A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.Pat Conroy, author
The Recipe Box
Yesterday I dug out my old recipe box to find instructions for a Broccoli Rice Casserole that I used to love. I finally found the recipe, but not until I had spent the better part of a snowy afternoon reading through all the cards in the box.
My 4-H Foods Project
Truth to tell, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with recipes. I remember sitting at the kitchen table writing recipes on cards for my 4-H foods project. How you’re supposed to squeeze anything of value on a 3 x 5-inch card is beyond me.
These Recipes No Longer “Fit”
Opening that recipe box was like cleaning out an old closet. With each item I pulled out, I found myself saying, “I can’t believe that this was ever a thing!” Just as my closet still holds funky sweaters and pants that will probably never be in style again; my Broccoli Rice Casserole recipe was equally out of step with the way I eat. Made of Cheese Whiz, cream of mushroom soup and a smattering of broccoli and rice, this casserole is relic of the past…see ya later.
Recipes from Dietitians
Do people still use recipes and cookbooks? That’s a question that I considered a lot when trying to convince the Colorado Dietetic Association that we should write a cookbook as a fundraiser. Back in the 80’s when I proposed the cookbook idea, many of my colleagues said, “Nobody cooks anymore.” After some convincing, we created Simply Colorado – Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, a cookbook that I still cook from 30 years later.
Many of the lessons that I learned about recipe development as the editor of Simply Colorado and its sequel, Simply Colorado Too! -can still appreciated today.
A Good Recipe Must:
- be worth the effort of making it. To me, that means it should taste great and be relatively easy to make. You may find a few fussier recipes on this blog, but they’ll be worth the effort, trust me.
- use ingredients that you would commonly stock in your home pantry (or boat galley). For many of my recipes, I have replaced specialty ingredients found in traditional recipes with substitutes that you would be more likely to have on hand. Sometimes I will use new ingredients that I want to become new staples in your kitchen.
- avoid wasting ingredients or leaving you with unused ingredients. Don’t you just hate a recipe that asks for ½ cup of tomato sauce – what are you supposed to do with the rest of the can? If I can’t use the whole egg or the whole can of something, I’ll give you ideas on how to use the remaining leftover.
- be clearly written so that you know how to make it and what to expect. When possible, I include several preparation methods just in case you don’t have an ingredient or special equipment, like a food processor or pressure cooker. I’m working on improving my food photographs and videos to help you visualize the finished project.
- should be well-tested. By the time I post a recipe on this blog, I’ve made a version of it three or more times. Actually, I have been preparing many of these recipes for my friends and family for years. This blog has given me the excuse to finally update, refine and share them with all of you.
You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.Julie Child
My Recipe Development Process
Home cooks shouldn’t have to choose between flavor, health and ease. My aim is to create nutritious recipes for busy people that enjoy good food. Here’s my step-by-step process for creating a recipe:
- Identify a recipe worth developing. Often when I am reading recipes, grocery shopping or dining in a restaurant I begin to wonder…. what would it taste like if I used this ingredient in another recipe? Would it work to make this in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker? Could I make something as delicious but without the high fat ingredients? Then I come home and go to work.
- Research in cookbooks and on the internet to determine if there are any similar recipes to the one I have in mind. I will often sift through my (embarrassing to admit) 26 years of Cook’s Illustrated magazines to see if they have ever made something similar. While I am a devoted fan of Cook’s Illustrated, their recipes are far too fussy for me. I do like to see what type of spices they might use and review their cooking instructions for tips.
- Compare my draft recipe to similar recipes that I’ve found in my research. For my Maple Pecan Granola recipe, I identified four recipes that I wanted to compare. I made up all four versions then took them to my workmates and asked them to do a blind taste test. I also test recipes on unsuspecting friends, neighbors and family members too!
I use several resources to make sure that I am considering the science of cooking as well as the flavor elements. Some of my go-to resources are:
- The Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is an award-winning culinary explainer and my favorite resource for understanding the science of the cooking process. Kenji is a self-described culinary-nerd with the ability to explain, to us lowly home cooks, the finer points of food science. Best of all – he’s a fun read because he writes with such humor and wit.
- On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee is a food-lover’s encyclopedia. Originally published in 1984, it was totally revised in 2004 – but it’s timeless. It is a vast text that describes the best techniques for preparing almost anything you might consider.
- The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz is a comprehensive guide for all things fermented. He explains the scientific principles underlying the fermentation process in a simple, straight-forward manor. A very practical guide for us newbies to fermentation.
I Love Feedback!
I know that this sounds like a lot of work, but trust me… it gives me pure joy to create the recipes posted on this blog and share them with you. All I ask in return is a little feedback. Please, please try these recipes and leave a comment and rating. I read them all, and your thoughts and suggestions are helpful to all of my readers.0