I make almost everything from scratch and maintain a bountiful organic garden in my front and back yard that produces year round, fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs. I realize cooking almost everything from scratch can be overwhelming and unrealistic for some, thus improvise and modify any recipe to your needs, taste and lifestyle. Cooking should not be stressful, but inspiring and exciting.
I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful regions in the United States, Southern California. We produce some of the best organic produce in the nation. The organic heirloom tomatoes we currently grow now rival Italy's. Cooking with tasteless, genetically modified tomatoes, corn, apples and other conventional produce and meats usually results in an inferior tasting end product.
I don't own a microwave and I don't believe in using radiation as a way of cooking fine, fresh organic foods. Thus, my recipes never include microwave instructions. Bottom line, I don't like the way a microwave changes the flavors of foods.
A word about "or to taste." Everyone's body chemistry is different. Something that tastes very spicy to one person may not be spicy enough for another. Something that has a lot of flavor to one person may taste dull and bland to another. Thus, cook for your taste buds and season as much or as little as your heart desires.
I use real organic butter, cheese, milk, creams, yogurts etc., in all my recipes. Highly processed foods that change the natural chemical makeup of foods to make them "low fat" or "low carb" usually contributes to an inferior tasting end product (yuck!). The fat that is taken out has to be replaced with something and usually it is filler in the form of chemicals and preservatives that are detrimental to your health. Eaten in large quantities, these fillers will promote weight gain and affect your overall wellbeing. Our bodies are designed to digest natural, organic foods. If our culture ate smaller portions and ate everything (proteins and carbs) in moderation, we would be a healthier, slimmer society. I am a firm believer that the fountain of youth is found in daily exercise and eating a healthy diversified diet of organic meats, fruits and vegetables.
A couple of my favorite techniques to enrich flavors are reducing liquids and using sea salt, kosher salt or fleur de sel in place of regular iodized table salt. Reducing liquids intensifies the flavors of a sauce, stock, or any liquid. This in turn results in a richer tasting dish. The above alternative salts (and there are others as well such as grey salt) maintain a mellower, milder flavor than regular salt. Using these unconventional salts will cleverly bring out the subtle layers of flavors in a dish or sauce without making it taste salty. Thus, when you see the phrase "or to taste," go ahead grab a spoon or even better, use your finger and taste the dish you are cooking each step of the way! You will be on your way to developing a superior palette and enjoy a richer cooking experience.
Happy organic cooking!