Q: Can baking soda be substituted for baking powder in recipes?
A: These two baking stapes are both leavening agents, but they work at different speeds and in different environments, so they are not interchangeable.
Baking soda, or pure sodium bicarbonate, is required in recipes that have an acidic ingredient, such as molasses, sour cream or chocolate. Baking soda reacts with the acid and moisture, releasing carbon dioxide and causing the dough or batter to rise, yielding fluffy muffins or cake.
Baking powder consists of baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch. It is used in recipes without an acidic ingredient because it already contains an acid (cream of tartar).
There are three types of baking powder: fast-acting, slow-acting and double-acting. Most baking powder is double-acting, which ensures that the dough rises twice: first when the moisture hits it and again when it reacts with heat inside the oven.
Baking powder and baking soda come in containers that make measuring easy; run a heaping measuring spoonful under the lid or perforated flap to scrape excess back into the container.
Ensuring crisp, wrinkle-free sheets
Q: Is there an easy way to remove wrinkles from sheets? Bed linens are so large, it's hard to iron them properly.
A: Crisp sheets are a wonderful luxury. If ironing is too complicated or time-consuming, you can minimize wrinkles by taking care when drying sheets.
First, don't overfill the dryer.
Second, remove sheets from the machine while they are still slightly damp, and fold them immediately, smoothing the fabric as you work.
If sheets do dry completely or end up sitting in the dryer after the cycle, you can reduce the resulting wrinkles by adding a clean, damp washcloth to the load and running the machine until the wrinkles have relaxed, five to 10 minutes.
Of course, you can always iron just the portions of the sheets you see when the bed is made: the top of the flat sheet and the pillowcases.
Another trick: Once sheets are on the bed, you can quickly smooth out wrinkles with a garment steamer. Photo stylists use this method often to make bedding look picture-perfect.
Enforcing a no-shoe rule at home
Q: I have light-colored carpeting. Is there a polite way to encourage guests to take off their shoes in my house?
A: There's no need to be shy or apologetic about asking guests to remove their shoes. Lots of people follow a shoes-off policy in their homes — and not just in bad weather.
Like you, some have light carpets or gleaming hardwood floors that they want to keep clean and in good condition. Others come from a country, such as Japan or India, where it's customary to remove shoes at the door.
These days, it's not an unusual request elsewhere in the world. So absolutely mention your preference to first-time visitors.
When people arrive, say, “We usually take our shoes off inside. Do you mind doing so?” You may find you don't even have to. When guests see others' footwear by the door, they may take the hint.
You can also offer flip-flops. But if your guests seem uncomfortable removing their shoes, don't make an issue of it. Let them keep their shoes on.
Household tip: If you have a no-shoes rule for your home, keep a basket of slippers in various sizes in your entryway.