How to Fake a Gourmet(ish) Meal

My latest faux-made meal. I cut the sausage diagonally as I ate it of course.

Growing up as the only child of a single working and MBA-earning mother, I learned to “cook” at an early age. The infamous Alphabit/Lucky Charms medley was my specialty, but I could also make a mean peanut-butter-on-a-spoon. As my skills matured, I was artfully crunching Doritos over Velveeta Shells and Cheese and I could wrap a dog in a blanket with both hands tied behind my back. Chef Boyardee would bubble on my command. I was hamburger’s helper. 

Even though I’m older, wiser, and no longer require the daily sugar intake of a Care Bear, I still want to make unreasonably yummy meals in the time it takes squeeze cheese. Here are my favorite short cuts for making a basic dish feel like you’d never touch a microwave:

Garnish: If Denny’s can ice cream scoop a ball of butter or trim a sprig of parsley, so can you.

Add Spinach: Popeye and I share a secret weapon. Toss it in mac and cheese or eggs, place it on top of pizza, layer it in your lasagna, or cook it down in soups. Add the green stuff to just about anything and you automatically get to add the word “Florentine” to the end of your dish description. Fancy that.

Slice Diagonally: There’s only one right way to cut a PB&J, and the same is true for the other food groups. Whether it’s a chicken breast, roast, banana, or zucchini, it just tastes better sliced on an angle – or at least it looks like it does.

Shake on Spices: Ever order pasta in a restaurant without a mysterious smattering of green stuff on it? You probably already have that green stuff in your spice rack. I’d tell you what that green stuff it is, but it could be a myriad of things. Grab whatever green stuff you can find and sprinkle away – except dill.

Make Homemade out of Premade: Add pomegranate seeds to store bought guacamole, add fresh veggies to a frozen pizza, add an oven to raw cookie dough – if it’s something you can do while wearing an apron and holding a glass of wine, it’s cooking.

Use the Fancy Dishes: My favorite faux-fancy dessert is dumping a chocolate pudding cup into a Waterford crystal champagne flute and adding a dollop of whipped cream. I’ve been known to pull this off at upscale dinner parties. Well, “known” is probably the wrong word.

So if your last cooking foray was with an Easy Bake Oven, put down the can opener and give a few of these tips a try. And if all else fails, buy it at Trader Joe’s and hide the evidence.

What’s your favorite faux-made meal secret?


About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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9 Responses to How to Fake a Gourmet(ish) Meal

  1. This looks real enough to me!!! I’d definitely eat that!!! Yum!!!

  2. Chop up some cilantro and throw it on top. Taste it, then decide whether to christen is “baja style” or “asian influenced”. Add peanuts and call it Thai.

  3. I can rock the heck out of a box cake or brownie mix:)

  4. Kendra says:

    While I’ve only used my oven twice on 5 years (and that was to toast pita) I firmly believe diagonally sliced is the only way to eat a PB&J! #cateringcountsascooking

  5. You had me at hello–or actually at “if it’s something you can do while wearing an apron and holding a glass of wine, it’s cooking.” I’m going to go slice my jello pudding cup at an angle.

  6. Great advice on the garnish. My favorite quote is this: “Parlsey is the bridesmaid of food. Always invited, never eaten.”

  7. Mix marinara and ricotta. Add some parsley and voila…a “homemade” pasta sauce!

  8. kitchenmudge says:

    Old batchelors know a few things. Here’s one:
    The best canned chili is Stagg Chili Laredo (a bit pricey, but the difference is noticeable.)
    Throw it over some pasta, with any old grated cheese and chopped onions. It will feed a grown man for a day, and dirty only one pot and one spoon. (maybe a knife for the onion and a grater for the cheese)

  9. Jennifer Rhodes says:

    I like to take all kinds of vegetables, “onion, garlic, green pepper” as a few examples, cut them up into pieces and cook them into my food. It gives it some more flavor and makes the dish look more put together.

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