How I started eating Paleo and Cooking without a Recipe
When my husband and I first moved in together he was the one that did all of the cooking. I had almost no experience in the kitchen and easily became flustered when trying to prepare more than one item at a time (boil pasta and saute vegetables at the same time - what???). Over time this balance slowly shifted and I started to become the primary chef. After discussions with a physician passionate about Functional Medicine and adhering to a Paleo diet, I became invested in Paleo-style eating and began to think of food as a way to nurture and support our bodies.
Although eating a Paleo diet is now second nature, shifting the way that I ate took planning and effort in the beginning. Limited on time, as most of us are, I often found recipes to be overly complicated. I started asking questions such as is it really necessary to prep and cook the ingredients in that specific order, do I really need to purchase that specialty ingredient, what happens if I turn this several pot meal into a one pot meal to reduce clean-up, and what if I swapped out this spice for another I prefer? As a creative I followed my instinct that there are often many paths to a desired outcome. In this case, the desired outcome was healthy meals that were flexible and adaptable. As I started to cook more and share my dishes with others I was frequently asked for recipes and I'd always have to say that I didn't have one to provide. I'd explain that what they had just eaten was something I had concocted based on flavors I had tasted at a restaurant, based on a recipe I had modified to make simpler and healthier, or was simply something I wanted to test out. It can be intimidating to lack a clear set of instructions (especially for us Type-A's), but I found that once I shared some basics, friends and family were able to find the ease in my "imprecise" approach.
Cooking, and cooking without a recipe, takes practice. But as long as you look at simply as that - practice - cooking becomes an experiment and it becomes fun. It's incredibly liberating to slowly gain the confidence to use existing recipes, favorite in-season fruits and vegetables, and various flavors as inspiration rather than a set of strict boundaries. I've had some flops and no dish is ever an exact replica of the one made before but that's ok. I aim for delicious and healthy over exactness and accuracy and that is something I know I can achieve.