The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 13, 2012

Amanda Stone: Clever cooks learn to adapt

By Amanda Stone
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I am not capable of following a recipe. There. I said it.

Perhaps you've noticed that my recipes often include "adapted from so-and-so." Now you know why. It's an illness. A compulsion. Or maybe it's a way to wield my power over the recipe, to stay in control, to show that I am confident over my ingredients and measurements.

But sometimes I'm just out of something and refuse to go to the store. So I adapt.

I view recipes as a mere guideline. For me, they serve as a suggestion rather than a lost cause if I don't have the correct ingredients. I read about a Tuscan cookbook full of recipes with no measurements.

This sounds like a great book for me because I love having a general outline of ingredients that come together to make a dish taste fantastic. Then I take it from there.

Unfortunately for my family, the finished product isn't always as delicious as it could be had I actually made the dish as it was intended.

I yearn to be one of those cooks that sprinkles and tosses ingredients into the pan with wild abandon. But of course I also want the result to be tasty. So I take note of my mistakes and try not to make the same ones.

I'm always on the lookout for ways to make a recipe healthier while not compromising taste or texture TOO much.

That being said, my version of "healthy" these days involves using real food that hasn't been processed until it's unrecognizable. For example, butter takes the place of margarine, honey or real maple syrup takes the place of sugar, and whole grains are always substituted for white.

Baking is tricky, though. Baking is a science. Tweaking a baked recipe that has been tested and considered sharable is risky business.

Don't get me wrong, I still do it. But the results are often not as edible as I'd like. Bread ends up hard as a rock on the outside, doughy on the inside. Cookies and muffins become rubbery and taste too healthy.

I have no problem choking down my creations.

But sharing is most of the fun in cooking, so trust that I've given my stamp of approval to these adapted recipes.

I included the original recipes with my adaptations so that you can see how the magic happens. Let me know if you have a different yummy way to adapt them.


Sweet potato  corn chowder

12 ounces andouille, kielbasa or smoked pork sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices (I use low-fat turkey Italian sausages.)

1 cup chopped onion

2 stalks chopped celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning (I never have either of these, so I just add more cumin, chili powder, paprika and a little salt.)

6 cups chicken broth

1 16 ounce package frozen whole kernel corn

2 cups 1/2-inch cubed, peeled sweet potatoes

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (If I'm out of chicken or it's not thawed, I just omit it. The sausage and potatoes are the star of this soup.)

1 cup whipping cream (Nonfat plain Greek yogurt gives the same creaminess. Just stir it in after the soup has cooled a bit to avoid curdling.)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Stir in flour, cumin, chili powder and Cajun seasoning. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in chicken broth. Bring to boiling. Add corn, sweet potatoes and chicken. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered about 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in whipping cream and pepper; heat through.

From Midwest Living Magazine


Romano bean salad

2 quarts water

1 pound Romano beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I use green beans or asparagus.)

1 tablespoon kosher salt (I just use half the amount of table salt.)

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I also use cilantro.)

2 tablespoon capers (I love them, but never have them. I use minced green olives instead.)

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (Sometimes a splash of bottled lemon juice does the job.)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (Becomes a couple dashes of table salt.)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add beans, 1 tablespoon salt and garlic; cook 8 minutes or until tender.

Drain and plunge beans into ice water; drain. Place beans in a medium bowl. Finely chop garlic; add to beans. Add parsley and remaining ingredients, toss gently to coat.

From Cooking Light Magazine

Have questions? Email them to or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.