Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cultured Butter - Less than an Hour Hands on Time

Flipping through my America's Test Kitchen DIY cookbook, I found a recipe for cultured butter that sounded intriguing. Adding yogurt into the cream introduces bacteria which gives it some tang. I was surprised how easy it was. When I make my family's Christmas cookies this year (Vanilla Kipfels) I may try using homemade butter.


4 c. heavy cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt (the recipe recommends Stonyfield Farms Greek Yogurt - I used the lowfat one.
1/4 tsp. salt  (optional)


  1.  Make sure the cream and yogurt are at room temperature. Place the two in a large container, cover, and shake well. Remove the container and cover with a kitchen towel. Leave out in a location around 75 degrees for 18 to 48 hours until the mixture is thickened to the consistency of yogurt. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until the temperature of the mixtures is 60 degrees.
  2. Place 4 cups of ice water in the refrigerator (you'll need this after the cream is whipped.) Line a fine-mesh strainer with a triple layer of cheesecloth and place the strainer over a large bowl. 
  3. Place the cream mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Cover the stand mixer with plastic wrap - this is to prevent splatters, and there will be some! 
  4. Whip on high speed until the cream separates into butter and buttermilk. You'll see spatters starting to hit the plastic wrap. It took about 3 minutes to get to this stage for me. 
  5. Strain the butter through the cheesecloth. Push down gently with a spatula, then gather up the ends of the cheesecloth, gather the butter into a ball, and squeeze. The goal is to get rid of as much buttermilk as possible, as it can make the butter turn rancid quicker. 
  6. Place the butter into a large bowl. Pure 1/3 c. of ice water over the butter, and use a spatula to mash the butter against the side of the bowl. Drain the liquid and repeat a few more times until the water runs clear. 
  7. Transfer to a container for storage. I split my butter into two logs. One got wrapped in parchment and stored in the freezer. The other went into the fridge.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dried Herbs - From Garden to Jar in Under Five Minutes

I have an abundance of rosemary growing in my herb garden. While I'm glad that it's thriving so well, there's not much that you can do with a lot of it at once, since too much in a dish can be overpowering.

I decided to dry some of it. I found a great video online that demonstrates a quick way to dry herbs.

1. Lay the herbs in a single layer on a paper towel.

2. Cover with another paper towel and microwave for two minutes.

3. After microwaving, the herbs are very dry and brittle. Transfer them to a piece of parchment paper.

After microwaving, the herbs are dry and crush easily.
4. Pull the dried herbs from the stems (they should fall off easily) and crush between you fingers.
The parchment allows easy transfer to a jar.
5. Pick up the ends of the parchment and transfer the dried herbs into a clean, dry container.
6. Store, tightly sealed, in a cool, dark location.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Almond Mini Tarts

A friend of mine forwarded me a recipe for pecan pie tarts. It looked rather bland, but  a good starting point. After a few tweaks and substitutions, I came up with the recipe below. The almonds provide crunch, the edges are a little crisp, and the browned butter provides a great toasty flavor. This makes 18 tarts.


3/4 c.  almonds
1 stick of butter 
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. packed light brown,sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Dash cinnamon


  1. Grease 2 mini muffin tins. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Toast the almonds in  a dry skillet over medium heat until they are light brown and you can smell them. Remove from heat and place in a medium sized bowl. 
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter begins to brown and has a nutty aroma. Let cool slightly, then add to bowl with the almonds. 
  4. Stir in the flour, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and cinnamon into the almond-butter mixture until combined.
  5. Add to muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full. 
  6. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. 
  7. Let cool 15-20 minutes, and enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Orange Creamsicle in a Glass


1 c. Sierra Mist soda
2 shots Pinnacle Whipped vodka
1 shot orange juice


Mix ingredients in a glass with ice. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Aw Shucks - A Fast Way to Remove Corn Husks and Silk

Removing the husk and silk from corn can be a pain. The silk never comes completely off, even when you use one of those brushes, and then you're pulling it out of your teeth.

I found this video tip which uses the microwave to create steam between the corn and husk. You then just shake/squeeze the corn and it comes out, silk free. I tried it last night and it worked great! I then grilled the corn, which tasted great slathered with some butter. Try it next time you're going to make some corn!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vertically Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Butternut Squash

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken, approx. 4 lbs.
3/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. savory seasoning blend (I used Penzey's Northwoods seasoning, but any other savory blend, like Old Bay) would work.
1 Tbsp. olive oil

For the squash:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeds scraped out, and cut into 1 inch pieces.
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp.  savory seasoning blend.
1 Tbsp. olive oil


1. Add one gallon of water to a large bowl or pot. Whisk in the kosher salt until dissolved. Place the chicken in the bow/pot and refrigerate for four hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, loosen the skin around the breasts and legs. Rub 1 Tbsp. of the seasoning blend under the skin. Rub the olive oil over the chicken, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp. seasoning blend.

3. Place the chicken on a vertical roaster (or half full can of beer) in a large baking dish. Pour the chicken broth onto the bottom of the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

4.  Drizzle the cut butternut squashwith olive oil, sprinkle the brown sugar and seasoning blend and mix with your hands. Place in the roasting pan containing the chicken. Bake for another 20 minutes.

5. Raise the oven temperature to 450F. Bake the chicken and squash for another 20 minutes. (The total cooking time for the chicken is 1 hour; for the squash it's 40 minutes.)

6. Remove the baking dish from oven. Take chicken off of roaster/beer can and tent with foil. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then carve and serve with the squash.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pierogi Salad with Shaved Zucchini

I really like the combination of flavors and textures in this salad - the crunch of the raw zucchini, the tartness of the cranberries, and the warm, savory pierogi filling. Serve with your favorite dressing, although I think a balsamic vinaigrette would be best.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 box frozen pierogies
1 medium zucchini
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds
¼ c. dried cranberries
4 c. salad greens


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5-8 minutes, until the onion is starting to brown. 
  2. Add the pierogies to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they are heated through and beginning to brown. 
  3. Transfer onion and pierogi mixture to a plate to cool slightly. 
  4. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat until light brown (watch them, they can burn quickly!)
  5. Using a mandoline (or a sharp knife) cut the zucchini into 1/8 inch slices.
  6. Toss the onion and pierogi mixture, zucchini, almonds, cranberries, and salad greens in a large bowl. Add dressing and enjoy!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Broccoli Cheese Soup - Heavy on the Broccoli, Light on the Cheese

This soup, which accentuates the flavor of broccoli and doesn't cover it with an avalanche of cheese, is one of my favorites. It's fast, pretty healthy, and very tasty. I normally make it over the weekend and reheat it for a quick weeknight supper. It freezes well, too.

The baking soda, which sounds like an unusual ingredient, helps the broccoli to break down and release its sulfurous compounds. What's left behind is nutty and sweet tasting broccoli. The arugula (the original recipe calls for baby spinach) gives the soup a bright green color. 

(Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen)


  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces, stems trimmed (yes, they're edible!), peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
  •  Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Table salt
  • 3–4 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 loosely packed cups of arugula
  • 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated fine (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
  • Ground black pepper


1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides (about 5 minutes), add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking. The broccoli will be very mushy and seem overcooked - it's supposed to be this way.

Sauteing the Broccoli
2. Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer half of soup to blender, add cheddar and Parmesan, and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer soup to medium bowl and repeat with remaining soup. Return soup to Dutch oven, place over medium heat and bring to simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with up to 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling with extra Parmesan.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Zucchini Boats with Ricotta-Basil Filling

In a neverending attempt to add more vegetables into our diet, I've been researching zucchini recipes. I was trying to find something different, that didn't involve just slicing and sauteeing the zucchini. These were a great side dish - the zucchini had a nice crunch, and the savory, herb-filled filling contrasted nicely..

(Recipe adapted from


  • 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil
  • 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves 
  • 1/4 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. hot water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Penzey's Northwoods seasoning blend (optional) 


  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Slice the zucchini in half, lengthwise. Using a small spoon (I used a 1 tsp. measuring spoon) scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, leaving a 1/4 inch shell.
  3. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. 
  4. Place the basil, ricotta, parsley, mint, Parmesan, water, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse 5-10 times until the herbs are chopped and the other ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Scoop the ricotta mixture into the zucchini shells, pressing gently. Sprinkle with seasoning blend and place in the baking dish.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chicken Sausage, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts with Pesto

I love any meal that has roasted Brussels sprouts!

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 links Italian sausage (I used an organic chicken and sun-dried tomato sausage)
4 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 lb..Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 c. pesto (see this post for a quick and easy pesto recipe!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 
  2. Place the sausages, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet. Pour on the olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes and brussels sprouts are beginning to brown. 
  4. Let cool for five minutes, then slice the sausages in 1/4-inch thick rounds. 
  5. Place the sliced sausages, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss to combine. 
  6. Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Arugula Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette


4 c. arugula,
1 c. cooked couscous
2 Tbsp. toasted almonds.

2 Tbsp. pomegranate balsamic vinegar (mine is from Kalamazoo Olive Company )
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper.


Mix salad ingredients together in large bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad.

Simple but tasty!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baking Soda = Clean Oven Door

I recently ran the self-cleaning cycle on my oven. It got the inside of the oven perfectly clean, except for the glass on the door, which was still covered with brown and black spots and streaks. I found this tip online to clean the door and it worked great!

1. Combine 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 Tbsp. of water to create a thick paste.

2. Cover the oven door with the paste (I used my pastry brush to spread it over the glass.)

3. Leave it alone for 30 minutes.

4. Wash off the paste - using a sponge with a textured side for scrubbing will ensure that everything is removed.

That's it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Celebrate the New Year with Some Homemade Mozzarella

I received a cheese-making kit for Christmas, and since today is my last day off before heading back to work, I decided to try it out.

It couldn't be easier to make fresh mozzarella. You start by heating a gallon of milk and citric acid in a large pot. The acid helps move along the process of separating the curds (solids) in the milk from the whey (liquid). After the milk has heated for a few minutes, you add in rennet, which causes the milk to clot and separates the curds. The curds are removed from the whey, formed into a solid mass, then heated and stretched. Altogether, the process took about 30 minutes. I'm definitely doing this again!

If you're interested in a cheese-making kit, mine was from