I don’t consider myself a good cook. I can follow instructions well, which makes cooking easy, for what is a recipe but instructions? Still, I don’t have the ability to put things together and create.
Kitchen Creativity Scares Me
In fact, creativity in the kitchen is scary. I never bake without exact measurements, and I have just gotten to the point where I won’t measure out spices for other recipes, but rather will estimate.
It has only been recently when I have decided to branch out a bit. I figure, I’ve produced edible meals for years now. Surely that entitles me to take a little risk with the possibility of blowing it? After all, we can always order pizza.
Structure without Dictation
In order to make this work, I need some structure, since I don’t put foods together well. Yet I don’t want a full recipe, because I want to use what is on hand, usually leftovers.
So to get to that place, I have “leftover formulas”.
The first leftover formula comes courtesy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette. In this book, Amy Dacyczyn gives the formula for a stovetop dinner:
1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1-2 cups starchy ingredient
1 1/2 cups binder
1/4 cup “goodie”
Main ingredient: tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood, etc.
Second ingredient: thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, etc.
Starchy ingredient: thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice, etc.
Binder: cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup, etc.
“Goodie”: pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts, etc.
Topping: cheese, bread crumbs, etc.
Put all these things together in a skillet and cook until heated.
This one is my own and is based on the ubiquitous dinner from the midwest known as “hotdish”.
1 cup meat or meat-type product
1 cup veggies (can be frozen)
1-2 cups cooked noodles
1 can cream of something soup
1/2 can milk
Veggies: peas, corn and beans work well. Brussels sprouts not so much.
Topping: fried onions or crushed potato chips work well.
Mix in a greased casserole dish and bake, uncovered at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot.
With these two recipes, I can tackle just about anything with just a few things from the pantry, fridge and freezer.
Photo by michelle rollins