In My Life, I've Loved Them All

Playing in the Kitchen: Cake for Breakfast! Blueberry Buckle [Coffee Cake]

Hooray! It’s that time of year when berries are in season!

Right now, a pint of Blueberries is only $1 at Kroger (as opposed to $4-5 during the winter). Luckily, berries freeze well, so it’s a good time to stock up. By comparison, the same amount of “Kroger brand” blueberries bought in the freezer section cost $3.79.

Alton Brown recommends freezing your blueberry pie filling for extra juiciness upon baking.

You can also throw frozen berries in your breakfast smoothie, if that’s your thing.

MY personal favorite is a Blueberry Muffin!
Especially the ones at la madeleine... which I seriously want to replicate at home.

Blueberries are superfoods, so these are super muffins, no?

For a Blueberry Muffin in cake form, I’ve discovered the Blueberry Buckle (also recommended by Alton Brown). Buckle is an old-fashioned term for Coffee Cake. Which means this delicious dessert is perfectly suitable for breakfast or brunch. Or after dinner.
Whenever you want cake. #NoJudgement

Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake

I need to try this particular version a few more times before it becomes my go-to blueberry muffin-cake recipe. But at least I can guarantee you it will make your home smell heavenly when it’s baking. AND it only takes 1 egg (with stores rationing eggs, a low-egg recipe is seriously good news to any baker).

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed (1/2 a stick)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp milk, more if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare Topping:
In a bowl combine topping dry ingredients (sugar, cinnamon, flour).
Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until dry ingredients have combined well with the butter. If the butter is soft, you can use your fingers. There should be little clumps without a lot of extra loose flour mixture.
Refrigerate topping while you make the batter.

Prepare Batter:
Using a stand-mixer, combine sugar and shortening until well blended (3-5 minutes).
Add in egg and mix until combined.
Add milk and vanilla extract. Mix again.

Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Remove bowl from mixer. Gently fold in the blueberries with a spoon (try not to let the berries burst).
The batter will be very thick.

Put in a greased 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan and press batter out to the corners of the pan.

Remove topping from refrigerator and sprinkle evenly over top of the cake batter.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While cake is cooling on a wire rack, mix up the ingredients for a glaze, adding milk 1Tbsp at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. If it gets too wet and runny, add more sugar. Cover glaze until cake cools.

After cake has cooled completely, use a spoon and drizzle the glaze over top of the cake.

Enjoy your delicious breakfast [coffee] cake!

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think! If you have a great blueberry muffin recipe, I’d love to know that too. Comment below are send me a message.

Playing in the Kitchen: Chili Colorado #CincoDeMayo

When I saw an article on Bon Appetit called Chili Colorado is the Greatest Recipe Of All Time last month, I pinned it for later. Usually skeptical of anything touted “of all time,” I’ve had success with Bon Appetit recipes in the past. And this particular magazine seems to have the right balance of taking your cooking up a few notches while remaining pretty feasible for a non-professional cook.

Chili Colorado

The article is less instructional and more a story of a beloved childhood favorite: Chili Colorado (Colorado as in “red,’ not the State). So I consolidated it into a more readable recipe (below) and started on a kitchen adventure! Here are some good tips I learned along the way.

  • Be persnickety when buying chilies. I dug through the bulk bin until I found ones that were not crispy/too dry. They should be pliable like a raisin. If you buy them in bags, squish the bag to test the chilies. Crispy chilies = no flavor.

  • bags of chili peppers
  • I used “pork steaks.” These are pork chops that are not cut from the loin, but rather from the Boston Butt/Shoulder. Since the steaks were cut 1/2” thick, I only had to cut them in 1/2” strips, then cubes. Now if I could buy already cubed, it’d save even more time!

  • The pork steaks were $1.77 a pound and buy the chilies from the bulk bin costs less than $2 total. So this was a pretty cost effective meal (especially since I got to use up my homemade chicken stock sitting in the freezer). But saving money means spending more time… from the time I “started” in the kitchen until the time we sat down to eat: 4 hours. A lot of that time was just a simmering pot on the stove, and looking back I could had prepped/done the recipe in a different order to be more efficient. At any rate, this isn’t a “last minute-throw together” meal. Which is fine by me :)

  • Brown the pork in batches, not all at once. It took me 3 batched. But this way they have room to sear instead of steam. And DON’T stir the pieces around when you put them in the post. Let them sit and sear, and then flip after a few minutes. Remove to a plate and start the next batch.

  • brown the pork
  • Truth: I used all dried herbs spices. Because that is what I had. AND unless you are growing your own herbs, buying fresh can be expensive. Especially for a recipe that is simmering for hours. Save fresh herbs for a finish touch, if you want.

  • I started with the chili puree because that is how it was described in the article. next time, I’ll start with the pork, get that simmering away, and then move on t the Chilies (which have to steep for 30 min anyway).

  • chili puree
  • The article said simmer for 45 min after adding the chili puree. I extended this to an hour. You can tell when it is done because the pot will look saucy, not soupy.

  • Chili Colorado- Reducing
  • The pork will be so tender you can barely stab it with a for without it falling apart. Yum!

  • This is a heavy dish! There was a comment on the article describing it as such, and I should have taken heed. One scoop of brown rice topped with a scoop of chili colorado, a couple tortillas and some corn on the cob and I was FULL. As in 5 hrs later I still felt that heavy kind of full. Next time, less meat and more light sides… like a salad. Or just use the meat for tacos.

  • Nevertheless, I didn’t mind the fell feeling, since I literally knew (and could pronounce) all the foods and ingredients I just ate. Yay home-cooking!

Here is the recipe I de-coded from the article

Chili Colorado Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Chilies: 5 anchos, 2 pasillas, and 2 guajillos –seed and stem
Cover chilies with 3 cups of boiling chicken stock and steam, 30 minutes
Purée chilies and liquid until smooth

2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder, cut into ½” pieces; season w/ salt and pepper
brown over med-high heat (heavy bottom pot coated in oil)

6 garlic cloves chopped garlic
two bay leaves
tablespoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh sage and chopped fresh Mexican oregano
stir for 1 min

5 cups of chicken stock; simmer uncovered for 1 hour

Chile purée and simmer for another 45-60 minutes
The meat should be very tender and the sauce a thick, mahogany-red color.
Season with additional salt and pepper

Serve with with Mexican rice, beans a la charra, and flour tortillas

Playing in the Kitchen: Go-To Banana Bread

This is my family’s new go-to Banana bread recipe.  Since I was a kid, we had always defaulted to <a href=””>The Fannie Farmer Cookbook</a><img src=”” width=”1” height=”1” border=”0” alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
version of Banana bread.  It is quick, made from ingredients we had on hand, and didn’t require a stand mixer.  But the bottom always over cooked by the time the center was done. And it’s pretty dense.

Knowing there must another convenient yet tasty version that wouldnt burn all of the time, I tried a banana bread recipe from Saveur magazine. It required several different bowls, and the resulting bread was way too moist.

A couple years ago, a neighbor (and caterer) so kindly gave us her recipe! And it is now our go-to Banana Bread. The secret ingredient: Buttermilk. No more burning, and not too wet inside. AND sprinkling cinnamon-sugar on top before it bakes makes for a delicious crust.


Print Friendly

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Heat oven to 350 degrees

1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Shortening
2 eggs
4 Tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
4 mashed bananas
2 Cups flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 Cup Pecans (chopped)

Cream together sugar and shortening. Add eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and bananas.

Combine baking soda, salt and flour.  Gradually add dry mixture to the above.

Add chopped pecans.  Mix thoroughly and pour into greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake for 45 min. to an hour.

Note:  When I bake the small loaves, it usually takes 45 mins.  Large loaves take about an hour.

I also make a sugar and cinnamon mixture* and sprinkle on the top of the loaves before baking

*For the cinnamon sugar mixture, I just eye-ball it. Start with a couple tablespoons of sugar and add 1/2-1 tsp of cinnamon. Mix together in a small bowl; it should be a light brown/sand color.

Playing in the Kitchen: Pecan Pie

Fall is officially here! I’m so excited! And it means I should start digging up (and posting) some of my go-to Seasonal Recipes… like a Classic Pecan Pie!

So there are at least 8 different ways to pronounce this type of pie... to me it is: [pi:kn] with stress on the second syllable (“pee-KAHN”).  Actually mine sounds more like pa-KAHN.  At any rate, this nutty dessert seems to be the Fall pie of choice in my house. * Jump to the recipe *

Back in 2010, I decided to get adventurous, forgo the frozen Marie Callendar’s version and make pecan pie from scratch.

And I’m just posting it now.  Oops.

Pecan Pie from Scratch

As I tend to do with any new food adventure, I scour my cookbooks & the internet until I find a version I like, then pick and choose tips from other recipes.  If I had written this post earlier, I could have name dropped all of the pecan pie recipes I discovered.  Again, sorry :/

The Pecan Pie I produced most closely resembles The Pioneer Woman’s “Pecan Pie that will make you cry.”  Except I didn’t chop up the pecans as finely as she did.  And I used my old-standby pie crust recipe.

The Pioneer Woman won me over because she gives helpful cooking advice for knowing when the pie is “done.”

The baking temperature required seems to vary widely from oven to oven. Mine bakes perfectly in 50 minutes, but some are reporting that the pie is still soupy. If the pie is very jiggly when you remove it from the oven, cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until mostly set. 

Good advice!  Escpecially since this isnt the kind of dessert you can stick a toothpick in to test for doneness!

Without further ado, here’s a good stand-by recipe for your classic Pecan/PEE-can/pee-CAN/pa-KAHN pie!

Classic Pecan Pie


1 whole Pie Crust (unbaked)

1 cup White Sugar
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
1 cup Corn Syrup
¾ teaspoons Vanilla
? cups Melted Butter
3 whole Eggs, Beaten
1 1/4 cup Coresly Chopped Pecans
Place unbaked pie crust in standard sized pie plate.

Combine mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.

Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.

Pour syrup mixture over the top.

Cover top and crust lightly/gently with foil.

Bake pie at 350º for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.

Allow to cool for several hours before serving.


Save The Tomato Juice… Make Tomato Water?

I’m not crazy.  I just can’t stand wasting things.

This summer, I’ve been lucky enough to peel and chop up a lot of tomatoes from Dad’s garden.  Most have been made into bruschetta, where I seed (remove seeds and goo) before I chop.  The whole cutting process leaves a lot of juice on the board… and it would be such a shame to just wash it down the drain.  So the peels/seeds/goo goes into a strainer along with the cutting board juice.  The juice that leaves the strainer goes into ice cube tray and frozen for later.  What’s left in the strainer goes in the compost bucket.

IF you really want to take preservation a step further… you can dehydrate the skins and then grind them into a powder to use in recipes.  I have not gotten to that level of thriftiness.

Luckily, this summer I read an article in Bon Appetit about “Tomato Water”... thus proving I am not crazy for wanting to save the juice!

Bon Appétit suggested taking it a step further. Using the juice and some additional flavors, you can essentially make a “stock” to use in a variety of dishes.

Tomato Water
By Michael Anthony, Bon Appétit

Makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes (about 3)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt

Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth; set over a large bowl. Pulse tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil, cilantro, parsley, vinegar, and salt in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Transfer mixture to prepared sieve. Cover and chill at least 12 hours. (Do not stir or press on solids, or tomato water will be cloudy). Discard solids; cover tomato water and chill.

DO AHEAD: Tomato water can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

BA’s ideas for your Tomato Water

  • Use in place of chicken stock in risotto

  • Toss into panzanella

  • Add to a Bloody Mary

  • Spoon over Oysters on the half shell

  • Use as a poaching liquid for Fish

  • Stir into gazpacho

I will probably go a little less fancy, and add some to some jarred pasta sauce to give it a little fresh flavor.  It’s go great in my next pot of chili too!

Saveur magazine has a version of Tomato Water as well.  It’s the more literal approach… which is what I (unknowingly) did.

Tomato Water
By Saveur magazine


5 lbs. very ripe quartered, cored tomatoes

1. Working in batches, put 5 lbs. very ripe quartered, cored tomatoes into bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed until tomatoes break down and release juices (or mash in a large bowl with a potato masher).

2. Rinse two clean, large, thin cotton kitchen towels in hot water. Spread one towel over a large glass beaker or nonreactive bowl and ladle half the mashed tomatoes onto towel. Gather opposite ends of towel and tie securely to make a sack. Hang sack from a yardstick or broom handle suspended above beaker or bowl.

3. Repeat with other towel and remaining tomatoes. Sacks will drip clear tomato water for about 4 hours; if red liquid begins to appear, discontinue dripping. (Do not squeeze cloths, or water will cloud.) Transfer tomato water to a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Discard solids.

Both magazines recommend a slow drip to get all of the tomato’s water… the same method you’d use to get fruit juices for jelly! Can you make a savory tomato water jelly? I am sure someone has thought this though before. At any rate, the drip bag process is very easy with these simple tools:

Looking forward to some fresh tomato pick-me-up with the saved juice, especially once tomato season is over!

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