Culinary Confessions

Best cooking substitutions for wine

Alcohol substitutes pic

I used to skip recipes that included alcohol. See Mr. Squid and I are non-drinkers. But I’ve learned that ingredients I have on hand are often good substitutions (as far as this teetotaler is concerned). Now, I’m not planning on trying to substitute the booze in vodka sauce–but recipes that include 1 cup of white wine or a smattering of red can easily have stand-ins.

 

As a base I use either chicken, vegetable, or beef broth. At my local grocers you can find Minor’s bases in the refrigerated section. They’re a little on the pricey side but one tub lasts forever. You can also use chicken broth from a carton. I tweak the flavor of the broth depending on what kind of wine the recipe calls for.

 

Here are a few substitutes I use:

White wine = Chicken broth + a little white grape juice + a splash of white balsamic vinegar

Red wine = Chicken or beef broth + a little red grape juice + a splash of regular balsamic vinegar

Fruit wines = Chicken or vegetable broth + apple or orange juice (maybe a bit of both) + white grape juice + fruit vinegars like raspberry

 

Your turn: Do you have any clever substitutions when recipes call for wine and you either don’t want to use it or don’t have it on hand?

 

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Cook your quinoa!

These might look pretty but be careful, these can crack a tooth!

My teen has been going through a quinoa kick lately. After several successful meals with quinoa as a side, usually tabbouleh style–with a vinaigrette dressing, lots of fresh veggies, and a dash of feta–we decided to branch out. She found a recipe for multigrain breakfast bars where you toast uncooked quinoa in the oven along with oats and nuts to make the base of the bars.

I knew the recipe was going downhill when I tried to process the quinoa batter in my food processor. The batter was supposed to start to come together. It stuck. You could hear the little quinoa seeds popping as the blades turned. And turned. Undeterred, we figured that’s just how the batter was supposed to be–thick and unspreadable. Spatula in hand I forced the batter out into a parchment-lined 9 x 13″ baking dish and popped it into the refrigerator, just like the recipe said. Thirty minutes later I tried to cut the quinoa bars into squares. The knife wouldn’t even go in. At all. It was quinoa concrete.

We broke the 9 x 13″ bark apart instead and hopped for the best as my teen and I took bites. I should say nibbles really because that’s all that you could get from these quinoa multrigrain bars. My teen claimed they were okay, but today I tossed out the full bowl of our quinoa multigrain bars. No one had seconds (or really made it through firsts).

I haven’t given up on multigrain bars, just the idea of leaving quinoa uncooked before putting it into a batter. My teen hasn’t asked to try any quinoa recipes since. But I’m set on trying more. That’s part of being an adventurous eater, so you don’t like something uncooked like quinoa, or spinach or tomatoes… Next time try it a new way and maybe you will enjoy it.

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Culinary confession: I don’t like muffin papers

Muffin papers annoy me. Bad.

Follow me here–what happens when you use muffin papers? It’s nearly impossible to get every last crumb. Some of it always ends up trapped in the folds of the paper, especially when you try to eat it when it’s still hot (which I do. Constantly). Add to that, the outside of the muffin doesn’t get that golden, crisped texture when you use the moisture-trapping papers.

So yes, muffin papers are terribly convenient, but I try to avoid them in favor of perfectly browned, paperless muffins.

Check back in tomorrow for my favorite bran muffin recipe. (Promise–it’s not dry and even kids will ask for seconds.)

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Culinary Confession: Canned Tomatillos

Tomatillos

Photo credit: tokyofoodcast

Tomatillos. The bright, green little veggies wrapped in a papery husk taste almost like the cross between a tomato and a lime. Around our house we use them all the time–tossed in chili, whipped into a salsa verde, blended to create a green enchiladas sauce. But truth be told tomatillos stink. Literally. The paper husk smells like rotting dirty socks. When you have to go through a whole pile of them at the grocery store you’re likely to come away with stinky fingers. Plus, using fresh tomatillos right often requires a few steps like boiling or roasting.

On a whim, years ago, I bought canned tomatillos for a recipe that called for pounds of the little greenies. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick out and roast fresh ones so I thought I’d take a little recipe shortcut, just this once. The recipe turned out perfectly. Since then, I’ve been bypassing the produce aisle for the canned variety of tomatillos. There so convenient and quick. I still buy and stink up my fingers to create fresh tomatillo salsas, but for everyday use, I go for the cans.

It’s not just convenience that compels me to go for the can, tomatillos aren’t always available fresh, but you can usually find the cans year round at Krogers in the ethnic foods section. Anyone else hooked on canned tomatillos?

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