I am sure you have experienced a scenario like this. You stand in front of the refrigerator trying to decide what to make for dinner. You have a meat and maybe a few fresh ingredients, but you just can’t think of what to do with them. This happens to me often.
I can usually piece together a recipe based on what I have on hand, but I also get tons of ideas from magazines such as Cooking Light, what I see here and there online and tweaking tried and true family favorite recipes.
Back to Cooking Light for a minute, if you are going to get any one food magazine, let me suggest that one. I have learned quite a lot from reading it over the years. Every month I go through my new issue and flag what I am going to make from it that week. I pick things that are interesting, that my kids will eat and even sometimes something new I want to try.
If it doesn’t look quite right, I will change the recipe to suit our tastes. I like being able to find it all in one place, especially when it is a lightened up recipe.
Having said this, I have a favorite free cooking app for the smartphone and tablet that I want to share with you if you are into this kind of thing. Epicurious, while not a new site, is a really handy recipe search tool that even one of my local chef friends raves about.
Easily downloaded to your device, this app can help you take the guesswork out of cooking. From appetizers to desserts, this database has thousands of combinations. You can search by specific recipe titles or even better, just enter the ingredients you want included. For example if you have pork loin and apples, you enter those keywords and it will provide you with recipes with those ingredients.
A neat feature is that you can read all of the comments and suggestions made by all of the people who have made it before, including what they would add or change. Sometimes I get more information from that area than anything else.
I have this fun little “phablet” (phone and tablet in one) by LG that I have been playing around with and using this app when doing recipe research has been so helpful. The app has the ability to make a shopping list that you can send to yourself, so that’s what I do. I pull my shopping list up on my phone in the grocery store, and I no longer have to worry about leaving my list at home.
Try this app out if you are looking for fresh, new material. They draw from Food & Wine, Gourmet and Bon Appetite magazines, but don’t think that they are all hard and fussy concoctions. Many of the search results that I find I change to suit our tastes or what I have on hand. One particular family favorite is a “Sausage and White Bean Ragout” that I found there from a back issue of Gourmet 1996. I changed the recipe to include a few ingredients that we like and took out a few we didn’t.
I have been making this for more than three years, and it never fails to please. Its hearty sauce is great with a crusty piece of bread to mop up all of the leftovers. The term ragout can refer either to a main-dish stew or to a sauce for noodles or other starchy foods. It calls for a 6-ounce bag (or bunch) of spinach in the sauce at the end, but I usually leave that part out.
I usually take some of this in my lunch the next day, so add the spinach when serving the ragout to preserve its crispness and nutritional value. Plus, I am not a fan of cooked spinach.
Like all recipes, change this one to suit your tastes, like I do. That’s the great thing about cooking, every time you are stepping into the kitchen it is as if you are walking up to a blank canvas. The final result is up to you.
Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.