|This will all be food soon.|
People ask me all the time where I get my recipes for the blog. I think some of them think I'm cooking my way through a book, similar to the Julie/Julia project everyone saw in that stupid movie. And while I do frequently consult recipe books and cooking blogs for inspiration, I'm just as likely to walk into the kitchen, quickly scan the fridge and then start making something. I learned how to cook pretty young, so I'm very comfortable in the kitchen. My mom taught me to cook dinner with her, and I saw her modifying and adapting recipes on the fly to suit our family's tastes and so I picked up the idea that a recipe is just a guideline.
Recipe free cooking makes you so much more flexible and versatile in the kitchen. Once you are familiar with your ingredients and confident in your skills, you will be doing it all the time. Instead of just knowing a few recipes, you know a couple of methods for creating a meal. And that's what makes a good cook. You'll get there with practice.
There's a couple things that really lend themselves to recipe free, improvisational cooking. Soups, curries, and stir fries are my go to meals when I have a hodge poge of ingredients and desperate need to eat dinner. They all incorporate large amounts of healthy vegetables and are easy to prepare. They are flexible enough to include anything you've got on hand, and rely on easy to store pantry staples, like chicken broth, canned beans and brown rice.
Check out the picture. All the things in this picture will combine together to make a delicious vegetarian meal. It's easy. I heat up a little oil in my pan, brown some onion, garlic and ginger if I've got it. No worries if I don't. Then I add a generous spoonful of curry powder. I don't measure. Stir everything around to make a paste, then add the peeled, chopped carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms and kale. Add a big pinch of kosher salt. Stir some more and add a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, and a can of tomatoes if you've got it. If you don't, no one will die. Add the coconut milk, turn the heat down and let the whole thing simmer on low until the vegetables are tender. Serve over brown rice and enjoy.
What else can you add? Broccoli is good. So are potatoes or kohlrabi. Any kind of winter green works. Green beans are probably okay. Just throw something in! If you need meat to be happy, throw some leftover roast chicken or pork in at the end. Skip the chickpeas if you don't like them, or swap out another bean. Use chicken or vegetable broth instead of the coconut milk. Use tomato sauce instead of the canned tomatoes. Pour it over quinoa instead of rice. Really, I don't care. You won't hurt my feelings any. Make yourself happy. Improvise. Experiment. Enjoy.