Home cooks never have had more resources available to them.
Cookbooks are one of the few segments of the publishing industry that is thriving, and there are just as many magazines filled with recipes.
We've gone from the days of just Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet to two cable networks devoted exclusively to food, the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, and several other channels feature cooking shows and / or food-related programming.
Tribune Chronicle / Andy Gray
The way most of us find out about new recipes is from our friends. With a food page due and inspiration lacking, I decided to turn to my friends. I put out the call on Facebook: Send me a favorite recipe. Bev Balger Sutley included a recipe for Navajo Stew.
And there's no greater resource than the Internet. Type the name of a dish or an ingredient into a search engine, and literally hundreds of recipes or variations - many of them with bacon - will pop up within seconds.
But despite those innovations, some things never change. The way most of us find out about new recipes is from our friends. The only difference is, instead of trading recipes over the backyard fence, we trade them over Facebook or Pinterest and through email.
With a food page due and inspiration lacking, I decided to turn to my friends. I put out the call on Facebook: Send me a favorite recipe.
1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup quick oats (not instant)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick margarine, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking cocoa
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. chocolate chips
In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the oats. Let stand 10 minutes.
With a whisk, stir in the sugar, brown sugar, softened margarine (it will melt from the heat) and the eggs.
Mix together the baking soda, baking cocoa, flour, salt and 6 oz. of the chocolate chips.
Add to the sugar, oats and egg mixture and stir with the whisk.
Pour into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle the remainder of the chocolate chips on top. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 sweet peppers (red/green), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion cut however you please, but not too small
4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Preheat oven at 450 degrees. Spray cookie sheet lightly with oil.
Toss the fresh vegetables with the oil and seasonings, and roast for 10 minutes. Stir the veggies and roast another 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes, chipotle and cilantro in the blender to make the sauce.
Combine the roast veggies, beans and sauce in a casserole dish, mixing well. Return to the oven to heat through, about 15 minutes. (If you're not vegetarian, you can add smoked kielbasa cut into bite-sized pieces, mixing them in before the final 15 minute baking.)
Good with cornbread or flatbread. Can be garnished with a dollop of sour cream, too.
Former Tribune Chronicle reporter Amy McCullough Hudson sent a decadent trifle with brownies and a whipped cream infused with Bailey's Irish Cream. Melissa Miller of Miller Livestock in Kinsman sent - surprise! - a vegetarian recipe, a macaroni and cheese with Swiss chard.
Jim Witters, a friend from college, offered up a slow cooker chili recipe that he got from a friend.
All of these are going to get a chance in the Gray kitchen some time soon.
A couple of friends from high school couldn't limit themselves to just one.
We're always on the lookout for vegetarian recipes that are substantial enough to feel like an entree instead of an oversized portion of a side dish.
Bev Balger Sutley included a recipe for Navajo Stew, which is in Moosewood's ''Simple Suppers'' cookbook. According to Sutley, a vegetarian friend was visiting ''two carnivores who couldn't think of anything besides grilled cheese to serve her.'' The friend introduced them to this recipe, and those carnivores are happy to eat it when no vegetarians are around (and they usually double or triple it to have leftovers).
There's only a tablespoon of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce in the recipe, but that and the cumin give the vegetables a smoky zing. And the sweet potatoes and black beans make for a filling bowl worthy of being called a stew.
Everyone in the house loved it. And I doubled the recipe to make sure there would be leftovers.
Now, after eating all those healthy, fiber-rich vegetables, it was time for a treat.
Linda McQuinn Ashley, a high school friend who regularly makes drool-worthy Facebook posts about what's cooking in her kitchen, sent along three recipes. A chicken wing dish with a sticky Teriyaki sauce definitely sounded worth trying, but the recipe that was irresistible was for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake.
Ashley, who works in a real estate office, wrote, ''One of my agents in my Kentucky office used to bring this cake in, and it was gone so quickly. It's a recipe that his mother made, only she never had a written recipe. So Butch actually sat down and watched her make it while writing everything down. Now I can make it whenever the mood strikes. I know she has passed on, but this cake always brings back wonderful memories of friends I used to work with.''
The oatmeal in the super-moist cake is barely detectible, and the oversized Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips I used really seemed to bring out the chocolatey goodness.
We added a dollop of whipped cream on top, and it would be great with vanilla ice cream as well or all by its lonesome. This cake didn't need any accouterments to shine.
I'm sure we'll make both of these again, and the recipes will go in my wife's file folders - I'm not nearly that organized - that include many handwritten instructions from old acquaintances.
When it comes to cooking, we get by with a little help from our friends.