Recipes or no recipes

Real food recipe photo
This is exactly the wrong image for successful cooking with real ingredients on a regular basis. .

I have a well-defined vision for what I want to accomplish with this site. My goal is to move more people to cook with more real ingredients, more often. Simple idea, but complex in delivery. In generations past, the cooks learned slowly and deliberately, usually under the watchful eye of an experienced cook — Mom.

We’ve lost that natural learning environment over the past couple of generations, as more and more food arrived partially or fully prepared into the family home. Cost and health concerns have brought many people, often in middle age back to the kitchen. But real cooking can be tedious when you do not have basic skills, or a real-ingredients pantry and a kitchen set up for cooking from scratch. When the desire to cook better food hits, the first reaction is to hit the Web, or recipe books and find a recipe.

I do that myself. However, I find following a recipe is time-consuming. For as well-stocked as my pantry is, I often do not have all the ingredients specified. In fact, that is the root of the problem. I have my ingredients in my pantry. The person writing the recipe has his or her ingredients in the recipe.

I do not intend this to be a recipe site. I will, occasionally, link to recipes, and for a few things, I will include specific amounts. I’ll admit I don’t like writing recipes, but I would do it if I felt that action would get more people cooking real food. I believe that the opposite is true, however. My goal is to get you thinking about YOUR food. Not collecting recipes, but forging your own way with the ingredients that match your family food values, budget and tastes.

I have always been a fan of Cooking Light magazine. In fact, I once had a collection of every issue from 1980 to 2005. We have a few family-favorite recipes from the magazine, like Polpette, Greek Lemon Soup (although I do used cooked orzo, not rice) and my favorite Crunchy Shrimp with Couscous. I do use the recipes for those few dishes, because they are perfect as they are, and fit with the ingredients I always have on hand.

Today, I use the Cooking Light Web site to search for ideas, rather than recipes. I’ll often search for an ingredient I wish to use, and use the recipes I find as a creative base for the final plan. Unless it is a baking recipe where chemistry, i.e., proportion of ingredients, is important, like muffins or cakes, I rarely print a recipe.

That way of cooking is important to fast, easy and personalized cooking with real ingredients. It does take a bit more thought in the beginning, but that time is an investment. When you like a recipe, observe what makes it fit for you. Is it ingredients you have on hand? Do you find the method fits well with the cooking time you have? Can the method or combination of ingredients be used for variations with other favorite ingredients? As you build the answers to these questions, you will start to make meals without recipes. That is the holy grail of cooking with real ingredients.

I’ve never known anyone who cooks from real ingredients for every meal with recipes. We all have our favorite recipes, but for most meals, we are working from memory, and changing on the fly to include ingredients on hand, or that must be used soon.

I hope to encourage you to evaluate your kitchen, your panty, your cooking tools to make sure they are working for you. I want to provide quick tips for working with the most common ingredients. My goal is to have you thinking in terms of ingredients, rather than in recipes, because I believe that is the secret to lasting change that works for your unique family. Future plans do include adding an easy-to-read list of ingredients used in the dish I am presenting, but not a recipe vault. That role is covered in a big way on the Web.

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