Thursday March 6, 2014
How many times have you gone to the pantry to gather the ingredients listed in a recipe, and realized you were out of something? Don't fret. Substituting ingredients can be easy once you are familiar with them. And there are many to know. This list is just a sampling of some of the swaps
that you can make without detracting from your dish.
Making substitutions becomes important when you are trying to reduce or remove certain foods from your diet. We've talked about using alternative natural sweeteners in place of white sugar
and that goes a long way when trying to eat sugar-free. If you've been working to remove gluten, dairy or eggs from your diet, food substitutions make all the difference. Yes, there is still plenty to eat and cook without these foods. Learning how is key.
There are some simple swaps that most home cooks make all the time, like blueberries in a smoothie instead of raspberries. Or spinach in a salad instead of lettuce. You've probably used almond or soy milk in your coffee or tea when you've run out of dairy milk. Substituting ingredients that appear in a recipe isn't much different. Keeping quantity, texture and weight in mind, you can substitute almost anything.
Although baking is a bit of a science, and it is important to measure accurately
, there are some alternative ingredients that can be swapped in without making too much of a difference. I've been swapping in unsweetened organic apple sauce for vegetable oil for a long time. Not once have I found it to be noticeable, or anything other than delicious. Where vegetable oil can make a baked good feel greasy, apple sauce makes it a bit spongy, and a little sweeter, naturally.
It's your turn. What substitutions have you tried or been forced to make in a pinch? What worked and what did not? I'd like to hear about your experiences in the kitchen. Drop me a line by email.
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Sometimes when I'm out on weekends, I become convinced that breakfast and/or brunch is taking over as North America's new favorite meal out. Have you noticed that restaurants open for breakfast and brunch are packed, with long lines of hungover, tired, hungry people slumped over, hoping to be sat soon? Why is this? Ask almost any novice cook what they are capable of making and most will answer that they can fry an egg. If this is so, then why do so many of us insist on getting dressed (sort of), pour ourselves and our loved ones into a car to wait in line for something we could easily prepare at home?
Yes, breakfast has become the meal to meet friends for and take loved ones out for. Who needs the extravagance of a fancy dinner when you can gather over coffee, in what may as well be last night's pyjamas? Breakfast out is fun. We should all have our food, hot coffee and today's paper brought to us while we are still groggy and rubbing the sleep from our eyes.
Yes, we should. The reality is that some of us just can't muster up that sort of energy. Others have little children and grouchy-in-the-a.m. spouses who refuse to agree to the bother of leaving the house. Breakfast in has its privileges and eating in your shorts is one of them. So if you must stay in, but still want to enjoy a lovely and delicious warm breakfast, fancified enough to call it brunch, then you must make up some pancakes.
For the sheer fact that they require a bit more effort than cereal, pancakes make a wonderful treat for the person who is not a morning person. They are a treat for the cook because they can be whipped up in minutes. These delicious Banana Pancakes
have banana slices baked in! And if you're a real nut for bananas, then pile some more on top. These are different from the rest, are packed with loads of flavor from the fruit inside, and can be mixed up by hand. No electric mixers necessary.
Friday February 28, 2014
Who loves breakfast? I've long been a fan of thin crepes for breakfast. That's what I was used to and what I was fed on Sunday mornings growing up. But you know what happens when you get older, and you start feeding other people. Not everyone's tastes are the same. This is the way with breakfast foods. Where one person lives for French toast, another could not care if they ever had it again in their lives (that's me.) So we learn new recipes and ways of doing things. Gratefully, it's done out of love.
Fluffy American-style pancakes
always seemed sort of boring to me. So I started experimenting with them a bit. That helped. I also made fruit syrups that go great with plain pancakes. But I appreciate the minerals that are available in maple syrup and I think it is a good substitute for white sugar, so often that's what gets served with pancakes at home.
This recipe comes together in just a few minutes. (Maybe 5 or 8 minutes??) It really is very easy, and is a good recipe for the tween or teen in your house to try their hand at when they are first experimenting in the kitchen. And it's not a bad recipe to send off a new university student with.
This isn't the type of food you want to eat every day, of course. Luckily, they are quite filling so you're not likely to overeat them. But if you are going to make and eat pancakes, they'd better at least be delicious, fluffy and from scratch. And then enjoyed, with those you love.
What are you eating for breakfast and brunch on weekends? And do your children love pancakes? I'd like to hear about your experiences in the kitchen. Email me.
Friday February 28, 2014
In an effort to eat more greens, more vegetables, more salad, I've been scoping cookbooks and food sites for salads that are a bit different. I like to dip into recipes whose roots are in countries other than my own. I'm a big fan of fatoosh salad, which is seasoned with sumac
, a lemony-scented burgundy colored seasoning. But other than its seasonings and the inclusion of fresh herbs, it is not unlike the typical salads served in North America. Tabouli is something that can now be commonly found in supermarket refrigerators. It blends bulgur (cracked wheat) with parsley, and is very good serving with robust flavored meat dishes.
While I'm inspired by these, I tend to reach for the same ingredients when it comes to salad I'm making at home. I suspect I'm not the only one. This list of salad additions suggests ingredients
that you may not think to include in your salad.
Here's even a few more suggestions that are fun to add in: raw sliced beets, alfalfa sprouts, pea sprouts, mango, cilantro, chia seeds, raw sauerkraut, yellow zucchini, fiddleheads, star fruit or pumpkin seeds. Will some of these taste good with others in this list? Maybe not. The fun is in experimenting.
If you like your salad dressing sweet, but are trying to eat sugar-free, consider trying one of these alternative sweeteners
that you can substitute for white sugar. It is important to use a high quality olive oil and a flavorful vinegar. If these are good you're less likely to miss the sweetness of sugar.
Do you have a question about substituting a natural sweetener for white sugar? I'm happy to answer your questions, or help to modify a recipe. Email me and let me know about changes you've made to a recipe that have worked (or not worked.) Making these substitutions goes a long way in reducing overall sugar consumption.