I love to cook. Trying new recipes and putting together interesting and tasty meals is one of my favorite things. But trying new recipes can get expensive, since it seems like there’s always at least one thing that I don’t have on hand. So I’ve learned to improvise, and it usually works just fine.
Yesterday, I came across this recipe for raw strawberry cobbler at Kristen’s Raw – a blog that I’m loving. Yum. The picture alone was enough to make me want to try it. I eat a lot of raw food, mostly in the form of veggies and fruits. I’ve done some experimenting with making more complicated raw things, but I’ve found that the grocery bill that goes along with them can be painful. Things like organic dates and cashews are not cheap – but they sure are tasty, so I buy them every once in a while as a treat. Anyway, last night at 10pm I wanted to make this strawberry cobbler. But I was missing about half the ingredients, didn’t want to make a trip to the store, and didn’t want to spend any money. So I improvised. For the cobbler part, I used about a cup of almonds, half a cup of oats, half a cup of raisins, and a tiny scoop of dark chocolate chips. I put them in my food processor with a few teaspoons of water and processed them until I had a crumbly concoction. I put that into bowls, and started on the strawberry part. I had a pint of organic strawberries, and an orange. I put them in the food processor with a teaspoon of honey, blended until it was smooth, and poured it over the cobbler. Turned out fantastic. Probably not quite as good as it would have been with coconut and currants in it, but it was a perfect summer treat anyway, and I was able to make it using just the stuff I had on hand.
I tend to be inspired by recipes. It’s rare that I have all the ingredients, so I make substitutions and changes all the time. I’ve rarely had anything turn out bad. Some things – like baking powder or yeast – are vital to the outcome of a recipe. But most of the time, you can improvise and it will be just fine. So if you have a recipe and it’s going to take $40 to buy the ingredients, I challenge you to look around your fridge and pantry and see how you can alter the recipe to make it work with what you have. And by the way, I’m the last person anybody would have thought would be doing creative cooking. My mother is a great cook, but I was never all that interested in learning when I lived with my parents. In college, some of my friends decided to have one night a week where we went to each others houses for a meal, and when it was my turn we always had sandwiches. This is a relatively recent development – I only learned to cook about ten years ago (when I went to Africa with the Peace Corps and had to learn to feed myself without a microwave or starve), and started getting creative with it about five years ago. So give it a try – I bet you can turn out some pretty tasty stuff with what you have in your cupboards right now.