Making Butter...

I was in an organic food store, looking for a good cream.  I had two different brands in my hand and was comparing ingredients, where it was produced, when this women started speaking to me about local dairy farmers and getting cream right from the source.  The conversation naturally turned (or if my husband was writing this, he would replace the word "turned" with "churned"...) to butter.   She asked if I had made any at home.  I wrinkled up my forehead and she proceeded to inform me that all it took was a Kitchenaid mixer, good cream, a little salt, some cheese cloth and several flour sack towels.    

When I got home, I took to Google to see what i had been missing.   Sure enough, it was all there.   So I set out to make some butter. 

A few tips on this process. 

First - you won't save any money.   You will get about a pound of butter from your quart of heavy cream.   So your sale butter at Walmart or Copps or Safeway is more economical.  So if you carefully source your cream, what you do get is knowing exactly where your cream came from.  For some farmers, you can even know what the cows ate....so you know what you are eating.   A bonus, you will get about a cup of buttermilk.  REAL buttermilk, not the added creamy kind of buttermilk that is mass produced.   

Second - Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze your butter.  Get the most buttermilk out of your butter. It will improve the viscosity so you can cook with it.   You want as little liquid left in the solids as humanly possible.  Adding the cultured buttermilk to the cream prior to churning assist in helping the fat globules bind together.  The acids from the buttermilk also help provide flavor.  

Finally, the salt content in the butter is totally in your control.  Just a dash is sufficient.  

So here we go: 

Pour one quart of heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer.  
Add 1 TBS of cultured buttermilk. 

Using the whisk attachment, starting on low speed, start churching the liquid.  You will slowly increase the speed to high.  Before doing this, you will need to cover the mixer with several dish clothes to prevent splattering every surface in your kitchen.   I used a splatter shield as well, but that only slightly helped.  The towels are really important.  

If you peak, you will notice that the consistency of the cream, once it moves from that "whipped cream" appearance, will turn quickly.   First it will look chunky, then it will begin to seize and you will see the buttermilk separating from the solids.   Again, this is really where the towels come in handy.  

Once the cream seizes, you will want to turn off the machine and remove the buttermilk from the mixture.   Set it aside.  You can turn the mixer back on for a little bit longer, help bring the solids together.  

Remove the solids from the bowl and (this is very important) WASH the butter.  First form a ball out of the solids.  I do this by putting the solids onto a cheese cloth and drawing them up into the ball.   Then place the ball into a bowl of very cold butter, squeezing until the clear water turns cloudy.   Dump out the cloudy water and add more cold water to the bowl.  Do this several times.   If you omit this part, your butter may go rancid faster.  

Once all of the liquid has been squeezed out, you can wrap into waxed paper or saran wrap.   Store in the refrigerator.  

It is not as difficult as it may appear and once you have done it, it gets easier every time.  

Try experimenting with flavoring your butter as well.  You can do this at the end, after you squeeze. 

Have fun!


Avocado and Boiled Egg Sandwiches

I spent last week in Utah on vacation! visiting my daughter! her husband and lots of good friends.  Our vacations always involve food, which makes for an enriching visit.   On one occasion, the topic turned to our parents and their choice of foods when a friend divulged that his father (now in his 90s) fended for himself one evening by preparing an avocado and hard boiled egg sandwich.   I have to confess right off the bat here that the single sandwich contained an entire avocado and an enormously large number of boiled eggs.   My husband did not particularly find this combination to be appealing, but a little taste bud alert went off inside my head and I thought, why did I not ever think to put these two together?  I love hard boiled eggs (actually, I love eggs period...soft boiled, poached, basted, fried,meta).  I love avocado.  Sliced, mashed, you name it.  So why not out the two together.

On returning from vacation, I proceeded to start on my exploration of the egg-avocado combo.  The first concoction was an avocado and egg salad.   The combination of the combined avocado and egg mash was fabulous.   Their textures worked well together.  Adding chopped scallion and cilantro gave an effective crunch, brightness factor needed; as did the lemon juice with the mayo, combined with the requisite salt and pepper.

This set me off to explore the idea of deconstructing the mash I had just made.   Loving poached eggs, I came up with the idea to try a poached egg, avocado and bacon sandwich on a buttery, light croissant.   Using a chipotle aioli as the base on the croissant, I layered avocado slices, poached egg and bacon, making sure that the poached egg was perfectly cooked so as not to be too runny, but a thick sauce that combined with the aioli created a perfect sauce to the dish.  Another success!

Finally, the other day, I was not feeling all that well and exerting effort to prepare anything was at the bottom of my energy list.   Having avocado, hard boiled eggs and nuts on hand, I proceeded to simply slice the avocado and eggs, drizzling over some olive oil, lemon juice, sprinkling with a bit salt and pepper.  It was the perfect lunch for my aching body.

Contrary to legend, both avocado and eggs contain essential nutrients that are highly beneficial to our bodies and the so-called "fat" aversion in avocado or high cholesterol label to eggs have been reevaluated to our benefit.

In brief, avocados are high in fiber, vitamins k, B6 and c.  In addition, they are known to aide in cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, in addition to being a component with anti-cancer benefits.

Eggs are high in cholesterol, but the good cholesterol our bodies need.  Yolks are the best dietary source of B complex vitamins and their choline content aide in fetal brain development, as well as the bodies production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

So what's stopping you?   

Avocado and Egg Salad

1 Avocado, mashed
3 hard boiled eggs, mashed
2-3 T mayonnaise
1 T chopped cilantro
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine Mashed egg and avocado.  In small bowel, combine mayo, cilantro, g onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add mayo mix to egg and avocado.    Season to taste.   

Avocado, Egg and Bacon Croissant Sandwich

1 avocado, slices
1 poached egg
3 sliced of thick sliced peppered bacon
1 tomato, sliced
1 croissant, sliced
Chipotle Aioli 

Spread croissant with aioli, layer tomato, avocado, bacon onto croissant.   Top with poached egg and croissant.


Thai Coconut Peanut Chicken - Crockpot Style

Original Inspiration via RachelSchultz.com
Skinny Thai Peanut Chicken
I was puttering around the house one morning, fretting over what I could possibly make for dinner.   I was not smart and did not pull anything out of the freezer to thaw.  In addition, heading out to the store just was not on my list of to-dos for the dinner.   I vacillated over just having sandwiches or not even caring.  I feel guilty about those choices and thought what could I put in the crockpot that would thaw and not turn out weird.   I remembered a recipe I had come across that might work and pulled it out.  It was for a Skinny Thai Peanut Chicken in the crockpot.   I noticed while looking it over that there were a few things I did not have, but possible substitutes just might work, so I set about really creating my own, but using the recipe as a guide for amounts and combinations.

Worried about whether this was going to work, about half-way through the process, I went upstairs to check on it, stir it up and then take a taste.  Oh my goodness.....it worked and worked so well, I didn't want to wait for dinner.  But I did wait.   This is really great.  Try it.   Tom put it on the regular rotation list!  Cant wait to make it for the kids the next time they are home.

A shout out to RachelSchultz.com for the inspiration!

Here it goes....

Thai Coconut Peanut Chicken – Crockpot Style

2-3 cups cooked chicken (or 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
¾ c chunky peanut butter
1-2 T lime juice (one whole fresh lime, squeezed) – can use key lime juice as a substitute
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
3 T soy sauce
1 -2 t cumin (depending on your taste)
1 T cilantro
1-2 T crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your taste)

Chopped Green Onion
Chopped lightly salted peanuts
Chopped fresh cilantro

Layer into the crockpot the following:
Green/Red Pepper

In a small bowl add peanut butter, lime juice, coconut milk, soy sauce, cumin, cilantro (tube) and red pepper flakes.  Whisk together until well combined.  Taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly.    Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the crockpot. 

Place the lid on and cook on low setting for 3-4 hours.   Make sure to stir your mixture at least once during the cooking process,  to incorporate the flavors and distribute for even cooking.   You should have a nice “gravy” that will work well served over rice.

Serve over rice with the green onions, peanuts and fresh cilantro as garnish. 

Printable Thai Coconut Peanut Chicken - Crockpot Style


'Smore's Dip - Does it Work or Is it a Fail?

Original Pinterest Pin
Courtesy of Dessert For Two
Another Pinterest Try - Will this fail,  how good is it really?  

I can tell you it looked awfully good and it was a cold weekend afternoon and we were craving something sweet.    I thought, what the heck, why not?

It worked, I mean it really worked.  It was fabulous.  Maybe too fabulous!   Tom had to cut himself off; I could only eat about three graham crackers worth.  The blessing in this recipe, the longer it sits, then the chocolate firms up and you have to reheat it, which really helps you not over do it.  BUT keep in mind, there were just two of us eating this.  If you have a family or friends over of 4 or more. There won't be any left to reheat and it will be gone long before it cools down enough to firm up!

This is definitely a keeper recipe!

Smore’s Dip

Approximate 1-2 c of chocolate chips – your choice. 
Approximately 10-16 full-size marshmallows, cut in half.
            Or you can use 1-2 c of mini-marshmallows.
Graham Crackers for dipping.

Using an 8 inch cast iron pan, prepared and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, pour your chocolate chips into the bottom of the pan, spreading evenly around.   

Top with the marshmallows.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for approximately 8 minutes, until tops of the marshmallows are golden brown and the chocolate is melted.

Tips – if you want a greater amount of marshmallow (as you would in a ‘Smore – don’t halve the full-size marshmallows.  If you want less ‘mallow, than use the mini-marshmallows or the halved, full-sized ones. 

The thicker the layer of chips, the longer it will take to melt and you might burn your marshmallow.

Leftover and need to reheat – just place a piece of tinfoil over the top of the pan and heat through for 8-10 minutes.   Your ‘mallows wont burn and the chocolate will melt!


Buttermilk White Bread

I am a bread maker.   I gained this skill from my mother.  I will forever be grateful and so will my husband and children!   I have a recipe I regularly use for bread, that has been passed on from my grandmother, made by her mother, and her mother and so it goes.    Every now and then, however, I come across a recipe that is just a little different that I need to try!  And so it is with this one.  

What captivated me by this recipe was the use of buttermilk.   Now, its not that I thought, wow, buttermilk in a yeast bread recipe, let's try that....honestly?  I had an entire 1/2 quart of buttermilk left over from holiday baking that if I didn't use up, it was going to turn quick and thought, what can I do with 4 cups of buttermilk?   I saw this recipe and thought, now that sounds good and voila.   It was shear necessity that perked my interest.  

I made it, I/we (especially the husband) loved it and had bread for the entire week!   I will make this recipe purposefully next time.  Wont give up grandma's but this will be a good variation on the theme!

Yields 4 loaves. 

Buttermilk White Bread

2 pkgs yeast (4-1/2 t )
2 t sugar
1/2 c warm water
4 c warm buttermilk
2/3 c honey
1/2 c butter, melted and cooled as to not be too hot to kill years
2 t salt
12 c white flour (approximately)

Mix sugar, yeast and warm water.  Set aside for a few minutes to let yeast activate.  You can use quick rising yeast as well.  

In a large mixing bowl, mix room buttermilk (I warm up the buttermilk in the microwave, just to take the chill off), honey, salt together.  Add the yeast mixture and stir together.   

Add 3-5 cups of flour and mix until smooth.  Continue adding flour until a sticky dough begins to form.  (You can use an electric stand mixer with a kneading paddle.  If using this method, when the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl) Remove the dough to a floured surface.  

Knead until elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes.  Continue to add flour, as needed.  The dough will feel elastic, still slightly wet, but smooth.  

Place the dough into a prepared bowl (buttered) and butter the top of the dough.  Cover with a warm wet flour sack towel and allow to rise until double.   I preheat my oven to 200 degrees, then turn off as I place the bowel into the oven to rise.  This aids in keeping the yeast activated and moving and cuts the rising time down.  This process will take approximately 1 - 1-1/2 hours.  For quick acting yeast, about 30 minutes.  

Punch down.  Cut dough in half, then half again, having four pieces to form into loaves.   Form your loaves and place into greased bread pans.  Let rise for an additional hour in the pans.  

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes.  This will depend on your oven!  Keep an eye after 25 minutes.  I recommend aluminum pans versus dark pans.  They brown more evenly and there is better heat conduction and control.  

When tops are lightly brown and bread sounds "hollow" when knocked, remove from oven onto rack.  Brush tops with butter.  Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Turn out of pan onto rack and cool completely.   Covering loaves will give you a soft crust.  Leaving loaves uncovered during the cooling process will produce a crispier crust.  


Spicy Chipotle Chili

I usually have a standard chili recipe that I use - have for over 20 years.  I rarely deter from it.   This last week, we were homebound, due to weather and with the bitter cold, going out and fetching for a few items just was not on the radar.   I was hungry for chili though and scoured the pantry.   I had made soup the day before and my favorite pot was in the outside fridge, so I had to find an alternative.   A friend had recently commented she had made her chili in her crockpot, so I thought, why not.  Now mind you, I am not a big crockpot person.  Its use, for me, has been confined to reheating and transporting, so this was another stretch from my comfort zone.   The recipe below is the result.

Mind you, my husband loves it, but he loves spicy food.  I loved it, but next time, for me (and as I have noted in the recipe) the fewer chipotles, the less spicy.

Spicy Chipotle Chili – Crockpot style

1.5 lbs ground beef (80/20) – I usually make this with 1.5 lbs of beef chunks, cut small, seasoned and slightly browned. 
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 med sweet onion chopped
2-3 T garlic paste
2 cans chili beans
I small can tomato sauce
3-4 chipotle peppers with sauce (I originally used a small can, with sauce.  As the chili cooked, it was apparent the chili was going to be tremendously spicy - so I removed over half the chili's).  
2 T paprika (season to taste)
2 T cumin (season to taste)
1-2 t kosher salt (season to taste)
1 T crushed oregano
1 t pepper
1 T sugar.

Crumble uncooked ground beef into crockpot.  Add, tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic, chili beans, tomato sauce and chipotle peppers with sauce into crockpot.  Sprinkle in paprika, cumin, salt, oregano, pepper and sugar.  Stir slightly.  Place lid onto crockpot, set to low.   If using the crumbled ground beef - Check on chili after first hour, to stir and break down the meat.   Cook for 6-8 hours, depending on crockpot. 

This is a HOT chili.  The number of chipotle peppers in sauce you use will determine the heat.  The more, the hotter.  It has a rich, almost BBQ flavor. 

Condiments:  Sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, green onions and crackers.



Buffalo Bleu Chicken Soup

Its been cold.   Very cold.   One of the "pros" when deciding to move to Missouri 2 years ago, was that the Show Me state had a more moderate climate.   Tell that to old man winter this year.  Today, the high is -4 with a windchill between -25 and -30.  Hello?   When did that become moderate?   Thankfully, the native Wisconsin blood that pulses through this body knows how to feed a half frozen family - its called soups and stews!

So when searching on pinterest for a new recipe (sorry kids, I wasn't in a corn chowder mood), I came across a picture for a Buffalo Chicken Soup.   I followed the links, but they were dead - to just pics and no recipe.  I turned to google ands struck gold.  

Buffalo Bleu Chicken Soup
This soup, adapted from several different recipes I found (isn't that how it always goes), reminded me of a dear friend back in Wisconsin.   We share a love of bleu cheese, gorgonzola, the really creamy, danish and very bleu of them all.   What makes this recipe - is the bleu cheese at the end.  My husband does not share our love for this type of cheese and he still enjoyed it immensely, but really, if you are a bleu cheese lover, try it without and then with and you will understand completely when I say, it's a creamy, tangy and zippier soup with, than without!

So for Forrest, here is the recipe:

Buffalo Bleu Chicken Soup

Serves 4

1/2 c uncooked orzo pasta
1 T olive oil
1/4 c sweet onion, chopped
1 T garlic paste or chunky garlic paste 
2 c (approximately) baby carrots, cut in half
1 T Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (I buy a large container of the mix, instead of the envelopes)
3 T Cilantro  (you can use fresh or I also use Gourmet Garden as well, depending on the quality of fresh available)
32 oz of Chicken Stock (not broth)
2/3 c your favorite brand of hot sauce
2 T butter
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked chicken (I buy one of the rotisserie chickens, pull the meat off and then use it through the week.  Great Bargin at usually 5-6$!)
1/4 c green onions, chopped
1/4 c bleu cheese, crumbled.   For this recipe, I used a buttermilk Bleu - it was fabulous.

Cook orzo in already boiling, salted water, til partially cooked, approximately 3 minutes.   Drain and put aside until later.  

Heat olive in heavy soup-stew pot.  (A type of cast-iron stew pot works great).   Saute onion for a few minutes.  Add garlic paste and half the green onions.  Cook for a few more minutes, til onion is translucent.

Add carrots.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add ranch dressing mix and cilantro.  Stir togethers.

Add chicken stock, hot sauce, cheddar and parmesan cheese.    Stir together.  Add chicken.    Bring entire mix to a simmer.   Reduce heat and simmer 10 minute.  Carrots will be tender, but still have a crunch.

Serve with condiments (this is where the bleu cheese comes in play) - green onions and crumbled bleu cheese.

Printable Buffalo Bleu Chicken Soup