Thursday, November 27, 2014

Elizabeth's sweet potato with red curry coconut

Sweet potatoes with red curry coconut

From my sister Elizabeth Drake


6 Medium Sweet potatoes
3 Tsp Red Thai Curry
1 Tsp peanut or vegetable oil
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
3 Tbsp butter

  1. Roast the 6 sweet potatoes till soft and peel and mash
  2. In a wok, heat 1 Tsp oil till it just begins to smoke. Add 3 Tsp Red Thai Curry and stir fry until fragrant
  3. Add 3/4 cup coconut milk (be sure to include both solids and liquid if not using a lite coconut milk
  4. Bring curry and coconut to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes
  6. Mix in 1/8 cup of maple or agave syrup, and 2 Tbsp of butter until the butter is melted.
  7. Whip in potatoes with a mixer or masher
  8. Transfer to a broiler safe pan, put the remaining 1 tbsp of butter and 1/8 cup Maple or Agave syrup on top and broil under the broiler in the oven until toasted on top
  9. Serve hot

Serves 6-8 easily - maybe more.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dr. Woodie Flowers on the Future of Education

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Woodie Flowers and all he has done for FIRST Robotics.  He has a unique and interesting perspective on education , which I think deserves a view here.  Some of what he says though isn't consistent.  He says we should have automated and adaptive software to teach subjects - fair enough, but he also says we shouldn't teach to a test or evaluate students based on multiple choice. Most of the adaptive software I've seen needs an assessment to determine if the learner has learned before they move on to the next subject. What does he propose to replace that? Not much really.

Similarly he indicates we should use big data to evaluate teacher performance and teaching best practices and apply them across the board.  Again though - to use big data to make these sorts of projections and assumptions the data must be gathered in the first place - benchmark data, progress data, effectivity data and demographic data.  All things that require some sort of testing and evaluation to determine how well people are learning, and what is actually working.

I would love to see his proposed non-test way of gathering the data required to make these kinds of analysis - truly - because if he can do that he's invented something VERY valuable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The one shoe story contest

One Shoe image
While traveling in downtown Miami I came cross this single shoe - in nearly pristine condition, lying alongside Brickel Avenue near Club Fifty - a high end resort ultra club. I set the shoe on the median and took this picture. I then challenged my facebook friends to write a 1000 word story involving the shoe. The results are shown below and numbered. Each story is submitted by one of my facebook friends, and each story is numbered, but the author is not indicated, and they are restricted from lobbying for or announcing which one is theirs. Starting NOW we will have a judging, run by my facebook friends, to see whose story wins, and they will receive an appropriate prize which I will decide on.

Here are the entries, in no particular order:

Number One:
He looked at the shoe.
The shoe looked at him.
It was a nice shoe. No, "nice" did not cover it. It was an awesome shoe. A fucking awesome shoe. The kind of shoe where the fucking would be awesome. Yeah, that was more like it.
"I said, 'hi!'"
"How much have you had to drink?"
"Clearly either too much or not enough. I should sit down. No. Wait. I'm already sitting down. In the parking lot."
"I'm sitting down. In the parking lot. At . . ." He fumbled for his phone. " . . . 2 o'clock in the morning."
"Hey, Jason! You need help, man?"
Jason swiveled around to see the group he'd been with just coming out of the club.
"No! No. I'm fine. Just taking a breather."
"Okay. Catch you tomorrow!"
Jason watched them move off down the block.
Jason turned back to the shoe. The really great shoe. Narrow toed. Slender strapped. Black. And oh so very spiked. He licked his lips.
"Some friends you have there."
"What? Oh, they're not really my friends. Just some people I hang out with."
"Exactly. The kind of people who'll leave you, drunk, alone in a parking lot at 2:30 in the morning."
"Nope. Time passes when you're having fun. Check your phone."
He checked. It was 2:30.
"You need new friends, Jason. Hell, you need friends, period."
"Hey! I've got friends!"
"Check the phone, Jason. Is there anyone in there who would come get in the middle of the night?"
He looked at the phone in his hand again.
"That's not the point! Where the hell do you get off saying shit like this to me?!"
"I was once you, Jason. A friendless drunk with a shoe fetish."
"Okay. This is getting weird."
"Now it's getting weird? Only now? You're the one talking to a shoe!"
But what a shoe!
"Listen up! Focus, Jason. Focus! Reincarnation is real. And I came back as the thing I loved most."
"You are shitting me. And, what? Wait, you're a guy?"
"Open your mind, Jason. If I'm a talking shoe, all sorts of things are possible!"
"So, like, if you came back as a shoe, where's your mate?"
"I don't have one."
"No way. Shoes come in pairs. We all know that."
"Karma is a bitch, Jason. I loved fucking the women with the shoes more than I loved the women. Now, here I am. Talking to you."
"Oh, hey, like Clarence the angel in . . . uh, that movie! Thing."
"Jason, you make me cringe, but essentially, yes. Only I don't get wings."
"Dude, that sucks! No wings?"
"Nope. But there might be a reward for me in it somewhere. Did you notice I'm sitting by your car?"
"Uh, yeah! Yeah, I did. I was going to my car when I saw you. I was going home. Work tomorrow. Uh, today."
"That's right. You were going to drive home. Very drunk."
"Hey! I was fine! I could drive!"
"Uh, huh. Check your phone, Jason. What time is it?"
"Shit!! It's four fucking a.m.! I am so screwed! I get up in two hours!"
"Yeah. But you will get up. Out of your own bed. . . . Jason?"
"Take me home."

Number TWO:
"Did you lose a shoe last night?"
"Uh, huh. How did you know?"
"Janice, I know you. You 'lose' a shoe every time we go out!"
Janice finally looked up where her friend hung over the cubicle wall.  She took another sip of coffee.
"I have such bad luck hanging onto my shoes. I party, I lose a shoe." She shrugged.
Marielle rolled her eyes. "Did this one have an ankle strap?"
"Right. I am so onto you! Just how many times did you watch that Disney movie as a kid?"
"I don't know. Who keeps track?"
"And that picture on your desk? Of you in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical?"
"I like community theater!"
"Uh, huh. Do you really think you're being sneaky? I've seen you! Carefully placing a shoe - excuse me - displaying a shoe, upright, under a street lamp. Every time we're calling it a night and heading for home! This is Miami Beach, not Fairy Tale Village! Do you really think the finder of the shoe could find you, even if he wanted to?"
Janice shrugged again, smiling a bit. "So. Do you want to go shopping at lunch? I need more shoes."
"Count me in."

Number THREE:

Clarice walked briskly down the sidewalk, her heels clicking as she moved and throwing a barrage of light from the shiny back end of them. Her mind spun through the situation she found herself in, the Agency had certainly sent her to less desirable locations before. Alaska had been a royal bitch, but apparently that was where the last of the endangered pygmy albino grey seals were seen. A curse flew out of her lips as she thought about the company she worked for. Alaska? For a seal normally found around Ireland? At least if she had gone there she'd have been able to keep herself happy with a large drink while she worked, and probably for cheaper as well. $8 for a Corona? Were these people mad?

Clearly the city wasn't for her.

"Young and beautiful or old and rich... No place for those of us just trying to make an honest day's work..." She muttered, turning a corner.

A glance at her watch showed 19:53 in a dull blue light. Seven minutes left, max, and she'd be off shift for the next week. The damn animal would be someone else's problem and she could enjoy the time remaining before she got shipped off to some other part of the planet in another mad quest. Just walk another block or so and pray the tracker didn't connect with- shit.

The watch that was only moments ago filling her with hope just jumped to one of the possessions she would least like to have as it began to buzz wildly. With a quick button click it fell silent again.
She frowned and ran a hand through her long red hair, discretely bumping the edge of her glasses with a finger and eliciting a brief, high pitch whine. It might be a bug after all, it was a new system they were testing out.

"John, did you get that?" She murmured softly, knowing the microphone would pick it up. "I got a hit but I don't see anything around here."

The sound of Cheeto-dust covered hands being rubbed clean together caused her left eye to twitch, "Yeah, I got something Clara. Heading your way, only reading about ten miles an hour but accelerating. They'll be doing about fifty when they hit your location, maybe a minute thirty from now. Anything around you can use to chase them? Your odds of stopping them on foot are nil."
"No, the boss told me not to spend the whole shift in the car again. Said I was being an idiot and making myself looks suspicious. Who's the idiot now? See if you can get into one of those street cameras, I'm going to try and slow them down. Maybe we'll get lucky with a look at the plate, then it'll be intel's job and I can have my vacation."

A dull grunt was the only confirmation that she got, followed by the squeak of a rolling chair and the noisy click of someone hammering on a computer keyboard for all they were worth. She slipped her heels off and sighed at the feeling of cool pavement on her feet. She freed a kunai from one of her heels and whipped the now useless footwear to the side, smiling as it bounced off a wall and clattered into a can. She reached down for the second as a voice came back over the speaker set in her ear.
"Shit, I lied. Fifteen seconds, they're armed, get down!"

With a mumbled prayer she dove against a doorway and held the knife steady, listening as the roaring of an engine got louder
"You see me, John? Count me down, if we time it right I might be able to take out a tire. Won't stop them here, but it'll slow them down enough for you to get a good shot of the car if you keep tracking them."

"Got it, ten seconds."
Clarice drew her arm back and loosened her grip on the weapon, preparing to throw.
The sound of a bag rustling and chewing suddenly came over the speakers, causing her to grit her teeth.
"Damnit, John, stop stuffing your face for just a few seconds!"
"Hey, I'm running on a fifteen hour shift here! A man needs to keep up his energy! They should have laws against this much work!"
"Well maybe if you would haul yourself to the gym instead of-"

Clarice's arm snapped forward and the blade left her fingers at a massive speed. There was a loud pop and the black car lurched to the side just moments after entering her field of vision before righting itself and tearing off, throwing up rubber and sparks behind it.

"Nice! Oh man, if I could show my Call of Duty buddies that they'd be-"

"Are you going to get a shot of it or not?"

She stepped off the threshold of the door she was pressed against and ran out into the street, grabbing up all the spare tire scraps and dumping them into another garbage bin.

"Yeah, you got a nice hit. They'll get maybe another three miles max before they need to change out vehicles, that tire is gone. And that's if they want to leave scorch marks the whole way behind them. Take your vacation kid, you did a nice job today."

"I'm not a kid." She flicked her glasses, knowing the noise would nearly blow out the speakers on the receiving side.

Breaking into a jog, she followed the sound of music, never realizing that she completely forgot to pick up the one heel left back on the ground.

"Well, I might not be young and beautiful or old and rich, but I can pool dance with the best of them..."
VOTE NOW AT ONE SHOE STORY - you must have a facebook account to vote.

    Friday, May 2, 2014

    Lee's Vegetable Emmer Pasta

    Vegetable Emmer Pasta
    • 4 garlic scapes sliced thinly
    • Yellow Pepper, cut into 1/2" squares.
    • 2 Tomatoes cut into 1/2" chunks
    • 2 cups mini portabella mushroom caps, cut into thick slices.
    • 1 Cup fresh or frozen peas
    • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
    • Dried Greek oregano
    • Dried Greek Sage
    • Fresh Thyme
    • Fresh Coriander
    • Fresh Parsley
    • Olive oil
    • Lemon Olive oil
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 15 oz can san marzano tomatoes, whole
    • 1 can tomato paste
    • Sea Salt to taste
    • Black pepper to taste
    • 3/4 cups dry Emmer Pasta per serving.  Sauce stores well.
    Put water on to boil with salt for Pasta.

    In a large cast iron skillet with deep sides (I use a 10) Saute the spices except the coriander and parsley, including the scapes in EVOO till fragrant. Add pepper and mushrooms and sauté till the mushrooms are brown and the peppers start to get a dark char on the outside (not burned, just brown). Stir constantly. Once the veggies are ready add the wine and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the lemon olive oil and mix thoroughly to coat. Put heat on medium (not low) and simmer till mostly reduced and the gravy starts to get thick. Add the San Marzano Tomatoes, the peas and the tomato chunks to the gravy and roughly chop the San Marzanos with the edge of your spatula. Add the tomato paste at this time too. Stir to mix thoroughly it should be thick and chunky. If too thick add a few tablespoons of chicken stock to the water. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, but the mixture should still be bubbling.
    Once all is thoroughly mixed, add the emmer pasta to the water, and cook both the pasta and sauce for about 8-10 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Stir the pasta occasionally and mix the sauce to be sure it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom. If the sauce become to thick you can add in some of the pasta water a spoonful or two - but the sauce SHOULD be nice and thick and chunky. Add the parsley just before serving.  You can add salt pepper and other spices to taste.  Note that it takes very little red pepper to zip it up.  I purposefully didn't put amounts on the spice ingredients - make it to taste.
    Drain the al dente pasta and add a 1/2 tsp of the lemon olive oil to the pasta mixing thoroughly. Serve pasta covered with sauce and parmesan cheese and a nice fresh salad.

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Mediterranean Ham Pasta


    * 2 servings of your choice of pasta (I used a Ukrainian egg pasta here)
    * 1 1/2 thick slice from a cured smoked ham, fat and all, cubed into 1/2" cubes
    * 1/2 cup assorted pitted olives, chopped
    * 1/4 cup olive tampenade
    * 1/4 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
    * 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, not sliced
    * 1/2 cup frozen peas
    * Parmesan cheese for garnish
    * 3 cloves garlic - chopped
    * 1/4 cup white wine
    * 1/4 cup (approx) pasta water reserved from making pasta
    * Optional parsley for garnish
    * Plain EVOO for saute
    * Single source Italian or Greek EVOO for dressing


    Prep pasta:
    1) Prepare pasta in salted water, should be a little bit firmer than al dente - time varies by pasta type
    2) Drain water into a bowl, so that you can use it later, when draining pasta. Set pasta aside in a cool container so it doesn't continue to cook
    3) If you are experienced with pasta you can do this while sauteing the other ingredients. If not prepare it ahead of time.

    1) Heat 2 tbsp plain EVOO in a cast iron skillet till almost smoking
    2) Add garlic and ham, continually stir fry until the fat from the ham starts to gel and the ham starts to brown.  Ham is ALREADY COOKED so don't overdo this step.
    3) Once ham is sizzling away add the olives, Tampenade, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes
    4) Saute for a few minutes in the hot oil and fat from the ham, stirring constantly until you can smell the olives cooking.
    5) Just before ready to add pasta add salt and pepper to taste, add frozen peas.  If using fresh peas add them a little earlier
    6) Add 1/4 cup white wine and reduce for a couple minutes and 1/4 cup pasta water and bring to a boil.
    7) Add pasta to bring up to temp and warm through, pasta should be al dente
    8) Transfer immediately to a bowl and pour 2-3 tblsp of high-end EVOO and mix thoroughly
    9) Serve while hot, grate parmesan over top to taste.  If you want garnish with whole parsley.

    Goes well with an Italian White Wine or a Semi-Sweet Reisling.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Szechuan Chicken stir fry

    Szechuan chicken stir fry


    * 1/2 of a yellow pepper chopped into squares...
    * 1/2 of a red pepper chopped into squares
    * Thinly sliced carrot (1)
    * Thinly sliced parsnip (2)
    * 3 celery stalks sliced thinly
    * 4 green onion (scallion). Chop and separate dark green from light green
    * 1 yellow onion sliced thin
    * Fresh Bean Sprouts
    * 2" piece of ginger, grated

    * 2 chicken breasts, marinated in teriyaki sauce for at least 8 hours, then sliced into bite size pieces
    * Szechuan pepper
    * Potato starch
    * Peanut oil for frying

    * 1/8 cup Aged dark soy
    * 1/8 cup Oyster sauce
    * 2 Tbsp. potato starch mixed with cold water.
    * Szechuan pepper
    * Salt and pepper to taste


    Drain and pat the chicken dry, slice across the grain into bite size pieces. Mix potato starch and 1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. of freshly ground Szechuan pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the potato starch and pepper and set aside on a plate. Heat peanut oil in wok over high heat. Slide (Carefully) each piece of chicken in batches of 4-6 pieces into the hot oil and fry until light brown on each side. Use a slotted spatula to flip and take the pieces out with tongs. Place cooked chicken on a paper towel on a plate to drain the oil. Each piece should be crispy on the outside, and cooked through and moist on the inside. If your chicken comes out oily or soggy you don't have enough heat. If it is smoky or the chicken is brown outside but not cooked through the heat is too high.  Once all the chicken is cooked, carefully pour the oil off and wipe the pan clean with paper towels being careful not to burn yourself. Return the pan to the stove..

    Add 2 tblsp of peanut oil to hot wok, and put in the grated ginger. Fry ginger till it starts to turn brown. Add the onion and the white part of the scallions and stir fry until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the carrot, parsnip and celery, and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes, add the pepper and stir fry another 1-2 minutes.

    Add the dark soy sauce, and oyster sauce to the pan and heat until boiling. Add the green onions and sprouts to the pan, and quickly toss to mix all the ingredients and the sauce. Add cold potato starch and water slowly while stirring to thicken the mixture. Once the sauce is the right consistency, add the chicken back into the stirfry, mix and heat through. Taste and add salt, pepper and Szechuan pepper as needed.  Remove from heat and serve with white or brown rice and a side salad.

    Optional add-ons - baby bok choy sliced in 1/2, Nappa cabbage, garlic with meat.

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

    Sriracha and Wasabi Deviled eggs

    I ran across this recipe online and made them up as an afternoon snack.  This is 1/3 the recipe listed below (4 eggs rather than 12). 

    What a perfectly FABULOUS Asian variant on an American classic appetizer. These were full of delicious!

    You do have to make them ahead of time as the eggs marinate in a mixture for at least 4 hours, but oh are they worth the wait. Hard to see from the picture but you have a nice chestnut brown finish to the outside where the soy, sake, anise, ginger and scallions soaked into the egg, nice and salty and sweet. The yolks were mixed with sriracha sauce and wasabi and mayo - so zippy but not burn your mouth off zippy. The puddle in the middle is more sriracha to zip it up. They are sprinkled with 5 spice powder instead of the traditional paprika.

    These are not for the faint of tastebud - they are spicy - but they are not rip your face off spicy.  They could be spicier of course - more Wasabi and Sriracha in the mix.

    Facebook Post by Lee Drake.

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Making your diet interesting

    So a friend asked me - how do you cook such a wide variety of dishes all the time - an endless stream of new ideas and things to make.  So I ended up answering him in a series of Facebook comments.  I thought I'd repeat some of it here and expand on them, as there's some really useful hints for both varying your food and for organizing cooking.  Some of may seem like common sense - unless you aren't used to cooking every day, or preparing things beyond something microwaved out of a frozen dinner.


    In general I have about 15 go-to cookbooks, some of which are oriented towards quick preparation, others to more elaborate dishes. I make a list at the beginning of the week of what I'm going to make, hit the grocery store or market for fresh ingredients (picking up things that might be useful but maybe not planned that look fresh or interesting along the way) and then plan the week out.  I'm not even going to publish which cookbooks here, because realistically the relationship between a cookbook and a cook is unique. One I like you may not. One you like may not be the right thing for me.  But cookbooks are essential to getting off the ground. Once you have made a number of various chinese stirfries from a recipe, and you know what each taste like you can mess around with ingredients to get more spice, less spice, heavier garlic etc.  Eventually you won't need the cookbook and will know about the right proportions for everything.

    The cookbooks are of two varieties - ethnic cookbooks with ethnic foods, and cookbooks with a specific theme (bread, quick to make meals, desserts, etc.). I try to have at least one ethnic cookbook from each major type of cuisine (There are still some I don't have, but I have all the major ones). I try to vary meals between ethnicities because one thing too often makes for boredom. So in any one week I might do a thai dish, a steak, a roast chicken from france, and a Chinese stirfry. Next week I might do indian, Mediterranean and Italian. Generally 3-4 full home cooked meals each week, and the rest of the time leftovers (most meals are for 4 in most cookbooks, so if you make that it is good for 2 meals.)


    Recipes are guidelines - you should try a new recipe pretty much the way it's written the first time (unless you're already familiar with all the tastes and how they go together).  TASTE ALL THE TIME - as you're cooking check what you're making so that you know what it tastes like.  Don't know if the pasta is done?  Ignore the timer - take a piece out and blow on it and try it - too stiff, leave it in.  Perfectly al dente, drain it.  Overdone and mushy - drain it fast and maybe even run cold water on it to stop it cooking.  Recipe doesn't call for salt and pepper but the dish is missing something at the end - add a bit of spice at a time till it's right.  I have an entire cookbook that never asks you to add salt and pepper to taste - though many of the recipes need both.

    Planning and scheduling

    I look at the week in terms of what we're doing. Going to Robotics on Tuesday - great, we'll pull some leftover Bolognese out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, boil up some noodles, and dinner's done. Have more time - cook something more elaborate. Have time one day but not the next? Cook something elaborate for 4 and eat the leftovers the next day.

    On weekends I generally make large or crockpot dishes - especially if we're not having guests over - because I can typically freeze an entire meal from something like that. When the freezer gets full, we start eating meals out of it more frequently until there is space again.

    I save dishes with lots of prep work or mise en place for when I have time to cook or we're going to do a late dinner.

    I use groceryIQ for shopping - an app and website that lets me toss stuff on the list from home or my phone and either Val or I can toss it on. It organizes foods by category, and keeps frequently purchased items so you can just reshop them when you need them. It will reorganize your list by the aisle order in the grocery store so if you're shopping you're hopefully not criss crossing all over the store looking for stuff (a major advantage at say Pittsford Wegmans on a Sunday afternoon).

    I eat packaged foods rarely, and usually as an ingredient with something else that is self prepared. I never buy things like frozen dinners.

    Building your kitchen spice library

    Over time I've developed an EXTREMELY extensive spice collection - and I have an entire shelf in the fridge dedicated to just sauces of various types (curries, plum sauce, oyster sauce, various types of soy, chili sauce, etc. etc.). Periodically I cull it and toss stuff that's either got too little to actually use or is past due. When I do I typically just toss it on the grocery list to replace, but don't open till I need it (since it doesn't need to go in the fridge till opened in most cases).

    Be Adventurous

    Don't be afraid of trying new things. Be adventurous.  And for heaven's sake - shop local farmers markets, ethnic food markets and places like local butchers or fishmongers for your food.  Talk to the proprietors and get to know them.  You will be amazed at the variety of things that are out there that never make it to Aisle 12 at your local commercial grocery store.  Never cooked Turkish food? No problem - buy a cookbook.  Don't know what an ingredient is - take the book to an ethnic market and ask them to help you find it (or a suitable substitute).  You might find yourself trading recipes with the proprietor.  Have something awesome at a restaurant - ask if they'll share the recipe.  You'd be surprised how many will.  Get to know other foodies and chefs and trade tips and cookbooks and recipes.

    Mise En Place

    A secret of every person whose ever worked in a commercial restaurant is that they quickly learn the importance of preparation ahead of time.  Read the entire recipe before you start.   Are there things in there that say stuff like 1/4 cup finely diced celery.  If you wait to dice that celery until you need it you are almost certainly going to throw off the cooking time for something else in the recipe as it waits for you.  Mise is about doing all that prep work ahead of time. I have a bunch of small dishes and bowls that I will pre-measure spices into, or chop up some fresh herb and have it all measured out.  When it comes time to add it to the recipe you just dump it in and move on.  No waiting.  Unless the recipe specifically says something like "while the soup is simmering cut and clean the vegetables" do the prep work before you turn on the stove.  Know you're going to need boiling water for noodles later?  Toss the pot on the stove and get the water hot while you're chopping vegetables.  Think ahead.

    One Super Secret OneNote

    My super-secret method for organizing menus and dishes I like involves the Microsoft product OneNote.  This product is a shared notebook that is PERFECT for compiling and sharing your own cookbook of recipes.  You can copy and paste a recipe from virtually any website, complete with pictures and formatting.  Or you can take a photo of a recipe in a cookbook, or at a friends house or whatever and toss it into OneNote which will OCR the photo and make all the text searchable.  You can share it using Microsoft Skydrive (mine is shared with my family so I can easily capture my mom's, my sister's and everyone's recipes.  When one of us gets a recipe we like we drop it into the notebook. Now you can't publicly publish that unless all your recipes are original - but to keep it organized yourself it's invaluable.  Don't like a recipe - delete the page.  Needs more salt - make the change right there in OneNote.

    OneNote is FREE with Microsoft Office, and you can use a free skydrive account to share it with friends or relatives - just "move" the notebook there, and click File/Share/Get an editing sharing link.  The person you are sharing with doesn't even need to have OneNote as there's a web app that works great too.  You can even install OneNote on your mobile phone - it's a lot like Evernote.

    Know your limitations

    I don't do dairy.  My wife doesn't eat Walnuts.  Be sure that when you sit down to plan out that awesome meal you're going to make that it doesn't involve an allergen for you or your dinner guests.  If it does, and the ingredient is optional - put it on the side.  I make a mean lasagna - but my side has like 1/4 the cheese my wife's does and 2x the sauce.  It works out, mine is still yummy and moist hers is cheesy and gooey.

    Know what equipment you have on hand and what you can substitute.  If a recipe recommends a pasta machine and you don't have one - can you borrow one to see if it's something you ever want to do again?  Or can you do it by hand the first time?

    Have fun.  Make mistakes

    Sometimes what you make tastes - bad.  But that's ok, because even if you toss it and order pizza or something you LEARNED SOMETHING - you don't like the particular spices or ingredients.  The recipe said cook it at 450 for 2 hours, but it was dry and tough - try it at a lower temp or a shorter time next time.  And experiment.  Made that Bolognese sauce before?  Think about what might taste good with it that's not in the recipe.  Use a spicy Italian sausage instead of mild.  Try a fennel sausage from  your local Italian deli.  Add pork belly instead of bacon.  Increase or decrease an ingredient.  If you're tasting as you go along you can adjust as you go along.  Remember that you can always add more of something but removing a taste is a lot harder.  But open up to experimenting with ingredients and spices once you know the basics of how something is put together.  Worst comes to worst it's an excuse to go out to dinner. Be sure to note suggestions for improvement or variations you come up with when you taste something in your cookbook or OneNote - so that the next time you make it you know what to do.  Cookbooks were not meant to stay pristine.