Monthly Archives: July 2011

Make your Own Baking Powder

It’s a bummer when you promise waffles for breakfast and then realize you don’t have enough baking powder to make more homemade baking mix.

But then, thanks to the Internet, I found out what’s actually in it, and it’s incredibly easy to make:

Homemade Baking Powder (ready? this is complicated; you’ll want to write this down…):

Mix: two parts cream of tartar to one part baking soda.  If you are planning on storing it for a long time, add 1 part cornstarch as well; the only purpose this serves is to help it not to clump with ambient moisture.



As in, if you need 1 tbs baking powder, instead you can use 2 tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp baking soda.

The reason, apparently, why baking powder makes a difference vs just using soda is that the soda reacts with acid, and the cream of tartar reacts with heat, and the combination of the two (why it’s called “double acting”) is what makes pancake batter and such able to sit for a while before cooking. With soda only, you need to get whatever it is into the oven/pan as quickly as possible before the chemical reaction is done, whereas the baking powder gives you more time for stuff like pancakes.

What is a little more complicated is that despite what everyone has told me all my life about exactly measuring the amount of baking powder in a recipe, I cannot find consistency among websites regarding the difference between with- and without-cornstarch baking powder and the measurements thereof. Both kinds of recipes say “use the same amount as you would commercial baking powder.” I have not put this to scientific testing yet, but my hunch would be that the exactitude of baking powder required for any given recipe might be slightly more flexible than I’d been led to believe.

(Of course, none of this makes any difference at all if you don’t have cream of tartar in your house either…then you need to get your husband to go out to Whole Foods at 8:15 on a Saturday morning to buy you some more baking powder or cream of tartar or both. Which he will agree to since he wants waffles as much as the kids…)

Breakfast was delicious. Try it tomorrow! (But check the cupboard for ingredients tonight!)



The casualest of summer cocktails…

I love this:

Mason Jar Cocktails

It has an actual Watermelon-Mint Mojito recipe which sounds divine…but when you think about it, it’s not like it’s that much work to follow the basic process.  Yummy ripe fresh fruit, puree, and/or juice, mixed with rum or other booziness and a little simple sugar syrup. Some muddled sweet herbs as well, maybe, like mint or bergamot or lemon balm or even lavender flowers. Plunk it all in the jar and let it sit in the fridge. I think they get yummier after a week or two, but it’s up to you…

Life’s too short to drink bad cocktails.

(It goes without saying, I hope, that if you’re drinking these anywhere away from home, you’re taking public transit and/or designating a driver, right? And that you’re of age?)

And…this is why I have an ice cream maker

It’s one of those appliances I really sometimes wonder why I have…it sits in my pantry (alias a shelf on he side wall of my garage) 11 months out of the year, and the frozen canisters take up way too much space in my freezer.

But last night we had homemade strawberry ice cream. The kids wanted another “cooking class” (we did those over spring break, and they really got into it), and it’s too hot to cook much.  So I figured, no time like now to bring out the ice cream maker and whip something up.

The recipe: I wanted something easy, and something I wouldn’t need to cook. Which meant no eggs. I found this recipe at allrecipes, and with a very small amount of nonetheless pretty important tweaking came up with the following:

Easy No-Eggs Strawberry Ice Cream

  • Slice up about a cup and a half of fresh organic strawberries.

(This was a great lesson in use of the sharper knives for the kids. I gave them steak knives, which aren’t real sharp but nonetheless do a very decent job on strawberries.  The whole exercise in how to hold the knife, how to control it, that you always hold it straight from your wrist and move the food so that it falls under the knife right rather than contorting around to make the cuts you want…these strawberries SO didn’t need to be sliced that much, but it was a good learning experience.)

  • Add about 3/4 of a cup of sugar and a splash of lemon juice; stir. (The sugar is fairly crucial to the texture of the final product, apparently; if you are eating it all at one sitting you can get away with less sugar, but if you try to freeze low-sugar ice cream it’s pretty solid and unmovable. Wish I’d known this all those other times I ended up with flavored yogurt ice cubes.)
  • Allow to sit and macerate (which basically means “sit”) for 20 minutes or so. This allows the sugar to dissolve a bit and the strawberries to release some of their juices. And adds a pretty nothing-artificial-needed pinkness to the end product.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups half and half and 1 cup milk (or 2 1/2 cups milk, or substitute heavy cream for some of it, or whatever your desire…)
  • Add splash of vanilla extract and pinch of salt
  • Put into ice cream maker and freeze per instructions.
  • If you’re evil like us, toss in a cup of mini chocolate chunks five minutes before the end of the process.

And…that’s it.

VERDICT: My son says, “It was super duper duper duper good.” My daughter, not to be outdone, says, “It was super super super super duper duper duper duper good.” My husband says, “In the words of Keanu Reeves, ‘Whooaaa.'” I say, in all honesty, this was fabulous ice cream. I didn’t miss the eggs or cooked custard at all.  The macerating of the berries in the sugar (not in the original recipe) created a lovely sweet syrup that made the whole deal sweet and berry-flavored and a gentle natural pink. And the little chocolate chunks made it just that much more decadent. We had leftovers; we’ll see how the freeze goes and whether it’s still scoopable tonight. But for now–I feel safe calling this the best strawberry ice cream I can remember ever having, with the possible exception of the stuff we used to make when I was a kid and used the hand crank machine. (Also eggless, if I recall.)

Next time we’ll try a non-dairy version with coconut milk and chopped up pineapple…

Zucchini + “Spaghetti Pie” = a very promising recipe!

I read Cooking Light magazine.  I almost never, however, actually make any of the recipes found in it. Not sure why–probably largely because I seldom make any real recipes, ever.  But this one looks cool…

I first heard of “spaghetti pie” about 15 years ago, but honestly I’ve never made it.  Mostly because it’s apparently a Midwestern staple for using up leftover pasta, and I happen to think that leftover cold pasta out of the tupperware container is one of the best breakfasts ever.  It seems, in short, to be sort of a “lazy mom’s lasagna”–just toss everything together in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on, and bake it.

Now that I’ve discovered a version that can also get rid of 3 cups of grated oversized zucchini in a delicious way, I may have to give it a try…It’s on page 140 of the August Cooking Light magazine, and it’s also found here: Zucchini Angel Hair Pancake. I haven’t done it yet, so this is a blog post based on something I haven’t tried yet, which I generally don’t much like to do–but it does look yummy, and posting it here is  one way I’ll be guaranteed not to lose the recipe.  (Along with the Roasted Banana Pudding recipe on page 144…I would probably substitute amaretti or savoiardi for the vanilla wafers and go for the actual whipped cream instead of the fake stuff, calories be damned, but it does look yummy!)

And best of all, this zuke-pasta pancake is cooked on the stove, so you don’t even need to heat up the oven!

I’ll post a review when I do make it; if anyone beats me to it, please let me know in the comments!

Squashed by squash!

It’s happening–the tomatoes aren’t even pink yet, but the zucchini plants are going nuts and giving us way more squash than we can eat. (Anyone from church want me to bring you a couple of zukes? Let me know!)

So, in case anyone is in a similar pickle (ooh! that’s right; zucchinis pickle very well too!), here’s a link to my post of a couple of years ago, with a recipe for zucchini latkes. Lovely easy meatless (but egg-containing) entree  or side for a summer evening….

Jenn’s Zucchini Latke Recipe (with links to other “attack of the giant mutant zukes” recipes…)

Bon appetit!

Homemade Toothpaste? A work in progress…

I’m finally home! It was such a lovely relief last night to go to bed and know that I will be sleeping in that very bed for every night for the foreseeable future.  And that there was no alarm set for this morning except my honey’s.  And that I could finally get back on the internet and gobble up the blogs of my green friends…

It’s 12:15 and I haven’t even unpacked yet.  I will before the end of the day, but not yet.  I also forgot that before I left town I had squeezed every last drop out of my toothpaste tube. And my jar of coconut oil had arrived in the mail while I was gone. So it seemed logical that this might be the day at last to attempt Crunchy Betty’s homemade toothpaste recipe.

Or my tweaked-version thereof. Because I never follow a recipe exactly. And I don’t have any glycerine. But I have coconut oil, baking soda, essential oils, and powdered stevia, so…

The pros: my teeth now feel cleaner and shinier than ever except when I have the dentist polish them.

The cons: to my tender sensibilities, the stuff tastes horrible.

I couldn’t understand why, until it occurred to me (doh) that while sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium chloride (table salt) are absolutely not the same thing, they do have that whole sodium thing working together, and thus anything with that high a proportion of baking soda is going to taste salty whatever you do. So I cut the baking soda, upped the essential oils and stevia, and then it was at least palatable. But still ucky. (Some recipes online call for more salt, which sounds just horrible.)

This is what I ended up with:

mix 1 tbs coconut oil, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 3 drops lemon essential oil, 6 drops peppermint essential oil, 3 drops ginger essential oil. (Basically, to taste–when you taste enough of the oils, stop.) Two small pinches of powdered stevia, or probably half a packet if you use packets.

It will be runny if it’s warm out (it is here) and sort of creamy if not. That’s the coconut oil.  Dip dry toothbrush into mixture and go from there.

This is a fairly small amount, but toothpaste being toothpaste it’s probably enough for a good week or so. Jury’s still out on whether I’ll use it or not for that whole week…and I may mess with it and do some additives like cinnamon or cloves, like this site suggests. (She has a much higher soda-to-oil ratio than even Betty at the start.) I did find another site suggestion arrowroot instead of baking soda, which might cut that saltiness a bit but give a more pasty texture; that might be worth a try…

But in a pinch it’s good to know it’s do-able, when there’s no other toothpaste around!


(Wow, more than a week since I’ve posted! I’m still traveling, and have been caught between places with bad internet or expensive internet; I’m sitting in Panera eating off a REAL plate with REAL flatware now, enjoying their free wireless, but it’ll be a few days still before I’m home with my own network and some time to use it…)

While on vacation I came across this not exactly epic but still exasperating eco-fail:

(er…I have no idea why it’s posting it sideways after I tried seven different ways of getting it to display right-side up…)

Yeah. So for something like $10 you get to buy recycled brown paper, decorated cutely, and some brightly colored raffia, all packaged in another piece of cardboard and shrink-wrapped in plastic.



Mondays at the Booth

At the Green Phone Booth today, I have up a wistful post about the lovely spot in Maine we’ll be departing in about 17 hours…come check it out!

An Ecosystem to Love (at The Green Phone Booth)

Green Mom’s Product Review: The Mighty and Allegedly Fabulous Keurig Coffee Maker

For the past few months, I’ve been listening to people rave about the Amazing Fabulousness of the Keurig Coffee Maker. I’m perfectly happy with my French Press, thank you very much, so I’d never felt even slightly inclined to purchase or seek one out, especially since the whole concept of the “single use K-cup” is something I find fairly horrific from a green point of view–generating a new little plastic piece of garbage for EVERY cup of homemade coffee? Umm…yeah, I don’t think I want to go that route.

I’m currently staying at my parents’ place for the week, and my mom has a Keurig over in the garage apartment.  With the single use K-cups.  I totally get that it’s a sensible approach when you’ve got guests staying over there who just want a single cup of no-mess coffee. And this machine is ideal for that.

So, for the past few mornings, I’ve been drinking Keurig-made coffee.

My verdict? Well–it does make a very nice cup of coffee.  And if one is accustomed to the typical Mr. Coffee machines most of us have or have at one point had in our kitchens, it’s a huge improvement. However, it’s not that good–IMO, my French Press makes way better coffee than the Keurig, with only minimally more mess, and that mess is only generated in the cleanup process.

Apparently (I looked it up) you can also get re-usable K-cup filters for the Keurig–the kind you can use with your own coffee.  Definitely a green improvement over the single-use ones, but it reintroduces the cleanup issues the k-cups effectively (and trash-generatingly) eliminate from the coffeemaking process.  Seems like what you’re dealing with there is using the Keurig mainly to heat the water, and then pushing it through the tiny single-use filter, which isn’t much easier than just heating water and using the otherwise-no-power-and-little-counter-space French Press.

My final verdict? A decent cup of coffee. But I’ll keep my sliced bread, thank you.

Bizarre Headline of the Week

From my Weekly Grist account in Google Reader:

Is Your Shampoo Making You Fat?

Most bizarre of all–they are serious.  And reading the article, it almost makes sense, if you think about it.

The basic question is, how much of our obesity epidemic is about calories-in-vs-calories-out, and how much is about metabolism, closely linked to and affected by, hormones and the various stuff our bodies create and send through our systems to monitor and regulate things? Thus, if we are consuming and filling our bodies right and left with BPA and phelates and God-knows-what-other endocrine disruptors (endocrine system? producer of hormones and stuff?), is it that far out of the ballpark to wonder if those hormone-messing-with substances might be affecting how our bodies deal with weight and fat and stuff?

Worth at least paying attention to.