Working With the Odds and Ends of Your Pantry

by Intern Yasmin

I have a love/hate relationship with baking, mostly because I often have to spend a ton of money to buy a million random ingredients just for the purpose of making one delicious thing, and then I’m left with random shit in my pantry and fridge–like half of a vanilla bean, heavy whipping cream, or the yolks of six eggs. Ever since making a sweet potato pie for one of my exes six months ago, I’ve had a gallon-sized bag of organic sugar sitting around and every time I look at it, I start thinking about pies and him and my mood begins to spiral downwards. So naturally, I’ve been trying to think of any possible way to use a lot of sugar in one go*.

I’m sure you can imagine my delight when I realized one sleepless and drunken night that I could use my love for homemade cocktails to solve my excess sugar problem. Within minutes of a quick Google search, I was able to throw away yet another reminder of my failed relationship, while making a delicious (and fancy-seeming) hibiscus simple syrup from just sugar, water, and some old tea bags. Nothing better than knocking out two birds with a single drink.

The following recipes are both savory-sounding and use a lot of random ingredients (apple cider vinegar, cornstarch, random veggie bits) that many of my friends and former roommates have bitched about having no use for. Now you just have to find someone to share the finished products with!

*I know you’re probably thinking ‘Who can’t think of a use for sugar? It’s SUGAR,’ but I belong to the small minority of people who are genuinely convinced that Splenda and Crystal Light are actually delicious.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is aptly named because it’s literally just one or two parts sugar to one part water, boiled, and you’re done. But it’s also misleading, because you can add almost anything you desire to it to make delicious cocktails or spritzer-type beverages.  And the best part is that you’re merely infusing the syrup with the flavors, so you don’t have to worry about the color of that slowly-rotting piece of ginger in your fridge or how stale those cinnamon sticks are because they’ll be strained away in the end. Here are a few suggestions from to get you started!

Sriracha Sauce

Everyone and their grandmother is currently in love with this stuff, partially because it’s at every semi- to completely-hipster “pan-Asian” eatery, and partially because it’s really delicious. But who wants to trek to Whole Foods just to spend six bucks on a teeny bottle of the stuff? Now you can make your own. Most people probably don’t have a cup of dehydrated hot peppers lying around, but they’re not too pricey, and many of the other ingredients are probably already in your pantry. Check out Penniless Parenting’s recipe here, and feel free to tweak the spice-level to your liking!

Vegetable Stock

From the wonderfully-titled blog Poor Girl Eats Well, turn your cooking scraps into a delicious broth that you can use as the base for soups and many other recipes. Not only are you coming up for a use for those random veggie odds and ends at the bottom of your fridge drawers, but you’re also creating a virtually cost-free version of something you’d usually have to buy at the store.

Any additional suggestions or ideas, BUSTies?

Images Courtesy of My Recipes, Penniless Parenting, Eating Rules, and Poor Girl Eats Well.

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