Be Creative! (part deux)

Last time I talked about being creative while using ingredients and tools and materials you have on hand. This time I want to mention how to “spice up” a recipe that you’ve made a bunch of times and now want something slightly different.

For example, I might sub in butterscotch chips for chocolate chips or just add them to the recipe or add nuts or something simple like that.

However, there are other things you can alter in a recipe to make something good, better. Or at least different. Here are some more examples:

  • Brown butter. Melt butter in a pot and let it brown and get a rich nutty aroma. Freeze or refrigerate until solid again. Be sure to scrape all the brown milk solids on the bottom of the pot-this is where the flavor is. This can be used in cakes or cookies or any other quick bread or even streaming through ice cream. Use it like you would butter, except you might need slightly more than what the original recipe calls for.
  • Brown sugar. Adds more flavor to cookies and cake but you have to be careful when substituting this because white sugar and brown sugar is measured differently, try to go by weight and not volume.
  • Using different sweeteners (especially in place of corn syrup). You can easily use honey, agave, molasses, or any combination to sweeten a product to help add a different flavor, but again, I would measure using weight instead of volume to be sure you add the right amount.
  • Using different liquids. Just because a recipe on the back of the cake mix box calls for water doesn’t mean you can’t use orange juice instead to make that “yellow” cake into a citrus-y cake. :)

That should help you get started on being more creative with the cakes and other desserts you’ve gotten bored with over the years. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to alter a recipe just the slightest bit. Remember, it is about the ratio of the ingredients, not everything has to be exactly the same as the original recipe!

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt is: “Are you a fan of a certain actor or actress?  Would you watch anything they’re in?” Had this question come up years ago, I would’ve had a variety of answers. From Whoopi Goldberg to Jennifer Aniston, I can remember a time I would’ve said just about any name out there. However, if you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, my all time favorite actress is Audrey Hepburn. And yes, I would, and pretty much have, watch anything she’s in. I love her not just for he acting, but what she did with UNICEF. She is an inspiration to me and other women because of all the wonderful things she did. She was the best of her times and continues to win the hearts of many people who watch the films she was in and who read her (many) biographies. She was a glamorous woman in every way. While I still love all of those other actresses including Mary Tyler Moore and Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn stands out above the rest.

What are you not a fan of?

It’s kind of hard question to answer. I can tell you I am not a fan of this question. Ha. Ha. I am not a fan of someone typing. their. sentence. like. this. to. add emphasis. It doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense. Along with that, I am not a fan of bad grammar and/or bad spelling. I understand that people type quickly and make mistakes every once in a while. I understand we are all human (I assume-though according to one of the latest RadioLab podcasts-it can be hard to tell.) and we might have typos. But if you are writing a blog or for some online newspaper or something that a lot of people will read, you should try to have correct grammar and spelling. It is so easy to check! Just take one more minute to re-read the article or post before hitting “publish”.

Another thing I am not a fan of is waiting for something just and when you finally get to your turn, you are turned down. For example, when you are in line at the grocery store and then the lane closes right as you are about to get your stuff rung up. Or, even worse, when you (finally) get seated at a restaurant and find out they are out of something on the menu. What’s up with that? As someone who works in the restaurant industry, I don’t understand how a chef that has run the same restaurant for years (and I assume has other restaurant experience) can’t seem to order enough fish for the night. Unless it is a special, and is literally the “catch of the day”, as in the chef went out and caught the fish that morning to sell at the restaurant that night, don’t expect me to come back to a restaurant that runs out of its main entrees early in the night. While on the subject of restaurants, I know that there are already many articles out there that describe pet peeves of chefs and waiters, so I won’t go in to details, but I do think that everyone should have either more patience with their servers and a little more respect for them, so that they can enjoy their night too, or become a server yourself and see how one lives.

There are also several articles out there that talk about words used in the food writing world that have begun to annoy the readers, and I will share some of the ones I am not a fan of: nom nom (as in a sound one might make while eating), delish (and other Rachel Ray type words including yum-o), resie, (short for reservation). When did these “words” get so popular that high-end food writers started using them? Really? They can’t write out something more descriptive?

Hmm…I don’t like ranting so much as raving about something for so long (another thing I am not a fan of!) so I am going to end this post.

Are you the fan of a certain brand?

My answer: yes and no. Yes when it comes down to the  ingredients I bake with (though sometimes left with no other choice) and no to the other things I buy at the supermarket. Some brands have somehow cornered the market on baking ingredients. Take canned pumpkin, for example. What name comes to mind? Libby‘s. Does anyone know of any other brand or of a store brand of canned pumpkin? Or how about a different brand of sweetened condensed milk than Eagle Brand? It is amazing that these brands seem to have a monopoly on the products they make. Can no one else can a pumpkin? or did they try to sell a different brand way back when and got bought out? Are they available elsewhere? Nuts also seem to have a bit of an edge in the supermarket. That seems like the silliest of all to me. They are just nuts. Why is it that Diamond stands out above the rest? I mean, I know that in California, it makes sense, especially in San Francisco, where we insist on everything local, but I know these are shipped everywhere. They must be able to harvest and package nuts more locally elsewhere.

Enough ranting. Besides those brands that have little to no competition, I tend to buy Nestle chocolate chips. I think it’s the nostalgic bit of it or maybe it’s just that it’s usually the cheapest anyway, but something always draws me to the bright yellow bag. I do miss the peanut butter chips, though. They only exist on the East Coast, I think. Anyway, the only ones I found out here were of the Hershey’s (Reese’s) variety and those were quite chalky compared to the smoother version I remember. I have learned that it does not matter if you buy King Arthur’s flour or whatever store brand I’m in flour. It also doesn’t matter which sugar I buy, as long as it is the right color (white or brown) or texture (granulated or powdered) as long as it’s the cheapest.

If I have to buy that brand, of course it goes in my basket. If it’s the cheapest, it goes in. If it tastes better because it’s what I ate growing up, it goes in. Oh, wait, that last part is surely brand loyal. Hmm…okay so I only buy tuna if it’s Bumble Bee, in water, not oil, and I only buy Skippy peanut butter, smooth, not chunky. That’s it. That’s where the line is crossed. No more do I buy Scot toilet paper because that is the brand my mother bought. I am a single gal living in an expensive city that will not allow me to be that loyal to such brands. So there is my yes and no answer to brand loyalty. Hope you are satisfied with such a wishy-washy answer. :)


Be creative!

If you’ve followed this blog for a long time now, you know that I’ve always been a fan of using what I have on hand. But just because you don’t have something-an ingredient, or tool  handy doesn’t mean you have to stop production and/or not do the project you were working on. Here are some examples of ingredients and tools that might be used when you don’t have exactly what the recipe calls for:

  • Brown sugar. You can make your own by mixing white sugar and molasses. Worried about the amount of molasses to add? It doesn’t matter; even when recipes say to use “dark brown sugar” and not “light brown sugar”, I use what I’ve got (usually light brown). As long as you don’t just substitute white sugar for brown sugar because the ratio will be off. Remember, brown sugar is usually packed, so you are going to get more of it in a cup.
  • Cooking spray. It’s just oil in a can. What did they use before this invention? Oil or butter. Can’t get all the soft butter off of the paper after adding the stick to the bowl? Use that butter to grease the pans.
  • Cheese cloth. Need something to strain cheese or other similar substance? Use coffee filters. Coffee filters are also great when baking pie: if you need to par-bake a crust and need to use pie weights, use coffee filters as the lining between the crust and the weights. Much easier than cutting parchment paper to the right size. Which brings me to my next one:
  • Parchment paper. What happened to the good old-fashioned greased pan? If you don’t use too much, you don’t have to worry about that fat adding to the calories you’re about to consume, and it’s definitely the “greener” option.
  • Pie weights. Don’t want to spend $15 or so on pie weights? Just use uncooked beans or rice. Who doesn’t have that on hand?

That should be a good list to get you started on your creative baking/cooking. Remember, don’t let that empty pantry get you down. You can make something out of nothing. Just use your imagination!