Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DIY Whole Wheat Baking Mix


Growing up, weekday breakfasts generally meant a bowl of cereal or piece of toast. But Saturday meant pulling the Bisquick box out of the cupboard, scooping some into a bowl, adding a dash of milk and an egg or 2 and cooking up pancakes or waffles or some other yummy carbohydrate coma inducing breakfast. If I'm brutally honest, pancakes made from scratch just don't taste the same to me..... which is kind of sad.

With the family's switch to real food, one of the obvious things to go was the box of Bisquick. I didn't throw out the old box but I really only saved it for "emergencies". So my Jumbo Box Store size package had actually managed to last me for the last 6 or so months. Sadly, we are down to the last scoop or so. I figured it was about time to really work on a good substitute. I had tried several 'from scratch' recipes for whole wheat pancakes (what's the point of redoing a recipe if you don't healthy it up a bit?) but I hadn't made any that seemed quite right to me.

Recently I had been put on to the King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour-(they are NOT a sponsor, I swear!)-- its a 100% whole wheat flour but naturally lighter in color and flavor. I've been using that in all my baking and its been a GREAT way of coverting all-purpose flour based recipes. So I thought I'd try to find a DIY Bisquick recipe and swap out the flours and see how it went. Unfortunately, most of the recipes call for shortening, which to me is about the MOST unnatural substance in the food industry. Certainly it is nothing I want to eat or feed my family. Luckily I found this base recipe that was 50/50 white/wheat flours and used butter! Score!!

So, I put together a half batch using 100% whole wheat flour. It came out great! I made a few plain pancakes and the rest of the batch became pumpkin pancakes (I promise I'm posting that recipe next!). The plain pancakes had all of the flavor of Bisquick that I really liked. They were soft, fluffy, buttery and deeeeeeeeeelicious!

I will say that a few years ago I had tried to do a home Bisquick mix and I had followed the directions and used shortening. I hated it. I never got the flavor or texture I wanted out of it. Using butter seems to be the key here, at least for me. As it does contain butter, I'd recommend keeping it in an airtight container inside the fridge. Some people keep it in the freezer.  In either case, unless you house is pretty consistently cool, it'd probably do best in the chill box somewhere.
100% Whole Wheat Baking Mix
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (see note above)
  • 6 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter!!!)
  • 1 cup butter (salted or unsalted), cold
1) Add dry ingredients to work bowl of your food processor.
2) Divide butter into 1 Tbs sized chunks.
3) Add to food processor.
4) Pulse until combined-- it should look like and feel like a dry mix. Resist the urge to over process or hold the button down, you'll just melt your butter and make lumps!

                        Use as you would standard Bisquick:

Pancakes: 2 cups mix, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs

Waffles: 2 cups mix, 1 1/3 cups milk, 2 Tbs cooking oil (coconut), 1 egg

Biscuits: 2 1/4 cups mix, 2/3 cup milk, drop or roll out/cut, bake 8-10 min @ 450 F on ungreased cookie sheet.

As always, due to flour variations (especially amongst whole wheat types) you may need to add additional milk or water to achieve desired consistency!

Please feel free to comment below and let me know how this worked out for you!!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin Muffins!!

So last week we had 2, that's right 2!! whole days of rain and clouds. The whole city rushed to unpack our coats, boots and umbrellas. I dug out the soup pot and made a nice big batch of cheesy potato soup. Then Saturday came and so did the sun. By Sunday we were back to mid 80's heat and it peaked today at low 90's. Nevertheless, it was too late. Those 2 days of cool, wet, autumn weather have me thinking apples, pumpkins, squash, soups, and other fall yummies.

So on that wet and rainy Friday, with my hubby finally succumbing to the very nasty head cold making its way 'round the family, I decided to make breakfast for dinner. To spice things up, I made pumpkin flavored pancakes. They were pretty darn good and I will get around to posting that recipe-- some other time. But, after making those pancakes, I found myself with 1/2 a can of pumpkin puree left over. I also ended up running out of zucchini muffins from the freezer (finally) early this week.  As I needed to make a new batch of muffins (the little dude has been enjoying them as his morning snack at school), the answer seemed clear: Pumpkin Muffins!!!

I have done a few different variations of pumpkin muffins in the past and I have to say this is one of my favorite. I also "real food" revised the original recipe (as it appeared in the Better Homes & Garden red checkerboard cookbook) to get it up to speed. Once again I am using a quick bread recipe as the base, so expect these to be a little denser than a typical muffin. However they are still plenty light and chock full of flavor. They also freeze beautifully-- I send them to school frozen for durability. When at home, I've found that about 35 seconds in the microwave reheats/defrosts a single muffin perfectly!

While I'm disappointed that we still haven't gotten into true fall weather (and probably won't for 3 or 4 more weeks) at least I can enjoy the flavors of fall!

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins (yield 12 muffins)

1 cup + 1 cup whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur's white whole wheat)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh if you can get it!)
1/8 tsp ground ginger

1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!!!!!!!!)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup softened butter

Optional add ins: (original recipe includes these but I didn't bother)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour with the remainder of the dry ingredients (reserve the 2nd cup of flour).
2) Add pumpkin, milk, eggs and butter. Beat with mixer on low speed until combined. Add reserved cup of flour. Beat until mixed thoroughly. Fold in nuts & raisins if including.
3) Distribute into 12 prepared muffin cups (use either silicone liners, paper liners or grease liberally)
4) Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
5) Cool on a wire rack. Remove liners before freezing.

Feel free to comment below and let me know how this recipe worked for you!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

DIY All Natural LemiShine Substitute

Sorry to be gone for so long. Between fall break (where we had an awesome family vacation) and being sick, its been a few weeks since I've posted but it's good to be back!

This is one of the green & clean projects I've been working on around the house. As you may recall, many many posts ago, I put up this recipe for a powdered dishwasher detergent. It worked okay but honestly with the super duper hard water we have out here (I once did a test kit and the result was higher than the enclosed scale :P) I wasn't convinced it was a total winner. When you add in the fact that my rinse agent dispenser (filled with vinegar, of course!) is a bit haphazard about dispensing at all, I was having some fairly regular problems with films & spots left behind on my dishes.

I had done some research and found that for hard water, gel detergents are recommended the highest. I guess since they are pre-dissolved they have less of a tendency to leave undissolved detergent behind???  My first batch of homemade gel detergent never gelled. Still not sure what happened there but it wasn't much thicker than pure water. Definitely NOT what I wanted. I'm on my second batch (different recipe) and it sort of gelled. It more resembles gel curds and whey. All the gel curds float to the top and clump up, so I have to shake it up before I use it. When I pour it out, it kind of looks like curdled milk (and splashes a bit when a big chunk blops out). So while its doing an okay cleaning job, I'm not super happy with the consistency of it. I will eventually get something worth sharing with you guys. In either case, whether I was using the powder or gel homemade dishwasher detergents, they definitely worked MUCH better when I added LemiShine to the other detergent compartment.

I discovered LemiShine when they changed the formulations of branded dishwasher detergents a few years ago. I had noticed that I was having a LOT of reside on my dishes. I thought maybe my detergent was bad, so I bought a new box. Same thing happened. I tried rinse agents, no change. I starting reading online to see if my dishwasher might be broken when I found some board posts about this very problem. The solution everyone recommended was LemiShine. You find it in the dishwasher detergent aisle at WalMart. You put it in with your soap and voila!! no more spots or residue. I fell madly in love.

Unfortunately, as I've been removing more and more chemicals from our food and cleaning products, I was a little bit uncomfortable still using LemiShine. It says that it's "all natural" but you know how misleading that can be. Also, they don't list ingredients. I finally stopped using it altogether when I started making my own cleaners around the house. But, boy was it sorely missed!!

In searching for a substitute or replacement, I scoured the internet. The only consensus I could find is that it likely contained citric acid (used in ethnic cooking and canning) and salt. I decided to start with a simple formula with just those 2 ingredients in a 1:1 ratio and see how it did. And, it worked wonderfully well! Sparkling glasses and no spots!! So, I upped the salt and did a 2 parts salt to 1 part citric acid. (Since citric acid is the "expensive" part of the formula) It still did great! I upped the ratio again to 3 parts salt and 1 part citric acid. This time it was okay. A few spots. Not horrible but not really sparkling either. So for me, I stick to a 2:1 ratio but if your water is softer you can probably get away with 3:1 ratio. I'd recommend starting at the lower ratio and seeing if it has enough power for you. If you're happy, then increase the salt to citric acid ratio-- stop when it gets ineffective!

As a note here, this is NOT an attempt to "break" the formula of LemiShine. But if you would like to cut costs or only want to use products that you know EXACTLY what's in them, this recipe will work well for you!

After using this regularly (probably 10+ loads of dishes run) in the last 2-3 weeks, I am confident that this should work consistently for others as well. I'm super excited to get this out here and see how it works for different city waters/different detergents.

Lemi Shine Substitute:
1 cup citric acid (find in ethnic markets OR in the canning aisle of Mart stores)
2 cups non iodized salt (usually right next to regular salt or near pickling supplies)

1)Place in an airtight container (a washed & dried recycled yogurt tub works great....) and shake to combine.
2) Use 2-3 Tbs in the detergent compartment of your automatic dishwasher (I put it in the open one and the soap in the closed one but you can do it the other way as well. See what works best for your machine!). If you only have one compartment, add 50/50 with your detergent.

Cost Analysis:
Salt: .59 for the whole tub.
Citric Acid: 2.97 for this 7.5 oz jar at WalMart. I used  a small amount of this for canning tomatoes. I've since made 2 half batches plus smaller "single serving" size testers of this mix and still have powder left. So you can expect 1- 1.5 batches maybe? per jar.

Total expenses: $3.56

If you get 2 batches out of it, this would be $1.78/batch.
If you get more like 1.5 batches then its $2.37/batch.
Typical WalMart LemiShine price (about the same volume as a 1/2 -3/4 batch) is around $4.00. So somewhere around 1/2 the price of the original (depending on where you source your citric acid...)

I'd love some feedback on how this worked with your water (hard or soft!) and your detergent (store bought or homemade!) Please comment below!!

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