Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What happens when I don't have a recipe

I wrote before about my cooking personality. And while I can deviate from a recipe, mainly because it calls for something I don’t consider a staple, I do actually need a recipe to get started. Some people can look in the fridge and make a fantastic meal in 30 minutes without ever following a recipe. My older sister is an expert at this. But me, I need somewhere to start.

I have a collection of cookbooks on my shelf, with my current favorite being Pioneer Woman’s cookbook. And I rely on AllRecipes and basic Google in a moment of desperation. But my favorite and most successful recipes are from my mom. She put several in a cookbook for me when I was first starting out on my own, and I also have a collection of printed emails that serve me very well.

But sometimes I get cocky and start to think that since I basically created a new recipe from one that already existed, I can surely make something without a recipe. But for me, this is a recipe for disaster (sorry I just had to go with the pun).

A few weeks ago, when I had not done very well planning for food that week, I decided to make up a recipe: Crock-pot spaghetti chicken. You might imagine what this entailed. I had chicken and had just opened a can of spaghetti sauce that I wanted to actually eat before it went bad (in case you didn’t know, it does). I work some long days, so when I use my Crock-pot I usually walk home at lunch and throw everything in, which is what I did on that particular day. But work dragged on and I was determined to make it to the gym. When I walked in the door at 8 p.m., I had a sense my experiment had failed. I opened the top of the Crock-pot to find this:

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I used thinly sliced chicken or I cooked it too long or maybe I needed some more liquid in there, but this was not the meal I walked home from the gym looking forward to. I did salvage what I could, threw it over pasta and had a decent dinner, but I was still disappointed.

So I have to ask, what are your tips for cooking without a recipe?

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