If you're ever wanted to try a recipe with a mouth-watering illustration, but put it aside because you didn't have all the ingredients at the same time, don't be discouraged.
You can develop the art of adapting recipes to suit your stock of on-hand supplies, and learn how to juggle ingredients and make substitutions.
Before trying to substitute one ingredient for another, be sure to consider similarities in taste and texture.
For example, plain unflavored yogurt is a good substitute for sour cream, since it has both a tart flavor and a thick creamy consistency. Athough the taste isn't as close, yogurt's consistency also makes it a possible replacement for mayonnaise in congealed salads.
Though the richness of flavor is lacking, milk can be used instead of cream in most sauces. You may want to cut back a bit on the quantity though, to allow for the difference in thickness.
Along the same line, a prepared whipped topping can replace whipped cream, if you follow the package directions to achieve the same volume as the original.
Also, be sure that your recipe calls for whipped cream and not whipping cream in its unwhipped state.
In the dairy line, inexpensive uncreamed cottage cheese can be substituted for ricotta cheese as it's very similar.
For that matter, many cheeses can replace each other, as long as their consistencies are similar. Macaroni and cheese is delicious when made with Monterey Jack or Colby instead of the regular cheddar.
And I've often interchanged Swiss, provolone, and mozzarella. True, the tastes vary, but unless you're a purist, the results are just as good.
If you find yourself with a bottle of lemon juice but no lemon peel, a solution I've found is to keep a bottle of lemon extract on hand and use 1/4 teaspoon of the extract in place of 1 teaspoon of grated peel.
Or, if you're feeling daring, try using grapefruit as a substitute. When cooked into a cake or cookies, the tartness is quite similar to that of lemon. You might also like to try using orange or lime for variety.
How many times have you passed up a recipe because you're unacquainted with an herb that's needed? Because of the expense of seasonings, I keep a few basic ones on hand and then consult a good reference cookbook to see which herbs have similar tastes and are members of the same family.
''The Joy of Cooking,'' published by Bobbs-Merrill, is an excellent source for such information.
I've used oregano instead of marjoram with great success and interchanged rosemary, basil, and thyme in vegetable mixtures. A teaspoon of dry parsley can replace a tablespoon of fresh parsley and 11/2 teaspoons of prepared mustard is the equivalent of 1/2 teaspoon dry.
Of course any drastic changes in ingredients are going to change the taste of the final product dramatically, but experimentation can improve even the most tried and true recipes.
I've been known to add mint extract to chocolate pudding or to replace vanilla with lemon or other extracts in frostings or basic cake recipes. Corn bread tastes delicious when made using tomato juice.
If you wonder what to do with leftover egg yolks, use two yolks to equal one whole egg in cakes, pie fillings, or meat loaf where the yellow coloring is not a factor.
If a recipe calls for cracker crumbs? Try corn or tortilla chips or seasoned crackers as toppings for coating chicken or fish. Or, substitute uncooked quick-cooking oatmeal for bread crumbs in a meat loaf, using half the quantity.
Often an Italian recipe calls for an unfamiliar pasta. Try stuffing a cooked cabbage leaf instead of manicotti or make the spicy sauce to serve over rice, wedges of cooked cabbage, summer squash, or any mild-flavored vegetable.
Don't be afraid to experiment and develop your sense of the fine art called ''make-do.''