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Topic: Is it really all the same???

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Subject: Is it really all the same???
Date Posted: 1/29/2008 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I'm newish at this cooking business but since doing WW I've been trying to actually put the 100's of cookbooks and thousands of loose recipes I've collected over the years to use! I've made a total of maybe 6 soups this past year and after making another very simple one that I like realized the broth tastes exactly the same as another soup I really loved..the only difference is the stuff that's in it! In boht I used garlic chicken broht, garlic, thyme, oregano and canned italian seasoned diced tomatoes but this one had only onion/celery/carrots and a bit of leftover asparagus..the other had onion/celery/carrots/barley/spincach/white beans.

I've also looked through a lot of casserole dishes and almost all have a cream of something soup, sour cream, butter, and the meat and some type of noodle/tortiall/biscuit or something and maybe a can of veggies.

oh, and the other soup was basically the same but had rotel tomatoes in it and added corn/black beans. the only one 'different' uses taco seasoning and hidden valley ranch dressing mix for a different flavor.

I'm SO disillusioned LOL! I thought cooking was really hard but seems like a lot of it is the same routine with just a few different twists...

Date Posted: 1/29/2008 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 4/30/2007
Posts: 2,728
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I think what you start to run into is a lot of "classic combinations" of foods in recipes, especially when you are looking at ethnic-themed recipes such as Mexican or Italian dishes.  Most Mexican dishes are going to include tomatoes, beans and/or corn, most Italian dishes will have tomatoes, garlic, and cheese, etc.  Casseroles are pretty formulatic- they all contain some form of starch (pasta, rice, potatoes), sometimes a meat, vegetables, and a binder (cream of whatever soup, etc).  I have found that when you are sticking to the supposed "quick and easy" recipes, this is pretty much what you find- slight variations on recipe formulas.  What I do to get away from this is I read cookbooks- real cookbooks that have "from scratch" recipes, to get new ideas for dishes that sound good.  Then, because I don't have the time or inclination to cook everything from scratch (some stuff I do, but heck, I'm not going to spend an entire weekend making a batch of chicken broth!) I figure out easier ways to make the dish by substituting a few convenience items, such as canned broth.  Once, I saw an episode of Food 911 on the Food Network about different chicken soups, and the chicken tortilla soup looked great- but again, I didn't feel like making chicken broth from scratch, peeling fresh tomatoes, or roasting fresh peppers like Tyler Florence did.  So I took the basic recipe and substituted some good-quality canned foods (tomatoes,  broth, peppers) to eliminate the complicated steps, and I now have one really fantastic chicken tortilla soup recipe!  Sometimes you just have to get a little creative- don't be afraid to try something new.  Cookbooks are one of my favorite things to read, and sometimes you get inspired to create something of your own by reading new recipes.  I also like surfing epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com, and cookinglight.com for interesting recipes.  Don't give up- just keep looking for new inspiration!

Date Posted: 1/29/2008 3:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks! I haven't given up..just got started! Was just a litle surprised that it seemed like just a few things in different combinations make so much variety! that tortilla soup sounds good! I usually look for the convenience stuff but occasionally try other recipes..at least my success rate is better now!

Date Posted: 2/2/2008 10:36 PM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2005
Posts: 462
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IMO, what makes it different is the spices you choose.  I have two big shelves full of various spices - from specialty stores as well as the same ol' from grocery stores.  As you continue to cook, try experimenting with different spices and herbs.  To me, that is what sets "your" whatever apart from someone else's.  Every once in awhile I have to throw something away because I've picked the wrong combination, but often it works well. There are books specifically designed to teach the combination of spices...there used to be some copies available here, but I don't know if they still are or if they are WL'd.  There are spice websites to browse, as well.  It's also fun to grown your own herbs and add some of them to your dishes.  Good luck!

Date Posted: 2/3/2008 8:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2006
Posts: 172
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calen-  do you have the title of the spice combination books...... sounds interesting. I ALWAYS have to follow a recipe. not good at doing my own thing.

 

Date Posted: 2/3/2008 11:58 PM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2005
Posts: 462
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If you follow cookbooks you've probably retained more combination of things than you realize..the next time you make something such as spaghetti sauce, take a little bit to the side and start adding spices just to see.  That way you won't have the frustration of 'wasting' a whole meal.  The same with meat - if you are cooking chicken, take a little piece and add some combination of spices and see how that turns out. 

Offhand, I'd say try to find the Spice Cookbook.  I just checked at Amazon and it gets consistent, excellent reviews.   On Amazon it's not cheap, so you may want to try the library first or put it on your WL. For southwestern type of spicy, Emeril of course as well as cowboy cookbooks (you'd be surprised!).  Deepak Chopra has some wonderful recipes that are healthy and use Indian type spices. 

Also, try Penzey's spices at www.penzeys.com.  I noticed some recipes on there.

My last recommendation is the little things - don't get imitation vanilla, get the real stuff.  Grated nutmeg vs. ground nutmeg makes a huge difference (but you won't need to use as much because it's stronger).  I know that groceries are really expensive now but just get the best stuff your money can buy.  Sometimes it makes all the difference, and with the right spices you can 'offbrand' other things.

I'm sure other members will chime in with other book recommendations and if I think of anything else, I'll post.  Have fun!  :)

ETA:  Cooking by the Garden Calendar, by Ruth Matson is a good one but it is OOP.  Still, you never know when you might find a copy.



Last Edited on: 2/4/08 12:05 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/5/2008 9:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks!