You can be a good cook
Dear Mary: I followed your suggestion to track our family spending for 30 days. I am so embarrassed to admit that our family of four spent nearly $385 on fast food in one month. I thought I kept track of all our expenses but hadn’t even thought of tracking fast food spending. I know we have to stop eating out so much because we need that money for other things. But I’m a terrible cook and don’t know where to start. Help! — Claudia
Dear Claudia: I can identify. When our two boys were young I believe we ate out for at least one meal every day. That really adds up. Here’s the solution that turned things around for me. Create one meal from scratch that your family loves. Make it over and over until you perfect it and can cook it from memory. Then, create a second meal and perfect that one. Before you know it you’ll be eating fabulous cheap meals at home and saving a bundle. This will also do wonders for your family life. Here’s a fast, delicious and fool-proof recipe that I suggest you try first in your new repertoire:
BLASTED CHICKEN. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You’ll need one whole thawed 3 to 3.5 pound chicken (I get mine for 97 cents per pound) and salt and pepper. Remove the giblets from the cavity (these can be set aside to be used another time). Rinse the chicken thoroughly inside and out, then pat it dry with a paper towel. Set it in a baking dish (on a rack in a baking dish if you have one) with the breast side up. Do not tuck in the wings or tie the legs together. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally inside and out. Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. Don’t even think about opening that oven door to peek or you’ll blow the results. Remove and let sit for a few minutes. Cut apart with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. If your chicken is larger than 3.5 pounds, bake it for a few minutes longer.
SENSATIONAL RICE. Remove the outside layers from one onion and chop the onion into small pieces. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet and saute the onion on medium heat until soft. Add 1 cup of any raw rice — it MUST be raw, not precooked or minute rice. Saute the rice in the pan with the onion until the rice begins to brown, stirring constantly (about 10 minutes). Be careful not to burn. Add 2 cups of canned chicken broth, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. This recipe serves 4- to 6 people. Hint: If you begin cooking the rice right after you put the chicken in the oven, they will be done at the same time.
Serve the chicken and rice with a simple tossed green salad and warm bread. This meal is sure to please even the most picky eater. This meal is so great that you could fix it once a week for the rest of your life and never tire of it. It’s quick, easy and healthy. And did I say cheap? I make this meal to serve six people for less than $5, and I do it all the time (I just checked and I have seven chickens in my freezer!) My family, friends and office staff think I am a gourmet genius.
Please don’t blow my secret.