Baking 101: Baking Powder Vs. Baking Soda

(image courtesy of google images)

Sugar. Check. Flour. Check. Eggs. Check. Baking Soda – We have a problem.

I can’t tell you how many times I have underestimated my pantry stock (also reason #287 why you should have all your ingredients prepared before starting to cook or bake), and thus, have come to a fork in the road when I am missing a key ingredient. This is most especially crucial when it comes to baking, which comes down to basic chemistry in order to produce a successful result. But once question I have asked myself numerous times, and have been asked in return, is what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and can I substitute one for the other? The answer lies in science.

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is mixed with something acidic (such as buttermilk or yogurt) and moisture, a chemical reaction occurs in which bubbles of carbon dioxide form. Under the hot oven temperature, heat expands this process and this is what makes baked goods rise. Because this reaction occurs as soon as the ingredients are combined, recipes that call for baking soda must be baked immediately or they will fall flat.

Baking powder also contains sodium bicarbonate, but the acidifying agent, cream of tartar is already present. Two types of baking powder are available for baking use – single-acting baking powder and double-acting baking powder. Single-acting baking powder is activated by moisture, and therefore must be baked immediately after combining. Double-acting baking powder releases the carbon dioxide in two stages. The first, when the ingredients are combined at room temperature; and the second, when it reacts to the hot heat of the oven. Essentially, mixtures with double-acting baking powder can stand out longer before baking.

So when do you use baking powder or baking soda?

It all comes down to taste and ingredients. Baking soda has a bitter taste, and needs to counteract with an acidic ingredient like buttermilk or yogurt – this is especially found in cookie recipes. Baking powder on the other hand has both a base AND an acid, and in effect has a neutral taste – this works best with ingredients with neutral-taste (like milk) in recipes such as cake and biscuits. Because the ingredients directly affect the chemical reaction, it is possible to use baking powder when the recipe calls for baking soda, but it is not beneficial to use baking soda when it calls for baking powder because the recipe most likely lacks the acidifying ingredient. It is possible to make your own baking powder with baking soda by adding cream and tartar.

Happy Baking!


Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls


Do not let the title of this next recipe fool you..this is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made, and by far one of the most delicious! Perfect as an appetizer individually, or paired with a nice side of roasted vegetables, my Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls are just the perfect amount of cheesy goodness to satisfy your baked pasta craving…and who doesn’t love bacon? No one.

For the vegans and vegetarians, the great thing about baked and stuffed pasta is that the ingredients are always interchangeable! Instead of ricotta, shrimp, and bacon, a great alternative would be soy cheese and some delicious cooked vegetables that pair well with starch like butternut squash, sweet potato or asparagus. As for the pasta itself, most wheat pastas are actually vegan-friendly because they are made from Duram Semolina, which is essentially wheat flour. Only egg pasta noodles (like Gnocchi) contain dairy ingredients. So remember, any pasta that is made with Duram Semolina is vegan-friendly – just make sure to check the ingredients on the back of the box if your buying the noodles, just to be safe.

Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

5 Lasagne Strips (As discussed in Pasta 101, lasagne is a singular noodle, lasagna is the dish when there are multiple noodles)
2×500 ml tubs Ricotta Cheese
1 bag of de-veined, de-shelled shrimp
10 – 15 strips uncooked bacon (depending on your bacon craving)
1 head of warm-blanched broccoli (slightly boiled for about 2-3 minutes)
4 cloves garlic, pressed and chopped finely
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons butter/margarine
3 cups of your choice of pasta sauce!
20 toothpicks

Serves: A meal for 3 – 5

1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. In a large pot, bring unsalted water to a boil and place in lasagne noodles.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet heat butter on low to a sizzle and toss in chopped garlic and shrimp.
4. With your lasagne noodles, you want to cook them until soft enough that they are flexible, but not to the point of mush. I usually leave them in about 4 minutes. I you still feel they are too al dente, don’t worry – the pasta sauce will soften them more. When the noddles are ready – take them out and lay them in casserole pan to dry and assemble, and then cut them in HALF – this means you will have TEN noodles.
5. Cook the shrimp until pink and no longer transparent. Adding more butter to the skillet for flavor is always an option : ) Once done, place shrimp in food processor.
6. Cutting off LARGE chunks, place the blanched broccoli in food processor as well.
7. Next, cook bacon in the same skillet as your buttered shrimp until well done. Once cooked, remove and immediately place strips in food processor.
8. Pulse the ingredients in the food processor JUST A LITTLE BIT – you want small chunks..not bacon, shrimp and broccoli dip.
9. In a separate bowl, fill with ricotta and parsley. Mix together.
10. Next, combine ricotta mixture and bacon, broccoli, and shrimp mixture.


11. In the casserole pan where the noodles lay, roll each noodle into a small tube about 1 inch in diameter – secure and PIN with two toothpicks.
12. Using a small spoon, fill the pasta tubes with the filling mixture until slightly heaping, and then place each roll an inch apart in the pan.
13. Coat with sauce of your choice (I LOVE a good blush sauce), and bake for about 20 minutes or until mixture starts to bubble.
14. Serve, remove toothpicks, and Bon Appetit!

TIP: The reason why the seasoning is so minimal in this dish, is because I think there is so much flavor jam-packed into the filling with the shrimp, butter and bacon, that no extra herbs is necessary. It will only take away from the filling flavor. But, like all foodies, I have my preferences so feel free to add what YOU like!

How To: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Sauce


In my quick learning of how to make Gnocchi, me and my mother were talking about what kind of potatoes to use, seasoning, etc. We then threw out the idea of Sweet Potatoes….genius?! So today I took on the task of incorporating Sweet Potatoes in place of my usual Russet Potato recipe. Let me tell you…amazing. Sweeter than I imagined, and definitely a meal fit more for dessert, but none the less, delicious. Whether your craving a sweet dessert or just want to mix up your dinner routine, this savory Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter will knock your socks off!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Sauce

3 Sweet Potatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Handful of chopped parsley

Serves: 5 – 6

1. Boil the three Sweet Potatoes until ready to be mashed (15 – 30 minutes).
2. Drain potatoes, and let cool enough to handle.
3. Peel potatoes completely, put into glass dishware, and chop into large cubes.
4. MASH potatoes completely until the mixture is as lump-less as possible. The best way to do this is with a potato ricer, but a masher or fork will work just fine – just takes a little arm work!
5. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix flour and salt together.
6. Add the two egg yolks and teaspoon of olive oil to the potato mixture.
7. Next, add the flour and salt mixture to the potato/egg/oil mixture, and fold in well!
8. Knead into a ball until dough is firm and pliable, but not wet.

It should look like this:

9. Next, pull off a lemon-size piece of dough, and roll into thin rope about an inch wide. It should look like this:

10. Then, cut 1/2 inch – 1 inch pieces off of this rope (I like my gnocchi bigger, so I use 1 inch pieces).
11. Sprinkle down flour onto your working surface, gently roll your piece in some flour and grab your fork. Its time to indent! Most people making gnocchi on a more recurring basis use a Gnocchi roller, but you can use a fork just as easily. It just won’t look as clean and pretty. Your eating it anyways..
12. So, hold your Gnocchi in the palm of your hand, and gently roll your fork around the piece to make multiple ridges. If the dough is too wet, the fork will stick -but if there’s too much flour, the dough will be too dry for anything. Gnocchi is about a good balance. A quick look at what this will look like after:

13. Next, put on your pot of boiling water and toss the gnocchi pieces in.
14. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat butter and brown sugar until mixed and starting to thicken.
15. Gnocchi is easy to tell when it’s done, because it will rise right to the top! Spoon out Gnocchi with a slotted spoon and toss into skillet.
16. Add parsley and toss Gnocchi until completely coated. I like to let the Gnocchi crisp a little on the outside. It gives it a little sugary crunch.
17. Serve!

Three-Cheese Risotto

(image courtesy of

Risotto is not for the faint of heart – it’s rich, heavy.. and HEAVENLY. I stumbled across this recipe when I tried to make baked risotto balls for the first time. I wound up eating all the filling and left very little left for my guests, but trust me, you would have done the same thing. Paired with a nice side garden salad, my Three-Cheese Risotto recipe is a quick and easy meal sure to please any cheese lover!

Three-Cheese Risotto

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups Risotto rice
1/2 cup – 1 cup whipping cream (depending on your preference)
1/4 cup parmigiano cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup asiago cheese
1/4 cup chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium skillet, bring chicken stock to a boil.
2. Mix Risotto rice into the boiling chicken stock, bring to a low heat.
3. Cook rice for about 10 minutes, or until most of chicken stock is absorbed.
4. Add in 1/2 cup whipping cream, mozzarella cheese, asiago cheese, and parmigiano cheese. Mix until all is combined and creamy.
5. Let simmer a couple minutes, and if you would like you Risotto a little creamier, add the rest of the whipping cream.
6. TASTE to make sure rice density is to your liking. Some people, like myself, like my rice a little al dente.
7. Add chives and salt/pepper to taste.


TIP: Sometimes I like to add in some broccoli or zucchini for extra color and texture. YUM!!

Cooking 101: Pasta Types

(image courtesy of HungryCravings)

Did you know that there are over 100 different types of pasta? Most of us recognize our go-to dinner choices, like spaghetti, bow-tie, or the “spiral” one. But each and every type is unique in it’s own origin and make. Pasta Recipes Made Easy breaks them down:

Ancini de Pepe: Translated to peppercorns in English, these tiny pasta shapes cook in just a few minutes time and are commonly used in soups, or scattered across salads for texture.

Amori (also known as Spirali and Cavatappi): This pasta, sometimes called “pasta spirals”, are tubular shaped pasta spirals that originated in Southern Italy. This pasta’s shape and texture also makes it very adaptable to different pasta sauces.

Anellini: Translated to small rings, this pasta is also commonly used in soups. Like Ancini De Pepe, short cooking time is needed.

A long, thin stranded pasta that is usually sold in coiled bunches, like a small nest.

Basically, a flattened version of spaghetti, similar to linguine.

Bigoli: This pasta takes a long shape, slightly thicker than spaghetti and traditionally made with buckwheat flour. In more modern times, whole wheat flour is more commonly used and perceives a darker hue in color. In parts of Italy, this pasta is sometimes referred to as Pici.

Bucatini: This pasta gets its name from the Italian word buco, which means hole. Like spaghetti, this pasta is long and tubed, like a drinking straw.

Busiata Trapanese: This is a type of corkscrew pasta, slightly longer than Fusilli. This pasta originated from a small town in Sicily named Trapini.

Caccavelle (Sing. Caccavella): Currently the world’s largest pasta shape, this pasta can measure a diameter of 11cm. Usually stuffed and baked, this makes for a great meal in under 20 minutes!

Calamari (also known as Calamaretti): Calamari hails from the city of Naples in Southern Italy, and is shaped into small rings that are dyed with black squid ink to resemble the sliced squid dish. Great in seafood pasta recipes!

Campanelle: A unique pasta in its shape, this pasta is formed into a bell shape and great for catching yummy sauce!

Candele: Translated into candles, this pasta shape is long, hollowed and made to look like real candles!

Cannelloni: Translated into large reeds, this flat, rectangle shaped pasta is usually filled and rolled into tubes. Delicious when filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, and smothered in a sweet tomato sauce.

Cannerrozzetti: This rare pasta is tubed with ridges down the side.

Cappelletti: Originating from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, this pasta is basically a smaller version of Tortellini. It is usually filled with meat or cheese and served over broth.

Capellini D’Angelo: Also known as Angel Hair, it literally translates to “hair of the angels”. This pasta is very long and very, very fine; works best with light sauces and cooks in only a few minutes.

Capellini: Basically, a thicker version of Capellini D’Angelo.

Capunti: An unusual shape of pasta, usually an inch or two long resembling a small canoe or open pea pod.

Cassuli: A curved, almost-tubed pasta with long raised edges.

Cavatelli: Some may describe this type of pasta being in the shape of a hot dog bun, it is folded over and originated from the Southern region of Puglia.

Cellentani: Translated in “whirls”, this pasta is tubular, spirals, and lined with ridges great for pasta salad recipes.

Cencioni: Oval-shaped pasta with a slight curve, perfect for holding heavier pasta sauces like Bolognese or heavier creams.

Chocolate Pasta: If there ever is a pasta that is the weirdest of the weird, it is this! Made with a small percentage of cocoa, it is usually served with dessert, cream sauce and walnuts, or with game (wild bird). Definitely something I want to try!

Conchiglie: (pronounced con-kee-lee-ay), this small shell-shaped pasta is very popular and commonly used in recipes with heavy pasta sauces to sop up all the delicious taste!

Corzetti: A unique pasta, it is circular, flat and stamped to resemble and ancient coin. Originating from Liguria.

Ditali: Translating from the Italian word Dita, which means fingers, this pasta resembles just that. Small, tubed pasta that can fit around your finger and is great in hearty soups.

Elbow Macaroni: A small, curved, tubed type of macaroni resembling a smile : ) Usually used traditionally in America in cheese recipes.

Eliche: Small, spiraled pasta resembling Fusilli.

Farfelle: Also know as bow-ties, translate into butterflies. This pasta is small, rectangular shaped and pinched in the middle.

Fettuccine (or Fettuccini): Originating from the Italian word fettuce, meaning string, this pasta refers to flat, long pasta. Wider than linguine, and great to catching heavy sauces.

Filini: Meaning “small threads” in Italian, this pasta is thin and only about an inch long. Perfect for soups, this pasta would be classified as Pastina, or tiny pasta.

Florentine: A pasta originating from Tuscany, it looks like an open-ended version of Rigatoni.

Fioriettini: A ridged, flower shaped pasta made from joined pasta circles.

Foglie D’Ulivo: Olive-leaf shaped pasta originally from Southern Italy.

Fusilli: The Italian word for “little spindles”, this corkscrew pasta is more tightly wound than Spirali and wonderful for catching scrumptious sauces!

Fusilli Bucati: Similar to Fusilli, except it is hollowed out like a drinking straw.

(image courtesy of

Garganelli: Shaped like Penne, except look more rough and home-made. Effectively, rectangle pasta rolled into a Penne shape.

Gemelli: Translating into twins, a truly unique pasta that is rarely duplicated; it is essentially two short strands of pasta wrapped around each other.

Girasole: Meaning sunflower in Italian, it is a sunflower shaped pasta.

Gozzini: A type of mini-tubular Pastina.

Gramigna: A short, curled type of pasta with one end more curled inward than the other.

Lasagne (Sing. Lasagna): Flat sheets of pasta, usually layered with minced meat and vegetables.

Lasagnette: Unlike Lasagne, these are flat wide pieces of pasta broken up and boiled, not baked, and served messy on a plate.

Linguine: Meaning “little tongues” in Italian, linguine is a long flat pasta slightly thinner than Fettuccine and originated from Northern Italy.

Lumache: The Italian word for snails, this pasta resembles small snail shells.

Maccerroni (Maccaroni): Made from Semolina and water, instead of flour and egg like most pasta, it is small curved tubular pasta that can come in different variations and sizes.

Mafalde: Similar to Tagliatelle, only with ruffled edges.

Maltagliati: Deriving from the Italian words mal and tagliati, this pasta translates to “badly cut”; essentially, this pasta is usually just random chopped pieces of pasta and takes no particular shape or form. It is often made from leftover pasta dough.

Mandilli De Sea: Translating into “silk handkerchiefs”, this pasta is roughly cut into squares and stuffed with full parsley leaves.

Manicotti: Translated as “sleeves” in Italian, this pasta is a type of baked pasta in the form of large, tube-shaped noodles.

Mezzalune: Sometimes referred to as Ravioli, this half-moon shaped pasta is usually stuffed with cheeses or meat.

Mezzi Rigatoni: Deriving from the Italian word mezzi, meaning “half”, this pasta type is essentially half the size of *or shorter version) or Rigatoni.

Mostaccioli: Originating from the Campania region of Southern Italy, this is a short 2-inch pasta resembling Penne, without the ridges.

Orecciette: Meaning “small ears”, this pasta hails from Puglia, Italy and is great for sopping up heavy pasta sauces and creams.

Orzo: This is a small pasta tiny enough to look like a grain (Orzo means “barley”), so it is sometimes used in the place of rice.

Paccheri: Basically an over-sized version of Rigatoni, minus the ridges.

Pappardelle: Long, wide egg noddle great for heavy pasta dishes. Originates from Tuscany, Italy.

Pansotti: Referred to as Mezzalune in some parts of Italy, this pasta is usually a more triangular-shaped form of Ravioli.

Pasta Al Ceppo: Pasta that is essentially shaped like a cinnamon stick!

Pastina: Literally meaning “little pasta”, this type is usually associated with tiny pasta stars but also serves as a category for smaller pasta used in soups (like Ditali).

Penne (Also known as Maltagliati): Meaning “quill” in Italian, this popular pasta is tubular shaped and cut diagonally at the ends to resemble the end of a quill pen!

Piccage: Piccage means “strings” in Italian, and refers to this pasta is that it is long, ribbon-like strands that are usually frilled on the edges with dried herbs inside.

Pipe: Pronounced (Pee-Pay), this tube-shaped pasta resembles a small smoking pipe.

Pizzoccheri: This pasta type is similar to tagliatelle in shape, but unlike most pasta is made with TWO different types of flour – white and buckwheat. This gives it a more chewy and dense texture; originated from Valtellina, Italy which is very close to the Swiss border.

Puntalette: A rice shaped pasta often used in soups.

(image courtesy of

Quadrafiore: This unique pasta, hard to describe, is a small short pasta with 7 waved-ridges coming out of a central tube. It can resemble a flower “end-on”.

Ravioli: Probably the most popular type of pasta, this type of stuffed and square shaped with ruffled edges.

Rigatoni: Popular is the South of Italy, Rigatoni are a large, tubed and ridged type of pasta.

Risoni: Meaning “big rice”, this pasta is essentially a larger version of Orzo.

Rotini: A shorter version of Fusilli.

Ruote: Also known as Wagon-Wheel pasta. Great for kids! But useless at catching pasta sauce.

Saccheti: Meaning “beggars’ purses” in Italian, a sack-shaped ravioli.

Scialatielli: Originating from the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, this pasta type are short, wider versions of Tagliatelli and are sometimes pinched in the middle.

Spaccatelli: Like Bucatini, but split down the side.

Spaghetti: One of the most popular types of pasta, it is long, thin and round in shape.

Spaetzle: Derived from a German word, Spaetzle are very small noodles (or dumplings) that are rolled or squeezed through a colander.

Tagliarini: Thinner version of tagliatelle.

Tagliatelle: Classic thin and wide egg noddle originating from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.

Torchieti: Meaning “little torches”, that is exactly what this pasta shape resembles.

Tortellini: Small, square-shaped stuffed pasta that looks like little hats!

Trenne: Traingular version of Penne.

Trotolle: These are pasta rings that are curled around a central column.

Tuffoli: A ridged version of Rigatoni.

Ventagali: An uncommon type of pasta, Ventagali are wide, short ribbons of pasta with ruffled edges.

Ziti: A medium, thin size tubed-pasta (like a hose). Traditionally served at weddings.

Justina’s “At-Home-Sick-Watch-Sex-And-The-City-All-Day” Soup


The title itself is not meant to be exaggerated; when I am at home sick with a nasty bug, I pop in Season 4 of Sex and The City and let Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda take my pain away. But one essential part of my girly treatment plan, is some Lemon Rice Chicken Soup. I will warn you – I am a garlic fiend, so do not hesitate to scale back on the cloves.

Lemon Rice Chicken Soup

2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup long grain rice (white rice can just as easily be used)
3 cloves of fresh (not minced) garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup shredded skinless cooked chicken
3 tablespoons fine parmigiano cheese
Quarter of a lemon
1 teaspoon Horseradish sauce (Optional)

Serves: 1 Sick Person

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, pour in olive oil and let heat until oil thins enough to coat bottom of saucepan.
2. Toss in garlic and let simmer for about 30 seconds, or until garlic starts to faintly brown.
3. Pour in chicken stock and let simmer until it slightly starts to boil.
4. Squeeze in lemon, and toss in peel to saucepan for extra flavor.
5. Pour in rice and let cook for about 5 minutes.
6. Toss in shredded chicken, and let simmer for 2 minutes.
7. Remove from heat, mix in parmigiano cheese (and Horseradish at this point), and serve!

Cooking the rice beforehand for a harder, drier texture is also an option that I sometimes like to do.

Get Well Soon!