Roughing It: Buttermilk-Peach Corn Bread

We had a half peck of peaches that I had been hoarding to take to New Hampshire with us. With this whole no power thing, we knew they would go really quickly. But honestly, what do you make when the power is out and all you have is a grill?

I did a lot of thinking, and then just started cutting until they were all taken care of, but I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. After some hemming and hawing and digging in the pantry I found my secret stash of powdered buttermilk and some cornmeal, and working up cornbread in the cast iron skillet seemed like the perfect solution.

 

Buttermilk-Peach Skillet Cornbread

Peaches
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup honey
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (or one buttermilk packet and 1 cup water)
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar

Peel and slice about 4 peaches and put the slices in the bottom of your cast iron skillet; drizzle honey on top to help caramelize. Chop remaining peaches and put them aside.

Mix dry ingredients together, and then incorporate the wet ingredients and the chopped peaches (minus the brown sugar). Pour mixture over peach slices, then top with brown sugar.

Throw in a hot grill until it looks done, about 30 minutes or so. Works as breakfast or dessert.

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Coffee Cake: “Summer-ized”

Cherries have always been something that I knew I could bring into the house and no matter where I set them, they were mine.  JGL swore up and down, “I don’t like cherries.”  Even after all of my cherry craze last year, he would not budge.  So when I splurged after playing with my favorite god-daughter last week and brought home local cherries, I had no fears about if they would suddenly go missing.  Those cherries were mine and mine alone!

Until I made the mistake of asking JGL to hold a handful for me on the porch while I got up to grab something.  When I came back he had a stem in one hand and a contemplative look on his face.  “They taste like plums.”

Well shit.  JGL got brave, and now I’m sharing cherries.  Which isn’t all bad because it does allow me to try cherry based recipes, and for that I should be grateful.

Diving right into this new-to-JGL-fruit, today we revisited coffee cake.  I had read somewhere about replacing the cinnamon sugar filling with jam, and with JGL’s new found love of cherries, we used the cherry jam I made last summer.   In addition to the jam, I used up the last of the cake flour I had on had from a chocolate cake experiment.

The end result was a finer crumb than my normal coffee cake, and an incredibly moist slice.  Having the jam as the filling made the coffee cake taste less like the holidays, and more like the summer.  This is going to be perfect tomorrow morning with our morning coffee, or maybe even tonight as a late night snack with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Summer Coffee Cake
Adapted from here
 
1/4 lb butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
 
Filling:
Cherry jam
 
Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.  Put half of the batter into buttered tube pan, and spoon filling on top of batter.  Put the other half of the batter on top, and smooth.  Bake at 375 oven for 40-50 minutes.  Cool on rack, then serve.  
 

Apple Butter French Toast

Christmas morning was perfect here at the Homestead.  We woke up early and “Santa” had turned on the tree, started a fire in the fireplace, and even turned on the record player so that David’s music filled the house.  After some coffee and some presents, we whipped up some french toast with bread from the local bakery that my dear friend Tasha gave us.  It had dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins and walnuts in it, and was just perfect topped with apple butter and maple syrup.

Photo credits today go to JGL–he’s super handy with that camera, and doesn’t give himself enough credit!

Apple-Butter French Toast
Adapted from Every Day Food, December 2011 edition, page 66
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 large eggs
1 tbs cinnamon sugar
dashes of ginger, nutmeg and cloves
1 tsp vanilla
5 think sliced bread
1-2 tbs butter
apple butter
Confectioners sugar or maple syrup to top (optional)
 
Pre-heat oven to 250, and head up a cast iron skillet.  In a shallow dish combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk together.  Place slices of bread in egg mixture and let the bread soak up the moisture.  In hot skillet, melt butter.  When butter starts to brown, add soaked bread slices and cook on both sides until brown and crispy.  Transfer to wire rack in oven while the other slices cook in the skillet.  
 
To serve, layer slices on top of one another with apple butter in between.  Dust with confectioner sugar and top with maple syrup.  
 
 
 

When life hands you cider…

One of my favorite stories Mom and Dad tell is about Mom making doughnuts for the first time after they were married.  Dad talks about how fragrant, delicious, and telling the smell was wafting from the back porch, and as he made he way around the house trying to find my mother how he was just completely filled with dread, fearing the worst.  When he finally found her on the back porch frying away in the Fry Daddy, he asked her, “who died?”  And when she replied, “Nobody, why?”, he retorted, “because my Mom only makes doughnuts to go to a funeral!”

Now, I’ve made doughnuts plenty of times without having a funeral to go to, but in case you’re ever wondering, doughnuts (or in this case, Death Donuts) are really the perfect food for such an occasion.  The last time I made doughnuts on our porch here in VA, it was legit Death Donuting for a neighbor that at the time we didn’t know so well, but he had just lost his dad.  Today, though, it was just for the same reason my Mom made the doughnuts that fall day–I just wanted doughnuts.

That and we had some leftover cider that was just on the verge of going hard and I needed to find a way to use it.  After a bit of searching I found an amazing recipe for Apple Cider Doughnuts on the ever amazing Smitten Kitchen blog.  They’re crisp, sweet, spicy, and they were perfect with legit hard cider on this most perfect Sunday afternoon.  We left the actual doughnuts alone in terms of toppings, but shook the doughnut holes with some cinnamon-nutmeg sugar.

Whether it’s Death Donuts or I-Just-Want-Doughnuts, the best thing you can do with these baked gems is share them–my favorite way is to put them in a double-bagged lunch sized paper bag and hand over while still warm.  No matter what the situation is, your neighbors will thank you.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

Vegetable oil or shortening for frying

In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Because I used whole wheat flour, I did sift all of the dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs and stir until the mixture is thoroughly mixed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes.

Pull the dough out of the freezer.If you have a doughnut hole cutter, use that to cut out the doughnuts.  If not, a biscuit cutter and a milk cap will do the trick!  Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. Re-roll the scraps of dough left from the first batch, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.  Refrigerate those as well.

This is the time to man your battle stations–I recommend frying outside simply because then your house doesn’t smell like grease and a doughnut shop.  Take cooling racks and set a good amount of newspaper underneath them (to catch the grease).  Line the cooling racks with paper towels, and be sure to have a doughnut retrieval tool (my favorite is a Spider Kitchen Skimmer).  A timer is also helpful if you’re anything like me and get distracted when counting out 60 second intervals.

I used an electric fryer, but if you don’t have one you can simply used a heavy pot filled with about 3 inches of melted shortening–just be sure to have a candy thermometer so you can keep track of the temperature.  Fill fryer up with about 3/4’s of the tub of shortening, and turn on to let melt.  When the doughnuts are ready to be pulled from the fridge, turn the fryer up to 350-375 degrees.

Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the fryer, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried.  These are best when served warm, but they will keep for a few days as well (if you can keep yourself and your family out of them!).

Quince-Lemon Marmalade

My travel for work is starting to come to a close for the fall.  I have traversed all throughout Southwest Virginia, and then made two loops around my home stomping grounds of New England.  I always come back from these jaunts excited to be back home, and more often than not inspired by something new that I saw or ate.  Like the Lemon-Orzo soup with a hint of kale that I am going to have to replicate, or the incredible mum and pansy displays I saw while driving through the suburbs of Maine and Connecticut, or the plethora of pumpkin spiced lattes and pumpkin spiced muffins and pumpkin spiced donuts.

Inspiration, however, can come from funny little places, too.  I got to visit with my Mom and Dad for a hot minute over the weekend, and having not been to their New Hampshire home during this part of October before, I was taken by a little bush up front that had tons of fruit on it.  After asking what it was, Mom said, “Quince.  But your grandfather says the fruit is inedible.”

Quince!  I’d read about this power packed fruit that to the normal person just passing by is too tart to eat off of the bush.  But quince has an incredible abundance of pectin–so much so that in the days before I could run to the grocery store and grab a packet of pectin, folks would use quince boiled down to produce it’s own pectin.  So much so that the origin of the word Marmalade is actually derived from quince (the Portuguese word for quince is marmelo, and marmelada was originally made with the quince fruit).

After giving this exact lecture to my mother, she agreed to let us try to make something with the fruit, and after a bit of searching, she came up with the Quince-Lemon Marmalade Recipe below.  It was easy, relatively quick, and let me tell you–it’s some of the best looking and smelling jam/marmalade I’ve ever seen!  The quince cooks down into a beautifully rosy color, and the day after we processed it the whole concoction had jelled up beautifully.

Next on my to do list is to see if I can try to grow one of these gems in Virginia, and to see if the folks can preserve or freeze the remainder of their harvest for a can-a-palooza at Thanksgiving time.

Quince-Lemon Marmalade

Adapted from Dana McCauley in Cooking Light
OCTOBER 2005

Ingredients

4 cups chopped cored peeled quince (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 lemon, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2-ish tsps of vanilla

Preparation

  1. Place quince and lemon in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.
  2. Place quince mixture, sugar, water, and vanilla in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 55 minutes or until reduced to about 3 1/2 cups.
  3. Cool; pour into an airtight container or process in a hot water bath to can for about 20 minutes.
  4. Don’t be tempted to crack open that marmalade!  It needs at least two weeks untouched to fully develop the flavor.  It’ll be worth the wait, I promise!

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade

In college one of the things I loved the most about coming home for the summer was that I got to see the lilacs bloom twice–about a month before school would let out the lilacs would just cascade around campus, and then when we returned home to New England at the beginning of May the lilacs were just waking up for spring.

Even though the strawberries have long since passed in Virginia, they are just now nearing the end of their season here in New Hampshire.  So while JGL is back in good ole VA with the dog-kids, I’m having a blast up here in NH picking berries with my family, and trying new jams and marmalades out of the Canning Magazine that my mother so kindly splurged on.

So here was the first can-venture of the week–Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade made with sweet end of the season NH berries.  We’ll do a cross-country family taste test in two weeks when it’s finished curing!

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade
BHG Special Interest Publication, Canning, pg 19

 

2 Medium Lemons
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 cups crushed strawberries
5 cups sugar
1/2 of a 6 oz package liquid fruit pectin

 

Remove peel from each lemon, removing any pith from the back of it.  Shred into small strips.

 

In a large saucepan combine peel, water and baking soda.  Bring to boiling then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not drain. 

 

Meanwhile, remove the rest of the pith from the lemons, section and squeeze the juice from what is left.  Add lemon sections and juice to peel strips.  Stir in crushed berries.  Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
 Add sugar and bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in pectin, and return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in a water canner for 5 minutes, and allow to set a room temperature for two weeks before serving.  

Blueberry Peach Crisp

As soon as I slip on my work clothes, jump in the car and then head up the road, Staycation 2011 will be officially over.  A part of me is really sad–I really have loved jumping into our version of homesteading wholeheartedly.  But the other part is really excited to get back–we have five new people in the office, and once I walk through my office door my new responsibilities will really start to kick in full force.  It’s bittersweet, but there’s always next summer, right?  Right!

But it is Monday Morning, and I figured everyone might could use a pick-me-up (I certainly could), so I got up early to whip this up–sweet, delicious, and not too terribly bad for you, too (if you’re following Weight Watchers like JGL and I, if you divide this into 8 servings, it is 3 points plus a serving).   I used some of the homemade ricotta cheese that I saw on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen (I swear, she’s a genius!) which made the topping rich and creamy, but if you don’t have ricotta you could certainly supplement with butter.

I’m hoping this will make my reentry into the work force a little sweeter, and here’s hoping it’ll make your morning a little sweeter too.

Blueberry Peach Crisp
 
2 pounds peaches, peeled and sliced
1-1 1/2 cups blueberries
2 TBS lemon juice
1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup homemade ricotta cheese
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp almond extract 
  • Combine sliced peaches, blueberries, lemon juice and fresh ginger in a bowl and toss.  
  • In a separate bowl combine last seven ingredients, and mix until crumbly.  If the mixture is too dry, add 1 TBS of almond milk or regular milk to help the mixture come together.  
  • Pour peach mixture into a cooking dish, then top with the crumble. Place into oven and bake about 30 minutes, or until the crisp is bubbling and browned on top.
  • You can serve this for breakfast, but it would be really delicious served as a dessert with some ice cream

Strawberry and Cream Muffins (and a strawberry pie for later)

Today is JGL’s birthday, and because it’s JGL’s birthday, we’ll finally be using up those strawberries we picked from last week.  It’s been hard hoarding them, but I think the end result will have been worth it.

As long as I’ve known JGL, he has never wanted actual cake on his birthday.  The one thing he wanted was strawberry pie.  So I rigged up a recipe 5 years ago when we first started dating, and it’s become a birthday tradition.

The added bonus this morning was there were enough berries for the Strawberry and Cream Oatmeal Muffins I’ve been dreaming up for the past few days.  They have a similar base to my blueberry muffins, but with a few key swaps–oatmeal added for some of the flour, baking soda, yogurt to replace the milk, and butter to replace the shortening.  The end result?

An amazingly healthy and sweet start to JGL’s awesome day!

So here’s to you, JGL–know that I am so incredibly proud of how far you’ve come (and the fact that you’ve stuck to your Weight Watcher’s Guns and have lost 28 pounds even with all of my crazy baking!), and I can’t wait to see where this journey continues to take us.  Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this wild, crazy, beautiful ride.

With Love,

Your GAL

JGL’s Strawberry and Cream Oatmeal Birthday Muffins
Makes 1 dozen
 
1 1/2 cup white wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1/4  cup melted butter
 
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
 
Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add oatmeal and salt to sifted mixture.  
 
In a separate bowl mix together sugar, egg, yogurt, strawberries and butter.  Mix the wet and the dry ingredients until the mixture has just barely come together.  Top muffins with a little extra oatmeal and sugar.  Spoon into baking cups, bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Stick a birthday candle in and enjoy!
 
JGL’s Birthday Strawberry Pie
 
8 oz of 7 Up (you can substitute diet if you’re watching what you eat)
4 TBS Cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
red food coloring
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 baked pie shell (graham cracker crust is also a suitable substitute) 
 
Mix first three ingredients and cook and stir over medium high heat until thick (and when I mean thick, I mean thick–it should start to thicken up but still be cloudy, you want it to go from cloudy to clear–then you’re done).  Cool and then add red food coloring to make it look…well, more like strawberries.  A little coloring goes a long way–you want pinky, not blood-red.
 
Once this mixture is room temperature, stir in berries (don’t get greedy on this step–put it in when it’s still warm and you will have soupy pie.  Trust me, been there done that).  Pour into pie shell and cool in fridge for at least one hour before serving.  Goes well with a bit of whipped topping, birthday candles and love (awwwwww!)
 

UPDATE:  Check out Sweet as Sugar Cookies blog for her Sweets for a Saturday link up–there are some super amazing yummy treats going on out there!

 

Banana Nut Muffins

I was going to blog about these last week, but then I think every single food blog I follow blogged about banana bread in every variation you could imagine within days of each other.  So I waited until this morning to jump on the banana nut bandwagon.  I even added one muffin just for JGL with a strawberry banana combo, just like one of my favorite food bloggers, Joy the Baker, did.  It stayed in the mix long enough to snap this picture, and then it was ostracized to the other end of the kitchen until JGL ate it.  Sadly, I’ve never been able to stomach the strawberry banana combo–don’t even get me started on that one time when my banana contaminated my cashew butter and strawberry jam sandwich….

But I digress…this recipe is one I’ve been tweaking for about four years now.  I found the skeleton of it when trying to find a recipe for a friend who couldn’t eat refined sugar, and from that point on I’ve been slowly tweaking, adding, and improving the recipe bit by bit, year by year. If you’re really watching your figure, you can replace the oil with more plain yogurt, but I think a little bit of veggie oil helps these guys have an incredibly luscious texture.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is the use of honey, and I have found that local honey really brightens the flavor, texture, and just basically everything about these baked goods.  One of my favorite ways to serve is fresh out of the oven, cracked open with a little bit of butter and then more honey drizzled over the melting butter.

Serve generously, serve often, and the exprience is heightened with a fresh cup of coffee and a warm puppy curled up by your feet.

Ain't she precious when she's sleeping?

GAL’s Banana Nut Muffins
Makes 24 muffins, or 2 loaves of bread
 
1 cup honey
1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas
1/2-1 cup pecans, walnuts or whatever your favorite nut is (optional)
3 cups white wheat or whole wheat flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp salt
 
Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine flour, BP, BS and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl combine honey, oil, yogurt, eggs, and bananas–mix well.  Add nuts to wet ingredients, and then carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix until just blended.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through.
 
This also makes great banana bread–use bread pan and cook for 1 hour.
 
 

Strawberry Jam

Last year we couldn’t pick enough berries to eat and preserve–by the time we hit the field the berries had just simply gone by.  This year, however, was a much better year strawberry wise, and with our second flat in the fridge, I’m just elated that we’ll be able to put some up this year!