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Substitutions {Giveaway}

Posted Jun 16 2010 5:48pm

The middle of June holds many a special holiday.

Tomorrow, June 17, is my brother’s 17th birthday – the Golden Year !

This Sunday, June 20, is Father’s Day.

And today, June 16, is Bobby’s brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary. Cheers to Cara and Jim!


Minor freak outs aside, I could not be more excited. I know this summer is going to go by in a blur with all of the crazy – but fun – things that are planned. October is going to be here before we know it! It’s just a matter of making sure all the t’s are dotted and i’s are crossed.

Wait, I think I said that wrong…

Fortunately, I have a wonderful mom who has my back – and so much more – with everything. At this rate, I am going to have to buy her a new car with all of her time and effort ;) Seriously though, I have to take a moment to thank her for all that she’s done so far and will continue to do.

Thank you, mom!


If there’s one thing my mom rarely does, it’s substitute. She is always looking for the best possible options in everything she does – which is why she is such a great bargain shopper and detail-oriented event planner. I fully support her philosophy and strive to do my own thorough searches for that “perfect fit” before looking for any alternatives when it comes to a work project, new exercise plan, etc.

The only exception to this rule is the kitchen. {Ironically, mom doesn’t spend much time there…} I love substituting ingredients in recipes, if only because I almost never have all of the ingredients I need. But apart from that, there is also something fun about creating your own unique spin on a culinary creation, whether it’s as simple as a sauce or marinade, or as elaborate as a 20-step baked good.

For this reason, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview the author of Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference (June 2010), Becky Sue Epstein .

Becky Sue Epstein has experience in the fields of wine, spirits, food and travel. She has traveled and lived on the East and West Coasts, as well as in the UK, the Middle East and Europe.

I hope you enjoy the interview!

It seems as though every time I make a recipe, there are one or two ingredients that get left out or substituted, so your new book has been a wonderful resource so far! How did you decide to write about this topic?

Basically, I like to make improvisational meals, and I don’t like to spend a lot of money on a spice or condiment I might only use once.

I’ve been experimenting with different marinades for chicken and fish. Do you have a particular favorite from your book?

If you like some Asian flavor on your fish and chicken, there’s a marinade in the book that makes a LOT of it – 3-1/2 cups. If your family likes the flavors of barbecue sauce better, mix in 1-3/4 cups ketchup. The trick is to only put the fish in for about 20-30 minutes. If you’re making chicken, it can marinate longer.

You can make one batch of this marinade and split it between the fish and chicken if you’re serving both. (Do not put fish and chicken in the same container.)

Mix together:

  • 1-1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • dash of bottled hot sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed

Sounds great! I also read in your bio that you have really traveled and lived around the world. Do you find that these places have inspired your writing or recipes?

Absolutely! Every region has their own foods, traditional dishes and sauces – and even their own names for things. Like satsumas are common in the UK, while we eat what we call clementines (or mandarin oranges). And different cultures use different greens, or different rices and grains as their everyday foods, which is why I have listings of things like similar grains and similar greens that are interchangeable in many recipes.

I also read that you are experienced in the field of wine. My fiance and I will be traveling to Napa for our honeymoon. What are some of your favorite ways to use wine in recipes?

I like wine in marinades and in stews, dishes that have time for the wine to really cook in and meld with all other flavors.

What ingredients do you find yourself substituting most often?

When I was growing up, we never had baking chocolate so I got used to substituting for that whenever I made chocolate cake. Now, I look at the baking pan sizes section a lot, because I often have a different size pan than the recipe calls for. For the book, I measured and listed volume (the number of cups) in different pans so I know whether my pan will work or I’ll have to make 1-1/2 or 2 times the recipe.

Sometimes I make “healthy” substitutions in baked goods, etc., but find when I go to try the recipe, the food doesn’t taste at all like the real thing. Are there any examples of items that you believe should not be substituted?

Well, if you really want chocolate, a carob cake will not satisfy you.  But make a great carob cake and it will be nice and moist and a little fruity. With substitutions like honey for sugar and whole wheat flour for white flour, I add cautions that you have to check the total amount of liquid and the baking times.

In general, I find it’s best to start with substituting only a percentage – a quarter or a half – of an ingredient in a recipe. And this may be counter-intuitive, but if you take all the salt out of a sweet baked good, it will not taste right: a dash of salt really helps the sweetness in the food.

Where does your passion for food and cooking come from?

I think it’s because I like to eat!

What has been one of the most satisfying experiences or lessons you’ve learned as a food writer?

I’ve learned that I can go in 2 directions: to not be afraid to experiment, and also to be disciplined when I have develop and test a recipe.

I have my own aspirations to be an author someday! One of the hardest things for me is developing a topic and seeing it through to its completion. I tend to get sidetracked by something else or decide that it’s not good enough and people won’t want to read. Can you share your top general tips for writers?

You have to trust yourself.

Also, read aloud what you’ve written – that helps with your word choice and word flow. Really aloud, not just moving your lips silently. If you can, join – or form – a writers’ group that meets regularly, no excuses.

Lastly, I’d love to hear what’s next for you! Any major projects in the works?

My next book is A Global History of Champagne and Sparkling Wine, an area I’ve been researching for years. (Really!)


Big thanks to Becky Sue Epstein for taking the time to answer my questions! You can find a copy of her book here on Amazon , but if you would like to enter for a chance to win, see below!

Substituting Ingredients Giveaway

I’m so excited to send a copy of this book to one of my readers! It truly is a great guide and also includes things you might not expect such as green household cleaners and budget-friendly ingredient guides.

If you’d like to enter, leave a comment on this post with one or more of the following:

  • Leave a comment listing your favorite ingredient to substitute in recipes
  • Tweet “Visit @EatingBender for a chance to win Substituting Ingredients from @beckysueepstein: ” and then leave a comment letting me know you tweeted
  • If you aren’t on Twitter, leave a comment letting me know you are not on there and instead tell me one cool fact you learned from Becky Sue’s blog

I figure that’s the best way to give everyone a chance at two entries :) I will randomly select one winner on Friday, June 18th at 9:00 pm CST and let you know on Saturday.

Good luck! Can’t wait to see all of your fun substitutions and facts!


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