The culinary adventures of a 20-something woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

The culinary adventures of a 20-something year old woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can I substitute?

I get a lot of questions about substitutions. "Can I do this? Or that?"is something that I hear a lot. Often times, the answer is "well, you can certainly try and see what happens!" but I realize that for those who don't venture into the wonderful world of food as often as I do, its not that easy. Here is a list of some common substitutions, and also things that should never be replaced. For the most part, this sub list is to make something healthier, but not always.

If the recipe calls for......

Almonds - pecans or walnuts (peanuts don't sub as well)
Apple - Pear is an excellent sub
Butter - margarine or shortening (unless I say NO!)
Buttermilk - 1 tbsp lemon juice + liquid to equal original amount
Bread Crumbs - use plain soda crackers & crush. Sub same amount.
Brown Sugar - use golden or white sugar instead
Canola oil - Can replace with vegetable oil
Cayenne Pepper - use red pepper flakes
Corn Starch - replace with flour - note that it isn't a perfect substitution
Eggs - no substitutions except for egg whites - very important "binder"
Ground Beef - ground chicken or turkey will also work. Increase seasonings slightly.
Honey - molasses, agave nectar, corn syrup
Oil - equal parts applesauce (muffins) or plain yoghurt (muffins, cakes)
Onion - no good sub, but you can use different types of onion
Mayonaise - if replacing to make healthier, try half mayo, half plain yoghurt OR low-fat sour cream
Milk - milk powder + water to equal original amount
Mustard - no good sub. Try another type of mustard (dijon vs. honey)
Parmesan Cheese - use romano instead
Quinoa - Try Couscous or Brown Rice (for a salad)
Red Wine Vinegar - cider vinegar will work
Salt - no replacements - is very important for flavour, especially in baking
Sour Cream - Plain Yoghurt (and vice versa)
Sugar - reduce the amount as desired and replace with another dry ingredient (eg. flour) 
Vanilla Extract - no good substitution
White Flour - 1/2 white flour + 1/2 bran, + 1tbsp extra liquid (ie milk) (to make healthier)
White Sugar - use Golden or Brown Sugar instead
Yeast - no replacements

The biggest thing to remember when replacing is that you need to keep the wet-dry ratio the same; otherwise your recipe may not turn out.
Any other substitutions that you have tried? Send me a comment and let me know!!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

       Its almost nice enough to have barbeques in my neck of the woods, although day after day of rain is certainly not allowing us to jump-start summer. Nevertheless, I have a whole pile of 'summer' recipes I'd like to make this year, so even if the weather won't cooperate, I'm going ahead.
       This recipe is perfect for potlucks or barbeques, as it can easily stay outside without being refrigerated for a few hours without spoiling. You can certainly modify the ingredients a bit to use up what you have, keeping the oil/vinegar base the same. The amount here would easily serve 15+ people and is great for large gatherings.
  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 (5 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (these are VERY expensive to buy, omit if on a budget)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (I used black)
  • 1/2 cup high-quality olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

  • Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. 
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, sun-dried tomato, basil and pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold. Keeps 3-4 days.

Tip: Make sure you have a fine strainer for orzo as it is quite small, even after cooked. If you don't rinse with cold water, it will clump together so this step is quite important.

Apple-Butterscotch Muffins

Holy crap. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that these are my new favourite muffins. They are just about perfect. Not to sweet, not too fruity - In fact, these may become the all-coveted company muffins, the go-to treat when I am hosting friends and family. They come to me from another Food Blogger, Annie, at Annie's Eats. I highly recommend perusing her website for some great meals.

In this recipe, I would avoid substitutions - sure, you could make them healthier, but just make a different muffin instead if that is your goal. I have several healthy muffin recipes on this site you can use instead.

Bon Appetit!
Muffin Ingredients:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup applesauce
2 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
¾ cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped apples

Crump Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, melted.


1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the wells of two muffin pans with paper liners (about 18 liners total). 
2. Make the Crumb topping first: combine All flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon and then mix with melted butter. Set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix lightly with a fork to blend. Stir in the oats.

4. With a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the applesauce, eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating just until incorporated. 
5. Fold in the butterscotch chips and apples with a spatula.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Top with crumb topping. 
7.  Bake about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: about 18 muffins
Source: Adapted from Annie Eats

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Scones

I tend to need an excuse to make something really good for breakfast, as opposed to just the usual cereal or fruit with milk. I can't justify the calories of pancakes, waffles, or my personal favourite, scones. So I was over the moon to be able to make these cranberry-orange scones for my mothers day brunch. They turned out perfectly - might I suggest absolutely NO substitutes for the ingredients - not even whole wheat flour, as it will make the scones too dense. Save this recipe for a special occasion and go nuts!

  • Scones:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest (fresh, preferably)

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (including orange zest). Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cranberries. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. 
2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Divide in half. Pat each into an 8-in. circle. Cut into eight wedges. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.

Tip - you could also use a food processor for the dry/butter mixture, just make sure to add the cranberries & milk by hand with a spatula.

Source: Adapted from "Cranberry Scones" recipe from

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna

             I often play the game "If you were stranded on a desert island and all you could eat was _____" What would it be with?" I always said lasagna. And donuts. But mostly, lasagna. I could eat it almost every day. But unfortunately, my waistline cannot eat traditional lasagna every day. The combination of ground beef and three cheeses is great for a special occasion, but is hard to justify when you are doing Weight Watchers. So this recipe for Spinach & Artichoke lasagna is both healthy and satisfying. The husband didn't even notice it was vegetarian - it was that good!

1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) package frozen spinach, thawed, drained & chopped
1(10-14 oz) jar of artichoke, drained & chopped
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1 (28 oz) jar tomato sauce
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth (I just rinse the water into the pasta sauce and use that)
1 tsp EACH basil, rosemary, oregano
2 cups shredded light mozzarella cheese
1 cup low-fat ricotta
1/2 cup parmesan
1 egg
Lasagna noodles (uncooked)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray
  2. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add zucchini (and any other vegetables you desire) and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in artichoke hearts, spinach,  pasta sauce, water and spices. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix together 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta and egg.
  4. Spread 1/4 of the artichoke mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish; top with 3 cooked noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 cheese mixture over noodles. Repeat layers 2 more times as desired. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top.
  5. Bake, covered with foil for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Nutritional Information: About 350 calories per serving. Makes 6-8 servings.
Weight Watchers: 7 points for a 1 1/2 cup serving.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Broccoli & Cheese Soup

              Normally at this time of the year I'm looking for salads and barbeque dishes to post. But with a high of 10 degrees and rain all day, I decided to make soup for dinner. This broccoli & cheese soup recipe is creamy and rich but doesn't have any of the normal high fat & calorie ingredients. I adapted it from Weight Watchers, which is quickly becoming my go-to for a dependable healthy recipe source. Serve with fresh bread or salad to make a complete meal.

1 tsp oil
1/2 cup onions, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head fresh broccoli, chopped
32 oz (4 cups) chicken broth - I used Epicure's chicken base which is salt-free
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
5 oz (about 1/3 cup) MacLaren's Imperial Carefully Aged cold pack cheddar
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup cornstarch
medium cheddar cheese, light,  shredded

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, until soft. Add broccoli and chicken broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes, until broccoli is tender.
2. Reduce heat to low, add cheese, salt and pepper and stir until cheese melts.
3. Stir in milk and cook about two minutes until well-blended.
4. Whisk together water and cornstarch, add mixture and simmer 2-4 minutes, until thick.
5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle 2 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese on top. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups per serving, 4 servings.

Nutritional information: 5 weight watchers points, about 250 calories per 1 1/2 cup serving.