Cooking becomes infinitely easier when you don’t have to use a recipe anymore. When you don’t need recipes, you can start to build meals using the ingredients you already have, rather than having to go out shopping every time you need to make dinner. It means you have a sense of how longs things will take to make, so you can time your meals accordingly. It saves you 25 minutes of googling, and means you can get straight to making your meals.
So how do you learn to cook without recipes? Templates. You figure out the components and ordering of ingredients, so you can start to swap out ingredients and flavors accordingly.
Let’s start with soup, or any one-pot cooked meal. Here are the components:
- Oil or fat base
- Flavor base (spices, onions, garlic)
- Starch (potatoes, carrots, whole grains)
- Protein source (lentils, eggs, meat)
- Liquid (water or stock)
Here’s the ordering:
- Heat up your oil/fat base.
- Add your flavor base and cook until soft.
- Add your starches and veggies with liquid.
- Add your protein source – this might go in early in the cooking process or later depending on how long that protein source needs to cook.
- Add toppings.
Here is the formula applied to my favorite winter lentil soup. It’s hearty and filling, while also being super healthy and delicious. It comes together in under an hour, and it will leave your whole family asking for more.
- • 3 Tbsp olive oil
- • 1 white or yellow onion, finely diced
- • 1 cup chopped mushroom
- • 1 tbsp ground cumin
- • ¾ tsp sea salt
- • 1 tsp black pepper
- • 2 tsp Better than Boullion
- • 4 stalks celery, chopped
- • 4 carrots, chopped
- • 3 cups dried lentils, rinsed
- • 18 oz diced tomatoes
- • 1 cup spinach
- • 1 cup purple or red potatoes, chopped
- • Heat oil, onion, onion, cumin, and ¼ tsp salt in a large stock pot over medium heat.
- • Once soft, add chopped celery, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes. Heat through for 5 minutes.
- • Add rinsed lentils and enough water to cover the lentils. Cook until soft (~20 minutes).
- • When fully heated, add spinach and a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon.
- • Adjust seasoning and serve with bread!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.