I like making food at home, where I know my kitchen and ingredients. I have a several things I make often, and while I sometimes make new things it's all a bit familiar. So when I'm on a vacation in a rental house, one thing I enjoy is cooking. It's a bit of a challenge, perhaps suitable for a low-stakes cooking show, but it's fun to see what I can make with the constraints:

  • What pans are there? Do they have any sneaky downsides?

  • What non-perishable ingredients are left over from previous visitors?

  • What's the minimum I can buy at the store to combine with what's already there and make something good?

  • If we went to the store a few days ago and it's not worth going again, what's a good fit for the collection of things we have left?

  • What can I substitute for measuring cups? How can I calibrate them?

  • If I would normally make a recipe one way, but we don't have some of the ingredients, what would make good substitutes?

One constraint I don't enjoy is knives that have been treated quite badly. One way I'll "cheat" is that (when I remember) I'll bring along a knife sharpener. I'll also sometimes bring an instant read thermometer, and somewhat unusual dry ingredients (ex: flax [1]) that I need small quantities of.

This morning I made raspberry chocolate chip muffins (recipe):

This involved using an unlabeled measuring cup that might have been either 1/4C or 1/3C (which I treated as 1/4C and used for everything, even the 2.5C flour), substituting extra baking powder for the baking soda, and bigger chocolate chips than usual. They were tasty!

[1] Lately I've been using flax as an egg substitute a lot; Lily doesn't eat eggs anymore. I used 2.5T water and 1T flax per egg. It works well in the raspberry muffins, ok in crepes, and very poorly in brownies.

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Your comment about flax eggs is very validating to me; I used them once, to make vegan brownies when I did the Seven-Day Vegan Challenge, and they were not good. I’ve now updated substantially in favor of trying them for recipes like muffins!