diy » Wonderland Kitchen
Browsing Tag

diy

DIY Coke: (Even Better Than?) the Real Thing

Cola Syrup

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I drink a lot of seltzer—so much that building my own carbonation system was actually incredibly cost effective (not to mention shopping-labor saving!). So when a friend asked what other kinds of fun carbonated drinks I was DIY-ing at home, I was kind of embarrassed that I came up empty.

I mean, sure, there have been a few outings with tonic water for parties and maybe a squeeze of lemon and lime in the bottle from time to time, but here I was with my own fizzy drink maker and I was just choosing door #1 day after day after day.

Cola Syrup

Determined to break out of this sad state of affairs, I asked my pal what sort of drink she might like. (Confession: this was one part genuine love for her, one part because she drove me into the wilds to make my last CO2 cylinder exchange and she was owed.) She mentioned that she’d really like to break her Coke at work habit, so I started researching. When I was a kid I remember checking a book out of the library that had a fake cola recipe with cinnamon and vanilla, but I was sure the internet would have surely improved upon that recipe by now. For my first outting, I decided to go fancy since I just happened to have all the weird ingredients in my pantry and try out the recipe below (which appeared in the New York Times in 2011, adapted from the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain).

In the end, I think I probably knew too much as far as tricking my taste buds. But this is a delicious concoction all the same. I’ll have to report back on whether or not my friend notices I’ve replaced what’s normally in her red can with my own special brew, but I’m happy to have broken the floodgates on my beverage rut.

Hmmm, what should I carbonate next?

Cola Syrup: Ingredients

Note: I skipped the coloring, ditched the extra two tablespoons of white sugar in the original recipe, and didn’t bother blitzing the sugar in a food processor before dissolving to save dishes and annoyance. It all worked out just fine.

Cola Syrup
From the New York Times, adapted from Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, Brooklyn, with minor shortcuts by me

Grated zest of 2 medium oranges
Grated zest of 1 large lime
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 section of a star anise pod, crushed (note: section!)
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 one-and-a-half-inch piece vanilla bean, split
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon caramel color powder, optional (I skipped this, but I am curious how that might change the overall experience/trickery)

In a heavy 2 quart sauce pan, bring two cups water and zests, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, lavender, ginger, vanilla, and citric acid to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering gently for 20 minutes or so.

Measure sugars into a bowl and place a sieve lined with two layers of butter muslin over top. As soon as infused water comes off the heat, pour through strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and stir sugars into the hot liquid until completely dissolved.

Pour syrup into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator until needed. Mix at a concentration to suit your tastes. A “four parts carbonated water to one part syrup” ratio seems a good place to start.

Just Like Candy: #DIY Mixed Peel

DIY Mixed Peel at Wonderland Kitchen

On days like today, Google makes me cry for both confusingly uplifting reasons as well as the terrifying visions of the future its actions conjure in my head. But while this best-indie-movie plot line and/or Kafka tale develops, Google’s search engine reliably solves my problems. The latest: What the hell is mixed peel?

I went hunting with the goal of making this Alice in Wonderland-related Looking Glass cake. However, mixed peel not being an ingredient stocked at my local grocery, before the baking could begin it seemed I would need to DIY a key ingredient. The internet to the rescue, I was in business with a pile of citrus and a Googled recipe.

DIY Mixed Peel at Wonderland Kitchen

DIY Mixed Peel at Wonderland Kitchen

DIY Mixed Peel at Wonderland Kitchen

This is one of those super easy but several-day DIY projects that annoy the spontaneous among us. So make it now and then surprise yourself when you want to bake hot cross buns for Easter! (Note to self: Bake hot cross buns for Easter this year.) If you have the patience to cut up citrus peel and the skill to boil water, you are already pretty much done. Holiday goodies will definitely be kicked up a notch this season. (So yes, family, prepare for Wonderland fruit cakes this Christmas.) Anyway…

DIY Mixed Peel at Wonderland Kitchen

DIY Mixed Peel
Recipe via Best Recipes, desire due to The Alice in Wonderland Cookbook: A Culinary Diversion by John Fisher

Note: The original recipe calls for less fruit. I lived dangerously and added an extra lemon and one more orange. I was well pleased with the result, but be advised.

1 grapefruit
2 oranges
2 lemons
(or citrus combo of your choosing)
1 1/2 cups sugar

Peel citrus fruit, including as much of the pith as possible. Slice peels into approximately 1/4-inch pieces.

Place prepared citrus peel in a sauce pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drain and repeat, this time reserving 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid before draining.

Return boiled peel, 1/2 cup reserved liquid, 1/2 cup fresh water, and 1 cup sugar to sauce pan and stir to dissolve sugar while bringing to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit overnight (mine sat about 18 hours). The following day, add an additional 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and then drain citrus peel thoroughly.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread out peel pieces to dry, tossing occasionally to prevent clumping. When peels are no longer wet (probably another 24 hours), place in a container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator (or the freezer for a longer shelf life). According to my reading, prepared peels will withstand at least a month in the fridge.

Having My (Double Chocolate) Cake (and Nibbling at the Edges)

Double Chocolate Muffins

I mentioned that it might be a little quiet in Wonderland this summer, but even I wasn’t expecting the silence to be so drawn out. And the longer the gap, the harder the re-start. I have a small stack of draft posts, but I haven’t been quite sure how to put what was holding me back into words even for myself. Today, it was put into pictures with way more power that I ever could have generated.

That’s not to imply that I have lost interest in researching or testing recipes, writing about or photographing meals (and eating remains a central priority in my daily life, one way or another). There is something so energizing about sharing food with friends and family around the table; the fact that in 2013 you can tweet a quick picture of that meal to a recipe creator and invite them in for a virtual “thank you” bite is a very sweet icing indeed.

While I’m nowhere near as serious as some, I find blogging to be a beautiful final step in documenting what was once ephemeral women’s work. For me, however, it often comes at a cost in lost attention to the present.

With that in mind, I’ve dedicated myself (unconsciously at first, I’ll admit) to being a consumer of internet knowledge this past month rather than a contributor to the volume, and it’s been grand. I’ve actually finally made a lot of the dishes on my “To Try” Pinterest board! Here’s a round up of some of my new DIY discoveries and recipes. Yes, I fully grasp the ridiculousness of expressing anxiety about the volume of internet content in a new post published on the internet. It’s hard to let go of the dopamine hit that is online (over?)sharing, for sure.

Wonderland on Instagram (clockwise from top left): citronella soy candles; natural lipstick; cocoa butter lotion bars; double chocolate muffins.

Wonderland on Instagram (clockwise from top left): citronella soy candles; natural lipstick; cocoa butter lotion bars; pre-bake double chocolate muffins.

I’ve also turned the kitchen over to crafting some DIY beauty products. While I recently figured out that my body is much too irritated by the baking soda in this deodorant recipe (who knew?), I’m loving these other Wellness Mama concoctions:

While you’re at it, take a second to make a little olive oil candle scented with the essential oils of your choice to keep you company in the bath. I rigged this wick with a bit of picture frame wire.

evoo candle

Now that I’m almost all the way back on this pony, more on other projects, such as DIY bug spray and citronella soy candle making to come…

DIY Summer Seltzer Season

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

With a holiday weekend on the horizon and rising temperatures (at least in the Mid-Atlantic) hinting at the swamp, I mean, summer ahead, it seemed like a prime time to revisit the seltzer maker I built for the kitchen almost three (yikes!) years back. If you’re the tl;dr type, the sum up is that it still rocks. You may proceed to the directions to construct your very own.

To be clear, I in no way invented this mad scientist contraption. Rather, at a time when the family recycling bin was overflowing with plastic one-liter bottles–my legs sore from carting them home and my stomach clenching over the packaging waste–I started digging around to see what my make-at-home options might be. Even back then, the SodaStream was a thing. But it was an expensive thing, with what seemed to be a high ongoing fee for the specialty CO2 cylinders it required. However, as with many problems, if you’re willing to get a little weird, the internet will provide. That’s how I ended up with this:

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

Truth be told, I’m not sure if I would have proceeded were it not for the fact that my dad has sold welding and gas supplies since I was a kid. (One of my favorite toys looked something like this mask, which probably explains more than a few things about me.) As a result, none of the necessary items were all that foreign to my eye and, while I admittedly carbonated my first bottle in the backyard a safe distance from the house just in case anything exploded, I was reasonably confident that I knew what I was doing. I asked my dad if this all seemed okay. He was also reasonably confident. The internet said it would be fine. And it was! Many, many bottles later, I haven’t had a single mishap.

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen


To build the carbonation machine, you will need:

  • 5lb CO2 cylinder, or a size to suit your needs (if you know beer brewers, ask around and see if anyone if looking to get rid of one cheap)
  • Dual gauge regulator that can be set to deliver 20-50 psi
  • Flexible polyethylene tubing (4ft), 2 hose clamps, and a gas ball lock quick disconnect (now conveniently sold by Amazon as a single item)
  • Carbonater cap

NOTE: I tried assembling my own carbonater cap out of a tire stem as suggested (also by the internet), but could not get rid of the “just purchased from AutoZone!” smell, no matter what I washed or soaked it in. Possibly not a big deal in the long run, but the $12 carbonater cap I purchased has made scentless work of it for years and seems to have earned its keep just fine.

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

You will also need to upcycle at least one plastic bottle in very good condition. I steal new bottles from friends’ recycling bins when they are not looking in order to replace my bottles every few months, but you’ll definitely want to swap them out if you notice any visible wear.

Now, I’ve never used a SodaStream myself, but I’m willing to bet the look of the machine and the process of making the fizzy water is a little classier. Still, I have to say, with one of these babies in the kitchen, it’s automatic house party conversation material!

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

To carbonate water:

Fill the plastic bottle with water 7/8 full (I go to the top of where the label is) and chill. Very cold water is important for better CO2 absorption.

When cold, squeeze air out of the bottle and screw on carbonater cap.

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

Attach quick disconnect to the carbonater cap. Check to make sure the output valve on your regulator is completely closed. Turn on the gas and check/adjust the psi to suit your needs. I do mine at about 25 psi, but others go higher.

Holding tightly to your bottle in one hand, slowly open the output valve. The bottle will fill with gas. Shake the bottle vigorously for about 10-20 seconds.

Shut off the CO2 and close the output valve. Disconnect the bottle from the hose and refrigerate for at least several hours before removing the carbonater cap. (Unless, of course, you are looking to demonstrate a volcano eruption for the kids!)

The Verdict

The total cost of the unit, if all pieces are purchased brand new via Amazon, is $134.66. Plus you need to fill the tank. Locally, that cost me $15. I admit that the grand total can be something of a shock, but ask around and you just might be able to get some of these things for much cheaper.

Research indicates that I should be able to get about 280 one-liter bottles per tank. We have definitely had our runs of two-bottle-a-day consumption, and then a month without a single bottle made, but after what I swear are hundreds of bottles, we’re still on the same tank. I carbonate at a lower psi, so perhaps that bridges the gap. In any event, I’m cruising in on three years of stress-free, last-minute, in-home seltzer. I consider that a real coup, and a conversation piece to boot!

DIY Seltzer from Wonderland Kitchen

DIY Soy Milk

DIY Soy Milk

During my vegan yogurt experiments, I read a lot about making coconut, almond, and rice milks at home and sorted out my own preferred methods. (Key ingredient across the board? A nylon straining bag.) Now, whenever I find myself standing in front of those Tetra Pak boxed beverages at the grocery, I consider for a second if it’s worth it for me to DIY it at home; even in the chaos of an average week, it usually is.

The one experiment I’ve avoided is soy milk. Basically, I’ve come across headlines espousing the “evils of soy” just often enough to shy away from using it as one of my alternative milk ingredients. I had no nutritional research to back up this decision; rather, it was strictly a case of “Well, I haven’t read anything bad about almonds this week. Let’s just use those!”

Still, I have long been curious about making my own tofu or vegan cheese, so when I came across a bag of soybeans at the Asian market I love exploring, I decided to finally try out boiling up a batch of my own soy milk on the “all things in moderation” philosophy. (And once you start looking, I think there may be just as many articles espousing the “many benefits of soy!”…so, I can only encourage you to make your own judgment call.)

Early research on methods led me quickly to some stunning soy milk makers, an appliance I had never seen before but one that might interest high-volume producers of any type of alternative milk. In my house, a blender and an efficient hand straining method get the job done simply and quickly enough.

DIY Soy Milk: Before and after soaking the beans

DIY Soy Milk: Before and after soaking the beans

Similar to my experience with rice milk that didn’t taste like commercial rice milk, there were plenty of posts lamenting that DIY versions of soy milk just didn’t match what the family was used to from the store. I read a lot about how to avoid a bitter, beany-tasting soy milk (hot water when blending, cooking after straining), and picked up a tip to add a couple tablespoons of oats to the blender to make a creamer product. I didn’t remove all the skins before blending nor did I soak the beans in water fortified with baking soda, though these are also variations out there. Like many of these DIY projects, personal preferences will lead you to your own best practices.

When I first removed the lid off the blender carafe after pureeing the soaked raw beans, I worried over the smell–something about it had a character that had me flashing back to the days I spent oil panting in the ’90s. The milk will also have a raw, beany taste at this stage. (It reminded me of eating a pea or green bean seed right out of the garden.) However, after cooking, the milk will be rich and tasty. I ended up thinning it a bit to get the consistency I was after–an extra benefit to DIYing your own. When I do it again, I will take more care to source a certifiably organic, non-GMO bean.

DIY Soy Milk: Ready for blending

DIY Soy Milk: Ready for blending

If you’re concerned about wasting the pulp (often referred to as okara ), worry not! This byproduct has recipe applications all its own. The skin that can form on the milk when cooking (yuba) also has myriad culinary uses.

Do you make soy milk in some other fashion? Tips and tricks that you’ve picked up that will improve results? I hope you’ll share them in the comments!

DIY Soy Milk

DIY Soy Milk

1 cup dried soybeans
4 cups water just off the boil (plus additional for thinning milk to desired consistency)
2 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
1/8 kosher salt
sweetener and/or flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract (optional)

Rinse soybeans, drain, and soak in a generous amount of filtered water overnight. Drain and rinse again, removing any floating loose skins. Drain well and transfer beans to blender.

Add oats and boiled water to beans and secure lid. Puree thoroughly, being cautious that lid remains tightly closed.

Strain puree through a nylon nut milk bag into a 4 qt. pot. (I also tried straining the milk through a cheese cloth-lined strainer, but this was much more difficult to manage in my experience.) Bring the milk up to a gentle simmer, skimming off any foam or skin that forms. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for about 20 minutes. Add salt and any sweeteners or flavorings desired. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed.

Fresh soy milk can be enjoyed as a warm beverage. Otherwise, transfer it to a glass container with a lid and allow to cool. Refrigerate to store.

http://wonderlandkitchen.com/2013/05/diy-soy-milk/


Baa, Baa, Black Sheep: The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

For as much as I love appreciating the work of people with serious farming experience and thriving businesses, I also grasp that I am not one of them. Realistically, I probably never will be (though I reserve the right to backyard garden and daydream). Regardless, no number of dollars spent at five-star department stores will magically hide that knowledge gap.

However, I take no shame in appreciating the efforts of others. On an average weekend, that’s just a trip to the farmers’ market, but last Sunday the neighbors and I piled in the car to check out the vendors and animals at the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Thankfully, it was a beautiful, light jacket kind of day (when it’s 85°F, it’s really hard for me to get enthusiastic about yarn and knitting projects), and we spent five hours exploring the amazing wares for sale and appreciating the many varieties of sheep and goats (and cooing over the babies).

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

I was particularly taken by the beautiful wood in the looms, spindles, and even the furniture for sale (so much so that I failed to snap a picture). It was definitely a day of DIY inspiration. I’m going to try and learn some basic spinning skills this year and perhaps make some purchases next time.