How I Cook When Stuck in Nap Jail

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Do you cook? Do you have children? Then you've probably been in nap jail. You're in the middle of making dinner, enjoying the peace and quiet as you cook, and you realize you need one ingredient. You can't have it, because you're in nap jail. No one should wake a sleeping baby to go to the grocery store. Nap jail leads to plenty of creativity.

I can make tomato sauce for pizza or pasta with three ingredients: tomatoes, balsamic vinegar (or wine vinegar) and my favorite seasoning salt. And if I'm out of my seasoning salt, I'll use plain salt and a dash of Italian seasoning.

You know that liquid at the top of the yogurt? I call it milk, at least if I'm making a quiche and I'm out of milk. (No readymade crust? Just pat one in the pan.)

Speaking of tomatoes, if your recipe calls for vinegar and tomato paste, ketchup makes a fine substitute. My favorite recipe for pad Thai, Mai Pham's from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking, skips the middle man and calls for ketchup. She sounds like my kind of cook.

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I keep powdered milk on hand, just in case. Need a can of cream soup? Make it yourself in a jiffy. You may even have the ingredients for powdered cream soup mix in your pantry. A quick search of the internet will yield plenty of recipes for the mix.

I'm not afraid to change a dish if I don't have the ingredients on hand. We love black bean salsa with pineapple, but apples are interesting enough if I don't have pineapple. Peanut butter added to a sauce is just fine when I don't have roasted peanuts to top a noodle dish. Need bread crumbs? Crushed potato chips or pretzels will do the trick.

If you often get stuck in nap jail — or homework supervisor jail or friends over to play jail — you may want to bookmark Cambria's quick guide to ingredient substitutions. Even if you don't have kids, you might have been in broken car jail, snow day jail or called-in-sick-to-work-and-can't-risk-getting-busted jail. The other alternative? Call a friend and promise them dinner, if only they will bring you one egg and some cardamon, right this second.

Have you been in nap jail? What are your most creative substitutions?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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