We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There are a few secrets to cooking. A good sauce or gravy is one of those secrets. The ability to add that spice and flavor to your meals makes all the difference in the world. Another is a good spice or combination of spices. Often to be used in conjunction with the sauce to give your meal that special something that makes your family/guests rave about the meal. My go to ingredient to make a sauce/gravy kick with flavor is Better Than Bullion". Add a teaspoon or two to home made or store bought gravy and watch the results at the dinner table. It is condensed flavor and not just for gravy. Use the chicken base in your lighter sauces for better flavor. I add about a table spoon of the beef to my spaghetti sauce.
My favorite spice is Goya's Sazonador Total (or Badia's Sazon Complete, they are about the same). Used in conjunction with Better Than Bullion they can kick your meal up a notch.
For those of you who like Southwest style cowboy beans try Badia's Pinto Bean Seasoning. What I do is cook up a batch of pinto beans (can even use drained canned pintos) and add them to 2 cups of beef broth with a tablespoon of Badia's Pinto Bean Seasoning. I heat up this mixture to taste adding more seasoning salt and pepper to taste until I like it then add the beans and let it simmer. It actually become better with time and is even better the next day.
I also like to add cream to sauces and gravies. We always have half & half in the fridge but whipping cream is just a notch better than half and half. It doesn't take much to improve the flavor and texture of the gravy. My thanksgiving gravy this year got rave thanks, I think, to 1/4 cup of whipping cream. Also a cream cheese can bring similar results but with even more flavor.
One of my favorite ways to kick up a meal is to combine cream with a red sauce for a better lasagna or spaghetti. Works great for a pasta casseroles and crockpot meals too.
Another upgrade to your meals is always use butter over margarine. Olive oil is good too and can often replace butter. But out West my secret "oil" is fresh rendered bacon grease. I use it to augment my turkey gravy base. I add it to casseroles and other baked foods. Perfect for biscuits. "Bacon", it's what's for dinner. If I don't need the actual cooked bacon (just needed the grease) the added benefit is I eat the bacon while I cook. Bet you won't find THAT in a French cookbook.