Buttermilk Doughnuts...or is it Donuts?

I shared last week about the staple foods I keep around our kitchen. One of those is buttermilk and I have to say, I am developing quite an affection for buttermilk these days. Buttermilk ice cream~ tangy and tasty. Buttermilk waffles ~ a favorite of the boys on weekends. And now, I can add buttermilk doughnuts to the list.

On Friday night I was scrambling around the kitchen trying to piece a meal together and decided that homemade doughnuts would be a perfect Friday night dessert. After looking through my usual online foodie resources; Epicurious, Food Network, David Lebovitz's amazing site and a google search, I stumbled across a recipe for buttermilk doughnuts and just had to give them a try.

I am not a doughnut fan necessarily. I'll take a scoop of ice cream or a slice of triple chocolate cake over a doughnut any day of the week. But these little gems...holy cow. Some were tossed in a bit of cinnamon and sugar while others got a glaze coating with a simple mixture of powdered sugar, vanilla and cream.

I tweaked the recipe a bit and cut it down some (I really didn't need or want to stand over hot oil frying 40 doughnuts) and here's what we ended up with. They are brilliant.

Buttermilk Doughnuts

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
3T butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg (this gives it that special something...don't omit it)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cup - 3 cups flour

Beat the egg and sugar. Add all but flour and mix well. Add in flour until you get a stiff dough (more like cookie dough, less like a soft bread dough). Chill for atleast an hour and you could leave it in the fridge over night. Roll out chilled dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut those bad boys out to whatever shape works for you. Drop them in 375 degree oil and fry them till golden colored on both sides (1-2 minutes per side). Drain on a wire rack and use your imagination for all sorts of delicious toppings!

A New Dress

Mama's got a new dress. What's that? From Anthropologie? Nope. A Boden purchase? No ma'am. This little gem was my first "big girl" sewing project.
My sewing projects for over a year has been work related. Filling orders for shops, shows, online orders and gift giving have kept me too busy to make anything for myself. Finally I feel caught up on all of those other things and decided to pull out a pattern I bought a while ago and had tucked away with all of the other patterns I buy and intend on using (but never get around to.) I sew all of the time but am petrified of those patterns that aren't labeled with words like "easy" or "fast" or "quick".

I was feeling very ambitious on Friday night and wanted a good challenge. So I dove head first into the most difficult pattern I have tackled to date. It was hard ~ but not nearly as hard as I had anticipated. I had Mike there, across the kitchen table doing his online classes, coaching me along as I would read aloud, then re-read aloud more slowly and loudly each instruction step.
It came together in about 4 hours and was actually really fun to make and even more exciting to zip it up and have it fit like a glove.

Summer's End

It seems every friend's facebook status and every blog I read share's the same news...kids are headed back to school. No exception in this house ~ Canaan starts 2nd grade tomorrow and Ezra will start pre-kindergarten in a couple of weeks.
Gone are the lazy days of reading in the hammock, watercolors, watching DVR'd episodes of Lawrence Welk and Food Network and doing our morning yoga. Although these times are so precious to us and will be dearly missed, we are also ready for a great school year and the boys are definitely ready to see their friends again and be back in the routine of school life.

I am looking forward to some quiet times just the little Otto and I. I certainly remember my sweet times with each of my older ones just taking them for long walks in the park or just sitting quietly to watch them play ~ I am looking forward to those times, just Othniel and I.

In other news ~ I received an unexpected email last week from an editor at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine asking if I would send them some bow ties from Itty Smitty to use in a photo shoot that took place this week. How could I pass that up? I quickly packaged up those sweet little boys bow ties and shipped them out the next day. I am hoping they make "the cut" for the featured article. I'll keep you posted...

Celebrating 6 Months

A chocolate cake is a fitting way for us to celebrate Otto's 6 month birthday ~ don't you think? Of course he won't be partaking ; in fact he wants nothing to do with anything beyond nursing as can be seen in this photo of him taking his first bites of rice cereal.

But for the rest of us, we're enjoying a bit of chocolate cake on Otto's behalf. I made it on Thursday, but its keeping so well in the fridge. Still ridiculously moist and it was even more ridiculously easy to make.

Here's the basic recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.
I used some ganache I already had on hand and sandwiched the layers between a spreading of Ikea's Lingonberry preserves.

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 lg. eggs

Position racks in top and bottom third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9 inch diameter cake pans with 2 inch high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Spray rounds. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.; whisk to blend and form well in center. Whisk 1 cup of water, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Divide cake batter between pans. Bake about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pans.

Staple Foods

Mike and I sat down on Friday night, like we do every other Friday night, to discuss the budget for the upcoming two weeks and make sure we're on the same page financially.
It is usually uneventful, with little or no surprises, but after number crunching this time around we realized there was just no money for the groceries!
With some unexpected medical bills, higher than usual utilities (thanks to sweltering heat this summer) and a few other unexpected financial things here and there we are just having one of those months.
It is always a sacrifice financially to live on one income. We choose it and don't regret it a bit but there are certainly times, like this week, that I have to kick the creativity into high gear in the kitchen and make it work. We could tap into our savings but aren't because...well secretly, I actually enjoy these times. Not only does it bring about some unusual, exciting meals but on a deeper level it reminds me of how blessed we are to have the luxury of an abundance of food in our cupboards and in our freezer that can sustain us as a family. And even during weeks like this, where the money just isn't there, we are far better off than much of the world.

My expertise is definitely not in the area of storing food, freezing meals, buying ahead or even planning more than a week or so in advance. I admire people who do but that simply just isn't where I put my energy.
So in weeks like this, I start scouring the back of the shelves and corners of the fridge to start coming up with meals that require no trips to the store and yet provide our bellies good, healthy, filling food to come together around the table for at the end of the day.

Having basic "staple" ingredients on hand will really help out during weeks like these (assuming that you too have these belt-tightening times).
These are the foods that I always try to keep around. They are the things that I'll pick up two of, instead of one, when grocery shopping.

Buttermilk is great for so many things. Pancakes, biscuits, cakes and muffins.
King Arthur Flour
I use King Arthur because I find it works better than any other flour out there. I keep AP flour and Bread flour on hand for the obvious (baking) but I also use it to thicken sauces and making pasta.
Peanut Butter
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of the easiest ways to stave off hunger pains between meals with the kiddos.
Popcorn is an essential snack food in this house. We air pop it, which is much healthier.
Lentils and black beans are the two staple beans in this house. A meal of black beans and rice or a quick lentil soup is filling and delicious!
Chicken Stock
I try to make homemade chicken stock when I have time but I also like to keep a couple of cartons of store bought organic chicken broth on hand to add to soups, beans and sauces.
A basic olive oil and garlic pasta sprinkled with a bit of cheese just can't be beat. I add in some peas and a bit of leftover chicken or bacon to add even more flavor.
Frozen peas, corn and broccoli
Must haves for veggies in a pinch!
Butter and Oil
These are essential in almost any cooking or baking so be sure to have extra around.
I always try to keep a bag of apples in the fridge. When the boys are hungry and wanting a snack, I always send them to the fridge for an apple. It seems to satisfy their craving for something sweet and something crunchy.

This Little Guy

Life certainly is more sweet with little Otto around. We are all continually mesmerized by him, his new antics each day and his amazingly calm and sweet disposition. Since we know he is our last, we are really savoring each moment with him. Canaan says almost daily, "Otto is growing up too fast." Indeed he is.

I don't mind at all those occasional middle of the night feedings (though they are few and far between now). I don't even mind the little meltdowns he has when we put him in his car seat (those are pretty few and far between too). Soon he will begin eating solids and that makes me so sentimental. Where have these six months gone?

Canaan starts second grade next week and Ezra will venture off to pre-kindergarten. They are ready ~ and in a way, I am ready too. I am looking forward to some alone time with Otto during the day and then welcoming the boys home from school each afternoon refreshed and ready to hear all about their school day adventures.

Re evaluating

On Monday morning I woke up and immediately pulled out a piece of paper and pencil. I had spent much of the night lying awake thinking about things and needed to get up and get them on paper as quickly as possible (surely I am not the only one that does that, right?) Anyhow, what I began writing was a list. A list of the many things that I do, am committed to, that keep me busy, that I am aiming toward, that I have set as goals and that eat up my time during the day.
The list grew and grew, as I knew it would. I do have quite a bit going on but they are all things I love and don't necessarily see as burdensome. Nonetheless, even the best intentioned activities or projects need re evaluated once in a while.
After I made the list I kept it on the butcher block island for the day. I would pass by it every 15 minutes or so, glance down and look it over and then keep moving. I thought much about the list that day and prayed alot about the things on that list too. I knew in my heart that I needed to give some of that up. I have been sensing for a while a need to change up things and start making some new goals and blazing some new trails with Mike and the boys. So in order to move in some new creative directions it means backing off of some other things, letting some stuff go, lessening my contributions to others, etc..
In one way it was hard, but in other ways so freeing! It was liberating to give myself the permission to let go and move on from some projects that I felt I needed to stick with for the sake of not giving up on them or because I have it in me to see everything through to the end.
This process was also really enlightening for me to once again re evaluate my purpose in everything I do. I try to do everything with meaningful purpose and thought but overtime even the best hopes and dreams for something kind of get veered off track and either the goal behind it shifts or my heart in it begins to fade.
So this week I knocked some things off the list. Making room for the new! So excited about the new too. One new will hopefully be volunteering my sewing skills with children at a school here in town that live with much less than any child should have.
The second new thing that is coming up is (a secret for now because we're still working out all of the details) going to be an exciting challenge for this family of five. Its going to change up our weekly schedule, give us more involvement in our community and keep us on our toes. Can't wait to share it with you someday soon!

I would challenge all of you to make your own list. You'll be amazed how many things you've committed yourself to over time. Eliminate and Concentrate. Eliminate those things that you can (and maybe some you think you can't but really can!) and concentrate on those things that are most important and that encourage you, your family and those around you live a better and more full life.

More Fair Fun and Roasted Tomato Soup

Hanging out in a yurt and reminiscing about our time in Mongolia.

Enjoying some down time coloring in the Natural Resource area of the Fair.

Soup and bread is a staple around here. Sometimes we jazz it up with soup and panini sandwiches. My go-to bread recipes are the King Arthur Oatmeal Bread recipe and the American Sandwich Bread recipe from America's Test Kitchen. Both are really simple to make and really yummy. I make all of our own sandwich bread and love how much better even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes with it. I timed myself making the oatmeal bread today and it was just at 11 minutes from putting the ingredients in the mixer to letting it rest and rise. If you don' t have a stand mixer to help you with the kneading, than its only an additional 5 minutes. I love kneading bread by hand, but it is so much more efficient for this mama of 3 to use the Kitchen Aid.

I have posted about this soup before but here is the recipe again. With the bountiful tomato crop this time of year, this is a great recipe to have around!

Southwest Tomato & Roasted Pepper Soup

It is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe:
1 large red bell pepper, diced (or you could use a roasted red pepper)
3T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped.
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3 cups chicken broth (I used 2c. and a bit of water)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. lime zest
Salt & Pepper

In a pot heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft, 8-10 minutes. Stir the chili powder and cumin into the onions. Add the diced red pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Add the broth and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
Let cool briefly and then puree the soup in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. Return to pot and add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, lime juice and lime zest in a small bowl.
Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

Food Finds and Fair Fun

To sum up our Ohio State Fair experience in one post would be a complete injustice :) So over the next few days I'll share some of the greatness of the day. I am sure all state fairs are great, but there is something so amazing about Ohio's. They offer such a wide array of activities (kayaking, timber shows, lectures from Abraham Lincoln and fishing) with no additional charges.
Of course most of our day centers around food~ as it should be at a fair. Chocolate covered bacon and funnel cakes, gyros and fries with vinegar~ delish!

And a few rides...

And I said last week that I'd be sharing a bit about food this week. This first "recipe" isn't so much a recipe, but rather a go-to staple meal in this house...black beans and rice. I make a big batch of brown rice to keep in the fridge and a bowl of black beans. Sometimes I'll make flour tortillas and we'll make bean and rice burritos. Other times we'll just have a bowl of it topped with sour cream and salsa. If there is leftover chicken or steak we'll add that too. Having cooked brown rice on hand is also nice to have around for quick fried rice.