Before you decide to make any of the recipes from this blog (or anywhere for that matter) here’s a list of things to remember to do that will make your cooking life easier. I’m including them in the hopes of saving others the trouble I’ve experienced.
- Read the entire recipe, including all of the directions, twice before you begin to cook.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve only read the ingredient list and gone on instinct without realizing it and messed things up. Forgetting what gets mixed with what when or not realizing that something needs to soak overnight or marinate for 8 hours and I have to have a meal on the table in 30 minutes. Cooking uses similar techniques, but in the end, each recipe is unique and it’s essential to read it through before you start. Twice.
- Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start cooking.
I know, this sounds so basic you think I must be crazy to include this. But I’ve started a lot of recipes thinking, “Oh, I have all this stuff, let’s get started!” only to discover halfway through that the ginger root had gone bad or that someone finished up all the milk without telling me to buy more. Sometimes this leads to inspired improvisation but other times it leads to disappointment, waste, and frustration.
- Check the weather.
Huh? But yes. One thing I love about my old 1950s copy of the Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook is that it tells you things not to make in certain weather. For example, meringues on a rainy day are difficult and frustrating. I had them planned for my Passover Seder a few years ago and baked a test batch, which were delicious. It was raining the day I went to make them for the Seder and I had to make three batches until I figured out why they weren’t coming out correctly. I also often have to check myself so that I don’t use the broiler when it’s 80 degrees out.
- Think before you swap ingredients.
I’m sort of the queen of alterations. I rarely put in exactly what a recipe says, unless I’m totally out of my element and dependent on the recipe for guidance. But it’s important to remember that there are some things that can be swapped and some things that can’t. For example: I don’t like cilantro and I swap it out for parsley every time. No big deal. But, I gave my mother a recipe for slow cooked green beans and sausage once and she told me she didn’t like it. I was confused. Apparently she had used chicken and sugar snap peas instead and didn’t like how it turned out. That’s not the same recipe, mom. (Love you!)
- Be careful if you plan to double a recipe.
This is a tricky one because we often have to increase recipes when we make for company or are going to a party. Here’s the catch, sometimes, you can’t double recipes exactly. Sometimes the aromatics (garlic, spices, etc.) should not be doubled just because all of the other ingredients are being doubled or you’ll wind up with them over powering the other flavors. Or, as I did one time, you try to double a cake recipe and discover just as you are halfway through mixing the wet and dry ingredients together that the mixing bowl is not big enough to hold everything together. That was fun.