Will these Internet food hacks change your life? We put them to the test.

When Emily Brecher, 38, of Fishtown, scrolls through her Facebook feed, she finds an endless list of things she could cook -- no, things she must cook.

“The articles do use a lot of hyperbole like, ‘This two-ingredient thing will change your life!’ But, for whatever reason, I believe them,” she said. “The banana pancakes -- they had some headline like that: ‘It will change your life.’ And, it totally did.”

Those were pancakes made from nothing but a banana and a couple of eggs, a recipe (if you can call it that) that circulated in fitness magazines and on websites for years before making its way more recently to untold hundreds of Pinterest boards. Brecher said she's made them almost every morning for the last five weeks.

Lately, the proliferation of food hacks -- creations that are not quite recipes, but not quite not recipes -- has culminated in a nearly constant stream of videos, recipes, slide shows, and listicles that have found their way into our Facebook feeds, if not actually into our kitchens.

• Do you have a favorite food hack? Leave it in the comments below.

They include untold “genius” two-ingredient dishes, too-weird-not-to-try mashups, and anything that can be cooked with an unlikely implement (a toaster, a microwave, a hair-straightening iron?). Or they repurpose prefab foods for off-label uses: Cut up Pillsbury cinnamon buns and make bread pudding, or mix a can of apple-pie filling with a box of angel food cake mix for a two-ingredient (if corn-syrup-forward) apple cake.

So, will these hacks really change your life? We put them to the test. 

Camera icon Samantha melamed / Staff 
This sweet-potato toast required eight runs through a toaster. It's topped with peanut butter and jelly. It is not delicious.

Hack 1. Put it in a toaster.

Did you know that you can pop a slice of sweet potato in your toaster and have delicious, gluten-free toast? Or that you can turn your toaster sideways to make effortless grilled cheese?

No, you did not. Because you really can't.  

The grilled-cheese trick is actively dangerous: A British woman who tried it reportedly watched in horror as her toaster caught fire before she panicked and threw the appliance out a window. (If you must cook grilled cheese in your toaster, Uncommon Goods sells toaster bags for that purpose.) 

Sweet potato toast, on the other hand, is merely disappointing.

“Don’t try this,” my friend Jan Cohen warned. “Life is too short to toast a sweet potato.”

I did it anyway. I had to press the toaster button down eight times -- eight! -- until the slice of sweet potato was burned in parts and more or less soft in the middle. I tried it with peanut butter and jelly, just as the internet advised. It was weirdly bitter and lacked the crisp, dry crunch you want from toast. 

Camera icon Jessica griffin / Staff Photographer
Banana + pancake = Weirdly banana-flavored pancake. But it's gluten free, and the internet loves it.

Hack 2. Two-ingredient wonders

Two ingredients, it turns out, is a big thing on the internet -- for good reason.

I tried the banana pancakes: Mash a banana, beat two eggs, mix it together, and pour it on a griddle prepped with cooking spray. Aside from an oddly sweet, banana flavor, the pancake texture was spot-on. It's decent with maple syrup, better with peanut butter (and possibly still better with a few more ingredients, like a spoonful of flour or a handful of blueberries). 

But the two-ingredient innovation doesn't stop there. There are also two-ingredient chocolate cake and two-ingredient banana cookies. There is a popular one-ingredient banana ice cream. And if you're willing to consider three ingredients, almost anything is possible. 

Red wine hot chocolate is everything we've ever wanted in life ���� #redwinehotchocolate #wine #eatthetrend with @brandimilloy ��

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Hack 3. The booze hack

If you like red wine and you like hot chocolate, it’s safe to assume you will want to get drunk on red-wine hot chocolate. This craze swept across the web over the winter, a couple of years after a food blogger came up with the idea. It probably should not become a daily habit, but if you find yourself at home on a Friday night, it's not bad. (Or just wait for summer and make yourself a wine slushie -- a.k.a. frosé.)

Camera icon  samantha melamed / Staff
Mug cake: It looks more appetizing on Pinterest.

Hack 4. The microwave miracle

Why bake a cake when you can microwave it? Well, for starters, because it tastes so much better. 

I, for one, love baking actual cakes -- the alchemy of it, the sense of creating something worthy of a special occasion. So I admit I had low expectations of the "mug cake," an instant dessert-for-one that is the very embodiment of all my fears of dying alone and unloved. 

I used a recipe from a Nutella mug-cake cookbook. It did puff up impressively, but the result was more like a steamed egg souffle than a gooey chocolate cake. I never knew dessert could be so sad. 

Camera icon samantha melamed / Staff
Vegan meringues made with chickpea water instead of eggs.

Hack 5. Vegan manna

Even Philly’s most celebrated vegan pastry chef, Kate Jacoby of Vedge and V Street, sometimes picks up tricks from internet message boards. Like, for instance,  aquafaba -- a more palatable name for the water left over from canned chickpeas that can be used in place of egg whites in cocktails, pastries, meringues.

"Apparently, you can get baptized in it,” my friend Galeet Cohen told me.

So, I put the chickpea water in a stand mixer for 15 minutes and watched in amazement as it turned into a beautiful white cream with stiff peaks, then added sugar and vanilla before baking it on low heat for a couple of hours. The result was a very classy tray of meringues, with just the right crumbly, crunchy exterior and airy, light center.

#CauliflowerGrilledCheese #GlutenFree #Yummmm

A post shared by Trish Rothstein (@trishmcgrumplestein) on

Hack 6. Frankenfood

If the Cronut and the Ramen Burger have taught us anything, it's that combining two foods that have no business commingling can result in a viral combination. So, we have an endless stream of recipes for cheeseburger onion rings and banana-bread-bottom cheesecake. 

Add to the list cauliflower grilled cheese (a dish that could also be filed under the food hack category "Sandwiches on Things That Are Not Bread.") If you’re imagining two slabs of cauliflower around a slice of cheese, you are imagining something that is much less work than this. Galeet and I tried it. First, we had to rice the cauliflower, then add Parmesan and egg, make a patty, scoop it onto a griddle, fry it into pancakes, and only then add a sprinkling of cheese to make a sandwich. 

That might be more cooking than hacking. But at least it was pretty delicious.

 

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Banana Pancakes

Serves 1 or 2.

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs
1 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS

1. Mash banana in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Then add them to the banana and stir until combined. The result will be a runny batter.

3. Heat a griddle over medium, and treat with cooking spray, a little butter or vegetable oil.

4. Spoon batter onto griddle in silver-dollar size pancakes, then cook about a minute until the bottom is browned. Flip and cook about a minute more.

5. Serve warm, with syrup, fruit or peanut butter.

 

Per recipe: 231 calories; 9.1 grams fat; 327 milligrams cholesterol; 124 milligrams sodium; 540 milligrams potassium; 28 grams carbhohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 15 grams sugar; 12 grams protein.


Chocolate Mug Cake

1 serving(s)

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt, optional
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Splash vanilla extract, optional
3 tablespoons chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

1. In a microwave-safe, 12-ounce ceramic mug, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork.

2. Add milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir again. Stir in the chocolate chips.

2. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Cool for 2 to 3 minutes before eating.

Ree Drummond

854 calories, 56 grams fat, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 213 milligrams sodium, 605 milligrams potassium, 88 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 60 grams sugar, 9 grams protein


Aquafaba Meringues

Makes about 30 meringues

INGREDIENTS

Liquid from 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Pour liquid from chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, then whisk at high speed for about 15 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Add sugar slowly, whisking until the mixture is glossy, then add almond extract. 

3. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment. Spoon dollops of the mixture onto the sheets, then bake for one and a half to two hours, until meringues are dry and firm. Store for up to three days in an airtight container. 

New York Times

Based on 10 servings (or about three meringues) : 52 calories; trace fat; no cholesterol; 2 milligrams sodium; 13 grams carbohydrates; no fiber; 13 grams sugar; trace protein.