One of the things I love about cooking it getting to use a variety of different ingredients that I would have never used (or known how to use) in the past. I mean, shallots? Leek? Fennel? Beets for crying out loud!! I recently have picked up some amazing cookbooks and love trying different recipes, but that being said, there are a number of times where I need to modify a recipe.
I’m someone with awful and complex digestive issues. I don’t produce enough digestive enzymes which then puts extra strain on my gallbladder. Because of that (and even now taking probiotics and high quality digestive enzymes), I have to be extremely careful with my fat intake or I will go into a full on gallbladder attack. Those attacks can can last anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days. After that, my whole digestive system will be inflamed for at least a week causing an unbearable at times, burning sensation in my stomach. I also have a difficult time digesting larger amounts of dairy and gluten (specifically pasta and bread). I can’t eat red meat as it makes me incredibly sick and will launch me into a full blown gallbladder attack. I’ve had pretty much every single test there is and have also met with a surgeon about my gallbladder but guess what, I have no stones so they will not take it out (and have been told that taking it out could make things worse). In honestly, it could be worse as my mom Crohns Disease and is lactose intolerant. You can see where I get my digestive issues from.
So because of all these wonderful issues, I need to be very careful with what I eat and what is great about cooking at home is that I can control what I eat. So what do I do when a recipe calls for adding things like butter and oils? How can I possibly still make it without changing the whole recipe?
I will start off by saying I’m always surprised how many recipes call for an extreme amount of butter. I’m NOT saying butter is bad or that I hate it but for me, too much is not good. Seriously, I’m always shocked when there are some recipes (especially in some of the cookbooks I have) will honestly call for a half stick of butter when I will use 1/4 of that amount and the flavour of the dish is still not comprised. Personally, I find it lazy when chefs rely solely on butter for taste (I’m looking at you Paula Deen).
However, I’ve found that when it comes to baking, I use the amount of butter needed. You can’t exactly use 1/2 the amount and still expect biscuits to still turn out well. But it comes to making something like gnocchi, I never use the full amount listed and it still tastes good. I know I could use something like half fat margarine but, that is when I feel you lose the flavour. It does not taste the same. For that, I will choose to use real butter, just less of it.
When I am cooking something like chicken (whether a whole roasted or chicken breast), something that I use a fair bit that will always add flavour is chicken stock (I personally use the no sodium added but that’s me). I find it’s something that adds flavour without adding more fat. I use it whenever I’m cooking chicken over the stove in a frying pan. Also, white wine. Seriously, I cook at lot of chicken using white wine and it just adds such a good flavour to any chicken dish.
The same goes with things like oils and cheeses. I love both but I have to be careful with the amount I have. You will never find me eating something like lasagna with 5 different cheeses (even though I want to) because I know how sick I will be after it. Cheese, like butter, is something that half fat is honestly just not good. Like butter, I would rather use the full fat version but just less of it. Plus, let’s be honest, half fat cheese is not good.
Instead of coating my frying pans with a ton of oil for baking anything like muffins, I use Pam spray instead. Basically, I just things to not stick without adding too much fat. I still use olive oil when needed but, I use a small amount. In some cases I can skip the spray and opt in to line a baking sheet with parchment paper. It rarely sticks, and means there’s less fat on the food I’m making.
I honestly do try and stick to the original recipe as much as possible. There are recipes where cutting butter, cheese or fattier meats are necessary. In those cases, I don’t make those recipes. There is a point where you just can’t sacrifice ingredients without basically ruining the entire recipe.
As much as I would love to not have the complicated digestive issues I have, there’s nothing I can that will change that. That being said, I do not believe that means I have to stick to a bland and boring food for the rest of my life. That’s where modifications come in. Somethings it’s trial and error to get something just right, and substituting in a few spices can easily take the place of a pound of butter.