substituting ingredients

How to Substitute Ingredients: a Lesson for Kids and Everyone Else

Children learn a lot when they cook, and not just about food. You can ask the youngest ones to hand over the red pepper, not the green one. You can show them that a pie tin is round, a loaf pan is a rectangle.

Older kids can hone their measuring skills. Some begin to understand the difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2, what a dozen means, why a cake rises.

Recently my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, learned another important cooking lesson: when and how to substitute ingredients. 

We happened to be baking Jam Cookies. 

I didn't have the chopped dates called for in my recipe. So we changed those to dark raisins.

I didn't have dried apricots, figs or cherries, so we used dried cranberries instead.

They wondered whether they could include chocolate chips.

Of course! Just throw some into the bowl.

Finally, we used a mixture of orange marmalade, rhubarb and apricot jam because I didn't have enough of any one kind except raspberry, which I couldn't use because of allergies.

The recipe worked.

But more than that, the cookies were absolutely delicious. Even the adults gobbled them. The children were happy, they learned more than they realized.

They want to cook with me again. I love that.

Jam Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup golden or dark raisins or chopped dates or a mixture
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries or other chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Cut the butter into chunks and work into the dry ingredients (with fingers or process on pulse in a food processor) until the butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the raisins, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Press the mixture evenly inside the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 24