Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cooking - Tips and Substitutions

Have you ever gotten half-way through making a recipe, only to open the fridge to get an egg and discover that there are none? Ever needed some buttermilk and didn't have any? Or over-salted a pot of soup and are afraid you'll have to dump it out? Believe it or not, there are solutions to those problems! I love solutions. :-)  They can help you save time and money, save you in a crisis, and maybe relive a little stress. Here's a few tips and resources I keep on hand...

Egg Substitute - (for use in baking) Combine 1 tsp of unflavored gelatin with 3 Tbl of cold water and then another 2 Tbl plus 1 tsp of boiling water. This will take the place of one egg in recipes for cookies, cakes, etc.

Meat Substitutes and Extenders - You can use cooked wheat, cracked or whole, in spaghetti sauces, pizza, Sloppy Joes, soups, etc. You can also add it to your ground beef for meat loaf, taco filling or hamburger patties when you don't have quite enough. Whole grain wheat berries are about 15% protein, on the average. Wheat germ can also be added to recipes, and contains about 23% protein. Millet is another grain that is high in protein, like wheat, and can be used as a substitute or extender with meat recipes.We like cooked millet with milk and honey for a hot breakfast cereal.

Boiled Eggs - To keep the shells from cracking while boiling, add a dash of salt to the water before you start.

Tupperware Stains - Spray your Tupperware or other plastic containers with cooking oil before you put tomato sauces in them and they won't stain.

Over-Salted Soup - If you give your pot of soup the taste-test and find it's way over-salted, peel a potato and drop it in the soup raw. It will absorb salt into itself. Leave it in until you're left with just the right amount of flavor.

Stained Fingers - Speaking of potatoes - I'm told that rubbing a slice of raw potato on your fingers will usually take stains off them.

Sprouting Potatoes - When you have a large amount of potatoes in the cupboard that you know might start to sprout before you get them all eaten, put an apple in the bag with them. It will keep them from sprouting.

Buttermilk - Buttermilk isn't something I use very often, so every now and then when I get a hankerin' to make buttermilk pancakes or something, I don't usually have any. Well, I discovered you can make your own. 1 Tbl of vinegar or lemon juice added to enough milk to make 1 cup, let it stand for 5 minutes, and whalaa! You have buttermilk.

Powdered Sugar/Confectioners Sugar - Put 1 cup of sugar in the blender and blend it up. Commercial products usually have corn starch added. If you want to more closely imitate that taste and consistency, add 1 Tbl of corn starch to the sugar when blending.

"Dusting" the Cake Pan - I never liked that look of gooey white flour on the sides of my cake or brownies. That's easily remedied by dusting the cake pan with a little bit of the dry cake mix instead. Or, if you're making a chocolate cake or brownies, you can dust the pan with some cocoa powder.

Measuring Sticky Stuff - Run your measuring spoons or cups under hot water before measuring molasses, honey or syrups, and the sticky stuff will all come off clean. Or, coat them with oil first.

Separating Eggs - If you have trouble separating eggs, use a small funnel. Crack the egg into it - the white will run through and the yolk will stay in the funnel.

Maple Syrup - I don't buy imitation maple syrup because it's basically High Fructose Corn Syrup with flavoring. HFCS is REALLY not good for you. Real maple syrup is extremely expensive. When I can't spare the money to buy it, I buy Mapleine at the grocery store. It's a natural maple extract mixed with some of the usual not-so-natural things. The little 2 oz. bottle will make 24 pints of syrup and costs about $4. You make the syrup with boiling water, sugar, and the Mapleine. I wouldn't call it a healthy "food" but this is one of those times when I'm happy to use good ole' regular sugar, because it's much preferable to the alternative. It has a real good maple flavor, is very inexpensive to buy, and is a great storage item.(Hint - make small batches that will get used right away. It tends to "sugar" on the bottom of the jar as it sits in the fridge.)

Some of these tips I've used, and some I haven't yet. They're all taken from various sources of information I keep on hand for food storage, cooking and other things. One of my favorite sources is a book my mother gave me a couple years ago, called Jumbo Jack's Helpful Hints Almanac. It's only $4.99 on Amazon, and worth every penny! I hope some of these ideas can make your life a little easier.


  1. I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become one as well.

  2. Neato! I like that bit about the eggs... I rarely keep eggs at the house.

  3. Great tips! I'm very familiar with a few. Another egg substitute (that I haven't tried yet, but will.) is to use 1 tbsp of flaxseed meal and combine with 3 tbsp water. Let it sit for 2 minutes and use for 1 egg.

  4. apple in the potato bag--i have to try that.

  5. Thanks for all the good ideas. Some I knew.... but some will be very helpful in the future.
    I didn't know I could make powdered sugar with granulated sugar so easily and I wish I had sprayed oil all my Tupperware before I put my spaghetti sauce in them. Oh well, I will know from now on.

  6. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come over to my blog and read some of my posts. God bless, Lloyd

  7. Visit your blog is always a pleasure for me. Thanks for the imformation... Saludos desde Panama... MhathyMhathy

  8. i really enjoy reading this very helpful blog. thanks for sharing it. :)

  9. I work for the Food Network television show The Kitchen. I came across your photo of the sprouted potatoes on your blog... We were hoping we might be able to use your photo of the potatoes on our show for a segment we call "Can I Eat This?"

    Please let me know if you would be interested in letting us potentially use your photo! You can email me at


    Josh King
    Production Assistant
    The Food Network



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