By Alison Ladman, Associated Press On crazy weeknights, sometimes the only thing standing between you and yet another order of takeout… Is a box of pasta. Because a box of pasta is like that been-through-it-all-with-you friend, that dinnertime Swiss Army knife that can be counted on in your time of need no matter what the […]
While I do have plenty of great recipes I use, more often then not I just wing it. I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, so I think you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. For me cooking without guidelines is the most fun, especially when it turns out well and everyone loves it!
I thought maybe I would blog about this and my thought process when I cook this way. I know it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so maybe some of you will find it helpful. My wish is that everyone could find some freedom and joy in their cooking. We all have to eat, so we might as well enjoy ourselves in the process!
So here are a few thoughts on “spontaneous cooking” and how last night’s dinner (pictured above) came together…
- What ingredients do you have?
- What do you have on hand and what goes together? Produce goes bad quickly, so maybe first take a look at what you have on hand in that area. I always try to use what I have. I heard once that in the U.S. 40% of food is thrown out. I do all I can to make sure my family is not wasteful in this way.
- Last night, I knew I had zucchini, kale, mushrooms and red bell pepper from my organic produce shipment. I always have onion and garlic on hand for flavoring. So I used all of this produce!
- I had thawed out ground turkey, so I browned this along with some onion. I added all the veggies toward the end of the browning process .
- What do the people you’re feeding like?
- I also had some artichokes, three huge ones, but my younger daughter doesn’t like those and my other kids are coming over soon. I’ll save these for people that will really appreciate them.
- Both of my daughters don’t like mushrooms, but I have found that if I cut them up into very small pieces they don’t mind them so much. I made sure to cut the kale up small too.
- What will make it taste yummy?
- What little extras do you have on hand that can help with this? I knew I had the turkey and the veggies, but what kind of sauce should I use?
- I had a big can of crushed tomatoes in puree, a jar of pesto sauce, and red wine. This sounded like a yummy mix to me! I ran through other ideas in my head, such as a cream of mushroom based sauce or a curry sauce, but they just didn’t sound good last night with the types of veggies I had. In addition to the items I used to make my sauce, I also included some basic seasonings; salt, pepper and oregano. I once heard someone say “Salt is to food what breath is to life”. This is so true!!!
I hope my ramblings will be helpful to someone. I know some people don’t like to cook or are intimidated by the kitchen. My hope for you is that you’ll learn to play in the kitchen and find your joy there! Not every effort will be a success, but that’s OK. Laugh it off, learn from it and order a pizza!
When you do hit a homerun, go back and write down what you did. If you don’t keep track, you’ll never be able to recreate it! Have fun out there!
Why do I love Thursdays? Because when I get up every Thursday morning, I have a wonderful box waiting for me on my porch. That box is filled with beautiful organic produce. My husband and I recently became more aware of how many chemicals are on the produce we eat due to pesticides. We decided to try and eat organic produce as much as possible. Everything we want is not always available so we’re not eating strictly organic, but we figure any amount of organic produce has got to be better for us! What you see in the attached picture is what came in our produce delivery box today. We decided to go with a farm to door delivery service. All the produce is organic and is locally grown. I like it because were getting beautiful, seasonal vegetables and fruit as well as helping our local farmers stay in business. We’ve noticed the produce is near perfect and so fresh! It lasts much longer than what we buy in the grocery store. It hasn’t sat on grocery store shelves for any length of time or gotten caught up in a long shipping process. There are a number of these such services so you can look online for one in your area. We live in the San Francisco East Bay Area and use Doorstep Farmers. I’ve been very happy with the service. I particularly like that I can go to their website and customize my delivery. This way I make sure I’m going to get produce our family will actually use. Many of these services sell other organic kitchen staples as well, such as olive oil, honey, and eggs. Many of you may have access to local farmers markets and that is also a great resource for organic produce. Unfortunately for me, the only one we have is during daytime hours while I’m at work so the delivery service is a great option for our family. I hope you consider going organic with your produce. With every dollar we spend we have a voice to tell retailers what we the public want. The availability of organic produce has greatly improved and as we buy more retailers will continue to stock with more variety. Also, if you don’t have access to a farmers market go online and take a look at these online produce delivery services. You might find it works well for you too!
Fat free? Are you kidding me? I know the thought of fat-free ingredients or food brings to mind flavorless dishes, but I’m here to tell you there is a time and a place to use fat-free ingredients to make delicious foods! I have found certain non-fat and low-fat ingredients that work very well in contributing to wonderful dishes. Throughout my blog I hope to share some of these with you so you can begin to incorporate these into your cooking.
#1 Fat Free Sour Cream
Other than vegetables, I think this ingredient has become my all time favorite fat free ingredient. This is one item that I have found I am willing to sacrifice the fat and I don’t notice a huge difference in the taste, but that could just be me. I challenge you to give it a try!
My family uses this ingredient in a variety of ways. We use it in our stroganoff dish, that we also use ground turkey in to keep it low-fat. I recently used this ingredient in my seven layer dip. I also used fat-free refried beans and a variety of fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, guacamole, salsa, etc. I will tell you my secret ingredient is stirring taco seasoning mix into my fat-free sour cream before adding to my dip.
I think you’ll find this ingredient has a wide variety of uses from savory dishes to wonderful dips! And that brings me to my next ingredient…
#2 Fat Free Shredded Cheese
This ingredient also makes an appearance in my seven layer dip, but you may have guessed that already!
Now this ingredient is not quite as versatile as the sour cream. The food industry just has not perfected fat-free cheese yet. At times it can have a waxy texture to it, but I find it can work well when it’s mixed into a dish with several other components. You may also want to use it somewhat sparingly as in large quantities you will really experience that waxy texture.
I often use it sprinkled on top of casseroles and in salads. Of course, it also works well as one of the layers in my seven layer dip.
I hope you’ll give these and some other fat-free or low-fat ingredients a try. They can really help lower the fat and calorie content of your dishes and help to keep them flavorful. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you like and what you don’t. What are some fat-free or low-fat ingredients that you enjoy using in your dishes?
I have made mashed cauliflower and cauliflower cous cous, both of which my family loved. I’ve heard cauliflower pizza crust is good. Will have to give it a try! Goes with my goal of healthier eating and sneaking those veggies in!
I took a slight hiatus during which time school completely exploded. The year’s over in two days, though, so here’s to a summer of travel and trying to get into college and cooking.
For right now, though? CAULI-FREAKING-FLOWER PIZZA.
This pizza is my new religion. I swear, if I had cauliflower on hand all the time, I’d make this once a day.
I used this recipe from Umami Holiday. Basically, if you’ve got cauliflower, cheese, and an egg, you’ve got creative license to do whatever the hell you want to your pizza – my kind of food.
You’re going to start by grinding your cauliflower in a food processor, ideally.
I wasn’t sure how fine to go, so I processed the crap out of that cauliflower. The consistency worked out for me, though, so I’d aim for something like this.
After you cook your cauliflower comes the fun part…
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