by Tara Davis

In every job some challenges crop up, requiring time and attention we don’t necessarily have to spare, creativity and leaps of faith.  This week, mine has come in the guise of – of all things- sodas.  In rotating stock, various sodas from the cooler were nearing expiration. Never one for waste, I brainstormed with my staff for ways to use some of them.

But this is just the most recent of a multitude of kitchen challenges I have faced in my career.  Just as accountants combed expense accounts and receipts, or doctors diagnose symptoms, so do we in kitchens problem solve on the daily.  (You may be surprised to know those skills sometimes also save customers money and/or contribute to their continuing health efforts via pointed education and application. 20 pounds of bulk quinoa, because someone ordered the wrong packing of it?  Eh.  Soup it becomes!  Too much cayenne in the chicken salad? A spicy version of it is born. Customer with dairy allergies?  We have you covered!  Only have $50 to feed a group?  We’ll make it work.   It’s what we do.

Today I share with you some recipes for a few situations you may encounter in your own kitchen. Whether they apply to you or inspire other creative ways out of a culinary jam, they bring fun memories and remind me all over again of the importance of economy in any arena.

The Recipes:

For something close to expiring-

Coca Cola Cake– mix together 2 Cups sugar

1. 2 Cups all-purpose flour

2. 1 Cup Coca-Cola

3. 1 ½ Cup small marshmallows

4. ½ Cup butter or margarine

5. ½ Cup vegetable oil

6. 3 Tablespoons cocoa

7. 1 Teaspoon baking soda

8. ½ Cup buttermilk

9. 2 eggs

10. 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

11. ½ Cup butter

12. 3 Tablespoons cocoa

13. 6 Tablespoons Coca-Cola

14. 1 box (16-ounces) confectioners’ sugar

15. 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

16. 1 Cup chopped pecans

Put combined mixture in a well greased cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For leftovers-

Cornbread Salad

Mix together 6 cups leftover cornbread, crumbled, 1 tomato, diced, corn, cut off 2 freshly grilled cobs, ½ diced onion, 1 tbsp garlic powder, ½ cup olive oil.  Refrigerate 1 hour, or up to overnight.   Serve cold.

For when you don’t have enough of something-

No buttermilk? Add 2 tbsp lemon juice to 6 cups milk and simmer (very low heat) 5 minutes.

For when you have too much of something-

Had to buy the big bag of fresh garlic, but only needed 3 cloves?

Roast the whole heads with a drizzle of oil at 250 degrees 40-80 minutes, until soft.  Squeeze the cloves out of the heads and freeze in zipper bags for future use. This also works well of your peppers grow like crazy this year!

For fresh ingredients you aren’t sure how to use-

As a general rule, I suggest tasting produce raw and plain, raw and seasoned, and lightly cooked in a pan.  This will give you familiarity of flavors and the way your ingredients behave in the progression of these 3 treatments.  From there, be bold!  Throw things together in salads,  1 pan or pot dishes, casseroles, as garnishes or on the side of your other creations-

Whatever you do, don’t be ruled by fear!!!

Make beautiful things.  Enjoy them to the fullest. Repeat. Again and again.