Open thread on favorite food substitutions

A lot of people resolve to make changes in their diets in January. This is an open thread for any tips you have on substituting one kind of food for another for any health or ethical reason.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, do you have a tip for adapting a recipe you used to enjoy with meat, eggs or dairy?

If you’re trying to lose weight, have you changed the way you cook any of your favorite meals? Some people would rather eat a completely different dish than adapt a beloved recipe that is “too fattening.”

If you have developed a food allergy or sensitivity, have you learned any trick for replacing the foods you can’t tolerate?

Here are a few food substitutions that work for me:

1. I’ve been using strained tomatoes or tomato paste packaged in glass jars in place of canned tomatoes ever since I learned that almost all canned tomatoes, including organic brands, contain bisphenol-A (BPA).

2. I’ve been having oatmeal for breakfast, or yogurt with cereal, instead of bagels. That’s partly because I’m trying to eat less bread, and partly because I’d rather forgo bagels than eat a bagel that isn’t slathered with either butter or cream cheese.

3. To make risotto with no milk or cream, I use a tip from the Moosewood Collective’s Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. In a food processor or blender, combine a cup or two of frozen corn kernels with whatever kind of stock you will use to cook the risotto. This creates a creamy consistency, but without being as heavy as risotto with cream. It’s good for vegans or anyone cutting back on calories.

4. Applesauce or other fruit purees can replace some of the fat in cake or quickbread recipes. Diana Shaw’s Essential Vegetarian Cookbook has lots of ideas on this front. Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites has a good spice bread recipe containing prune puree and no egg, which is good to bake for vegans or anyone with an egg allergy.

Final suggestion, which I’ve never tried but a friend swears by:

Dump an undrained can of black beans into a blender or food processor and puree. Add the mixture to any boxed brownie mix (she says this works with any brand). Don’t add egg or oil or water–just mix the dry ingredients in the box with the black bean puree, then bake. This sounds crazy, but I have eaten her brownies at potlucks, and you would never know there are beans in them. She does it to sneak extra protein and fiber into a treat for her kids.

I’ll look forward to reading your comments.

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