Resources and Tips to Help you Expand Your Recipe Repertoire

posted on by

By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

When I got married I only knew how to make a few things from scratch. Those few things mostly consisted of baked goods like cookies. I had a lot to learn but I was also determined to no longer be the girl who barely knew how to boil water. I learned a lot of techniques from cooking shows and watching my husband in the kitchen.

Searching for new recipes became almost like a hobby of mine. It took some time, but as I became more confident in my abilities I began to experiment more and have even created many of my own recipes. Based on my own experience, I want to share with you some ways to expand your recipe repertoire.

Resources and Tips to Help You Expand Your Recipe Repertoire

You don’t have to be a newbie cook like I was to find this useful. These tips will certainly be helpful if you are still learning to cook but even if you have been cooking for years, I think you’ll find some good ideas here. You might even find some inspiration for new recipes of your own!

Find Some Good Cookbooks

I could literally spend hours browsing the cookbook section of the library or a bookstore. I just love flipping through pages of recipes and getting new ideas for things I could make. I am sure I have checked out dozens of cookbooks in one trip to the library on more than one occasion.

One thing I have learned is that there are plenty of exotic recipe books out there: You know, the kind of cookbook where most every recipe has ingredients you have never heard of or are only available in the south of France. Sure, it would be nice to travel to France someday but going there before dinner tonight just isn’t happening for most of us. While I love checking out new books like this from the library, I won’t likely be buying a copy for myself.

I have found that on most occasions, I usually refer to one of three cookbooks in my collection. I know these cookbooks are straightforward and easy to understand. I also like that they have lots of helpful tips. A lot of what I learned about cooking can be attributed to one of these books.

Cookbooks

Betty Crocker Cookbook: 1500 Recipes for the Way You Cook Today

Taste of Home Cookbook

Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid Cookbook: Bridal Edition

As much as I love these books, they are not my only sources for recipes. I also have some church and family cookbooks that I use often and I have even found a lot of great recipes online, which leads me to the next tip.

Know Where to Find Recipes Online

I love finding recipes online because I am more likely to find reviews and ideas for improvement. When I make something from a cookbook, I usually have to go with what the recipe says or make some of my own changes and hope it turns out.

I have also learned the hard way that even though something is printed in a book or anywhere else for that matter, it does not mean that it is a fool proof recipe. I have followed plenty of recipes as written and wished I would have either not made it in the first place or changed it in some way.

So, if you want to search the vast array of the internet for recipes, here’s a few ways I have found many great new recipes.

Recipe websites

There are a lot of websites just for recipes. These are great especially for reading reviews and getting ideas for what did or didn’t work for someone else.

Here’s a few recipe websites that I have used:

Blogs

Another great source of recipes are blogs. What I love about recipes on blogs is that I know a real person actually took the time to make and test the recipe. When I am writing a recipe to post on my own blog, I do my best to write it in such a way that even if you don’t know a lot about cooking you should be able to follow it and I think a lot of other bloggers do the same. Lots of bloggers also have eBook cookbooks too which can be great recipe sources as well.

Buy Real Food for the Real Homemaker!
Jami’s collaborative cookbook Real Food for the Real Homemaker is a great example of a good blogger cookbook!

Pinterest

When I am looking for a specific recipe, need some inspiration or a place to save an online recipe for later, I will often turn to Pinterest. I have a large collection of recipes saved on my recipe board.

Pinterest

You’ll find lots of great recipes from blogs here as well.  Another great thing about Pinterest is that you can search just your own pins if you want to find something that you know you already have pinned.

Know Your Substitutions

Oftentimes, you may find a recipe that looks good but you don’t have a particular ingredient or can’t use it for whatever reason. This happens a lot when switching to a more real food diet like I have. But don’t skip the recipe just yet! There’s probably a good substitute for that ingredient that you could use instead.

For example, these are some substitutions that I use often:

  • I no longer use vegetable shortening but I know if a recipe calls for it I can just sub in coconut oil, butter or a combination of the two.
  • I also never buy actual buttermilk. I just make sour milk with lemon juice or vinegar and milk.
  • I have an herb garden but I usually only get fresh herbs from it in the warmer summer months. So I use a combination of fresh or dry herbs depending on the season and what I have on hand. Fresh herbs can be easily substituted with dry or vice versa; just use one teaspoon of dry for every tablespoon of fresh.
  • I don’t buy sour cream anymore either, I just use plain Greek yogurt.

Knowing some basic substitutions like these can really transform how you cook and find new recipes. Here are some great lists of even more substitutions to get you started. Many cookbooks also have substitution lists as well.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment or Try Something New

My last tip is really the most important and it is this; don’t be afraid to experiment with recipes or try something new. When you feel stuck with making the same meals a lot, it’s likely a sign that you should try something new. Start browsing cookbooks or online sources and pick out a few recipes that sound interesting. You may just find a new favorite!

If I only ever stuck with things I was familiar with or only used a recipe as written, I never would have discovered some of my favorite recipes like zuppa toscanachicken fried rice or skillet gnocchi.

Keep in mind that it is okay to experiment with recipes. I tend to look at most recipes as guidelines that could always use a little tweaking to suit my own taste and preference. Oftentimes, I add a few extra spices here and there or take two similar recipes and combine them to form my own unique recipe. Experimenting may not always be successful but it’s a great way to learn from mistakes and it’s what makes cooking so much fun.

Have I intrigued you enough to want to get in the kitchen and try a new recipe?! I hope these tips and resources have given you some ideas to start building your recipe collection and learn to love to cook as much as I have.

What is your favorite way to find new recipes?

Do you have a favorite cookbook? What is it?

How to make traditional Italian Waffle cookies: Pizelle Recipe

posted on by

By Sarah Logan, Contributing Writer

I recently found a Pizelle maker at a thrift store – and we’ve all been enjoying the results! Great for an afternoon snack or when friends show up and you’re hanging out in the kitchen. I modified the recipe to make it mildly healthier :) It’s still considered a treat!

Note from Jami: If you’re like me you may be wondering just what a Pizelle is…I had to google it! So here it is: Pizelle are traditional Italian waffle cookies….yum!

Learn how to make traditional Italian waffle cookies: Pizelle Recipe and Tutorial

A Golden-Brown Pizelle


 

Pizelles hanging to dry!

Pizelles hanging to dry!

See what happens! :)

Pin this post so you can read it again later or share with a friend!

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

posted on by

By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

My husband and I go through phases where we eat a lot of chicken. I buy the large packages of fresh chicken breasts whenever they go on sale so we tend to have at least a few pieces in the freezer. I like that it can be used so many different ways such as in soups, casseroles, sandwiches, stir fry and pastas. The possibilities are endless. It can even be prepared in many ways on it’s own; cooked and shredded, broiled, pan fried, oven baked, grilled.

My favorite way to eat chicken is definitely grilled. There is just something about marinating and grilling chicken that gives it the perfect flavor. My absolute favorite grilled chicken recipe is barbecue herb chicken but this fajita chicken takes a close second. It is especially great if you like a bit of a spicy flavor.

Typically fajitas are made by cooking strips of chicken in a pan on the stove. This is a bit different as the chicken is marinated and grilled before you cut it. If you don’t have a grill, you can broil the chicken or pan fry it, but the rest of the steps would remain the same.

A few notes about the recipe:
  • The recipe calls for two tablespoons of taco seasoning. I use a homemade blend that I mix up to have on hand. If you don’t have any you can use a store bought taco or fajita seasoning or check out this recipe for homemade taco seasoning.
  • You can use whatever kind of tortillas you like or even make your own which is actually quite easy to do.
  • I prefer to top mine with a little shredded cheese and sour cream, but that is totally optional. You can also substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream (you really can’t tell the difference!).
  • I serve these with beans and rice, a recipe that I created from items I had in my pantry that I now use whenever I make fajitas. I eat it as a side dish but my husband prefers to put some inside his tortilla.
  • I always put a few diagonal slits into my chicken before marinating. This helps the marinade soak into the chicken more and gives you some nice grill marks too.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas2

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Yield: 4-6 servings

Author: Ashley Roe | www.joyfulthriftyhome.com

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 small-medium bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4-6 medium size tortillas

Directions

  1. Combine the first four ingredients into a large, resealable plastic bag. Mix well. Add chicken and toss around to evenly coat each piece. Let sit in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
  2. Cover one side of your grill with tin foil and place the vegetables on top of the foil.
  3. Lightly brush oil on the other side of the grill to prevent sticking. Turn grill on to medium heat and allow to warm up for a few minutes. Place chicken on the oiled side of the grill. Cook for about 12-15 minutes (or until the internal temperature reaches 165°), turning halfway through.
  4. While chicken is cooking, periodically toss the peppers and onions to ensure even cooking. Cook the vegetables until they are done to your preference.
  5. Let chicken rest for a few minutes then cut into slices.
  6. Fill each tortilla with desired amount of peppers, onions and any other toppings.

Signature

What is your favorite chicken recipe?

Farro Salad a la Juneau ~ A Healthy One-Bowl Summer Dinner

posted on by

Post by Anjanette Barr, Contributing Writer

Farro Salad

Until a few weeks ago Farro  could have been the name of an Italian car for all I knew! I would have at least had the Italian part right.

When it arrived in the mail from a lovely family member who knows how much I love to eat cook for my family, I had never heard of or seen it before to my knowledge, but evidently it’s become quite popular. This video from Bob’s Red Mill on cooking farro describes it as the “darling” grain of foodies, so it’s likely that you are more in the know that little ‘ole (isolated in Alaska) me.

What is farro?

Well, ahem… not a car. :)

Farro is a whole grain that is an ancient strain of wheat. It has a chewy, nutty flavor that is somewhere in between brown rice and barley in my opinion. Because it is a type of wheat, it does contain gluten.

Also called Emmer, Farro is higher in fiber than common wheat and is milled more like einkorn or spelt. It can be used to make bread, but is more often consumed as a whole grain. It is popular in Italy (hence the name), and grows wild in the middle east, but is making a comeback here in the United States.

How is it Cooked?

cooked farro

Because farro is a whole grain, it does take a little bit to cook. If you are concerned about reducing phytic acid levels in grains, you should soak it overnight in water with an acidic medium like whey or apple cider vinegar. This will cut back on the cooking time as well. If you don’t want a long soak, even letting it sit in water for 30 minutes before cooking helps a lot with tenderness.

When you are ready to cook it, the ratio is 1 cup farro to 3 cups liquid. It will take 30-45 minutes at a boil to get to a nice chewy but not tough texture.

What Should I Pair it With?

basilandfeta

My aunt suggested cooking it up in large batches and using it in meals throughout the week. She eats it on it’s own with milk and honey. It is also commonly used in place of pasta with a white sauce, or in place of rice in a risotto. In savory dishes, herbs, feta, and tomatoes seem to be a common theme. It can also be added to soups and stews.

Here in Southeast Alaska, it rains a LOT. The temperatures are very mild – between 30 and 70 degrees almost year round. And the flat land area is very limited – we are nestled in between warm ocean waters and gorgeous snow-capped peaks.

channel

I know there are a handful of ambitious and knowledgeable gardeners around here, but we have no farmer’s market and no CSA farms. So when the booth next to my Lilla Rose hair jewelry booth at the arts & crafts fair this month had fresh basil, my food-loving self did a little happy dance and bought a bag. It didn’t take long to dream up a few dishes to use it in, and the first one used farro. Here ya go:

 Have you ever used farro? What is your favorite farro dish?

Tangy Summer Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

posted on by

By Rachel, Contributing Writer

Hello again!  Stuck in a meal rut or just had one too many big meals with friends and family? Don’t get me wrong, summer barbeques are both tons of fun and quite delicious.  But if you’re anything like me, you go back for one too many servings of whatever your vice is (your aunt’s potato salad, perhaps?).  How does a fresh, crisp, summer salad sound?  Here’s a recipe that would make a great pairing for a simple piece of grilled chicken or wonderful on it’s own on those hot nights when you don’t want anything to do with a stove, barbeque, or oven.

salad 1

 

salad 2

What would you serve with this salad?

Leave a comment or fill out this form!