Baking Soda v. Baking Powder

Do you ever wonder why it really matters which baking leavener to use: baking soda v baking powder?

If you'd like to read an interesting, fairly in-depth explanation of the differences between the two products (including side-by-side baking tests and information about crumb and flavor), then I suggest that you hop over to the Huffington Post.

(Photo By: Kate Ter Haar; Baking Soda reacting to an acid)

If you just want to have a basic understanding, here you go:

Baking Soda is a single ingredient baking base that causes lift and browning in your baked goods when combined with an acid. The reaction is immediate so you should only combine your acid to the base when you're ready to put the baked good into the oven. It does not expire.

Baking Powder is a three ingredient baking item that contains both the base and the acid. This allows you to add lift to you baked goods without having to balance acid to base ingredients in your recipe. Additionally, baking powder usually is "double-acting" which means there will be initial lift when the baking powder comes into contact with liquid and then another lift with the batter comes into contact with the oven heat. It does expire.

If you're curious about other leaveners, such as eggs and sugar, take a look at this summary by King Arthur.

Great Lunch Ideas for On-the-Go Eaters!

Recently, I posted about how excited I was to find the Ziploc lunch containers!


You can't imagine my excitement to find that a blogger I enjoy reading had an entire photo log of real-food lunches for her kids in the same containers!!!!!! If you're trying to gear-up for another school year of making lunches, you might get some great inspiration over at 100 Days of Real Food. 

Of course, Pinterest is also a source of school lunch ideas....so many it's a bit overwhelming.

Easy Lunch Boxes (a higher-end version of the Ziploc containers; I haven't tried them yet) has a photo log of lunch ideas, too, that's very helpful.

If you're a person who likes printables for cooking, you should hop over to to Don't Waste the Crumbs for a simple printable formula for how to make your own Lunchable for less than a dollar each day. 

And, here's my tip for lunches: Nutrition and healthy eating doesn't need to be complicated - keep it simple!

Cooking At Home is a Healthy Choice!

Do you remember a while back I posted about making homemade donuts? Oh, Man! They were delicious. In fact, they were so delicious that I still remember gorging on them and not even feeling guilty about it.

Why did I not feel guilty? Because I knew that my donut gorging was a once-a-year event. Making donuts takes planning, time, and a heck of a lot of oil. All these factors limit me from cooking donuts more than once a year (I think it had been three years since my last batch).



This video is a reminder as to why we should eat homemade food almost exclusively. The voice is Michael Pollan's;  RSA.org took the essence of Pollan's longer presentation and turned it into an entertaining two-and-a-half minute video.

Now, I'm not about to say that cooking at home will fix all our health problems (if you're cooking purely with nutritionally lacking processed carbs, you're not going to be feeling too well too soon), I do agree with Pollan that cooking and eating at home is a huge step in the right direction for improving your health and feeding our lives.


Have You Heard of 826 Chapters for Creative Writing for Kids?

Despite schooling all summer, I still feel the fall excitement about school "starting" soon! I enjoy taking inventory of school supplies, ordering books (mostly art books!!), reviewing the educational materials sitting on my shelves....it's fun!

With that fun, though, does come a wee-little-bit of dread. Will my daughter share the same excitement? Will she be willing to do the work/play I ask of her? She is a kid who likes constantly changing stimuli while completely being resistant to any change. I know: those sound contradictory! Wish me luck for the school year!
(The start of last school year!)

One way I keep us progressing through the year is reaching out to programs in our area to help me teach her. Once such program she and I have both enjoyed a lot is hosted by a non-profit organization named 826DC. This is a local branch of a national organization found in these major cities:

1. Boston
2. Chicago
3. DC
4. LA
5. Ann Arbor
6. New York City
7. Seattle
8. San Francisco

826DC offers writing workshops that are in a super-cool, super-inviting environment led by super-ecouraging people. My kid leaves the workshops feeling excited about writing in a way that I have not been able to duplicate at home. I hope to enroll her in more workshops this school year!

If you happen to live in one of the cities above, I recommend that you look up your local chapter and see what upcoming workshops they offer for your age kid. If it's anything like our experience, you'll enjoy the outside motivation to teach creative thinking and writing!

Gluten-free Version of the Oat Breakfast Cookie

One of the recipes that my friends repeatedly tell me they are making is my Breakfast Cookie Recipe. I LOVE that people have enjoyed them so much!

A few months ago I had to take myself off of gluten (come to find out it has been the source of my insomnia for the past few years), so I needed to find a way to adapt my Breakfast Cookie Recipe to meet the allergy needs of everyone in my household.

Below is the gluten-free, tree-nut-free, coconut-free breakfast cookie recipe that I came up with (and I reduced the sugar some, too!).




Breakfast Cookie

Ingredients:
5 TBS organic butter, softened
1 cup organic peanut butter
3/4 cup organic brown sugar
5 TBS organic applesauce
2 tsp homemade vanilla
2 organic eggs
1/3 organic whole milk
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup organic dry milk
1 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups add-ins (I have been using 2.5 cups organic oats flakes, 1 cup organic oat bran, 3/4 cup mixed sizes Enjoy Life chocolate chips)

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack on the middle upper position.
  2. Whip together the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, applesauce, and vanilla.
  3. Mix in the eggs and liquid milk.
  4. Gently mix in the flour, dry milk, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Fold in your add-ins.
  6. Line an air-bake baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, generously doll-up 1/4 cup mounds of the the batter onto the parchment paper. Slightly smush down the batter so it looks cookie shape.
  8. Bake for about 16-20 minutes, rotating half-way through.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes on the pan before moving to a cooling rack.

** Makes about 18-20 cookies.
** I keep 5 or 6 in an air-tight container on the kitchen counter and freeze the rest in a ziploc bag. By freezing them, I have fresh cookies whenever I want!
** All sorts of add-ins work if you're not restricted by allergies: nuts, dried fruits, coconut, etc.



Adapted from KingArthur's flour

Caffeine Content

Many people say they are addicted to caffeine and many people say they can't tolerate caffeine. But, how many people actually know what the sources of it are, and how much caffeine is actually in those sources?


If you click over to Center for Science in the Public Interest, you'll find a handy dandy chart of how much caffeine is in food and drinks that you may regularly eat and drink. If you'd like a bigger database of caffeine figures, you can head over to Caffeine Informer to search out specific products.

If you find yourself on an energy roller-coaster during the day and unable to sleep at night, you might want to see if there's any unexpected amount of caffeine in your diet.


Ziploc Lunch Containers

I was in Target about a month ago buying Parchment Paper (if you don't utilize parchment to make your clean-up easier, I recommend starting to now!), when I noticed lunch containers made by Ziploc.



For a while, I'd been frustrated with using so many plastics baggies for meals-on-the-go, but I hadn't come up with an alternative that met my requirements, which were:

1. Leakproof - who wants to clean-up a mess when you're hungry?
2. Relatively Inexpensive - I just couldn't drop $80 on a stainless steel container that leaked!
3. Relatively Compact - I wanted it to fit in one of our (many) insulated lunch bag options.
4. Appropriately Sized Compartments - If the compartments were too big, I'd need to still use baggies inside the compartments.
5. Reusable - My goal of replacing the baggies was to reduce what was being thrown-away each day.
6. Allergy-Friendly -  I wanted the food to be in a serve-able container so that when we were eating somewhere other than our home, I didn't need to worry about cross-contamination.

(These are snacks for VBS)

I'm IN LOVE with my new Ziploc lunch containers!!!!

1. They haven't leaked on us yet!
2. They cost less than $5 for two of them!
3. They fit inside all the lunch bags we own (I like the fit in the Lands End bag the best).
4. The compartments are perfect portion sizes for a healthy meal!
5. They are easy to wash (I *gasp* put them in the dishwasher even though they are plastic!!)
6. They store food and serve food so I don't have to worry about contamination from other people's houses at all!