I use recipes, but only as a starting point. I use them to learn proportions and specific techniques that I never would have picked up on.
Great example - the curry I made last night sugggested stirring in fish sauce and brown sugar at the end. I would've thought of fish sauce, which I had downstairs already, but I had to run upstairs for the sugar.
I think I could make green curry from scratch (with a recipe, mind you, but without a ton of measuring) but this Thai Kitchen green chili paste has a fantastic ingredient list: chili, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, salt, onion, pepper, rhizome, lime, peanut oil. That's it! Totally something you'd expect to have seen in some small ethnic supermarket in a big city - and it makes bangin' curry. I need more coconut milk.
Hell, I could put green curry paste in macaroni and cheese. New flavors are wonderful!