Ask Leah – Choosing Good Ingredients

When it comes to cooking, we often solely focus on the quality of the recipe we’re using. It’s important to combine the right flavors that complement each other, resulting in a tasty meal for all to enjoy. With finding the right recipe for Chicken Alfredo or Lasagna on the brain, it’s easy to overlook the quality of the ingredients you’re putting into your meal. That brings us to today’s question for Leah:

What ingredients are worth splurging on?

  • One is butter. Using margarine or a butter substitute will affect your baking negatively. Although too much butter can be a bad thing, using pure ingredients always brings out the best in foods.
  • On that note, use real cheese. Leah stays away from low-fat or artificially flavored cheeses.
  • Eggbeaters are slightly alarming. Using real eggs is generally the way to go.

  • Substituting skim milk for whole, or half and half for cream is perfectly acceptable. It might make your cookies a little less fluffy, but your waistline won’t be complaining.
  • Choosing which ingredients to spend more on depends on what you’re making. If you’re making a steak, splurge on buying the best cut of meat you can afford. When working with quality meat, you won’t have to disguise poor flavors with spices or complicated marinades. Instead, the meat’s natural flavors can shine through with the aid of a few good spices or a simple marinade. A good rule of thumb is if your cut of meat, vegetable or whatever is the main ingredient, make sure it’s the real deal. You won’t be sorry that you spent more on these items.
  • Never cook with a cheap wine or a cooking wine that you wouldn’t drink. If you’re cooking with bad wine, those flavors will resurface in your food.

  • Leah opts to use vegetables in their most raw form rather than rely solely on canned goods. Having the ability to make green beans yourself allows you to see exactly what is going into your vegetables. Also, fresh is always best. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with using canned goods, but there’s something comforting and homey about using fresh ingredients to make your dinner.
  • When possible, stay away from jarred products. Using pre-minced garlic that’s been soaking in oil for an undisclosed amount of time adds unnecessary calories when compared to using fresh garlic. Similarly, making an alfredo sauce may be more time consuming than using a jar, but you’ll skip all the preservatives it takes to give a cream-based sauce an extended shelf life. In a past post, Leah shares her simple and homemade recipe for marinara sauce. Not only will making your own sauces taste better than a jarred product, but you can make it a fun time in the kitchen cooking with a loved one or a fun project to undertake with the kids.

Ultimately, choosing good ingredients is up to your discretion. Fresh is almost always best, although it may not always be cheapest. We can’t always cook or bake with all natural or organic ingredients all the time, but incorporating more wholesome foods into your meal will have your body singing your praises. Get in the kitchen this weekend with your friends or family and make something yummy!

Have a question you’d like to ask Leah? Simply leave it in a comment below, write on our Facebook wall or send us a tweet!

One thought on “Ask Leah – Choosing Good Ingredients

  1. Great note about eggbeaters! I’ve tried to use them before in a pinch and it didn’t work out as desired. The new PR intern is doing a great job with the blog.

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