Friday, November 30, 2012

In Search of the Best Biscuits...and Buttermilk Biscuit variation

I have been trying different biscuit recipes for a while- always searching for the best taste and the fluffiest texture. So this quest has turned into a 2 day baking challenge trying different versions and techniques. I read numerous cookbooks (old and new) and looked at videos online-- I also tried buttermilk versus using regular milk. There are two different types of recipes, one that uses self-rising flour and ones that keep the flour and other ingredients separate. Some even recommend cake flour for the best rise. I, however, used all-purpose flour for my different biscuit recipes. The first baking powder and buttermilk biscuits I made, I didn't brush the tops with butter prior to baking-- but when I tasted the last butter-brushed batch, I was convinced that it is truly necessary for the best taste.

Also, the last batch I made, I put the biscuits in the pan so they were all touching each other. This seemed to give more uniformity to the rise and they were not as lop-sided. In the future, I will put one batch of biscuits in an 8 or 9 inch pan so they can touch and have side of the pan all around to keep the outer biscuits from spreading out too much. Initially, I indented the centers of the biscuits in the first couple batches because people said that helps them rise straight, but I still had a problem with some of them being a little uneven. Another thing I experimented with was my biscuit dough more wet and sticky versus not-so-sticky. The last batch was a more wet dough and seemed to have the most tender texture inside.

My conclusion? I could not decide which I preferred more- baking powder versus buttermilk biscuits. They were equally good- especially when brushed with butter before baking. The most important things seemed to be working with a more wet dough and not mixing or kneading it very much at all.   Do you have a favorite biscuit recipe?

Biscuits Yields: 16 medium biscuits (if rolling out dough to 1/2 inch thickness), or approximately 8 extra thick (if rolling 1 inch thick)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or cake flour as some recommend)
  • 1/2- 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp sugar- up to 4 Tbsp if you like a sweeter taste
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter (I used palm shortening, which is not artificially hydrogenated)
  • 2/3- 3/4 cup milk
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Sift dry ingredients together into a medium bowl. 
  • Cut in shortening or butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour all the milk in at once.
  • Stir just until dough follows the mixing utensil around the bow, adding milk as necessary to get a moist dough.
  • Lightly flour your counter/cutting board and sprinkle top of dough with some flour. Roll dough ball around in the flour, giving it a couple gentle kneads until outside is not so sticky. Pat or roll out the dough. 
  • (Optional- fold one third towards the middle and then the other third over the first- like an envelope. Then pat the dough out to the desired thickness.)
  • Cut with a biscuit cutter or glass, being careful to press straight down and not twist until the cutter is all the way to the bottom. Alternatively, you may just cut them into equal squares with a sharp knife, but make sure your dough is squared up on the corners and sides first. 
  • Place on an ungreased baking sheet with sides touching and brush with melted butter for extra flavor! 
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
** For Buttermilk Biscuits:
do not use cream of tartar, increase baking soda to 1/2 tsp, decrease the fat to 1/3 cup and use 1 cup buttermilk instead of milk. Follow the directions otherwise as above.

flour and shortening
first batch of dough- less sticky

first batch cooling

wetter dough sprinkled with flour
Make sure you brush the top with butter!

final biscuit batch

tasting the final batch- YUM!

If you really want a shortcut- make the dough wet enough that you are unable to roll out the dough, then put into a greased glass baking dish in which you have melted 1/4 cup of butter. Lightly press flat in the pan and pour 1/2 stick of melted butter over top and score top of the biscuit dough 3-4 times in each direction. (courtesy of The Country Cook) Bake for about 20 minutes or just until golden brown. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vegetable Rice Salad

I love recipes that are all about using up the leftovers in your refrigerator. Well, this is one of those. The inspiration for this recipe came from the Back to School 2012 issue of Penzeys Spice catalog. I changed some of the ingredients and added more dressing, but that is the great thing about this recipe- just chop and throw in whatever veggies you have that need to be used up. This dish makes a great lunch by itself, a light supper, or as a side dish for a meal.

  • 3 1/2 cups cooked rice, white or brown (I had some of both)
  • 2 cups freshly cooked corn (I used our own frozen corn- so much sweeter and richer)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced or a combination of both
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped finely (optional- does not really add any heat)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 6 small green onions, sliced
  • 1-2 avocados, chopped into small chunks
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, diced
  • 1 can small red beans or black beans, rinsed (whatever type of bean you like)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup black olives, chopped (optional, may also use green olives)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar (may substitute red wine vinegar also)
  • 1 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp cumin (adjust to taste- I used more because I really like a stronger cumin flavor)
  • Mix rice, vegetables and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad ingredients.
  • Mix all ingredients together well. Chill for about 4 hours- the longer, the more flavor. 
** The dressing does not have any sweetener but the corn and rice balance it out and it is not too tart.

Feel free to add in some chopped celery, carrots and any other vegetables you need to use up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homemade Cornbread Mix

Sometimes I  am a lazy cook. I am not very good at planning ahead meals, although I am trying to work on this. I enjoy cornbread but find that I do not make it very often because it seems like too much work to mix up the batter and get it in the oven while I am making the rest of the supper, which is often being done at the last minute. So, not that I enjoy baring my faults with the world, but this is an area that has been an impetus for me to look for shortcuts without always going to a box (although I do that with cakes and brownies at times). I have come across a lot of bulk mixes on blogs like Chickens in the Road and Country Momma Cooks, which made me decide to get out the recipes I love and make up some of my own bulk mixes. Then when I am running short on time (which is most of the time), I can just pull out the container, add the wet ingredients and it is ready for the oven in a jiffy!

I love a lot of different cornbread recipes, but the one that really caught my taste buds was from Land-O-Lakes, called Honey Moist Cornbread. You can see the original recipe at the link attached to the title. I have not really changed the recipe much- I usually use low fat milk in place of half and half and it still comes out wonderful. If you like a VERY sweet cornbread, you might want to add a little more sugar, but try it first this way since it has a nice balance of sweetness already.

This bulk mix makes 6 recipes. The following is the information I put into a label to put on the outside of the container so I would not have to get out my recipe every time I make some.

Cornbread Mix

9 servings
In a large bowl, mix 1 cup milk or half and half, 2 slightly beaten eggs, ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup melted butter. Stir in 2 1/3 cups of cornbread mix just until moistened.
      Pour into greased 8 or 9” pan. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 

For the bulk mix recipe:
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 cups yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp dry milk powder (optional)

Stir all ingredients together until well blended in a LARGE bowl or clean bucket. Transfer to a seal-tight storage container.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cranberry Salad/Relish

Cranberries are such a traditional part of a Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. However, because they are so tart, many people do not like them. When I was young, my family always had the jellied cranberry in a can with our turkey dinner. While I still enjoy that type of cranberry relish, I really have come to enjoy the whole cranberries. One of the grocery stores in our area sells a couple of different cranberry salads that are so yummy- but have a lot of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Since I have been trying to cut back on sugar and avoid HFCS as much as possible, I decided to make up my own version that has been inspired by their recipes. I have been making this for the past couple years, and wherever I serve this dish, it always gets rave reviews.

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients. It is not very hard to make if you have a food processor or chopper and is totally worth the effort. It also freezes well and can be made up in a big batch and then separated into a few containers to freeze. Then remove it later and serve with some chicken, turkey or pork.


  • 1 bag (12 oz.) of cranberries, fresh or frozen- I prefer frozen so they don't mush up as much when chopping)
  • 1 large apple
  • 2 large celery stalks, outside fibers removed if necessary
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of pineapple, drained (reserve the liquid for jello)
  • 1 large orange, peeled and membranes removed or 1 (11 oz.) can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained
  • 2 (3 oz.) boxes of raspberry or cherry jello
  • 1 3/4 cup total of liquids- use reserved liquids and enough water or orange juice to make up the amount needed
  • 3-4 Tbsp sugar

  • Rinse cranberries and chop with quick pulses in a food processor or chopper, being careful to not chop too much or it will turn to paste/liquid
  • Continue chopping the remainder of the fruit/vegetables and add everything into a large bowl. Oranges need to be broken up somewhat so there are not very large chunks.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat liquid and sugar together until just boiling, then add in the gelatin. Turn off  heat and remove from the burner, stirring well to mix and dissolve the jello. 
  • Add the liquid mixture into the chopped fruit and stir well. 
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or until well-chilled and more firm. 
  • Just before serving, stir to loosen it up and break up the chunks. 
*Note: if you desire a much softer consistency, try using only 1 box of jello and add in 1/4 -1/3 cup extra sugar into the liquid mixture when boiling. There will be more juices from the cranberries and other fruit.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Patty Pan Squash Casserole

This recipe was one that just came together in an attempt to use up a bunch of large patty pan squash and tomatoes that I had from our garden. Somehow, we always seem to end up with overgrown squash- both zucchini and patty pan. My husband grew up eating small patty pan squash that were steamed or boiled and then browned butter was put over it. I never tasted this squash until we married and began our own garden. The first couple I picked were small, but ever since then, we often seem to end up with ones that are so big. I tried peeling them in the beginning- ever try peeling such an irregular piece of vegetable? Well, I quickly decided that this was for the birds. Really, you don't need to peel them because the squash is quite firm and needs a longer cooking time. Anyways, I was not very impressed with my first patty pan cooking attempt and decided I preferred it better mixed in with other foods- much like I prefer zucchini and yellow summer squash.

If you  notice from the next picture, I used some pre-made ingredients that I keep on hand to make up something quick when I have not had time to cook ahead. Feel free to substitute your own homemade versions, if desired.

Serves: approximately 4-6
  • meat of choice- poultry, beef, sausage or lamb (I used sausage)
  • 1 large patty pan squash, washed and sliced through the center and seeds removed, or may use a few smaller ones (may also use zucchini or other summer squash)
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4-5 medium mushrooms, or to taste
  • potatoes- mashed (I used some dried potato flakes made up with garlic seasoning and butter)
  • 1 box of stuffing mix (cornbread or savory herb, if available), prepared according to directions
  • 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup- may use own recipe if you prefer, but do not dilute it- you need it thick
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • carrots/celery, chopped- optional
  • chopped parsley- 1 Tbsp if fresh or 2 tsp if dry (more or less to taste)

1. In a large oven-proof pan, brown the meat and vegetables except the tomatoes, adding some oil if the meat is not releasing enough to keep everything from sticking. Season with salt/pepper or seasoned salt and parsley.  If there is much grease, may remove most of it when finished browning everything.

2. Cover and allow to cook until the squash is fork-tender. Add in the tomatoes and stir in the mushroom soup (undiluted) and allow to cook, covered, for about 3 more minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften.
3. Spread the prepared stuffing over top of the mixture.

4. Place under preheated broiler at 375 or 400 degrees F. for about 5-10 minutes- watching carefully to make sure it does not burn. You just want it to be lightly browned.

5. Serve over prepared mashed potatoes.

Shared with the following:
Recipes For My Boys- Thursday's Treasures Wk 51

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zucchini Jam

This is a recipe that I have been dying to share for quite some time, but life has been a little too crazy to get it all together until now. My mom (who doesn't remember where this recipe came from) made this jam once or twice many years ago, and I have made it a few times since I married and started doing my own food preserving. I love how it is a great way to use up a pile of zucchini (especially those great big ones that inevitably seem to appear out of nowhere in the garden). I have noticed many cake recipes that hide and disguise zucchini, but I have not met anyone who has tried this before-- and it really has a nice flavor.  

For those of you who may wonder how on earth zucchini would taste in a sweet jam? Fear not! The zucchini is really just a subtle texture and is flavor-neutral. Therefore, you get the healthy benefits of eating zucchini but can enjoy it as a sweet topping. Actually, the predominant flavor is the pineapple and whatever flavor of jello you decide to use- I used peach jello flavor. *Note: if you use smaller zucchini, you may have a very solid and firm jam since larger zucchini have more water content. Also, for those people who are pretty picky, peeling the squash allows it to be disguised in the jam much better.

Yields: 5-6 half pints

  • 6 cups of zucchini, seeds removed, grated (may be peeled, although I did not)
  • 4-6 cups sugar
  • 6 oz. box of jello or (2) 3 oz. boxes- apricot, peach, pineapple or orange
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

  • In a large pot, cook the zucchini on low-medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. No need to add additional water since the zucchini already has a high water content that seeps out as it cooks.
  • Add sugar and boil for 6 minutes more, stirring often.
  • Add lemon juice and pineapple and boil 6 minutes more, stirring often.
  • Reduce heat and add package of jello. Stir well and pour into prepared jars.
  • Cover with canning lids/rings and immediately invert jars for 20-30 minutes or process in water bath, if desired.

Shared with the following:
Weekend Potluck
Mop It Up Mondays

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Apple Oatmeal Pancakes

Since my kids are crazy about pancakes and they usually expect me to make them once on the weekend, I have tried to find various ways to incorporate "healthy" foods into them. I love the texture that oats give to pancakes- it is not going to be your typical pancake. Instead, these pancakes tend to be denser and chewier, but they have a lot of flavor, as well as being very filling! I have often either grated apples or just chopped them in smaller chunks and added them to the batter, in addition to some apple pie spice. These are wonderful with some homemade cinnamon-flavored apple sauce and some maple syrup. You might also try making an apple syrup from apple juice/cider and a couple of tablespoons of honey that has been reduced down.

Both oats and apples are full of fiber and antioxidants. You know there is a lot of truth to the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." These additions to your pancakes can take an average breakfast food that is usually not very healthy (especially if made with white flour and regular sugar and pancake syrups) and make it into something that is going to give us more energy, keep us full longer and yet taste yummy! If you really want to pump up the health benefits without really changing the taste, add in a few tablespoons of chia seeds or ground flax seed (both are high in omega-3 fatty acids and chia seeds are very high in antioxidants, yet flavor-neutral).

Makes about 20 larger pancakes.
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked (I use quick oats)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat flour, could also substitute coconut flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4-1/2 tsp cardamom or 2 tsp apple pie spice blend (optional if adding apples)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 3 Tbsp sugar or other sweetener
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 large apple or 2 small-medium apples, chopped very small or grated (I leave the skins on)
  • Pour milk over oats, cover and let stand. 
  • Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices. 
  • Stir eggs, oil, vanilla into the oat/milk mixture.
  • Add in the dry ingredients and wheat germ. Mix just until moistened.
  • Fold in apples.
  • Bake on moderately hot, lightly greased electric griddle (375 degrees) or pan fry until golden brown, turning only once when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.
May serve with the following sauce if not adding in fruit:
     Orange Sauce:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil
Mix sugar and corn starch in a saucepan. Stir in juices. Cook until mixture is thick and clear. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Blend in butter/oil. Serve warm over pancakes.    

Makes about 3 cups.

Shared with the following:
Ladybird Ln

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rhubarb Custard Cake

Our rhubarb has not grown very well this year. I kept holding off cutting it to see if the stalks would grow a little bigger. Now that the weather is getting hot,  I decided that I needed to cut the largest ones and leave the rest. This is an easy cake that was originally from "Taste of Home" by Evelyn Gebhardt, and I just love the way it turns out. It uses a cake mix, and if you don't like them, just substitute your favorite yellow/butter or white cake recipe. There is such a great balance between the sweet cake, the tartness of the rhubarb and the creaminess at the bottom.

Serves 12-15
  • 1 yellow cake mix (18 1/4 oz)
  • 4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • whipped cream and fresh mint (optional) for topping
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Pour into greased 13x9 inch baking dish.
  • Sprinkle with rhubarb and sugar.
  • Slowly pour cream over top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
  • Garnish with whipped cream and mint if desired.
  • Refrigerate leftovers.

**Alternatively, you can increase the cream to 1 pint (2 cups) and bake it longer, about 1 1/4 hours. Follow the recipe the same as above otherwise. This gives a thicker custard layer. See picture below:

Shared with the following:
Ladybird Ln

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blueberry Fantasia bars

This is a quick and yet decadent dessert that I found on the back of a Lucky Leaf Blueberry Pie Filling jar. I made it and brought it to my cooking club meeting recently and it was a big hit. I love any type of dessert that has a type of cheesecake layer. In addition, coconut has been one of my favorite things lately to work into recipes. So I was interested to try this recipe since it has coconut, nuts, pie filling and cheesecake. You can't go wrong with something like this! This recipe could also be switched up a little by using cherry or some other type of berry pie filling and use some other flavors in the cheesecake, like coconut. I added some lemon extract, which really added some brightness to the dessert.

Serves 12


  • 1 pkg (18 oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon extract (or vanilla or coconut)
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberry fruit filling (I used a whole can of filling)
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts
  • In large bowl, blend cake mix, butter and 1 egg.
  • Pat mixture into greased 9x13 inch baking pan.
  • Beat cream cheese until fluffy; add in 2 eggs, flavoring and sugar. Pour over cake mixture.
  • Spoon fruit filling on top evenly. Sprinkle  with coconut and nuts.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes until lightly browned. (Cheesecake layer should not be too wet/jiggly when testing it.)
  • Cool/refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes before cutting.
*Note: the cheesecake layer may be a little soft. You may need to clean the knife after each cut so the cheesecake does not smear all over the other parts. (That's just more for you to taste!)

I also wanted to share that I was one of the bloggers given the Versatile Blogger award by Susie at Earning-My-Cape a few weeks ago (maybe even a little longer- time has been flying by lately). Although I am unable to fulfill all the requirements in accepting that award at this time, I wanted to give her a big THANKYOU!!!! and a tell everyone to check out her blog and show her some blog love. She is just getting started in the blogging world and shares quite a variety of things that she is working on- from various crafts to cooking to information that is useful for our health and families, and basically whatever is happening with her family at that time (like a lot of us do). She is really another sweet person that I have had the privilege to meet since I started blogging. 

Shared with the following:

Miz Helen’s Country CottageCast Party Wednesday
Friday Flair Link Party #19 at Whipperberry

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sugar Cake

mixed lilacs



Valley Valentine Japonica

apple blossoms

Spring is such a beautiful time of year, and I just had to share some of the flowers in bloom at our house. Right now, I picked some lilacs and the scent is perfuming our entire house. Growing up, there were lilacs around our house, and later the house my husband and I bought had a large number of old lilac bushes of various colors throughout the entire property. I must say, they are one of my favorite flowers. We have since removed some of them to open up some areas and clean up the yard some (still very much a work in progress). Our small home orchard was also beautiful this spring in full bloom. I hope this translates into a good fruit crop.

I know that in some parts of the U.S. it is rhubarb season, but ours is not quite ready. We were finally able to harvest a nice supply last spring/early summer. In our area, there is actually a rhubarb festival that features this tart plant in many different ways. I had posted a recipe for rhubarb dessert sauce previously and thought I would share this old fashioned cake recipe that goes so well with the rhubarb sauce.


This is a  cake that was made for our family by a good friend when my last baby was born. She made some wonderful soups that we could heat up and eat when we needed quick meals, and she also made this cake for dessert to go with some rhubarb sauce she had made. Her mother-in-law used to make this recipe for many years, and my friend remembers her making it to take with them when they went camping. They often ate it for breakfast with applesauce, but it is also a simple cake that goes well with ice cream and just about any other type of dessert sauces or toppings.

I had to look around for a while to find the right kind of sugar to use on the top so that it would not dissolve into the cake during the baking process. You should use some type of specialty sugar that is larger granules and may be called gourmet sugar or coating sugar. I noticed this sugar has wax added, which I believe helps keep it more solid. When I made these cakes, my daughter saw I had bought some pink coating sugar and so she wanted "her" cake to have the colored sugar. The other cake was coated with the gourmet sugar that was white and larger granules. It seemed to sink into the top of the cake batter slightly more than the coating sugar, which surprised me, but it made a lovely glittery, crunchy top layer on top of the cake. If you cannot find this type of sugar, you can still use the regular granulated sugar- it will just dissolve somewhat into the top of the cake as it bakes.

 I really enjoy this cake because of the moist, tender crumb with the crunchy top. The original recipe called for it to be baked in 3 pie plates, but I decided to use two 9 inch cake pans. I just had to adjust the baking time approximately 10-15 minutes longer. My friend has also made the cakes in a couple smaller oblong cake pans with good results.


  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening (I used olive oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I used about 1 1/2 or 2 tsp)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • Cream shortening or oil with sugar. 
  • Beat eggs and add to sugar and oil.
  • Add sour milk and vanilla.
  • Sift dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients in batches while mixing.
  • Divide into 3 greased pie pans (I used two greased 9 inch round cake pans). 
  • Sprinkle top with additional granulated sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes for pie plates or about 30-35 minutes if using cake pans (check frequently and test with toothpick in the center when it appears golden brown on top).
  • Cool on rack for about 20 minutes and then may serve with toppings of choice if desired.
One cake could be wrapped in plastic and frozen to be eaten later.