Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Your Cupboard, Good For You - Baking Soda

Almost everyone has a box of Baking Soda in the cupboard, fridge, or laundry room. And I do as well, as Baking Soda is one of my 'must haves' for everything from cooking to first aid.

There are numerous web sites devoted to Baking Soda, all of which list what it is, what it's good for, and so on. For those who've never looked up any of this information, here's a little background.

Baking Soda is what's known as an alkaline chemical salt, which basically means it's really good at neutralizing things. This is why so many people use it as a deodorant, toothe paste, odor absorber, as well as to soak up oil spills on a garage floor or putting out oil/grease fires in the kitchen.

Since Baking Soda is a natural salt, it's not only 'green', it's also just abrasive enough to scrub out metal pots and pans, including copper ones, without damaging them. Plus it does an excellent job on dirty sinks and tubs.

'Bicarbonate of soda' (Baking Soda) has a long history as a remedy for reducing redness, swelling, and itching from bug bites/stings, hives, and rashes. It's also used as a natural treatment for reflux and indigestion.

Other popular ways to use Baking Soda are as a fabric softener, 'dry' shampoo, in science projects, mixed with salt to make ant repellent, and with a little help from vinegar, to clean out drains.

Baking Soda's most common usage, though, is in cooking. It acts as a leavening agent, which simply means it makes the dough or batter rise. And since Baking Soda is a neutralizer, it can be used to de-acidify foods like tomatoes. This simple thing is very helpful for those who like to eat acidic foods, but have indigestion or reflux afterwards.

My Mother was this type of person. From childhood til about her mid 40's, whenever she'd eat tomato soup, chili, or spaghetti, she'd get an upset stomach. Then she learned a neat trick that allowed her to enjoy them once in a while, and not feel bad later. The following recipe was one of her favorites.

Homemade Tomato Soup

2 - 3 tblsp. olive oil
2 gloves garlic (crushed)
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced celery
1 tblsp. Baking Soda (see Note below)
2 lb. can of tomatoes (whole, diced, or crushed, see below)
2 - 3 c. milk (dairy or unsweetened plain soy, rice, or almond milk, see below)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tblsp. butter (optional)
toppings: plain yogurt, sour cream, grated cheese, or crumbled turkey bacon

Note: Omit garlic, onions, & celery for anyone who can't eat these, & instead season to taste with a low/no sodium soup or salad blend like Mrs. Dash.
Since Baking Soda is alkaline, too much can produce a 'soapy' flavor/taste, so you can start with as little as one teaspoon and increase as needed; however, less Baking Soda equals higher acidity.

Pour tomatoes (with any juice) into a medium sized bowl. Add Baking Soda, & stir to distribute it throughout the tomatoes. (If using whole tomatoes, cut or mash them up.) Within a few seconds the tomatoes & juice will begin to foam, as the Baking Soda starts to neutralize the acid. (This also keeps the milk from curdling when added to the tomatoes.) After 5 - 10 minutes the foaming will stop & they'll be ready to use.

Put olive oil, garlic, onions, and celery in 3 qt. pan on medium heat. Stir garlic, onions & celery while they cook til desired golden color or softness. Add neutralized tomatoes & juice, stir to mix. Carefully add/stir in milk (start with only 2 cups of milk & add extra only if soup is too thick). Turn heat down to simmer (stirring as needed to prevent scorching) and let simmer til soup is desired temperature. Season with salt & pepper, & add butter, if desired. Ladle into cups or bowls & top with your choice of yogurt, sour cream, grated cheese, or turkey bacon.

This recipe serves two to four people, depending on cup or bowl size, plus it can easily be halved, doubled, or tripled. Homemade Tomato Soup is great served by itself, as a little pick-me-up, or can be a main dish backed up by hearty sandwiches.

References:,,, and

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