I recently had the opportunity to interview the lovely Allison Fishman Task, contributing editor of Cooking Light and author of the new cookbook Lighten Up, America! Allison and I have a common passion for bringing people back into the kitchen, entertaining, home economics, and supporting organic farmers. We also share the same alma mater, Cornell!
Allison was kind enough to sit down for a Q&A with me in between TV appearances on The Chew and other book release week craziness. Here are the main takeaways from my conversation with Allison:
Tips on grocery shopping: Where should we splurge? Where should we save?
- Splurge on ingredients if making a recipe that is unique and special.
- Save by buying organic chicken in bulk when it’s on sale and freezing it for later use. And learn to cook in bulk. For example, when you make chili or soup, make a LOT of it and freeze it into individual portions. That way you will have homemade “takeout” to enjoy from your freezer in a few weeks!
- Save by NOT buying fluids that need to be refrigerated, such as orange juice cartons, grapefruit juice, and soda. Fluids that need to go in the refrigerator also take up unnecessary space and slow kitchen momentum. You don’t want to be playing Jenga with refrigerator space! What’s more, juice and soda contain a lot of empty calories. If you really want orange juice, juice it fresh and savor it as a special seasonal treat. Bottom line: We should only have water in our refrigerators!
Tips on buying organic produce: When is it most important to buy organic?
- When it comes to buying organic produce, splurge on anything that has a thin peel that cannot easily be removed, such as lettuce, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes. Just look at the price differentiation between the organic variety and the conventional variety. If there’s not that big of a jump in price, buy the organic kind. If there is a big jump in price, then learn to not to be married to one specific ingredient. For example, think chard instead of kale, or skip the avocado if it’s not on sale and have it in a few weeks when it goes back on sale.
- Learn to be a food opportunist and buy produce in bulk when you see it on sale at the store or for a cheaper price at a farm. For example, when you see in-season apples for $1.29/lb at an orchard or eggs for $2.50/dozen at a farm, buy a lot of them! In less than a few weeks you’ll be done with everything you purchased and feel so smart for saving money in the long run.
Tips on getting people back into the kitchen: What are some keys to success for the beginner cook? What are some ways to make cooking fun?
- First, find an EASY recipe that you’re excited about. Go to someone whose recipes your respect. For example, Cooking Light has a test kitchen with 6-12 people sitting around a table that agree that each recipe is delicious. Be aware that some cookbooks and blogs have recipes that have not been tested.
- Start with a very simple 20-minute recipe from a trusted source or a weekday supper section of food magazine, and give yourself 45 minutes to an hour to make it. It may take the chefs who made the recipe 20 minutes to make it, but not everyone has Michael Symon or Mario Batali as the soux chef in their kitchen!
- If you’re trying a new recipe, this is not the time to invite 6 people over for dinner. Just make it for yourself and a friend. Less pressure, more fun!
- Your passion and interest should drive your cooking. The more we can play in the kitchen, the more often we’ll want to do it every day. Pour yourself a glass of wine, and have FUN with it!
Thanks Allison for these awesome tips! Follow Allison on Twitter at @allisontask.
To celebrate the release of Allison’s cookbook, Lighten Up, America!, I am giving away two free copies.
To enter the giveaway, like Peaches and Cake on Facebook and leave a comment below. This contest will be open until midnight on Tuesday, November 12. Valid only in the continental United States. Winner will be notified in the comment section or via email.
Update 11/13: The winners of the giveaway are Heather and Nienke! Please email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org.