Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Recipes, schmecipes!

Posted in frugal by Kathy on April 26, 2008

This morning I made pancakes that call for buttermilk (which I still don’t have, and might not buy, since I can make my own yogurt which substitutes very well!), and used the last of my yogurt with a little milk to thin it out (since this recipe tends to be thick anyway). The recipe also called for two eggs, but I only had one (although it was jumbo-sized). I did measure my dry ingredients (since I didn’t want to have way too much or not enough baking powder, for instance), but just eye-balled the liquid ingredients. The pancakes turned out just fine, and it got me to thinking about recipes.

I’m a stickler for recipes — at least the first time I try a new recipe. That way, you can know what the finished product is really supposed to look like and taste like, so if you don’t like it, you know it was a bad recipe, and not something you did. But I’m trying to branch out, and get away from using recipes as strictly as I usually do (within reason, of course). I’ve decided that recipes for meals can be considered as a rough guide or a template, rather than a blue-print. Blue-prints are good and sometimes necessary (especially for finicky foods like cakes), but they can also lead to added expense — in this case, I would have had to make a special trip to the grocery store (at $3.50 per gallon of gas and rising) to get eggs and buttermilk…. or just look in my fridge and pantry to see if I could find something else that would work. Having workable food substitutes may also allow you to make a cheaper meal with ingredients you have on hand, rather than eating out, ordering in, or making more expensive home-made meals.

Here are some other substitutes:

  • applesauce for oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour with 1 tablespoon of water for an egg
  • yogurt, milk, and buttermilk can many times be exchanged (adding a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk will let it have that sour tang)
  • grind oatmeal into a flour (if you have a food processor) and use it instead of wheat flour, for recipes that don’t require gluten
  • 1 c. white sugar plus 1 Tbsp. molasses for brown sugar
  • white sugar plus cornstarch (ground in a food processor) for powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda plus 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar for 1 tsp. baking powder (do not mix before-hand)

Some recipes may not lend themselves to easy substitutions, but if you don’t have an ingredient, use your imagination to see what you can come up with. Exchange lemon juice for lime juice and see what happens. How would this recipe taste with more potatoes and less corn? Would it be okay to use ground beef instead of chicken if I change the seasonings?

I know there are a lot more substitutions than the ones I’ve listed above, so if you have any to add to the list, feel free to put it in the comments.

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