As I was writing the previous posts on muffin recipes I debated with myself about whether I should explain how I alter the recipes or if I should just serve 'em straight! I ended up posting them pretty much how they came out of the recipe book but now wonder if I should have altered them. You see, I almost never make a recipe exactly the way it is written in the book. Oh, don't get me wrong, I do it exactly the first time I make it and then tweak it to be easier, healthier or tastier.
In my muffin recipes I always use whole wheat flour for half of the regular flour. I have tons of wheat in my food storage and this is a good way to eat it up. Plus it is way healthier for my family, and gets them used to eating whole grain stuff. I figure I will get them used to whole wheat with yummy stuff like muffins, which will make the change to whole grain cereals, breads, rice, pasta, etc, easier. I started this a long time ago and my kids never have white bread (and I don't think they miss it), and we use almost exclusively brown rice and no one complains. We haven't made the complete switch to whole wheat pasta but I'm now using 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 regular, without too many complaints.
Also in my muffing recipes I substitute applesauce for some of the oil/margarine/butter. I do this for two reasons. First for health reasons. If I'm using whole grains and less fat, those muffins might actually approach healthiness! We all could use a little less fat in our diets and this is an easy way to reduce it. Secondly, I have applesauce on hand all the time and it is cheap. I can TONS of applesauce every fall and I can get boxes of apples for cheap ($12 for a 40-50 lb box, I usually do two or three boxes). Since the applesauce is really cheap, and butter is not, I figure I am saving a little with each batch of muffins. The applesauce substitution works really well in recipes where the apple taste won't be noticed - muffins, banana bread, zucchini bread, etc. If you use it in cookies, substitute just a little bit or the cookies will turn out more cake like and less crispy, chewy, cookie-like. I usually substitute a little less than half in most recipes and about a tablespoon or two in cookies.
Eggs are another thing which you can substitute. I have chickens in my backyard and hence, a free source of eggs so I rarely do this unless I'm out. I refuse to buy eggs from the store very often (unless I'm doing mega-baking and need several dozen at once - my poor girls can't produce that many eggs!) You can substitute one heaping tablespoon of soy flour and one tablespoon of water for each egg. You don't want to do this where the flavor of the eggs is important (ie, crepes, challah, etc) but for pancakes, muffins, quick bread, meatloaf, etc it can save you when you are just one or two eggs short. Yes, soy flour is relatively more expensive than other flours but you are only using one tablespoon and it keeps for a long time in your pantry/food storage.
I don't substitute anything for sugar but I do often use less than the recipe calls for. You can usually leave out several TBS to 1/4 c. and no one will notice. Be careful when doing this, though, in some recipes (cookies for instance) the sugar is responsible for some spooky chemical reaction that makes the recipe work, with out the sugar (or enough sugar) the recipe might not be what it is supposed to be!
So, this is how I cheat on recipes. It is not really cheating, but whatever. This site has some other great substitutions.