Using healthy ingredients in cooking can be a lot more complicated than using the traditional combination of refined sugar, wheat and butter (which is almost always foolproof). Throughout the years I have literally ruined thousands of recipes when experimenting with healthier ingredients. It is totally worth it however but something that you won't have to go through since you have this website to lean on. Cooking with healthier ingredients can take time, patience and it can be more costly than using traditional ingredients. Don't give up though and if you carry on you will soon become an expert on cooking all things healthy. Just make sure you follow the recipes very carefully because 'a dash of this and a dash of that' usually doesn't work in healthy cooking. This is especially true for cakes and cookies. If you don't have any experience in cooking at all you don't need to worry because in 2000 I was eating dry pasta because of my lack of culinary skills (I didn't know how to cook it, I am not kidding) and in 2003 I had opened up my own recipe website with thousands of followers. If I can do it, you can do it too.

Below are questions I have gathered throughout the years from my users regarding baking, ingredients, cooking techniques and more. If you click on a question, the answer will appear below.

If you can't find the answer you are looking for, you can contact me directly or you can have a look through the Advice Section.


Can you use baking soda instead of baking powder?

In general you can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (it may affect the taste), but you can't use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder. Baking soda on its own lacks the acidity to make a cake rise. Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, which means they are added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to 'rise' and give them 'air'. It does not however work like yeast. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions. Some recipes call for baking soda, while others call for baking powder. Which ingredient is used depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. Baking soda will give a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk or yoghurt. Baking soda is often used in cookie recipes. Baking powder however contains both an acid and a base and has an overall neutral effect in terms of taste. Recipes that call for baking powder often call for other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk. Baking powder is a common ingredient in breads, cakes and biscuits. Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch such as wheat). It is usually best to bake recipes immediately after combining baking powder and moisture/liquid as leaving the mixture on the table might produce 'flat' results (as the gas will have been released already), depending on the type of baking powder you are using.

You can make your own baking powder if you have baking soda and cream of tartar. Simply mix two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda. I use aluminium and gluten free baking powder which means that there is no aluminium used and instead of the starch used (usually wheat) a gluten free starch is used. I use it in same amounts I would regular baking powder.

Do you not use any fat in your recipes?

I do, but not much of it and not just any type of fat. I never use cream or butter, margarine or shortening and have never done so. I mainly use cold pressed, organic coconut oil for everything that requires heating and olive oil for everything else. I have also used rapeseed oil instead of coconut oil and various types of other oiles such as walnut oil, avocado oil, peanut oil and sunflower oil for salads and dressings. I also love to use nut butters such as from cashews and hazelnuts. I also use tahini (sesame butter) and avocados extensively. Our bodies need fat but in the poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated version, not the saturated kind and definitely not the transfatty acids that are in so many processed foods. I aim to use no more than 2 tablespoons coconut oil in my recipes (in addition to eggs, avocado, fish, nuts) although when making cookies you really need to use more fat as they will turn out breadlike and soft otherwise. I aim to use no more than 5 tablespoons coconut oil in cookies.

Do you use sweeteners such as Nutra Sweet and Aspartame?

No. In general I don't use anything in my recipes that has been manufactured in a lab or by chemical engineers/scientists. It's just not the way I roll. I always recommend that people use no chemical sweeteners at all, but use natural sugars instead. The best thing to do is avoid all artificial and chemical sweetener substitutes. They have NO food value and they trick the body into thinking it is eating something sweet. Some say that they have by-products of harmful toxic side effects. The side effects most often reported in relation to chemical sweeteners is headache, migraine, mood changes, dizziness, depression, nausea and more. I don't know how much of these can be attributed to sweeteners alone (and I don't care to find out for myself) but whatever nature doesn't produce in some form, I'm not eating.

Is soy meat similar to animal meat

No, definitely not. Soy meat is fairly neutral in taste and goes very well in all kinds of casseroles and stews since it will absorb taste from other ingredients. I find that soaking soy meat in spices and hot water for at least an hour before use, gives the tastiest results. Soy meat is not low in calories but instead is low in saturated fat and high in protein, making it ideal in healthy cooking. Note that you can purchase minced soy meat (great in lasagna) and soy meat chunks (great in stews, soups and casseroles). Just make sure that the soy meat you buy is made from NON GMO (genetically modified) soy beans and that it is certified organic.

What is Curd Cheese?

Curd Cheese is a fairly low fat cheese which is similar to soft cheese/cream cheese. I have used it in cheesecakes and it holds well during baking. You can use low fat Philadelphia Cheese instead of curd cheese. I am however not fond of using soft cheese in general and my cheesecakes are the only recipes where I would use it.

What is gelatin and why don't you use it?

I never, ever use gelatin. Gelatin is a tasteless solid substance (protein) derived from collagen inside animals' (mainly pigs, cows and sheep) bones, ligaments, skin, tendons, horns, veins, connective tissues and feet. There is an amazing amount of products containing gelatin, such as jelly beans and other sweets, coated vitamin tables, yoghurt, sour creme, hair gels, cosmetics and more. It is also used in photography and on playing cards (to get that shiny coat). I would never consume gelatin (considering how it is made and where it is derived from) and the very thought makes my stomach turn. If you are vegan or don't like gelatin you can look for products containing agar agar or pectin instead of gelatin.

What is MSG? Is it dangerous?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive often used as a ‘flavour enhancer' in fast food, dried food (such as soups), snacks, crips and tinned and frozen food. Chemically speaking, MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (thus, the name monosodium glutamate). Glutamate may be described as E621, glutamic acid, autolysed yeast extract or sodium caseinate. MSG may also be included under vague descriptions such as ‘seasonings', 'flavourings', 'flavour enhancers' or ‘hydrolysed protein'.

The potential ill-effects caused by MSG were first described in a medical journal as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome'. Symptoms including numbness and palpitations were reported shortly after visiting a Chinese restaurant. Such claims have never been specifically linked to MSG however, and could be due to common allergies to other ingredients like peanuts and shellfish. MSG has however been linked to many conditions including migraines, rashes, brain tumours, asthma, depression and Alzheimer's and Parkison's Disease, although it has never been isolated as a cause (well they said the same for smoking and lung cancer for a long, long time). Some scientists say that avoiding MSG is hysteria and that people won't become sick from eating it. I would personally never consume MSG because food tastes plenty good without it in my opinion and why rock the boat in terms of your health?

What is Quark?

Quark is a fat free, soft cheese made from skimmed milk, great for use in breads, cakes and cheese cakes. You can use fat free Greek yoghurt instead or just follow my recipes as I will mention substitutes where appropriate.

What is tofu and how do you use it?

Tofu (bean curd) is made from soybeans, water and a coagulant, or curdling agent. Tofu has very little flavour on its own, so it can be used either in savoury or sweet dishes, and it is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. It is low in fat, high in protein, iron and calcium and is known for its ability to absorb new flavors through spices and marinades. A stable in Asian diet, it is mainly used in the Western world by vegans and vegetarians in place of dairy or meat. Look for tofu in the produce section of your grocery store (or health food store). There are two main kinds of tofu, silken or soft tofu (often used instead of dairy products in smoothies, frosting and more), and firm or regular tofu (marinated and cooked and used instead of meat). When using firm tofu you will need to drain the water and press it using a kitchen towel to remove excess liquid. For silken tofu you can use it as it is.

What types of sugar do you use for baking?

I mainly use Rapadura cane sugar. Rapadura is naturally evaporated raw cane juice from the sugarcane, rich in molasses. It is the perfect unbleached, unrefined sweetener to use in place of refined sugars. It retains most of its essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The less refined a sugar the greater the nutrient content. It has a light, caramel flavour and is great in all kinds of baking instead of processed sugar. The only times where I would use other types of sugar than Rapadura is when the baked good needs to be light in colour as Rapadura will give your baked goods a light brown colour. Therefore (because of its colour and texture), Rapadura is not great when baking meringues. Rapadura is available in health food stores.