This is a common topic of conversation for me. I learned to bake using the traditional white flour, sugar, butter, and nearly full-fat dairy. Shortly after I started baking for myself I began tweaking the recipes simply based on what I had around, initially just low-fat dairy. As I got more in to Weight Watchers and nutrition and more comfortable in the kitchen I started to play more with my ingredients. While not all of my substitutions have turned out perfectly, these are my most reliable exchanges.
Herbs & Spices: Here are some helpful ideas for those bottles of spices gathering dust in your pantry…
- Allspice: Excellent in baking or in Caribbean or Middle Eastern meat dishes
- Basil: Light licorice/mint flavor, complements tomatoes
- Cayenne Pepper: Cajun dishes, curries and seafood
- Celery Seed: Great complement to egg salad
- Chili Powder: Add to eggs, Mexican foods, etc (I use this on TONS… I’m a slave to heat)
- Cilantro: Essential to salsa and Latin, Indian and Asian dishes
- Cumin: Southwestern, Indian and Mediterranean foods
- Dill: Excellent with seafood; marries well with lemon and mustard
- Ginger: Excellent with baked goods, orange/yellow vegetables and Asian foods
- Marjoram: Related to oregano but gentler and sweeter. Use with beans and on pizza
- Oregano: Better suited to Italian, Greek, and Mexican foods
- Paprika: Brilliant red and sweet. Use to color and flavor a variety of foods (I love this with chocolate desserts)
- Rosemary: Great with pork, lamb, chicken and anything with olive oil and garlic
- Tarragon: Complements chicken and fish dishes, salads, dressings and mustard sauces (Try this recipe from Ina Garten but use skin-less chicken breasts and 1/2c reduced fat mayo and 1/4c plain non-fat yogurt.)
- Thyme: Excellent with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and tomato sauces
Additional Considerations when using butter and oil:
- If you are using it for cooking try sauteing vegetables or cooking rice in a low-sodium fat-free broth instead of butter or oil. When making homemade mashed potatoes bulk up on flavor by using garlic, broth and fresh herbs instead of butter and milk.
- If you are using it for baking swap a pureed fruit for up to 1/2 of the total butter/oil in a light batter (cookies, cakes, etc), for a chocolate dessert you can substitute 100% fruit for the butter/oil. Some great substitution options (must be soft and pureed): bananas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, applesauce, prunes.
- If you are making a pastry like croissants or pastry crusts do not use margarine or light butter as it will negatively affect your end product
Happy Healthy Cooking!