There is a saying in Norwegian that goes like this: “man tager hvad man haver” – one takes what one has. Though, if it’s a proper saying is perhaps debatable. The origin is from a book on housekeeping, published in the mid-1800s by one Hanna Olava Winsnes. She ran a large household, and her book covered everything from husbandry, butchering, and baking, to cooking soap and making candles. The line of “taking what one has” seems perfectly in line with her belief s in the importance of good planning, and making the best use of the available raw materials.
It is also a saying that, while perhaps not directly shaping my beliefs in sustainable consumption and deep desire to get good use out of what is in my hands, has certainly encouraged it – again and again.
In a more tangible way, it affects my cooking and baking. I find it much easier to make meals based on whatever I have lying around, and baking is the perfect place to use what I happen to have on hand. Bread and granola are two things I make on a regular basis, and where the ingredients differ with the contents of my cupboards.
This is what I had for bread-making one day:
3 cups of warm water
Packet of yeast, pre-proofed with ½ cup warm, sugery water
A dash of oil
A dash of salt
Whole and white flour
A couple of handfuls of oats
Handful of potato starch
Handful of wheat germ
A dash of milk
Other things that would work: seeds of any kind, such as sunflower seeds or flax seeds, uncooked brown rice (yes really!), flat beer.
I wouldn’t call this a bread recipe as much as a guide – kind of in the way that a lot of Elizabeth Zimmerman knitting patterns aren’t really patterns, but more so a hand to hold. While bread truly isn’t hard to make, there are a lot of variables in baking due to elevation, humidity, oven peculiarities, etc, so bread-making usually involves some trial and error before you figure out what works the best.
So! Proof the yeast, dump the water, oil and salt in a large mixing bowl. Dump the non-flour extras into the water, add whole wheat flour until the dough is like a thick soup. Add white flour and knead until the dough is firm and doesn’t stick any more.
Let rise in a warm-ish spot for 30-60 minutes, knead and place in flour-dusted bread-pans. Let rise again for 30-60 minutes, and bake for 40ish minutes at 400° F (200°C). The breads should slide out of the pans, if they don’t, let them bake a little longer.
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Similarly, granola bars are not hard to make. I find them particularly satisfying to whip up because they are much cheaper than buying them in the store, but also because they are so forgiving in terms of ingredients. They practically beg to make use of whatever you can find in your cupboards! I use this recipe on allrecipes.com, but my simplified version reads something like this: 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk, 3 cups of oats, 3 ½ cups of other stuff.
This time around, this is what I had lying around:
3 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds & honeycake
1 cup raisins
½ cup white chocolate chips
Other things that would work: nuts, flaxseeds, cranberries (dried or fresh), dried fruit, wheat germ.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the condensed milk. Spread out in a greased 9 X 13- ish inch pan, and bake for 20-25 min at 350° F (175 ° C).
Use what you have, and happy baking!