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Ingredients with purpose: This one trick will increase your chef cred

Dear refrigerator, we meet again…

You are standing in the kitchen after a long day (insert your personal efforts to save the world, or keep the peace here) trying to decide what to make for dinner. You need a McGyver moment, where all you need is a fork…an egg…and something in a can to earn a Martha Stewart-esque Nighttime Achievement Award from loved ones this evening. ‘Parent of the year!’ ‘Sweetie, how in the world…!?

You’ve seen modern-day heroes in similar situations on the Food Network show Chopped with the mystery baskets of ingredients they must transform into masterpieces and face a panel of judges at first bite. Sound like your house? This one tip may change your life into the McGyver-Martha-Chopped caliber you long for in the kitchen.

One of the greatest creative cooking lessons: approach ingredients not just for taste, but for functionality. Say it: substitutions are my friends. Turning cooking into a science experiment is even more fun and rewarding. Let’s say you want to make meatloaf but only have ground beef and lack the traditional ingredients like breadcrumbs or ketchup. Look at the functions of these ingredients, and see what you have on hand that may accomplish the same job.

Meatloaf traditionally uses breadcrumbs to thicken the loaf with a starch, so look for something in your kitchen that could do that same job: cornbread mix, sliced bread that can be toasted and chopped, a potato that could be grated and mixed in.

Ketchup adds moisture and flavor to the top of your loaf. You could achieve the same effect with salsa, BBQ sauce, or a jar of spaghetti sauce. If you know your audience loves BBQ sauce in other dishes, blow their mind with using it in an unexpected one.

Getting creative with substitutions is cost effective, convenient, and awe-inspiring. Your spontaneous cornbread-green chili-cheddar-meatloaf topped with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce may be the new demanded meal around your house! You’re a creative genius!

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