Can I substitute cream of tartar for lime juice?

Can I substitute cream of tartar for lime juice?

Seems like a strange question, huh? And yet someone asked me that recently. I did some research and here’s the scoop: lime juice and cream of tartar are both acidic ingredients that, in baking, combine with baking soda to give a rise to quick breads like muffins and pancakes. While cream of tartar can successfully stand in for lime juice to provide leavening, it will significantly change the flavor and texture of your batter. There are other acidic ingredients that can be substituted for lime juice with greater success. Substituting Fruit Sauces and Purees All fruits are acidic, so their sauces and purees add distinctive flavor along with leavening. Use 1 cup of fruit juice, sauce or puree mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for leavening. Lemons are the exception. It is more highly acidic than other fruits, so use 2 tablespoon juice mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for leavening. Substituting Acidic Sweeteners If you are looking to add sweetness, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses all that combine well with baking soda for leavening. Mix 3/4 cup of any one of these naturally acidic sugars with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for the correct leavening ratio. Cane sugar has a neutral pH and will not give a rise. Substituting Cultured Dairy Cultured, or fermented, dairy products like buttermilk, sour milk, kefir, yogurt, and sour cream add depth of flavor to your recipe and can be used in place of lime juice. Lactic acid is produced in the fermentation process, giving these ingredients the necessary pH. Use 1 cup of cultured milk for every 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda...
Keep your potatoes from turning brown

Keep your potatoes from turning brown

No doubt you’re making all sorts potato dishes this winter, like my favorite potato and spinach au gratin or this tartiflette. Keep your dishes photo-op worthy by following these tips to keep your cut and peeled potatoes from turning brown. First though, a short primer on browning, courtesy Harold McGee’s excellent reference book On Food and Cooking. Foods turn brown in one of two general ways. Non-enzymatic browning happens when foods are exposed to heat. These are the reactions that give cooked meat and bread their golden-brown colors and deepened flavors. Then there is enzymatic browning – not so great. That’s the browning that happens when food is exposed to air, like after you peel or slice a potato and it turns brown. It doesn’t affect the taste, only the presentation. Chemistry of enzymatic browning Science is fascinating to me, so just follow me for a minute. Enzymatic browning happens on the cellular level in fruits and vegetables. Colorless phenolic compounds, also called phenols, are stored in the vacuoles of plant cells. Enzymes are found in the cytoplasm. In a piece of uncut or undamaged produce, these molecules do not come into contact with each other. But once the cell is damaged, phenols come into contact with enzymes as oxygen is introduced. Enzymatic browning happens when oxygen allows the enzymes to bind phenols into new light-absorbing molecules that discolor the area. Prevent browning with lemon juice Enzymes are a type of protein made up of chains of amino acids. The bonds between those amino acids are sensitive to pH; highly acid or alkaline substances break down the amino acid bonds, slowing down or stopping the enzymatic...
Roasting poblano peppers

Roasting poblano peppers

Poblanos, as I’ve discovered, are the most versatile of green chillies, my go-to heat. I use puree them for this corn and poblano chowder, cut into strips and fried with potatoes to stuff in tacos, simmered with pulled pork, even diced to season bacon jam. They have a rich flavor that’s almost fruity with relatively low heat, registering at 1,000-2,500 on the Scoville Scale, right between pimientos (100 – 900) and jalapeños (3,500 – 8,000). Steamed, stuffed, or blended, they are delicious either way.   I discovered the bitter way that ripe green poblanos are not best raw.  The very simple must-do prep step is seeding and roasting them before use to bring out their flavor. Before handling your poblanos, cover your hands with plastic bags. (This is a great way to recycle your empty bread wrappers!)  If you do have to do this bare-handed, please don’t do like I did and like scratch your eye. Capsaicin is an oily substance and takes some time to wear off of your skin. I cut the in half, discard the inner white membrane along with the stem and seeds. Sometimes I cut them into half again. Then I pop them directly over the gas burner on my cooktop, over a medium-high flame. Do not leave them alone. Use tongs. They will start smoking and crackling, and the outside of the pepper will blacken and char. Poblanos have a very thin skin that is loosened by the charring. Once it’s cool it’s easy to rub off. I also use this technique to roast red bell peppers....
You can stop washing your chicken now

You can stop washing your chicken now

There aren’t many instances when one can say that Julia Child was wrong, but here it is: Do NOT wash that raw chicken before you brine/marinate/grill/bake/saute/ or cook it in any way. This is the news that NPR’s Maria Godoy reported last week, and based on her follow-up, it sounds like something that is causing a mild freak-out. For the record, I have never washed my chicken, or any raw fish or meat. It has always seemed to me that, just as you can’t rinse germs off of your hands and must use soap, the same holds true for meat. And I refuse to soap up a chicken. Plus, to be honest, I’m kind of lazy. There’s enough hand-washing and keeping my eyes on the cutting boards and knives for cross-contamination that one more step in that process is too much. My instincts were correct. Here is the scoop from food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, an associate professor at Drexel University: “You should assume that if you have chicken, you have either Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria on it, if not both.” These are the two bacteria, she points out, that are the leading causes of food-borne illness. She goes on to explain, “If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself.” Ewww! THAT is something I didn’t know It turns out, as studies new suggest, that when you wash a chicken, those bacteria can spray up to 3 feet away from your sink. My Kitchen Aid and blender are within 2 feet of either side of my sink, and the cappuccino maker, toaster, wine...

Which Tea Should You Drink With Your Meal?

If you are a true tea aficionado, you know that all teas aren’t created equal. There are as many different teas as there are hours in the day, and each one has its own special character. Choosing the right tea to go with your meal can truly enhance your dining experience, in much the same way that choosing the right wine does. Image source: http://www.kombuchakamp.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Black-Tea-is-Red-When-Brewed.jpg The tea we are all most familiar with is black tea. This is a strong, heavily oxidized tea – which is why it is black – and the powerful taste needs to be coupled with flavorful foods so that it doesn’t overwhelm the meal. There are actually a number of types of black tea, and each goes best with different types of food. For example, a lot of teas from China and Africa have a stronger earthy flavor, and they go well with red meats and savory foods. Other teas, especially those from Sri Lanka and India, have a fruitier flavor, and are the perfect complement for sweet desserts. China also produces teas that have a smoky flavor, which are a bit more of an acquired taste and go well with things like full flavored meats blackened over charcoal. Green tea, on the other hand, has a much lighter flavor and is a staple of Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Japanese green tea has a light, slightly grassy flavor and some people think it tastes slightly of seaweed. Because of this, it goes well with a wide range of seafood dishes. Chinese green tea has a slightly stronger, more smoky flavor that can overpower the...
Sweet on sauerkraut

Sweet on sauerkraut

Every couple of Saturday mornings we go to the Cabrillo Farmer’s Market, where the Kids breakfast on loaded baked potatoes and sample the offerings from local cheesemongers and I make a beeline for a shot of Farmhouse Culture’s kraut juice. More often than not come home with a bottle. This is the real thing, the original superfood, boldly flavored and so loaded with goodness you can actually feel you blood cells dancing for hours afterward. Especially the kimchi juice – cabbagegingergarlicradish all condensed in a tiny cup. My notion of sauerkraut used to be clear mushy sweetly tangy ribbons of precooked cabbage that came packaged in plastic bags. The ones my mom used to buy and heat up with Polish sausage and boiled potatoes. You too? Then toss that idea out the window. It’s so . . .  last century. Or at least mid-last century. Real sauerkraut is the stuff of tradition, of home preservation, of real foods – crunchy and aromatic, and, because it’s fermented, not boiled it’s a raw food, loaded with healthy microbes and micronutrients. Plus, and most importantly, it tastes great. I was awakened to this new-old wave of sauerkraut after reading Burkhard Bilger’s profile of “fermentation fetishist” and raw food activist Sandor Katz, AKA Sandorkraut. He’s quite a passionate and fascinating guy, author of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, The Art of Fermentation, and Wild Fermentation. He argues that we’re killing ourselves with cleanliness: pasteurization, processing, packaged prepared consumables. He’s onto something; quite a bit of recent research points to our gut microbes acting as an 11th organ system. So fermented sauerkraut is something I’d want to...

What’s The Best Program To Help You Lose Weight?

Everyone wants to know the best way to lose weight, but few people realize that the problem has already been well and truly solved. While many people anxiously wait for the next crackpot diet involving baked beans or baby formula, there are others who are walking, talking examples of what we already know. Look around you and you probably know many people who have been overweight and got back in shape. You probably also know a lot of people who have managed to stay at a healthy weight their whole lives. It’s unlikely that those people explored The Blood-Type Diet or The Alkaline Diet, which seem to be much more based on marketability than fact. The medical profession has brought us cures for some of the most horrific diseases, including polio, diphtheria and other diseases that once plagued millions of lives. This same medical community has already brought us a cure to being overweight, and it doesn’t involve chomping on asparagus or nibbling on fish bones. The answer lies in calorie-controlled diets, just as diet plans by Weight Watchers and the medical profession has been telling us for an eternity. For most of us, the problem is rarely not knowing what food and diet will help us lose weight. It all comes down to the emotional pull we find ourselves under as we lead busier and busier lives. Humans also have hedonistic hunger. This is when we want to eat not because we’re hungry, but because of the pleasure we derive from it. “Subjective feelings of hunger are more likely to reflect our hedonic hunger level than our body’s...
Can you print me out a burger, mom?

Can you print me out a burger, mom?

I am completely flabbergasted at this Jetsons-meets-Chickienobs notion that one day in the not-so-distant future we’ll most likely have the ability to push a button on a kitchen device and be delivered a steak or burger. It’s called “bioprinting,” and people are actually working to figure out ways to let us have our cows and eat them too. Check it out.

Slow-motion blender science!

Slow-motion blender science!

Learn about the unseen forces at work in your blender in this cool slow-motion video from ChefSteps. Does it flow? Will it blend? And holy guacamole, Batman, are those golf balls in that blender? embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt Feels like it’s time for a...
Are calorie counts really accurate?

Are calorie counts really accurate?

A recent almond study that showed that they have 20% fewer calories than thought, which begs the question . . . what is up with calories? Are they estimates, abstractions, or even accurate? Here’s all the scoop for you – how they’re measured, what they represent, and why numbers vary. Plus, a very good video from a filmmaker who learned that some of his favorite foods have more calories than labeled.

Lay’s flavor contest winners: calories, nutrition, and ingredients

So many reality television contests rely on viewer participation – from American Idol to Top Chef, and so it’s no small wonder this model has spilled over to food. FritoLay has gotten in the action by sponsoring a contest to come up with their newest flavor Lay’s potato chip. It’s called crowdsourcing, a pretty clever way to tap into the American mindset to give us something we want to buy. And the American people have spoken . . . evidently there’s no flavor we want more than sriracha, chicken and waffles, and cheesy garlic bread. Potato chips. You followed that, right? How in the world do you get a potato chip to taste like chicken and waffles? I’m certain there was nothing but chemistry involved, but at least the relatively refined taste buds of Iron Chef Michael Symon and actress/author/restauranteur Eva Longoria were used to make sure the flavors are balanced and delicious. You know what, just watch this commercial to understand how truly strange this all is:   So are you ready? The three new chip flavors will be unleashed to the otherwise unsuspecting public, and we will be encouraged to vote to keep our favorite in production. Or maybe they’ll all stay in production. My vote is already on the sriracha – I think it would make a dynamite coating for chip chicken. Now here’s what you’re really waiting for, the skinny on the nutritional information: Sriracha flavored Lay’s: serving size: not stated right now; will update calories: 170 calories from fat: 100 saturated fat: 1.5 grams total fat: 11 grams trans fat: 0 grams cholesterol: 0 mg sodium:...

Is there really meat hidden in foods?

I found the graphic online and can’t figure out who created it. Google “8 foods you didn’t know contained meat” and you’ll find 4,290 websites with this image, or a variation thereof. Ick, right? I think that title is deliberately provocative and more than a bit misleading. Supposedly all these products contain meat? How accurate is this, really? Yes, I’ve been nosing around. Here’s what I found out:

Who figured out a beaver’s behind tastes like raspberry?

By now you may have heard, thanks to Jamie Oliver and Dr. Oz, that castoreum is a natural flavor behind some of the products we consume. I use the word “behind” literally, since castoreum is the product of a beaver’s anal glands. Castoreum is totally unique, chemically speaking, to the beaver – not to be confused with that stinky defensive spray that comes from a skunk’s anal glands, or reason dogs walk in circles sniffing each other’s rear ends. Same place, different thing. Urban myth or no?

What the heck is a raspberry ketone?

In case you missed the latest news, raspberry ketone is the the newest “guaranteed” fat-burning product currently touted to us Doritos-Locos-Taco-loving Americans. Raspberry I understand – those tiny morsels of ruby deliciousness that fit perfectly on top of Kid Two’s index finger like a hat. We chomp them down fresh by the clamshell full when in season and affordable and by the frozen bagful when not, to mix in raspberry-banana-lemonade smoothies. The perfect after-school treat. Fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet, and raspberry smoothies, I get. But what the heck is raspberry ketone? Ketone sounds like acetone, which sounds like nail polish remover. My high school chemistry is a distant blur of the unfortunate Mr. Greathouse unsuccessfully communicating the idea of half-life and my producing a report on a Marie Curie to make up for a failing test. So I turn to Wikipedia for answers. A quick search for raspberry ketone reveals all: it’s AKA Rasketone, Frambinone, and p-Hydroxybenzyl acetone. Molecular formula C10H12O2. Appearance of  tiny white needles. Awarded a GRAS designation by the FDA: Generally Recognized As Safe. But more practically, Rasketone is chemical part of a raspberry that gives it that delectable sweet-tart fruity smell. Because there are only teeny tiny bits of C10H12O2 in each berry – around .0002% of a pound of raspberries is raspberry ketone – that natural extract is one of the most expensive in the world, running about $10,000 per pound. That’s a lot of smoothies. Because of the high price, raspberry ketone is also manufactured, rather than extracted, via a chemical reaction involving acetone, lye, and hydrogen molecules. Smells like raspberries, same molecular structure as...