I am a big fan of buttermilk. I use it often in many of my recipes from pancakes to muffins … it makes food soft and gives an interesting tart flavor. The acid in the buttermilk will help rise the quick breads as the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and the baking powder. It also breaks down the gluten in the flour making it is easier to digest so it is an important ingredient in the kitchen. I used to get buttermilk often from the store but since I learnt this simple little trick, I haven’t bought any.
So why make your own? Well for one it is cheaper. Also, it is likely you have milk at home and really all you have to do is add some acid to curdle the milk. I like to use apple cider vinegar but other acids will work like regular white vinegar or lemon … and that is it. Seriously, will you ever buy buttermilk at a store again?
1 cup of milk minus 2 Tbsp milk (almond milk works nice too)
2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar or lemon juice
To make 1 cup of buttermilk, measure out 1 cup milk and remove 2 Tbsp of it.
Pour into a small dish.
Add 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes and then it is done.
Winter is not over yet, in fact we are still in the middle of it. To be a little more exact, we are half way between winter and spring on the northern hemosphere. I can usually feel the Earth’s energy starting to wake up but spring is not here yet. We can finally experience the promise of the light, fertility and growth.
Come celebrate this Winter Magic! In accordance to Pagan traditions, this occasion has been celebrated for thousands of years by Europeans. One special food they make is the honey cookies. So yes this celebration is similar to Valentine’s day. The cookies were gifted as a fertility token to girls by boys or given as good luck charm to little children. Heart was always a popular shape but sun or animal themes were often used as well.
There is so much folklore, legend and history behind these lovely spiced cookies! They are made to honor the old, wise women in their culture. In Ireland they call her Brighid, in Russia they are called Baba Yaga. These women are the Earth’s Godesses. The cookies are not just beautiful but are packed with nourishing ingredients that grandma would use.
This is still the time to stay focused inward and get ready mentally for the year to come. Clean and clear the space you live in and invite love or universal love into your life. Set your intentions. Do things that your heart desires.
Another spectrum of love is hatred, anger and jealousy. When you invite love into your life, you might experience these feelings too. Don’t be affraid of them just acknowledge them. These emotions can be found in the Grimm story of Hansel and Gratel.
Traditionally, honey, rye flour and forest herbs were used to make these delicious cookies. Honey, the main ingredient has been used as medicine since ancient times. It is well known for its nutritious value and supposedly sweetens life as well. Oh and it is aphrodisiac! In addition to honey, our ancestors prepared the dough with rye flour but today people tend to use white flour. They also put foraged herbs and dried fruits in the cookies. Of course, these ingredients varied from country to country and region to region but often included fennel, lavender, rose petals, juniper berries, sumac etc. Since the exotic spices arrived from the East, people have been baking the cookies with these spices. These included a mixture of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg etc.
This is a basic recipe that I have been using and enjoying for years. It is moist, a bit crunchy with a little hint of sweetness. Of course, coarsely ground corn flour is a must! The butter gives it a nice flavor and a bit of crunchyness, the buttermilk makes it soft and the eggs pull it all together … oh and I add a little sugar just enough to make it sweet. Feel free to serve it with a hearty soup or just have it as it is with some jam.
Please check out my recipe for my white chilli soup (recipe).
1 cup corn meal, coarse ground
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick (110g) of unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients.
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Do not overbeat.
Pour into a lightly greased pan. I like to let the mixture sit for a couple of hours so it is easier to digest.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let the bread cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
I have always loved French onion soup. It is made with of course lots onions … and these charamelized onions give the soup its rich color and flavor. But there is a little more to it than just throwing all the ingredients together … follow this recipe and you can make a perfect onion soup. Oh and when you serve it, play some nice French music with it. Last time I ate French onion soup, we were at the restaurant called Naniboujou by Grand Marais, Minnesota after canuing in the Boundary Waters and they happened to play the Cd from the movie Amolié… ah total bliss…
Today, we often see this soup in fancy restaurants; however, it traditionally started out as a peasant food made with the simple ingredients: onions, beef broth and cheese. It is the perfect soup for the winter. The secret is in the preparation. It takes a long time to slowly charamelize those onions but it is so worth it! You get this wonderfully savory flavor with a little hint of sweetness. Oh and of course the ingredients. Your soup will be as good as the ingredients you use. I prefer making the beef stock at home and let’s not forget the cheese! Try to get the best cheese you can buy! I like using gruyere cheese, but you can try other rich flavored cheese as well.
Serves 8 people
6 larger onions (1kg) onions
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
3 Tbsp brandy or cognac
2 Qt beef stock
few fresh thyme springs
toasted sliced French bread (about 2 slices per serving)
cheese (1/4 cup per serving)
Peel the onions, cut them in halves (Make sure you remove the first 2 tougher layers of the onions). Cut them into very thin slices.
In a large pot melt the butter. Add the onions and the sugar, stir. Cook on medium high heat for about 15 minutes until onions are translucent. Stir occationally.
Turn heat down a notch and continue cooking the onions for 40-45 more minutes or until they are nice and brown but not burnt. Stir occationally. Do not cover the pot.
Stir in the flour and mix. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
Add the wine and the brandy. Mix. Cook for 3 mintes. Don’t skip this step, it gives that interesting bite to the soup.
Add the stock, bayleaves and thyme springs and cook for 25-30 minutes partially covered.
When ready, salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve the soup in individual bowls if you wish. Add the toasted bread and 1/4 cup of cheese per bowl on top. Broil on high for 5 minutes. Or you can serve the soup in a big pot and just let people serve themselves.
Serve immediately maybe with some French wine. I used Famille Bogrier Vouvre Chenin Blanc white wine, a very lovely wine from France.
Hope you all had a very lovely Christmas and were able to indulge in as many Christmas dishes as you could … but now many of us tend to gravitate towards lighter yet nourishing foods. In general, to tune in with the seasons, winter is more about dormancy and resting, giving our body a break especially after all the feasting and partying of Christmas.
Sauerkraut Mushroom soup is a hugely popular winter dish in Russia that will nourish your body and soul. It is special for the Russian Orthodox Christans because this is what they serve during the long fast from the end of November until January 7th. In accordance with the strict rules no meat, bacon, animal fat, butter, eggs or milk may be eaten during this time period. This tradition was particularly hard for the farmers who had to work outside and needed heavier foods to survive. The cooks had to be creative and came up with this delicious, hearty soup … that today would fit the vegan definition.
This is a lovely soup that has three simple main ingredients: sauerkraut, mushrooms and the barley. Mushrooms are a nice substitution for meat so use as much as you desire. In Eastern Europe, it is customary in the fall to go out in the woods and pick mushrooms. People then dry them to use during the cold months. If you don’t have access to wild mushrooms, buy stronger flavored mushrooms like morrel, oyster, shitaki or even crimini mushrooms could work. The sauerkraut of course gives it the nice sour flavor and has immense health benefits. The crunchy barley adds the robust part to the soup.
PLEASE READ !!! I use cep mushrooms but if you don’t know how to find edible mushrooms in the wild, definitely go to the stores and purchase them there. Mushrooms are very valuable but there can be some poisonous ones. Stores sell some fine mushrooms that are dried and are worth using. Just soak them in water and then they are ready to be used. Last time I used shitaki mushrooms and I thoght was a nice substitution.
The soup will need a good home-made stock. Both a meat based or a vegetable based stock would work great. You can use beef bones but the vegatarian version is great too. For the vegetarian stock I added onions, garlic, 2 bay leaf, 1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorn, handfull of mushrooms, 1 celery root, couple of carrots and parsley root. Honestly, we could not taste much difference. Don’t forget to put celery root in the stock it surely adds something special to the flavor.
1 lb sourkraut
80 gr (3oz) dried mushrooms or about 6 oz fresh mushrooms (Please see above for more info on safety).
1 cup dry pearled barley
1-2 qt (1-2L) of vegetable or beef stock (please see above)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
few thyme springs
shallots or small onion
2 cloves of garlic
If using dried mushrooms, soak in water for a couple hours or maybe even overnight if needed.
Make the stock. Please see above for more info.
Make the barley. Boil 3 cups of water and put barley in the boiling water. Turn down and let cook for 1 hour without cover.
In a medium saucepan, sautee the shallots in a little oil for a few minutes.
Add the garlic on low heat. Mix.
Add drained sauerkraut, thyme spring, caraway seeds, bay leaves. Cover with stock. Cook for 1 hour.
For the last 10 minutes, add the mushrooms slices.
Often when you ask children what their favorite holiday is they say … Christmas! And then you ask why … because they get presents. I’m sure that is how I would have answered those questions back when I was a little girl. This is a very magical holiday for sure … but as we get older, we start thinking about giving too.
Many people enjoy giving treats at Christmas time. But where did the idea of Christmas gift giving come from? … and what about Santa and his rein deer?
Let’s go back in time. It is believed that it came from an old Pagan tradition. Giving gifts can strengthen the ‘family and well-being of others’, an important theme during this time of the year. This custom was part of the tradition of exchanging mushrooms as a gift at the time in the Northern part of Siberia. Mushrooms were special because of their connection to longevity. People delivered the wrapped carefully prepared dried mushrooms to people’s houses for celebrating the winter solstice. There was so much snow that they could not open the doors and the packages had to be dropped off through the holes on top of the yurts where the smoke could escape. Also, these people used rein deer for transportation in the snow. Also check this out … I need to mention that their traditional clothing is red and white even today … hence comes the story of Santa dressed in red and white, delivering presents through the chimney down the fire place with the help of some rein deer…
After so many years we are still exchanging gifts. Giving home-made foods can be meaningful for both the giver and the receiver. If you are not sure what to give this year, maybe consider giving cookies. I’m presenting two different cookie recipes that can be gifted during the holidays. They are ‘Christmas’-y and mouth watering.
Wishing evereyone a very merry Christmas!
Please check out the following links for the recipes.
You can surely impress your guests with these rich chocolate cookies or maybe you can just use this recipe for a last minute gift for your neighbors… The crunchy outside is coupled with the melt-in-your-mouth soft inside and is elevated to another level with the espresso flavor. Enjoy!
Makes 16 cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp instant espresso
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for coating
Start melting the chocolate. I used a double boiler.
In a larger bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder and salt. Make sure you use some kind of a sifter, tea strainer as the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder need to be without knots. Set aside.
In a seperate bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the egg and mix until incorpoated.
Mix in the melted chocolate and the milk.
Add the flour mixture from earlier until you get a ball shaped dough. Put in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter a cookie sheet. Form 2 inch balls.
Pour 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a medium sized bowl. In batches, roll the balls in the sugar and let the balls sit for a minute in the sugar. Repeat one more time.
Place the balls about 1 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes. They should be soft but not fall apart. Let the cookies stay on the baking sheet for 5 minutes to cool.
Transfer them on a wire rack for 15 minutes. They will harden.
Meringue cookies have been one of my favorite Holiday desserts since my childhood … maybe because I don’t care much for the heavier desserts that much but still enjoy a bit of sweetness during Christmas time. These beautiful cookies are delicious and airy with just the right amount of texture with the nuts and the almond essence. They would be a great gift for those friends and family members who like something sweet with a little bit of crunchiness or eat gluten free foods. Of course, this is a great recipe to have on hand so you can use up all those left over egg whites. Enjoy!
(makes about 2-3 dozens)
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup of granulated sugar (regular sugar pulsed for about 10 seconds in a food processor)
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup of finally chopped walnuts or pecans or almonds
1/4 tsp cream of tatar
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
Line a baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a larger sized bowl, on medium high speed quickly beat (few minutes) the egg whites until they are frothy but not hard. Do not over beat.
Add the sugar gradually on high speed. It is important to add the sugar 1 Tbsp at a time to make sure they get incorporated nicely. I had a family member who did this. On a low setting beat in the vanilla, cream of tartar, almond extract and salt. Gently fold in the nuts with a spatula.
Drop a tablespoon-full of the eggwhite mixture onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. I used a piping bag with a large nozzle to get a more uniform shapes.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cookies should not be damp. Leave them in the oven for another hour while the oven is cooling.
Winter has finally arrived in the Midwest of the United State … and it looks like it is here to stay after all the crazyness of this year. We had snow in September and in October … and had 80 degree weather inbetween. I am definitely ready!
December brings forth Winter Wonderland and the Holidays. When I think of Christmas dishes, warming and festive winter foods come to my mind. For me Christmas is a lot about cooking and baking … and of course music. I’m already looking forward to all the baking and cooking I will be doing and singing along my favorite Christmas music…
Please read my previous blogs from last year on winter eating and tasty dishes and desserts.
As many of you know, I post recipes with the seasons so I normally would post salad type dishes during the warmer months. However, this salad would fit my ‘Eating with the season’ motto so I thought it would be a great time to share it now. Kale actually thrives in cold weather garden. Here the kale is topped with the warm zesty cranberry vinaigrette dressing and is a lovely addition during the holidays. Enjoy!
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided 1 larger shallot, peeled and thinly sliced 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 1 cup dried cranberries 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar 2 teaspoons honey juice and zest of half a lemon 1/8 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper 1/2 – 1 bunch kale, thinly sliced 1/4 cup sliced almonds 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese (optional)
Slice the shallots
In a medium sized pan saute them in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for minute, stir. Add the wine vinegar, cranberries, honey and the lemon juice and zest, mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Wash and take large veins off of the kale so you are left with the delicate leaves only. Discard the veins.
In a large bowl, drizzle a little olive oil and salt on the kale leaves. Mix with two large spoons. Massage the leaves until tender. This just means to take a leaf in your hand and rub it in-between your thumb and index finger to soften the leaves and to get the oil onto the leaves.
Add the shallot/cranberry mixture from earlier and the sliced almond slievers. Toss to combine.