Author Archives for Have Fork, Will Travel

About Have Fork, Will Travel

Office by day, home cook/baker by night, maker of many things. Food groupie always. Life is too short for bad food.

Strawberry Buttermilk Pie

The first time I heard about buttermilk pie, I was very skeptical. It sounded too strange for this California girl. I was looking for something different to enter into the local fair that year, so I decided to give it a try. I was very glad I did. The flavor is reminiscent of a cheesecake. For the skeptics out there, just give it a try. This version has fresh strawberries, though you can use frozen if that is what you have. Just make sure to thaw and drain first.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 9-inch pie shell (unbaked) or 8 4-inch mini pie shells
10-16 strawberries, cut in quarters
2-3 teaspoons of cornstarch

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and flour. Add the softened butter and cream the mixture. Once combined and fluffy, add in buttermilk, eggs, salt, and vanilla. Carefully pour the mixture into the pie or tart shells.

Sprinkle the cornstarch over the strawberry pieces to lightly coat, and divide evenly among the tart shells. If using one 9-inch shell, spread the strawberries evenly in the custard.

Bake at 350F degrees for 20-25 minutes (or 30 for a 9-in pie), or until filling is set. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Variations: swirl a teaspoon of your favorite jam in the buttermilk custard in each tart shell; substitute other berries for the strawberries; garnish with toasted coconut or candied nuts.

Basic Sourdough Bread

This is a basic sourdough bread that is pretty simple, but keep in mind good sourdough takes time. Sourdough starters are living things, and they work best when fed and watered on a regular basis. You can use stoneware or cast iron casserole dishes for baking, or even heavy baking sheets for the base.

2 1/2 cups flour (unbleached bread flour, preferably), plus more for dusting
3/4 cup sourdough starter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable or olive oil
Parchment paper

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, 3/4 cup room-temperature water, and the starter. Mix on medium speed for about 12 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. You may need to add more water, but only add a tablespoon at a time. Add the salt and mix for 1 full minute.

If you want to mix it by hand, I recommend using a good wood spoon to mix everything in the order above then turning out to a lightly floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes. You can also knead it for 2-3 minutes, let it rest for 5, then repeat 1-2 times.

Grease a large bowl with the olive or vegetable oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Lightly flour the top of the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s almost doubled in size.

A fun alternative to using plastic wrap is a new, unused shower cap. They are easy to clean, and I find that the dough sticks to them less than plastic wrap. Shower caps are also more eco-friendly since you can wash and reuse them.

Punch down the dough to get some of the bubbles out, fold it a few times (like folding a letter), return it to the bowl, cover it, and let it rise again for another hour. If you poke the dough with a knuckle, the hole should almost completely fill in but have a slight dent. At that point, the dough is ready to be shaped.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two or equal parts. Shape each part into a round or oval.

For each loaf, line a small bowl or banneton (proofing basket) with a clean kitchen towel, dust the towel liberally with flour, add the dough, cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise in there.

Let the dough proof for 1 1/2 hours, or until it springs back when you gently poke it, then proceed to the next step. You can also place your bread in the fridge overnight. Lightly flour the tops of the loaves and cover loosely with plastic wrap or shower cap.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the parchment paper to fit the bottom of the baking dish. If you are using a baking stone and dome, let the dome heat up inside the oven. If you are using a cast iron dutch oven, put the container in the oven when the temperature is around 250F. When the oven and dome/container are hot, place a piece of parchment paper on top of dough in the bowl. Gently flip over and remove the bowl and towel. Brush off any excess flour. With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut one, two or three lines about 1 1/2 inches deep across the top of the loaf. Place the lid on the baking dish and put back in the oven. If you have a large oven, you can bake both loaves at the same time. Otherwise, bake one, let the oven reheat for 5-10 minutes, then bake the second one.

Bake for about 20 minutes with the lid on, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom. Remove the lid or dome, and set inside the oven (if you bake two loaves at a time, you’ll have to set them somewhere heatproof to cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 25 minutes, then turn the oven off and crack the door. Let the bread sit in the oven 15 minutes.

Keep in mind, the larger the loaf the longer the first part of the baking time. If you make one large loaf, increase the time at 450F to 25-30 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

**optional – lightly sprinkle the top of the loaf before baking with coarse salt, poppy seeds, or chopped nuts.

Halloween time is here!

Happy October everyone! I hope life finds you doing well. It hard to believe we are at the tail end of the year already. Fall is my favorite time of year, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. Since I am working mostly remotely I don’t know if I’ll dress up or not, but you never know. Halloween is also my wedding anniversary. When we got married, I had to specify on the invitations that only the wedding party would be in costume (wedding dress, tux, etc.). In fact, before my wedding, I had never seen my brother in a tux. He walked me down the aisle, and my mom was there to see me marry my best friend. Ten years later, we are still going strong.

I just found out that Food Network was doing a Worst Cooks Halloween redemption. You know what that means……BINGO! Click below for this weeks cards. Just a reminder, I am not affiliated with Food Network or the show, and I have no idea what is on the show until everyone else. Pick a card (or several) and play along.

Chocolate Spice Pinwheels

Fall is in the air, and for some people that means pumpkin spice everything. While I do enjoy the pumpkin spice blend, it can wear out its welcome fairly quickly. The trick when using it is to use a light hand. You can always add a little more in, but you cannot undo if you put too much in a dish.

Chocolate spice pinwheels

I have a wide range of ingredients in my home pantry, and have developed a fondness for playing with flavors. This cookie evolved out of a shortbread recipe that I like; I added two types of cocoa and pumpkin pie spice blend. My suggestion is to add the amount of spice in the recipe, taste the dough, and add a little more (not more than 1/2 teaspoon at a time) until you get the level you like.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour*
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons black cocoa**

Whisk together flour, spices, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour/spice mixture a third at a time and beat until well combined. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl now and then.

Split the dough equally into three bowls. Add the cocoa to one and the black cocoa to another. Mix well.

Carefully roll out the one of doughs into a rectangle on a piece of parchment or wax paper until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Take one of the other doughs and roll it out the same way. It should be the same size as the first dough. Carefully flip the second dough on top of the first. Reuse the parchment/wax paper and repeat with the remaining dough.

Gently press down on the stacked doughs to make sure there are no air bubbles, and get the edges lined up. Starting with the long edge closest to you, carefully start rolling the dough into a log. One way is to pick up the edge of the paper and use that to guide the dough. It also helps keep you from getting as sticky.

Once you have the dough rolled into a long loaf, carefully wrap with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone sheet. You can bake the cookies without either of these, but it does make for easier cleanup if you use them.

Remove the dough log from the refrigerator and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Place on prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2-2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes (or until the lighter dough is golden brown).

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you use two pieces of parchment paper, you can just slide the whole thing onto a rack and use the second sheet to get the next batch in the oven.

* You can use any nut flour in this recipe instead of the almond flour. If you don’t have any, or have a nut allergy, you can use all-purpose flour for the full amount.

**If you don’t have two types of cocoa, you can use powdered peanut butter for one of them. You can also split the dough into two bowls instead of three and increase the cocoa to 5 teaspoons.

Who makes these rules?

One of the interesting things that has happened this year is the enormous increase in people baking bread. I am baking at the same level, and I don’t limit myself to just a few things. I will admit that I am fairly new to the pasta scene; I only started a few years ago. One thing that I love to make up to this point is gnocchi. I like to eat it too. Each batch gets a little better, and I am getting braver about experimenting with adding different herbs and spices from my pantry.

I don’t know why baking bread has taken over as the primary thing to make with bread. Pies, pastries, and pasta provide a way to make something delicious while getting to play with your food. Seriously. Have you ever rolled out a pie crust or cut biscuits? Pie crust is a little tricky, and I haven’t quite gotten mine to where I can quit obsessing over them. Cakes are easy peasy, and you can always make cupcakes if you want less mess for serving. The main thing is to quit worrying about getting flour on the counter, and just make something. That was the hardest part of learning to make pasta. I now don’t worry about the amount of flour used to keep the pasta from sticking together, and it is lots of fun to form shapes.

When I am working on repetitive tasks like making gnocchi, my mind ponders random things. Like, who makes the rules about not playing with your food? I bet that person(s) has never made bread, pasta, or even colored outside the lines. Sometimes you have to do that. I am a firm believer that everyone should do something creative every day. It doesn’t have to be good; in fact, it can turn out completely horrible. The point is to make something. Get a coloring book, a tub or two of Play-doh, or even just sing out loud in your car. Loudly, if the song is one you love.

We learn a lot when we make things, and it nourishes the soul in ways that you can’t always put into words. I craft and make things almost as much as I cook and bake. Sometimes the process doesn’t go the way I was expecting (like regular hot glue doesn’t stick for long to metal), and now and then I wind up with something amazing. With each project, I put a little bit of myself into it, and I give myself permission to fail (and also to succeed). I’ve learned more by the “fails” and “almosts” than if things turned out spectacularly every time.

Which brings me back to pasta and bread. I’ve been baking and cooking since I was very young. My parents were very supportive, and didn’t tell me until I was in my late 20s that they flushed my early attempts to fix them breakfast in bed. To be fair, I was about 7 or 8 years old and just learning my way around the kitchen. But they were never negative, and my dad taught me how to cook. Because of that, I am not afraid to try new things. Pasta seemed scary to make at first, but each batch is better than the one before it. My sourdough baking is the same way. I don’t always get the loaf dialed in (weather and humidity are a thing!) but the results are tasty, and I can always turn it into breadcrumbs or a panzanella salad.

If at first you don’t succeed, dust the flour off and try again.

If you need help getting started learning how to be creative, this is a great place to start. Felicia Day is truly delightful both in person and in her writing. I hope you check it out.

(This is a personal recommendation, I do not receive any remuneration for any purchases. She really is that nice in person!)

Potato Chickpea Stew

We have been doing pretty well at not gaining the Quarantine 15, but eating healthier is always a good idea. We have started swapping out a few meals during the week to vegetarian/plant-based, and with recipes like this potato chickpea stew we don’t miss the meat at all. It is easily adaptable for what you have on hand, and you can add the protein of your choice (or not).

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
4 medium potatoes
1 red or orange bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon 5-spice mix
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup onion
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 cups vegetable broth
4 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup cashew pieces
3 cups spinach or kale leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 small lemon, cut in half
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter (optional)

In a small dry pan, cook the cashew pieces over low heat for 2-3 minutes until smelling toasted. Remove from heat and put in a small bowl.

Wash and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, and cut the bell pepper, carrots, and celery into bite-sized pieces. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, potato, celery, garam masala, 5-spice, and cumin. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper, garlic and onion.

Add the vegetable broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Let boil for 3 minutes, then stir in the drained chickpeas and raisins. Place the lemon halves in the pan. Cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer 15-20 minutes (until the potatoes are tender). Gently stir in the peanut or almond butter, and turn to low. Cook for 5 more minutes.

Stir in the spinach or kale and let the leaves wilt for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro leaves and top with the toasted cashews.

This is good by itself, but you could also serve it over rice, or with buttered naan or garlic bread on the side.

Easy peanut butter cookies

Did you ever get the craving for something sweet to snack on that was easy to make with only a few ingredients? This one is for you! I love cookies and coffee as a quick mid-morning snack when I’m at work. Just one or two cookies will tide me over until lunchtime. You can change it up by adding shredded coconut, raisins, or chocolate chips.

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Mix together the peanut butter(s), sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda until well combined. Add in the vanilla extract, egg and flour, and beat until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, cover the bowl, and chill the dough in the refrigerator for an hour.

Heat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Form the dough into small balls about the size of a walnut, then shape into an oval. Gently pinch the middle of the oval together so that it has a rough peanut shape. Use a fork to make the crisscross marks gently on the cookies. If the dough sticks to the fork, dip the tines in cold water first.

Place on prepared baking sheet about two inches apart, and bake for 10-12 minutes. If you like softer cookies, take them out at about 10 minutes. If you want to put frosting in the middle to sandwich them, leave them in closer to 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before moving to a rack to finish cooling. Store in a covered container.

You can leave out the chocolate chips, or add in other goodies to your liking.

Ice cream is the way to go

It seems to be the summer without end in California. We are having 100+ temps for weeks on end, and so many fires around the state that the haze never clears completely. Mother Nature is telling us to stay inside. I can do that since I’m working remotely, and only leave the house when I have to because of Covid-19. I don’t have it, but I have to assume it is out there given the counts. So Monday through Friday 8-5 I push paperwork, schedule things, and make calls for the department I work for. The start and end of semesters is very busy, and I don’t expect to make much headway for about another week. Thank goodness we have a holiday next Monday. I have nothing special planned, as the forecast is 108-110 for Sunday/Monday.

One thing I do have control of during the crazy year that is 2020 is what I make for food and beverage. Well, that and listening to drum corp recordings on all day during work. It makes the day that much better when you hear a screaming trumpet, a slamming drum line, and every type of music you can think of (Appalachian Spring just segued into Take 5). I have a penchant for percussion and low brass. I highly recommend it. Anyway, back to food.

I have lots of small appliances, baking pans of all shapes and sizes, and now two refrigerators. Living where we do, there is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been swapping out a few more meals to plant based, or increasing the whole grain/veg and reducing the meat a little. Baby steps are easier to keep up with than big changes. The flavor is still wonderful, so nothing is lost in the process. The two things I refuse to give up are ice cream or cheese. Won’t do it. Low/no fat is no bueno for me. It doesn’t mean that I go overboard, I just make sure to use quality products so I don’t have to use as much.

I did start making my own ice cream or frozen treat bars. I found silicone forms (adult sized) that are easy to clean and store that provide a perfect portion size. I can control what goes in them, and I only make two at a time. Well, maybe four, but they are two different types and sizes. It takes cheesecake to a whole other level. Tonight will be tropical fruit bars with toasted coconut and coconut cream. I’ll make ice cream soon to go with the dark chocolate cookies from last weekend before we eat them all. Do you think ice cream should have a special place on the website just to itself? Let me know.

The worst day can be made better with ice cream. It can’t solve problems, but it can make you feel loved. Leave a comment in the section below on what your favorite flavor is.

As summer wraps up….

What a strange year. It has been a roller coaster of emotions and happenings for everyone, both good and bad. I hope everyone is staying safe, wearing masks, and social distancing as much as possible. Not everyone can work from home, and I feel very much for those that go off to work every day. I also feel for those that are struggling because of a lack of work due to the pandemic. These are not easy times, and we are not out of the woods yet. It will take everyone doing their part, no matter how small, to pull us through to the other side.

Adapting to working remotely 95% of the time has been interesting, and a lesson in planning and personal determination. I like the summer hours the campus keeps, as I can get a lot of things done once I”m off the clock at 3:30pm. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, that hour and a half difference. However, when you are focused with a goal you can get a lot done. I was able to pull and write recipes, draft copy for attempting my first food videos (sorry for the packed and tiny kitchen – I’m working at reorganizing and moving things around for the future), get grocery shopping done without rushing, and FINALLY start cataloging my huge cookbook library.

I want to say thank you to Allison Wolfe for her continuing collaboration and support of the zany Worst Cooks bingo that I started earlier this year. I am not part of the Food Network family (though I’d love to!), just a big food groupie. It is fun to watch past seasons and try to guess what to put on the bingo cards. Most of the time I come pretty close, since basic skills are something everyone has to learn when they first start. Interacting with some of the contestants has been a blast, and I think Season 20 was a terrific one with Alex Guarnaschelli’s style complimenting that of Anne Burrell. The camaraderie among the two teams was above and beyond what I’ve seen previously, and it was easy to see that they all got along.

Now that summer is almost over, it is time to make new plans. The yearly fair turn-in deluge will not be happening due to the pandemic causing most of the fair to be cancelled or go virtual. I think my husband is a little relieved, because the two turn-in weekends (crafts and baked goods) are super hectic as I try to get everything possible done and turned in before 5pm. I’m a little sad because I was going to try to beat my record of 26 items baked in a day and a half (including yeast breads and candy). There’s always next year, and will give me time to perfect a few things. (I do miss having taste testers handy at work for feedback.)

I think between now and the end of September will be more about getting organized and update parts of the kitchen so we can make better videos. It has a small galley-style kitchen, next to no pantry space, and the upper cabinets over what should be a breakfast bar are hung too low to do anyone any favors. The house is older than I am, so we never know exactly what twist might happen on a project until we are in the middle of it. I will finally get the cookbook cataloging project finished and uploaded so that I quit accidentally buying duplicates, and get started on writing a cookbook. I promised myself I’d get one done before I turned 60, and that is only a few years away. I have an idea for a quirky cooking show (no, I’m not telling anything about it just yet), and will be pushing my comfort zone to do more cooking videos. You might see me tackle real-life leftover issues, or random ingredients and what to do with them (or not!). I really want people to be able to relate and not be intimidated with cooking and baking. There is a lot I don’t know, but I’m always willing to research and learn. I can laugh at my cooking blunders and figure out how to do better the next time. It’s food; if it tastes good it’s still a win in my book.

It is a tough time for the nation, and will be so until we get a handle on the pandemic. Look out for each other, check in on your friends and family remotely, practice self-care, and above all, be kind. Choose to respond to a challenge or situation instead of react. Making the conscious decision on what you do will change more than just the outcome. It will change your outlook and resilience for the better. Remember, you are living, you occupy space, and you matter.

Also, life is too short for bad food. Drop me a message or comment on what you want a recipe for or see me make. I’m up for a challenge, so let’s make it fun!

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