Gourmet Cooking Ideas for Less

You may think that just because you have a limited budget for food, it means that you can’t create the gourmet feasts you crave.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  While you certainly won’t be buying caviar or select cuts of meat for every meal, you can still find ways to add a touch of gourmet to your culinary palette without breaking the bank.  In fact, if you know the trademarks of gourmet cooking, you can find ways to slip them into everyday meals with little or no additional cost (although you may have to expend more effort).  Here are just a few tips and tricks to spice up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to fake-make gourmet.

For starters, you should take a look at what you’re currently cooking to see if you can find ways to make it gourmet.  If you like to snack on cereal instead of cooking dinner, then there’s not a lot you can do to make it more exciting.  But if you prefer to cook low-cost casseroles, for example, you can implement several cheap and easy changes to push them towards the gourmet end of the spectrum.  One way to up the ante with a dish is to add fruits or vegetables.  Just about any casserole dish can benefit from more colors and nutrients, so throw in some broccoli, peas, or spinach and consider adding shredded carrots or colorful bell peppers.  Although these items can be expensive fresh, you can get the same amount of nutrients from less-costly frozen produce.  Or if you want to make your ho-hum salad gourmet, skip the carrots, tomatoes, and Ranch dressing and opt instead for a sliced apple, walnuts, and vinaigrette.  For roughly the same price, you can make your starter a lot more grandiose.  In short, a few additions or some swapping out can really improve your dish.

Another way to make your meal gourmet is to work on your sauces.  One of the first things that many chefs learn are the five mother sauces (béchamel, or white, velouté, or light, espagnole, or brown, hollandaise, and vinaigrette).  Most of them require only simple ingredients for the base (such as butter, milk, flour, meat juices, eggs, oil, and so on).  From there, you can add whatever you want to change the taste and appearance of the sauce.  By adding one of these sauces (or another, such as tomato, pesto, or barbeque, just to name a few) to your chicken recipes you can make any simple meal special and add to the wow factor.  And throwing on a garnish before serving (such as a sprig of parsley, a sprinkle of paprika, or a lemon twist) will give your meal some added value (although this is really only necessary if you’re serving guests).

Although it can definitely cost a lot to make a gourmet meal (which generally consists of high-quality or rare ingredients), you can make an effort to inject some culinary wizardry into even the most droll of meals in order to spice up your diet.  With the addition of some colorful elements and a few new sauces on the menu, your boring meals can easily get the taste of gourmet that you’ve been wishing for, at a fraction of the cost of the real deal.

Sarah Danielson writes for MomsWhoThink where you can find amazing recipes, informative parenting articles, diet and nutrition advice, and much more.

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