Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I have been in a total cooking slump lately. Just completely uninspired for some reason, and don't care. Weird how that just comes and goes. Like writer's block or something. Cooking block, I guess?

I really haven't made anything "post-worthy" in a long time and I have no idea when I'll get motivated again, but I didn't want the last post on here to be about stupid butter .... so here's a pretty picture of a super good pound cake I made last weekend - but the only reason I put out the effort was because it was my husband's birthday.

This version is dense and buttery. I like to sprinkle the top with a little bit of sugar before putting it in the oven, then it gets all caramelized and crusty.

Cake batter:
Cream 1/2 lb. of butter in mixer then slowly add 2 Cups of sugar, mixing on low-med speed. Next add 6 whole eggs, one at a time, mixing each in completely before adding the next. Add 1 Tbsp Vanilla to the batter and then stop the mixer. The last step is to fold in 2 Cups of sifted flour by hand. Grease your pan and fill with batter. Cook at 350 for 35-50 min depending on size of pan used. Test with toothpick after 35 min.

Friday, June 12, 2009


When I was a kid, our babysitter moved out to the country and bought a farm. One weekend we went to go stay with them and I remember being fascinated when she made homemade butter. I didn't know you could make butter. And the taste was incredible. Of course she was using fresh cream from a just-milked cow, and the cream was unpasteurized. But still. You can still make it at home and it'll taste better than what we can get in the American grocery stores. 

You can use a food processor or a mixer. I personally have not used the food processor. I like the mixer. Anyway, you want to use heavy or very heavy "whipping" cream. If you can get "vat-pasteurized" cream, it has a better flavor. If not, you can use the ultra-pasteurized commercial type. 

Since I just grabbed some of the grocery store cream, I like to lightly sweeten it by adding about a teaspoon of simple syrup while mixing. It doesn't make it "sweet," it just gives it a richer taste, and enhances the sweet cream.  I also add a pinch of salt. Go light on the salt! You can always add more later. 

Mix on low-medium. It will first turn into whipped cream...

Then will turn yellow and you'll see the butter separate from the buttermilk.

When it looks like this, you can stop. 

Drain the butter from the milk (the milk is really good too! Sweet, not sour.)

At this point, you can do a couple of things. Eat it right away, or process further for longer term storage. I like to put it in a bag, then knead it to expel the rest of the moisture. If you're not going to eat it right away, then you should also "wash" it, by putting it back into the mixing bowl and mix for a minute with ice water. Drain the water and replace with clean water a few times until water stays clear. 

Washed or unwashed - storage should be air tight. Plastic bag or wax paper is OK. You can also cut into chunks and put them in a jar and cover with clean water and store in the fridge replacing water once in a while. This will allow it to keep it's fresh taste. Can also be frozen. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I think the days of me making elaborate dinners is over for a while. I just don't have the time luxury anymore to plan, create and prepare food like I used to. I even resort to prepared frozen kid's dinners, frozen chicken nuggets and Spaghetti-O's way more than I'd like to admit, and I never used to buy that crap. This is what having a fussy 2 year old, a home business and a dog with special needs does to your schedule. I know some day I'll be back in "gourmet mode."  Just not this year.

Like a lot of people, I have a well stocked freezer. Meat, fish, veggies, herbs, homemade stock. Leftovers that I save for those times I need a fast dinner but never end up using. Once in a while things get pretty cramped in there, so I go on a mission to use the stuff up. Last night I pulled out a package of country pork chops. 

I needed something that I could stuff in the oven and forget about. Traditional baked chops are always good, but then you need to make a side. So I opted for a one dish meal. But the chops I wanted to bake slow and low. What vegetable can stand up to that without being wrecked?  Fennel! Fennel is awesome when slow roasted and would make a delicious ragout (think bouillabaisse). It gets sweet and buttery and I think it would be perfect. I had a large bulb in the fridge, so I sliced it, white and green parts, and put it into a casserole dish. 

Next I added a few strands of saffron. Then a can of tomatoes. (I was only cooking for 2 btw). Salt & pepper to taste.

For added flavor, I finely diced one celery stalk and 1/4 of an onion and mixed it in with the tomatoes. Small dices though, I wanted the fennel to be the star of the show and not have other vegetable textures mixed in. By dicing them really small they will just melt away.

Frozen chops. I don't bother defrosting them for something like this. I do the same for my roasted chickens. Put them in frozen. They turn out just fine, you'll never know the difference. 

The chops were added on top of the ragout, salted, then I added about 2 cups of semi-thawed homemade chicken stock. The pieces you see on top are chopped dehydrated garlic. It's one of my favorite new ingredients. I think they toast it lightly or something. The flavor is delicious, and tastes very fresh! I never do garlic in a jar though. I hate that stuff in it's "citrus" juice. Gross. 

Let's see... I cooked this for about 2 hours. I turned it on 350 for about 30 minutes to defrost the chops. Then I bumped it to 425 for another 20 or so minutes until they were browned a little bit ... then dropped the heat back down to 325 for the rest of the time until they looked like this. 

The chops were tender, and since they sat above the ragout, the fat around the edges was able to get brown and super yummy. The fennel was absolutely delicious, and the broth.... well.... fennel, tomatoes and saffron. What can I say. I could have bathed in it.