Time-saving dinners do not have to be expensive
Native islander Courtney Hunter knows that eating well does not mean spending a lot of money or time. In these days, when many people worry about the price of convenience, Hunter proves that good nutrition can be affordable and within easy reach, despite a hectic lifestyle.
In the current issue of Yankee Magazine, Hunter's kitchen secrets were dubbed "Yankee chic," and her tricks for turning leftovers into elegant cuisine were revealed. But her passion for cooking goes beyond a talent for transforming leftovers. She claims that a wellstocked pantry is the key to her success, and she continually shops for pantry items. "Spices are expensive, but quality is important," she said. A busy woman who works full time, Hunter suggests buying on sale instead of when ingredients are needed. "You save a lot of money, never mind the fact you're ready to cook things at any time."
Living in Jamestown allows easy access to good nutrition, and high prices do not need to accompany fine food, according to Hunter. Local organic produce is abundant, and herbs can be dried for use in the winter. "If you tend to your herb garden, it gives back tenfold," she said, adding, "There's nothing like a garden tomato."
Sam Albaugh, butcher at the meat counter in McQuade's Market, has seen Hunter in action over the years. He confirms that she is well-versed in butchering, and can cite the difference between a regular meat price and its sale price within a few cents per pound. "She always knows her cuts," he said. "She knows how to sniff out a good sale."
Hunter gets so excited about helping other consumers find deals that she often throws advice out to fellow shoppers. "I always see people standing in front of the meat counter and not knowing what they are looking at," she said. "You can feed a lot of people when you buy on sale."
The bargain hunter recalls seeing a father standing in the meat section holding a package of split chicken breasts. She was shocked to notice the package in his hand had a price tag well over twice the price of the boneless chicken tenders selling for $1.99 per pound on the next shelf. Considering price and the amount of work the boneless meat saved in preparation, Hunter called the comparison a no-brainer. "I told him that his wife would really appreciate it if he stocked up on the boneless chicken on sale. He was grateful for the tip."
The lady with gourmet style said people pay too much for premade dinners. Her suggestions include knowing a few basic cooking techniques to diversify recipes. "I'm amazed that some people will have drippings from a pan they have just cooked in, and then pull out a package to make a sauce," she said. "They don't know how to deglaze a pan. If you can do that, you already have a great sauce."
Hunter remembers the first time she learned to make risotto when she was a college junior studying abroad in Italy. She fell in love with Tuscan rustic cuisine, and learned how to take time to pick out fresh ingredients. She then realized how quick and easy the process was to make an elegant comfort food. Through self education, the amateur cook learned preparation techniques used in various cultures. "If you care about the process, it becomes easy to make a great meal," she said. "It's cooking with love."