Let's say you decide to tackle sweeteners. Look at traditional recipes and ask yourself, "what can I substitute for the white sugar to make this recipe healthier?'' I have written about several options in my "White Sugar Replacements" in the "Healthier Ingredients" section. If you are a beginner, I suggest starting with coconut palm sugar. It replaces white sugar 1cup: 1cup and is very easy to use. Since you buy it packaged, you don't have to worry about learning how to make it, yourself. After you are comfortable with coconut palm sugar, then try using bananas, raisins, making date or raisin paste. Once you have mastered the sweeteners, move onto the next ingredient category, say flours.
Now, here's an example of how to look at recipes differently. Let's take my chocolate brownie cake from the "Desserts" section. Here are the ingredients from the original recipe:
**chopped walnuts (optional)
Ok, what ingredients can we change to make this a better-for-you dessert?
**Cocoa--cocoa is a more processed form of cacao (a super food). So, here's your choice: use real cacao, which you will have to buy in a health food store and is more expensive. Use cocoa, which is just a more processed form of cacao but still retains many of its good properties. Or Dutch processed cocoa, which tastes great but is very refined and has much fewer of cacao's benefits.
**White sugar--switch to coconut palm sugar or a fruit sweetener
**White flour--if you are beginning, I suggest you start by just switching to whole wheat, which you can use 1:1. If you have already done this for a while, the next step is to replace the white flour with a combination of whole wheat and one of the gluten-free flours in the "Homemade Flours" section. This way you can experiment with the flours and see which ones you like without having to worry about adding extra binders to keep your recipe together. Just make sure that at least half of the flour is whole wheat. Get adventurous and try making the flours yourself at home. When you really have the hang of this, then start replacing the flour with a combination of the gluten-free flours. You will have to learn, though, how to add binders to your recipes, which can be tricky at first. If you want to experiment with gluten-free baking there are loads of books and recipes online which show you how to do this.
**Eggs--use real eggs or try a flax/chia egg replacement, explained in the "Healthier Ingredients" section.
**Oil--use a healthier oil like extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.
It may seem overwhelming at first. Expect to make mistakes. Expect some abject failures. Expect some successes, too, which will become more frequent the more you practice. Just remember, it's a process. A great process which can be very fulfilling and creative. Enjoy the journey; that's what this is all about!
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