Failed Experiments and the Law of Substitutions

Today, I will share with you some of my past mistakes in an effort to educate and hopefully prevent others from doing the same. I’ve said it before that I don’t like buying obscure ingredients like couscous that I won’t use more than once. But there are some ingredients in recipes that probably are there for a reason…

Black Bean Cakes:

Supposed to look like this,

Turned out like this:

I got this recipe from a yahoo article: Black Bean Cake Recipe

As you can see, my “cakes” turned out to be black bean mush..I tried to make them look pretty by sprinkling some leftover crispy fried onions on top. However, and I hate to say it, they still looked like poo. The white powdery stuff on it is the flour and it turns out just putting flour on something doesn’t automatically make it crispy.

What went wrong, you ask? The recipe was fairly simple..however, it called for 5 large eggs. And when I looked in my fridge, all I had was basically everything else. So I googled cooking without eggs and I found something about using baking powder as a substitute on some random website. It didn’t work..at least not for this but I made some box red velvet cupcakes without eggs and they turned out pretty good but they tasted more like brownies.

The black bean things didn’t taste too bad, just tasted like refried beans..with flour on it. The recipe also called for panko which I’m still not exactly sure what it is or where I could get it. Now is a good time to introduce the law.

The Law of Substitutions states that if you do not have a specific ingredient required for your meal, it is completely acceptable to substitute using similar or, if necessary, multiple ingredients to complete the meal. That doesn’t sound as eloquent as I was trying to make it but you get the idea. However, in the case of major ingredients such as eggs, the Law of Substitutions does not apply. It does apply for seasonings like instead of mustard powder I use a combination of onion and garlic powder. And of course since I’m vegetarian, I substitute meat with either Morningstar “meat” or leave it out all together. I also don’t like the sound of heavy cream so if a recipe asks for it, I just use the half and half that’s in my fridge.

I have another failed experiment to share but it wasn’t because of substituting, it was just a lack-of-common-sense type of mistake. I love potatoes..mashed, fried, sweet, scalloped. So I decided to try this au gratin recipe I found online:   Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe

Turned out like this:

<—This is the complete meal with the spinach tart from my last post, MorningStar Patties, and Texas Toast.

It looks decent right? Let me tell ya, the potatoes were hard as rocks! The recipe calls for you to cut the potatoes raw and put them with the rest of the ingredients in the oven for a total of 50 min. I don’t know if it was the type of potatoes that I bought or what but after heating and re-heating, the potatoes were not as soft as I would have liked them to be. The sauce was good but now I know that next time I will boil the potatoes for a little bit so that they are softer before I cut them.

As I said before, this is a learning experience and I am learning a lot on this journey. Soon I will be a masterful culinary artist! *wishful thinking*

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Cookbooks: A love/hate relationship

I own several cookbooks and I’ll list all of them on here sometime..One of my policies is that I never buy anything at the grocery store that I will only use once unless it’s for a special occasion like a dinner party or holiday. Alright, that’s phrased kinda weird..what I mean to say is that I look for recipes that use things that are already in my pantry or if I buy it, I know that I can use it again in another meal..like butter.

I also believe in the Law of Substitutions which mostly came from my mother, but at times, this law can work against you. I will explain the law in another post, but first I have something to get off my chest..

Here is where the love/hate comes in: I love the creativity and diversity of cookbooks and above all, I love the pictures! BUT I hate that I have to search the high heavens for “special” ingredients or buy special kitchen utensils and appliances like a blender or electric mixer (side note: I specifically used a blender as an example because it was on our registry and no one bought it for us so I’m slightly bitter). And above all, I hate that my version of the meal looks nothing like the glossy pictures!

The above cookbook is one of my favorites to love/hate. I picked it up at Barnes and Nobles from the sale table (another philosophy of mine, never buy anything that’s not on sale)..I have tried and failed several recipes from this book but I keep coming back for more in hopes of actually creating something that will impressed people (and by people, I mean my meat-eating husband and myself). It hasn’t been all bad..I have “mastered” some of its recipes. Like the one I am sharing with you today: Cheese and Spinach Tart. As you can see from the pictures, this is very gourmet-lookin stuff..after further research, I’ve found that there is actually a career or art form in food photography! There’s a technique involved! Upon this discovery, I have since decided to not feel bad and to stop comparing my creations with that of the pictures. However, there should be some disclaimer or warning on the inside cover like: The objects in this book are not as they seem when you make them at home (or something more clever). Ok I digress.

Below is the pretty picture with the relatively simple instructions for the tart, I’ve also included a pdf file in case you would like to try this at home:

cheeseandspinach  <—click the hyperlink for the full recipe

The following pictures are my attempts at recreating this tart:

First of all I don’t own a roller, so I used this lovely shot glass to roll out the dough. Also, the dough part required “mustard powder” which I don’t have so I used a lil onion powder and garlic powder (see Law of Substitutions).

I also don’t own a circular baking pan like the one in the picture

Voila! The finished product! Now, the recipe calls for you to cut the remaining dough with a “lattice pastry cutter”..So in comparison, I think I came pretty close right?

All in all, it ended up tasting pretty good. Kinda like a spinach quiche and the dough tasted like pot pie crust. We ate it with instant mashed potatoes (since I didn’t feel like making anything else lol) and my husband said it was good. Ya hear that fancy cookbook people?! I don’t need your stupid lattice cutter!

Some professionals might say that cooking is also about presentation and I agree that presentation does make food look and consequently taste better (in some cases). But to those of us who aren’t that great on the presentation side of things, I say find an awesome food photographer in your area and maybe he can make it look better 😉

That’s it for now, remember to eat and be merry!

(Ok seriously, does anyone have any suggestions on a good signing off catch phrase? Cuz that is not the one)

Welcome World!

I have recently taken a liking to this blogging business but I’m not sure about food blogging..apparently I have a lot to learn as shown by the book above. I do know that I’ve always found it easier to express myself through writing than any other outlet. I’ve entitled this “Food Therapy” because the basis of this blog will be vegetarian recipes that I have found or created and I will also include anecdotes or lessons I’ve learned. Being a newlywed, my husband and I discussed prior to marriage that I would be the cook of the house and considering I have only cooked for myself for the past 5 plus years, there is a challenge ahead. Did I mention that my husband is a meat-eater?

I have several disclaimers to make before starting:

1. I am not a professional cook or chef. I have no background in cooking nor have I ever been to a culinary institute.

2. Generally, I don’t use measurements when cooking..I kinda go off instinct or what looks about right, which usually leads to a trial by error approach. But I have received compliments on my cooking from family and friends if that helps.

3. I am not a really healthy vegetarian. I am what is called lacto-ovo-vegetarian, I eat cheese, milk, eggs etc. I try to cut back since I’m slightly lactose intolerant (who isn’t these days?) but none the less, I’m not a tofu or soy milk fanatic. My mom always said I was weird because I was a vegetarian who didn’t like vegetables. Which isn’t true..I always try to incorporate some kind of green in each meal.

Welp, that’s it for now. I have to think of a cool catch phrase to say at the end of these posts…