A Recipe (that doesn’t have to be) For Disaster

When I was little, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with making popovers and pie crusts.  We ate nutritious, balanced meals so I don’t know where the pie crust fixation came from, but there it was. Luckily, my parents let me make my messes in the kitchen and learn to read recipes and see how ingredients came together to make a meal. (I didn’t make popovers and pie crust every day, there were other things I got to help with, but I digress).


These days, the visual overload of recipes and people clamoring for making the next big recipe or sensation is both relatable and silly to me (I’ve worked with some of the best recipe developers there are and know how much we need them and how much I myself rely on them).

How many new recipes do we need, especially from people who aren’t trained in developing them?

Aren’t most of the things variations of other things that already exist?

Don’t we take recipes and tweak them anyway?

Here’s the thing. I have a small household (it’s just me) so I see recipes for 6-8 servings, and automatically think about decreasing it or if it can be made in that huge format and frozen into mini meals. If it doesn’t meet one of those two basic criteria, like the Sharks always say about an idea they don’t think is viable, “I’m out”.  Managing our food budget and honoring the food that farmers and ranchers grow for us count on us being responsible with our meal planning and not wasting what we buy.  The snazzy new way to talk about this is #foodwaste.  The selfish way (not so selfish if you think about it) to talk about this is saving your food dollars and using everything you buy vs throwing it out.  Isn’t it great when doing the right thing is good for you and for the community/planet?

Then, if there are ingredients I don’t have or would not care to eat, I swap them easily if possible, or look up substitutes if it’s not super clear what the thing is. Just watched this TED talk on the functionality of ingredients which was AMAZING and you should click the link to see it. It’ll be well worth the 13 minutes or so to inspire your thinking and understand more of mine about this point.

This is not about being mean to people who love to develop recipes. It’s actually the opposite of that.  The point is to help those of us who love a good recipe and want it to be even more useful and to honor the truly amazing recipe developers that are out there. LOVE you. I know (and/or hope) you are asking yourself these questions:

Are you thinking about the household size of your audience?

How does technology fit in? Even Watson is getting in the kitchen (so to speak).

Are you creating things that not only focus on the meal at hand but also include the what to do later with leftover ingredients and portions of the dish itself?

What if recipes all included storage tips and ideas for other meals with similar ingredients?

What if recipes included a feature to make it smaller or bigger (could be as simple as linking to an online tool for scaling so it comes out right)

What if recipes included tips for how to store the rest of the stuff left after you make it?

Can you freeze fresh cilantro?

What’s another recipe for that leftover tomato paste, or chipotles in adobo sauce?

How do you choose a soy sauce, and how long/where do you store it?

Can you swap dry herbs and spices for fresh? How?

These are the types of things that we all have on our minds.  Next time you click “like” on a blog because you think the recipe picture looks sooooo delicious but de-select making it because of any of the reasons above, share your thoughts. Type in a comment. Tweet a reply. Hashtag it on Instagram. Tell the author. Don’t be afraid to ask the question or raise a point, because my guess is, there’s loads more people who are thinking the very same thing.

And to the recipe developers, thank you – your skill is unique and you are the unsung hero in almost everyone’s kitchen. The rest of us are inspired by you.

What are you going to do today to make your next recipe and meal work harder for you?

joy of cooking
One of my tried and true favorite cookbooks. Still crack this one out regularly. Made lemon bars a couple weeks ago. Not hard. Just need the ingredients and the steps on what to do with them.