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Old 12-28-2007, 01:19 PM   #1
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Are you good at improvising meals?

dh and I had a conversation last night. He's telling me that he thinks I need to get better about improvising meals with what we have in the fridge. I think it is either a skill you have or you don't. I don't have it. I need a recipe or at least need to have something planned out ahead of time.

That being said, I feel like whenever he improvises it is not something I'd like to eat.

Now that we live in town, we don't eat out anymore. I need to plan out a weekly menu and acquire a lot more ideas for meals.

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Old 12-28-2007, 01:32 PM   #2
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I think improvising is something you can learn. I think almost any cooking skill (including planning etc) is something you can learn. Its tough to learn something without a teacher though. So, if you haven't learned to do it and you are living with someone who doesn't know how, then you might have a tough time figuring it all out.

I say use the new forum "I have these ingredients..." and we will help you learn corazon!
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Old 12-28-2007, 01:45 PM   #3
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Awww, of course we will help you, corazon!

THere are some staples that you can keep on hand to use when you want to whip up anything you have in the fridge.

Examples of such staples are: tortillas (millions of things you can put in, on and in between them), pizza dough or Bobolli (no such thing as a bad pizza topping), elbow macaroni (you can make either a hot or a cold mixture of just about anything). Canned tomatoes, jars of tomato sauce, box of chicken broth, eggs, cream of mushroom soup, frozen vegs, ummm well, that's a start.

I'm sure others will have a lot more to say on this one! :-)

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Old 12-28-2007, 01:46 PM   #4
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i have the opposite problem, cora.

i have a hard time keeping to a single recipe. i keep thinking of ways that a dish might be improved or changed to suit my liking better, so i tend to improvise all the time.
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Old 12-28-2007, 01:50 PM   #5
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Thanks guys. I did think of the "i only have this, help" forum. I will be posting there more.

I knew you'd have it bt, your creations always sound delicious. That is what I want to be able to do but I think I lack the creativity. A picky dh doesn't help either.
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Old 12-28-2007, 02:10 PM   #6
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believe me, cora, many of my creations in my first few years of cooking were real stinkers. fortunately, i cooked for myself and for girlfriends that had to like it.
i think my cooking got better as i learned the basics from watching cooking shows and really a lot of what i've learned here. things like the difference between sweating and browning, how the maillard reaction works and why it's important in certain dishes, when to add herbs, how to finish dishes with salt or butter or other flavor enhancers, when to keep something plain and simple to highlight a particular ingredient, or when you're going for deeper, more complex tastes, and the balance of ingredients in the latter, etc..
watching the giants like julia child or jacques pepin, or maryanne esposito
or lidia bastianich really helps to learn basic techniques which can be expanded upon.

btw, i have a picky spouse as well, but so long as i make it healthy (low fat, low cholesterol, whole grains, etc.) she'll at least give it a try. your hubby is a health nut too, so try to sell it to him that way.

something that got me into the creative part was doing the food shopping, iron chef style. that is when i went food shopping, i'd pick up an ingredient that i liked (usually on sale) and i'd think, "if i were an iron chef, what 5 things could i make with this". and then the creativity would kick in. what different techniques could i employ to make this tasty. then as i'd continue shopping, other stuff on sale would help steer me as to what kind of dish i might make.
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Old 12-28-2007, 02:20 PM   #7
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because we raise much of the food/meals we eat, I have a certain list of ingredients with which to work. But I also love having recipes before me to look at when I put together a dish. So I search my cookbooks and online for recipes based on what ingredients are at hand. I agree with Alex that it is a skill that can be learned. For me, I was eased into it. The first gardens were small and over the years I have learned what I like to cook with and what not to plant! But I also have a DH that will eat most anything put before him. He's not much on cooking, (boy is that an understatement) and is grateful for the meals I prepare. But I really rely on recipes for inspiration.
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Old 12-28-2007, 02:23 PM   #8
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Corazon, do you READ cookbooks? I don't mean just recipes on line like here and other sites... I mean books.

If not I suggest Pam Anderson's book "How to Cook Without a Book." It is truly fabulous, and will help you conquer all your fears of this!

You can check it out by clicking on the link above. I think you'll like it!
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Old 12-28-2007, 02:35 PM   #9
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We were having a discussion the other day (DW and I). I asked her if I was a good cook. She was ambiuvelent at best saying the reason was I occasionally made strange combinations.
Use your knowledge from the recipes you have been following and then experiment a little with changes at first, a thought process of that will work in there. Try it and if it works great, if it doesn't you have learnt one mopre thing about combinations. Be open to the comments and learn from them as well, this will help you evolve your cooking style. Few people are immediately creative, it is about testing and experimenting.

I also learn by watching cookery shows especially on over here (Ready Steady Cook) where the cooks are presented with a bag of ingriedients and create several dishes in 20 minutes. I gain a lot of ideas from them.
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Old 12-28-2007, 04:05 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone. You are all so helpful.

I feel like dh is picky in a complex way. He'll eat eggs, as long as he can't taste them, so I have to load them up with veggies and meat or chile. I always need to do something special to a piece of meat. The only thing he will eat that is easy is grilled steak.

Thanks ChefJune. I'll be picking that book up from the library today. I get Fine Cooking every month and I really like when they give a basic recipe and give suggestions on many different ways you can mess with it. Unfortunately, most of the magazine has structured recipes, only one free lance one in an issue. There was one for a baked pasta that I have made so many different ways.

I also feel like I need suggestions from dh but he doesn't want to give them to me. He's no help at all.
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