Cooking on a Dime

Creating delicious meals in South Jersey on a budget just got easier with these simple how-to's of the kitchen.

From Aspiring Chefs To Established Food Writers, Food Is On Everyone’s Mind. February 25, 2012

Courtesy of Jasmine Mangalaseril.

Jasmine Mangalaseril is a public relations professional and freelance food writer. She and her blog have been featured on Culture.ca, Foodtv.ca and listed on Delish.com’s 50 Top Food Blogs. Canadian Press, CanWest News, SRC, CanadianLiving.com and Taste Magazine have also mentioned her in news stories.

 

 1. What inspired you to create this food blog?

Confessions of a Cardamom Addict” began life as a food column in an e-zine a former colleague created.  She gave me free rein as to topic. Food was my natural subject—I am often the person to whom friends and colleagues turn for kitchen advice such as cooking techniques, recipe ideas and how to use new-to-them ingredients. I gave it up when life got busy. About half a year later, after a series of coincidences (including emails from readers who asked me to resume the column, a journalist friend who seriously recommended I take up food writing, and a three-hour conversation about cooking fish), I decided to take “Cardamom Addict” out of mothballs, and resurrect it as a blog.

 

 2. I see you have been blogging since 2005. What has kept you so dedicated to your blog?

I have always thought of “Cardamom Addict” as cathartic writing with, at times, a tenuous relationship to food.  It’s diarisation with an edible bent. That said, I think there are two predominant reasons as to why I haven’t binned it:

  • Cardamom Addict allows me to indulge in writing styles that are different to what I exercise in my professional life. My career has very little call to write song parodies, circular dialogue or adventure stories.
  • My goal is to write for myself.  I don’t treat “Cardamom Addict” as a vehicle with which to amass fame or riches–and I think this is a key point.  Many people give up their blogs because they expect popularity (or to be given a mantle of authority), free products, access to certain events or people or quite simply money. Forcing these expectations on a collection of pixels would, to me, move blogging into a work-like situation that would result in something I have to do, instead of something I want to do. When it begins to feel like a millstone, I’ll probably give it up.

 

3. You were listed on Yahoo.ca’s In Depth Food and Health Page and Hearst Publication’s Delish.com’s 50 Top Food Blogs (that’s where I found your blog). How does that feel to get that acknowledgement and has it changed how you approach your blog?

I think those listings are similar in importance as when I’m in a shop and someone shyly comes up to me to ask if I’m “the cardamom woman” and then tells me their family liked one of my recipes, or how they appreciate my writing.  I also get touching emails from people because something I wrote conjured memories, helped them, or brightened their day.This sort of acknowledgement hasn’t changed my approach to “Cardamom Addict”—I still write about what exits my kitchen or enters my gullet.  I think if I purposely changed my approach to chase recognition (or other sorts of validation), I’d lose my blog’s focus.

 

4. Where do you find inspiration for the recipes that you create?

I’m really lucky in that Waterloo Region(where I live) is a great place for food lovers—we have strong agricultural roots and attract an amazing diversity of cultures and immigrants who bring their own culinary traditions. During growing season, I can wander through Herrle’s (a great family-owned country market that’s just outside of town) and get lost in the colors, textures and scents. I have a wealth of living food knowledge around me whether it’s in real life (my butcher, shop owners, Mum ,friends) or the online food community. Inspiration can also come in other forms—more obvious are food references in books and films, but there are also culinary memories tied to dates and songs.

 

5. What is your favorite recipe to make?

The recipes I return to are often embedded in my moods within the seasons, so I don’t have one favorite recipe.  For example, even though we’re experiencing an incredibly mild winter, it’s still February (almost March), and I’m itching to make steak and Guinness stew over garlicky mashed potatoes. In summer, my kitchen becomes an ice cream parlor of sorts to go along with the parade of seasonal fruit upside down cakes.  In spring, I’ll focus on curries and in autumn, I’ll play with roast chicken and beef and different ways of spicing them. Roasting vegetables is a regular habit for which I’ve a number of uses: side dishes, warm salads, pureed into soups, pizza toppings.

 

Courtesy of Richard Wilson.

Richard Wilson has a passion for food, which inspired him to pursue culinary arts. He is in the process of establishing himself as a chef. “I love the feeling I get when people tell me my cooking is sensational,” said Wilson.

 

1. What inspired you to want to make a career out of cooking?
What really inspired me the most to start cooking are my parents. When I was about 15 years old, I asked my parents to show me how to make dinner and that’s how it started. I love making food because cooking is an art and I like to create. There are so many possibilities in preparing foods due to the way you can almost freestyle and mix foods together.

 

2. I know a few people who went to Atlantic Cape Community College. How was your experience?

My experience at Atlantic Cape Community College was very good. The knowledge and experience that I received was superb. The educators are very willing to help give each student the best insight in the culinary world through their experience in the field.

 

3. You’ve been working at Cafe Madison / Towne Tavern since August 2008. What is your position and what does that entail?

When I started working at Cafe Madison/ Town Tavern I started in the Tavern. The Town Tavern is a casual dining restaurant that is connected to Cafe Madison. I worked my way from there to the other restaurant, which is fine dining. There I work as a sauté chef. My station consists of poultry and seafood.

 

4. What is it like working in the restaurant business?

Working in the restaurant business is interesting, I say this because this field is not for everyone. The average workday can last up to 10-14 hours, depending on the establishment. This is where passion must come in because if I do not love this business I’m not going to enjoy doing this. Since cooking is my passion, I have no problem being around for long periods of time. The restaurant world can be very competitive so the more you know the better. Management skills are also a benefit to have because a restaurant is essentially a penny business, every cent counts.

 

5. What is your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?

My favorite food to cook is the food that I actually eat the least, which would be fish. I am a fisherman and I prepare seafood dishes at my job. I like cooking fish because it creates a challenge for me to make a dish that is delicious and have ingredients that are complementary to each other without tasting the dish.

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Chicken Tortellini Toss Recipe February 18, 2012

Chicken Tortellini Toss
 

Courtesy of bhg.com

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 9 ounces refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
  • 1  14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
  • 1/2 10 ounce jar dried tomato pesto (1/2 cup)
  • 1  9 ounce frozen roasted or grilled chicken breast strips, thawed
  • Shaved Parmesan (optional)
 
Directions:
 
In 4-quart Dutch oven, cook tortellini according to package directions, adding the broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Return to Dutch oven. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato pesto, and chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until heated through. Garnish with Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.
 
 
I must admit, while I found this recipe under the Quick and Easy tab on Better Homes and Gardens, I had a hard time with this recipe. My first problem: I had no idea what a dutch oven was. Come to find out it’s usually a cast iron cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid that can be placed inside an oven. But hey, I’m learning!
 
 
I went shopping at the Acme the night before since the ingredients had to be fully thawed to cook quickly. Now I was hoping that the shopping trip would be quick and easy too but I was so wrong. It took me about 45 minutes just to find tomato pesto! (It was by the produce) The rest of the ingredients were easy to find but I did take a while in deciding which packages to get since they were all different sizes and prices.
 
 
I decided to get two 11 ounce packages of cheese tortellini at $3.99 each since there wasn’t a 9 ounce package.
I bought a 12 ounce package of grilled chicken breast strips on sale for $5.99.
Again, I bought the Acme brand 14 1/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes with Italian herbs on sale for $1.00.
The 8 1/2 ounce jar of tomato pesto was $4.99.
The recipe didn’t specify if I should have bought fresh or frozen broccoli but I bought a 12 ounce package of Acme brand frozen broccoli florets for $2.99.
 
Grand total: $22.95.
 
 
When I got home from school around 5 pm, I began cooking dinner since my sister was starving. I found the biggest pot in my kitchen and filled it with water. I let the water come to a boil while I started to get the rest of the ingredients ready. When the water had come to a boil, I poured in both packages of tortellini. Now this is where I got a little frustrated. I forgot to turn the burner down as I added the broccoli after the tortellini but I was taste-testing the tortellini and broccoli to make sure it was cooking properly.
 
 
When the tortellini and broccoli were done cooking, I drained the water. The pot was so heavy I was surprised I was able to drain it by myself! I returned the pot to the stove and I added the chicken, diced tomatoes, and tomato pesto to the pot. I swirled that around a little and then added the tortellini and broccoli to the pot from the strainer.
 
 
It took awhile for the chicken to completely heat up so I covered the pot on the stove and let that sit while stirring occasionally. The  meal didn’t stay hot for long though; if we wanted seconds, we had to use the microwave to heat it up again. Other than that, my family definitely enjoyed this meal. I can’t remember the last time we even had tortellini and I have no idea why! It’s delicious!
 

My finished product!

 
 I think my picture looks really close to the recipe’s picture!
 

To Go To Culinary School Or Not To Go To Culinary School? February 11, 2012

As children, we are told that we can be anything we want to be and making that dream a reality is easier than one might think. It’s much easier to have a career in something that we love and enjoy doing rather than regretting the career decisions we have made. Food is something that we cannot live without and many people have a passion for making this necessity.

 

Culinary School is extremely popular for those who want to pursue their love of food and passion for not just cooking, but baking as well. “I wanted to do something fun and interesting and the only thing I truly had a passion for and enjoyed doing in high school was baking,” said my sister, Christina Alderman.

 

After graduating high school in 2004, Christina enrolled in the brand new Baking and Pastry Option of the Culinary Arts program at Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC). “I never enjoyed school work so I certainly didn’t want to attend a four-year university.” After Christina graduated from the two-year program, she began working at Genaurdis Family Markets as a cake decorator. After five years of dedicated service, Christina left Genaurdis for about a year to seek a new career opportunity. However, as fate would have it, Christina is now back at Genaurdis doing what she loves.

 

Just like my sister, Jensen Sweeten had a passion for baking. “I wanted to go to school to do something I love doing rather than dreading getting up in the morning for something that I don’t like,” she said. Sweeten is attending ACCC now for the Baking and Pastry Option; she is taking her general education courses now but can’t wait to finally get into the kitchen.

 

“Growing up I always had a great interest in food,” said Jovita Salamone, a full-time Store Team Lead (STL) at Walgreens. “Who doesn’t love the way food looks, smells and tastes, right? I enjoyed watching cooking shows and hearing about how wonderful it tasted, seeing how great it looked; food has a way of bringing smiles to faces and that was one of the things I enjoyed most.”

 

Salamone attended The Art Institute of Philadelphia and gained an Associates of Science in Culinary Arts. “Originally, I didn’t plan on going to cooking school,” said Salamone, “but things in life changed that led me there. I realized that if I wanted to get some sort of degree why not do it with the thing that I enjoyed most: food. Unfortunately my circumstances were a lot different from other graduates. I was employed at my job for ten years and with the rates of unemployment and lack of job security elsewhere I found it hard to start over again. Do I want to pursue a career in culinary? Of course, but I hope to do it once most of my bills, including school, have been reduced.”

 

Just like Sweeten’s dream of owing her own bakery one day, Christina hopes to do the same, but with a little twist. “I want to own my own bakery that specializes in cakes. Specifically children’s cakes.” Maybe Sweeten and Christina could work together and open up their own little bakery! Oh the possibilities!

 

Courtesy of Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo.com

 

“Remember, food is a form of art – the only problem is that unless you take a picture it isn’t going to last for very long (LOL).”
– Wise words of Jovita Salamone.

 

Savory Oven Baked Chicken February 4, 2012

Did you know that there are recipes on the inside packaging of butter? I didn’t either until my mother and I were looking for recipes for my first meal.

After a long and hectic day at school, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner for my family (I guess I know how my mom and dad feel when they get home from work and have to cook dinner). Before I got home, I stopped at the Acme to pick up some last minute ingredients for the recipe I found inside the butter packaging.

Savory Oven Baked Chicken

Preperation time: 15 minutes • Baking time: 25 minutes

Parmesan cheese mixed with breadcrumbs create a golden brown crunchy coating on this oven-baked chicken.

  • 1/2 cup dried breadcumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 6 (4-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan Cheese, parsley, pepper and salt in shallow bowl; set aside.
  • Combine butter and garlic in 9-inch pie pan. Dip 1 chicken breast at a time into butter mixture; place into breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat evenly. Place chicken breasts into ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Drizzle with any remaining butter mixture.
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned and juices run clear when pierced with fork.

Something I quickly learned in the kitchen: it’s okay to modify the recipe for whatever’s easier and works for you. The recipe called for chicken breasts but we had chicken thighs in the freezer so I pulled them out the night before to defrost them (thighs are actually more budget friendly because they have the bone inside). Instead of buying fresh parsley, parmasean cheese, and fresh garlic, I bought freeze dried garlic and Acme brand seasoned bread crumbs which will last a lot longer than the fresh ingredients. I’m a firm believer in buying store brand items. You will save much more money!

 

After I set the oven, prepared the pan, and prepared the chicken, I cleaned up the kitchen and set the table for my family. After about 20 minutes, the chicken was smelling so delicious! I went to check on it and realized I had the oven too high! I had it on 475°F when it should have been on 375°F! Now since I’m cooking in my mother’s house, I have access to a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, I would suggest investing in one. It’s super helpful and will come in handy a lot. While the temperature was hot enough to be fully cooked on the inside of the chicken, red juice came out when I pierced it. A sure sign that it wasn’t finished cooking. So I adjusted the temperature and started to make the rice (Rice is super easy to make. All you have to do is boil water, add the rice, and let it cook!). The rice and chicken finished about the same time so the only thing left to do was pour the salad in the bowl and call my family to the table!

My family really enjoyed this meal and so did I. I gushed about cooking my first successful dinner to anyone who would listen!

 

I want this to be a budget friendly blog for college students and anyone else trying to save some money. My first meal cost me about $20.00.

 

Chicken Thighs: Even though I already had the chicken, my father bought them on special at Acme, 4 packages for $19.99.

 

Spinach Salad, Freeze dried garlic, and bread crumbs: About $10.00.

 

Rice: About $5.00

 

Inspiration

Filed under: Uncategorized — alderm03 @ 6:46 pm

Courtesy of John Varghese

Courtesy of Salim Virji

Before I began this journey through the kitchen, I toured the internet searching for other bloggers like myself. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only girl in the world who hasn’t mastered her cooking skills.

I found a few blogs that really interested me such as simply recipes and small time cooks that have a broad range of recipes and categories that are easy to follow and have pictures to compliment the delicious recipes.

There are even blogs that stick to one theme such as One Page Cookbook’s Thali theme or Charlie’s East Coast Gourmet blog that focuses on seafood.

There’s even a blog that takes you step by step on cooking your first Thanksgiving Day Turkey!

Hopefully my cooking adventures on this blog will inspire your own journey through the kitchen just like these blogs inspired mine!