Thursday, February 26, 2015

Homemade Mayonnaise

I am often thankful that I have a very do-it-myself kind of mindset. When I wanted my kitchen remodeled, I gathered as many details and tutorials as possible, the dug in and did it myself. I also have a I'll-finish-it-later mindset at times, which is why my kitchen still isn't finished, after a year and a half, but that's beside the point...

Sometimes this do-it-myself-ness applies to food, which is always fun. Making my own bread has become second-nature. I recently started making my own pasta. Occasionally I do homemade tortillas. There are lots of things that are typically purchased at the store that can actually be made pretty easily and inexpensively at home.

Today, I wanted to make sandwiches for lunch. I got out the (deliciously homemade) bread, lunchmeat, cheese, pickles, and lettuce. Then I looked for the mayo, only to find that there wasn't any! What to do?! We never run out of mayo! Well, I was too lazy to put away all the sandwich fixings and come up with something else for lunch. But not too lazy to look up a recipe and make my own mayonnaise.

It was super easy. Mayonnaise basically just needs egg, acid, flavor, and oil. For the oil, I used mostly extra-virgin olive oil (store brand, of course) combined with some vegetable oil. It made for a very strongly olive oil-flavored mayo. I thought that might be a problem, as I have been raised on store bought mayo with its mild flavor, but on the sandwiches the flavor was diluted enough to be quite pleasant. Still, if the flavor is too strong, light olive oil could be used, or just less olive and more vegetable or canola. All in all, my homemade mayo was a successful venture.

Super yummy with some ground black pepper

Homemade Mayonnaise
(from What's That Smell?)
1 egg
2 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard (or whatever seasoning you'd like)
3/4 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil)

Place all the ingredients except the oil in the blender and blend on high for 10 seconds. Reduce speed then slowly pour olive oil in through the top and blend until thick. Store in refrigerator. Mayo will last 2-4 weeks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I've been seriously enjoying my sourdough starter lately. You can just do so much with sourdough! I keep trying to find new recipes to try, because the starter needs to be drained and fed every few days. I simply refuse to throw away the starter that I drain off, so I just have to make fun and delicious foods with it instead. Oh so difficult. ;)

My latest sourdough adventure was this delicious chocolate cake. The batter was fun - it looked just like instant chocolate pudding, and tasted similar to pudding too. Yes, I tasted the batter. I licked the beaters, the spatula, the bowl. It was fantastic. I regret nothing.

I topped the cake with a basic cream cheese frosting, and it complimented the cake well. Both the cake and the frosting were sweet with a little bit of a tang, and it was a great combination.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 2/3 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup sourdough starter (recipe here)
3/4 cup cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x13 baking pan.

Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and salt.

Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Blend in sourdough starter. Add sifted ingredients slowly to creamed mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in water and vanilla, and mix well.

 Pour batter into greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan.

 Bake for 35 minutes, or until done.

Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing until smooth and creamy.

I left the cake in the pan and only frosted the top. That way I only used about two-thirds of the frosting, and could keep the leftover frosting in the fridge. Because, let's face it, there are certainly worse things than having a cup or two of cream cheese frosting sitting around waiting to be used. So convenient for delicious snacking...

Think Tank Thursday

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sourdough Adventures

Several years ago, I kept a sourdough starter for a while. I wasn't very good at making bread with the recipe that I had (I kept trying to add too much flour, and ended up with rock-hard bread every time), and eventually the starter was neglected into oblivion.

But recently, I started myself a new starter. I'm much more experienced with bread baking now, and have been turning out some lovely loaves of delicious sourdough bread. My kids really like having a sourdough starter, I've told them it's like "pet yeast" because we have to feed it and take care of it just as if it were a pet. But mostly they just really like all the stuff I make with it.

Before, I used to keep my starter in a pitcher in the fridge, and only pull it out to use every once in a while. Nowadays, fridge space is a valuable commodity, and there's just not room in there for a container of sourdough starter. So I keep it in an open cabinet, up high enough that the kids won't bother it, but visible enough that I can check on it and remember that it's there and needs to be used frequently.

See, there it is on the top shelf in the old ice cream bucket. Lots of people store their starter in a jar, but I like a container with plenty of space to stir the starter when I feed it. And I promise that someday I will get around to making doors for my cabinets. Let's just ignore the fact that this cabinet has been waiting for doors for over a year...

I'll share the same recipe I shared six years ago, just because. This particular starter uses flour, water, and yeast. I've seen starters that use only flour and water, taking advantage of the wild yeast that is found naturally in flour. But I didn't know about that type until I'd already had my starter for a while, and I'm not going to throw away a perfectly good starter just because I learned there's another kind. :)

Sourdough Starter
2 cups chlorine-free water (let tap water sit out on the counter for a while)
1 tbsp. yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine all ingredients. Use glass, plastic, or earthenware container. Metal is a no-no for sourdough starter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 48 hours, until it foams and develops a pleasantly sour smell. At this point you can cover loosely and store in the fridge, like I used to do, or just leave it at room temperature, making sure every 2-4 days to either use or drain some of the starter (I always use it, I'm too tightwad to discard perfectly good sourdough starter), and then feed it.

For feeding the starter, I use equal amounts flour and water. I add back 3/4 of the amount I removed. For example, if I remove 1 cup of starter, I feed the rest of the starter with 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup flour.

Sometimes the starter will separate, with a layer of liquid on top. That liquid is called the hooch. I just stir it in really well before using the starter.

Here's the recipe I've been using to make bread. It's simple, you don't have to make a sponge, it doesn't call for additional yeast. It turns out quite delicious.

Sourdough Bread
1 cup water
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups sourdough starter
4 to 5 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve the salt in the water in a mixing bowl. Add the starter, and then the flour (only as much as necessary to make a soft dough). Knead into a ball. Cover with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature.

The next morning, punch down risen dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a round loaf, make an X-shaped slash on each top, and place the two loaves on a greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise at room temperature for about four more hours. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

I have also made this successfully in loaf pans (as shown above), and without the pan of water. Baking time and temp is still the same.

Sourdough bread is great and wonderful, but I don't need to make it every 2-4 days. So when I need to use/feed the starter, I have discovered several different things to make using sourdough starter. Isn't the internet awesome like that? Here are some of the things I've made since I started doing sourdough a few weeks ago:


I changed the recipe to use cinnamon chips instead of chocolate chips. I can't wait to try it with chocolate sometime. These cookies were very unique, and enjoyable. The texture was more bread-like than most cookies, almost like a biscuit. The flavor was sweet and tangy. If I weren't watching my calorie intake, these little guys could become quite addictive.

(recipe here)

I guess my starter is quite a bit less wet than the starter in the recipe, because I had to almost double the starter in order to go from crumbs in the food processor to dough. But once the dough was made, it was extremely easy to work with, and the naan turned out yummy. I made miniature naan, forming the dough into 16 small balls instead of the 8 called for.

English Muffins

I've made these sourdough English muffins twice now, and they've been delicious each time. I start the sponge in the evening, then mix up the dough in the morning to cook up the muffins for breakfast. They're delicious with butter and scrambled eggs, or topped with jam. Any leftovers are good split down the middle and toasted. They don't form huge nooks and crannies like store-bought muffins, but the flavor is wonderful.

I've found that pretty much anything you to which you add sourdough starter develops a wonderful flavor. It's tangy and rich, and downright awesome! That said, I have pinned several more recipes which I am eager to try. Pancakes, waffles, brownies, cake, donuts, cookie bars, muffins - the possibilities are endless! Here's my sourdough Pinterest board for anyone interested.

I do apologize for the poor quality of the pictures in this post. I admit that this post might have been an afterthought... And I can't find my real camera so for most of the pictures, I had to use my husband's little tablet to take some last-minute pictures in poor lighting.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Cranberry Oat Eggnog Muffins

Good morning, my poor little neglected blog! Let's start the day off with some delicious muffins, shall we?

It's shopping day, so the fridge is pretty bare. Lately, with homeschooling my kids, I've been taking the easy way out of breakfast, with just cold cereal or maybe branching out to scrambled eggs. Not necessarily the cheapest solution, but definitely fast and easy. However, today we were out of cereal, and had only two eggs. I thought about doing oatmeal, my other recent standby, but was kind of bored with that. So I put on my not-so-lazy pants and made muffins instead.

I made these using the universal muffin formula that I've posted before. I've never had a batch fail using this formula (except once when I forgot oil, and the muffins turned out rather tough). Formula cooking isn't for everyone, some prefer specific ingredients and amounts. But I actually really like recipes that I can play with to come up with new variations. In fact, I rarely follow recipes exactly as written, so formula recipes work really well for me.

Anyway, this was a delicious muffin, full of dried cranberries and oats, with a hint of eggnog flavor. Later in the year, this combo would be great for the holidays.

Cranberry Oat Eggnog Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 cup eggnog
1 egg
Additional sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pan.

Stir together flours, oats, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cranberries. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggnog, and egg. Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.

Divide the batter evenly between twelve muffin cups in prepared pan. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp. additional sugar over each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove to cooling rack immediately.

We liked these split through the middle and spread with butter. Jam would also be good, or even just eat them plain.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Acorn Squash Casserole

This is one of those awesomely sneaky recipes. It's called a casserole and served as a side dish, but it actually tastes like a dessert. Reminiscent of those delightful candied yams or sweet potato casseroles served alongside turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving, this acorn squash casserole has a wonderfully sweet autumnal flavor. I found the recipe over at, where it was titled "Heavenly Squash Casserole." I have to agree, this stuff is heavenly.

Sorry about the picture, it was an afterthought. It wasn't until after dinner that I decided I needed to post this recipe so I could have it available whenever I wanted it. So I scooped out another serving just for the picture. Then I ate it. Of course. Can't let it go to waste. :)

Acorn Squash Casserole
(adapted from
2 large acorn squash
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, softened
4 tsp. vanilla, divided
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
2/3 cup flour
1 cup pecans, chopped (didn't have these, but they would have been an amazing addition)

Split each squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down in two large baking dishes. Unless you have one large enough for all four halves. Then by all means use that one. Add 1/4 inch water around the squashes. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until tender. Scoop out squash into large bowl and beat with mixer or potato masher until smooth.

Add sugar, butter, and 2 tsp. vanilla to the squash. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat together the remaining 2 tsp. vanilla and eggs. Add to the squash mixture and mix thoroughly. Place in a greased 2 qt. baking dish or 9x13 pan.

Combine topping ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle over top of squash mixture in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

This is great served on its own, but topping it with whipped cream takes it to a whole new level. Just saying.

Linking to:
Think Tank Thursday 
Link Party Palooza
Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dutch Oven Apricot Chicken

I made those snickerdoodle bars again, that same evening, at a campout for a dutch oven dessert cookoff. And because of all the extra heat in the fire pit where the ovens were, and because I didn't check on the cookie bars as early as I should have, I burned the bottom to a crisp. That having been only the second time I've ever cooked with a dutch oven, I wasn't too embarrassed or devastated or anything, I just scraped the bottom off and served the bars anyway.

I thought I was over it, and okay with it. But when I decided I wanted to plan a dutch oven meal to cook and eat this week, I kind of froze. Recipes I had looked at before and wanted to try suddenly looked too complicated, too easy for me to mess up. I was scared to try again. It took some facebook encouragement from my aunt and a couple friends to get me feeling okay again. I found a very simple recipe to try and wrote it on the menu calendar for today.

Then it rained all morning, and I thought I'd have to put it off until tomorrow. Luckily, by early evening the rain had stopped and the cement in the backyard had dried enough that I was able to go ahead and light up the coals.

I'm so glad I was able to get over my nervousness and give the dutch oven another try. This apricot chicken (again, from Dutch Oven Madness) was very easy to prepare and cook, and turned out very good. For one thing, it's just beautiful. And of course, the flavor is yummy - tangy, with bits of fruit from the jam and onion from the soup mix. I would not be opposed to making this again sometime.

Dutch Oven Apricot Chicken
12" dutch oven
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup apricot jam (I used apricot pineapple jam that my aunt made, super yummy)
1 cup catalina or french salad dressing (I used french, because the store I went to didn't have catalina in the generic brand)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. onion soup mix

Place chicken in your dutch oven. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Easy peasy! I will say that my chicken didn't take the full hour to cook, it was done at about 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness before the full time has passed.

I served this over reconstituted potato shreds, the kind that comes in a food storage can. I was considering doing rice, but we've had chicken and rice a lot in the last few days, and wanted something different. Just in case anyone was wondering what that weird-looking stuff under the chicken is. :)

I used the Dinwiddie ring method for achieving the correct heat, coal counting works too if that's what you prefer. I had to add a few coals about halfway through as they got smaller. I thought that would be hard to figure out, but I just started more coals than I needed, kept the ones I didn't use right away all together so they would stay hot, and just tucked them in where needed. For longer cooking times, like several hours, I might start a new batch of coals partway through to replenish coals as they go out.

Mmm, look at that chicken swimming in all that tangy sweet sauce!

Linking to:
Think Tank Thursday
Link Party Palooza 
Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dutch Oven Snickerdoodle Bars

We recently had our bi-annual family reunion. At these reunions, there is always a big auction, where everyone contributes items to sell and the proceeds go toward funding the next reunion. It's kind of a big deal in our family. I posted about this a few years ago here.

Anyway, Jeff and I had a lot of fun at this year's auction, and got all sorts of neat stuff. Our biggest purchase was a dutch oven. It's a 12-inch, 8-quart dutch oven that has obviously been properly cared for and beautifully seasoned. The thing is, I've never cooked anything in a dutch oven. So I've been reading everything online that I can find about how to cook with and care for dutch ovens, and I was finally ready today to give it a try!

This recipe came from a great blog for anyone interested in using a dutch oven. Toni decided that she wanted to try something new, so she committed to cooking in her dutch oven(s) every day for an entire year! Wow! Her first month or two of recipes include helpful tips of things that she was learning along the way, and she has a few other resources scattered throughout that were helpful and encouraging. Plus she graded almost every recipe so you know what was really good and what wasn't good at all. Most of the recipes rated either a B or an A. These cookie bars received an A.

Dutch Oven Snickerdoodle Bars
(from Dutch Oven Madness)
12" dutch oven
2 1/3 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon Filling:
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tbsp. milk

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the sugars until fully incorporated. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.

Spread half of the batter on the bottom of a greased 12" dutch oven. Mix together the cinnamon filling ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining batter in teaspoonfuls over the cinnamon filling. Don't worry about it not completely covering the filling - everything will spread out in the oven and have a great marbled look.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, then mix together the glaze ingredients (adding more milk if it's too thick, or more sugar if it's too thin) and drizzle over the top of the bars.

There are different ways to get the dutch oven to the temperature you want. One popular method is coal counting - for a 12" oven to cook at 350 you would want 16 coals on top and 10 on the bottom. But this doesn't take into account the size of the coals - some are bigger than others. Toni at Dutch Oven Madness prefers the Dinwiddie Ring method, because it allows you to accurately cook with any size coals and makes it so you don't have to count. I chose to use this method and it was easy to figure out, and the bars baked up beautifully.

Dinnwiddie ring method - one ring of coals on the bottom, one and a half rings on top to achieve approximately 350 degrees.

Actually, my cookie bars were slightly undercooked, but that's because I jumped the gun and didn't actually test them for doneness with a toothpick. They could have used a few more minutes, but even underdone, they tasted incredible, and I'm so excited to try more recipes! I don't think I'll be cooking in the dutch oven every single day, but I can say for certain that my new toy will not be put away in a closet only to be brought out for camping. It's too easy and too fun to only be used once or twice a year!

Linking to:
Link Party Palooza
Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Think Tank Thursday