Author Topic: Outlines rather than Recipes  (Read 3670 times)


  • Magnum Stache
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Outlines rather than Recipes
« on: April 16, 2015, 11:35:11 AM »
Being an old hand in the kitchen I have noticed that I only use recipes when I am cooking something new to me.  Otherwise I use what might be called outlines.  As an illustration I am sharing my outline for lasagna.  I hope other cooks will share theirs.

Lasagna Outline

Must haves
Something tomatoey:  Can be fresh, canned, sauce, juice, whatever.
Red wine
Vegetable:  I like eggplant, spinach, mushroom or some combination
Cheese:   At least two kinds, more is better and at least one should be strongly flavored.
Assorted sauce additions:  I currently use raw garlic, canned spiced olives, dried basil, red pepper

To make:
I put two cups of water, a little salt and enough flour to make a stiff dough in the mixer and beat it up with the dough hook for 20 minutes or so.   Recently I have been adding two eggs but you don't have to.

While the pasta is beating I prep vegies, make sauce, grate cheese.

In my blender.  The tomatoey stuff plus up to 1C red wine, 3-5 cloves garlic, a can of spiced olives, a Tbs dried basil, tsp red pepper, 2 tsp salt, shake of black pepper.  Whirl until lumps (in this case olives and garlic) disappear.

Can be as simple as sliced eggplant or can be a soft cheese, ricotta, cottage, or creamed mixed with greens and a good sprinkle of nutmeg and 1 tsp salt and sprinkle of black pepper.  I sometimes put eggs in the soft cheese mixture if I'm not using them in the pasta. If I am making a soft cheese filling, I wait until the dough is done, transfer it to another bowl and use the mixer to to mix the soft cheese, vegetable, nutmeg, salt and pepper thoroughly.

To Assemble:

Pour a little sauce in the bottom of the pan.

Roll our some strips of pasta.  These don't have to be pretty.  The shape will disappear under the sauce and cheese.
Place layer of strips on bottom of pan.
Top with vegetables and/or soft cheese vegetable mix.
Pour on sauce.
Sprinkle with cheese

Repeat until you run out of ingredients.  Reserving enough cheese for a last decorative sprinkle on top.

Place covered pan in oven and heat to 350 to get cooking started.  When lasagna starts to bubble a little, turn oven down to about 280 and let cook for 45-60 min.  When it's done pull it out and sprinkle reserved cheese on top.  Put it back in the cooling oven and let the cheese melt. 



  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2015, 12:28:13 PM »
I call this "Choose Your Own Adventure" dinner.

Pick a protein, whatever is in the freezer or on sale, or whatever beans are in the pantry. If it doesn't come that way, cut into bite-size pieces.

Pick some vegetables. Onion, green pepper, broccoli, summer squash, zucchini, whole corn, carrots, whatever still looks edible or whatever you have in the freezer. Cut into strips or cubes.

Pick a sauce. We usually default to diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, but sometimes use broth or throw together a soy sauce/garlic/honey mix.

Pick a starch. Rice, egg noodles, pasta, quinoa. Start cooking this first, because the rest doesn't take long.

Brown the protein in your oil of choice if necessary (olive oil for tomato-based, vegetable oil for the rest). Add the onion and other vegetables and stir-fry until as soft as you like. Add the sauce and cook until warmed through. Serve over the starch/mix the starch into the stir-fry.

The great thing about outlines is the ability to use up what you have on hand or whatever is on sale. It also eliminates an excuse for ordering pizza if the whole recipe isn't dependent on the one ingredient you don't have on hand. Just use something else.

If you need to stretch your protein to feed another mouth, add vegetables and starch. If you're cutting back on starch, add more vegetables and protein. Don't like onions? Don't use them. Add herbs and spices as you like. Get wild and throw some parmesan on top.

I love to try new combinations. Some of them bomb, but some have become new family favorites.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2015, 12:58:37 PM »
This is how I cook - but I haven't stopped to really notice since I do most of it by instinct. I HATE it when people go "this is awesome, can you give me the recipe" Most people who know me well know they "might" get a general "This is what I did" response ...using the term outline makes a LOT of sense.

I'm going to start consciously thinking about I when I cook. Hopefully I'll have something to report :)


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2015, 01:08:34 PM »
Same for me, I'm still learning a lot in the kitchen (like, I don't make my own noodles, that's so cool! ) but I do have a good natural improvisation.

When I get the "what is this called? " or recipe question, I usually answer "shit in a pot" or occasionally "shit in a pan" .


  • Bristles
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2015, 03:11:13 PM »
Chili is great for this.

I do some kind of beans, some kind of meat, chili spices, some kind of tomato. I also will add in another vegetable for bulk and healthiness. Considering my husband is picky, this is normally peppers and onions.

Saute the veggies, brown the meat, maybe saute the spices to bring out the flavor. Cook the beans if you aren't using canned. Dump everything else in and let the flavors meld.

Kidney beans, ground beef, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, chili spices (chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, garlic), peppers and onions.
Black beans, ground turkey, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, chili spices (chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, garlic), peppers, onions, corn.
White chili: White beans, chicken, chili spices (less chili powder in this one), green chili peppers and/or poblano peppers, onions

Other ideas:
Add in zucchini.
Black beans and pumpkin
Black beans and sweet potatoes
« Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 03:55:08 PM by Genevieve »


  • Bristles
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2015, 03:12:57 PM »
Enchiladas are also great for this outline idea as well.


  • Handlebar Stache
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  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2015, 08:21:04 PM »
Made a good one tonight :)

Cajun ______ Pasta

1. Saute chosen veggies and protein (tonight was Cajun sausage meat squeezed from it's casing, chopped frozen spinach, chopped roasted red pepper, chopped onion, chopped pickles hot peppers)

2. Toss in some Cajun seasoning (I made make my own)

3. Make a white/cheese sauce (Roux, milk, Cajun Spice, cheese) Mix in meat/veg mixture

4. Boil pasta till al dente

5. Mix it all together and serve Or bake in the oven with some seasoned bread crumbs on top for fancy-pants variant

I guess I forgot I use to write recipes like this. I did a series for my blog to help parents and their kids "free-style" in the kitchen. Came across them when I was transferring over my archives. Now they probably won't be very interesting to well seasoned mustachians, but thought it would be fun to share :)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Outlines rather than Recipes
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2015, 11:13:57 PM »
I will make some form of fajita just about every week.  I don't know that it is actually a fajita, it's just a generic Mexican tasting dish that I call a fajita...

Sliced veggies usually onions and peppers, but sometimes tomatoes, corn, etc.  sautéed with minced garlic in some oil plus the Mexican seasonings I have on hand - cumin, chili powder, oregano, cayenne, cilantro - and lemon or lime juice. 

Dump in a couple cups of beans, pinto, black, kidney, etc.  If you don't have frozen beans around, you need to be properly shamed by your fellow forum members who will hilariously point out the amount of time it takes to soak a bean is no excuse to buy a can as they can't drown. 

Heat everything until nice and hot.

Serve it up in a tortilla (preferably homemade and freshly rolled out) or taco shell with Mexicany toppings like lettuce, fresh tomatoes, jalapeños, cheese, sour cream, homemade guac, homemade salsa, etc. 

It can be super healthy and you really have to try to make it taste bad. 

Then, when you are done with your dinner, package all of the bits and pieces of the fajitas leftovers up in a Tupperware. 

The next night, dice a little onion, sautéed it in butter.  Add a can of diced tomatoes, all of your random fajita leftovers chopped into little pieces, a diced potato, maybe a handful of frozen corn, and some extra beans (because no one can have too many beans) to a big pot.  Add enough chicken broth to cover everything and simmer it until the potatoes are tender.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Add a small handful of crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese to the bowls while it's nice and hot.  Call it tortilla soup and pretend you slaved in the kitchen to prepare it.