Buttermilk: A Southern Baking Secret

As a child, I remember my mother churning butter. We did not live on a farm, but had enough room for a barn with a couple of cows. The cows produced enough rich milk for my mother to make butter and buttermilk (the byproduct of the churning process).

Southern cooks usually had buttermilk on hand to use for baking and drinking. In the tradition of using food wisely, many families loved eating cornbread crumbled in buttermilk for a special treat or simple supper.

Today, most of us use the cultured buttermilk available in grocery stores. Whether you use fresh or cultured buttermilk, your baking will still benefit from its unique qualities. The tang and acidity of buttermilk will contribute distinctive flavor and moist texture to your baking. Buttermilk is primarily found in biscuits, cornbread and pancakes, but is often used in other desserts.

Just one tip – if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but don’t have any on hand, you can easily make a substitution. Measure 1 tablespoon vinegar into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let stand a few minutes.

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Something magic happens when buttermilk is combined with chocolate. This rich, moist Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake topped with creamy chocolate frosting is a wonderful example. Inspired by the famous Southern pie, Buttermilk Chess Pound Cake is a delicious choice to combine with spring berries.

Change of Place for Mealtime Fun

Meal planning is constantly changing – from trying to entice young children to eat foods that are better for them to keeping teenagers from eating you out of house and home. Despite your cooking challenges, I think we all agree that sharing a meal together has a positive influence on family life. To add fun into mealtime, consider switching up your dining location within your home.  A move from the kitchen or dining room table may take the focus off eating for young ones and make eating as a family more relaxed for teens.

If possible, eating outside is always a great idea. As the weather begins to improve, the porch, the patio or backyard for a picnic are popular options. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you don’t want to haul everything outside, simply serve plates in the kitchen and take them to your dining destination of choice.

Think simple and portable by packing a boxed supper.  Don’t make it too hard – a shoe box will work as your transport box. A good sandwich, fruit and fresh veggies are easy to pull together, yet provide a well-rounded meal. Young children will love helping putting the boxes together. On cool spring evenings a fireside picnic in the den would also be fun for the whole family.

Don’t forget the dessert!  A sweet treat is a great way to top off a happy meal. Heavenly Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars and Easy Cowboy Cookies are both great options. Delicious and easy to make, both of these recipes begin with a Martha White® Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix.

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I would love to hear any ideas you have on how to make meals fun for the whole family!

Don’t you Love Sweet & Salty?

Remember when “sweet & salty” swept the culinary scene? Every food magazine, cooking show, baker and chef featured some variation on this theme. Although no longer the hottest trend, sweet & salty has settled in as a beloved flavor combination.

The popularity of sweet & salty should come as no surprise – it’s always been there. When you really think about it, almost every dessert recipe calls for a little salt. One of my traditional favorite examples of this concept is a great pie! Isn’t it really a combination of the sweet filling and salty crust that creates perfection?

We’ve always liked sweet & salty treats, but I think it was the idea of adding a burst of flavor from coarse salt that grabbed our attention. Chocolate and caramel seem to be among our favorite sweets that get a wonderful boost by adding a little extra salt.

The crust for the Sweet & Salty Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars recipe is a Martha White® Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix. Top with salty pretzels, peanuts and a caramel sauce. Delicious! The Chocolate Thumbprints with Salted Caramel recipe uses some of the same basic ingredients as the Sweet & Salty Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars recipe.

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The thumbprint cookies are made with a Martha White® Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix, melted chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Fill the indentations with caramel candies that have been melted with cream. Sprinkle with sea salt or other coarse salt and you’ve created a delectable treat your whole family will love.

Do you have a favorite little sweet & salty treat of your own?  If so, I’d love to hear what it is.

More Muffin Fun

A few weeks ago, we talked about some quick ideas for serving muffins any time of the day. Here are some more ways to make quick muffin treats your family will love.

Slice and Fill Muffin Treats

Slice and fill muffins with fruit, yogurt, pudding and/or whipped cream for a great snack or quick dessert.

  • Muffin Shortcakes:
    • Slice (in half) chocolate chip or strawberry muffins, fill with strawberries and top with whipped cream.
    • Slice (in half) blueberry muffins, fill with yogurt and top with sliced peaches for a breakfast shortcake.
  • Muffin Trifles:
    • Slice berry muffins, fill with instant vanilla pudding and top with whipped cream.
  • Bananas Foster:
    • Slice banana nut muffins and fill with sliced bananas and warm caramel sauce.

Easy Additions

  • Blueberry Almond Muffins: Stir 1/8 teaspoon almond extract into muffin batter. Spoon batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake as directed.
  • Nutty Chocolate Chip Muffins: Stir 1/3 cup chopped peanuts, pecans or walnuts into chocolate chip muffin batter. Bake as directed.
  • Walnut Apple Raisin Muffins: Stir 1/3 cup raisins and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts into apple cinnamon or apple cider muffin mix. Bake as directed.
  • Sweet Potato Streusel Muffins: Prepare muffin mix as directed. Spoon into muffin pan. Sprinkle with a mixture of 2 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans. Bake as directed.

By incorporating a few more ingredients, you can create delicious bakery-style muffins like the below recipes.

Cheery Cherry Desserts

Many people live in areas where beautiful flowering cherry trees are a harbinger of spring.  Cherry trees that produce fruit are less common in the South, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like cherry desserts.  Some of the South’s favorite desserts have traditionally been made with canned cherries or pie filling made from tart cherries.

The sweet red Bing cherries and blushing Raniers are grown in the Pacific Northwest and are only available throughout the summer months. I always look forward to the few weeks when these cherries are available at a fairly reasonable price, but usually just eat most of them fresh.

I imagine most canned cherries are used for the traditional cherry pie, as well as cherry cobblers and crisps.  Below are a couple of delicious recipes made with a combination of cherry and berry flavors. I think this Cherry Berry Crisp recipe is a great idea. The filling is made with a delicious combination of cherry pie filling and frozen blueberries to balance out the sweetness. The crisp topping is easy to make with a Martha White® WildBerry Flavored Muffin Mix, oats, brown sugar and butter.

For a fun dessert, try Gluten Free* Cherry Berry Stacks recipe prepared in a mason jar. Alternate layers of Martha White Gluten Free Blueberry Flavored Muffin Mix, instant vanilla pudding and cherry pie filling to create a parfait. Of course, you may certainly make this recipe with a regular blueberry muffin mix, too.

cherry stack

*Ensure all recipe ingredients are gluten free by referencing the ingredient labels, as products may vary. If uncertain, contact the ingredient manufacturer.

Strawberry Muffin Cheesecake Trifles

This post comes from our friend Tina at Mommy’s Kitchen.

Strawberries have always been one of my favorite fruits. Those beautiful juicy berries are so versatile and can be used to create so many recipes. I always keep my pantry stocked with ingredients I can use for last minute dessert recipes, boxes of pudding, cake mixes, canned fruit, pie filling, and a variety of Martha White muffin mixes.

All of the above can be used to create a delicious dessert in no time. I love trifles, especially fruit trifles because they come together so quickly. They’re perfect for potlucks, barbecues, picnics or if you just want a quick fresh dessert after a meal.

Today I want to share a recipe for these beautiful Strawberry Muffin Cheesecake Trifles. These easy Trifles start with a baked strawberry cheesecake muffin mix.  They are layered with a creamy cheesecake filling, and topped with macerated strawberries and fresh cream.  These yummy little trifles really are the perfect spring or summer dessert.

If you dislike or are allergic to strawberries, you can substitute with a blueberry muffin mix and fresh blueberries to make blueberry muffin trifles.  By using a wildberry muffin mix and a variety of fresh berries, you have wildberry muffin trifles. I don’t think you can go wrong either way.  Let me show you how easy this recipe comes together.

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Start by pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, using a whisk or rubber spatula, lightly mix the muffin mixes together with the milk (batter will be lumpy) so don’t over mix. Add the prepared batter into a 12 cup muffin pan that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake the muffins for 13-17 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. Cool muffins in pan 2-3 minutes before removing to a baking rack to cool completely. While the muffins are cooling, sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the sliced and quartered strawberries, toss, and set aside to macerate.

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In a large bowl prepare the cheesecake pudding according to package directions for pudding and set aside. In a separate bowl, pour in 2 cups heavy cream and whip until soft peaks form. Set one cup of fresh cream aside and add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Mix to combine and store in the refrigerator to use for garnish on each trifle. Add the remaining heavy cream to the prepared pudding and lightly fold until mixed. Tear or cut the cooled muffins into 1/2 inch size pieces.

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To assemble the trifles, layer the strawberry muffins with the cheesecake pudding mixture, and strawberries in each half pint Mason jar. Top with a dollop of fresh whipping cream and refrigerate trifles until ready to serve.

Strawberry Muffin Cheesecake Trifles
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
2 – (7 ounce) packages Martha White Strawberry Cheesecake or Strawberry Flavored Muffin Mixes
1 – cup milk
1 – (1 ounce) package sugar free cheesecake pudding + the amount of milk called for on the package to make the pudding
2 – 3 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
1/2 – cup granulated sugar
2 – cups fresh heavy whipping cream, whipped and separated
2 – tablespoons powdered sugar
8 – half pint mason jars

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl using a whisk or rubber spatula lightly mix the muffin mixes together with the milk (batter will be lumpy), so don’t over mix.

Add the prepared batter into a 12 cup muffin pan that has been lightly sprayed with non stick spray. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.

Bake  13-17 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned and cooked through. Cool muffins in pan 2-3 minutes before removing to a baking rack to cool completely.

While the muffins are cooling sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the sliced and quartered strawberries, toss, and set aside to macerate.

In a large bowl prepare the cheesecake pudding according to package directions for pudding and set aside. In a separate bowl pour in 2 cups heavy cream and whip until soft peaks form.

Set one cup of fresh cream aside and add 1 tablespoon on powdered sugar. Mix to combine and store in the refrigerator to use for garnish on each trifle. Add the remaining heavy cream to the prepared pudding and lightly fold until mixed.

Tear or cut the cooled muffins into 1/2 inch size pieces.  To assemble the trifles, layer the strawberry muffins with the cheesecake pudding mixture, and strawberries in each half pint Mason jar.

Top with a dollop of fresh whipping cream and refrigerate trifles until ready to serve.

Recipe source: http://www.mommyskitchen.net/

Great Chicken Salad: The Saving Grace of the Southern Hostess

In our small Southern town, most parties centered on holidays, birthdays, an occasional wedding, a baby shower or a garden club luncheon.  There were also covered dish dinners, family reunions and church suppers, but they were more communal gatherings – what we called “get-togethers.”

Chicken and pimento cheese finger sandwiches (with the crusts removed) were a favorite and could be found at many of these parties. We loved them! My mother froze any leftover sandwiches and toasted them for a special family treat. Ladies luncheons often featured chicken salad on a leaf of lettuce, a Jello salad and hot rolls.

As a child, I remember my mother’s chicken salad as a rather simple, but delicious, combination of her perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken, with finely chopped celery and mayonnaise. As time went on however, tea rooms and restaurants opened and chicken salad became a signature dish that featured additional ingredients. I can still remember how much I loved chicken salad with grapes when I had it for the first time.

When Phil and I were dating, we had chicken salad that was made with chunks of pineapple and toasted walnuts at a Nashville restaurant. It is still one of our favorite “go to” recipes. I often make it with rotisserie chicken and serve over salad greens for a quick and easy supper.

Chicken Salad Ingredients

Do you have a great chicken salad variation? If so, I would love to know how you make it.