There are many evenings when my kids walk into the kitchen and ask what I am making and I respond with, “I don’t know yet, I’ll let you know when it is done”. My response always elicits a “mmm, my favorite” and is followed by a reminder to write what I am doing down. They remember the pumpkin pie incident of 2001, where I made some impulsive changes to the family pie recipe. It was declared the best pie ever. But I hadn’t written down the changes I had made and only had a vague idea of what I did. I had to make the pie 3 more times before I figured out how I had made the “best pumpkin pie ever” and my kids made sure that I wrote that recipe down!
My natural tendency is to add a bit of this and a pinch of that when cooking. However, most people want accurate measurements when they are following a recipe. I’ve also found that most people don’t appreciate when you tell them to “pull it out of the oven when it smells done”. I know that I am not the only one who cooks this way, so I thought I would share the steps that I use to translate my methods to standard measurements:
The most important step is to do what you do naturally. I often pour spices into my hand and use my eye and nose to gauge the amount. Then, before I add it to the dish, I transfer it to a measuring spoon: I keep a log of ingredients, measurements, and steps taken. After taste testing, I might decide to add more of an ingredient, which I write down. I tally up the final amounts of each ingredient after the dish is finished.
I often add veggies to dishes by the handful. After I pick up the veggies, but before I add them to the dish, I measure them. My hand holds approximately 1 cup of spinach.
I often use spice lids as measuring spoons: This McCormick lid holds a little under a tablespoon’s worth of spices. The lid on my vanilla bottle holds approximately 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Since I have some of the translations memorized, I can add 2 capfuls of vanilla, but write 1 teaspoon down when creating my recipe.
I use my senses, a fork, or an occasional toothpick to tell me when a recipe is done cooking. So the last step I take is to write down the time when I start cooking, jot down the time when I pull it out, then calculate the cooking time.
Are you an impromptu cook, a recipe follower, or a combination of the two?
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