In just about any situation in life, the key to knowing what you’re doing is pretending that you know what you’re doing.
When you’re behind the wheel of a car trying to impress your new boyfriend with your stellar sense of direction or presenting to a boardroom full of c-level executives, if you hold your head high and speak confidently, you will gain trust.
The same rules apply in the kitchen.
Kind of. In a perfect world, we’d all have enough time to grind our own spices, chop fresh basil for pesto and crush our own tomatoes for marinara sauce.
Fresh food tastes better than food that’s been treated with chemicals and preservatives and studies have shown that it can be better for you, too.
But, is this a perfect world?
No, not really.
It is a world with deadlines, traffic and bus delays.
People work long hours, take care of families and occasionally, don’t eat dinner until nine o’clock at night.
So sometimes, we do open cans, bottles and boxes when we want to make a meal.
By keeping a few key ingredients in your pantry and a few special tips in mind, you can do that and still make just about any meal seem gourmet.
Use Your Herbs
Herbs are a great way to add a low-fat, calorie-free kick to soups, stews and casseroles. You can even chop fresh chives or basil to mix with goat cheese for a savory hors d’oeuvres spread.
A sprinkle of hand grated or shredded parmesan goes a long way in a simple meal.
From basic salads and sandwiches to quick pastas and omelets, grated parmesan cheese adds a sharp, sophisticated flavor to any dish that will leave you wanting seconds.
One of the simplest weeknight meals is pasta.
Not only is it efficient for your wallet, but it cooks in under fifteen minutes. Paired with a simple sauce it can be a healthy, filling meal for any night of the week.
If you’re privy to tomato-based sauces like marinara, you can spice it up with a little bit of pesto sauce to add a nutty, earthy flavor that sets your sauce apart from the rest.
Don’t be afraid to season your favorite dessert with a few drops of flavorful extract.
A few drops of almond extract adds richness to bread pudding and a splash of vanilla extract adds some kick to your vanilla milkshake.
But beware – a little goes a long way here, so be sure to have a light hand.
Chop Ahead of Time
Don’t resort to canned or frozen vegetables when you can have the real deal.
If you chop your vegetables the previous night – or even on Sundays so you’ll be set for the week, you’ll have garnishes, side dishes and salads ready to go at a moment’s notice.
What are some of your favorite finishing touches to add flair to a meal?