As frugal as we try to be, my family still wastes too much money eating out. One of my goals is to produce more restaurant-quality meals at home. Above is a cold supper of sliced beef tenderloin, garden tomatoes and mozzarella, green beans in vinaigrette. (Really, it's a plate of leftovers, attractively presented!) What enhances this cold supper's appeal is its chilled plate. I bought a set of these at Goodwill for their looks, but the function has revolutionized my warm weather kitchen! Now I pre-plate cold suppers and stack them in the refrigerator for later in the evening. We have a nice dining experience with all the convenience of eating out--and none of the cost.
What's your secret for turning out restaurant-quality meals in your kitchen? Do you have a tool or trick that raises the bar for dinners at home?
Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer has the entire Works-For-Me-Wednesday lineup--check it out!
Sauces and seasonings make all the difference.
Very pretty and appetizing! What is your dip shown here?
My tricks (because I do the same thing: restaurant quality, i mean, not the chilled plates. How great an idea is that for your region!)
1. Warmed plates. Pop them in the oven or on the stove top while cooking. We live up north. Cold plates are de rigeur : )
2. White oval plates. From restaurant supply.
2. Plating main course at the stove. Generally, 1 protein choice and one green veggie. Starch choices come at dessert. My husband is diabetic also.
3. Interesting condiments (i.e.: pickles, olives, pickled beets, artichokes, sea salt, jam or sauces) in pretty bowls on the table. These are passed, not plated.
4. Salad first. Simple dressing tossed in before serving and no messy bottles on the table: from Leann Ely (flylady) 1 garlic clove pressed into 2 parts vinegar of choice (rice for us) and 1 part oil. (sometimes sesame oil but usually olive)
5. I listed all the things we usually order when eating out. Except for fried items (clams, onion rings) i have learned to make as good or better at home. Rotate those choices.
6. Chopped parsley/herbs/lemon twist sprinkled on top to finish.
Great idea. One thing I do is keep delicious homemade foods in the freezer that can be defrosted quickly in the microwave for a meal. When I don't feel like cooking I can do that and we eat well and save money. We save going out to eat for special occasions. Since we have started doing that we find that we enjoy it better and are more choosy about where we go. Joy
BTW -- really enjoy your blog. I have picked up a lot of good tips.
Good idea but 1 question. Merideth, does this actually fill up your hubby? My husband would not know what happened to his wife if I served a meal that looked so...empty.
I enjoy your blog so much. You give me great ideas. Oh, and I love the find that you got yesterday. It's beautiful. I really do believe God blesses you for being "like a merchant". :-)
Fresh parsley sprinkled on the plate (dried parsley- in a pinch), pretty white dishes, rimming slushie glasses with colored sugar...those are just a few of mine.
Great idea about chilling the plates though- I would have never thought of that!!
Awesome idea, I had never thought about the chilled plates either.
Cloned recipes for foods we would frequently go out for, especially those we can't find overseas to begin with.
From my restaurant days.....parsley of course, a sprinkle of paprika around the edges of a white dish looks dramatic, a squeeze bottle of a sauce (just a typical steak sauce) or even sour cream for a swirl on a soup or a plated main dish, outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage not suitable for a salad still look nice under a cold dish (to hold your green beans and salad for instance).
Smaller ramekins and bakeware to set an individual serving in then placed on the plate, it gives the sense of a larger serving or a specialty. Especially helpful to "fill" a plate up if the plate outsizes the portions.
Ying/yang the main dish (a curry or something with sauce) with the side dish of rice, noodles or couscous.
Bento box cold meals for something your son will get a kick out of...I get a lot of ideas from here:
I dont really aim at restaurant quality meals - they are different from home cooked meals - contain a lot more salt sometimes that people get addicted too. Learning to cook is the key - if you concentrate on five basic meals to start with - maybe a perfect roast chicken with rice and veggies as sides. A pork chop with the same. Keep it simple with good quality ingredients and always plan ahead - make it a priority - sometimes the hardest part.
Good point about the difference between restaurant meals and home-cooked. Perhaps that's why I get so frustrated with my cooking; I can never in good conscience add the amount of butter and salt a restaurant would.
Tracey, are you back in Japan? Thanks for stopping by--I've lost your email.
Anonymous, no that meal would NOT fill my husband up. That was my portion, eaten while he was working late. I gave him the bulk of the sliced tenderloin for lunch, along with tomatoes and green beans. Have to get SOME vegetables in him!
Thanks for all the ideas! I appreciate your comments.
Debbie, that sauce was a dab of homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.
ooooooooo, bento boxes! how cool!
Wow! Another inspiration from Meridith's blog. The kids and I spent a good part of the morning looking at bento box photos -- and planning how to make similar items for our lunches. [The beauty of homeschooling!]
So, some of the things I've learned, courtesy of Like Merchant Ships:
wintergreen alcohol, food presentation, bento boxes, horn buttons, and vinyl tablecloths for shelf liners!
Not to mention improving my attitude about all the house repairs in our future.
I love this.
I love your blog.
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