For the faint of heart

My sister introduced me to a new food ingredient, or really, what I should say is a very old ingredient that I just was not familiar with. She had a recipe that called for Baker’s Ammonia, and had considered purchasing some on the King Arthur Flour website where she found the recipe. Not perhaps what King Arthur Flour would want, but I encouraged her NOT to purchase the product, as I suspected I could find some down at the food lab where I work. (I do LOVE their website, and their products. I just am also cheap and couldn’t see my sister spending $10 for something that she didn’t know whether she’d ever use much). So I looked up more about Baker’s Ammonia, finding it is ammonium carbonate, also used (with additional scents?) for smelling salts. It’s also known in some old recipes as hartshorn. It is an ammonia compound and not harmful after baking. However, don’t eat the raw dough. Your kitchen will stink of ammonia while the cookies bake – but once baked, the cookies will not taste of it. It is an old-time leavening favored for cookies, such as German Springerle. It is said to give a “fluffiness” of texture baking powder can’t. Its leavening is only activated by heat, not moisture (such as baking powder).

So I checked the chemical shelves at work, and found a 1 pound unopened jar of ammonium carbonate. Don’t know what it was ever bought for, but obviously hadn’t been used. So I opened it up, and made the mistake of taking a whiff (immediately reminding me of a recent experience at the surgeon’s office where I almost fainted and the nurse got out the smelling salts). It was in chunks, which didn’t seem the right form to use, so I ground some up and put it through a sieve to remove lumps, then labeled it and sent it off to my sister. She tried it today in a recipe for Vanilla Dreams, with glowing reports.

Vanilla Dreams

Vanilla Dreams

I think they look wonderful. Now I guess I’ll have to bring home some of the “secret ingredient” and try the recipe for myself.


Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

The temperature has dropped to below 20, there is fresh snow on the ground, and the morning just called out for soup.   I had been re-organizing the kitchen cupboards (another good cold morning activity) and discovered some red lentils I’d picked up a few months ago.  I am not sure what I planned on doing with them when I bought them, but they looked interesting.  So I looked for recipes for soups using red lentils.  And I think I hit the jackpot with the one I found archived in the New York Times for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. I had all the ingredients and it cooked up quickly. Best of all, it tasted really good right away.

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

Strange thing, though, is that the red lentils turned golden yellow colored once cooked….. Hmm.   Here is what I found on the internet on a Cook’s Thesaurus website: The most common type of red lentil is the Red Chief. It’s a lovely salmon pink in its dried form, but it turns golden when cooked.  These lentils cook faster than others.  They’re best in purées or soups.   Substitutes:    masoor dal OR yellow lentils OR green lentils (These hold their shapes better when cooked.) OR brown lentils

When in doubt, bake

Words to live by…..

I was sitting around a few nights ago talking with Dave.  It was a Friday night, but both of us were suffering from colds.  That in itself is really quite unusual as it’s been years since either of us have been afflicted with any known viruses.  I had been talking on the phone with my mother, and she told me she had been mixing up a batch of cookies when I called.   Now, I called about 7 pm Pacific Time, which meant it was around 9 pm in Wisconsin.  It seemed late to me to start baking, but then, I am go to bed pretty early.  But it got me to thinking.

Feeling at a loss for what to do?  Or feeling a little low?  Or feeling exhiliarated and high?  Well, I have just the answer for you.  Bake!  Other’s might use alcohol but the Groethe’s bake.   I was thinking about this, and realized that in many ways it’s pretty similar  – grains or corn or barley or rice, only an earlier stage of the process.    

Cinnamon rolls or ethanol?  Your choice, I guess.   



Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture!

I tend to stay away from politics on my blog.  Oh, it’s of great interest and concern to me, but also a great divider when people use it to draw absolute lines.  But, ultimately, my blog is about food, and food is related to politics in many ways.  I am very interested and engaged in food issues.  And when I listened to a recent Bill Moyers interview with Michael Pollan,  it energized me.   I LOVE this guy. I’ve read all of his articles and books.  He is so absolutely tuned in to the way I think and what needs to be done.  Food is related ultimately to so much else – our health, our energy policies, the economy, the environment.

So it was interesting to find that there is  spirited group of people promoting Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture.   It’s not going to happen. But it’s exhiliarating to dream about.   What if we did have policies that promoted good NUTRITION?  Good agricultural practices?   Sound environmental policy?  We pay and pay in so many ways for cheap food, with higher health costs and subsidy costs and energy costs.  I think it’s time we recognized as a nation what is really important.