How many different recipes for the "Best" bread pudding, chocolate chip cookies, and carbonara are out there? And how many of these are essentially the same recipes, yet the author adds a pinch of a "secret ingredient" just to make his or her recipe seem different or original? I think that knowledge is meant to be shared. Sure, we should make modifications to recipes to fit our own taste and preferences, but if there is indeed a recipe that delivers consistent results each time, then it should be shared and popularized.
So what is the purpose of this website? Much like a systematic review (sorry, my public health/ research background..)- my goal is to sort through these so-called "the Best _____" recipes, test them out and make adjustments, and provide you with what is (in my opinion) the best-tasting, most hassle-free and approachable recipe.
In blogging, especially food blogging, I think sometimes there is a temptation to value quantity over quality. After all, even if a dish does not taste so great, the picture can turn out quite pretty nonetheless. Since the main purpose for this website is not for my own personal satisfaction (at least in the quantity of dishes and recipes I upload), but rather to help others cook, I will resist the temptation to upload every single dish that I make! In other words, I guarantee that each recipe on this site will be incredibly delicious!
Mind you, I am passionate about food and have made some fantastic dishes, but I am still learning. I have not been formally trained in any way, and I still have a long way to go. My hope, though, is that I would be able to share everything that I have learned through successes and failures in my humble kitchen to help you discover the chef in you!
Here are some key tips I want to share with you:
[Make the recipe your own]
Most of the time, no recipe is truly "perfect"-- cooking times may vary based on your oven's age/brand, if you're using a hand mixer vs. a stand mixer, if your cut of meat is thicker than what was used in the recipe, and so forth. Hence, it's important to improvise and adapt the recipe to your own unique needs. For baking, this may mean taking out the pastry 5-10 minutes before the time in the recipe and using a thin knife to check for doneness. For meats, this may mean using the color and the texture to judge doneness rather than relying solely on the cooking time.
Often times, recipes call for obscure ingredients which they require only a .01 tsp of. I honestly think that sometimes people do this just for the heck of it and to make the recipe seem fancier. Maybe this is an ingredient that you do not have access to, or maybe you simply don't like how it tastes-- once you become familiar with the texture and taste of your ingredients, do not be afraid to experiment and get creative with substitutions. After all, this is your dish, made in your kitchen!
[Know your ingredients]
Along with the last point, do not use an ingredient you are unfamiliar with (especially if you are serving guests). Last year, I distinctly remember having a dinner party for some of my friends. One of my favorite recipes is a delicious one-dish bake of chicken, bacon, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. I've made this dish numerous times before with a mix of boneless chicken breast & thighs-- that particular day, Whole Foods was out of boneless chicken (Since I do not have a car, the only grocery store I am able to access is WF). My only choice that day was bone-in chicken thigh pieces. I was in rush, so I bought a pack, rushed home, and cooked the recipe the way I always did. The only issue was that I've never cooked with bone-in chicken thighs before (I'm lazy, it's messy, and I don't like having to pick meat off the bone); little did I know that the cooking times are much longer for bone-in meat and that it takes much longer for the flavor to permeate through the meat. The result was an extremely underwhelming, under-seasoned main dish. (One person's was actually slightly pink in the center). Call me paranoid, but I still have nightmares about that day... Needless to say, I learned my lesson. So I repeat: know your ingredients. If you are not familiar with something, then look up tips on how to prepare the ingredient, cook it, etc!
When I first moved to the U.S in 4th grade, I was shocked by how salty the food was here. The idea of a pretzel was especially bizarre to me: yummy bread encrusted with huge chunks of salt! All of my friends at school were so excited when we would have pretzels at lunch, but I remember cringing with each bite I took. I eventually started picking off all the salt and then eating the bread. Perhaps it was the influence from that early culture shock, but I started developing a preference for under seasoned, under-salted food. When I began cooking, this translated into my own dishes: I was so paranoid about serving salty food to my guests that I would under-season on purpose. I figured that if someone wanted more salt, he/she would add it. Even when I started baking, I was confused why all recipes called for salt. The more I started to learn and cook, though, I learned about the inherent ability of salt to enhance flavors, especially in baking.
So my tip for you? Do not be afraid of using salt or spices! After all, recipes call for spices and seasonings for a reason. They add a depth of flavor and a kick to the dish! So season wisely but liberally.
[Prep ahead of time]
Part of prepping involves reading the recipe carefully well ahead of time. How sad would it be if you left out a key ingredient or read later on that a step had to be done a day ahead? That is why it is crucial to read through the whole recipe carefully beforehand.
If you are cooking for a dinner party which requires preparing several dishes, it is extremely helpful to look for steps that can be done in advance. You could chop up the ingredients so they are ready to be cooked immediately, or you could prepare the serving sauce and store it in the refrigerator. If you are making a cake, the baking can be done a day ahead, and you can just focus on making the frosting and decorating the next day. Plan ahead to make the actual cooking day as stress-free as possible!
Lastly, while I will strive to mostly upload recipes that are nutritious and with ingredients that are in season, I follow Chef Jamie Oliver's philosophy on "healthy eating." It is okay to indulge once in a while-- while we should not consume mac & cheese and chicken tenders on a daily basis, if you are generally eating healthy and consuming a wide variety of foods, it is okay to have a hearty meal here and there. Healthy eating is about achieving that balance of light and fresh dishes with comforting, hearty dishes.
These are some essential tips to help you get started!