Have you ever deconstructed a recipe to your tastes?
Be confident when you see recipes online or in a cookbook and don’t swipe past until you have reviewed my deconstructing recipe checklist. You just may be passing up on a gem of a meal!
Let’s go through my checklist with one of my favourite quick meals, Evolvd Asian Beef Skillet.
Evolvd Asian Beef Skillet
- 2 tbsps Sesame Oil divided
- 1 Garlic clove (OMIT for LOW FODMAP )
- 1 tbsp Ginger fresh, peeled minced
- 567 grams Extra Lean Ground Beef
- 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes optional
- 2 cups Coleslaw Mix
- 1 Red Bell Pepper sliced thinly
- 1 cup Broccoli
- 1 cup White Button Mushrooms
- 2 tbsps Cilantro chopped
- 1 tbsp Mint Leaves chopped
- 1 1/2 tsps Sesame Seeds optional
- Add half of the sesame oil to a large skillet, set on medium heat. You can omit oil if you are using a non-stick pan.
- Add garlic and ginger to the skillet. Sautés for 2 minuted until they are softened. Add in the Chinese five spice, salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Add in the beef or your protein source to the skillet and sauce until it has cooked through or reached a safe internal temperature of 71°C (160°F) for ground beef and 74°C (165°F) for chicken.
- Once cooked transfer the beef (protein) to a dish and cover.
- Add the remainder of sesame oil to the skillet. Add the cabbage and vegetables to the skillet and sauce until softened. You may want to add a couple of tablespoons for water and cover the skillet for a minute to allow the vegetables too seats. Cook until you have reached your preferences of vegetable doneness.
- Add back to the skillet the meat, together with the cilantro and mint. Mix altogether and heat through.
- Portion out your servings and garnish with sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Deconstructing the recipe
1. Review the protein
Start with reviewing the protein source in the recipe. Do you like what is suggested? In the Asian Beef Skillet recipe, the protein source is ground beef. You may have picked this recipe because you like vegetables, but don’t want or like to eat beef. In that case, the ground beef can be substituted for ground turkey, chicken, salmon or for a vegan choice such as crumbled tofu or whole chickpeas. Replacing the meat will not change the simplicity of this recipe, but it will make a difference for a plant-based eater who does not eat meat.
2. Choose your vegetable
Take a look at the vegetables in the recipe and decide if those are ones that you enjoy eating or have on hand. Any vegetable will be suitable for a skillet recipe. The only thing you need to know is that when you substitute a vegetable, substitute for the same volume. For example, in this recipe, the two cups of coleslaw mix could be substituted with two cups of broccoli, kale, spinach or any combination of vegetables.
3. Spices and seasonings
Sometimes we select a recipe because we crave a particular flavour. For example, if you chose the recipe mentioned here, it was because you wanted an Asian inspired dish. On closer inspection though, you discover that you do not have or do not like Chinese five spice. Don’t toss the recipe! Simply substitute what you don’t like or leave out that spice if it is only needed in a small quantity. Chinese spice is a blend of cinnamon, anise seed, fennel, licorice root and cloves – a unique taste and mix, however, you could substitute with another spice blend that you like. You can add soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos, cinnamon or you can omit it altogether.
The same can be applied to other spices and seasonings. For example, the number one spice that people don’t like is cilantro. Cilantro can taste like soap for some people. You can substitute that with another green herb. Same with parsley; you can substitute that with mint. And if ginger is not your thing you can substitute ginger with lemon, lime or orange peel. Those will give it that tangy feeling. The point here is to spice this skillet up the way you like it.
4. Oils and fats
With sautéing or skillet recipes, you are cooking on a stove top. Recipes will suggest an oil quantity for sautéing; however, this can be adjusted. If you want the recipe to be lower in fat, use less sesame oil or leave out the sesame oil and use a nonstick skillet. If you want more fat, add more healthy oils.
I often get asked the question, can I substitute oil in a recipe? The answer is YES! Sesame oil is unique to Asian cooking, but you do not have to use it if you don’t have any on hand or don’t like the taste. In this recipe, you can substitute sesame oil to any other healthy oil such as avocado, safflower, peanut, or flaxseed. You can also skip the oil if your pan is nonstick.
5. Starchy Carbohydrate
In our recipe example, there are no starchy carbohydrates suggested, however, if you are using a recipe with carbohydrates you can think about switching traditional pasta with butternut squash or chickpea-based pasta or mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
6. Serving size adjustments and ingredient amounts
To know if a recipe will feed my family, I look at how many servings the recipe will yield as written. If the original recipe is for two servings, then I know I need to triple the ingredients to six servings for my family of six eaters.
Pay attention to the amount of ingredients when you adjust serving sizes or remove ingredients. If you are doubling a recipe from two servings to four servings, only increase the spice by 50% and adjust to taste after the meal is prepared. It is always easier to add spices and seasonings than to remove them. You don’t want to end up with a spicy meal because you needed your recipe to feed more people.
7. Cooking time
Check the cooking time to ensure it fits your schedule. See if you can save preparation time by preparing ingredients ahead of time or by buying pre-cooked vegetables. With meats, it is essential to cook until the internal temperature is reached and cooked straight through.
Cook and enjoy!
There is a base for all recipes that you need to know and then adjust. It depends on your tastes and what you want to get out of a recipe.
Baking is more complicated and has more science interactions involved.
Before adjusting any recipe, I encourage you to try them out even though you might have a perception that you hate something. When you try different foods, you’re opening up your taste palates to new tastes and you may be surprised how different combinations of flavours compliment one other!
The advantage of working with me is that I am a total nerd about recipes. I create recipes all the time and I don’t like to follow a recipe exactly the way it is written. So, I rewrite recipes to my taste, and I experiment a lot.
I curate and write recipes for my clients because I know it can be very easy to go down a recipe rabbit hole on Pinterest and find dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of recipes and just get overwhelmed. I am here to support your health and I’m confident we can find a way that works best for you based on your likes and dislikes as well as dietary restrictions. To learn more about how I can help you eat well and maintain a healthy lifestyle, book a free 15-minute consultation.