Posts Tagged ‘buttermilk’

One thing I’ve learned about being pregnant…

Everybody likes to give their opinion…

…about labor…

…about eating right…

…about gaining weight…

…about what I should and shouldn’t lift…

And I find it a little funny.  For the most part, I don’t really mind.  But the other day, one of my co-workers was having a conversation with Scott about the diet and cravings of a pregnant woman.  And he adamantly told Scott that a pregnant woman should just eat what she craves, not worrying about “proper nutrition” since “the body knows best”.  And to that I’d like to point out that one of my most common (unresolved) cravings is for a gin martini.  Dirty.  Extra olives… sooo, umm, what d’ya say to that- huh?!

In other news, it seems that I have a hankerin’ for cake and frosting.  Now don’t worry.  I realize that it likely appears that I’ve been eating nothing but sugary sweets and gin martinis.  But fear no more.  This facade of a blog through which you see me doesn’t paint the whole picture!  My days have been filled with hummus, avocados, kiwis, salmon and whole grains.  But you see, those things just don’t look very cute with piped-frosting hearts and squiggles.  Alas…

I present to you my new standard in chocolate cuppy-cakes (as I like to call them).  I still can’t get over just how tender the crumb is.  And how moist.  And really, I think you’ll find yourself filled with glee to eat them.  Especially if you happen to be eating them while watching the scene in Mama Mia where all the women dance through the village singing Dancing Queen.…(just a suggestion).

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing barely adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
yields 12 cupcakes

Molly uses plain, whole milk yogurt instead of buttermilk, which I’ve used with great success in many cake recipes.  I simply didn’t have any on hand!  Also, Molly states that this recipe can be baked into an 8″ or 9″ cake pan, greased and lined with parchment.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • rounded 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place an oven rack in the center-most position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a standard-sized muffin pan with muffin papers and set aside.

Pour the semisweet chocolate into the hot coffee and let it sit, stirring every once in a while until dissolved.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment,  beat the egg until frothy.  Add the canola oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract.  With the mixer running, add the coffee/chocolate mixture.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix until just combined.  Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom to be sure that there aren’t any unmixed parts left.

Pour the batter into the lined muffin pan, taking care to distribute the batter evenly.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes to cool.  Gently remove the cooled cupcakes from the pan (you may want to use a palette knife or butter knife to assist you), and place on the cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • tiny pinch of salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until completely smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the butter and salt.  Beat again for about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl again, and add the sugar.  Again, beat until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Load into a pastry bag fitted with a fluted pastry tip and decorate!*

*Did you know that you can use a zip-top bag as a substitute pastry bag?  Simply load up the bag with the frosting, then cut one of the corners of the bag off.  A small cut will give you a small “pastry tip” and a larger cut will give you a larger “pastry tip”-ta da!


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I love perusing old church cookbooks.  I own a few, and between them, there must be over 50 recipes for jello salad.  Complete with pretzels and canned mushroom caps.  Mmmmmm.  Well, I come from a Lutheran family you know.  And I hear that jello salad is served as the vegetable course in some households in North Dakota…(well that’s the rumor I heard, anyway!)  So many of the recipes crack me up.  Like “Chicken Jamboree” and “Fiesta Chicken” (which, by the way, seems to make it’s way into fiesta-land by way of a little cilantro!).  There are cool-whip pies and a million other funny recipes that I’d never go near.  Church cookbooks are kind of like shopping at Ross or TJ Max- you just have to be willing to look.  If you keep paging through, you’re bound to find a couple diamonds in the rough.

My Grama used to belong to a church in Palo Alto that was full of great cooks.  That church cookbook is a gem!  She went through the whole thing and circled the recipes that were contributed by all the great cooks.  My dad owns a copy of that church cookbook too, and all the pages are warped, stained and curled because of how often it’s been used.  About 10 years ago, I decided I needed my own copy, so I called up the church and asked if they happened to have any left.  Nope!  So I took my dad’s version to the local copy center and copied the whole dang thing! (Totally worth it!)

So this bran muffin recipe is from the infamous church cookbook.  Honestly, it didn’t occur to me until I was in high school that most people only eat bran muffins in certain situations.  1) They’re trying to be healthy. 2) They’re having some- um- problems.

When I was growing up, these muffins were standard fare.  We never had blueberry muffins or lemon-poppy seed muffins.  We ate bran muffins.  And I loved them.  (And for the record- for all you doubting people out there- Scott said the other day, “these muffins really are good!“).  So that goes to show you that it’s not just me and my biased opinion!

Church cookbook Bran Muffins
yields approx 2 dozen

I like to mix up the batter and only bake a few at a time.  It keeps well in the fridge for a week and a half.

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic  shortening (I keep meaning to try butter instead….let me know how it works if you do!)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups Kellogg’s All Bran cereal
  • 1 cup General Mills Fiber One cereal
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the baking rack in the center-most position.  Prepare 2 muffin pans by lightly spraying with oil, or lining with paper cups.

Measure the bran cereals into a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Stir so that everything is equally moistened.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the sugar and shortening.  Add the beaten eggs in two doses, allowing each to become fully absorbed before adding the next.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir well to mix.  With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk and flour, in 2 alternating doses to the creamed mixture.  Add the brans and mix well.  Add the optional raisins.

Pour a heaping 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

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PA170005Broccoli was one of the first vegetables I would eat as a kid.  T-Bone steaks and broccoli were my birthday dinner of choice most years.  And I have kept the love alive!  I came across this lovely idea on Smitten Kitchen and it’s a winner.  And I’m sorry to just re-do what other people have done, but this slaw was really good, and really worth it!  I changed a few things for my own taste.  Here’s what I did.

Broccoli Slaw adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This slaw is best made about 30 minutes ahead, so that the vegetables begin to soften slightly- don’t worry, they’ll still have plenty of crunch!

  • 1 head raw broccoli, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds, lightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • a hefty pinch of salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and pepper.  In a medium bowl, combine the broccoli, onion, raisins, and another pinch of salt.  Pour about 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss with your hands, making sure that everything gets coated equally.  Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.  When you’re ready to serve, toss in the almonds.  Yum.

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I’m sorry we don’t have any pictures of this yummy little thing.  But… well… we devoured it.  Plus, I have to admit that it was a little funny looking since I used cornmeal made out of blue corn that I bought from Full Belly Farm last year.  I figured that I’d better start using it up since we’ve come full circle, and fresh corn is back on the market stands!

The recipe came out of one of my new favorite cookbooks, called The Herbfarm Cookbook.  The name of the book is the same as the restaurant which is up in Seattle, Washington.  It’s filled with loads of yummy recipes that burst with fresh herbs from the garden.  It also has a whole section about growing, harvesting, and pruning herbs.  I’ve bookmarked tons of pages as “recipes to try”.  We ate this cornbread with the Bay Laurel roasted chicken, and it too, was wonderful.

I have quite a few herbs in my own garden, and I keep track of things in my neighborhood that I can use too.  Like the Bay Laurel tree right around the corner.  And those of you who live close to me are welcome to swing by for a few sprigs of this or that.

Herbs currently in my garden: marjoram, oregano, sorrel, chives, thyme, savory, rosemary, sage, spearmint and chocolate mint fennel, scented geraniums, and tarragon

Herbs on the way: basil, shiso, parsley

Marjoram Cornbread adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook, by Jerry Traunfeld
yields 1 8×8-square bread

  • 3 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 rounded teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup whole-milk buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Shmear 2 teaspoons of the softened butter in the pan with your fingers or a paper towel.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cornmeal, and sugar.  In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and eggs, whisking to combine.  Pour the liquid into the dry ingredeints, all at once, and stir just until all the ingredients are moistened.  Stir in the marjoram, chives, and 4 Tablespoons of melted butter.  Pour the batter into the pan.  Brush the top with the remaining 1 teaspoon of softened butter to help it brown nicely. Bake until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool slightly in the pan before serving.

*I think I’ll try baking it in a cast-iron pan next time, because I always love the crispy crust that it creates!

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I’ve never broken a bone in my life.  Never a fracture, never a sprain.  Probably because I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to partake in the majority of activities that would result in such pain.  But our friend Chris managed to break three bones in her leg while on a walk with her beloved Golden Retreiver, Beanie.  She stepped in a gopher hole and was down-for-the-count.  One…two…three.  She said that she heard the pop before she even realized what was happening.  Ugh.  But she’s a trooper.  One of those eternally happy people.  In fact, we had her ordained for a day so she could marry us.

Emily, Scott Chris zoom 02

That’s how great she is.

Her cozy little house has too many narrow turns and nooks and crannies for her wheelchair to be a viable option, so she’s left to hop around on one foot, pushing her walker ahead of her.  (Maybe it should be called a Hopper in this case?)  For the time being, cooking is pretty much impossible, and since her husband finds it impossible too, we took it upon ourselves to bring her sandwich makings and a heat-and-serve dinner.  A few days later we showed up on her door step with dinner ingredients and beer.  We grilled lamb-kabobs and zucchini, and served them with tzatziki and an orzo salad.  All around, pretty good.

But I also made strawberry shortcake for dessert.  And those biscuits?  Really good.  Now, before I go any further, I’d like to mention that I didn’t think these were the best biscuits for strawberry shortcake, mostly because they’re much better warm than room temperature.  But the next morning I put them under the broiler for a quick reheat and served them with butter and home-made plum jam.  I couldn’t have been happier.  They were fabulous.  I want to make them again right now.  And maybe tomorrow too.  And maybe the next day too?

Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits adapted by Rose Levy Beranbaum from the Pie and Pastry Bible
yeilds 9 2-1/2 by 2-inch high biscuits (though mine yielded 19 smaller biscuits)

The recipe recommends using a #30 (2 Tablepoon) cookie scoop, but I think that may actually be too small, as it yielded twice as many biscuits!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cold vegetable shortening (I used Spectrum organic)
  • 1-1/4 liquid cups heavy cream or buttermilk (or a combo) (I used all cream)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour for coating
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan or an 8-inch square pyrex dish.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and set an oven rack at the middle level.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Add the shortening in 1-teaspoon-size pieces and, with your fingertips, work the shortening into the flour until pea-size or smaller.  Mix in the cream and/or buttermilk.  The mixture will be very soft, like mashed potatoes.  Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes; it will stiffen slightly.

Place 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a small pan.  Using a #30 cookie scoop, or a large spoon, scoop out a biscuit-size lump of wet dough (a heaping spoonful) and drop it onto the flour.  Sprinkle the top lightly with some of the flour, then pick up the biscuit and shape it into a round, gently shaking off any excess flour.  (Hold the biscuit in your left hand, with your fingers partially closed so that thumb and index finger form the letter C;  with your right hand, tamp down the top of the dough so that the biscuit is 1 inch high and 2 inches in diameter.)


As soon as it is shaped, place the biscuit in the baking pan.  Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the biscuits snugly up against each other so that the soft dough rises up instead of spreading sideways.

Brush the biscuits with the melted butter and place them in the oven.  Immediately raise the heat to 500 degrees and bake for 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to 475 degrees and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly brown.  Allow the biscuits to cool in the pan for 1-2 minutes before unmolding them onto a plate.  Split the biscuits in half, preferably using a fork.


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A couple of weeks ago, Scott and I found ourselves working the day shift together for a full week and a half.  And you know what that means?  It means dinner together, every night.  And do you know how rare that is?  Very rare. So the Monday before it all began, we plotted out our week in dinners.  Call us nerds, if you must, but I thought it was brilliant.  Wednesday was going to be our day off, and so we declared it Fried Chicken Wednesday.  And oh, how we looked forward to it.  And oh, was it worth it!  It’s pathetically easy to make really.  good.  chicken. And Scott has got it nailed.

It looks a little something like this.

Scott’s Fried Chicken

First he cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces, and liberally salted the pieces with kosher salt.  Then they hung out in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, I picked some sage and marjoram from the garden.  Scott poured about a cup of buttermilk into a zip-lock bag, added the herbs, a chili pod, salt, and two huge garlic cloves, gently smashed.

P5200044Then he added the chicken pieces to the bag ‘o’ buttermilk, smushed it all around, and left them to marinate for the day.

P5200046When dinner time rolled around, we poured about 2-3 inches of vegetable oil into our 8-quart dutch oven, and heated it to 350 degrees. (Yes, we love our thermometer and use it all the time!).

As the oil heated, he poured all-purpose flour into a 9×11 pyrex baking dish, removed the chicken from the buttermilk, and coated the pieces in the flour.  Then he set them on a tray to wait for “the plunge”. (By the way, he also removed the sage leaves from the marinade, and coated them in the flour too.  Brilliant, really.)

When the oil was hot, he added three pieces of chicken (adding too much chicken will cool down the oil too much) and fried them, turning them as needed, until they were done.  You can check to see if they’re done by poking a paring knife in to the center of the meat.  If the juice runs clear, they’re done.  On to the serving platter they went with a sprinkling of salt.

Oh gosh.  It was good.  Really good.  And the battered sage leaves……….


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Oh Nelly

So, first there was…

p5060090…and then there was…

p5060093…and in went some… (buttermilk)

p5060094…vroom, vroom…

p5060096…add the mint and the ice…

p5060099…Oh Nelly.

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