It’s hard to go wrong when you cook with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. You don’t need to worry about precise measurements, cooking times or ingredient preparation. The recipes give you general guidelines, but if you do things a little differently, chances are your dish will still be delicious!

Measurements: Most cooks don’t do a lot of measuring. When a recipe calls for ingredients like an onion, a potato, an orange or a green pepper, I have used average-sized vegetables or fruits. If yours are very small or large, just make a good guess about how much you should use. If you like an ingredient, feel free to add more; if you’re not crazy about it, add less or leave it out (see substitutions below.)

Chop, Slice, Dice, Mince: How you cut up your fruits and vegetables is up to you. I usually use just a knife and chopping board. If you want to use a food processor or other favorite cutting device, go right ahead. Generally, when I say chop or dice, I mean ¼” to ½” chunks; anything smaller than bite-size is fine. Slice usually means cutting the ingredient crosswise into about ¼” pieces. Mince means the pieces should be really small. To mince garlic, you may want to use a garlic press.

Cooking Times: Cooking times in recipes are approximate. Your taste testing is far more important than the clock. Check a carrot or a potato and see if it’s tender. The goal is to cook a dish long enough to blend the flavors but not so long that it turns to mush.

Substitutions: All of these recipes can be used as springboards for new inventions. Be creative! You may want to make changes to use up ingredients you have on hand; you may not be able to find an ingredient in the store; or you may just prefer some other ingredient or seasoning. Be brave about trying things you”don’t like”; new combinations and seasonings can change your mind. My rule is — if I’ve tried an ingredient three different ways and I still don’t like it, I cross it off my list.

Most Whole Grains are Interchangeable! All whole grains have bland flavors that are very similar to one another. They do have subtle differences in flavor and texture, so you will probably like some more than others (taste buds are highly individual!) Try several of the different types and decide which ones you like best. Then feel free to use your favorites in any of my recipes, as well as in your own recipes that call for rice or pasta.

Happy healthy eating!