photo by chocolate monster mel

You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you have to make do and be flexible. If you're cooking and suddenly realize that you're out of an ingredient, it might be more practical to go without it or to substitute something you have on hand. Why make a special trip to the store when gas prices are through the roof or you're pressed for time? Or maybe you want to adjust your diet. Here's a handy reference of common food substitutions. If you've made any successful substitutions, let me know.

Pancake Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla or maple flavoring

Boil all ingredients together and cook gently for three minutes. -- submitted by Barb, New York

CELERY: Cabbage, celery salt or seeds, water chestnuts, snow peas, carrots, asparagus, fennel bulb, green pepper, apples or lettuce hearts.

MUSHROOMS: Eggplant or zucchini.

TOMATOES: Roasted or fresh bell peppers.

CORN SYRUP: Try 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water to replace 1 cup corn syrup. It can sometimes replace honey and molasses, too.

EGGS: Substitute half a mashed ripe banana and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder or 3 tablespoons mayonnaise for each egg.

SOUR CREAM: Try 3/4 cup yogurt plus 1 teaspoon of baking soda or 1/4 cup butter to replace 1 cup of sour cream. Or combine 2/3 cup dry milk, 3/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon vinegar.

BUTTERMILK: Add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to milk.

CHOCOLATE: For 1 square semisweetened chocolate, try 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon butter or margarine.

BEER: Try beef broth in recipes that call for beer.

CHILI SAUCE: Combine 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, dash allspice

SUGAR: Use light brown sugar or confectioners' sugar.

BAKING POWDER: 1 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar replaces 1 teaspoon baking powder.

CORNSTARCH: 2 tablespoons flour or 4 teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca can replace 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

HEAVY CREAM: To replace 1 cup, use 1/3 cup butter and 2/3 cup milk.

BROWN SUGAR: Substitute 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons molasses.

BREADCRUMBS: Cracker crumbs, oatmeal, rice, cereal.

KETCHUP: Try using a mixture of tomato sauce, sugar and vinegar.

FRESH GARLIC: Use 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder to replace 1 clove fresh garlic.

Combine ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, onion, vinegar and mustard to taste.

MAYONNAISE: Replace with pureed cottage cheese.

PECANS: Substitute roasted peanuts or walnuts.

ALLSPICE: Combine nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in equal parts.

ICE CREAM: Combine instant pudding, Cool Whip or Dream Whip and crushed pineapple. Or try the following recipe.

Ice Cream

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 large can evaporated milk
4 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten

In a skillet, put sugar, cocoa, evaporated milk, 1 cup milk and 2 beaten eggs. Cook on low heat, stirring often until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Add cold water until mixture is cold. Add remaining milk. Put in a bowl and cover with a lid. Freeze. -- submitted by Shelly, Kentucky

Whipped Cream

1/3 cup ice water
1-1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup nonfat-dry-milk powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine water, lemon juice and vanilla. Stir in milk powder. Beat 5 to 10 minutes or until stiff. Add sugar. Beat for 2 minutes.
-- submitted by Amanda, e-mail

Personal note: hmm. I must be craving pancakes. LOL