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ADAPTING YOUR FAVORITE RECIPES FOR BETTER HEATH AND BETTER NUTRITION
Most of the foods which you already enjoy can be adapted to a more natural or even vegetarian diet. Those which depend on white sugar or flour for taste or texture, and those which require foods you have decided not to use are the most challenging.
Meats and proteins
Examples? It may be difficult to replace a standing rib roast or whole turkey with a vegetarian equivalent. However, recipes requiring pieces of meat adapt beautifully to wheat meat (seitan) substitutions or to bean combinations. My favorite quick change is to substitute about 5 cups of cooked beans for each 3 pounds of stew meat, using a mixture of red beans, butterbeans, great Northerns, and limas. The usual change here is that the beans don't need browning, and the recipe doesn't need to cook as long.
You can use your favorite meat seasoning combinations on wheat meat or mild-flavored beans just like on meats. Most of the ethnic cuisines of the world are based on vegetarian principles because meat was so rarely available. You can also become very adventurous; the first time you serve a Chinese dinner using butterbeans or tofu in place of chicken in the Chicken Almond Ding, you may feel a little apprehensive, but it gets easier.
Several religions, notably the Seventh Day Adventists in America and the Hindus, Jains and Buddhists in the East are vegetarian according to their principles. They have developed extensive meatless cuisines which you can consult in cookbooks or through local restaurants or immigrants. You may be able to find or order canned meat substitutes developed by the the Seventh Day Adventists, such as those manufactured by Loma Linda Foods, Inc. or Worthington Foods. Make no mistake, they do not taste precisely like the foods they replace, though the hot dogs are close. Still, they give plenty of chewing satisfaction and you may find several which are palatable to you. Avoid those which contain preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. They aren't any better for you in vegetarian food than they are in omnivorous food.
With whole soy products or excess cheese, eggs and dairy, you may find that you have a pretty high carbohydrate intake and fat intake when you change over to non-meat foods. This is not necessary. Make a practice of eating carbohydrate foods in balanced combinations to improve their protein quality--more on this is in another article on protein combining--and if you begin to have a craving for sweets, increase your protein intake instead of your carbohydrate intake. Use low fat or defatted soy products unless you need the extra calories.
It is in the areas of baked and home-prepared foods that the interested cook can make the most substantial contribution to the eater's health. All of the baked goods recipes on this site were adapted from originals using white flour, sugar, etc. First the objectionable ingredients are replaced by those which are more nearly whole foods, then the resulting recipe is fortified to the highest possible protein quality.
Many tasty cakes can be made with honey and whole wheat pastry flour, but it is almost impossible to make a light, moist chocolate cake using honey and whole wheat pastry flour without eggs.
Whole grain flour
You will find that whole wheat pastry flour can be substituted for white in all but the lightest recipes, by sifting and then, subtracting 1 tablespoon from each cup. Where this is not available, you can get similar results by sifting graham or regular whole wheat flour twice before you measure it, setting aside whatever sifts out. You can put the bran or germ which sifts out into homemade bread or hot cereal.
Regular whole wheat flour works well in the more substantial recipes such as bread recipes. Regular whole wheat can have less gluten (low quality bread protein) than white, and the bran must rehydrate for best flavor and texture. It must be kneaded for a longer time than white bread. 15-30 minutes is not unreasonable. Gluten is what causes the bread/cake/roll to catch the air bubbles rising from the yeast or leavening agent and rise with it, and only wheat flour contains a substantial amount. Consequently, you can substitute only a small part of the wheat flour with rye flour, cornmeal, soy flour, etc. before the creation falls flat. Keep this in mind when you start experimenting.
You can also add 1 tablespoon of non-instant milk powder and ½-1 tablespoon each of soy flour and wheat germ to each cup of flour in most recipes without ill effect and with a definite improvement in the protein quality. When you try this with a new recipe, start with 1 teaspoon each per cut and increase each time you make it as long as you are happy with the results. Milk, including dry milk mixed double strength, can be used in place of water in most recipes. It causes very slight changes in the texture of the final product. This type of supplementation is used to make "Cornell formula" products.
Sugar and honey
When you replace sugar with other sweeteners, first consider the role of the sugar in the dish. In recipes where it added only sweetness such as sauces, puddings, most breads, you can safely substitute honey for the full amount of sugar, using about ½-2/3 cup honey for each cup of sugar and decreasing the liquid in the rest of the recipe slightly, or slightly increasing the dry ingredients. Recipes which depend on sugar for their texture (most cakes, brownies, candy, jams, and all those which begin by creaming butter and sugar together) are much more difficult to adjust. However, these are precisely the foods which spoil the palate and malnourish the body, so you might wish to consider replacing the food rather than some of its ingredients.
Baking with honey increases the lasting ability of the food involved. It requires a drop in oven temperature of about 25 and a longer baking period, because it browns more quickly but cooks a bit slower. If a recipe containing eggs is made unpleasantly heavy by the use of honey, you can lighten it by separating the eggs, beating the whites stiff, and folding them in just before you bake it.
Adding dried milk or soy flour
Instant powdered milk is best dissolved in liquid which is going to be used in the recipe. Non-instant milk powder and soy floursshould be thoroughly stirred or sifted into the dry ingredients before they are added to the liquid ones.
Salt is an item you may as much as possible simply drop from your recipes. You can substitute kelp, vegetized salt or vegetable seasoning, unsalted bouillon powder such as Dr. Bronner's Protein Seasoning in savory recipes which contain salt. You can also use a potassium-based salt substitute since American diets tend to be heavy on sodium and light on potassium. Whatever salty seasonings you use should be a good source of iodine through either seaweed or supplementation since iodine is both very necessary and quite rare in foods other than sea-derived ones.
Fats and oils
Other than indulgence, there is little reason for including added hard fat of any kind in your diet, so avoid hydrogenated shortening, tallow, suet, lard, coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil. Chicken fat and that found in fish is fairly unsaturated, but can contain high levels of pesticides (chicken and fish) or toxic heavy metals (fish) unless from organically grown chickens or small fish. Butter can be substituted for shortening in most recipes and is 20-30% unsaturated (much higher than most margarines), but you need more: 1 ¼ cup for each cup of other fat because it contains milk solids. It also browns faster.
Oil can be substituted one for one in recipes which contain melted fat or butter. It can also be used successfully in other recipes which do not depend on their hard fat for lightness, flakiness, or tenderness. For instance, a pie crust made with whole wheat pastry flour and oil will use less oil but not be flaky at all, nor will it be particularly tender. Consider using the oat, nut, crumb, and coconut crusts recipes included in our recipe box. Biscuits made with oil never seem to have the light texture of those made with white flour and shortening, so why not use muffins, scones and quick breads which do adapt well to your new regime and can be good for you.
Oils, of course, are easily substituted for bacon grease or other melted
meat fats in favorite cornbread and vegetable recipes. See the "vegetable