Cooking Intuitively

I’ve always admired people who cook by the “a little of this and a pinch of that” method. That’s never been me. I’ve always cooked by the book, literally, relying on a recipe for satisfactory results, and even then, success isn’t guaranteed. Besides being a first born with perfectionist tendencies, fear has kept me chained to following recipes…fear of failure and just as strong, fear of wasting food if the results are disastrous.

And yet…as my creative nature has asserted itself, the desire to be free from following a recipe has grown. Creative cooking has made it onto many wish lists the last few years. The turning point came when I adopted a plant based lifestyle.

Cooking Intuitively

Being plant based makes eating out a challenge. Until the Joplin area launches more restaurants that offer healthier options, preparing my meals at home is best for me. I don’t mind. In fact, the desires that I have long expressed, to cook more, to learn to cook more creatively, are being realized because of the need to eat at home.

I have learned much the last two years, about preparing healthy, nutritious meals. I’ve relied on Pinterest recipes, some that I’ve successfully adapted, and plant based cookbooks and publications. And gradually, inspired by the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve dabbled a bit, throwing a few meals together that turned out well.

Cooking Intuitively

In the last month, something magical has happened, at least, for one who has been recipe bound, it is magical to me. I’m cooking intuitively. My body, which has become finely tuned to what it requires for optimal health, is guiding me.

My first creation was the cucumber tomato salad, with diced onion, lime juice and dill freshly picked from my garden. I realize that’s an easy meal…but what is exciting to me is how I created it. I didn’t look up a recipe. I didn’t search Pinterest. I listened to what my body said it needed, and then simply combined those ingredients. The salad is wonderful! I make it a couple of times a week.

What I’ve noticed is that I’m bypassing my logical brain, and receiving info from the area over my stomach called the solar plexus. There’s a reason we say we have “gut instincts”. That chakra is where we feel energy and sense into situations. My gut is guiding me as I cook.

Cooking Intuitively

Last night I spiralized zucchini, making raw zoodles. I didn’t have any jars of organic marinara sauce. I have a recipe for homemade marinara sauce, but it makes a huge amount and I didn’t have on hand big cans of tomato purée and tomato sauce. What I did have was a cup of left over tomato purée, along with a small can of tomato paste, a small can of whole organic tomatoes and an assortment of fresh veggies and herbs.

I chopped onion and red and green peppers and sautéed those in a little olive oil, along with minced garlic. That part was easy enough and very familiar to me. I had a chopped fresh tomato ready to add, along with the purée and the tomato paste, when an idea arose for the canned whole tomatoes. I dumped them into a mini food processor and blended them up. Voila! I had chunky tomato sauce.

When I was ready to add herbs, my brain tried to intervene. Excuse me. EXCUSE ME! Don’t you at least want to look up a recipe to see how much seasoning to add?? You don’t want to mess up what you’ve begun. I did hesitate for a few seconds. Fear of failure, fear of waste coiled and prepared to strike. And then I merrily dismissed the suggestion and banished the fears with a wave of my wooden spoon. I was having fun. I would add a little basil and oregano and sea salt and figure it out by the taste test.

The thrown together marinara sauce turned out great! It was delicious last night, over zucchini noodles. And it was equally delicious today when I spooned it over a plain baked potato. I added a serving of my cucumber tomato dill salad, for a colorful, healthy and oh so yummy lunch.

I’m ridiculously thrilled over these little recipe free creations. It’s big step for me, to be cooking without a net. I’ll be listening much more closely to my intuition, and less to my brain, when I’m playing in the kitchen. I’m excited to see what I cook up next.

Cooking Intuitively

Red Beans & Rice…Without a Recipe

This is a short, and fun, story about cooking. For several years, I have had an increased interest in the culinary arts. It’s not that I can’t cook. I raised a family. I’ve been preparing meals for years. But for the most part, I have relied on recipes, carefully following each step precisely, or I fixed easily prepared fail proof meals like spaghetti.

Since changing my diet to plant based, I have discovered a new joy in preparing healthy, nutritious and tasty meals. There is a meditative quality to chopping vegetables and combining foods together, knowing I am caring for and nourishing my body at a deep level as it heals.

I follow friends and family on social media who inspire me with their pictures of beautifully prepared food. Most of them don’t follow a recipe, or they are creating one as they go. I have envied that ability. I don’t know if it’s my first born tendencies that have kept me recipe bound, or a fear of failure, or the concern that I will waste good food if my result is poor, but I have had a hard time with throwing a dish together with “a bit of this and a pinch of that”.

Recently though, I’ve been getting these mental downloads for meals, much as I do when I am creating a vignette. I can see the end result, the completed dish. Then I just have to figure out the process to get there. I was encouraged a couple of weeks ago when I created a four bean chili by adapting another recipe. Tonight, with fresh veggies in the fridge and some leftovers to use up, I had fun throwing caution aside and experiencing cooking as an adventure.

I began with a reliable base…diced onion, celery, carrots and minced garlic, sautéed in olive oil. I simply used what was on hand: half a yellow onion, half a bag of baby carrots, and a couple of stalks of celery. I keep minced garlic in a jar in the fridge. I added a small spoonful, and continued cooking until the veggies were tender.

Next I added brown rice left over from last night’s dinner, cooking and stirring until the rice was fragrant. I had a bowl in the fridge containing the remnants of a 15 bean cajun soup. You know how it is, at the bottom of the soup pot? What was left was mostly liquid. But that soup broth was wonderfully flavored with cajun seasonings, which is what inspired tonight’s red bean & rice meal. I added a can of organic red beans to the mixture, stirring until the beans and rice were heated through.

I enjoyed cooking tonight. This was not a difficult meal to prepare, however it was fun and very freeing to cook instinctively rather than following someone else’s recipe. And I feel good about using up leftovers that I would have eventually tossed into the trash otherwise.

Of course I will continue to use recipes. There are so many interesting ones available and I appreciate that. It was good for me though, to resist looking up recipes for red beans & rice and just go with what seemed right.

And you know what? My red beans & rice turned out great! What a homey, comforting and nutritious meal for a rainy evening. And, I made it myself.