Archives for posts with tag: substitutions

So, you know I’ve been on a “Work With What You Got” kick for October at The Kale Chronicles. You know that I have been eating rye flakes, rolled oats and granola cooked with dried apples and milk, and then with Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil and peanut butter: when we ran out of peanut butter I substituted cashew butter and somehow breakfast keeps rolling along. So does dinner: Mom bought some black cod at Trader Joe’s on Wednesday and with Johnny coming over for dinner on Friday night (Yay!) I prepared the fish by baking it in a foil packet (similar to the baked salmon I made here) with roasted red bell peppers and kalamata olives from jars, fresh basil from the basil plant on the breakfast room table and a squeeze of Meyer lemon from our front yard tree. I made another round of my version of Shira’s Brussels sprout salad with toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries, put some red potatoes in the oven to bake with the fish and spent some time in the kitchen with my mother concocting a family favorite dessert, a baked lemon pudding.

Original watercolor painting shows baked lemon pudding and ingredients.

Lemon Pudding. 8″ x 8″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil on Paper, Sharyn Dimmick.

The lemon pudding began, as things often do at our house, with substitutions: the classic recipe, culled from an index card in one of my mother’s recipe files calls for Wheaties (“Breakfast of Champions”) cereal in the topping. Mom’s search of our high storage cupboards revealed that the orange boxes she thought contained Wheaties were in fact Bran Flakes. Oh. She decided to combine Bran Flakes and Corn Flakes to approximate the missing Wheaties.

I went out to the yard to gather lemons from the tree, bringing in four of the ripest ones I could reach. I asked Mom about quantity. She said, “The recipe calls for the juice of two lemons, but these are bland — maybe add an extra one.”

I zested and juiced three lemons, squeezing each half through my hand. This resulted in just a quarter-cup of juice.

“That’s only a quarter-cup,” I said.

“Maybe do the other one,” she replied.

I juiced the fourth lemon, but did not zest it, mainly because I had absentmindedly cut it in half to squeeze instead of picking up the microplane. Life is imperfect and I one of its imperfect creatures.

I reminded Mom that the topping for this pudding is usually tooth-ache-ingly sweet. I was working on the lemon filling while she worked on the topping and we agreed to scant the sugar in our respective parts. She reduced the brown sugar in the recipe that doubles for crust and topping and I scanted the 3/4 cup white sugar in the filling. The result of the combined sugar reduction was a more delicious pudding than usual, which we ate with the leftover sweetened mascarpone from last week’s strawberry shortcake. I present to you the modified recipe with additional observations in the Food Notes.

Homey Lemon Pudding

For lemon filling:

Juice and zest 2 ordinary Eureka lemons or 4 Meyer lemons. Set aside.

Place in saucepan:

Scant 3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1/8 tsp kosher salt

Stir in gradually:

1 cup very hot water

Bring sugar-flour-water mixture to boil over direct heat, stirring constantly for ten minutes.

Remove from heat.

Beat 2 eggs until smooth.

Temper the eggs by drizzling a little of the liquid into the eggs and whisking with a fork. Drizzle a little more liquid and whisk again. Repeat two or three more times until the eggs are perceptively warm before adding the eggs to the filling and whisking to combine. Tempering the eggs prevents having bits of cooked eggs in your lemon filling.

Add reserved lemon juice and zest to filling and stir to combine. Let filling cool while you make the topping (which also serves as the pudding’s base). At this time, also preheat your oven to 325.

In a mixing bowl combine:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt (unless using salted butter)

Cut in 1/3 cup shortening (Mom uses part margarine and part unsalted butter)


3/4 cup lightly crushed Corn Flakes

3/4 cup lightly crushed Bran Flakes (OR 1 cup Wheaties*)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Press 2/3 of brown sugar mixture into the bottom of a square pan.

Pour cooled lemon filling over topping

Top with remaining 1/3 topping.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream (creme chantilly) or sweetened whipped mascarpone. If you use Cool Whip or whipped nonfat dried milk I don’t want to hear about it, although I am not in your kitchens to supervise what you do.

Food Notes: If you have Wheaties on hand you only need a cup of them: they are thicker and crunchier than the other cereals we substituted here. On the other hand, the recipe was formulated for “old Wheaties,” which had less sugar than the current product, so substituting Corn Flakes and Bran Flakes may more closely resemble the original recipe. Bran Flakes on their own lack the necessary crunch, which is why Mom opted to mix them with Corn Flakes here. If you use salted butter in the topping you can skip the pinch of salt — it will provide all of the salt you need. Mom uses commercial sweetened shredded coconut — you can use unsweetened if you like: the topping ingredients provide plenty of sugar! We like tart lemon fillings — if you like yours sweeter either don’t scant the sugar in the filling or use one fewer lemon than we did.

Johnny and I liked the pudding so much that we had another square apiece after breakfasting on scrambled eggs with roasted peppers and cheddar cheese and sourdough toast on Saturday morning…


It is definitely fall: shorter days, cooler nights, a brisk crispness in the air. Last night there were drifting wisps of fog and a big moon, but the air was balmy as I walked my two miles home from the closest bus stop. I got up early this morning — it doesn’t matter how late I get to sleep, I will wake in the morning when the light changes — wrote for half an hour and checked emails. Then I got back under a big pile of autumn covers, talked to Johnny on the phone for awhile.

Original watercolor painting shows gingerbread waffle and ingredients.

Gingerbread Waffle. 12″ x 12″ watercolor pencil and gouache on paper. Sharyn Dimmick

When I got up the second time, it was time to make breakfast and the first thing I thought of was gingerbread waffles. Fall flavors have been creeping into our menus — we had our first pumpkin pie of the season and a butternut squash waits on the counter for me to make my signature squash soup with ginger and thyme. I keep a big binder of clipped recipes and turned to the waffle section, taking out the plastic-enclosed recipe.

I often don’t include anything extra in news clippings, saving space and just keeping the recipe, but at the bottom of the column in tiny type this clipping says “Adapted from ‘Waffles from Morning to Midnight’ by Dorie Greenspan.” I present to you an adaptation of an adaptation: I couldn’t make this recipe without taking the chance to throw in half a cup of my neglected sourdough starter and without incorporating a quarter cup of whole wheat flour for depth, texture and health benefits — surely there despite the half stick of melted butter, three-quarters cup of brown sugar and the maple syrup I drizzled on top. I also doubled the eggs.

Sourdough Gingerbread Waffles.

Measure into a large bowl:

1/2 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup molasses

1 cup buttermilk

Separate four large eggs, putting the whites into a small mixing bowl and adding the yoiks to the buttermilk-molasses-starter mixture.

Melt 1/2 stick butter (I used salted and omitted salt in the recipe. If you use unsalted you may want to add 1/4 tsp kosher salt to your dry ingredients)

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Then beat the molasses mixture just until combined.

Into a separate bowl, measure and whisk together:

1 and 3/4 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Fold dry ingredients into molasses mixture until just blended.

Add melted butter and stir until combined

Fold in egg whites — batter should be streaky, not uniform in color.

Preheat waffle iron and prepare toppings: I melted some butter, sliced some peaches and heated some maple syrup. Tomorrow I will probably serve them with blackberries, fresh peaches and figs. Cook waffles according to the directions for your waffle maker.

Food notes: if you don’t have sourdough starter, omit it and increase buttermilk to 1 and 1/2 cups. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use yogurt instead, or use regular sweet milk and eliminate the baking soda in the recipe. Or you can use 1/4 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar to sour your milk and proceed with the recipe as written. If you have whole wheat pastry flour you can substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for 1 cup of unbleached flour: in that case, eliminate the regular whole wheat flour and use 1 cup of unbleached and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour. Serve waffles with whatever floats your boat: bacon, pears and blueberries (a la local restaurant La Note), fruit syrup, jam, cinnamon sugar, pecans and whipped cream.

Original painting shows cherry plums, plum cake, plum caramel.

Plum Cake. 9″ x 12″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil on Paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

Sometimes circumstances conspire to create an end. Today is my sister-in-law’s birthday and she is coming over to go out to lunch with my mother in Walnut Creek. Barbara likes plum cake. I had half a colander of fresh cherry plums on the counter and a jar of wild plum jam that I needed to use. I had just read David Lebovitz’s blogs on butterscotch sauce (which I am dying to make) and peach cobbler, plus a post on plum cake made with cornmeal from Two Peas and Their Pod. Barbara loves whipped cream. So what would I do? I would make the cornmeal-plum cake, adapting it a little to give it a more butterscotch-y flavor by substituting some evaporated cane juice for half a cup of the white sugar and I would use the jam to make some plum caramel to serve with the cake.

For the plum caramel, I followed a recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts, except, instead of cooking fresh plums, I just added plum jam (aka cooked plums) to the caramel base, cooked it for a few minutes and strained the results. You can make simple caramel by putting 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan with 2 Tbsp water and melting it over high heat, shaking the pan every now and then (do not stir). When it takes on a pale golden color, remove it from the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water, not getting too close to the pan. You can stir now. If you are adding fruit puree to the caramel, add it now (this works with any berry or stone fruit), add it now and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Strain out any solids or seeds that have slipped through, put your caramel in a clean jar in the fridge and you are good to go for later. Fruit caramel is less acidic and more complex than simple purees and is perhaps my favorite recipe I learned from this cookbook.

Now the cake. You can see the original here. Since cakes are not my favorite things I followed the recipe closely with just two substitutions (okay, three). First, I had medium eggs rather than large — they were organic and brown — so I threw in an extra one. Then, I had lots of cherry plums rather than the four or five large plums cited in the recipe. I already told you I put in 1/2 cup of evaporated cane juice for 1/2 cup of white sugar. Oops. Um. Four substitutions. I substituted a quarter cup of sour half and half for some of the buttermilk because, you know, we had it, and it is similar, but richer.

So, this is what you get when you put together all of those substitutions with the original recipe:

Barbara’s Birthday Plum Cake

Pit the cherry plums you are using (Or pit and chop larger plums into bite-sized pieces). Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Measure 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour. After measuring sift it into a small mixing bowl.

Whisk into flour 1 tsp baking powder,

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup corn meal

Then soften 1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 Tbsp)

Cream butter with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice until light and fluffy.

Add — one at a time — 4 medium eggs (or use three large), incorporating egg fully before next addition.

Measure 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup sour cream or sour half and half, plus 1/4 cup buttermilk, which is what I used).

Alternate flour mixture and buttermilk, in increments, starting and ending with flour.

Butter and flour a cake pan. I used a bundt pan because it looks festive.

Scrape half of the batter into the pan. Scatter plums over batter. Top with remaining batter.

Bake for fifty minutes. Test to see if it is done. In a bundt pan, my cake took one hour and five minutes to show some browning on the top and to pass the toothpick test.

Cool by hanging bundt pan on a glass bottle. This is fun. Trust me.

Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream and a pool or drizzle of plum caramel. If you are my sister-in-law, add more whipped cream. Enjoy.

Food Notes: Keeping to the art of substitution, you can use any sour thing for the buttermilk — yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, even sour milk. You can make the cake as originally suggested with all white sugar, or use all evaporated cane juice. You can probably use some other fruit for the plums, although the plums (with skins) provide a beautiful color and a nice tartness that plays well against the cake. The whipped cream provides yet another contrast (and besides, we like whipped cream when we are celebrating).

Watermelon pickle: I had a problem with the watermelon pickle — it wasn’t the recipe — it was me. so I’ll be trying it again with this week’s watermelon and report back on that later.

photo shows Mosaic blood orange oil, cookbook, oranges and muffins

Oops — no painting. Had to substitute a photograph

It is now February and the tangerines have stopped arriving, but the oranges are still in full swing. This morning was cold and we needed a hot breakfast. Because I am preparing for a trip to New Mexico I picked up my copy of Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home on my way down to the kitchen. This book falls open on its own to Multigrain Muffins on page 56, the recipe I use most often (For a zucchini season variation, those of you in the southern hemisphere might want to check out zucchini gingerbread muffins, adapted from the same basic recipe). The muffin is a good, plain, not-too-sweet muffin containing oats, whole wheat pastry flour, buttermilk and vegetable oil.

Because there were fourteen oranges sitting on the counter we were going to have orange muffins. Grab a large one and begin zesting it with the microplane into a small mixing bowl. All of your liquid ingredients, plus some brown sugar and quick-cooking oats are going to go in with the zest. Got all the zest? Now juice the orange into a one-cup measuring cup. I got somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup. Since the Moosewood recipe calls for one cup of buttermilk, I pour buttermilk into the orange juice until I reach the 1-cup mark. See? I have just made my first substitution: 1/4 plus cup fresh orange juice plus zest for 1/4 cup plus of buttermilk. Both buttermilk and fresh orange juice are acid and will be reacting with the baking soda in the recipe to rise. Now I turn on my oven to 400.

Having substituted orange juice for part of the buttermilk I followed the recipe as written for awhile, adding to my orange-buttermilk mixture, one egg, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats.  I whisk all that together. Quick cooking oats feature smaller pieces than rolled oats. Soaking in liquids helps them break down and blend with the other ingredients — you won’t know they are in the finished product, which is useful if you have suspicious children or significant others who are dismissive of “health foods.”

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup vegetable oil. I usually use corn oil, but I have a secret ingredient for citrus recipes, a wonderful product by Mosaic, a blood orange olive oil. In case you don’t know yet that I am not a high-income gourmand who goes out and buys everything under the sun, let me tell you that this oil showed up at my local Canned Foods Grocery Outlet. My friend Elaine gave me some as a gift and I went down and snapped up another bottle of my own. If money is no object, order yourself some. If you find it on sale, stock up. This morning I was wondering if I could buy some blood oranges and whomp up some of my own for less than the cost of a new bottle (my supply is getting low), so I read the label. They make this stuff by pressing olives and blood oranges together. Oh. Too bad — I don’t have access to olives.

Anyway, back to the recipe. In the same measuring cup I used before I poured about 1 Tbsp blood orange oil. Then I filled it with corn oil to reach 1/4 cup. This was my second substitution and there is a theme here: with each substitution I am building orange flavor. I’ve added zest, juice and now oil made from olives and oranges. Just for the heck of it, I added 1 tsp of vanilla and a grating of nutmeg because I like them.

Okay. Now I’m almost done substituting. I docilely mix the 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder called for in the book, whisking them together in a large mixing bowl. Before I stir them into the liquid ingredients I get out my standard 12-muffin muffin tin. I am too old to eat jumbo muffins — if I want more, I’ll just have two.

Oops. Substitution number three coming up: Moosewood says to oil the muffin tins: if I do, they will stick — I need something greasier than oil. I dig out the greasy margarine from the butter compartment (this is the kind of thing we use margarine for — if I didn’t use margarine I’d lube the tin up with good old Crisco or another vegetable shortening. Or if I had a butter wrapper handy I’d swipe it through the muffin cups). For insurance I melt the tiny half pat of butter on the butter plate and swab that in with my fingers. It will add flavor.

Time to mix the liquid with the dry ingredients. I made a well in the dry, poured the liquids in and mixed with a rubber scraper just until I saw no flour clumps, hauled the batter into the tin quickly with the same scraper and popped the muffins into the oven. While they baked for twenty minutes I had time to do all of the dishes and put stray ingredients away, plus get out a cooling rack.

The muffins were good. That’s why I’m telling you about them. I made myself a cup of decaf coffee with half and half and ate two of them slowly. They have a subtle sweetness, best noticed if you chew them thoughtfully rather than wolf them down. I know from experience that Moosewood’s Multigrain Muffins taste sweeter and stronger after they have cooled, but it is lovely to eat them hot on a cold morning and know that the ones you don’t eat will taste better later.

Food Notes: The Mosaic blood orange oil is a lovely thing. I said that already. I would try any oil of theirs that I came across. No, they do not pay me, and I have no affiliation with the company. Could you make lemon muffins instead? You certainly could. Tassajara Bakery used to make a killer lemon-ginger muffin. You could do that, too. Could you use all white flour? Sigh. Yes, you could, although it pains me to admit it. In the privacy of your kitchen you can pile on the white flour and white sugar, too. I do that in desserts sometimes, but I don’t like gummy, white muffins. Could you use a different oil? Sure. If you keep to the amounts given in the recipe you can make any reasonable substitution. Out of buttermilk? Use yogurt or sour milk. Have only regular milk in the house? Sour it with a little vinegar or lemon juice OR eliminate the baking soda and add an additional teaspoon of baking powder. Enjoy

Painting Note: There is no painting this week. I thought there would be — let’s just say time management is not my forte. I did take a few photos to prove that I actually made these muffins and didn’t make them up, so, just this once, I substituted a photograph for a painting.

By the time you read this I will be en route to Taos, New Mexico sans mobile devices for eight days. I will not be able to read and respond to comments until my return on February 12, but I love it when you comment. If I can, I will bring you back something good from the land of green chile and pine nuts.

painting of zucchini-gingerbread muffin ingredients.

Zucchini-Gingerbread Muffins. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Sarah O. mentioned overgrown garden zucchini in her comment on Zucchini-Feta Pancakes and I thought, “It’s time to get out the other zucchini recipe,” useful for times when you are drowning in zucchini or your zucchini is not of the best or you have zucchini-haters in the household. The solution? Zucchini-Gingerbread Muffins, another example of camouflage cooking.

You’ve heard of zucchini bread, I’m sure. But what if we made it healthier? And what if we took occasion to use up the sour milk, buttermilk, blinky half and half, or old canned milk hanging out in the fridge? If you are shuddering, just stick with buttermilk or plain yogurt when you get to the recipe, but otherwise, stay with me and, as my friend Bob says, you may never pour sour milk down the sink again.

In the old days, when milk used to sour, when ice houses were common and farm wives could not afford to throw things away, they made use of what they had: if the milk went sour, you cooked with it. Good cooks knew that you could “sweeten” milk with soda and sour it with lemon juice or vinegar to adapt it to your recipe.

I developed this recipe to use sour(ed) dairy products and zucchini. The soda takes care of any off-flavors — I am not advocating that you drink soured milk, just that you cook with it — and the oven heat kills any organisms you might otherwise worry about. Gingerbread contains multiple assets in camouflage cooking: cloves, mustard, ginger, cinnamon, molasses and brown sugar. Chocolate is the other great camouflage flavor in desserts but we won’t go there today (unless you want to).

My jumping-off point was the Multigrain Muffins recipe in “Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.” I have used Moosewood’s muffin recipe so many times that the spine of the paperback book is broken at that page and the page itself is spotted. Need I say more?

The first thing I do is check the end of the  recipe for suggested additions to see how much zucchini I can get away with using. Since it says 1 and 1/2 cups of apples or blueberries, I know I can use 1 and 1/2 cups of zucchini, plus a little more. I go to work with a grater.

Next, I look at the volume of liquids, Because I want to introduce molasses for a gingerbread flavor, I reduce the buttermilk  (or soured milk or soured cream or sour cream or yogurt) to 3/4 cup to allow for 1/4 cup molasses. Now I will follow the recipe pretty much, except for adding gingerbread spices: ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and dry mustard.

Zucchini-Gingerbread Muffins

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease a twelve cup (standard sized) muffin tin with corn oil, vegetable shortening or butter. Use plenty so the muffins won’t stick and your tin cleans easily.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together:

1 cup unbleached flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder (You must use both).

2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

In a small mixing bowl, beat with the same whisk

1 egg


1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use corn oil)

3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1/4 cup molasses (or honey, if you like things lighter in flavor)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

grated zucchini (you can get away with up to two cups — say two small or one large zucchini)

Whisk together and set aside.

Make a well in dry ingredients. Pour in wet ingredients and fold or stir just until blended. Transfer batter to muffin cups.

Bake at 400 for twenty minutes. Test centers with a toothpick or knife if you want — it should come out clean. Let cool on rack for a few minutes.

Food notes:

I like baked goods and desserts less sweet than many Americans. If you like things very sweet, you might want to increase the sugar, or eat the muffins slathered with honey or sweetened cream cheese: you’ll figure it out.

As long as you watch the liquid to dry ingredient ratio you can add other things you like: nuts, coconut, grated apple or carrot, chocolate chips, a teaspoon of espresso powder, lemon zest. If you invent a wonderful variation, frost the muffins with something unique or have a great serving suggestion, by all means write in and share it.

Cornmeal variation: One recent day I ran out of whole wheat pastry flour. I replaced it with another half cup unbleached flour and half a cup of yellow cornmeal. The result was delicious, maybe even better than the original recipe above — if you like cornmeal and molasses, be sure to try it.

Painting Note: For more information about “Zucchini-Gingerbread Muffins” or any other original painting, please contact me here.