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Step away from the cookbook: Cooking from the heart


Making a meal for those you love can be an inspired creation. Put the recipes away and cook from your heart.

Woman cooking

Cooking from the heart can be fun, delicious and rewarding! Use what ever ingredients you have on hand to make your culinary masterpiece. There’s no need to stock your pantry and fridge with every specialty ingredient you can find in your local supermarket; just keep your kitchen stocked with basic ingredients you’ll use over and over again. Here are a few suggestions for ingredients that will make cooking from the heart easier and more inspired.

Pantry favourites

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Lemons
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Good quality tomato sauce and/or canned diced tomatoes
  • Dry pastas
  • Long grain rice
  • Canned fish
  • Low-sodium chicken stock
  • Bread crumbs
  • Several dried herbs and spices. Some common choices are thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, chili powder, cumin and curry, but use your personal taste as a guide. For a boost of flavour, consider starting your own kitchen herb garden, so it’s easy to cook with fresh herbs whenever you choose.

Fridge and freezer favourites

  • Dijon mustard
  • Good quality mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Butter
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan
  • Aged cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses
  • Assorted fresh vegetables, such peppers, asparagus, celery, carrots, broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, scallions and mushrooms
  • Frozen vegetables like corn and peas
  • Fresh or frozen meats and fish. Most meat and fish has a short refrigerator life but will keep well in the freezer, so are easy to keep on hand. Top sirloin steak, ground chuck, pork loin, chicken breasts, salmon and shrimp are all tasty choices.

Now get cooking

  • Follow a recipe… sort of. A great starting point when deciding to cook from the heart instead of a recipe is to follow a recipe, but modify it to taste. This will help you learn the flow of cooking and how to blend flavours together.
  • Master the basics. Being familiar with such things as making a roux, reducing sauces and the cooking times for meat will make it easier to be creative in the kitchen.
  • Watch the experts. OK, your mom, sister or friend might not be a world-class chef, but if you’ve ever enjoyed something they’ve prepared, check out their moves in the kitchen. You just might learn something.
  • Practice makes perfect, or at least edible. Trial and error is part of the experience, so don’t get discouraged when your meal doesn’t work out as expected. Just be willing to experiment again.
  • Start slowly and work your way up. Try creating something new with just a few ingredients; then, next time, add more ingredients to taste.
  • Taste and taste again. Getting the right flavour balance may take a few tries, so keep tasting! However, when meat, poultry and seafood are involved, try your creation only when the meat is fully cooked.
It’s just that simple to create a home-cooked meal right from your heart; and if it doesn’t work out, simply pour a glass of wine and try it again. Bon appétit!

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