Does anyone else use the cooking philosophy that any recipe can be changed pretty much in any way? That's my cooking method through and through, especially at this time of year; we're starting to run out of certain vegetables from our freezer and cold cellar. We ran out of onions two weeks ago. We're down to three packages each of broccoli and spinach. We're out of shredded zucchini. We haven't bought veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, or cucumbers for years, so when the freezer and cellar run bare, we're looking for substitutes.
Here's a few of my favorite substitutes:
Onions or scallions = chives. I freeze bags of cut-up chives in late spring. We don't grow scallions and I refuse to buy them, so chives are close enough! We grow lots of onions, but by the end of February they are usually sprouting and getting soft so I use chives instead, when possible.
Celery = cucumbers. We don't grow celery but we grow loads of cukes, and in lots of recipes no one will know the difference.
Cucumbers = zucchini. If we have a bad year for cukes, zukes work just as well!
Zucchini = frozen tomatillos. I cut tomatillos into quarters and freeze them without blanching. If a recipe calls for zucchini, I will substitute these in. Zucchini only freezes well when it's shredded, so I never have it available cubed in the winter.
Winter squash = pumpkin. I use these interchangeably. We have "pumpkin bread" made with butternut squash and "squash soup" made with pumpkin. It's all the same in our house. I also throw squash and pumpkin into nearly everything. We grow 200+ pounds of it a year, and 1/4 cup can be hidden into most anything!
Sweet potato = winter squash/pumpkin. This doesn't work in every recipe, but it works in most. We don't grow sweet potatoes, so even though squash has a little different flavor and texture, generally this substitution works well.
Other substitutions are more random — I use beet relish if a recipe calls for beets and something tart like lemon juice or vinegar. Homemade pickles always substitute for any pickle called for. I never use garlic powder; we grow so much garlic it's only the real thing.
I'll bet I'm not the only cook out there who throws in everything but the kitchen sink! When you grow your own veggies, it's hard not to use what you've got rather than buy from the grocery store.