Tips on Stretching Food for Company

In this classic episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary throws a dinner party. Her obsessive-compulsive friend Sue-Ann offers to make dinner, but prepares exactly six portions. Watch the first minute or two of the scene, when a guest takes more than his share.

Has you ever run out of food for your guests? As hosts, we have to balance preparing more than enough with having to throw out leftovers. And just like at Mary’s party, the unexpected can happen: Someone who offers to prepare food doesn’t bring enough, extra guests turn up, or one guest is unusually hungry. Maybe a dish you plan to serve gets ruined.

Here are some tips for when you realize that you may be short on food when company comes.

The Best Techniques for Knowing When Food is Cooked

In my post, The Secret to Great Home Cooking, I explained that the key to good food is to cook it until it’s done, and no longer. But this isn’t always easy. Cooking times in recipes are only a guide. For instance, older beans and vegetables take longer to cook than fresher ones. Cuts of meat are different sizes, and our cooking equipment and even the weather affect a recipe. But once you can accurately tell when food is done without consulting a cookbook, your cooking skill has reached a new level.
So how do you know when food is ready to serve?

Why You Should Finish Everything on Your Plate

“Finish everything on your plate!” That mantra from Mom has gone out with the leftover corn flakes. Over the years we’ve learned that forcing children to eat can lead to eating disorders.

But Mom had a good reason. By the time it gets to your plate food that has been grown, watered, picked, transported, processed, packaged, stored and cooked. Whenever we throw out food, we also waste a portion of the resources that went into getting it onto our plates.

And I don’t need to remind anyone that wasting food costs your family money. If only one person in the family leaves just half a teaspoon of oatmeal each day, you’ll throw out more than 11 cups over the course of a year.

But there is yet another reason to scrape that last bit of food off your plate.

Three Reasons We Throw Away Food

Is there one thing that you always seem to throw away? For my mother, it was cooked rice. She liked to have it on hand, but every few months she found a forgotten jar.

I have gone through stages of throwing out different things. The short answer to, “Why do we throw out food?” is that the food is spoiled. But it didn’t start out that way. Everytime we throw something away, it tells us something about our style of shopping, eating and cooking.

Pantry List: Stock Up to Save Time, Money and Hassle

Last week I ran out of baking soda while making sourdough bread. The last time I had checked, we had a full container. We buy it in bulk at the shuk (open-air market). But my husband used it to make dishwasher detergent.  Since I don’t know a good substitute, I had to run to the […]