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A Real Simple Dinnertime Makeover Part 2 of 3

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Real Simple Dinnertime Makeover Part 2 of 3

The following is part two of my experience with Real Simple magazine, and took place in July.

It's 8 a.m. and I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Real Simple crew. "Don't say anything stupid," I repeat over and over in my head.

Suddenly the doorbell rings and snaps me out of my chant. Time to get to work.

Chip walks in first, his arms loaded with bags from Bed Bath and Beyond."Oh, fun," I think in my head. {apparently I'm in cerebral mode today}. He immediately makes a bee-line for the glorified hallway kitchen and gets started.

Meanwhile, Dawn, Emily and I sit down and hash out a game plan for the day. But before we get started they present me with a little gift bag courtesy of Real Simple, which includes some Real Simple aprons, a cute little bag {which has come in handy when I take my lunch to work}, the Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done! cookbook, and of course the "manual".

What's the manual you ask? Well, prior to making the trek to corn country Dawn and I spoke at least a half dozen times on the phone so she could get an idea of what our family likes to eat. She took all my likes and compiled them into a binder along with some dinner shortcuts and simple cooking tips. "The manual" has found a permanent home on my kitchen counter.

Then we headed to the grocery store. I was told to pick the grocery store that I shop at most, so we made the couple block drive to our local Fareway. It's a small town grocery store that has great produce and a superb meat counter, however selection can be limited.

The three of us spent at least over two hours buying groceries. Dawn took the time to teach me some grocery tips such as how to pick a good melon. She said it should feel heavier than it looks and when you smell the "belly button" it should smell good. Initially, I was buying the prepackaged fresh fruit, but Dawn said buying whole melons is not only cheaper, but it also teaches kids the origins of what they eat. Excellent point!

I also learned how to choose fresh herbs, cucumbers {packaged ones are better}, salad greens and peppers. You name it, if it was in the produce section I learned something about it.

Then it was off to the meat counter. The keys to making a quick dinner, are fast cooking proteins, so Dawn asked the meat department to tenderize the chicken breasts making them thinner and easier to cook. We also bought brats, a flank steak and frozen shrimp. Did you know that sometimes frozen shrimp is better than fresh? I had no clue.

Dawn and Emily admiring Fareway's meat counter.
My head was swimming with all this information. I didn't know grocery shopping could be so much fun!

My grocery cart has never seen this much produce.
When we returned my kitchen was reorganized. Chip had taken everything out of every cabinet and drawer and reorganized everything. Even the pantry {which was my nemesis}.

As I took a tour of my new kitchen I realized that these are small things that anyone can do to streamline the cooking process. It's amazing how you get stuck in a rut and even though something isn't working {ie: spices in the pantry} You still don't change it ... Duh ... why not make it easier.

Once I was acclimated to my new surroundings and my new kitchen gadgets {courtesy of Real Simple} we started cooking. I sliced, diced, sauteed, roasted, you name it I did it. Our kitchen had never seen that much action in the ten years we've lived there. When all was said and done after five hours of cooking I had orzo salad, rice pilaf, corn with onion and bacon, peas with cream and Parmesan, brats and chicken. Whew!

In the midst of all that cooking I picked up some wonderful tips from Dawn ... or as I like to call them Dawnisms.

"Don't sweat making dinner EVERY night. If you cook at least three times in a week you are doing fine." {ie: don't try to be perfect.}

"No matter how hard you try you might just pick a bad melon." {ie: there's no hard and fast science to this produce picking thing.}

"Put it on the back burner." {ie: don't worry about making a mess, just put it to the side and deal with it later.}

I also picked up some go to recipes for those days when the 'ol brain isn't firing properly.

Peel a bag of carrots {no need to wash}
Cut off the butts
Cut into half inch pieces {I sometimes split them down the middle if they are really thick}
Toss with Kosher salt, Ground Black Pepper and EVO
Roast in a 350 degree oven till tender {approx. 45 minutes}
Finish by squeezing a fresh lemon over them.

Defrost a bag of frozen peas
Bring a 1/4 cup of Heavy Cream to just a boil and pour over defrosted peas
Add some fresh Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper

For more great recipes check out the story here.

And that was just the end of day of one...up next the photo shoot.


At October 20, 2011 , Blogger Iowa Sunshine said...

this is great stuff -- how fun! a lot of valuable info coming your way, and i couldn't help to smile at you smelling melon belly buttons :). thanks for sharing the ideas and fix-up recipes.

At October 21, 2011 , Blogger Elisa Black said...

Wow-- what a totally cool experience for you!! And its exciting for me, knowing you "virtually'" to read about it!! Lucky you! Lots of good tips and ideas in there. Here's an interesting thing I learned recently from the preschool where I bring my son" Every week each child brings in a fruit or veg to share. Apparently the skin of cantaloupe is big for carrying some illness (not sure if its listeriosis or E. coli or what-- there was an outbreak somewhere in the last few months), and I learned that you should always wash the outside of the melon (with soapy water) before you cut into it, and avoid buying the pre-cut melon slices. The pre-school has gotten to the point, as a precaution, or not allowing us to bring cantaloupe in for this reaso(Didn't mean to get preachy about it). Anyway, looking forward to part 3!! Have a good weekend!


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