Every week in The Hipster’s Cookbook, Meghan Bongartz shows you how to make delicious food on a tight budget.
If you poke around on the internet for thirty seconds, you’ll discover that two-ingredient recipes are a pretty popular thing right now. Maybe it has something to do with people wanting simple recipes for summer that don’t involve a lot of preparation or hunting for ingredients, but I think the real reason is that two-ingredient recipes look good in list format. Exhibit A is this article on Buzzfeed. You just can’t make those nice X+Y=Z picture recipes when you also need W,V, U, and T.
I don’t exactly have anything against two-ingredient recipes. Some of them actually work pretty well and create a real food at the end. (I’m sorry, but neither cheese crisps made out of crumbled Cheese Nips nor American cheese wrapped in a crescent roll count as real food in my book.) You can make a perfectly good chocolate mousse with dark chocolate and water, and any citrus juice plus sugar will make a sorbet. Bananas are kind of a magic ingredient, and can be turned into a milkshake with the addition of milk, ice cream with the addition of peanut butter, oatmeal cookies with the addition of oats, and pancakes with the addition of eggs. There’s probably also something to be said for the challenge of creating something edible with a limited number of ingredients. Picking two things from your pantry at random and combining them won’t always be delicious. (Banana and ramen noodles anyone?)
When it comes down to it, it’s just that there are better ways to cook. A lot of the two-ingredient recipes are sort of cheaty to begin with because they use pre-packaged mixes. Can you really call it two ingredients when one of them is a combination of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and powdered milk? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because making your own cupcakes is going to taste a hell of a lot better than using mix from a box. And that fudge recipe with strawberry frosting and white chocolate chips? I’m not exaggerating when I say that my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Fudge is not that hard to make to begin with – you don’t need to do it with a can of store-bought frosting.
There are also plenty of things that can be done with two ingredients, but are better (and not necessarily harder) with more. You can make oatmeal cookies with bananas and oats, sure, but don’t most people like raisins and cinnamon in their oatmeal cookies? Meringues are technically just egg whites and sugar, but I don’t think that making it three ingredients by adding vanilla extract or another flavoring makes life significantly more difficult. You can make super easy homemade salad dressings by combining equal parts of any oil (olive, peanut, macadamia nut, etc.) with any vinegar or citrus juice (balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, etc.). That is a recipe. But it probably wouldn’t kill you to add salt and pepper or a little garlic or the zest from your lime, and it will make it taste that much better.
You can make homemade granola with just oats and honey (or jam, if you’d like it to be fruit-flavored), but there are a million things you can add to improve it and it will still only take you five minutes of active cooking. This recipe was born of the ingredients that happened to be in my kitchen at the time I made it, but you can substitute any combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, and it will be fine as long as you use enough honey to bind it together. This is proof that lack of ingredients doesn’t automatically equate to a simpler recipe
(Everything But The) Kitchen Sink Granola
1/2 cup honey
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup unsalted pistachio nut meats
1 cup slightly crushed raw cashews (I just squeezed them in my hands as I added them to break them up a little)
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×9 inch baking pan with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
2) In the bottom of a large saucepan, heat the honey over a low flame until it is extremely runny. Remove from heat.
3) Stir in all other ingredients, making sure to combine thoroughly and coat everything with the honey.
4) Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
5) Remove from oven and let cool completely before eating. The granola can be sliced into bars or crumbled.