When cooking, many people feel handcuffed to recipes. However, it is easy to improvise and substitute ingredients.
For example, if a recipe calls for a red pepper and you only have a yellow one, make the dish anyway using the yellow pepper. No scallions? Don’t hesitate to chop up a yellow or red onion instead.
Yesterday in a cooking lesson, I made guacamole with a student. She had made guacamole before, but always had used cilantro. I had brought parsley, which surprised her. She ended up loving what we made, but she said she never would think to make guacamole unless she had all of her usual ingredients available. Substituting never crossed her mind.
We also made a tomato sauce using onions, zucchini and whole peeled tomatoes (to replace her jarred tomato sauces). We added some parsley to finish the sauce, which nicely rounded out its flavor. Why parsley instead of the more conventional basil? It was as simple as not wanting to spend $2.49 for a huge bunch of basil, of which we were going to use two or three leaves. I knew we were going to use the parsley for the guacamole, so it became a part of the tomato sauce as well.
Feel free to tinker with your usual dishes. The change of flavors will be refreshing, less food may get wasted and you may even save yourself some money when shopping.