Tip Thursday: Homemade Mixes

Whether on the road, baking in foreign kitchens, or simply short on time, making your own mixes can be a great option. It allows you to use your most cherished recipes with ease and speed. If like me, you also have food allergies or intolerances, homemade mixes cut out the worry about ingredient cross-contamination in the kitchens of others. They also make great gifts for friends and family alike. We’ve given homemade mixes to newly diagnosed friends and it always gives a sense of comfort when starting a new diet such as celiac, especially when you know that it came from a kitchen that is gluten-free.

Of course, homemade mixes surely should not be limited to those of us with food sensitivities. The best part of homemade mixes is the fact that you can make it yourself with a handful of your favourite recipes. There are certain types of recipes that they work much better for than others- when all the dry ingredients are added at once, it works best. Otherwise, you need multiple bags or jars and that can become a chore, rather than a quick solution.

Start by labeling your ziptop bag with the recipe and the instructions. If using a jar, you can write an instruction card for it.

Then, gather everything you need. The dry ingredients necessary, a medium-sized bowl and measuring cups and spoons.

Folding over the edges of your ziptop bag can help to make sure everything gets in the bag rather than some powder escaping into the bowl. Having the bag in the bowl also helps to prop it up and prevent spillage.

Add all of the ingredients.

When you’re done, zip it up, shake it, and it’s ready to be stored for future use.

When it comes time to use, pour it into the bowl.

Then whisk it up and use as your recipe instructs!

For some great recipes to use as mixes, check out these links:
Gluten-Free Millet Biscuits (as pictured)
Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes
Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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Tip Thursday: Testing Baking Powder For Freshness

Baking Powder

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t check ingredients before starting a recipe. This is usually a problem. I’ll be in the middle of creaming butter and sugar when I realize I’m out of eggs, or measuring dry ingredients when I notice there’s only 1/4 cup flour left. I’m constantly at the grocery store buying new supplies.

Except baking powder.

I think we’ve been using the same tin for years now. It just never runs out! The other day I flipped it over and saw that the expiration date had long gone. Luckily, it’s simple to check your baking powder for freshness.

Warm water

Fill a small bowl with warm water.

Add a teaspoon...

Measure out about a teaspoon of baking powder and dump it into the water.

Fizz and bubble

The baking powder should immediately fizz and bubble, letting you know it’s fresh. If there’s no action, throw it out.

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Sorbet Two Ways (Without An Ice Cream Maker!)

I’m one of those people who loves to make and eat frozen desserts year round. When the snow starts falling, I start craving shaved ice. Halfway through January, I’ll churn up a batch of coffee gelato.

I’m in love with my ice cream maker, but I know plenty of people don’t own one. Nobody should be denied the crazy happy feelings that come with homemade frozen desserts – this method, which results in two kinds of sorbet without fancy equipment, helps hit the spot.

Start with your favorite sorbet recipe. Mine is lemon sorbet. Pour the sorbet into a shallow pan with a rim and let it freeze. Then drag a fork across it every half hour or so as it chills, scraping up the ice crystals.

Scrape up the ice...

Eventually, you’ll end up with a light, fluffy sorbet. The texture is like an Italian ice, crystally but not gritty, absolutely melt in your mouth.

Shaved ice!

If you prefer a smoother, creamier sorbet, just put some of the “shaved ice” sorbet into a food processor. It’s best if you’ve chilled the bowl and blades in the freezer beforehand, but will work either way.

Whirl it in the food processor...

Process the sorbet until it becomes smooth and holds together.

...until smooth.

The two sorbets are quite different, but both are delicious. I like to use the first version as a palate cleanser, and the second version when I’m craving a scoop.

Sorbet 2 ways

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Tip Thursday: Bringing Eggs to Room Temperature

Eggs

When I go into the kitchen I typically have an idea of what I want to make. Sometimes it’s quite planned – like a birthday cake, and other times it’s completely dependent on a passing thought or a feeling. More often than not, I don’t set my eggs out hours before. Butter? Usually. Eggs? Not really. Not every recipe needs room temperature eggs, but when they do, you certainly want to oblige. It helps the chemistry of the baked good to work in the desired way.

If I haven’t set out my eggs hours before, I use this simple trick.

Place your eggs – however many you need – in a dish or glass. Something that is tall enough that the eggs will be fully covered in water. If there are just one or two, I tend to use a glass.

Cover with Water

Turn on the water, and test for temperature. You want it to be warm, but not hot. If it is too hot, it will cook the eggs and then you’ll have to start all over again with fresh eggs. You don’t want that. It should be comfortable and warm to the touch.

Different Sizes

Cover your eggs with warm water.

Let Sit

Let them sit for ten minutes, or until ready to use. The eggs should be at room temperature, and not cold if you turn them in your hands.

Drain

When they’re ready, carefully drain or remove from your dish.

Finally, use as your recipe instructs! You’re good to go now.

Photos © Lauren McMillan of Celiac Teen.

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Tip Thursday: Unsweetening Sweetened Coconut

Sweetened Coconut Flakes

Last year I discovered an incredible little baking shop. It’s packed from floor to ceiling with every baking supply imaginable, squeezed tightly together in a tiny labyrinth of a store. I spent hours just looking around, but my favorite find? Big bags of unsweetened coconut flakes for a buck each. As someone who can’t get enough coconut but sometimes finds it too sugary, I stocked up.

I find that most grocery stores only sell sweetened coconut flakes. They work for a lot of recipes, but when you’re looking for unsweetened, the sugar levels are just too high. Luckily, there’s a fast way to make your own substitute.

Spread them on a flat sieve

Spread some sweetened coconut flakes onto a flat sieve.

Rinse with hot water

Wash the flakes under very hot water, making sure to rinse every spot.

You'll see the sugar wash away

You’ll start to see the sugar actually wash away. Keep rinsing until the water is no longer cloudy, but clear.

Squeeze out the liquid

Squeeze the flakes in your hands, pressing out the excess water. Spread the flakes on the sieve and let them drain completely.

It dries fluffy!

When the flakes are fully dried, they’ll be fluffy again. The flavor won’t be as good as flakes that haven’t been previously sweetened (or better yet, flakes straight from the coconut) but this trick will do in a pinch when you can’t run out to the store.

Photos © Elissa Bernstein and 17 and Baking.

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