Pinch of This, Dash of That: How to Cook Casually


For those of you who love measuring cinnamon for your pancakes and require a step-by-step recipe for making a milkshake, this is for you. Type-A’s and perfectionists, I will teach you how to drop those ambitions when cooking or baking. Of course, if you’re attempting your first souffle, by all means, use a recipe. Baking lends itself to a lot less leeway than does cooking.

Yesterday I found that my kitchen was stocked with many ingredients I haven’t been using – so I combined them all in a pan and popped it in the oven for delicious oatmeal-y granola bars. Breakfast for the week: scoreeeeeeeeeeee! Here is what I put in them (I think): Banana granola bar type treats!

  • Vanilla soy milk/water (ran outta milk) – enough to look like it would cook all the oats. Think oatmeal packet to water ratio.
  • A cup or so of quick-cook ground oats
  • 1 smushy banana that no one was going to eat anyways
  • A handful of Craisins, so I could throw out the almost-empty bag
  • Tons of cinnamon because it’s fall
  • Unsweetened coconut (a lot more than I intended, as the bag did not cooperate with my pouring technique…)
  • A spoonful or two of sugar to make up for that ^^
  • The remnants of a bag of mixed nuts (minus all that salt at the bottom)

I heated the soymilk a tad ahead of pouring it into my mixing bowl, to get the oats to start cooking once I did. Then, I mixed everything together and poured it into a glass lasagna pan. I preheated the oven to about 350 degrees (this isn’t me just being flimsy, the oven is 100 years old and everything involving it is guesswork) and put my concoction in there for a total of around 30 minutes. I set times for every 5-10 minutes though, to keep checking until everything looked cooked. DELICIOUS. Cut it up/spoon it out into separate containers and I’ve got breakfast to bring to my 8 am classes; something that I won’t be able to spill all over the table, either.

I think it’s important to cook without recipes, at least from time to time, to get your brain functioning in a different way. The key is to not invest your entire soul in the success of the outcome; acknowledge the potential for either an amazing snack, or something that will finally force you to take the trash out. I’d also recommend starting with cooking rather than baking – you can saute pretty much anything with garlic or onion and it’ll taste good!

If you’re like me though, you may want to start following recipes! I was writing “105%” on a cake yesterday, and it took me a second to think of which way the slash goes in the percent sign. My roommate jokes that I can’t count past four.  Clearly, I have been too far removed from numbers and science lately. So while you practice throwing ingredients into a pot, I’m going to do a few calc problems to get the left side of my brain functioning again. It’s allll about equality.

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