The Jack Of All Herbs Medley – A blend of herbs for soups, salads, sauces and spreads

I love annual harvest festivals.  Farmers and vendors from all over the state gather to sell their goods to people like me who don’t have the magical green thumb required to produce such wonderful produce. They always offer so many specialty items along with the fresh produce, herbs, cheeses and meat products, too. Not to mention that the vendors usually offer samples of their delicious creations. So, while you explore the festival, you can usually sample enough items to make a lunch out of it.

About 6 or 7 years ago I stopped by the local harvest festival and found a vendor selling herbs. I was looking for saffron for a bread I will share with you at a later date. They didn’t have the saffron, but they did have a variety of other herbs on display in cute gift jars. They also had a separate display of their own blend of herbs. They offered pretzels to their visitors to sample the herb blend mixed with cream cheese. Well, I could have stood there all afternoon enjoying that concoction. But, instead, I purchased a large jar for myself and few smaller packets with salad dressing jars to use as holiday gifts then continued my quest for the saffron.

Over the course of the next few months, I found many uses for this blend. It has a bit of an Italian seasoning flair, so it goes great in marinara sauce, added to soups, salad dressings and to butter or cream cheese for delicious spreads. You can add it to some oil and vinegar and drizzle it as a condiment for Italian hoagies…or maybe you call them subs. No matter what you call those delicious sandwiches, this condiment is yummy on them.

So, when I started to run out of the blend from the harvest festival, I became very stingy with the remaining portions and decided to use it sparingly until the next harvest festival, so I could replenish my stock. Well, much to my dismay, none of the vendors at this particular festival sold anything like it. I didn’t keep the bag or the tag from the jar with the company name. I have looked for it everywhere, with no luck. Since I have no idea where to get it now, I had to get inventive and try to re-create the blend.

Well, after many batches of cream cheese and herb spread, I have a version that is similar to what I was trying to re-create. Even though it is still slightly different, this medley adds a little pizzazz to many dishes. It has many uses and is good on many things, hence the name, Jack of all Herbs Medley. The recipe is below along with some of my favorite uses.

Jack Of All Herbs Medley

This medley is a re-creation of a blend I can no longer find to purchase. It's slightly different but is still a nice addition to many dishes.

All of the ingredients used in this recipe are dried; although you could use fresh herbs. Just keep in mind that one teaspoon of dried herbs equal 1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs. 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder is the equivalent of 1 medium clove of garlic. 2 teaspoons of onion powder is approximately 1/2 a medium onion. 

Course Herbs
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chives
  • 4 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp orange peel
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage

Instructions

  1. Thoroughly mix all ingredients and store in an air tight container or jar.

Now that you have combined all the ingredients, why not try one of these?

Jack of all Herbs Medley and Cream Cheese Dip

This recipe will work as a dip for your favorite chips or pretzels or as a spread for crackers.

Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Herb Medley
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate for at least one hour. For best results, make one day ahead to give the flavors optimal mingling time.

    Cream cheese and herb dip

Jack of all Herbs Medley Bread Dipping Oil

This herb blend is perfect for adding to olive oil in place of butter for your dinner rolls.

Course Appetizer, Bread, Herbs
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pinch Herb Medley
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients until well blended.

    Herb medley bread dipping oil

Jack of all Herbs Medley Butter

Excellent substitution for garlic butter for use on Texas Toast or Italian Bread.

Course Appetizer, Bread, Herbs
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted butter softened
  • 1 tsp Herb Medley

Instructions

  1. Mix the ingredients until well blended. Serve in place of butter for dinner rolls or in place of garlic butter for garlic bread.
    Herb medley butter

Jack of all Herbs Medley Salad Dressing

A great substitution for Italian dressing. Use as a salad dressing or veggie dip.

Course Dressing
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp herb mix

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a jar, seel tightly and shake until well blended. Shake well before each use. 

    Herb medley salad dressing

Hoagies or submarines? What do you call them? Let me know in the comments below along with where you are from.

 

Italian Cream Cake And Tips For A Better Batter

I love baking. Always have. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t always kept my recipes well organized. Some recipes get stuffed inside any one of 100s of cookbooks or notebooks, a shoebox or desk drawer. I decided to try to get more organized, as I was starting this blog, when I misplaced a few of my recipes including my all-time favorite non-chocolate cake recipe. An Italian Cream Cake. I’ve made it so many times, I should have it memorized by now. But, I try something different with it every time, so it’s never really the same. I’ve made a chocolate version, an orange version, a blackberry version and a raspberry filled version.

When I first realized I couldn’t find my recipe, I tried a random recipe I found online or a cookbook, but it wasn’t the same. Since I have no idea where I originally got the recipe, I’ve tried several times to recreate it and I think I have the right recipe now. Wish me luck. I’m making this for a dear friend’s 85th birthday, so I hope it turns out well.

There are several keys to making good cakes. You can’t just dump all the ingredients together all at once. Well, you can, if you want a dense cake. But, if your goal is moist and tender, you need to keep some things in mind that will, scientifically, make the best cake.

First, creaming together your butter and sugar is very important. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature. Leave it sit out for a half hour before baking. You should be able to lightly press into the butter and still have a little resistance without smooshing all the way through it. If it is still too cold, give it another 30 minutes. It’s tempting, but it’s not a good idea to try to soften it up in the microwave because melting changes the structure of the butter. Butter that is too cold or too hot will not give you the same result in your cake.

It should also be noted that using part butter and part shortening will produce a more tender cake as well. Shortening “shortens” gluten strands because it is 100% fat; whereas butter is only 80-85% fat and the remainder is water, which can toughen your cake. I’ve used all butter in this recipe and it is still delicious, but I prefer butter and shortening. You may have different preferences, so experiment with it until you get it to your liking.

Mixers vary in strength, so you’ll need to rely on texture and appearance to determine when the creaming is complete. Use the setting for “Cream” based on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your mixer. During the creaming process, the sugar crystals aerate the butter causing minute air bubbles in the butter…which will be activated by your leavening agent (baking soda or powder) during baking which will give you a light, fluffy cake. Test the texture of your mixture periodically. It will be ready when the sugar is almost dissolved, it will feel silky rather than grainy. The mixture will be visibly fluffy and still retain some of the yellowish tint from the butter.

Now that you’ve mastered the creaming process, making the rest of the batter will be a piece of cake. Sorry, bad pun intended. The important takeaway for the rest of the batter is to not overmix anything. Overmixing will ruin the aeration from the creaming. After the creaming process, adding the ingredients and mixing only until you can no longer see that ingredient is sufficient timing for mixing. Add the eggs (one at a time) after the creaming process. Then, add the extract. Then alternating dry and liquid ingredient additions to the mixture minimalizes gluten formation, resulting in a lighter, fluffier, moister cake. Finally, fold in the last ingredients and you’ve got an excellent cake batter.

Italian Cream Cake
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Italian Cream Cake

This delicious Italian Cream Cake is a favorite of mine that is frequently requested by family and friends. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Decorations

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut toasted

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Italian Cream Cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

  3. Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Set aside the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Set aside.

  5. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes) checking texture periodically. Mixture, when rubbed between your fingers, should be silky rather than grainy.

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until blended.

  7. Add vanilla.

  8. Add the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix any of the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. 

  9. Gently fold the chopped pecans and the coconut into the batter.

  10. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

  11. Divide the batter between 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans or 36 cupcake cups (filled 1/2 way).

  12. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center, the cake is done when there are just a couple moist crumbs stuck to the toothpick and the cake is toasty brown. (If making cupcakes, start checking them between 15-20 minutes.)

    Italian Cream Cake layer
  13. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake. Then allow them to finish cooling on the wire racks for about an hour before decorating with the frosting.

Decorations

  1. Spread one cup of the sweetened flaked coconut into a small baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Tossing the coconut frequently. The coconut will burn easily, so make sure you check it often. 

    Toasted coconut

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.

    Italian Cream Cake frosting ingredients
  2. Add vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it well blended. You may not need all 6 cups of the powdered sugar, but this should be a firm frosting if you're going to pipe the frosting onto the cake. The more pwdered sugar you use, the firmer the frosting will be and will hold it's shape better for piping.

    Italian Cream Cake crumb coating
  4. Once the cake is sufficiently cooled, layer the cakes with frosting between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for one hour before continuing. (This is called a crumb coat. It will allow for easier spreading of the frosting while decorating and will keep the crumbs of the cake from mixing in while you spread your frosting. It will also cover the cake, so if you're piping on the frosting, any gaps in your piping will be concealed by the crumb coat.)

    Italian Cream Cake
  5. Continue decorating as desired with your favorite decorating tips.

    Italian Cream Cake cupcakes
  6. Optional: For this cake, I used raspberry preserves as a filling just as an added flavor. You can experiment with many different flavors for this cake or enjoy it as it was originally intended.

I haven’t been able to determine the origin of this cake. I’m not sure why it’s called an Italian Cream Cake, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection to Italy. It’s primarily a dessert served around the holidays in the Southern United States. I’m only guessing, but I think the frosting was probably made with mascarpone cheese once upon a time. Mascarpone being fairly expensive, perhaps someone started using cream cheese instead. It produces the same texture frosting and with the powdered sugar, the taste would be comparable.

If you know, let me know in the comments below.

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

The snow is almost gone…finally. Summer will be here in no time and you know what that means? Time to break out the grill which means we’ll need to make homemade barbecue sauce first. First up for the season is my Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce. It’s one of my favorites, but if you like it a little spicier, you can add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Don’t worry if you don’t have apple cider vinegar in your pantry, distilled white vinegar works too, it’ll just give a different tang, but is very good too.

When I first started making this particular barbecue sauce, I noticed that I used some of the same ingredients as the dry rub I recently wrote about here, which is made, in part, with the seasoned salt that I wrote about here. So, I figured rather than measuring out the ingredients every time I wanted to make barbecue sauce, I would just use the dry rub mix instead. I was not disappointed. I would recommend making both of these mixes in larger than needed quantities. They’ll keep for a long time in airtight containers and you’ll be surprised how many uses you’ll find for them.

If you just want to make a small batch of barbecue sauce without having to make the other seasoning mixes, start by adding a pinch of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, curry and ginger. Just add a little at a time, you can add more if needed, but you can’t remove it if you put add too much.

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

This easy to make barbecue sauce can be easily adapted to suit your tastes. If you like it smokier, add a little liquid smoke. If you like it hotter, add some cayenne pepper.

Course Sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp dry rub mix

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.

    BBQ Sauce ingredients
  2. Using a whisk, stir until well blended.
  3. Heat over medium/low heat until a low boil.

  4. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow those spices to cook together. Sauce will thicken a bit upon standing. 

    BBQ Sauce closeup

Recipe Notes

See my recipe for Dry Rub here.

What’s your favorite barbecue sauce? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check back often for more recipes.

Versatile Dry Rub

Are there any foodstuffs that you didn’t like as a kid that you still won’t eat today? I’m sure we all can name at least one item that we still harbor a deep-seated aversion to. In the upcoming weeks I will be introducing a special segment of my blog that I call “Outside The Comfort Zone“. I’ll chronicle my experiences with foods or cooking techniques that I am not familiar with. I also plan to give some of those foods from my youth a second chance.

My particular aversion is to steak. I can’t explain it, but I’m just not a huge fan of it. I’ve never found it appealing, so it might be strange that I’m going to talk about dry rubs today. I may not love steak, but I do love flavor. This dry rub is an excellent choice for flavoring chicken, ribs, beef and pork. I actually use a few tablespoons of this mixture to use in my BBQ sauce and even to season nuts. So, you can see why I say that this is a versatile dry rub. I make a large batch of it and store it in an airtight container so I have plenty to use whenever the mood strikes.

This dry rub has a well-balanced sweetness and smokiness with just a hint of spiciness. Of course, if you like the extra heat on your meat, you can add additional cayenne pepper. If you like it a little sweeter, you can add more sugar or even change the type of sugar you use. Just be careful about how you cook using a rub with extra sugar in it. If you are grilling on the barbeque, you’ll want to avoid prolonged direct contact with the flame, otherwise the sugar will melt and burn quickly.

This recipe calls for seasoned salt. There are many seasoned salts available on the market, but I recently shared my homemade recipe which would make a decent dry rub by itself, too. I’m sure you probably have all the ingredients you need and can find my recipe here.

Dry Rub

There are many uses for this flavorful mixture of sweet, smokey and spicey. Dry rubs for meats. Seasoned nuts. BBQ sauce. The possibilities of flavor combinations are endless.

Course Spices
Prep Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup seasoned salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Spread out brown sugar to dry for 2 hours.

  2. Combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

    Dry Rub blended
  3. Use a food processor on pulse or a sifter to break up the larger clumps until you have a fine texture.

    Dry Rub sifted
  4. Store in an airtight container.

    Dry Rub

Recipe Notes

See my recipe for Seasoned Salt.http://mycomfortcafe.com/spices/seasoned-salt/

What food are you willing to try with a different recipe that you previously refused to eat? Let me know in the comments below and check back for “Outside the Comfort Zone”. I’m going to try this dry rub on steak as my first experiment.

 

 

Seasoned Salt

Do you need to spice things up in the kitchen? I don’t know about you, but sometimes regular salt just doesn’t cut it, so it’s nice to have a recipe on hand that you can add to any dish that needs some additional flavor. I came up with this version of seasoned salt when I was tinkering around with rubs and BBQ sauce recipes. (SPOILER ALERT: I’ll also be sharing those recipes this week.)

A pinch packs a lot of flavor, so make a batch, keep it in an airtight container and you’ll have a secret weapon in your arsenal of flavors anytime you’re looking to shake things up. This is the perfect addition to burgers, salads, chicken, beef or even pork and fish. Why buy store bought products when you probably have all the ingredients in your spice rack already? Not to mention that it is super easy to make and can be easily packaged for a cute hostess gift or housewarming gifts.

Seasoned Salt

A quick mixture of common spice rack seasonings make up this seasoned salt. Keep stored in an airtight container to add a little something different to everyday dishes.

Course Spices
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together until well combined.

    Seasoned salt large grains
  2. Depending on the grind of the salt, you may choose to run through the food processor on pulse to break up some of the larger grains of salt.

    Seasoned salt pulse in processor
  3. Or using a sifter will separate the larger grains (recommended if you're going to use the seasoned salt in a shaker).

    Seasoned salt sift
  4. Store the remaining seasoned salt in an airtight container.
    Seasoned salt storage
  5. The seasoned salt is ready to use today, but all the flavors will mingle the longer it stored. Enjoy.

The best thing about seasoned salt, besides the added flavor, is that you can mix up whatever spices you like. Try it with turmeric, or maybe even some dried herbs. What flavors do you like? Let me know in the comments below and check back for my other recipes using this seasoned salt.

Don’t forget to like my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest Pages, too.

The Easiest Way To Peel An Egg

My first goal today is to explain my technique for making the perfect hardboiled egg. I’ve heard of and tried all kinds of tricks for easy to peel eggs; such as adding salt and/or vinegar to the boiling water, or in desperation, even oil…eww. But, in the end, the simplest way requires only a pot and water.

Use the method I describe below and you won’t have to fight with the removal of the shell and inadvertently peel off huge, unsightly chunks of the delicate white of the eggs.  And you definitely won’t get any of that greenish-gray ring around the yolk from being overcooked. These snafus of hardboiled eggs can really ruin the appearance of your tasty deviled eggs or egg salad.

Speaking of egg salad, my second goal of today is share my egg salad recipe with you. So, egg salad, hmmm? Does there really need to be another egg salad recipe? A quick glance at Pinterest and you’ll probably find 100 recipes to choose from. They’re all the “perfect” recipe or the “best” tasting or simply “amazing”…you get the idea. And, I’m sure they are all delicious. I’ve never had an egg salad that I didn’t like; well, except, maybe, that one time. You know, when you eat it to be polite, but the greenish tint makes you hope that they’re just over-cooked and pray that they haven’t been sitting around a little too long. Anyway, I used to be satisfied with just adding a little mayo to the chopped eggs, but over time, it progressed into something a little different and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Egg Salad

An easy to make egg salad recipe with a foolproof method of peeling off those stubborn shells.
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 13 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp Ranch dressing
  • 1 tbsp onion minced
  • 1 tbsp celery minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional
  • pinch pepper

Instructions

  1. The key to easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs with a perfectly yellow yolk is to not overboil the egg.
  2. Place six extra large eggs in an empty pot. Fill with enough water to cover the eggs by an inch or two. Cover the pot with a lid.

    Egg salad ingredients
  3. Over high heat, bring to a rapid boil.
  4. Remove from the heat and leave covered in the pot for 13 minutes...exactly.


  5. Drain the hot water from the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. Lightly tap each egg...just enough to slightly crack the shell. Leave the slightly-cracked eggs in the cold water for 5-10 minutes. 


    Cracked egg
  6. Firmly tap the tips of the egg (this helps separate the shell from the egg) then peel off the shell.

    Peeling the egg
  7. To make the dressing, mince the onion and celery then add it to the mayonaisse, sour cream, Ranch dressing, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  

  8. Dice the eggs then add to the dressing and mix thoroughly.





    Egg salad
  9. Serve on your favorite bread or in place of dressing on a salad.

    Egg salad suggestion

I like to serve it on a toasted bagel or croissant. If you like croissants, I’ll be sharing my recipe in the coming weeks and hope to work on my bagel recipe, too. Please like my page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest so you don’t miss any recipes.

 

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

When I hear someone say that they don’t like cake, I can only imagine that they’ve only ever had boxed cake. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very good, but if I’m going through the process of making a cake, I’m going all in and making it from scratch.  My parents have been good sports and sampled my countless experiments with baking from scratch since I was a kid. So, for my mom’s birthday the other day, I didn’t want to bake a cake she’s had a million times before. I thought about some things that she likes that I would be able to incorporate into a cake and the idea of the Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake was born.

She likes blueberries, however, it’s not really a good time of year for fresh blueberries, so I decided on a blueberry filling and a syrup made from blueberry jam for a topping to drizzle over the frosting. She likes buttermilk on occasion, so I thought the sourness of buttermilk with a the sweetness of blueberry filling would make a nice contrast that would still go well together.

Why mini cakes instead of a whole cake or cupcakes, you ask? Well, I just wanted to do something different and I found these cute 4-inch mini baking pan paper cups at the store recently and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. By the way, you can certainly use this recipe for a layered cake or cupcakes, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

This moist white cake is so versatile. You can eat it without frosting, add different fruit toppings or chocolate. Use a simple butter cream frosting for an everyday cake or dress it up with sprinkles or syrup for special occasions.

NOTE: I indicated that this recipe makes 24 servings because it makes 12 mini cakes and each mini cake is actually 2 servings.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling/Syrup

  • 2 cups blueberry jam divided
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the baking cups a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. 

    Buttermilk cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

  3. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. 

  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended. 

  5. Mix the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added.

    Buttermilk cake batter
  6. Pour mixture into baking cups (about 1/2 full). Bake 18-22 minutes. Just until they barely start to turn golden. Insert a toothpick into the center, and if there are a couple of moist crumbs, it's time to take them out. 

  7. Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Filling/Syrup

  1. Syrup - In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of jam over medium/low heat until the jam starts to melt. Gradually add water a little at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. You may or may not need 2 tbsps of water depending on how thick or thin you want the syrup. (Set aside until after you're done frosting the cakes. The syrup will thicken a little upon standing. If it's too thick, return to the stove and add a little more water.)

    Buttermilk cake with filling
  2. Using a decorating bag filled with 1 cup of jam and a filling tip, insert the tip halfway into the cake and squirt just enough jam into the cake until you can see it. Repeat randomly throughout the cake.

    Tip: If you don't have a filling tip, you can use a small paring knife. Insert the knife halfway into the cake and gently twist a small hole. Cut a small tip off the decorating bag filled with jam and fill the holes.  

    Buttermilk cake decorative ideas

Frosting

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in vanilla extract.

  3. Add powdered sugar. Mixing one cup at a time until it is well blended. You may not need all 5 cups of the powdered sugar. Add at least the first 3 cups, then test for firmness of the frosting.

    (If you're spreading the frosting over the cake, a thinner frosting like this would be sufficient. If you're using decorating tips and piping the frosting, you'll need to add more of the powdered sugar until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.)

    Decorate cakes as desired and drizzle syrup over the top

    Buttermilk cakes closeup

I actually want to try this with fresh blueberries when they are in season at a reasonable price, so don’t forget to like this page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates. Also, comment below to tell me what other fruit you would try with this cake.

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole vs. Thanksgiving Casserole

This recipe is derived from what I call “Thanksgiving Casserole” which is, of course, made up of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Friends of my father shared their version of this dish with us at a potluck several years and it was so good, I had to make it at home too. I’ve tinkered around with some variation of it several times now, the only problem is that Thanksgiving only comes but once a year and I’m not really all excited about cooking a big turkey dinner more than once a year, so when mom asked me to make this for her birthday dinner, I had to improvise. Now, I have the Chicken and Stuffing Casserole for anytime of the year and the Thanksgiving Casserole for the leftovers after Thanksgiving.

I think I enjoy the Thanksgiving leftovers more than the actual meal anyway. You know how when you spend all day cooking, the actual dinner may not be very appealing by the time you sit down to eat, but the leftovers are excellent the next day? Then you eat turkey sandwiches for days and get tired of that also. Well, the Thanksgiving casserole is the perfect solution. Simply mix together your turkey, gravy and vegetables, then top with the stuffing, or do you call it dressing? Then bake it in the oven until it’s warmed throughout.

You probably don’t need a recipe for the casserole made with leftovers because your turkey dinner is probably delicious, too. But, if it’s not, stay tuned, I’ll share my family Thanksgiving traditions and recipes in November. In the meantime, here is a dish that is equally as good.

 

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

A hearty, flavorful casserole that's easier to put together than Thanksgiving dinner, but just as tasty.

Course Casserole, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 10
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Chicken

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts 1 1/2 - 2 lbs
  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp salt optional
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Gravy

  • 4 tsbp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups broth reserved from chicken
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage

Stuffing

  • 2 6 oz boxes Stove Top chicken flavored stuffing
  • 1 lb Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage
  • celery and onions reserved from chicken

Instructions

  1. Dice celery and onion then place in a pot with the chicken breasts and water. Add the bouillon, salt, garlic powder, oregano, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  

    Chicken and stuffing casserole ingredients
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Remove chicken from the pot then set aside to cool. Strain the broth from the onion and celery then set aside. (You'll use some of the broth for the gravy and [optional] some of the broth along with the celery and onions for the stuffing.)

  4. Cook the vegetables according to the package directions. Set aside.

  5. Thoroughly cook the sausage, breaking up into bite size pieces. Set aside.
  6. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. You should get about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of chicken.
  7. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat then add the flour. Whisk constantly until the mixture is slightly brown. Then gradually add 3 cups of the chicken broth, whisking constantly until the gravy starts a low boil. Continue for approximately 3 minutes or until flour is fully cooked.

  8. Prepare the stuffing according to package directions. (Optional - substitute the water in the directions with some of the leftover broth from the chicken. For example, 2 boxes of Stove Top would need 3 cups of water. You can use 2 cups of broth + 1 cup of water. Just as long as the liquid still equals 3 cups. The broth just adds a little extra flavor. Also, optional, rather than wasting the cooked celery and onions from the chicken broth, consider adding it to the stuffing.) 

    Chicken and stuffing prep 2
  9. Add the sausage to the prepared stuffing.

    Chicken and Stuffing casserole prep
  10. In the bottom of a large casserole dish, mix the chicken, vegetables and gravy. Spread to cover the bottom of the pan.

    Chicken and stuffing prep 3
  11. Add spoonfuls of the stuffing mixture and carefully spread it over the top of the chicken mixture until the entire chicken mixture is covered.

    Chicken and stuffing casserole
  12. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until heated through. NOTE: If you're making this ahead of time and it has been refrigerated, you'll need to cover with aluminum foil then bake for 40-45 minutes. If you like the stuffing a little crispy, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. 

Stuffing or Dressing? What do you call it? Let me know in the comments below.

Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake

This is the first of a segment I call “Recipes with Friends”. The idea is that one of my wonderful friends who are also wonderful cooks or bakers will share a recipe with us and write a little bit about the recipe. Well, one particularly wonderful friend is an online penpal, named Max. He is from Italy and we’ve been online friends for 9 or 10 years. Max is a self-proclaimed-not-so-good-cook, although I think he is probably a better cook than he gives himself credit. So, I’m letting him off the hook and didn’t ask him to bake this delicious Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake, but I will give him credit for the idea.

Max has encourage me to start this blog to share my recipes, he’s given me advice and shared his opinion on many topics, so I found it fitting that the first “Recipes with Friends” includes something about him. Max and I share a fondness of nice shoes. I don’t have many opportunities to wear them these days, but Max likes to tease me and send me pictures of all the beautiful shoes he would buy for me if I lived in Italy. I must say, he has exquisite taste in shoes and is very fashionable.

We’ve talked about recipes and different food stuffs over the years. I’ve shared recipes and pictures of my creations with him. He has even shared some with me. This recipe is not one of them, however. When chatting of Easter plans he told me of this Easter cake he bought to take to his mother for the holiday. I’d never heard of it, so naturally, I looked it up. This was mere hours ago and I was quite intrigued. Usually when I want to experiment with a new recipe, I scour through the many recipes I have saved, look online and through my favorite cookbooks. I look for something that stands out as different then compile a list of ingredients. Next, I decide how large of a recipe I want to make and figure out how much of everything I will need. I try the recipe and make adjustments that suit my tastes. Sometimes it’s a hit. Other times I need to start over and create something from scratch. I looked at a few recipes for this cake, but chose to try the first one I came across that had an English translation (www.academiabarilla.com). It was nice to have the translation, but the measurements were still in weight, so I hope my conversions are right or, at least, close. This is one of those times I wish I had a scale. Anyway, it’s baking in the oven as I write this and it smells heavenly.

While the bread is baking, I’m reading some articles about the Colomba, which is the counterpart to the Christmas Panettone and Pandoro. Colomba is Italian for Dove by the way. Colomba di Pasqua translates to Easter Dove. This bread is supposed to be formed into a dove-shaped mold, unfortunately, I do not have one of those either, so I shaped it by hand. We’ll see what it looks like when it’s done baking.

Colomba baked
Colomba after baking

That doesn’t look anything like a dove. Well, maybe if you squint and tilt your head. Well, maybe not. But, it’s not bad for a spur of the moment, first attempt challenge. I just sampled a piece and it’s really very good. In the short amount of time that I’ve had to research this recipe, I have found that a traditional Colomba di Pasqua uses natural yeast and has an average rising time of 30 hours. Wow! 30 hours. I didn’t start this recipe early enough for that. I used a rapid rising instant yeast and the standard rising time of allowing for the dough to double in size before the next step. Maybe I’ll plan ahead next time and try the natural yeast instead.

Colomba di Pasqua

A quicker version of the traditional Italian Easter cake.

Course Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 1 loaf
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 packets rapid rise instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp warm water
  • 5 oz mixed candied fruit (I used raisins and candied pineapple)
  • almonds and pearl sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water and gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour. Set aside in a warm place and allow to rise to double the size (approximately one hour). This is the starter dough.

    Colomba ingredients
  2. In a separate bowl add the remaining flour, 3 well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add this mixture to the starter dough and knead until incorporated. Set aside in warm place, cover with a towel, and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size again (approximately one hour).
    Colomba dough
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Sprinkle flour over the raisins and candied pineapple and shake off the flour. This removes the stickiness from the fruit and will make it easier to fold into your dough.

  5. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp of water to coat the top of the dough.

  6. When the dough has doubled in size, fold in the fruit. Be careful not to over knead the dough. Using a dove-shaped bread mold, shape the dough (or make a rough shape by hand if you don't have a mold) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the almonds and pearl sugar on top of the loaf.

  7. Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes.

  8. When the loaf is done baking, allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

    Colomba baked

Have you ever had Colomba di Pasqua before? Have you tried this recipe? Please comment below and let me know how this compares. Look for updates in the future as I’ll be experimenting with this recipe again.

Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin

It’s Easter time. I love this time of year. The weather is getting warmer and even though it is officially Spring, we still have about 6 inches of snow on the ground. Not to mention piles of immeasurable snow that will probably take until May to melt. But, the days are getting longer. The sun is shining and there are many blessings to celebrate. Which leads me to Easter dinner. This easy Easter side dish, Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin are an excellent companion to your ham or pork roast.

Do you have a big family dinner on Easter? Do you dread when you have to bring a side dish to a family gathering? Well, here is a side dish that will be a star at any dinner gathering, not just on Easter, but anytime of the year. Scalloped or au gratins can tend to be a bit bland, so I like to add some seasonings that add a little zing to the dish. It quickly became a favorite in my household and among friends. This dish goes well in place of mashed potatoes with any meal. It’s easy to prepare and travels well if you need a dish to take with you. It reheats in just a few minutes, so it’s a good choice to make ahead, too.

Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin

This easy to make side dish is easy to take along for a potluck or other gathering. It could serve as a meal by itself. It's full of flavor and the buttermilk and cheese make it extra creamy too.

Course Casserole, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds potatoes
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cup cheddar cheese divided

Instructions

  1. Scrub the potatoes. It is not necessary to peel them unless you don't like the peel. 

    Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin ingredients
  2. Slice the potatoes approximately 1/4 inch thick. I prefer using a mandolin over a knife because you get a more uniform thickness. Place the sliced potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Heat over medium/high heat until the water starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium/low and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside to cool.
    Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin sliced
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium/low heat. Add the next 8 ingredients (all the dry ingredients). Stir until the ingredients are well blended and a small ball of dough is formed. Gradually add the buttermilk, stirring constantly. Be careful not to bring the buttermilk to a boil as it could curdle. Heat the mixture over medium/low heat until it is warm enough to melt the cheese. Add two cups of cheese and continue to heat the mixture until the cheese has melted and is well blended. (Reserve the remaining cheese for topping the casserole.)

  5. Grease the bottom and sides of a casserole dish. (This should make a 4 layer casserole, so you may want to roughly divide the potatoes into 4 portions before starting so you don't have a thicker layer at the top.) Start layering the potatoes so that they overlap until the bottom of the dish is completely covered with potatoes. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese sauce over the layer of potatoes and carefully spread the sauce until they are well covered. Next, cover the sauce with another layer of potatoes, then more sauce. After your third layer of sauce, layer the last of the potatoes then sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top. 

    Buttermilk Ranch Potatoes Au Gratin layering
  6. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and is starting to brown. 

What are your Easter dinner traditions? Please comment below. I’d love to hear your home cooking experiences.