Do you have any good cooking tips?
What’s up with all the weird ingredients like “filtered water”?
Why do you write your recipes so weird?
What’s all this about Penzey’s? Can I use regular herbs/spices instead?
Can I substitute….?
How many calories are in a serving?
What about the diet version?
Why don’t you have a contact form or comment section?
I’m glad you asked! My post on cooking tips includes a lot of the shortcuts and methods I’ve learned from other sources as well as trial and error.
Cooking is a chemical reaction, and using the best available ingredients (chemicals) will give you the best possible results. For more about this, check out my post on cooking tips.
In short, it’s because I am weird.
The more I have to think or read something over again while I’m cooking, the more likely I am to screw it up. What I have done is reduce the possibility of brain-farts by eliminating the need to think because when I cook, I’m also listening to an audio book. I’d rather spend my energy on thinking about what I’m hearing from my audio book, or improvising, or multitasking and trying to clean as I go. This accomplishes a lot more than looking slack-jawed at directions and having to remember how to tweak a recipe’s temperature and cooking time.
I also know what I consider irritating or a waste of time, so I make ways to get it done that won’t drive me crazy. I have little charts and reminders around my kitchen to spare myself from confusion—even about the simplest things. That’s exactly why my recipes are done in a very no-nonsense way of integrating directions. If I had to stand there and go back through the directions over and over, there’s no way I’m going to bother cooking. I could probably remember the directions after going over it once, but why take a chance? I don’t want to have to check over things or forget a step or ingredient. My way is, quite literally, foolproof!
Sure, you could use other spices, BUT WHY?!?! The main reason I use Penzey’s: I have used just about every one of Penzey’s products, and I have encountered nothing short of excellence. Every time I put a measuring spoon into a Penzey’s jar or bag, I’m getting a rock-solid guarantee of magnificent, and predictable results. Trying out a recipe with substandard spices that are probably no cheaper than Penzey’s spices is actually a waste of my time, energy, and money because I would have to compensate for some off-brand quality. Yes, I realize I sound like a brand evangelist. No, I am not being paid by Penzey’s. I have no affiliation with their company; I just really, really love everything about Penzey’s.
And if you needed a second reason: Since I cook a lot, I also buy spices from Penzey’s in bulk. It’s actually cheaper to buy even regular quantities, but in bulk, it’s a pretty good deal.
Penzey’s Spices can be purchased/stores located by clicking this link: Penzey’s.com
Sure, you can substitute different ingredients, but it probably won’t be as good. Cooking involves chemistry, so changing an item as listed to something higher or lower fat will bring different results. I found out the hard way that using peanut oil instead of canola oil can make a cake a bit flat. So even using a specific type of oil makes the difference between fantastic or flop. (It wasn’t horrible; just not what I was expecting.)
The reason my recipes are a little different is because I made changes (or rather, improvements) from original recipes. So by substituting, you’re probably going to end up making something that is closer to a standard version of the recipe, or something even worse than the standard version. This is especially true for subbing out ingredients for a diet version. If you really want to use Baking Splenda instead of sugar, fine. Knock yourself out. You do you, boo. But if you do ask me about it, if I have time to respond, I’ll tell you I’ve never tried it that way, and if you’re suggesting artificial sweeteners or some weird “diet” substance like Olestra, I’ll also say I think it sounds nasty. And I’ll probably be a little cranky you bothered me about I if I do respond because of reason #3 from the question : Why don’t you have a contact form or comment section?” as stated above.
This isn’t a professional cooking blog, so I don’t have the time to include that sort of information with the level of accuracy I find acceptable. I’ve done this for a few recipes by adding up all ingredients and dividing it by the estimated number of servings. But for the most part, calories will be on par with what you would find by googling said item and going by weight on the serving size. The USDA Food Composition Databases at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list currently lists 220,113 food items. So between Google and the USDA, you’re bound to find more accurate information than what I don’t have time to answer.
The diet version goes like this: Don’t eat as much of it. Better yet, don’t make it at all if you’re that worried.
But seriously, serving sizes aren’t supposed to be as big as what you would get in a restaurant. In America, we’ve become accustomed to gigantic portions, so having a little bit of the real thing is better than eating a load of some garbage with sweeteners and unnatural additives.
The only thing I would put any artificial sweetener into is the garbage can. I wouldn’t put it into a recipe, and I wouldn’t even feed it to an enemy. Please don’t eat that garbage. You need to love yourself more than that.
Scaling down the recipe is possible. You found your way here, so I’m sure you can handle fractions well enough to make a smaller amount. I have faith in you. Most cookie doughs can be frozen (especially if they’ve been portioned by a disher) and then baked later. (For best freezing results, use a Foodsaver or similar vacuum sealer.) For example, with cake recipes, instead of using a glass 9×13, you can use an 8” round cake pan. This often means switching from glass to metal.
If you need to switch from glass to metal, or vice versa, here’s one of my handy charts, using tips from one of the many sites I use for cooking tips and recipes, Chowhound:
“…you should reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees and check the food often as it may be ready up to ten minutes earlier if you are substituting a glass dish for a metal baking pan. This is because glass doesn’t heat up as quickly as metal but will become very hot once heated up.”
Here is the chart I created from this advice so that I don’t have to waste time standing in front of the oven, thinking about it:
There’s neither a contact form nor a comment section on this site for 3 reasons:
- Spammers/scammers: They only clog up a comment section and moderating that nonsense is a total time-suck.
- Trolls: Even if I get trolls (instead of spambots) that get through the comment logins, it’s the same problem as above.
- I don’t have time to thoroughly answer questions to my standards about cooking/DIY. Mainly it’s because deep down I’m a big softie and I’ll end up wasting time on providing you with a thoroughly researched answer, and in order to maintain my sanity, I have to set boundaries. If you do find that to be rude, then clearly, there is no pleasing you in the first place, so why would I bother? Best wishes, sweet pea.