In Which Ms. Bean Finds A Recipe & Makes It Her Way

Saw the recipe. Thought it sounded good.

Made the recipe using ingredients I had on hand.  Ingredients that were close enough to those listed in the recipe.

Similar.

Didn’t have apple cider, so used pomegranate juice instead.  Most of a small bottle.

Didn’t have the specific aromatic spices required so substituted Penzey’s mulling spices.  Put about a teaspoon of them in a tea ball, so I wouldn’t have to strain the mess through cheesecloth later.

Lazy, but thinking ahead.

Didn’t have a clementine in the house.  Contemplated using a grapefruit, that was in the house, but decided that the tanginess of the pomegranate juice would not be improved with grapefruit zest in this recipe.

Also, I’m a messy zester, thus it came to be that no citrus was added.

Didn’t have any fresh ginger, so used crystallized ginger.  Two pieces.

Didn’t have the requisite amount of castor sugar, so used the end of the cane sugar in the bottom of the sugar bowl.  About three tablespoons.

Probably.

Put tea ball with spices into juice in a saucepan.  Brought the mess to a boil, allowing it to simmer on the stove top for a while.  Took out tea ball, added sugar.  Mixed mess around until sugar dissolved, then let sweetened mess simmer on very low heat until it thickened into a syrup.

The result?

Delicious, drizzled on fresh fruit salad. Or added, a splash at time, to a glass of red wine.

The recipe?

Vaguely adhered to.

The friend’s response?

Shock + dismay that I didn’t follow the recipe as written, but a request for the recipe exactly as I made it.

As if I have any idea… 🙄

~ ~ ~ ~
QUESTION OF THE DAY

Do you follow recipes precisely as written OR do you wing it as you go along?

And how does that work out for you?

~ ~ ~ ~

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

86 thoughts on “In Which Ms. Bean Finds A Recipe & Makes It Her Way”

  1. I rarely follow recipes exactly, but I don’t sub ingredients with as much largesse as you did when making a recipe the first time through, especially if I’m drawn to it for its specific flavours.

    Like you, however, I don’t write things down when I improvise and cook, so when it comes out really wonderfully, I have no idea how to make it again, exactly! People ask for my recipes every so often, and I’m really at a loss, especially when it comes to small amounts of things that I toss in here and there. Was it a teaspoon? a dash? a tablespoon? No idea.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. nance, on a recipe like this one I feel comfortable adjusting ingredients ad hoc, but if I was baking I’d follow the written recipe more closely because proportions in baking are crucial.

      I’m trying to learn to make scribbled notes as I cook so that I have an accurate recipe at the end. Not everything I make is worth making again, but for those recipes that are good I’d be nice to know what I did. However, usually I don’t. 😧

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This comment string describes my cooking. The first time I make something, I try to stay as true to the recipe as possible … if it has merit, I will wing it from there.

        … but baking, nay. I’m very careful about measurements and substitutions. Cakes in particular.

        I too am getting better about writing notes of what worked and what didn’t. It became too frustrating when I couldn’t remember how to replicate a success – or avoid another failure.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Joanne, usually the first time I try a recipe I attempt to follow it. Creating this Spiced Pomegranate Syrup was even a bit extreme for me, but happily it worked. I need to up my note-taking game as I make foods because I forget what I did– and if we liked how I did it or not. Old age, such a bother! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I admit that your instincts in substitution would have crossed my mind too – especially the decision to skip the citrus.
            Sometimes you just have to take the leap and go bold. After all – what’s there to lose? I’ve said to Gilles on a few occasions is that worse case scenario is we have to order pizza for dinner 😉

            Like

    1. nancy, the recipe you linked to sounds delicious. Call them whatever you want, but anything with ginger in it, I like. I tend to be like you in that I consider recipes to be guidelines, not necessarily rules.

      But my friend who got me thinking on this topic won’t deviate even a 1/4 teaspoon on any ingredient. She considers me to be subversive and slightly unhinged for doing so.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I never use a recipe-wing it all the way. Sometimes good sometimes not so – . Yours sounded lovely and scrumptious. Balsamic vinegar is lovely on most things, I kid you not so long as it’s good quality (Modena). Even when n ice cream –

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, I use recipes as starting points for what I’m making. If it has to do with baked goods, then I stick close to the proportions but mix up the flavors. However, when it comes to soups and stews I wing it most of the time. I grew up with foodie parents so experimentation is a given for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I tend to be a winger. That happens because I either decide I want to make something right now and find I don’t have one ingredient and refuse to go to the store to get it, or it’s the most expensive ingredient ever and just refuse to buy it so will never have it and thus would never make the great sounding recipe. Essential components are almost always a given, it’s the spices and such that I feel I can play with and still be successful.
    Besides, I figure if I make it “my way” and like it then I won’t ever really know what I was missing out on by not following the recipe exactly from the beginning.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Deb, your logic is sound! I’m the exact same way. I make most things on a whim so I use what I have, being too tired [lazy?] to go to the grocery or too frugal [cheap?] to buy an expensive ingredient. I hadn’t thought of it before, but you’re right about not knowing what I missed by making things my way from the beginning. Another good reason to wing it when cooking. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I follow recipes completely when I am making food for my healthy eating program because otherwise what’s the point but if I am just trying to make something for dinner I usually search for something I have on hand and try to find a recipe that works with it. I make a mean soup with the leftovers from the fridge and never the same way twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet, it sounds like you bridge the best in both ways of cooking. I admire you for sticking to your healthy eating program. I’m all about soups [and stews] that are thrown together– and turn into a onetime event. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am not a particularly innovative cook or baker – my daughter is the one who just wings it. I will substitute if I don’t have some things a recipe calls for, but I tend to rely on Google to make suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, I hadn’t thought of checking with Google about substitutions. Good thinking. I’m not sure how innovative I am. My recipe changes are often the result of me being too lazy to drive to the grocery. Hence, what I shared above.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You cook like my brother. When it’s good we never see it again because he doesn’t remember how he made it! He went through a health food craze and he put some fiber ingredient in everything. EVERYTHING! I always asked if it was in something before I ate it. Those things mostly tasted like cardboard. We were all grateful when he passed through that phase. I’m flexible when I cook. I have stopped carrying all the specialty ingredients that you use once and toss. I found that white balsamic subs just fine for white wine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kate, years ago my mother got hooked on oat bran. She put it in everything, and like you said, it added a cardboard flavor to food– not to mention it made baked goods soggy.

      I’m definitely following in your footsteps about how I cook now. I no longer buy all the fancier ingredients, using something basic that we have around here instead. Although I am a nut about having lots of herbs and spices in the cupboard… just in case. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Every year *looks around and whispers* my mother bakes good-for-you cookies and we all smile and tell her thank you and how nice and thoughtful and yum yum, and then we throw them away because even the dog won’t touch a good-for-you cookie, and she eats… well, you know, she’s a dog.
      Thankfully, my mother makes incredible candy. With sugar and everything!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. When baking, I follow the recipe to a T. Cakes can be so fickle. BUT! I have tweaked — adding pumpkin instead of applesauce to a spice cake, etc. Other recipes, it’s fun to just do what you like, as you’ve done. It sounds delish.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Donna, I agree that it’d be boring to follow a recipe precisely, but I know a few people who do just that. They’re good cooks, but put a lot of pressure on themselves to do things PERFECTLY. That’s not me!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I adored Pinterest when it was new and filled with graphic artists + history majors who shared the coolest images. But once it got more mainstream it became like a catalogue trying to sell me stuff. So I left. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I bake exactly as instructed, however, I view recipes for cooking sauces and other dishes as more like guidelines, which is probably a reason my husband insists on doing most of the cooking in our house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Allie P, I bake and cook like you do. I’m also amazingly forgiving of myself if something I make doesn’t work out like planned, so I create my own little win-win kitchen scenario. How the food actually tastes is a whole different matter! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m a pretty strict adherent to the recipe kind of woman. Reason? My mother was a ‘substituter’. And while your substitutions sound like they vaguely followed the spirit of the recipe, if not the substance, my mother was one who would grab anything and put it in ‘in place’ of something she didn’t have. I had a friend who had the most delicious sugar cookie recipe I ever tasted. Moist, just cakey enough without being too crumbly and the icing she made (hand made) was sweet but not cloying. Great cookies. My mother begged her for the recipe and finally my friend gave it to her. The next Christmas Ma was really excited because she had made great sugar cookies…only. Not. I asked her what she had put in them and she admitted she hadn’t had enough flour so she substituted whey powder for the flour. Um. NEVER do that. .. So after a lifetime of several of Ma’s hit or miss ‘recipes’, I’m more a ‘I must have everything on the list or I’m not making it’ person. Of course common sense reigns in my kitchen too. And using apple sauce or a banana where oil is indicated has worked well… But cooking is fun (to me), so why spoil it with being too OCD?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Embeecee, your story of a cookie recipe gone wrong is a cautionary tale! Oh my! Whey is most definitely not flour. No wonder you’re so keen on following the recipe as written. You poor child.

      I think that common sense in the kitchen is probably the lesson for all of us. I substitute what I can reasonably surmise will work, and if I don’t have even that ingredient, I’ll wait until I can get to the grocery to but the right thing. But overall, I just wing it because like you said, why be OCD?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I consider myself a competent cook, but not a terribly innovative one. I usually follow the recipe to a T the first time, but will sometimes make changes on subsequent tries. My husband is much better at putting together whatever we have in the fridge (but I have yet to convince him that he should do the majority of the cooking in our house).

    Your post reminded me of some of the recipe reviews I have read online: “This recipe was terrible! I substituted fish for pork, and omitted the salt, but, other than that, I followed it exactly.” Fortunately, all of your substitutions were good ones!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Janis, I grew up around foodie parents. I think their joy in cooking rubbed off on me and gave me a sense of confidence about substituting ingredients. A confidence that is sometimes misplaced, but let’s not squabble here.

      Your hypothetical recipe review made me laugh out loud. So true, so very true. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    1. JT Twissel, mixed results describes much of what I make. I enjoy cooking, so I don’t take it too hard when something doesn’t work out. I agree about pomegranate. Somehow it makes just about everything taste better.

      Like

  11. Early on, I followed recipes, had many books in my collection. They are mostly gathering dust now. Baking is mostly chemistry, so I do follow some recipes that were given to me that I enjoy. They are decades-old, so I always have the ingredients on hand, much simpler/more basic ingredients. Cooking…winging it all the way, it’s part/most of the fun for me. It’s now more process than recipe.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. vanbytheriver, I’ve lots of those old cookbooks gathering dust, too. Once in a while I’ll open one and browse, for the nostalgia of it more than the recipes. I like old recipes for the very reason you mention: basic ingredients. I’ll try to make almost anything once, but often read a few recipes online then combine them into one recipe. Fortunately my husband isn’t a fussy eater, so my experiments don’t go to waste.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Haha. I like a surprise ending. I was SURE it was going to taste awful. You’re a good cook! I follow new recipes, but ones that I’ve made for years, I substitute and ‘guess’ measurements. And it always turns out good (well, according to ME).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. roughwighting, I try to stick to recipes… sometimes. I think most of my adjustments come about because I’m too lazy to go grocery shopping for the proper ingredients, so I wing it with what I have. I do the same thing as you about guessing measurements. Why dirty a measuring cup when eyeballing it works? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you make an excellent point. This spiced pomegranate syrup is pretty good stuff. Of course, does anyone buy recipes? Don’t all these celebrity chefs just steal them from each other? [Too cynical?]

      Like

    1. Margaret, any time there’s a leavening agent involved I measure carefully and follow the directions. But I rarely bake anymore so most of my cooking, even if I have a new recipe right in front of me, is free form.

      Like

  13. For me, cooking is like some sorta emotional, artistic expression. I don’t cook with recipes much. I cook a lot based on texture and appearance and of course, taste and smell. Usually, I think either you can cook or you can’t. My husband can cook well enough to sustain life, but it’s to no one’s delight.
    BAKING, on the other hand, is a science for me, and involves exacting everything as directed. Perhaps with the exception of biscuits.
    I’m not at all surprised your not-a-recipe recipe came out delightful. I rather presume like me, you seldom need direction but love to be inspired.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. joey, your last sentence is the essence of my approach to cooking. I grew up around adults who loved to cook and bake so being in the kitchen, winging it OR following the baking specifics, comes naturally to me.

      I’d never thought much about this until my friend was shocked by how I got to the finished product. She follows all recipes to the nth degree, so my winging it irritates her sense of order. People are interesting, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. J, you rock your recipes, so if that’s how you get to yummy food, then you’ve found your way. I, obviously, have a more laissez-faire approach. HOWEVER, when it comes to making food, whatever works, works.

      Like

  14. First time I try something new I’ll stick to the recipe as much as possible, assuming I have all the ingredients. Especially for baking.
    If it turns out well and gets added to my repertoire then I’ll start to make changes based on our own personal household preferences.
    Once in a while though I’ll try something new where I don’t have several of the ingredients and then I just start winging it as I go. I’ll follow my gut and not really pay too much attention to taking mental notes. The only problem with that is if Honey loves it and asks me what I did or how to make it again…well…um…I think… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norm, your cooking process sounds similar to mine. I like to cook, but refuse to get bogged down in too many details. Except when it comes to baking, which involves ingredients that make things rise, so I respect the proportions. However the rest of the time I wing it, and over the years have gotten pretty good at doing so. Or maybe I just don’t care as much about the results now. 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I love making substitutions and not following the recipe exactly. Once, I made cranberry bread for my boyfriend’s sisters but I did not have the called-for “freshly squeezed orange juice.” As I was living in an apartment building at the time, I ran out to the lobby to the soda machine. No orange juice.

    But!

    There was Sprite.

    Citrus for citrus, no?

    Used the Sprite, and baked the loaves, and mailed them off to California.

    Sisters requested recipe.

    Boom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kate, you are a woman after my own heart! What a smart substitution– no wonder your bread was a success. It makes perfect sense to me to use Sprite instead of OJ.

      You’ve given me an idea for the future, should I be without OJ. Boom! indeed.

      Like

    1. camparigirl, I deviated from the written recipe because I was goofing off in the spur of the moment with what I had. I like to cook and bake, but I refuse to be tied down to what’s written. 🙂

      Like

  16. I’m giggling at your friend asking for your version of the recipe … OK, so I’m really giggling at your (perceived) reaction. My Mum used to bug her parent’s old cook (Indian, one-legged – must be a story in that somewhere) for his recipes until she ended up following him around and writing everything down. He was so patient and polite … and the recipes have been closely guarded, often because they make little sense! 🙂

    Like

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