a cold, the worst symptom might be a nose that just won’t stop running. Aside from taking a steamy shower, Slayton suggests drinking warm tea—it may not slow down the drip, but a soothing tea will make you feel better.
Best foods: Try Wakaya ginger tea, suggests Slayton. Ginger contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help clear up a cold faster than just waiting it out. “Apple cider and lemon in water works well, too,” she says.
Worst foods: Spicy foods can cause an immediate runny nose (which then turns into congestion), as may alcohol.
You’re stuffed up
A cold, flu or sinus infection can irritate and inflame blood vessels in your nose, making it hard to breathe. Aside from inhaling steam from a hot shower or using a humidifier, if you’re stopped up due to mucous, some foods can help.
Best foods: Slayton recommends “golden milk,” which includes turmeric, a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Place 2 cups of coconut or almond milk in a saucepan with 1 tsp dried turmeric, 1 tsp dried ginger, a dash of black pepper and honey to taste. Bring to a simmer, allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve warm.
Worst foods: Skip dairy, spicy foods, and sugar, all of which can aggravate symptoms, says Slayton.
Read more: 13 Ways Inflammation Messes With Your Health