Peg Cole is a self-taught cook who shares her favorite recipes and methods of cooking and baking.
Easy and Economical Meal
One of the most simple vegetables to prepare is fresh steamed broccoli. Even for the beginning cook, this easy side dish can be on the table in less time than it takes to go after fast food. Broccoli is hearty and delicious when prepared fresh.
Add a serving from a bagged salad and some store-bought dessert, and your family will think you slaved over a hot stove for hours when you set this meal on the table. Though I love to cook more involved and difficult meals, I find this meal is one that my family asks for on a regular basis.
To begin, you'll need the following:
- a metal steamer found in the housewares area of most grocery stores
- a heavy-duty 2-quart pan with a lid that fits
- a sharp knife
Why Use a Metal Steamer?
Broccoli can be prepared in the microwave, but it takes about the same amount of time as steaming, and the results are not nearly as tasty. In fact, sometimes it becomes rubbery when overcooked in the microwave.
By investing in a genuine, old-fashioned metal steamer, the smart cook will find many uses for this handy kitchen implement. It's useful for a variety of vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, and snap beans. For now, lets take a look at steaming broccoli.
Once you try this method, you'll be amazed at how quick it really is to prepare. Here are the simple step-by-step instructions illustrated with photos.
- Be sure to put just enough water in the bottom of the pan to steam the vegetables but not so much that they sit in the water. Another caution: Don't put in too little water, or it will dry out and scorch the pan.
- Depending on your personal preferences, steam the broccoli in a covered pan for around five (5) minutes, then take a peek under the lid. The florets start to turn a bit darker as they soften up.
- You can test a small floret by cutting into it with a fork. I cook for my elderly mother and her older sister quite a bit, so I've learned they don't care for the crunchy stalks. In fact, I must overcook it a bit in order for them to manage eating it.
- Cook the remainder of the broccoli until it reaches the desired degree of softness to your family's liking. Usually, this will be within ten (10) minutes, but trial and error will be your guide.
This is a dish you will want to monitor while you're preparing the other side dishes and the main entrée, whether it is a chopped steak or chicken or mushrooms. They each make a nice accompaniment to this vegetable.
Where to Find Bargains
I've discovered an amazing new place to get terrific produce at better prices than the warehouse stores you see on every corner. The package of fresh raw broccoli crowns in the photo below came from ALDI, and it was on sale for just 99 cents. Can you believe it?
There is enough in this package to serve two people a generous portion. I like to cook broccoli fresh each meal rather than have leftovers, so I don't overbuy. Trial and error will give you a good idea of how much you need for your family.
Other Deals I Found
Check out the price of these avocados for 49 cents apiece! The box store advertised them at 98 cents that week! At Kroger and Tom Thumb, they're regularly $1.49 each. Peel and slice these into small cubes, sprinkle with lemon juice, and serve on a bed of lettuce for a nice side salad.
Yellow summer squash is also a great side vegetable for this meal, and at $1.29 they'll add nutrition and flavor to this meal. Creamed summer squash was one of the staples of my childhood family. It's easy to prepare as well (find the recipe below).
If you like to find bargains on produce, you can find them at this internationally based store right in your neighborhood.
Where to Buy a Steamer
Looking for kitchen gadgets? You can often find incredible kitchen tools at the thrift store or Goodwill, so keep your eyes open for a metal steamer. I've had one for many years that I purchased at a thrift store.
How to Make Creamed Summer Squash
- Wash the squash, slice thinly, and add just enough water in a medium saucepan to cover.
- When it comes to a boil, cook it for 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Drain off the water.
- Add salt and pepper and margarine or butter to taste. I like to add a dash of milk and mash the squash slightly before serving as a side dish.
Cost Per Meal
When you add up the cost of this simple meal, you may be surprised that it totals to less than a trip to the fast food place down the street. When cooking at home, you can control the freshness and quality of the ingredients and rest assured that your food is clean and prepared with a touch of love.
Family meals around the dinner table represent some of my best memories from childhood. It's a time to share the events of our day with one another, offer a prayer of thanks, and set an example of good manners for our children who, all too often, eat a meal from a bag some stranger handed them from the window of the drive-through.
© 2012 Peg Cole