Monday, June 5, 2017

Making Realistic Recipes from Cookbooks

A cookbook suitable for any kitchen
When you open a cookbook, sometimes the perfectly styled dishes there can seem very intimidating, something that people without time, money, or energy can’t recreate precisely with their cooking.

However, cooking doesn’t have to be a stressful experience- you can take recipes from cookbooks and make them your own, in a way that suits your lifestyle. Reading a cookbook doesn’t have hard and fast rules- you can use the pictures and recipes there as inspiration (who doesn’t enjoy flipping through cookbooks with beautiful pictures, and then get inspired to want to make similar?) and then adapt them as needed. Don’t like a certain ingredient? One of the items listed in a recipe is unaffordable? Substitute! Consider using frugal ingredient substitutions, as I listed here.

The first step would be to go and find a cookbook with the types of foods you enjoy. Are you vegan? There are plenty of great cookbooks filled with vegan delights. Vegetarian cooking? Paleo? Gluten free? How about not a specialty diet, but a specific type of cuisine, south as Southern cooking, Indian cooking, Chinese cooking, or Middle Eastern? If you’re not sure what types of cookbooks interest you, look at a source like this one to get ideas.
When you get your hands on your cookbooks, flip through them, see what catches your eyes or recipes use predominantly what you have in your house, and bookmark them. I find little sticky bookmarks are the best way to mark off recipes in a cookbook that I want to try. Then go ahead and start cooking, modifying recipes as you like, to suit your tastes and your budget.

Many people are intimidated by recipes that call for ingredients that aren’t standard in many kitchens. If you know that you plan on cooking a lot of dishes with a certain style (such as Paleo or vegan, or Indian food) you might want to go to the grocery store and stock up on some staples from that diet. (Almond flour or potato starch for a paleo diet, flax seeds and nutritional yeast for a vegan one, curry powder for an Indian one, etc…) Beyond that, you don’t need to go shopping for specific recipes. Keep your house well stocked with frugal seasonal produce, protein options, spices, and dry goods, buying what is on sale or otherwise cheap at your local grocery store, and then try to find recipes that use predominantly what you have.
Start cooking, substitute recipes as needed, and relax. The internet is a great tool for figuring out what can be used as a substitute in recipes. The dish made with substitutes may end up tasting or looking different than the original, but most likely will be great. When first learning how to cook, there’s a learning curve. If a recipe doesn’t come out nicely, try again. But sometimes “mistake” recipes end up being even better than the original.
Don’t be afraid, just get out there and start to make meals for you and your family to enjoy.

If you still are intimidated by cookbooks since you aren't quite sure how to adapt recipes to suit your budget, consider my cookbook, Penniless Foodie in the Wild; adaptable recipes for foragers and frugalistas, made for people like you- each recipe can be adapted to suit you and your lifestyle. (And it is now also available in ebook form.)

See my disclaimer