Creative Recipes: Food and Baking Substitutions for Lean Times

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Early spring can be a lean time on the homestead, what with last year's supplies being nearly used up and next season's garden not even in the ground yet.

Early spring can be a lean time on the homestead, what with
last year’s supplies being nearly used up and next season’s
garden not even in the ground yet. Or — to look on the
positive side — it’s a good season to dig out the odds
and ends of grain, dried fruit, stored vegetables, or what
have you and get creative with them . . . with the help of
some highly adjustable recipes like the following.

After two and a half years of marriage I’ve started to
compile my own creative recipes . . . and, since I dislike the
narrow confinements of most cooking directions, I’ve
loosened a few formulas somewhat to allow for choice. I
find this method refreshing and much more educational than
just following orders.

Here are some samples of my “play-it-by-ear” food and baking substitution cookery.

Creative Muffin Recipe

[1] 2 cups whole-wheat flour. Use your imagination and
substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the following for part of the

Rye, barley, triticale, soy, or buckwheat flour. (Since the
last two are very heavy, add an extra teaspoon or more
baking powder or half teaspoon or more baking soda to the
recipe for each half cup or more used.)

Uncooked hot breakfast cereals

Bran or wheat germ

Dry cooked grains such as rice or wheat

Any other flours or grain available. Oats or cornmeal can
be substituted up to 1 cup. Experiment!

[2] 1 cup milk. This can be dried, goat, soy, butter, or
sour. (If the liquid is acid use baking soda for leavening
in Step 8.) To sour sweet milk, mix 1 cup with 1 tablespoon
lemon juice or vinegar and let the combination stand in a
warm oven or similar place.

[3] 1 egg (Or make egg replacer: Combine 1 heaping
tablespoon soy flour with 1/2 cup water, boil the two
ingredients slowly and stir them constantly until they’re
thick. Strain the mixture and add a little butter or oil.)

[4] 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (omit or reduce if you need or
want to . . . or substitute sea salt or tamari).

[5] 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter or oil. I don’t know a
substitute. Do you? ( Try lard — MOTHER.)

[6] 1/2 to 1 cup raisins, or any of the following:

Dates, currants, figs, or other dried fruit

2 small or 1 medium tart, green summer apples, cored,
pared, and finely chopped or grated.

1 to 1 /2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Cranberries, peaches, bananas, or other fresh fruit


Nuts or roasted soybeans

A combination of the above.

[7] 1 teaspoon or more vanilla (Optional . . . or use
orange, lemon, or almond extract, etc.).

[8] 3 to 4 teaspoons baking powder. If you make the muffins
with buttermilk, sour milk, or sweet milk soured with all
lemon juice or vinegar, substitute 1/2 to I teaspoon baking
soda . . . or 1/2 to one teaspoon baking powder and 1/2
teaspoon soda.

[9] 1 tablespoon honey. You can use up to 1/4 of a cup . .
. or substitute maple syrup, malt flavoring, or molasses … or omit all such ingredients and sweeten the batter
with fruit juice. Please don’t add sugar! It’s very bad for

Mix all your choices thoroughly and bake the batter in a
well-greased muffin pan at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes,
or until the cakes are raised and golden brown and a
toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean. The
muffins are best served hot. Yield: about one dozen muffins.

Creative Soup Recipe

Small amount of butter (if desired)
1 tablespoon flour
Carrots (clean well and cut in strips, chunks, or
Celery (with tops)
Corn (hulled)
Cabbage (tear into pieces)
Turnips Beets (use the greens too)
Leftover vegetables, or others such as seaweed
Barley, rice, wheat, or other grains
Bones and chopped meat (if you eat it)

In a large soup pot, melt the butter — if you’re using
any — and thicken it with 1 tablespoon flour or an
equivalent. Prepare about 6 cups of the other ingredients
(singly or in combination), place them in the kettle, and
cover them with stock (if you have some). Otherwise, use
water and add any of the following:

Leftover gravy or bouillon
1 tablespoon or more miso (for winter soup)
Tamari, Kelp, etc.

Cook the mixture as slowly as possible, with the lid on
tight (this brings out the flavor). When the vegetables are
almost tender, season the soup as you wish (garlic, salt,
pepper, thyme, parsley, a bay leaf, oregano, lemon juice,
butter, sprouts, etc, if you like, crack a raw egg into the
pot.) Continue the cocking until the ingredients are just
done. Serve the brew with homemade whole-wheat toast or

For bean or pea soup, use the following singly or in any

Soy, lima, black, pinto, or navy beans
Green peas

Add — if you wish — grains, meat, and chopped onion, and
proceed as above. Chili is a good seasoning.

Creative Granola Recipe

2 to 1 cups rolled eats
2 to 5 cups rolled wheat flakes
1 to 2 cups wheat germ
1/2 cup bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 to 1 cup sesame seeds
1/2 to 2 cups coconut, shredded
1 to 2 cups chapped nuts (peanuts, almonds, or
1 to 2 cups dark raisins
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped prunes
1 cup chopped dried apples
1 cup chopped dried apricots (or other dried fruit)
1/4 cup powdered milk (optional)
1/8 cup brewer’s yeast (optional)
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (or use 1 full cup of this
sweetening and omit the fat immediately above)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon vanilla or almond flavoring

The above are possibilities, to be used according to your
creativeness. Take 10 to 13 drops of the dry ingredients .
. . being sure to include oat flakes, wheat flakes, and/or
wheat germ, and at least a couple of others: nut and/or
seeds, fruit, and/or coconut. Mix these well with the
shortening-and-sweetener combination and flavoring

Spread the granola out thin on a cookie sheet and bake it
in a 350 degree oven from 20 to 30 minutes. Watch the mixture
carefully and stir it now and again until it’s golden
brown. Then cool the cereal completely for storage in
airtight containers. This is good as a breakfast food, or
on baked apples and other wholesome desserts.

Creative Natural Fruitcake Recipe

1/2 to 1 cup honey (for light fruitcakes) . . . molasses
(far dark)
1 cup oil or melted butter
8 eggs, separated
2 cups whole-wheat flour (or other, or a combination
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, and
1/2 teaspoon each ground cloves, mace, and ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional, or use lemon, orange,
or almond extract or some other flavoring)
1/4 cup fruit wine, rum, grape juice, or apple mead
1-1/2 pounds raisins, currants, and/or dates in any
Rind of 3 oranges and 3 lemons, grated (optional)

2 pounds mixed dried fruit (apricots, apples, pears, figs,
prunes, etc.) — please, not sugared — or 1 pound
mixed dried fruit and 1 pound coarsely chopped nuts
(pecans, walnuts, roasted soybeans, etc.) . . . or 2 pounds
chopped nuts or roasted soybeans.

Blend the honey or molasses, shortening, and egg yolks.
Sift together the flours and spices. (Reserve a small
amount to sprinkle on the dried fruits — if you use
there — and add the remaining flour and the coated
fruit to the egg mixture). Stir in whatever rinds and nuts
you may be using. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold
them in gently.

Turn the batter into oiled loaf pans (without quite
filling them). Oil some waxed paper, lay it over the tops
of the the tops of the containers, and secure it with
string. Put a large pan of hot water an the lower rack of
the oven, set the cakes above it and bake them at 300 degrees
about three hours. (The tops should be golden brown and
cracked, and a toothpick inserted into the centers should
come out clean.) Cool the loaves thoroughly. Then turn them
out, wrap them well, and store them in a container along
with some cut apples to keep them moist. If the cakes dry
out anyhow, you can pour over them a little more of
whatever liquid you used in their making.

(Fruitcakes keep a long time, either frozen or packed
as Teresa describes. If you have dried fruit and nuts left from last harvest, you can make the above recipe now — before
the outdoor work gets really overwhelming — and enjoy
the loaves near fall. Incidentally, wedding cakes are
traditionally supposed to be of this type . . . and if you
or any of your friends are getting married shortly, you
might like to revive the custom. — MOTHER.)