Category Archives: food blog

Antipasto Platter Features a Tower of Brie

How many engineers does it take to plan, design and execute antipasto platters for Andria’s wedding. In this case, it was 6 engineers, 2 doctors of physical therapy and 1 with a MS in social work to plan and design a tower of brie cheese surrounded with just the perfect tiny bites.   Three stacked rounds of cheese made tiers resembling a wedding cake. The towering cheeses were the starting place for antipasto platters to be served at Andria’s wedding.

Hilary Austin, Samantha Kallman, Tessa Mauer, Shelby Jones, Andria Nyenhuis, Ciera Sebelius, Jordanna Pedersen, Sara Small, Abby DeWitt work out the plan for antipasto boards.
Hilary Austin, Samantha Kallman, Tessa Mauer, Shelby Jones, Andria Nyenhuis, Ciera Sebelius, Jordanna Pedersen, Sara Small, Abby DeWitt work out the plan for antipasto boards.

Andria and her fiance’ made 90 cutting boards for serving the 5 course meal. The first course, an antipasto platter, took a little creative action when Andria and Friends got together.

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Andria and Friends tried all kinds of different arrangements to see which one would make the best display for the wedding platters. Determining the flavors that went best together was the next goal. Antipasto typically is made up of cured meats, dried fruits, marinated vegetables and cheeses. So the analysis also included exactly which ingredients would surround the brie-mini -wedding-cakes.   The slight tang of fresh grapes paired well with the cheese. The rest of the antipasto platter pulled together really quickly by arranging nuts, dried fruit and crackers at the base of the trio of brie rounds.

Antipasto trays in production.  The wood for the trees came from the farm in Iowa. Greg and Andria designed and made them with help from family.
Antipasto trays in production. The wood for the trees came from the farm in Iowa. Greg and Andria designed and made them with help from family.

A rose made from prosciutto and thinly sliced cheese garnished each tray.  It was made by placing 1 slice of prosciutto on one slice of cheese.  Starting at narrow end, roll cheese up with prosciutto in the center. Ruffle out the prosciutto and cheese slightly to give the roll a rose petal effect.  Place a toothpick through all of the layers at the base of the meat and cheese.

The rose is created with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese, rolled and held in place with a toothpick.
The rose is created with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese, rolled and held in place with a toothpick.

Antipasta Platters

Start with three different sizes of brie set up on top of the other for a “mini wedding cake”.

Add an assortment of  Italian inspired tiny bites such as:
Cured Meats: Prosciutto, hard salami, pancetta
Dried fruit: Apricots, dates
Fresh Fruit: Figs, red grapes, green grapes
Marinated Vegetables: Peppadews, tomatoes
Olives: Castelvetrano, Cerignola
Bread Sticks, foccaccia bread,
Crackers, cheese straws
Parmesan Reggio Cheese, feta, fresh mozzarella
Fresh herbs: Rosemary, basil, bay
Nuts: Almonds, pecans

Arrange tiny bites around brie and serve as a first course.

 

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The tables were beautiful and the antipasto platters were a perfect centerpiece.

Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi

Sometimes a meal is special because of an event and other times it is special for the food itself. There was one specific meal that I will always remember because of the event and it just happened that the food was really special too.

Coulter would be deployed with the United States Marine Corps the next day but just for the evening we had a little precious time with him for a meal together. Dave and I flew across the country to see him off.  Little did we know that one of his men were killed in a motorcycle accident and another one was in the hospital. He attended the funeral  and then needed to head to the hospital to visit the other marine. That meant we had literally 2 hours to spend with him. We went to a restaurant in San Diego  that Coulter chose. It was a memorable meal in that goodbyes before a deployment are never easy but I remember how proud I felt. He was putting himself out there for his marines, for his country and for us.  It was one of those meals where the food was not really that important compared to having he chance to share heart to heart with him, but it turned out that the food was exceptionally good. Dave ordered Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi and I still remember it as special.  The following recipe recreates the flavorful  macadamia nut topping and the beautiful texture of the mahi mahi.

In recreating this recipe, it needed to have a crunching topping  and the fish all perfectly done at the same time. To achieve this, the fish is cooked for about 5 minutes before the topping is added. By adding the macadamia nut topping to the partially baked fish, both the fish and topping  come out perfectly done at the same time.

Mahi Mahi is done when it turns from  translucent to opaque white and it flakes easily when a fork is inserted into the center of the fillet. The reason the fish turns color is because the heat denatures the proteins as they reach a specific temperature. It is similar to what happens to egg white as heat is applied. The egg white turns from a clear liquid to an opaque white. It is difficult to take the temperature of most fish fillets because they are too thin for a thermometer to accurately record the temperature. Just as reliable as a number on a thermometer is the change of the fish color.  If there is any difficulty seeing a change in color, a backup test is inserting a fork in the thickest part of the fillet and twisting it slightly to see if the fish flakes. When the fork test shows flakes of fish as well as white, opaque flesh, the fish is done.

A Mango Salsa with just a touch of citrus balances the saltiness of the macadamia crusted fish.
A Mango Salsa with just a touch of citrus balances the saltiness of the macadamia crusted fish.

We just happened to have fresh mahi mahi for this recipe but most other fish can be used. The time can be increased 4 to 5 minutes for thicker fish or decreased a little for thinner fillets. Using a fork to check if the fish flakes easily and looking for a change in color of the flesh are both doneness tests that work on any fish.  Fish does continue to cook a little after it is removed from the oven so allow it to stand a few minutes before serving.

Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi

2  pounds mahi mahi
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
1 cup macadamia nuts|
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Mango Salsa

2 fresh mangoes
1/4 cup cilantro , chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Thai basil
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place fish on foiled lined baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes. Spoon coconut milk over fish. Combine nuts, bread crumbs and butter in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Top fish with nut and bread crumb mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Combine all ingredients for mango salsa and serve with fish.

Makes 6 servings

 

Carson takes his fishing serious. A sting ray was the first thing he ever caught and it caught everyone in the boat by surprise.
Carson takes his fishing seriously A sting ray was the first thing he ever caught and it caught everyone in the boat by surprise.

 

 

 

Ashley and Dave took over the fishing pole after Carson caught a sting ray, but they are at a loss of what to do with it.
Ashley and Dave took over the fishing pole after Carson caught a sting ray, but they are at a loss of what to do with it.

 

 

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

I have been putting off making homemade mozzarella cheese because it seemed complicated, but once I got my ingredients together, it was done in less than a half hour.  This is one of my bucket-list foods to make, and I was so excited with the results.

My inspiration for this recipe was a dairy farmer who sold milk out of the back of his red pickup truck. I called him on the phone and he said, “Just look for the red Dodge in the Tractor Supply parking lot”. Sure enough, I found him and the milk was straight from the cow. Goats milk or milk from the store can also be used.

Milk, citric acid and vegetable rennet are the only ingredients I needed. A thermometer assures I do not overheat the milk.  It is as easy as heating the milk to 95 degrees and adding the dissolved citric acid.  I heat the milk a little more to 110 degrees and stir in the quarter of a rennet tablet. To my amazement, the curds started forming immediately. I simply removed the curds and drained the whey. I used the microwave to heat the curds for about 20 seconds so they could be stretched. The curds have to reach 135 degrees so they can be stretched and folded back on itself to form a ball. Pretty simple.

 

When the liquid is yellow and the white curds start forming, drain off the liquid whey. Save the high protein whey for making smoothies, bread or substitute for the liquid in other baked products.
When the liquid is yellow and the white curds start forming, drain off the liquid whey. Save the high protein whey for making smoothies, bread or substitute for the liquid in other baked products.

 

The curds start to form in just a few minutes after adding the vegetable rennet and citric acid to warm milk.
The curds start to form in just a few minutes after adding the vegetable rennet and citric acid to warm milk.

 

At this point, the cheese needs to be warmed to 135 degrees and stretched in order to become smooth.
At this point, the cheese needs to be warmed to 135 degrees and stretched in order to become smooth.

 

The fresh mozzarella ball is warmed, stretched and becomes a beautiful, smooth ball. It is ready to slice and serve.
The fresh mozzarella ball is warmed, stretched and becomes a beautiful, smooth ball. It is ready to slice and serve.

 

Fresh Mozzarella

1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 cups cool water
1/4 vegetable rennet tablet
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Pour milk into a 5-quart pan.  Dissolve the citric acid in 1 cup of water in a small bowl,  Stir into milk.  Heat milk to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring 5 or 6 times.  Meanwhile dissolve the rennet in the remaining 1/2 cup of water.  When milk reaches 90 degrees, stir in rennet solution.  Use a gentle up and down motion and stir for about 30 seconds.  Heat the milk to 105 degrees. The milk will start to coagulate.

As the curds start to form, gently stir for 1 minute. The curds are white and shiny like yogurt. The whey is yellow.  Turn off after the one minute of stirring. If the milk is all white and has not started to separate into curds and whey, heat the milk a little longer but to no higher than 110 degrees max.

Spoon the curds into a microwave-safe dish. Gently hold the cheese curds so that they whey can be drained off.  Gently remove as much liquid from the curds and place curds in the dish. Microwave the curds for about 20 seconds or until about 135 degrees. Add the sea salt. Gently stretch and fold the cheese back on itself just 2 to 3 times. Shape the cheese into a ball and served immediately. It will keep up to 1 week but is best eaten the day it is made.

 

Paige working hard at making sure the curds are soft and stirred gently.
Paige working hard at making sure the curds are soft and stirred gently.

 

Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Bread

It is blueberry season in Florida, but we just visited Ashley and family in the Midwest where the snow is  melting off.  It reminds me of the first green wheat sprouting up from the black, rich Iowa soil, sometimes even peeking out from a snow covered field. I can still remember my Dad explaining the difference of these first green sprigs of wheat and the wheat that would ripen late in the year. This wheat planted in the fall and allowed to sit in the soil over the winter is a hard, red wheat which is wonderful for bread baking. It creates a beautiful loaf of bread. Crusty outside with a tender crumb.

For that beautiful loaf, a gentle kneading action may create the perfect gluten formation but a great texture only happens with a flour made from wheat with the optimum protein content. Gluten is a protein and the harder the wheat the higher the protein content. King Arthur makes a bread flour with a higher protein content but I was surprised to learn that some of the best bakeries in the country use all purpose King Arthur flour. It gives a rustic looking peasant loaf.

Premier bakeries use this commercial flour labled Sir Galahand which is the same as  King Arthur flour labeld as unbleached, all purpose flour.
Premier bakeries use this commercial flour labeled Sir Galahad which is the same as King Arthur flour, sold and  labeled as unbleached, all purpose flour in most grocery stores.

A few years ago it would have been hard to find specialty flour but now there is a wide variety found in many larger grocery stores. The flour choice determines how much strength the gluten has and how much kneading is optimum.

Cast Iron is a great substitute for a wood fired clay bread oven.
Cast Iron is a great substitute for a wood fired clay bread oven.

The following recipe suggests kneading 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. This takes a little experience but most breads will turn out well even if it is kneaded a little too long or a few minutes shy of the optimum. Blueberries tucked into the center of the loaf are so delectable in the bread that it is impossible to complain about anything like kneading or texture. In the photo below, whole wheat is used in the dough. Just substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of all-purpose flour.

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I use fresh blueberries and roll them up in the center of the dough but a bakery in Elk River, MN that makes this kind of bread also uses rhubarb or apples and calls it Apple Fritter Bread.  I tasted a similar bread from a bakery in Pella, Iowa where the apples are mixed in with the dough before the last rising. It is called simply “Apple Bread”. Even though that was 40 years ago it has remained one of my favorites.
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Bake the bread in a loaf pan, clay or cast iron. Each creates just a slightly different crust but each loaf is a delicious. I use the lids to keep the dough from drying out while it rises but bake the bread uncovered.

My favorite bread pans are stoneware with a lid. They  functions as a bread baker with similar results as an oven with a stone.
My favorite bread pans is stoneware with a lid. Stoneware functions as a bread baker with similar results as an oven with a stone.

A loaf-shaped pan is  nice for producing a slicing bread.  When Andria was living in Italy, I noticed that European breads are often round, bole’  or baguette shaped.  In the US, the traditional shape comes form a loaf pan. The Fritter bread I buy at a local bakery  is loaf shaped as pictured below.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Bread

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
2 teaspoons fast acting yeast, proofed in 2 T water
1  teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 egg
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Filling:
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine  water, dry milk powder,  yeast, salt, sugar, butter, egg, and flour until a shaggy dough. Knead until smooth (about 5 to 10 minutes). Let rise until double in bulk, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Roll into an 6 x 10-inch rectangle.

For filling, spread butter, blueberries, sugar and cinnamon over dough and roll up with filling in the center. Place in loaf pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until almost double, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until no longer doughy. Let stand 10 minutes and turn out of pan. Cool, slice and serve while slightly warm.

Ahi Poke

Hawaiian Poke made yellowfin tuna famous. So many Hawaiian cooks develop their own favorite ingredients but yellowfin tuna is the go to base. Other sushami-grade tuna can be used but the time honored tradition for Poke is yellowfin tuna.

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Marinade with sesame seeds and seasonings for an amazing taste treat.

Dice  onion such as maui or vadallia in a uniform piece similar in size to the tuna and cucumber pieces. Sometimes traditional poke contains 1/2-inch pieces but for those who might not want to bite into that large of piece of raw tuna, a tiny dice works best.

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Ponzu citrus seasoning and dressing is a great sauce for this recipe with notes of lime and orange. Soy sauce can be substituted with a touch of lime added. The seasonings only need a few minutes to meld with the raw tuna. Serve chilled and eat immediately.

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Endive  is a good carrier for Poke and adds  a fresh taste. It can also be served with rice for a meal.

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Served as an appetizer with cucumber slices is another idea for serving.

 

Ahi Poke

¾ lb. yellowfin tuna or other sashimi-grade tuna, diced
¼ cup diced sweet onion
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup diced cucumber
1 teaspoon black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon Ponzu citrus dressing or soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine diced tuna with remaining ingredients. Marinate in refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes to r before serving. Place a spoonful on an endive leaf and arrange on platter.

 

 

Sourdough Apple Bread-A Little Like Completing My PhD

A special note I will treasure: My mom is brilliant and the most determined person I know! Successfully defended her dissertation today! Despite five moves to four different states, university changes, and other hurdles along the way she has completed her PhD. You are such an inspiration Mom, and we are all so proud of you. Congrats, soon-to-be, Dr Jacque Nyenhuis!

This message really humbled me. On the other hand, we all laughed when I told my kids that getting a PhD was thankfully more about my determination than brilliance.

My dissertation title is: Political Ideology, Beliefs and Values as a Framework for Nutrition Preferences.

A PhD is suppose to signify that I am now an expert at something. I thought about taking a poll to see what I am an expert at, but polls have been really off lately with the 2016 Presidential election so I decided to just think about it on my own. PhD’s are suppose to be able to do that really good, too!

Nothing shows my determination like a PhD unless it is sourdough that made it through every single one of those moves– 4 different states in 5 years. I carried my college backpack in one hand and my sourdough starter in the other. Can you imagine the determination of those pioneer women to keep their starter alive through their moves? Yep, that’s the kind of determination I am talking about.

Paige has some of that determination. She wanted to help her mommy bake and wanted to make sure she got in on the fun.

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Paige was grabbing at the whisk, wanting to help out. The bread is going to be way better with her sweet touch.

So what am I an expert at. It is where I have put my passion. My kids and grandkids. Also, as a food scientist I am likely a bit obsessive compulsive about determining what works for sourdough. 50 years of bread baking and 1000′s of loaves later this is what I know for sure…..

Keep it simple.  Don’t stress. It always comes back to life. But we all need a little renewal:

I have spent hours and hours on a loaf. And I have spent 5 minutes on just as great a loaf. But it is all good. Even after months of neglect, add a teaspoon of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of instant potato flakes along with 1 cup of flour and a cup of water, and it is all good…. Let it sit on the counter, covered for at least several hours. It will float in water when it has the power to make a crusty, light loaf of bread. Ashley has proven this renewal works since she keeps a neglected bit in the frig that only sees a feeding when I visit several months later.

I have worked through every complicated sourdough process, I have tried every method known. More importantly, I visited with cooks across the country in their own kitchens to learn even more. Wow, this is starting to look like how I earned my PhD….I traveled across the country talking with people about food, nutrition and politics. That is another thing that I am good at. Talking to people and learning about food.

I am a foodie in a really down to earth kind of way. I love local dives. Expensive restaurants can’t hold a candle to a hole in the wall with great local cuisine.  I will go way out of my way to eat at one in just about any corner of the world. My kids have been known to say “We are not going to eat there, are we?”  But when Coulter’s deployment with the US Marines was completed he needed his truck. So I loaded up the F-150 and headed west. Through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. And no one was with me to refuse a stop at all of these amazing little nooks where some of the best cooks and chefs serve their food day in and day out.  I learn so much from all these folks, about cooking, about new foods and yes,  life too.

So, this is also how I learned about bread baking: Gram on the farm in Iowa taught me the sponge method. My mom taught me that some things like yeast bread can be done even when  when you have 6 kids, work full time and go to school. The native Alaskan women, stooped with age, first taught me  less flour is more. The North Dakotans  have such a long history of wheat bread baking that it was ingrained in their souls and they shared recipes handed down several generations. And then there was my experimentation.  I literally can not stop. I tell myself after the 20 loaves in as many days, to get on with my life. I then find myself back in the kitchen because in the middle of the night I woke up with one more experiment to try that meant another 20 loaves in the next  few days. OK, you get the picture.  And here is a fabulous apple bread to celebrate all this knowledge and expertise I have gained in sourdough baking and in working towards a PhD. It takes very little hands on time, about 5 minutes if you are fast and sloppy like me.  I make the bread between classes, work, playing with Carson and Paige and even between chapters of  a dissertation.

THis is one of my favorite things to do when the sourdough is taking its time to rise.
This is one of my favorite things to do when the sourdough is taking its time to rise. We were both full of laughter and love.

 

Other times we are working hard and sitting pretty.
Other times we are working hard and sitting pretty.

 

Sour Dough Apple Bread

1 cup flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups starter
1 cup starter (it is perfect when a bit of it can float in water)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups fresh or dried apple pieces, dusted with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients, adding more water or more flour to make a dough that is very wet but can still be a handled. Knead it for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let stand in a very warm place if you want it in 3 hours or at room temperature 68 degrees if overnight.

Go to work. Write a dissertation. Play with the kids. Go to sleep for the night…. ahh yes sleep. That is what I do. I mix it up right after supper and it proofs overnight on the counter.

After you are done with what you are doing and the bread is double. Form it into a loaf. Place it on parchment paper and gently place it in a cast iron pan or clay cooker.  Cover with the lid.

Go to work. Take a walk with your sweetheart.  Spend the day with the grandkids.

As soon as I get home from work, I put it in the oven. Turn the oven on: 425 degrees. Spray the top of the bread with water. Sprinkle with seeds. Slash a cool design on the top.  Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Take the lid off and bake another 20 minutes or until a thermometer placed in the center of the loaf registers 200 degrees.

Tip: The bread can be placed in the oven before it is preheated when using a covered baking dish.  To bake in a regular loaf pan, preheat the oven. Coat the pan with cooking spray and place dough in the loaf pan. Let rise until double and then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes total.

We had to climb to the top to find all of the best apples. No low hanging fruit for us.
We had to climb to the top to find all of the best apples. No low hanging fruit for us.

 

 

 

 

Cranberry Orange Biscuits-Magnolia Farm’s Copy Cat Recipe

Ashley and I just got back from Magnolia Farms in  Waco, Texas.  Magnolia Flour, also known as Chip and Joanna Gaines’ fixer upper silos, was a quaint little turn of the century grainary turned bakery.

Ashley is ready to dig into the box our biscuit came in. The packaging was just as amazing as you would expect from Joanna Gaines. They put each item in a box which meant each of us were able to bring  a box home (only my daughters know how much I love these kind of boxes). I already re-purposed it. I filled it with warm, glazed biscuits and took it to my neighbor. I can still hear Andria telling me “Now Mom, make sure they know that they are not really from there!”   So Andria, I am sure my neighbor figured out that I could not have possibly made it to Texas and back and still have the biscuits be warm. But thanks sweetie  for always trying to keep me honest. I love you to the moon and back

There were only a few different biscuits, rolls and cupcakes but every single one of them were like little treats of perfection. And the packaging, ohhh the packaging. Black and white and classy and so Joanna. Definitely worth finding space on the plane for those. Need I say anymore?

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Beautiful artwork with scripture to remind us of where our blessings begin.

Graced with scripture, the setting in and around the bakery and store felt comfortable and welcoming.

 

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One of our favorites from the bakery were the Cranberry Orange Biscuits which were a little like a glazed scone.

…….But in a square biscuit shape.

…….But baked close together so the sides were pillowy soft.

……..But oh so tender and melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

……..But with a glaze speckled with orange zest!

OK maybe not really like scones.

But these were like no other biscuits. But what would you expect from Joanna Gaines of  Fixer Upper fame?

I thought I could find a copy cat recipe online for some of the bakery items. Ashley scoffed at me and  bet that I could not. I lost that one. I guess the bakery is too new or maybe the biscuits are too out of this world. But since I lost, I told her I would put a copy cat recipe on my blog to remember such a great day together.

The food trucks and picnic area are a great place for breakfast. We had a whole grain crepe with fresh strawberries, bananas and peaches. YUM
The food trucks and picnic area are a great place for breakfast. We had a whole grain crepe with fresh strawberries, bananas and peaches. YUM

Give me a minute here to rave about the whole place. Tastefully done, simply delightful and  food trucks, did I mention food trucks?And shopping for home goods.  And simple gardens of zinas and herbs and Swiss chard. And a large green space for yard games. And did I mention food trucks?

The silos are old grain bins used in an era past to store grain before it was shipped out on the railroad. What was once an eyesore in Waco is now a destination for 15,000 visitors a week.

Hens no longer lay their eggs in these boxes, they have been repurposed as a herb planter.
Hens no longer lay their eggs in these boxes, they have been repurposed as a herb planter.

Look at these “laying hens” nesting boxes that are filled with oregano, basil, mint, lemon mint and more. What a great way to grow herbs in a small space .

OK so now on to the recipe for Cranberry Orange Biscuits. They are easy and you have to keep them easy. No over stirring. No over kneading, No over handling. No over thinking. Just 5 minutes to mix up and 12 minutes to bake. That’s it. Make them any harder and I promise, they won’t be as good.

There is not basil in this recipe, I just wanted to show the neat tea towels I got at Magnolia Seed and Garden.
There is no basil, carrots or collard greens in this recipe, I just wanted to show the neat tea towels I found at Magnolia Seed and Garden.

First of all, I am sure being in the south and now a Texas Girl, Joanna and staff use a traditional southern biscuit flour such as White Lilly or some other low protein flour. It makes the biscuits light and the crumb tender. This is the flour to use and self rising flour would be even more perfect. But in some markets, this is hard to find.  That is also a lot of different flours to keep on hand all the time. So to get this same effect as using a low-protein flour, I gave tips with the recipe for substitutions such as using all purpose flour and adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per cup of flour.  The results are a slightly coarser crumb than Magnolia Flour’s but letting the dough sit for about 1/2 hour before baking makes the crumb more tender.

The real secret is to handle the dough as little as possible and as gently as possible. This takes lots of practice but this recipe is so delectable that everyone will oooh and aww over your first biscuit. Only you will know how much better your biscuits are after many times of working the dough and knowing how gently to knead the dough.

I cut the dough with a large knife and used the knife to slide the slightly dough apart.
I cut the dough with a large knife and used the knife to slide the dough apart just a little.

Placing the biscuits close together was another tip I learned from the bakery. It allows the biscuits to raise straight up and tall but still have soft, luscious sides.

Bake the biscuits close together so the sides are tender and soft like the center of the biscuit.

I noticed that Magnolia Bakery cook their biscuits just until barely done. That’s right. The center biscuits are incredibly moist and I bet  that even the biscuits at the edges of the baking sheet are absolutely, perfectly moist and tender. One tip for this recipe is to err on the side of under-cooking the biscuits.

The glaze should be thin enough to spoon over the biscuit. Add more powdered sugar if it runs too wild.
The glaze should be thin enough to spoon over the biscuit. Add more powdered sugar if it runs too wild.

A glaze of orange zest,  juice, vanilla and powdered sugar is spread over each biscuit. I experimented with the glaze and the best time to spoon it on the warm biscuits. If it is put on too soon, it melts and dissolves into the biscuit, so let it cool a little.  Pour on the glaze  so it drys  to make a slightly stiff coating.

Orange Cranberry Biscuits

(AKA:  A lot like Joanna Gaines’ Biscuits from Fixer Upper and Magnolia Farms fame)

Biscuits:

2 1/2 cups White Lilly flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1-inch pieces of orange peel without any white pith on it
1/2 cup butter, cut up in pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3  cup buttermilk, milk or  light cream
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine  cream and orange juice concentrate. Set aside while mixing remaining ingredients. The cream might thicken slightly which is a good thing.

For Biscuits: Combine sugar and orange zest in food processor. Process until the orange peel is very fine, about 15 seconds.  Add flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, soda and salt to mixture in food processor. Process for 2  to 3 seconds or until butter is cut into pieces about the size of a pea (so easy to over-process so you can also cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender). Pour this dry mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour liquids into the center of the dry ingredients. Add dried cranberries. Stir lightly, just until flour is no longer visible. Turn out onto a floured board and gently fold dough in half 3 to 4 times, turning and kneading as gently as possible.

Place dough on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Pat out to about 2-inch thickness and shape into a 8×8-inch square. Cut into 2-inch squares and gently spread squares apart about 1/4-inch so they can rise but will still touch after baking. (optional: let stand 30 minutes before baking)  Bake for 12 to 15  minutes at 400 degrees or until lightly browned. If the biscuits are really close together, they may take a few minutes longer.  Let cool slightly. Combine glaze ingredients, adding more or less orange juice to get a nice consistency to drizzle over the biscuits, stirring until smooth. Spoon over biscuits and allow glaze to set for a few minutes.

Tips: In place of White Lilly flour which is a lower protein flour, you can substitute cake flour or  all purpose flour. For all purpose flour   put 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in the measuring cup and then add flour  for a total of 2 1/2 cups). The cornstarch will help keep the biscuits from forming excess gluten and the biscuits will be soft and tender.

My sister Debbie did not have cream so she used yogurt and orange juice in place of the concentrate. She said they turned out really good. You can also substitute buttermilk.

If your dried cranberries are not fresh they will draw moisture out of your biscuits and they will not keep as well. To freshen dried fruit, boil 1 cup of  water or orange juice and let the cranberries plump up. Drain well and stir in with other ingredients for biscuits.

Pumpkin Butter

I stop at produce markets all over the US but my favorites are always the ones that use the honor system and have a little bucket or box to drop your money in. It seems to me that anyone who uses the honor system to make a living probably lives a life of character.  And it gives me a warm, heartfelt invitation to share with them whatever I can.   So it was with a full heart that I stopped at a  produce stand as I was traveling through Wisconsin, picked out my produce and dropped the money into the bucket. Just about that time, a horse and buggy pulled up with more produce to restock the stand. I had a wonderful visit with the farmer and he invited me to his home which sat on 60 beautiful acres in the hilly countryside.  I met his wife who humbly showed me the apple and pumpkin pies she had made.

She shyly invited me inside her home and when I stepped into the entry, I could see pies and baked goods sitting on the wood burning stove. The pies were near perfect and the smell told me that they were as amazing in taste as they were to look at.

I just happened to have some of my homemade pumpkin butter in the car and offered her a jar and the recipe. She was a wonderful baker and had rows of jars with apple butter, harvest beets, pickled eggs and jellies but she had never tried pumpkin butter. I explained that pumpkin butter is prepared exactly like apple butter and is very similar. Both the flavor and texture is slightly different.

The next time I pass through their community, I will have to ask if she tried my pumpkin butter recipe. I can just see the family sitting down at the oak plank table spreading fresh pumpkin butter over thick slabs of homemade bread. It is so much fun to share recipes and it lets us laugh and enjoy each others company like few other things in life.

Pumpkin Butter

1 medium sugar pumpkin
1/2 cup of apple cider
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pierce pumpkin deeply with a knife to allow steam to escape. Place in the microwave and cook on high for 7 minutes per pound or until soft and flesh is tender. Remove pumpkin puree from the seeds and peel. Place pumpkin puree and remaining ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe container. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until thick, stirring several times to check the consistency. Serve immediately with bread or as a topping for ice cream , or allow to cool and store two weeks in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer.

Turkish Food Vendors in Vienna?

 

The orchestra and open air market were highlights in Vienna, Austria. Andria and I both love these kind of markets so I bet when she visited the one pictured above, she thought of our adventures last summer eating our way through the Farmers Markets of Washington, Oregon and California. I can just hear her saying, “My mom would love this!” And I do! Even if it is just in photos.

A multitude of dried fruit at the open air market in Vienna.
A multitude of dried fruit at the open air market in Vienna.

This looks like a really fun market. Some  of the foods are typical to what  we might see in the States ( dried cranberries or apples). One difference is  that foods from all over the world make their way to the street market in Vienna (candied hibiscus flowers is definitely a new one for me).

Borek

Some foods like  Turkish Borek are sold by vendors hawking their ply to tourists and locals alike.

Borek (Turkish Spinach and Feta Filled Phyllo)

A street vendor with Turkish pastries made with phyllo dough caught Andria’s attention.

Wiener Huhnerschnitzel (2)

And so did the wiener huhnerschnitzel with fries and kraut.. SpicesA  crazy array of spices cater to the international buyers on the street.

Sunflowers and Nut Butters and Honey: A Few of My Favorite things

Did I mention macadamia honey nut butter in that list? If not, it is because I just discovered it. That’s right, in between the time I wrote that title and my first line I discovered my new favorite lunch food. I take my lunch everyday and if I am working late and early,  often my breakfast and supper too. So I am always thinking about what packs well.  I found this can of Macadamia nuts in my cupboard and remembered a friend telling me that it makes great nut butter.

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I am not sure what possessed my daughter to buy such an expensive item such as  this 1 1/2#  can of dry roasted macadamia nuts with sea salt but I am so glad to be the “finders keepers” person and instead of the “losers weepers” person.

SONY DSCI quickly poured the remainder of the can into my food processor before anyone saw me and confiscated my “treasure”.

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Two minutes later  (literally 2 minutes of mixing in my food processor, I timed it) my frozen macadamias were a luscious nut butter. So quick no one even knew what was happening.

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The macadamia nuts had been in the freezer so were really cold when I started.  The nut butter was still cold when I removed it from the food processor and stirred in honey but in this photo you can see that the sun has warmed it to the point that it is starting to melt.SONY DSC So for my new favorite lunch, I grind the wheat from the field by my house, make it into a bread using 100% whole grain and spread it with my own nut butter mixed with honey from the bee hives we just set out last week. Now that is what I call an all-natural lunch.  No refrigeration needed, it keeps for the next day if my lunch plans change and I can eat it without a utensil just fine, thank you.

Macadamia Honey Nut Butter

3/4 lb. macadamia nuts, roasting and salting is optional
1/4 cup honey

Place nuts in food processor and process for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth. Mixture will go from chunky to forming a ball to being smooth like what you might expect of a nut butter.  Stir in honey. I like to do it just before serving because some honey will crystallize faster than others. I can melt the honey crystals that are pure honey, but once I add the nut butter, it is much harder to get rid of those sugar crystals.