This for That: A guide to common kitchen substitutions

      I though it may be a good idea to provide a page of reference for those new to the kitchen (and those not-so-new).  I frequently substitute ingredients for ones I either prefer or I just happen to have around the house.  When doing so, I do my best to make equal swaps.  Ingredients often do more than just add flavor.  They work together to create the appropriate volume, acidity, color and texture desired.  For example, thinking you’ll just replace baking powder with baking soda in your blueberry muffins?  You’ll have some gorgeous, mile-high baked goods on your hands that will taste terrible.  I personally struggle with baking because of my haphazard measuring methods and thirst for modifying recipes.  Cooking is an art, baking, a science.  Therefore, I have included some tried and true ingredient replacements for everyday use.

       With baking, be sure to level off your measurements with the back of a knife or other flat object.  Investing in a kitchen scale is also a great technique and inexpensive ones can be found online or at most big-box stores.  When cooking, strict measurements are less imperative to the process however, the nutrient content will vary based on any changes you make.  Remember, many cookbooks are great with providing measurement equivalents as well as common ingredient substitutions.   

       When making dips or dressings for slaws, I often replace half the sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt which cuts down significantly on fat, adds a tangy flavor and even packs in an extra 20g of protein per cup.

       Exchange vinegar for lemon juice in equal amounts, adjusting to taste.  I tend to avoid raw onions in my recipes, opting for red onion, scallions, garlic and most often, shallots.  If a recipe calls for red meat or poultry, I often replace it with shrimp, tofu, mushrooms, or avocado for added protein and to produce a similar yield.  Vegan readers may swap milk for soy or almond milk (and condensed milk for coconut milk), and replace each egg a recipe calls for with a small mashed banana or one tablespoon of applesauce.

       When choosing your salt, go with what works best for you.  Ounce for ounce, table salt, kosher salt and sea salt all have similar sodium contents.  However, the theory is, since kosher salt and sea salt are not as fine as table salt, when measuring them out you will actually be getting less salt and more air.  You will also get less salty flavor, so adjust accordingly.  (Note: it takes about two weeks for your taste buds to become accustomed to less salt/sodium in your diet so give yourself time, things will start to taste good again!)