General Cooking Notes:
This is my mixed bag of tips, tricks and an a little look on why I cook the way I cook
My General Substitutions: When you have a food intolerance/allergy you get REALLY good at substituting things and this is what I have found works for me. Most recipes can be converted into something you can eat and enjoy with a little trial and error. Though be cautious of recipes that rely on the key characteristics of something you can’t have, like don’t try to make a cheese sauce if you can’t have dairy (though I’m trying because failure is not an option!)
- Cow’s Milk: for sweet recipes any not-milk will do (almond, soy, coconut, etc.) Savory recipes are tougher, I’ve found that all the commercial brands still add vanilla to their unsweetened so it can make things funky. My favorite so far is Hy-vee’s unsweetened almond milk (if you live in the Midwest try it out!). When baking you may need to double or triple the baking powder or soda to get the same sort of rise.
- Cream: substitute full fat canned coconut milk, yes things will be slightly coconutty so this works best with sweet recipes or curry
- Cheese: leave it out. Which makes it the saddest category here. It’s the only thing I don’t even try substituting anymore because all of the not-cheeses I have tried are super gross or are so hard to work into recipes that I’ve pretty much given up. The only commercial one that seems passable is Tofutti but it still tastes chemically. Fermented nut cheeses are really hard to find and are similar to those artisan herbed cheese spreads. They are good but really only work as a sandwich spread or with crackers, not as an ingredient. I’m not a fan of the taste of nutritional yeast but if that floats your boat go ahead!
- Butter: use oil or if you need a solid fat use lard, Crisco or coconut oil
- Yogurt: use a not-milk option like almond, soy or coconut. Don’t expect this to taste the same, I have found that both the texture and taste are a bit strange so I use it as an ingredient only
- Sour Cream: depending on the recipe use a not-milk yogurt or mayonnaise
- All-Purpose Flour: I like Bob’s Red mill 1:1 but there are a ton of brands out there find one in your price point that works for you. If I need to thicken things with a roux I usually mix some cornstarch with cold water and stir that into whatever I’m cooking on the stove.
- Bread: I really like Udis, they seem to have the best bread even though it is expensive!
- Bread Crumbs: I either use steel cut/rolled oats, a spiced GF flour, or the crumbled bits of failed cooking experiments
- Pasta/Noodles: I like Rozoni GF noodles for traditional pasta and then I use a ton of alternative pastas like glass noodles/bean threads and rice noodles
- Soy Sauce: Gluten Free Tamari (Kikkoman’s is a lie! read the label!) I’ve also heard of people using coconut aminos if they cannot have soy
- Garlic: I make garlic oil. Basically I slice up some raw garlic and let it sit in some oil. It is shelf stable enough to last me a few months (basically I bought garlic oil once and just kept on remaking it in the same bottle after cleaning it)
- High Fructose Corn Syrup: I either sub 1:1 with regular corn syrup (if I don’t mind that the recipe will be a bit less sweet) or I may use maple syrup or a bit of regular sugar to balance things out
- Honey: I either switch to Maple syrup or a combo of corn syrup and table sugar
Cooking on a Budget: I’m either pretty broke or I like to save money (ok both not gonna lie) If you want to join the frugal campaign here is what has worked for me in that past
- Try to make a decent sized part of every meal for less than a dollar a pound. For example both rice and potatoes are super cheap so I use a lot of those.
- Shop seasonally. The prices of in season fruit and vegetables is usually less than everything else in the isle. I’ve also found that farmers markets have some of the lowest prices and some of the best produce.
- Shop by the Sales. Take a look at the local ad and buy the things you like (and use) that are on sale then. So lets say chicken goes on supah-sale at 69 cents a pound, buy and freeze some of that. Your wallet will thank you later when you wanna splurge on something tasty (like that mint choco chip coconut ice cream that you avoid in the freezer section until your having a really bad day, yea were planning for that too!)
- Buy meat with the bones. It is usually cheaper and then you can make broth from the bones and whatever vegetable scraps you have lying around. Two meals in one, purrrrfect!
- Love your freezer. The freezer is a magical land, you can freeze fruits, vegetables and meats when they are cheap and use them later. You can make a huge pot of something and then freeze part of it for when you’re feeling lazy. You can amass the carcasses of the delicious animals you have eaten until it is time to make broth! It is also where the French fry’s live (shhhhhh don’t tell).
- Finish the things in yo fridge and freezer BEFORE they go bad. Don’t waste all that deliciousness!
- If you have the time, space and the money think about a garden. Seeds are cheap and then they just need sun, water and time. Food just off the vine/outta the garden also just tastes better and it has no pesticides (which is why I try to buy organic when I can).
Tips, Tricks and Philosophies:
- Don’t be afraid to experiment! Some of my best recipes came about with just throwing stuff in a pot and seeing what happens
- The more you cook the easier it gets and the less of a hassle it all becomes. You start to memorize recipes and invent new ones and it all becomes natural.
- When I have the money I buy local and organic. The fresher and riper your fruits and vegetables are the better they taste! Organic farmers also take care of the land and are focused on not putting chemicals into the ground which creates a sustainable ecosystem.
- You can put pretty much anything on french frys and it is delicious. Burger toppings, hell yea! Curry, yes! Pretend its nachos and put guacamole, salsa and all the other fixins, fo sho!