Butter & Living Better

20 Jul

Right now, summer of 2011, I have lots of updates:

– The donut search in Indiana is well under way.  Some shops I’ve had to return to 2-3 times to get my sought after flavors because later in the morning they were already sold out!

– I’m officially living and learning grace through having mild seizures often and major seizures occasionally, all under the umbrella of epilepsy.  Looking forward to writing about this experience, but it needs to be done with some perspective.

– It is hotter than a-super-big-cuss-word in Indiana right now.  They say it will be the longest stretch of days over 90 degrees F since the 1940’s.  The 90s I can handle, it’s the 95%+ humidity that is a butt kicker.  Keep in mind that 100% humidity is called rain.

– One day very soon I’m going to start exercising.  The timing is right…  If I start now, I’ll look fab around the holidays, where the major sweets eating and candy mowing begins.  Also, I’m hoping that better health will improve my overall energy level!

That’s it for updates, now on to the food portion of this bite sized blog post.  Yes, I did mention donuts, exercise and now moving onto butter in the same post.

A new friend of mine is an amazing home cook, super frugal shopper and has even done a 30-day cooking challenge where she cooked 30 days of meals in one day and portioned everything to be frozen, etc. for future consumption.  Wow.  That takes some serious planning!

She has inspired this post about a little ingredient called butter.  I shared a Jacques Torres cookie recipe with her that called for butter and this was a new experience for her.  So, we spent at least 20 minutes on the topic of butter.  Its greatness, where to buy, and the best per pound cost in town.  I love it!

As a baker, butter to me is indispensable PERIOD.  It adds flavor, texture, tenderness, sheen, just everything beautiful in the world of food.

The very first time I remember eating butter was in Mexico.  My family visited Cancun in the early 80’s and back then it  just started to become a tourist destination.  It was still a fishing village.  The place we stayed was a two-level time share and it was the tallest “hotel” on that strip.  :D

Every night at dinner, we would sit watching a sun-setting sky indoors or out, white linens on the table.  Super sweaty glasses of water, crusty rolls in a basket and there was a glass dish of scallop shelled shaped butter curls.  They were very cold (and also sweaty) and perfectly shaped.  Every night, I thought to myself, “how did they do that?”  They were hollow, so by the time you spread them on the roll, they melted.

Wow! I Found Them. Just By Searching images.google.com on Butter

I actually think the experiences in Mexico shaped my attention to detail with the simplest ingredients, like butter.

It was perfection.

You can have that same perfection today.  You don’t even have to have one of these fancy butter curlers.  Just mid-day on the day you are serving warm bread, rolls, zucchini bread or one of my new loves that is very embarrassing, MCL’s banana nut bread, set out your stick of butter for super easy spreading at dinner time.

Room Temperature Butter = Nothing Better

At time of service, just fill a small custard dish or condiment bowl with your softened butter and it’s amazing.  Use unsalted butter and add a little crunchy salt, like kosher salt.

Of course, if you own a microwave, you can achieve this softness by heating at 10% for 1 minute at a time until desired texture.

It’s time to treat yourself better.  I beg you, stop buying strangely filled “butter” or buttery spreads or I Can’t Believe It’s Going To Take a Year Off My Life Spread, just go for the real deal.  You don’t have to use a lot.  Try local, organic butter.  Try imported butter.  Try any butter.  Tell me about your buttery experience, I’d love to read about it!

(I have a video post coming up where I make Martha’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing with unsalted Butter, Sugar and Egg Whites with my friend Amy L.)

Our Summer Search For The Best Doughnut / Donut In Indiana

20 Jun

To say that I love doughnuts is the greatest understatement of the year!

If there is a freshly baked and delicious doughnut in the house, I seriously can NOT stay away.  Like some magnetic pull, I keep going back.  I can eat 2-3 doughnuts in about 45 bites or slivers, thinking “I’m just going to have this one sliver…then one more…just one more.”

We are always searching for fun and unique ways to keep us budget traveling in the summer.  Having a fun mission like a doughnut search will help make this summer a memorable one.  What a bonus that we can also keep current in the food world, that is, if you call a doughnut “food”.

From 2000 to 2008, I attended a two-year school (you do the math–ha!) to achieve a pastry and baking degree from my local community college.  The unique thing about Ivy Tech is the level of instruction.  The chef instructors I had were awesome.  I remember what they taught me so vividly and each brought their own cool spin to a technique or trick of the trade that they learned through years of pastry production.

The Green Around the Neck Means I Got All A's...except for that really puzzling "Baking Science" Class--I am still stumped by baking science / black magic

My single favorite class was something called “doughnut lab”.  That day will forever be in my heart.

We made a basic doughnut dough, leavened by yeast.  Rolled it out, using a giant multiple doughnut cutter that resembled a big scary metal rolling pin.  We transferred the doughnuts to a tray.  Let them rise in the proofer.  Then dropped them into a fryer one by one and used a stick to push on one edge and flip them over.  We made our glaze ahead of time, which by the way was a from scratch “fondant” but not the modeling-clay like one you’re thinking of.  It’s like a thinned down version of what’s inside a York Peppermint, which is a fondant.

Back to doughnuts.  The scraps…holy cow, you won’t believe it.  We chopped the scraps up and added a specially made apple mixture and formed fritters.  Apple fritters, people!!  Imagine an apple fritter glazed and then coated in cinnamon sugar, that my friend is probably my #1 favorite “dessert”.

These little fried puffs of dough really got me thinking…  The fam and I should search for the best doughnut in town…heck, in the state!

I created what any normal person about to go on a statewide search would create…score cards in MS Excel.  There are 4 of us judging.  A 4-yr old, a 7-yr old and a relatively fit couple in their late 30’s–at least as of the beginning of this great doughnut quest.  :D

Here's a Snapshot of The Scoresheet (Criteria are Taste, Texture & Freshness)--Staff friendliness is not on this card, but you better believe it does affect the perceived quality of a product.

We will try to visit as many bakeries as possible this summer.  Maybe combining a few visits in one day.  We will be judging a glazed yeast, glazed cake, apple fritter (if they dare!) and your recommended flavor that is a “must try”.

We are conducting this summer search for the best doughnut in Indiana based on YOUR recommendations here.  Be it an old shop from childhood that is still around, or perhaps a brand new one around the corner.  You name it and we’ll try to hit it!

If you’re reading this via Facebook or Twitter, please still put your recommendation here on the blog post.  If we choose your place as our favorite, I don’t know what we’ll do.  You’ll at least get a hug.  But we’ll most likely make a video on a second visit back to our favorite and will post details of your experience and why you love your recommended doughnut bakery.

Doughnuts, Here We Come!! (Drawn by my talented 7-yr old)

So, where should we go??  Be sure to include the following:

– Bakery/Doughnut Shop Name and location
– Favorite flavor

Once we hit a dozen bakeries, we’ll post our results.  This is going to be fun!  Thank you for your suggestions!!

Making A Difference, One Lunch At A Time

24 May

Let’s face it.  Food is my ministry.

There’s the food gift.  The cooking for a friend.  The homemade meal on Sundays.  Packing a lunch.  Washing and prepping someone’s produce.  Buying local.  Elegantly plating something as simple as pb & j.  Partnering in a small catering company.

It’s all part of eating well and providing great food to family and friends.

We don’t eat like this every day, of course.  Raising a family with a 4-yr old and 7-yr old, you have to be conscious of every minute of the day and with kiddos hanging on me / fighting / needing help to go potty / asking life changing questions, I just don’t make food a priority all the time.  Which is why I always photograph or write about food because I’m so impressed sometimes (just with myself) that I could even pull it off consider what kind of day it’s been (you know what I’m sayin’ you busy stay at home parents…or business owners…or both).

Back to food being my ministry.  Why do I do it?

I guess this note says it all.

A Washed, Returned Dish From a Grateful Friend

I made a few boxed lunches for my 4-yr old, her playmate and the playmate’s mom.

There was an extra and I offered it to a teacher at my daughter’s school.  I really don’t even know her that well, but she looked tired and she only had a yogurt and she was about to hang with 10 preschoolers for part 2 of her day.  It seemed like the right thing to do.

The lunch consisted of an individual pack of hummus, mini bagel, 6 pieces of salami, 8 blackberries and a mini-water.  Nothing SUPER special, but it was thought out.

The next day, the container was returned to me with the note above.

That’s why I keep the food ministry alive.  I love that I could make someone’s day with food.  It’s inspiring!

Let’s use this change in seasons to make a change in our routine.  Take time this week to think about what you are eating and serving.

– Is there someone in your daily routine that you can brighten their day by packing a lunch for them?
– Dropping off dessert and wine?
– Making that delicious looking recipe in the magazine that you don’t have energy to make for yourself, but you would for a friend?
– Inviting the neighbors over for homemade pizzas?

What ever your *small group* in this food ministry, I encourage and support you to get out there and spread the message!

Lemon Chess Pie Recipe & Video

5 May

When my peacekeeping, juice squeezing, cat and DJ loving friend, Erin, responded to my plea for food video ideas….I was thrilled.  I met this woman two years ago when we catered her wedding.  Since then, we’ve become friends, co-workers and now video hosts.  :D  Thanks, Erin!

A few days ago I posted a video on how to make a pie crust.  There are endless possibilities to filling ideas.  So, over the months I’ll post videos with your suggestions and maybe you starring!  First up, Lemon Chess Pie.

When I saw this recipe in my 2011 America’s Test Kitchen recipe book, I just KNEW I had to make it.

Par-bake the shell, get your ingredients together, mix and bake that pie!

I love lemon desserts.  Lemon meringue, lemon tarts, lemon icebox pie, lemon bars, lemon cookies with lemon icing, lemoncello, lemon pound cake, anything with lemon curd…you get the idea.

Lemon Chess Pie Filling

5 large eggs
1-3/4 c. (12.25 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 T. grated lemon zest + 3 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. yellow cornmeal (not stone ground)
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 recipe of single crust pie dough, fitted in a 9″ pie plate and chilled

1. Whisk eggs until smooth.  Whisk in all other ingredients up to the pie crust.
2.  Dock the refrigerated pie dough, refrigerate for 40 minutes. Freeze for 20 minutes.  Bake at 450 F about 8 minutes.
3.  Remove shell from oven, lower the oven temp to 325 F.
4. Re-whisk the mixture and pour in shell for 35-40 minutes until the center jiggles slightly.
5.  Top with 1 t. sugar, cool for 4 hours and enjoy!!

Here’s Part 2 of my afternoon with Erin.

Do you have some food video ideas or want to be in a video together preparing a dish? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you.

America’s Test Kitchen Pie Crust–Recipe & Video

2 May

Pie has been around since the beginning of time.  I think it goes like this, “let there be light…let there be pie”.  Just a loose translation on my part.  Huffington Post predicts you will see a lot of pies on menus this year.

If you want to get on the train of this “new trend”…you are now armed with a GREAT recipe for a flaky pie crust.  One batch of this recipe makes 2 standard shells.  So, that can be two pie crusts or one bottom and top to a savory or sweet pie.  I ALWAYS bake the scraps and eat them.  There’s no better way to “test” the crust.

There are probably dozens of fabulous recipes out there.  Like an oil based, lard based, heck–maybe even rendered bacon based recipe.  This is my favorite pie crust recipe.  Basic, delicious and with a slight twist–Vodka.

Pie Crust...so much potential

My beautiful friend, Erin, asked me on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to come over and make pie crust and that’s just what we did!!  Here’s the video of our experience.

This recipe is in one of my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, but I found an online version on a great food blog called, Bitten Word.  Check them out!  And, try this recipe and let me know how it goes!

America Test Kitchen’s Foolproof Pie Dough

2-1/2 cups (12-1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided into 1.5 and 1 cup
1 teaspoon table salt + a pinch (for me)
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Recipe Source:  America’s Test Kitchen & Bitten Word Blog
Music Source:  “Gum” by Postcards

Touring Indy Winter Farmers Market 2011

15 Apr

I first heard about this market two years ago.  It was founded by Laura Henderson.  When I think of Laura, I think of the senior pastor at my church who demands / urges / begs us all to stop following and start leading…be revolutionary.  Laura is revolutionary.  Her “little idea” has grown into a major local marketplace in our least favorite season in the midwest: winter!

This is the third year for the winter market and it grows exponentially each year.  Hundreds of people flock to this place every Saturday October through April.  I love this market.  I get excited when I think about going to it.  I usually run into a dozen folks or so that I know, so it’s a cool hang out too.

I went last Saturday in hopes of snapping some shots with my PHONE camera and publishing for you all to see what I see.  This is my home spun version.  I hope you enjoy it.

Quick Notes:

– What do I buy there?  Breakfast, an all veggie/fruit juice extraction, breads, eggs, meat and of course VEGGIES and gifts for foodies
– Right now, I would buy garden starter type plants…broccoli, greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc. They are VERY affordable, very local and most of them can go in ground or in your container garden now that the last frost is over
– I love supporting these folks by visiting, by buying and by getting educated
– Have fun!
– I used Free Music Archive for this video:  Patrick Lee, “Quittin’ Time”


The Maxwell
530 East Ohio St. Indianapolis, IN 46204

Hours of Operation

9am – 12.30pm

April 30th, 2011 is the last market for the winter

Greek Quinoa Salad Recipe

11 Apr

Have you ever wondered HOW The Pioneer Woman makes the beautiful blog posts that she does?  I have!  She’s a beautiful writer first who loves to cook and taught herself how to use her camera through photojournaling her daily meals.

She is just the inspiration needed to take me to the next level in blogging…called creating more content.  Here’s the original post I read as I started to blog several months ago.

If I were to pick one area of cooking that I love the most, it might be food styling.  My mother-in-law recently pointed this out to me.  Thank you!

I don’t mean the kind of food styling where inedible items are used to create emotion, like pouring glue out of a cup for milk or uncooked items with a juicy sear on the outside.  (The worst I’ve done is poured cold soup and shot a photo because I lost my light on the day I made it.)  :)

Even something as simple as PB&J and carrot sticks, there is no way “I’m sending that plate out” without some visual interest and height variation.  It’s not like I take a water bottle and spray the carrot sticks for freshness….or do I?.  I’m kidding!!  Or am I??

I encourage you to photojournal your meal sometime!  Think about the next meal you are planning and how would it look in a post like this.  On this day, I set out to make lunch for myself and it turned into a half-day photo session.  I used my phone camera.  The only danger in a small hand-held device is that I almost dropped my phone in the pot of par-boiled quinoa…whew!

So, make something, anything and tell me here how it went.  Good luck!

Here is my recipe for Greek Quinoa Salad.

For a snack, for a meal, for a pitch-in brunch/breakfast item, for a picnic, for a barbecue side item.  It’s got everything you need…not to mention 6g protein per 1 cup cooked!

Here's everything you need for this recipe

Greek Quinoa Salad

2 cups of dried Quinoa
4 cups of broth

2-4 T olive oil

1 cup of fresh spinach
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. sugar
1 Cucumber, chopped
1 Red Pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 c. Feta, crumbled
2 pieces of Hearts of Palm, quartered lengthwise and chopped


These directions are written for someone who has never cooked quinoa before…like me a week ago.

Boil broth in large pot, add quinoa

– Reduce to low boil and cook for 10 minutes

This is what it looks like "par-boiled" so after 10 minutes

– Drain quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer (if you don’t have fine-mesh one just drain slowly in what you have)
– Add an inch of water to the large pot, get boiling again
– Add mesh strainer w/quinoa in it to the pot and STEAM covered for another 5-8 minutes
(meanwhile get a sheet/cookie tray ready with a piece of parchment or just make sure it’s clean)

– Taste to make sure it’s as firm or soft as YOU like
– Pull out strainer and spread over the cookie sheet to stop cooking and cool quickly

Behind the Scenes photo of how I can "hold" a spoon and take a photo

– Drizzle the quinoa with the olive oil

Add spinach to the steaming liquid and just stir until softened, drain and chop

Flavors, chopped and ready to go

– In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix

– Add the cooked quinoa to the bowl, mix and serve room temperature for best results


Cook’s Notes:

– This is meant to be served at room temperature
– If you live in the midwest, there is only one good season to eat tomatoes.  Summer.  From your garden, neighbor’s garden or the market.  Any other season, just sub out for red peppers.  Why sacrifice the flavor?
– Olives, feta and even spinach are easy to get from the grocery salad bar if you don’t want the expense of buying big containers
– Mix and match YOUR favorites veggies, these are just mine
– Don’t forget to balance your sweet, salt and sour components for an irresistible salad
– I heard a rice cooker works well for quinoa.  I also tried boiling all the liquid into the quinoa and it works, but I think the extra work of draining and then steaming the rest really provides the “fluff” without mush I’m looking for
– You don’t need superior knife skills for all this chopping, just make ingredients bite sized and similar in size.
– My broth had salt already added, you may need up to 1 tsp more.  Also, the olives and feta act as salt, if you leave those items out, you definitely want to add a little salt

Enjoy! And I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you.  :D

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