Discovering that food is forgiving, is something that has taken time to digest.

With a rigid background in the hospitality industry and an education at one of the countries leading culinary institutions, I’ve learned to embrace recipe specifications. 

That is until I began working for small businesses. Often the exact set of ingredients you may need is not available, or you are faced with an abundance of something you didn’t need. For example, I once ordered 50lbs of potatoes instead of 5lbs. 

These are the situations I thrive in now. By asking myself what I have, rather than what I want, I find I can do more with less. 

COVID-19 is forcing so many of us to cancel the meal kits, cut down on take-out and reduce trips to the grocery store all while standing in front of our fridge groaning “I literally have NOTHING to eat.” I can assure you, that’s not the case.

The following are a few tricks I like to use to maximize what I have on hand, as well as a versatile cake “recipe” I like to use with pantry odds and ends. 

Make your own damn stock 

Honestly. It’s so simple and yields far superior results than what you’ll find in a carton. Begin by saving your fruit, vegetable and poultry scraps (peels, nubs, stems, wilty bits, old herbs, citrus rind, apple cores, chicken bones, skins, giblets, etc). Roast your scraps with some tomato paste until they are aromatic and golden. Then, add these scraps to a pot, along with aromatics (such as bay leaf, miso, coriander seeds, peppercorns, chilli flakes) and top it with cold water. Bring your stock to a simmer, skimming any scum that rises to the top in the process. Strain the stock (KEEP THE LIQUID), once you are happy with the way it tastes. 

Repurpose your leftovers 

I hate eating the same thing twice in one week. This is problematic when batch cooking. Try cooking your leftover grains in a pan as a form of “fried rice” or a crispy pancake. Turn steamed broccoli into a chilli lemon pesto. Roast cooked legumes in the oven for a crunchy salad topping. The possibilities are endless.

Use your stems

Herbs like cilantro, parsley, tarragon or dill have stems that are just as delicious as their precious leaves. Save time by quickly picking your herbs and chop your washed bunch as is with stems included. Further, vegetables with stocky stems like broccoli can be shredded on a cheese grater to make a slaw.

Use your recipes as a guide

I like to read a recipe over until I understand the method, then set it aside and use my intuition. Start with something simple (like a salad dressing) and allow this new skill to grow until you are confident enough to try something trickier. Practice makes “perfect.”

Pantry Cake Recipe

The concept of a pantry cake is to use what you have on hand. I promise this cake will be gentle. Don’t be intimidated. Even if it does not rise, is too dense or too crumbly, you have no one to impress right now! Toss your delicious mess into a bowl, top it with icing and make a note of what you would change for next time.

Pantry Cake Guide

Dry (whisk together):

1 cup ground oats/oat flour

½ cup almond meal

1 tsp baking soda

1tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Warm spices (think carrot cake, apple/pumpkin pie and oatmeal cookie spices)

Wet (whisk together and add to dry):

2 eggs

¼ cup melted coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup sour cream

2 tbsp milk of choice

½ tsp vanilla

Mix-Ins (fold into the finished batter)

1.5 cup shredded carrot

Handful each of raisins, toasted almonds and coconut

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes in something close to the size of an 8inch cake pan. Cool and top with glaze or frosting of choice. 

Substitutions:

Only oat flour — add more milk

Only almond flour — add an extra egg

No eggs — make a flax or chia egg, or use applesauce instead

No sour cream — try yogurt, labneh or cottage cheese

Sub melted coconut oil for butter or any other oil of choice

No maple- sub honey (⅓ cup) or sugar of choice 

Taylor Devalk is a trained chef, nanny and active member of the DTK community.