Eating out seems to be the standard way to celebrate a special occasion or just give yourself a well-earned treat at the end of the day. But why do we have to go to all the effort of dressing up and going out in order to give ourselves a treat? Approached properly, eating in can be as good as eating out or better on just about every level.
The Benefits of Eating In
It’s no secret that eating in saves money compared to eating out. The cost of ingredients is naturally going to be less than the cost of buying those ingredients and a professional chef’s time and skill to turn them into a meal for you. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that it can also be a time- and effort-saver. You might think that letting someone else do the cooking is a labour-saving tactic, but to do that you need to spend both time and effort getting ready, travelling to the restaurant, being seated, studying a menu, waiting to be served and then coming home again. It will probably be quicker and easier to just prepare the meal yourself, and it will certainly be more enjoyable.
When eating in, the food is also likely to be better on a few key levels. Firstly it will taste better. Restaurants may have professional chefs, but even if your culinary skills are mediocre you will have a few advantages. You will be able to choose the ingredients and recipes that most appeal to you, and where restaurant chefs are under pressure to cook dozens of different meals as quickly as possible you will have the chance to give your own dinner your full attention. On top of that, you will have complete control over what you put into your meal including substances like salt and fat. If you choose, it can be nutritionally better than restaurant food and healthier on the whole.
Make Eating In Taste Better
This is all well and good, but it mostly hinges on you being at least a good enough cook to prepare something delicious. If you generally find that the things you bring out of the kitchen are so-so on a particularly successful day, things can look very different.
However, there are a number of surprisingly easy steps you can take to improve your results when cooking. It might be that it isn’t your cooking at fault at all, and instead you need to rethink your ingredients. Some people think that it’s ok to compromise on ingredients going into a bigger dish, but if you do that with everything you just end up with a collection of mediocre things. Instead, try going for better-quality, fresher ingredients – often best bought from farmers’ markets and independent shops. This will seriously improve your results, and still cost less than the restaurant bill.
If you really feel you are not in your element when in the kitchen, this still doesn’t mean you have to give up on eating in entirely. There are plenty of recipes out there that are simple enough for even the least adept of chefs and still create great results. Your PC gives you access to mankind’s single biggest bank of information – the Internet – so have a hunt around for quick and easy recipes that take your fancy.
When the weather changes, we change with it. It looks like summer is finally here, so it’s time to change up our home-cooking menu and start adding lighter, more colourful, and more delicious dishes to our repertoire. Here are a few ideas from The Huffington Post, Something New For Dinner & Good Housekeeping to get you started.
If you want something delicious and a little different to cook this Summer, consider some of the following great recipes.
1. Chilled Pesto Cucumber Buttermilk Soup
- ¼-½ cup pesto
- 1 large, peeled, diced cucumber
- 3 cups low-fat buttermilk (low-fat yoghurt is also acceptable)
- Basil leaves
- Place all ingredients except the basil into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Place in an airtight container and chill thoroughly.
- Transfer to cups, glasses or small bowls, garnish with basil and serve.
- 3lb of chicken, preferably thighs
- 1/4 cup of oregano
- 1 head peeled, finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup capers with some of the juice
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup pitted prunes
- 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Mix everything except the chicken, white wine and parsley in a large bowl, keeping back ¼ cup brown sugar.
- Add the chicken and mix thoroughly with your hands to ensure it is coated. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
- Allow half an hour out of fridge to return to room temperature. Spread in a baking dish, sprinkle with remaining brown sugar, and pour wine around chicken.
- Bake on 180⁰/Gas Mark 4 for 50 minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.
- 2¼lb roast chicken.
- 2 tomatoes (cut into wedges)
- 2 smallish cucumbers (cut into spears)
- 5oz mixed spring greens (whatever sort you choose)
- 2/3 cup Greek salad dressing
- Cracked black pepper (optional and to taste)
- Cut chicken from the bone and chop coarsely.
- Divide cucumber, tomato and greens between four plates or in four salad bowls. Arrange chicken on top.
- Drizzle with salad dressing, sprinkle with pepper if desired and serve.
4. Fresh Strawberry & Cream Cheese Tart
- Pastry (ready-to-roll or homemade, enough for a 12-inch round base)
- 1½lb strawberries (halved)
- 6oz low-fat cream cheese
- ½ low-fat sour cream
- 3tbsp chopped crystallised ginger
- 3tbsp icing sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Cut 12-inch round from the pastry and press edges between finger and thumb to create fluted effect. Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for ten minutes to firm.
- Bake base for 20-25 minutes at 190⁰/Gas Mark 5 until golden brown, then transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool thoroughly (this should take at least 20 mins).
- Mix cream cheese, sour cream, ginger and sugar in a mixing bowl. Spread this mixture evenly over the base.
- Arrange strawberries on top of the mixture. For best presentation, arrange in concentric circles with the narrow ends sticking up slightly. The tart is now ready to serve.
- 2 whole, gutted 1lb branzino
- 4 limes (2 juiced, 2 sliced)
- Basil and cilantro (a generous handful of each)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Generously apply olive oil to clean grill grates and heat to medium/high temperature.
- Rub down the fish with more olive oil, and apply salt and pepper to taste.
- Stuff the branzino with herbs and lime and lay gently on the grill. Cook on one side for around five minutes until the flesh is flaky and the skin crisp.
- Flip with a spatula (it may stick a little) and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer to a plate and rest for five minutes. Drizzle with lime juice and more olive oil then serve.
These are just a few ideas of great, delicious-tasting new meals you can cook for your family – so what are you waiting for? Cook them something amazing tonight!
We’re big fans of using fresh ingredients in all the recipes we cook, and it’s even better if you can grow your fresh ingredients at home.
But some people don’t have the space in their garden, or even a garden, to ‘grow their own’ – but here’s a handy solution from Rachel Watson.