Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Year

Dear Readers and Callers,

I will be unreachable for much of the weekend as I will be attending a wedding in Los Angeles and will be in transit much of the time. I will be checking messages sporadically, so if you have a question or problem that is not as time sensitive, please do feel free to call. I will be back in regular checking mode by Monday, March 3rd.

Have a lovely weekend.

Los Angeles

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Egg substitutes

Just now the Emergency Food Hotline received a call from a friend who is home alone watching three dogs in the cold Midwestern winter. She wanted to make cornbread, but was hoping not to leave the dogs by their lonesome while going out in the night for eggs. The first few substitutions came to mind:

-applesauce (between 1/4 and 1/3 cup)
-bananas (I hate them but for those who don't, a smallish banana, mashed, will do the trick)
-silken tofu (1/4 c whipped is a favorite sub. of mine)*
-in a pinch, vinegar (1-2 T depending on the recipe) mixed with a little bit of water and/or baking soda can work**

The other key to knowing what kind of substitution will work best for the recipe you are adapting is to know whether you need a binding or a leavening agent. For example, applesauce and bananas will work well as a binding agent for cookies, quick breads and muffins, but not for leavening purposes--they will not alone cause your mixture to rise. So you would not want to use them for a fluffy cake.

This substitution was for cornbread, and would be combined with a mix, not from scratch, so it's a little harder to know exactly how the ingredients would all interact. The mix already included baking soda, so I didn't want to mess too much with the unkown proportions already in place.

After discussing all of the items that might be in the caller's pantry that could also be used as a binding or leavening agent (cornstarch, vinegar, arrowroot flour) we discussed whether mayonnaise would be acceptable. Mayonnaise can work really well, its main ingredients are egg and oil, both good binding agents. My main concern in using mayonnaise with a mix was not knowing if we needed to add more baking soda as well, or if cold mayo would have a strange reaction to the warmth of the melted butter that the recipe also called for.

eggs hiding bacon

After checking a few sources for guidance (my Fannie Farmer Baking Book--where I found my first Mayonnaise Cake recipe, and my Food Lover's Companion), we decided to go ahead with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, and no other added ingredients. I recommended allowing the melted butter to cool slightly and letting the mayonnaise sit out a bit before combining them, as most ingredients mix best when closer to room temperature (or at least a similar temp).

We shall see how the cornbread turns out.

* The silken tofu substitution doesn't alter the flavor of your recipe AT ALL and is a great vegan option for light cakes--won't crumble when making layer cakes!
** Vinegar has been used as a substitution for ages. My first experience with it was through a cookbook of my grandmother's, The Settlement Cookbook, which was compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander in 1934 from recipes tested in the Settlement Cooking Classes of the Milwaukee Public School Kitchens. When the contact paper over the spine began to peel, the additional title (subtitle?) of the book was revealed to be "The Way to a Man's Heart," hmm...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

First Caller

This morning's first call was about avocados. The question had to do with how to best store them and how to quicken or slow the ripening process. She had bought some un-ripe avocados and left them in the kitchen, knowing she wouldn't use them all immediately.

Should she refrigerate the avocado if she's not going to eat it right after purchasing? If she's already cut it open and isn't going to eat it all, can she put the leftovers in the fridge? My first thought was to tell her to keep it far away from that refrigerator. But I needed to know where she was keeping the avocados currently. They were near a window, providing them with lots of light. And that spells trouble. They need to be somewhere cool and dark, like a cabinet.

I checked my instincts against the brilliance of the internet, and not only should the avocados be kept away from the window, they should be kept at 60-68 degrees Farenheit. So, no refrigerator if you can help it. Unless you've cut one open and won't eat half until later. Then, leave the pit in and wrap in saran. Be sure to eat it within a day or two if you refrigerate it--it will just get mealier and mushier the longer it's in there (just like tomatoes do).

So, if you want to ripen an avocado, set it in the sun. But if you want them to last, keep them in the cool and dark!


Saturday, February 16, 2008


This blog was created to supplement and assist with informing the public about a phone hotline. The Emergency Food Hotline is moderated by me, Jennifer Bastian.

The primary focus of this hotline is to offer solutions in the planning and preparation of food. I strive to offer advice on food preparation, and in the many areas of our lives that relate to food. I enjoy helping to plan exciting meals out of near-empty pantries, and can think of substitutions for when you're missing just about any ingredient. I am also interested in being of assistance in other regions of home and life, such as cleaning stains from fabrics, giving basic advice about cameras, and how to best trap a baby squirrel hiding in your house.*

Notable experiences with callers will be included in some way on this blog, as well as any interesting bits of information that they or I learn during the conversation.

You may reach The Emergency Food Hotline by dialing the following number:

414-839- 2403

Please leave your name and telephone number, and allow for a 5-10 minute delay in the return of a phone call. It is possible I will already be on a call, or need to check a source before speaking with you. If for some reason I do not call back quickly enough, please feel free to call again so I will be aware that it is indeed an emergency.

*Of course, none of this advice will be endorsed by any official organization, so use it at your own risk.