Recipes are Guidelines, Not Rules. Use Your Creativity in the Kitchen!

You don’t have to be a trained chef to cook something delicious in the kitchen. Just follow the recipe, right? Being told to use our creativity in the kitchen can be a bit intimidating… I mean, what if we mess something up??

Recipes are an amazing tool. They can encourage us to cook for ourselves and get more comfortable in the kitchen. When I began experimenting in the kitchen and cooking for myself—long before I started Mind Over Munch—recipes were my best friend! With the ingredients and instructions right in front of me, I had the confidence to try making new foods.

The truth is, I still use recipes! But, nowadays, I’ve learned to use those recipes as guidelines and inspiration. I take what I like from a recipe, and leave what I don’t! YOU can do this, too, and it can lead to some pretty wonderful creations in the kitchen—specially tailored for you!

Every Recipe Starts As an Idea

Whether it’s first created on paper or in the kitchen, a recipe is always born from an idea. Sometimes our favorite foods or flavors can inspire an idea—like why not put peanut butter AND jelly between two slices of bread?! Other times, in the midst of cooking, we might think of a new food combination or a twist on a classic recipe. We may find inspiration in foods we eat at a restaurant, things we see in the grocery store, or meals that someone else shares with us.

For Mind Over Munch, so much of developing recipes is research. I draw on my experience with foods and flavors I’ve enjoyed, there is some experimenting in the kitchen, and I look at plenty of existing recipes online or in cookbooks. There are SO many ideas out there when it comes to cooking, and it can seem like there are a lot of “rules,” too. But, each recipe is just one possible method to create one version of a dish—it’s open to interpretation!

I use recipes to give me new ideas, or to teach me how to make foods and do things in the kitchen that I don’t know yet. I collect that research, taking bits I like and leaving what I don’t like. Then I test those recipes, tweaking until they feel right to me, so I can share them with you all. My hope is that you’ll use my recipes as guidelines for you in the kitchen—you can absolutely change them and make them your own! The truth is, anyone can come up with ideas for new or improved recipes, just by trusting our own taste buds. 

Recipes are Opinions, Based on What Works for That Person

Because recipes come from someone’s ideas, they’re ultimately shaped by that person’s opinions, tastes, and preferences. Yes, there may be specific cooking temperatures or ingredient ratios, which are important to consider, but those specifics in a recipe are often determined through experimentation. Every person has a different oven, stove top, and set of taste buds that shape the instructions in a recipe, based on what worked for them.

This is why I encourage you to view recipes as flexible guidelines! The temperature or cook time provided in a recipe might be a bit different in your kitchen. You may not have access to the same ingredients listed in the recipe, and that’s okay! You may also not like all of the ingredients listed in a recipe. Your opinions and preferences in the kitchen are important to consider—especially when it comes to food that you will eat.

Of course, there are amazing chefs and cooks in the world with brilliant ideas, who create incredibly delicious  recipes that we love. There is definitely an art to cooking, and those brilliant ideas aren’t easy to come by. That’s why we rely on those ideas as a basis, and then can shape recipes around our own preferences!

YOU Know What’s Best for You!

You don’t have to invent entirely new recipes for yourself, but you can tweak recipes to make them work for YOU. No one knows you better than yourself when it comes to your preferences, your lifestyle choices, and your health. If you don’t like an ingredient in a recipe, like a certain vegetable or a certain type of cheese, consider leaving it out or replacing it with something you do like. If you have a specific allergy, dietary restriction, or lifestyle that you choose to follow (vegan, paleo, etc.), think about how you can reshape a recipe so you can enjoy it. 

Of course, there may be some recipes (especially baking recipes) that you can’t manage to change. Some ingredients or ratios may be essential to the chemistry of certain recipes and how they turn out. But, if you’re willing to spend some time in the kitchen, there is no harm in experimenting to see if a recipe or ingredient substitution might work! After all, that experimentation process is how the recipe was created in the first place.

The BEST way to feel more comfortable with modifying recipes is to get in the kitchen and cook! Whether it’s with a recipe or without, you’ll eventually become familiar enough with ingredients, amounts, textures and flavors to find the confidence to make changes when you want.

Things to keep in mind when modifying a recipe:

  • Ratios of liquids to solids, etc.
  • Considering what type of texture an ingredient provides, and substituting for texture when possible.
  • Adjusting the recipe as you go—add liquid to thin, thicken it with an ingredient from the recipe when appropriate, adding more spices or salt for flavor, etc.
  • Be careful when adjusting baking recipes. Baking is a science, and often there’s a specific chemistry at play in certain recipes. Do your research before making serious modifications!

Use Recipes to Inspire Your Own Ideas!

Ultimately, recipes are guidelines and suggestions of how to create certain foods. They can be extremely helpful, and they can also be extremely flexible. Recipes are not always rules! You do not have to follow a recipe exactly, and you don’t need permission to make changes or try something new.

By considering your taste preferences, you can transform a recipe into the ultimate, most delicious version that is perfect for you. Make simple substitutions to suit your lifestyle, dietary choices, and nutritional goals. You may take a small risk by not following the recipe exactly, but it’s for a major reward: a delicious dish that’s specially designed just for YOU!

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