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Go Rogue to Go Green

posted Apr 15, 2016, 7:33 AM by   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 5:11 AM ]

Chances are, you’re either a recipe follower or a recipe changer (I'll just add a little bit of this and leave out a little bit of that). Recipes are wonderful and completely necessary for some items like breads or other baked goods where precise measurements determine the quality of the finished product. However, when you’re trying to use up odds and ends from your refrigerator in the name of reducing food waste, it’s hard to find a recipe that includes your specific set of ingredients. If cooking without a recipe sounds like a daunting task, try thinking about it like this Associate Food Editor for Eating Well magazine does
  • First, she takes an inventory of which items she has and/or needs to use. 
  •  Then, she devises a plan: add carrots to pan before onions, because carrots take longer to soften (Wait, what? How am I supposed to know this? Check out this handy vegetable cooking chart for more info). 
  • Next, she adds ingredients like butter, oil, salt, and seasonings little by little so that she doesn’t overpower the dish. As she’s adding these ingredients in small increments, she tastes along the way so that she knows when the dish is seasoned to her preference. 
  • Finally, she writes it down. Now, she has an original recipe that she developed in her kitchen! 
She does note that her basic knowledge of cooking comes in handy for this process…so how do you lay a similar foundation? Start by reading recipes! Pay attention to the amounts, the proportion of ingredients to each other (e.g. how much salt is recommended for 1 pound of chicken), and the cooking times and temperatures. This will help you to at least have a starting point when it comes to developing your own recipes. If a recipe you read sounds good, but you don’t have all of the required ingredients, use that recipe as a guide and improvise along the way. Change up the protein in a stir fry by using shrimp instead of chicken or substitute carrots for peas in a soup. The possibilities are endless when it comes to customizing and, once you have completed this practice a few times, you will feel much more comfortable starting to cook without a recipe. Yes, there will be dishes that are more successful than others, but that is all part of the fun. 

Check out our Dinner Made Easy handout and this month’s featured salad recipe for recipe guides that let you choose the ingredients.