To be honest, that’s a judgment call. There’s been a proliferation of natural/health food stores in America in the past several decades, and while some swear by them, others think they’re overpriced and unnecessary. If a place says “food” on the sign, I’m wandering inside, regardless of the products they sell. I’ve found some amazing stuff in my local shops. I’d suggest taking a look around yours for that reason alone. Even if you don’t have dietary restrictions, an affinity for organic product, or a need for homeopathic medicine, you’re still likely to find fun things hidden on the shelves. And if you don’t find anything worth going back for, at least you tried. Do you need to shop natural food stores? I’m not sure. Should you give it a shot? Sure.
I watch cooking shows and sometimes they use ingredients I have trouble finding locally. Is there any way I can order ingredients or substitute them for other things that are easier to find?
I’m not sure which ingredients you’re looking for, or how exotic they are, but you can order supplies and groceries from every corner of the globe on the internet. What a difference technology makes! Keep in mind, perishable goods don’t do well in transit, so you might want to use substitutions just to avoid spoilage. Exotic fruits are the riskiest to import, so use domestic fruit as a substitute. Feel free to email me any items you’re looking to find replacements for.
When I make lemon meringue pie, the meringue weeps and the texture’s off. How can I keep meringue from doing that?
So, meringue can be tricky. It’s affected by humidity, the temperature of the egg whites, and the cleanliness of your bowl and beaters. All meringue pies weep a little, but there are a few tips I can give to reduce the “weepage.” Use a little white vinegar on a paper towel to wipe the inside of your bowl and the beaters to remove any residual grease. If some of the sugar in the whites doesn’t dissolve completely that can cause sogginess too. To prevent that, leave your eggs on the counter for 2 hours before beginning the recipe, and completely incorporate the sugar into the whites before whipping. Rubbing a little of the mixture in your fingers should feel smooth after mixing, not at all “sandy.” To be triple sure your pie doesn’t weep, make sure to spread your meringue on while the filling is still hot.
I saw an air fryer at the store. What’s that?
It’s the newest addition to my quick-prep arsenal of kitchen electrics. In short, it’s a high-powered convection (blowing air) oven with a removable fryer basket inside. Load in your frozen fries, flour-coated chicken pieces, even doughnuts, and set the timer. Walk away and come back to crispy goodness. Now, items like raw potato require a light coating of oil to crisp properly, but most things cook without any additional fat. The basket is large enough for 2-3 portions, so it works well for my crew, but may not if you’re feeding an army. I think it’s a worthwhile investment for the French-fries-and-chicken-nugget households, so you don’t have to heat up the whole house.
My aging parents are on restrictive diets and I’m having trouble finding places that will prepare food for them in a way that’s safe. I have a family of my own, so time’s limited, and their live-in nurse can only reheat. Do I have options?
Absolutely. I’m not sure how much money you have to throw at this, but there are mid-range options to help take the worry out of this work. My catering company was created out of need for services like this. Takeout doesn’t focus on dietary needs, caterers are super expensive for daily eating, and families can’t always provide healthy meals at a moment’s notice for their relatives. A grocery rotisserie chicken can only go so far. Delivery Dinners of Delaware became an entity because older people needed reliable, healthy and considerate food delivered to them whenever they needed it. Families with kids and obligations eventually caught wind of this, and now I’m recruited to cook for all sorts of situations. If you’re within thirty miles of the Delaware state line, I can help you. If not, there are companies like mine out there, ready to help make meals according to your needs. They may not all deliver, but with the improving economy and the proliferation of healthy-eating establishments, the focus of the American diet is shifting to what we’re eating, not just when and where, so don’t lose hope. If you can’t find a company, go to your parents’ favorite restaurant and ask for a meeting with the chef and the manager. There may be a way to arrange for meals to be prepared once a week by the staff, ready for pickup whenever it’s best for you. Even if it’s just a few supplementary items, it should still help the process, and you’ll be able to rest easier knowing a trained professional put some thought and effort into the work.
As always, ask any questions you have. I’m never far!
Jill Marie is a classically-trained French chef, certified by Le Cordon Bleu and possessing both a Grand Diplôme in culinary arts and Pastry Certification. She’s been cooking professionally in hotel,restaurant and catering kitchens for fifteen years, and specializes in comfortable, everyday food. She also earned a Master’s degree in HumanResources and a Bachelor’s degree in Finance. In additionto running Delivery Dinners of Delaware, she works full-time in Human Resources. Jill is also a published author of women’s fiction/romance, and her current series, Second Saga, is in print. Visit her site jillmariedenton.com for book info and writing samples.