Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What are these products in my recipe? Can I substitute?

Not a lot of personal stories to share at the moment... but oh boy is potty-training fun! I am also thinking I should join a dating website...my previous/current relationship is confusing and maybe I need to just move on...I don't go out a lot, no one I work with intrigues me, etc... isn't that the way people meet these days? Then I can lay it out there: I have a toddler, I work full time, I work out A LOT and I like it, I cook a lot and eat healthy, I own my own house and am financially independent, and don't want to be your mom.... do you still want to date me? :) Hehehehe anyway... 

I have been getting a lot of questions from friends lately about why certain ingredients are used and what they are used for so I thought I would do a post explaining them.... this way you can decide how "paleo" you want to make something or if the (usually cheaper/more convenient) option is fine by you. This might also help you make any recipe you see a little more paleo or gluten free for your family. If I am missing one you have a question about let me know and I will add it to the list! 

Arrowroot Powder- 

What is it? 
Arrowroot powder comes from the South American plant, Maranta arundinacea. It has the name because it was used to treat wounds from poison arrows. You can buy a bag for less than $5 in most normal grocery stores- it is found by all the specialty flours. 
Uses in Cooking:
I use arrowroot powder as a thickening agent in place of corn starch. I have found that arrowroot has a direct correlation measurement-wise to cornstarch in most recipes. You can mix it with water to make a slurry for thickening sauces, or coat meat in it before frying to get a crispy coating (See take-out chicken).

Coconut Aminos

What is it? 
Coconut aminos is made from raw coconut tree sap and sun-dried sea salt. It contains 17 amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and is a dark, salty liquid.
Uses in Cooking:
This is a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. It can be used as direct replacement for soy sauce in almost all recipes. 

Tapioca Starch

What is it? 
Tapioca flour is made from the starch extracted from the South American cassava plant.
Uses in Cooking:
Tapioca flour is often used  in baking- it makes baked goods chewy/crispy. You will find it in pancake recipes, pizza crust, muffins, etc. usually in combination with other gluten-free flours. 

Potato Starch vs. Potato Flour

What is it?
Potato flour is made from whole potatoes that are dried and ground into flour.
Potato Starch is a very fine white powder starch, similar in texture to cornstarch, made from the dried starch component of peeled potatoes. It has no potato flavor so works well in most recipes, sweet or savory.
Uses in Cooking:
Potato Flour has a distinct potato flavor-  you will see it in small amounts in a lot of bread or pizza dough recipes- it absorbs liquid like crazy so be careful!
Potato Starch thickens foods and can be used to make light and fluffy baked goods... I use it in my pizza recipe

Fish Sauce

What is it? 
Fish sauce is a liquid made from the fermentation of fish (usually raw) with salt. 
Uses in Cooking:
Fish sauce is used in sauces to add a salty element similar to soy sauce. If you are following a paleo diet you will often see this in combination with coconut aminos to create that soy sauce flavor. It cannot be used in the same amount as soy sauce because it has a different (fishy), more potent flavor. If you do not have any and are not paleo, you can add a bit more soy sauce to the recipe. 

Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

How to Make Baking Powder
Neither are technically paleo... but used in such a small amount most people don't care. They are both leavening agents and help food rise. 
Baking Soda- Baking soda is a base (think back to chemistry class!) and often that recipe will have an acidic element as well, such as vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, or yogurt. When the two come into contact, bubbles of carbon dioxide are formed, creating the leavening in your dough or batter.
Baking Powder- is a mixture of baking soda and usually cream of tartar, and perhaps some corn starch to help keep the two separate and dry. Baking powder usually reacts twice- once when added to a liquid and again when heated. You can make your own baking powder by mixing one part baking soda to two parts cream of tarter.
Substitutions:You can substitute baking soda for baking powder... 1/3 the amount of baking soda as it is stronger, and a teaspoon of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) for every 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.

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