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Have you ever made something and it just did not turn out right? Sometimes recipes just don’t work, but sometimes there are small changes in ingredients that affect the end results. The science of cooking, the amount of fat, sugar, salt, acid, leavening agents like yeast and baking soda all change the properties of ingredients achieving different results. When you know how to handle them and what cause certain reactions you can alter recipes easily to fit your desired needs and tastes.

In baking this is especially true, that is why proper measuring is important. Often professional bakers measure ingredients not by cups and teaspoons but by weight so they are accurate and consistent every time. I want to introduce you to a great blog that I follow: meet Tessa, from Handle The Heat. She is great at testing out ingredients and recipes to find the very best one and let you know why ingredients behave specific ways.

Take a look at some of her projects below on how altering one ingredient can change the same cookie recipe:

chocolate chip cookies

Altering ingredients in hocolate chip cookies

And the difference between shortening and butter in baking biscuits:

shortening and butter in baking biscuits

Shortening and Butter in baking biscuits

The science of cooking is very interesting resulting in very tasty treats. A great way to start creating your own signature dishes and working from pantry is to know some good shortcuts and common food substitutions that can work wonders in a pinch. Here is your simple guide to common food substitutions so you no longer have to run to the store for that one missing ingredient.

Common Food Subsitutions

Common Food Subsitutions

Guide to Common Food Substitutions 

Amount: 1 teaspoon
Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Apple Pie Spice
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon cardamom, 1/8 teaspoon ginger optional

Baking Powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Use right away

Baking Soda
There is NO substitute for baking soda

Amount: 1 cup
– 1 cup regular margarine
– 1 cup vegetable shortening (for baking)
– An equal amount of oil can be substituted for a similar portion of MELTED butter if the recipe specifies using Melted butter

-Also see Healthy Common Food Substitutions for use of Apple Sauce and Banannas

TIP 1: According to the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers, you can tell “if the product is regular margarine by checking the Nutrition Facts: a 1 tablespoon serving will have 100 calories.” Products that contain less than 80 percent fat often give the fat percentage on the front of the package.

If the margarine is labeled “light,” “lower fat,” “reduced fat,” “reduced calorie/diet” or “fat-free” or is called a “vegetable oil spread,” you may be less successful substituting it for butter OR for regular margarine in baking and in some cooking procedures. These products are higher in water and lower in fat content and won’t perform in the same way as regular butter or margarine.

TIP 2: There is no standard procedure to substitute liquid oil for solid shortening in cooking. Oil is 100 percent fat, while butter, margarine and other solid shortenings are lower in fat on a volume-for-volume basis.

Also, for some recipes, solid shortening helps incorporate air into the batter when it is whipped with other ingredients such as sugar and eggs. If you try to whip these ingredients with oil, your baked product is likely to be more compact and oily in texture. Your most successful substitution occurs if your recipe calls for MELTED butter, in which case you can usually substitute an equal amount of oil.

Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white or cider vinegar
Let stand to thicken, about 10 minutes. Not suitable for raw applications, such as a buttermilk dressing.

Unsweetened Chocolate:
Amount: 1 ounce Substitute: 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
Or 1 ½ ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Remove 1 tablespoon sugar from the recipe.

Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate
Amount: 1 ounce
Substitute: 2/3 ounce unsweetened chocolate + 2 teaspoons sugar.
Works well with fudgy brownies. Do not use in a custard or cake.

Amount: 1 whole egg
1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
Reconstituted powdered eggs; follow package directions
1 tablespoon ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons water (mix till thick and creamy)
1 tablespoon chia seed + 1/3 cup water (mix let stand for 15 min)
1 tablespoon soy protein powder + 3 tablespoons water
½ mashed banana
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (suitable for use in cake batter)

TIP: If you don’t use eggs very often, you may find it helpful to keep some powdered eggs on hand.

Flour, All-Purpose White Flour
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour.
TIP: It’s generally recommended that you replace no more than half the all-purpose white flour with whole-wheat flour. Too much whole-wheat flour in a recipe calling for all-purpose flour might result in a reduced volume and a heavier product.

Flour, Cake
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Flour, Self-Rising
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt

Amount: 1 small clove
Substitute: 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Amount: 1 cup
Substitute:  ¾ cup whole milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream
or 2/3 cup low fat milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream

Heavy Cream
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup evaporated milk
Not suitable for whipping or baking, but fine for soups and sauces.

Lemon Zest (fresh grated lemon peel)
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Marshmallows, Miniature
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 10 large marshmallows

Mayonnaise (for use in salads and salad dressings)
Amount: 1 cup
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 cup yogurt
– 1 cup cottage cheese pureed in a blender
– Or use any of the above for part of the mayonnaise

Mustard, Dry (in cooked mixtures)
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Substitute: 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Amount: 1 small or 1/4 cup chopped, fresh onion
Substitute: 1 tablespoon instant minced onion

TIP: Dried onion may be added directly to moist foods such as soups, gravies, sauces and salad dressings. You may need to rehydrate it with a little water before adding it to drier foods. Check package directions — one brand advises adding an equal amount of water and letting the dried onion stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Pasta (substituting one for another)
Amount: 4 cups COOKED
Substitute: The National Pasta Association suggests these substitution ratios.

– 8 ounces of UNCOOKED elbow macaroni, medium shells, rotini, twists, spirals, wagon wheels, bow ties, mostaccioli, penne, radiatore, rigatoni, spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, vermicelli and fettuccine all produce about 4 cups COOKED pasta

– Use about twice as much UNCOOKED egg noodles to provide 4 cups COOKED pasta. Approximately 8 ounces UNCOOKED egg noodles equal 2 1/2 cups COOKED noodles.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger plus 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Rice 1 cup dry = about 3 cups cooked
Amount: Any amount
Substitute: Most rice products will substitute for each other on a fairly equal basis in recipes; however, their cooking times and the amount of liquid needed may vary. If possible, choose a rice with a comparable grain length for the closest match. Visit the USA Rice Federation’s site to learn more about cooking with the different forms of rice.

Amount: any amount
Substitute: 1 part rum extract plus 3 parts water. For example: for 1/4 cup rum, substitute 1 tablespoon rum extract plus 3 tablespoons water.

Sour Cream
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Nonfat and lowfat yogurts are too lean to replace sour cream.

Brown Sugar (light)
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon molasses

Brown Sugar (dark)
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute:  1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses
Pulse the molasses in a food processor along with the sugar or simply add it along with the other wet ingredients.

Powdered/ Confectioners Sugar
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 teaspoon cornstarch,
ground in a blender (not a food processor)
Works well for dusting over cakes, less so in frostings and glazes

Tomato Juice
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute: 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water

Amount: 1 compressed cake (3/5 ounce)
– 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
– about or slightly less than 2 1/2 teaspoons loose active dry yeast

Yogurt (Plain)
Amount: 1 cup
Substitute:  1 cup sour cream

White Wine
Amount: ½ cup

½ cup broth + 1 teaspoon wine vinegar
Add just before serving.

½ cup broth + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Add just before serving.

½ cup Vermouth
The same amount of apple juice or white grape juice

Healthier Common food Substitutions:

Cooking at home rather than eating out is one of the best ways to start eating healthier. To boot the nutritional value of your meal try some of theses healthier common food substitutions to make your recipes that much better.

Applesauce: Use in baked goods to cut the fat. Use in place of half the called for amount of butter or oil. Perfect for muffins, breads, brownies and some cakes.

Nonfat Greek yogurt: Use to cut calories and add protein by replacing mayonnaise or sour cream.

Avocado: make the fat a healthier one. Avocados are high in monounsaturated “good” fats, which help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels and stave off heart problems. Use in place of butter, oil or cream in whipped dressings, spreads and mousse.

Bananas: High in potassium can help cut sugar and fat but in baking. Use ½ mashed banana is place of half the mount of butter or oil or use in place of 1 egg. If using mashed bananas as a sugar substitute, cut the amount of liquid called for in half to maintain the same level of moisture and texture.

Rolled oats, crushed nuts or ground seeds add good fats, fiber and nutrients use in place of bread crumbs for crunch coatings on chicken or casserole toppings.

Soda Water: Use in place of Tonic water. Tonic water is high in sugar, while soda water contains none

Whole Wheat Flour: Use in place of half the called for amount of all purpose flour

Veggie “noodles”: Make using a vegetable peeler or a mandolin to make long, zucchini or spaghetti squash use in place of pasta.

Potato Puree: add to a soup to make it thick and creamy, or puree part of a vegetable soup, use in place of heavy cream

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