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Cooking for the Holidays Made Simpler

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Johanna Hicks
Johanna Hicks, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Family & Community Health Agent

By Johanna HicksTexas A&M AgriLife Extension, Family & Community Health Agent, Hopkins County

From time to time, individuals call my office asking for a copy of one of my past articles. This particular column received lots of feedback, so I’m repeating it for this holiday season. As Thanksgiving and Christmas rapidly approach, many people think about meal preparations for family and friends. 

It never fails – you are ready to make your favorite pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but going to the cabinet to pull out the pumpkin pie spice, you realize that you don’t have any.  Not to worry!  You can make your own.  Actually, there are numerous substitutions and “make your own seasoning” recipes. 

Clip this column and put in your favorite cookbook for handy reference:

  • Apple pie spice (1 teaspoon): ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground all-spice, and a dash of ginger.
  • Cajun seasoning (1 tablespoon): ½ teaspoon white pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon ground red pepper, ½ teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.
  • Fresh snipped herbs (1 tablespoon): ½ to 1 teaspoon dried herbs
  • Poultry seasoning (1 teaspoon): ¾ teaspoon dried sage and ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon): ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

When substituting spices, start with half the amount the recipe calls for (unless directed otherwise) and add to suit your taste.

  • Allspice, ground: ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves
  • Chili powder: dash of bottled pepper sauce plus equal measures of ground oregano and cumin
  • Cloves, ground: ground all-spice, cinnamon, or nutmeg
  • Cumin, ground: chili powder
  • Mustard, dry (1 teaspoon): 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • Paprika: cayenne pepper (just a dash…it’s hotter than paprika)
  • Cayenne pepper, ground (1/8 teaspoon): 2 to 3 drops bottled hot pepper sauce

   If you are missing an ingredient, before making a mad dash to the grocery store, try these emergency substitutions:

  • Baking powder (1 teaspoon); ½ teaspoon cream of tartar plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Buttermilk (1 cup): 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup.  Let stand 5 minutes before using.  Or use 1 cup plain yogurt.
  • Tomato sauce (2 cups): ¾ cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water
  • Onion, chopped (1/2 cup): 2 tablespoons dried minced onion and ½ teaspoon onion powder

Here are some handy conversions for liquid and dry ingredients.


  • 1 tablespoon = ½ fluid ounce
  • 1 cup = ½ pint = 8 fluid ounces
  • 2 cups = 1 pint = 16 fluid ounces
  • 2 pints (4 cups) = 1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
  • 4 quarts (16 cups) = 1 gallon = 128 fluid ounces


  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons = ¼ cup
  • 8 tablespoons – ½ cup
  • 12 tablespoons = ¾ cup
  • 16 tablespoons = 1 cup

Enjoy this holiday baking season…and bring me some!

Contact Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, P.O. Box 518, 1200-B West Houston St, Sulphur Springs, TX, 75483; 903-885-3443; or [email protected]

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