I love to cook.
I fancy myself a bit of a kitchen MacGyver. But instead of breaking out of a locked room with just twine and a fingernail clipper, I break out of a dinner time rut with leftover chicken and a bottle of Sriracha.
OK, not really. But, I do love the challenge of creating meals and adapting recipes based on personal preference or ingredients on hand.
I also know for every cook like me who eschews recipes, there are others (my sisters and friends included) who follow directions and ingredient lists down to the last grain of salt.
Neither is better or more right. But whether you are a recipe follower, adapter or creator, the kitchen is a safe space for experimentation. And, as in life, in the kitchen, we learn from our mistakes.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn from the successes and mistakes of others too?
That’s the idea behind a new collaboration here at The Gazette and KCRG-TV9.
Our vision is for a Cook Club — sort of like a book club — for you to share your culinary triumphs and travails with us and with other readers and home cooks.
Here is how it will work:
Each month we’ll focus on a specific technique or ingredient. Our cook club will encompass all sorts of cuisines and seasonal ingredients. We’ll also follow the spirit of the Blue Zones initiative to eat more plant-based foods and a general agreement that healthful eating is a good idea.
On the first Thursday of the month, we’ll print a recipe in The Gazette and online here. Then, you have two weeks to make the recipe — or a variation of it — at home and share your experience with us. Join us on Facebook, follow us on Pinterest to post photos and send it to us using “@GazetteKCRGCook” or if you are on Instagram, snap a photo there and be sure to tag it #GazetteKCRGCookClub so we can find it.
Or you can email us your feedback, recipe tips and snapshots at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may share your comments or photos in print or on our website as the month progresses.
In January, we’re focusing on the slow cooker. So to sweeten the pot, we’re giving away a slow cooker this month. We’ll draw from the names of all those who join us by sending in a recipe, photo, tip or trick. So be sure to tell us who you are and how to reach you.
Our hope is that as the club evolves we’ll add online chats, events and collaborate more with KCRG’s new sub channel KCRG 9.3-Live Well Eastern Iowa.
Because cooking is more fun with others, each month we’ll be assisted in our culinary exploration by the dietitians at Hy-Vee who already share their expertise weekly on the KCRG midday news.
For The Gazette’s part, I’ll be joined by Anne Kapler, who longtime readers of our food section will remember was the food editor from 2004 to 2008, and Heather Younker, who has been creating recipes for us since 2010.
The three of us will take turns creating recipes. Anne was the first up with this week’s turkey ragu recipe.
We wanted to start simple and chose a classic meat sauce for the slow cooker because it’s just that. The slow cooker, I think, is an underused appliance in many kitchens. It can make life easier. I know I am guilty, though, of not putting it to work for me because I don’t know how to adapt a traditional recipe for a slow cooker, and I have this misconception that slow cooker cooking isn’t healthful because it usually involves multiple cans of something creamed.
Today’s recipe set me straight on both counts.
I also have cooked a spaghetti squash one time. I forgot to poke holes in it, and it exploded all over my microwave.
Now, I’m inspired to try again.
What about you?
Make this dish and tell us what you think or what modifications you made.
Then share your go-to recipe. Tell us how you make a stand-out ragu. Or let us know your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash.
We can’t wait to see the results from a community of cooks all making the same dish.