I'm a artist and prone to not following the rules. I like to play with ingredients and proportion sometime out of necessity and sometime just because I can. I cook like I make my art...what do I have on hand? What combinations could be interesting?
I live in a small rural town where we have a full four season of weather. I keep my pantry and freezer stocked with items I know I can use in a variety of recipes, and as a substitute ingredients.
My family can surprise me by becoming vegetarian or vegan or not eating one thing or another at any given time. I am willing to accommodate these experiments for several reasons. I was a vegetarian for many years. I still tend to eat meatless meals. I want to respect the choices people make for themselves in order to feel better, live a value system that they believe in and take care of our planet. Things are always changing, new information becomes available and people's health can direct a new diet. I'm happy to respect and support my friends and family dietary lifestyles.
Salads, Soups and Stews can be a fun surprise...Typically, I start with onions, garlic, carrots, leeks and celery and any combination I have on hand. Then add mushrooms, meat or poultry. Then what sounds good for a seasoning direction? Asian flavors or earthy herbs like rosemary and thyme.
My new favorite herbs...The herbs and spices I use vary with the seasons. Fresh mint is something I've been playing with. For me it is one of those flavors that can be over powering. A little goes a long way. Add a crushed or bruised fresh mint leaf to ice tea, lemonade or water (plain or sparkling) for an additional flavor. Chopped mint is a nice compliment a fresh fruit salad, especially strawberries and watermelons. Your morning smoothie, too!
Mint is a key ingredient in Lindsay Hanley's Tzatziki Sauce ( a traditional Mediterranean yogurt sauce) on and other recipes on The Bill Plate Recipe Page. I am growing an orange mint plant in a pot. I like the milder citrus flavor,
Right now, I'm really liking thyme, rosemary and lots of fresh basil. I like to add a large handful of fresh basil to green salads. Fresh basil is a really good addition to pasta salads, too.
If the recipe calls for something you, your family or you guest are allergic to, by all means omit the ingredient and play with what you have and what your family likes