Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Evaporated Milk Miracle

I am going to share with you possibly the most life-changing cooking secret I have ever stumbled upon. And I wish I could say that it has been my new trick that has been keeping me away from my blog for so long, but sadly that would be a lie. I just haven't had anything to write, honestly. But I do now, yay me! And so . . . the secret.

Anyone who cooks regularly and is on a budget, like me, has a certain set of skills that are necessary for their kind of cooking. One of them is looking at a recipe, and depending on the list of ingredients or the number of steps it takes to get to a finished product, lots of recipes go on the "Psh, that's not happening" list. Another skill is being able to see the shortcuts or cheats in a recipe, or even the ability to look at the picture, the ingredients, and be able to kind of wing it on their own without needing a recipe. And then there's this skill: the inconvenient ingredient spotting.

You know what I'm talking about. Shallots, pecans, buttermilk, puff pastry, weird herbs, wonky mushrooms, phyllo, milk of camel, eye of newt, you get it. Those ingredients that, yeah, you could find at most grocery stores, but honestly, you don't keep them in your house. And you wanna know the number one reason? You don't use them a lot, and they don't keep.

If you're buying yourself a pint of buttermilk and only using one cup and two tablespoons of it, what the crap are you supposed to do with the other cup? It would be immensely convenient for me to have a complete recipe database where I could look up things like "Recipes that use buttermilk" and then I'd be ok because I'd end up being able to use all my buttermilk. But I don't have that, and frankly, the thought of making one gives me a headache despite how much I would love it.

So, you find a recipe you want to make that calls for one of these pain in the butt ingredients. Sometimes you're already planning a trip to the store with enough money, so getting this ingredient is no problem. But then there's those times that you either just went to the store and you're not wasting the gas to drive there again for one stupid ingredient.

Half and half or heavy cream is one of those ingredients for me. And for good reason. There is no practical use for cream on a daily basis, there just isn't. I don't drink coffee, and that's honestly the only thing I can think of that would justify me keeping cream on hand. Which means that unless I buy it specifically for a recipe, I do not have it in the house, because it will spoil before I get around to using it, even though I have several recipes that call for it. So I've been suffering without these particular recipes simply because I was missing that one dang ingredient.

Well, folks, just recently I discovered the magic secret that has changed my cooking life. And I didn't even find this intentionally, I literally stumbled across it in an article or blog or something that I was reading. And it is this: a substitute for half and half or heavy cream in a recipe is . . . evaporated milk.

*Heavenly glow of light* That's BRILLIANT!

I seriously had a complete *DING* of awe when I read that! It's so simple, yet so genius! I have evaporated milk in my pantry, I use it enough that it's on hand all the time! Because, this is the BEST PART, it's CANNED! Which means, it lasts for a long time! I can buy four cans at Walmart in April, and they're still good at Christmas!

I'm serious, I almost had an aneurysm over this. Ecstatic fit. And that very night, I made one of my new recipes that I'd found and discarded at first because it called for heavy cream. It was a peaches and cream overnight french toast, incredibly easy to make (once I found out I could use evaporated milk!), and it was DELICIOUS. I'm going to make it again, it was so yummy, and I had every single ingredient on hand in my pantry. *Boogie dance*

So, ladies and gentlemen, that was my wonderful discovery that I just had to share with the universe. The magical substitution that changed my life. So many avenues are now open to me, I can do whatever I want! Who knows, maybe someday soon I'll learn how to FLY! (Ok, maybe this has gone to my head a little).

Now . . . if only I could find a good substitution for cream cheese . . .

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