Kitchen Fumbles and Kitchen Fixes

Jennifer Cheng has had her share of cooking fumbles and foibles, but more often than not, her scrappy fixes pay off. Learn from some of her missteps and what she did to save the day in the kitchen.

Funny things happen when I try to follow recipes.

Despite working above a grocery store, having an overstuffed pantry and sharing an office with our Culinary Content Editor, I often find myself straying off course, even when I have the best intentions of following a recipe.

I’ve never been great at following dress codes and I have issues when given too many rules and restrictions, so it makes sense that I would push the boundaries when it comes to recipes too. I’ve had my share of fumbles and foibles, but more often than not, my scrappy kitchen fixes pay off. I definitely don’t let my lack of preparedness keep me out of the kitchen!

Out of Oats

Just the other day I began a recipe for Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies opens in a new tab from our friends at Food52, but I realized that I only had about 1/3 of the oats called for in the recipe. So I thought I’d replace the rest of the oats with the random bag of spelt flakes in the back of the pantry, only to find that they’d gone past their shelf life and smelled suspicious. After tossing those, I remembered that I had a (newer) container of ancient grain granola, so  that went into the mixing bowl and the dough went into the refrigerator to rest.

But that’s not all. Since I don’t like my baked goods overly sweet, I had already cut down the sugar, but I worried that with the chocolate chips and now the granola, they’d still be too sweet. So what did I do? I added bacon!

I know baking is an exact science, so as I rendered the bacon lardons, I began to doubt the risks I took. Would the granola cook faster than the oats and burn before the cookie was ready? What if the bacon tasted awful with chocolate?

In the end, it all worked out. The extra fat from the bacon made the cookies spread out to take on a thin tuile-like appearance. I had a few and they were delicious. Everywhere I took them, they produced smiles and were quickly devoured. I consider that a success!

A Too-Salty Broth

On another occasion, I discovered that the bones and trimmings that I had left over from a brined turkey produced a broth that was way too salty. I was determined not to toss it, so I followed a friend’s advice of adding a peeled, raw potato.

A little simmering later, and the potato had absorbed some of the extra saltiness! I added a squeeze of lemon to further counter the salt and it made a wonderful base for soup.

The Missing Milk

I don’t drink milk often, so I rarely have it in my refrigerator at the ready for recipes. I’ve found that plain non-dairy beverages or the plain yogurt I have on hand for breakfast work really well as substitutes — and for dense cakes, using Greek yogurt actually results in a pleasantly moist crumb.

Some Meatloaf Magic

My mom, who considers recipes more like loose guidelines than rules, also has some pretty good tricks — she’s known to replace the milk-soaked bread in meatloaf recipes with crumbled crackers, cooked rice or oatmeal. We loved her meatloaf and we never knew the difference!

In the event your kitchen fumble really does turn into a full-blown situation, we’re always here for you. You can stop by our stores opens in a new tab and buy batches of cookies good enough to call your own. Or you can go for the ultimate kitchen fix — ordering your meal online at opens in a new tab.

What are the kitchen saves you’re most proud of? Share your favorite fixes so we can all learn something new!

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