A Feast! On the Cheap!

After a short, two day hiatus I'm back and better than ever! I've been diligently scouring the web for new, two penny ideas guaranteed to make your next (Cinco de Mayo!) fiesta a huge hit. Well friends, I've hit the jackpot! Not only did I find a FANTASTIC blog to introduce you to, but I had the pleasure of interviewing the two fabulous bloggers behind it all. Allow me to introduce Feast on the Cheap!

Spearheaded by Mary Anne Rittenhouse and her daughter Mariel Rittenhouse Goodson, this user-friendly blog will teach you everything you need to know about planning low cost, high taste dinners for your two penny parties! I love reading it because it not only shares great recipes, but it promotes a great sense of family (the family that cooks and blogs together, stays together, right?), which is certainly a rarity these days.

Here is part one of my interview with Mary Anne! As a caterer for 20 years,  Mary Anne has great finesse in the kitchen and was a treat to interview. Thanks Mary Anne!

Two Penny Parties: How do you find inspiration for your recipes?
Mary AnneThere are many ways to find inspiration, but if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say the seasons are my “muse”. When local produce starts to make its way to my neighborhood market, I get unreasonably excited by just the scent, sight and smell of fresh fruits and veggies. With summer close on the horizon, the warm, sweet-scent of the earth, crisp sea breezes and the blooming trees conjure up images of gooey peach pies, vibrant mango salsas, and flaky crab cakes. Seasonal aromas start percolating in my brain long before I hit the market. I'm getting hungry just writing this!

Min Miller’s Peach Sour Cream Pie

Two Penny Parties: What has been your favorite part of this blogging experience?
Mary AnneThe definitive answer is working with my amazing daughter, Mariel. This past year has been such a gift, as we have grown closer with our shared experience. Mariel has been teaching me to navigate the Internet while I have had an incredible time instructing her in the kitchen. Besides loving my daughter with all my heart, our writing and creating recipes together has nurtured our abiding respect for one another that is separate from our mom-daughter relationship. It's totally the icing on the cake!

Two Penny Parties: Do you have any tips for folks who hate to cook or are inexperienced at it?
Mary AnneKeep it simple! Start homing in on super basic recipes and ingredient lists that require very few kitchen utensils. If you have to seek out a dictionary to look up a term, skip it (in the beginning at least). Great big entree salads using fresh, local produce are always easy to toss together (and are basically foolproof). And if you really don’t know where to begin, start with breakfast, which tends to be easier for greenhorns. Once you master the morning, breakfast for dinner – pancakes, omelets, frittatas – are always crowd-pleasers.

When I was first starting to cook, I read, read, read. Mark Bittman has some excellent cookbooks. He takes somewhat complicated recipes and then dummies them down, which is also what Mariel does on our blog. I used to read cookbooks like they were novels. As a young wife/mom/hostess, I found the Silver Palate very inspiring.

Oh, And one more tip: READ the recipe! We’re all guilty of rushing through our days and our tasks. Never skip ahead when trying a new recipe. Read it carefully at least a few times before even opening the cupboard. The time you spend reading the recipe is nothing compared to the time-suck that is ruining a meal and having to start over again.

Two Penny Parties: What are your favorite kid-friendly recipes?
Mary AnneKids have very sensitive palates and many don’t tolerate a whole lot of seasoning. Cheese-based entrees are usually no-brainers and kids love Quesadillas: a win-win as they're not only kid-friendly, but easy and inexpensive to prepare. Added bonus: you can jazz them up for adults by adding more sophisticated ingredients i.e. jalapeno, avocado, onions, shrimp, etc.

Pasta dishes are another fave (just make sure to use whole wheat noodles so you don't send them on a refined carb roller coaster). Our Tomato Sauce with Garden Veggies is fairly mild and will help sneak in a few extra vitamins. If you're feeling adventurous, try the Ratatouille over Orzo, it's an even healthier, more produce-packed version of a red sauce.

When my own kids were growing up, they also adored Hoisin Chicken. Then there's always Sloppy Joes (Mariel has concocted a lower-cal version of this classic recipe) and our Lasagna on the Lighter Side.

Two Penny Parties: What are your favorite foods to cook with?
Mary AnneI don’t have a favorite food to cook with, per se, but I do love all things Asian. In general, seasonal produce has become a go-to in my kitchen during its day in the sun. My favorite food to eat is avocado. Its color, creamy texture, and incredible nutritional value make it an outstanding addition to many, many meals – and sometimes, a meal on its own. A great tip for storing a cut avocado is to keep the pit in the unused half and spritz a light coating of Pam cooking spray over the top. Place it in your fridge uncovered and it should keep for 3 days.

I hope you've enjoyed reading part one of this interview (and I should add, this is my first interview so I'm trying extra hard for you guys!) and be sure to tune in tomorrow for an equally awesome second half!


Anonymous said...

WOW_ What an interview ! Informative -useful - funny and cool !! Another "Star" for you , Mary Anne !xxooxx Mrs. A P.S. Looking forward to the second half !

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