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Liberation From Recipes: Cooking Without A Map

Blog Forums Eat the Food! Liberation From Recipes: Cooking Without A Map

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 20 total)
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    Julia Gumm

    Hey guys, I used to think I didn’t “know how” to cook. But then I read “The Joy of Cooking” cover to cover and realized it’s all pretty basic. Chop food. Apply heat. Season. Not hard. And much like a great artist, I think the best cooks don’t “paint by number.” They create by using their intuition and whatever is about to go bad in the fridge.

    Learning that you don’t need a rule book to guide you is the best, most liberating way to get comfortable in the kitchen. Let’s share our successes in the kitchen to help others gain the confidence they need to close the cookbook, crack open the fridge and start connecting the dots on their own. I’ll start…

    So I don’t really know how to make baked beans, but I invented a stove top version that is super delicious and ready in a half hour.

    First, I use dark Kidney beans as opposed to whatever white beans are normally in them. I had it that way at a restaurant once and was hooked. Better flavor, I think. And the color goes nicely with the sauce.

    I add ’em to a big pan that has a few pieces of bacon frying nicely in it, as well as a whole onion, sliced or diced. Whatever you’re into. Add a cup or two of commercial ketchup (or homemade), eyeball some vinegar (white, apple cider or rice seems best to me), toss in a good handful of dark brown sugar (or maple syrup if you got it) a shake or two of ground cloves, allspice, ginger, a healthy dose of cinnamon and a bay leaf. Maybe some garlic, fresh or powdered. Onion salt (what I prefer) or sea salt to taste. Add some broth to add volume and cut sweetness, if desired. Once it’s good and hot, cover that sucker up and let simmer for a half hour or so on medium-medium low heat.Then remove lid and cook for another five minutes.

    Voila. A real crowd pleaser. People always want to know my recipe but I can never tell them exactly. This here is my best guess:)

    Now what about you???

    Matt Stone

    Julia, there are people who know how to cook and then the rest of us. Now the rest of us better get a recipe book and follow it TO THE LETTER. I am one of those. You are apparently an intuitive cook and that’s the best kind.

    Julia Gumm

    Aw. But I think there is an intuitive cook living in all of us, deep down. Just gotta trust yourself, baby! Some fat, some heat, some vegetables, some meat…what could go wrong?

    Matt Stone

    There probably is in many of us….but not me. I suck! I’ve got to have instructions for boiling water!!!


    I do some intuitive cooking, but for some things I like to have a recipe. Usually after the first time of making a recipe, I will tweak it going forward to suit my tastes. I’ve only really been cooking (as in not from packages) for about 3 years, my skills have definitely improved over time, and I do enjoy the creative outlet cooking gives me.


    I am a total intuitive cook, I never follow recipes to the letter. I usually look at cookbooks for information, then add more butter and garlic.
    And chocolate chips.


    Love this Julia! I’m trying to learn to cook more intuitively, but I’ve always been much more of a baker, which requires more precise measuring. And I’m kind of a control freak and I’m afraid I’ll really screw the dish up if I mess up the amounts. Recently I’ve been making Matt’s potato soup (bon femme I think?) and I’ve messed around with ingredients and consistencies, and I’ve made it taste better each time.

    Butterball, my parents’ motto when they’re cooking is to always add more butter and garlic haha. And mine would be the chocolate chips/


    I made soup yesterday: started with chicken broth made from day before’s chicken BBQ. Added some mashed potatoes and stuffing probably from last Thanksgiving. Added some frozen turkey broth and cut up celery from my food phase a few months ago, and a bunch of chopped Swiss chard from last summer’s garden, and a mess of green beans just picked. One cooked chopped chicken breast. Spices included a bay leaf, cumin, thyme, salt & pepper. That might be all. Usually I include onions and carrots, but didn’t this time. I ate some with a bunch of pretzels.


    Pancakes, yo. Pancakes are my intuitive cooking breakfast go-to.
    I start with basics and then tweak or add stuff…. Always milk, yogurt, whole grain flour, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, a little sugar and a pinch of salt… Then I spill in chocolate chips, blueberries, dried fruit, whatever. They’re good leftover for PB or cream cheese sandwiches, or a snack anytime.

    I make a big pitcher of pancake batter and leave it in the fridge for breakfast all week. Slightly sweet (and BUTTERY) starches and fruit smoothies are my breakfast saviors post-refeed.


    Cheese/bread casserole is great breakfast food. There are no specific quantities, but maybe 1/2 cup milk per egg and 2 slices of bread. Layer the torn-up bread with as much cheese as you like. Beat together eggs with milk, pour over bread and let sit 20 minutes for bread to absorb liquid. Bake 45 minutes at 350. Sausage and onions are good add-ins. This re-heats well, is fine to eat at room temperature. Using a variety of breads makes it more interesting.


    intuitive butternut squash soup: fry on low heat onions, garlic in tons of butter and coconut oil, adding the chopped squash a bit later once the onions are pretty well cooked, golden but not yet too dark as it has plenty more frying to do. then caramelize on low heat the whole lot till the squash is completely cooked, would be divine to eat it just like that. Then blend it. Then add homemade chicken stock to the consistency you like. then add salt. cream if you like it even richer but this is plenty rich. gets rave reviews. no water, no boiling = no watery soup!


    Zucchini pancake: I grated a medium zuc, beat in a couple of eggs, maybe 1/4 cup flour, a nice handful of cheddar cheese, some salt & pepper. Fried it up in coconut oil, cutting it into quarters to make flipping easier.


    My wife and I are polar opposites in our cooking style. She follows recipes to the letter, sets timers, and makes sure every detail is just right, while I only cook intuitively–and have an almost pathological aversion to recipes. When I do look at a recipe, I just try to understand what the author is trying to accomplish and then develop my own version of it.

    The result: I’ve had some spectacular failures, but also some amazing successes. The main problem is, when someone asks for a recipe of something I bring to a party, I can only give them an impressionistic description. Probably I wouldn’t even be able to reproduce it myself!


    Ever try to get a recipe from someone born before 1950? They don’t measure. They don’t write things down. It’s “I had some leftover meat, so I put it in a crust/casserole/soup along with some leftover veggies and served it”.

    I’ve had fun learning to cook strictly from scratch. There are books on how to do it. You learn that having a good pantry and some basic ingredients will get you pretty far.


    Im such a cooking failure….i almost always end up throwing stuff away when trying to bake etc.
    So I was excited with my simple syrup making yesterdat,that it. Actually tasted good,though it was not syrupy in texture so i migth try less water next time?
    I know,the name says simple so every noob can do. It but i was just glad that it wasnt another disheartening trial!

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