Kitchen Substitutions

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.

Baking Substitutions

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!


what’s a girl to do… with an empty kitchen?

My kitchen is in a pretty sad state right now… On the 86 list currently: beer, diet coke and cookies. I know these aren’t the healthiest things but they are my little treats throughout the day. I’m getting into dangerous waters because on our endangered list are: lean protein, fruit, and granola bars. And beyond that the last package of chicken we have would not defrost in a timely manner so we opted for Thai food tonight, chicken tomorrow. The take out put me over my normal point allotment for today but so long as I don’t make a trend of this or overeat like crazy for the next few days this will not make much of a difference. I put a lot of focus on snacks today so be sure to check out the Snack Attack page.

Today’s Food Journal

Breakfast: 1/2c oatmeal, 1/2c coffee

Lunch: 1c turkey chili, 2t sour cream, 1 chocolate chip cookie, 1/2 large orange, 2c black tea

Dinner: 2 chicken satay, 1t peanut sauce, 1c drunken noodles, 1 chocolate chip cookie, 1 miller lite

Snacks: 1 tall skim latte, 1 large banana, 4 chocolates

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli (adapted from Weight Watchers)

  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 12 oz chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth, low sodium and fat free
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 ½ cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

On a plate, combine 1 ½ T of flour, ¼ t of salt and pepper; add 12 oz chicken and turn to coat. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes; remove to a plate. Put 1 cup of broth and garlic in same skillet; bring to a boil over high heat, scrapping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add broccoli; cover and cook 1 minute. In a small cup, stir together remaining 1/2 c of broth, ½ T of flour, and ¼ t of salt; add to skillet and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in chicken and lemon zest; heat through. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice; toss to coat.

Yields about 1 cup per serving. Points Plus: 4