Tag Archives: thrifty

The Art of Recipe Substitutions: Hummous.

I’ve been writing my use it or lose it posts for some time now – long enough that they have their own page!

When I write a use it or lose it recipe I try hard to come up with something that doesn’t need you to buy a lot of extra ingredients.  To me that defeats the purpose – when I realise I need to use up some yoghurt I don’t want to have to go out shopping and buy lots of new things just to use something else up before it goes off, that is an inefficient use of my time and might lead to more waste.

To me Use it is or Lose it is about making a complete meal or most of a meal, or something you can put in the freezer

But there are times when instead of building a quick store cupboard recipe around a Use It or Lose It item I just substitute something I have that is about to go off for something else.  I want to use up the tiny bit of leftover yoghurt instead of opening a brand new pint of milk.  Once I’ve opened the milk the clock starts running before it goes off, so I want to put that off for as long as possible. And if I don’t the yoghurt up now I’ll probably have to throw it away.

Sometimes we have a guest who is vegan, gluten free, or has a dairy allergy and substitutions need to be made.  It is fairly easy to substitute a part of a meal on a plate swopping out pasta for potatoes if someone is gluten free.  The tough challenge comes when you are substituting an ingredient like eggs, or you have some sour cream about to go off and you are about to make a recipe with a more complicated set of chemical/biological processes like bread.

The key to substituting is understanding the role that the ingredient plays in the recipe and then choosing something (or a combination of things) that will do the same job.

I think there are 5 ingredient roles:

1. Flavour (e.g. garlic, cheese, herbs, spices)

2. Texture (e.g. lentils, potatoes, pasta)

3. Structure (e.g. gluten)

4. Binding agent (e.g. eggs, chia seeds, sometimes just water/milk)

5. Raising agent (e.g. bicarbonate of soda + acid, baking powder, eggs)

(This is a theory in progress, I’m sure I’ll end up changing this list. If you think of anything then let me know!)

I’ll show you how I do it with a very simple case study: Hummous

Hummous – this is a great one for substituting and an easy starting point.  Here is the basic recipe with the ingredients broke down into roles.

A) 1 tin of Chick Peas (Texture, Flavour, structureA)

B) 1 tablespoon of Tahini (Binding and Flavour)

C) 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Flavour)

D) Olive oil to blend until required consistency (Binding, Texture and Flavour)

E) Seasoning to taste (Flavour)

F) Clove of garlic (Flavour)

Put all the above in a food processor and blitz until you get your desired texture.

Here are the ways you can substitute. You can pick almost any combination of these as long as the flavours work together and you use the same  – it might not be true “Hummous”, but it will be a tasty, homemade recipe that will be nutritious and enjoyable and hopefully avoid waste or an extra trip to the shops.

Substitute Hummous

A) Any tinned beans like butter beans, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans (not baked beans or anything in a sauce), dried chickpeas or beans (soaked and cooked), defrosted frozen broad beans/peas or cooked fresh broad beans/peas.

B) Any nut or seed butter e.g. peanut butter, almond nut butter etc. Here is my recipe on how to make your own nut butter so you could go a step further and substitute this step just with nuts and oil as long as you make it into nut butter first.

(bonus tip: you won’t have to wash the food processor in between!)

C) Any fruit juice that is a bit sharp (but not orange or grapefruit – that would be too weird a flavour with the garlic) I’ve used pear, apple and pineapple with great results but you could use water in a pinch. (Thanks to Free Our Kids for this tip – everyone loves the apple juice version!)

D) Any oil.  I’ve use Rapeseed with great results.  I also think this is a good place to use up the fancy oils you buy for a recipe that needs 1 tsp and nothing more or the oils you get bought in those posh salad dressing gift sets.  Because of this I’ve tried walnut and hazelnut and they have both been lovely!

E) Pick herbs and spices that go with the juice and beans you have chosen, we have a low salt diet because of R at the moment so instead of salt I’ve used lemon rind and fresh coriander, fresh mint and smoked paprika.

F) this is the garlic bit, you could substitute a garlic flavoured oil at D above, or add garlic chives or even just chives.  But in a worst case scenario leave it out.

Obviously how the above combine will matter. If you make a “hummous” with peanut butter, chick peas water, olive oil and no garlic it will taste completely different than if you use broad beans, lemon and mint.  You do need to develop a sense of which flavours go together and I started to do that by just switching out one ingredient at a time and seeing what worked.

Also use your imagination if you can imagine the combination of garlic and orange tasting pretty unpleasant then it probably will be (at least it will be to you!)

Some of the substitutions might just stick.  Now I make Hummous with almond nut butter and apple juice as standard because everyone prefers it that way here at Westwick.

The Undisputed Champion of using up food and making substitutions is of course the amazing Jack Monroe from A Girl Called Jack.  She is one of my favourite bloggers and has such a great mind for thinking sideways and using ingredients really creatively. Go and check her out!

Knitting with Leftovers

I knit a lot and virtually every day.

Some of my knitting uses thrifty, frugal options, but some of it includes luxury handspun alpaca. It is my hobby and whilst I do try to source eco-friendly alternatives (I never buy standard cotton for dishcloths because it’s eco-footprint is so bad) I have bought some wonderful expensive and luxury yarns for my hobby over the years. I’ve even bought a few and had them posted from the US because Socks that Rock is really the best sock yarn I’ve ever used and you can’t buy it in the UK (I’m weaning myself off this habit though and haven’t bought any yarn for over 6 months – I’m pleased you agree that is a REALLY LONG TIME!)

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post... far too many colours to make that a reality :(

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post… far too many colours to make that a reality 😦

But I never throw any yarn away.  I am a master at stretching out yarn and finding ways to use up the leftovers once a project is done.  Like with food and garden prunings there is no such thing as yarn waste.

This post is a list of my 3 tips for using up yarn and 3 patterns which are really good at making the most of every scrap.

1. The Beekeeper Quilt –  by Tiny Owl Knits. This is a paid for pattern, but it is worth every penny. Not only because I love this design, it is modular and therefore easy to knit whilst out and about, but of all the patterns I’ve ever knitted, this is the best pattern for using up leftovers.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

Firstly it is made of tiny hexapuffs knitted in sock yarn.  In my knitting career I’ve knitted about 90 pairs of socks (I know!) that is a lot of leftover sock yarn.  Some of my leftover sock yarn went into darning but darning doesn’t use it all up.  This project is perfect because I can knit hexapuffs out of all my fabulous colours put them all in a basket and only start to make up the blanket afterwards at which point I can pick the colours and place there where I want to.  I’m not limited in placing colours next to each other in the order in which I complete my original projects that generated the leftovers!

Not only do I knit with the leftover yarn but the teeny tiny scraps of yarn which get snipped off after sewing in the ends… they get used to stuff the hexapuffs.

AND… I fill some of the hexapuffs with dried lavender from my garden to give the blanket a lovely smell and keep the moths out.

This is the ideal pattern for using up things and just look at how gorgeous it is!

A sea of little hexes.

A sea of little hexes.

2. The Oddball Spiral blanket – by Sarah Bradbury (free pattern). This is my current big project.  Up until recently I had a huge bag of leftover Aran weight wool and no idea what to do with it.  I tried to knit a stripey vest but I couldn’t get enough colour repeats out of the yarn I had left so I ripped it out for this blanket.  There are only 9 live stitches at any time and the pattern is easy to memorise.  You will end up with a giant blanket if you keep going (like me) and I’ll probably finish this in the Winter now as it is too hot to work on.  But if you don’t mind the blanket looking a bit mismatched then use long and short colour repeats where you have bigger and smaller partial balls of yarn.  I think because of the geometric design you can pull off irregular colour patches which only makes this pattern more brilliant.

The blanket is growing.

The blanket is growing.

3. Baby Trousers – by Mini Magpie (free tutorial).  This is not a knitting project.  This is what to do when knitting goes wrong… so horribly wrong.

Many moons ago, before I was as wise as I am today, I knitted a wonderful Hoodie in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.  The pattern was incredible and I will knit it again one day. The yarn was super soft… but that was the only good thing about it.  It pilled (went bobbly) and looked terrible after I’d worn it precisely once.  I kept wearing it because it was warm and I’d worked so hard on the amazing patterned cables.  And one day in a fit of helpfulness Josh washed it for me.  Pure wool, 20% cashmere in the washing machine.  I think you can imagine what happened (I won’t describe it for the delicate amongst you but let’s say it involved, felting, shrinking and a lot of swearing).

It is a testament to my stubborness that I’m still wearing it about 7 years later despite the fact it is clearly a couple of inches too short, everywhere.  The yarn cost a fortune, the jumper took ages to knit I wasn’t going to give up on it that easily.  But I think the time has come to say goodbye.

As I said above no wool is wasted.

I’m going to cut the (now felted) jumper up to create the trousers in the above tutorial (possibly even dungarees if I can work it out) and then cut up the rest to use as stuffing in the beekeeper quilt!


No Plastic July – The first days.

As you know I have pledged to give up 5 areas of plastic consumption for No Plastic July.

I have been watching blogland and the key to all these challenges (No Plastic, No Waste, Buy Nothing New, Give Up Supermarkets) is research, planning, organisation and preparation.  Sometimes something unexpected will upset those plans, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, it just means sometimes you have a blip.

This is day 6 of the challenge but there is already plenty going on …

1. Crisps and Savoury Snacks.

I already have a selection of tins and airtight contains to keep the homemade ones in and Josh has been getting very excited about trying to make our own corn tortilla wraps and turning those wraps into tortilla chips.  The problem being that we would still have to buy the cornmeal in a plastic bag but it would probably be less plastic than bags and bags of tortilla chips.

As soon as I thought of this challenge I knew I wanted to make cheese straws.  They are delicious, we both love them and I also wondered how cheap they would turn out to be.  They were a huge hit and far from feeling like No Plastic July was deprivation at this moment it felt like luxury.

I used this recipe and made a very large amount of very rich cheese straws (which are more filling than the ones you get in foil, plastic packets in the shops).

But the problem I am hitting is that even making things from scratch does eliminate plastic.  I don’t have a co-op type shop nearby where I can take my own containers and weigh our flour from  big bins.  So the local supermarkets supply butter, baking powder, cheese, cornflour etc.

I think I can take my own container to the cheesemonger in town and I’m going to give that a go next week when I go to the market with my own bags.  I’ll report back!

We also went to a local farm shop with lots of lovely artisan cheese crackers.  As we have guests coming at the weekend we would normally pick some up.  Not this time as every single variety had some plastic in the packaging.  Crackers are next on the “to make” list.

2. Children’s toothbrushes – “I’ve found only one bamboo toothbrush in a child’s size.  I’m going to give it a go but he will only be 1 so it might still be too big for him.”

I wrote the above sentence in a fit of hubris.  I didn’t buy the lovely bamboo one I bought the silicone baby brush.  Is silicone plastic.  If so then I have already failed a little.  Basically R has decided to meltdown every time someone tries to brush his teeth.  He doesn’t really object to the toothbrushing, he objects to relinquishing control of his toothbrush.  He had to have a bath with it the other day so close is his attachment.  The baby brush is supposed to allow him to clean his own teeth so I don’t need to hold his toothbrush for him.  I’m hoping this doesn’t boot me out of the challenge – we have speculated it might be better than a plastic one as it might last longer… but who knows.  We will be trying bamboo again when this interesting phase is over.

[Update: I really not convinced that the baby brush is working.  R loves chewing on it but he doesn’t seem to be working the actual bristles into his actual gums and teeth. I knew there wasn’t going to be an easy solution to this.]

3. Yoghurt – I’ve already got some recipes for this and as I posted about here, in a recent charity shopping trip I found an original vintage 70s Yoghurt thermos flask for £1.95. I had one go at making yoghurt as a test run.  It was a total disaster.  Turns out a) you don’t need to sterilise your yoghurt making equipment and b) you can’t sterilise a vintage 1970s yoghurt maker.  I just made a £1.95 donation to the charity shop as I killed the yoghurt maker and will be going back to the glass jar in a haybox idea.  I also learned that Greek Yoghurt doesn’t have the cultures to get you going, milk powder can curdle! and my sugar themometer says 180F but this is a lie.  Luckily I did all this learning before the challenge.  I am now ready with some definitely bio yoghurt, more tips from the internet and a glass jar in a haybox!

4. Bottle Drinks – Well I didn’t buy lots and lots of bottled drinks to get me through the next month in my last shop.  That would obviously have been a cheat.  In fact I’ve been trying to get through my stock to make this a real challenge.  My key piece of preparation was getting a jug (I broke our last one).  My Mother Out-Law had a heavy glass jug which was too heavy for her to life and so I gratefully took it home and filled it with warm water and herbal tea bags.  It has been chilling overnight and I can now enjoy iced spearmint and chamomile tea whenever I like.

For people coming at the weekend I ordered juice in a glass bottle from Abel & Cole and a couple of posho drinks like “presse” which come in glass bottles.  But I am disappointed to learn via polytheenpam that they all have plastic in the caps of the bottles.  I’ll also be using the juice in some homemade hummous later in the week.

5. Handwash – I took the plunge and ordered some Dr Bronner plain organic soap (it is the baby soap so R can use it as well).  I already have a huge stash of essential oils.  I’ve been using them since I was about 17! and I’ll use boiled water from the tap to make up the handwash according to this recipe and just put it in my existing dispensers.  I’ll be posting more about it when I make it but so far I’m impressed because the soap bars come in paper wrapping only and the company I ordered it from  (The Ethical Superstore) sent it through the post with recycled cardboard wrapping in a recycled cardboard box and although there was a little bit of tape to keep it closed even the invoice didn’t have the stupid plastic backed peel off bit on it.  A win all round!

Use it or Lose it: Milk

Today’s Use it or Lose it Post is Milk and it has two recipes for the price of one blog post.

I had a 2 litre bottle of Organic milk which was *cough* a couple of days past it’s sell by date.  But I used my nose and it smelled fine so I set about using it up.

Too much milk!

Too much milk!

My big hitter for using up milk is always pancakes because we always have eggs and flour on hand. I use a really simple recipe:

1 mug flour (any kind)

1 mug milk (any kind)

2 medium eggs

I whisked all of them together and then left it to rest for 30 minutes.  Then fry in butter in a frying pan.  I always fry big crepe style pancakes in a huge frying pan and then cut them in half (you cook breakfast faster that way).

My real recipe here though is Rice Pudding.  I was never a fan of rice pudding until I met Eliza Acton’s Rich Rice Pudding (from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course).  This I love, it comes with a creamy, custardly layer on top.

I have tweaked Delia/Eliza’s recipe to make a chocolate/orange version instead of a lemon/nutmeg version.


110g short grain rice

850ml milk

75g sugar or 125g of chopped apricots soaked in orange juice and then blitzed in the food processor.

50g Butter

3 eggs

Grated rind of 1 orange

3 squares of dark chocolate


Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/300F/150C.

Butter a baking dish.

Put the rice and milk in a saucepan and bring it slowly to simmering point and heat slowly until the rice is almost cooked (Delia says about 10 mins). Add the sugar/orange and apricot mixture the butter, the orange zest, and the chocolate.  Heat slowly and stir until the chocolate is melted throughout the pudding.

Leave it to cool a little.

Whisk the eggs and stir into the pudding.  Then pour the whole mixture into the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins.

Chocolately rice pudding goodness

Chocolatey rice pudding goodness

Serve with cream (always – this part of the recipe is not optional!).

I’ve given two recipes here because although the rice pudding is lovely it contains ingredients you might need to buy.  If you are in a Use it or Lose it situation you probably don’t have lots of other ingredient to play around with like in the rice pudding.  I do find it frustrating when I see “leftovers” recipes calling for a bunch of unusual or expensive ingredients.  If I need to use something up in a hurray I won’t have some other weird and wonderful things. Therefore the pancake mix at least is full of simple staple ingredients.

In other news we dug up our first potatoes.  I think you’ll agree we were a bit early.  We’ll be waiting a bit longer for the next lot 🙂

Earlies are a bit too early :(

Earlies are a bit too early 😦

I also harvested all our redcurrants.  I’ll be making some redcurrant pies shortly to swap with my Dad for some redcurrant jelly.  We got 965g out of the fruit bushes.  I had a quick look on line and the best price I could find for fresh redcurrants was £2 for 150g.  My harvest would have cost us £12.86 in the shops!  That will be some lovely pies in the Winter for just the cost of the pasty.