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Food, Inspiration, Recipes

Demystifying Sourdough Starter

Due to the Covid years, I think by now we have all tried our hand at making a loaf of sourdough bread, whether it was a successful attempt or not. I was a little later to the game. My Mom was the first to join this worldwide elite club of bread artisans, and I was dually impressed that she had ventured to make her own starter as well.

I remember speaking to my Mom in one of our long-winded phone conversations where she regaled me with details on her latest loaf of this crunchy, pillowy variety of bread.

She informed me of the nuances of working the dough, allowing it to rise, kneading it with proper form, baking techniques and the tools needed to properly form a loaf worthy of a boulangerie window or San Francisco soup shop.

I like to think that perhaps it is in our DNA somehow to craft bread. Poilâne Bakery in Paris, France is a third generation boulangerie renowned for creating the best sourdough in the world by hand, since 1932.

Aside from being at the top of my destination wish list, the foodie nerd in me likes to dream and wish that our strikingly similar last names means that the owner, Apollonia, and I are somehow cousins removed somewhere back in the recesses of our lineage. I have no proof or facts to justify any connection whatsoever, but hey…a girl is allowed to dream, right?

But, I digress. Back to the breadmaking process. The one factor that I couldn’t wrap my head around that my Mom kept referencing when we spoke was “feeding the starter” every couple of weeks to “keep it strong.”

What did this mean?! Was this a living entity that resided in her refrigerator, and why was it so hungry?! I was intrigued, to say the least. I kept picturing that plant from Little Shop of Horrors and wondering if her starter would shout “feed me” in Steve Martin’s voice from the back of the refrigerator every time she opened it to grab the butter or pour a glass of iced tea. While that sounds pretty cool, it is not that dramatic. So, let me explain the science behind it.

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Food, Recipes

Apple-Honey Upside Down Cake

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I have been testing recipes galore that are worthy of showcasing at the turkey day table. Apple-based desserts always have a special place in my heart at this time of year and I always try to incorporate at least one dessert that features this juicy, robust fruit as it revels in its prime picking season.

One of my favorite elements drawing me to a good apple dessert is its ability to transform the sugar in the apples into sweet caramelization, and this recipe gives all those feels. This is a fluffy and flavorful cake, perched below the crunchy, chewy heft of a sugary glaze, the hearty crunch of pecans, and soft, sweet, artfully placed apples. Think pineapple upside down cake, with a fall twist.

Aside from being an absolutely delicious dessert, this one is also a real showstopper. This cake is inverted once complete, hence the upside down label, so the bottom layers of gorgeous apple and pecans glistening in a caramelized, buttery brown sugar are on full display for guests, painting an ever so beautiful picture on the serving platter.

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Food, Recipes

Turkey & Kielbasa Three Bean Chili

It’s chili season!! One of my favorite times of year, hands down. The days get a little shorter, the weather is a little chillier at night and it is my queue to start making giant pots of chili to eat and freeze for the cooler months.

Everyone seems to be on the hunt for a really good recipe for chili. I have always been one of those people too. Back in 2009, I finally decided to start testing different recipes to see which appealed to me most and create my very own version.

I feel that a “good chili” is personal and really lies in the eye of the beholder. We all have our own likes and tastes, but I feel that this recipe is one that will please chili novices and connoisseurs alike. Not to brag (brushes shoulders), but this recipe has won more than one inter-office chili cookoff against some fierce and worthy competitors.

Ingredients & Tips

As I mentioned, I tried out several recipes and flavors to land on this concoction. It has been my tried and true go to chili for over a decade and is a true one pot wonder. This is the perfect excuse to break out that Dutch Oven and put it to good use, or a nice big stock pot will do. Make sure that whichever vessel you choose, it has a heavy bottom on it to avoid burning your chili over the continuous heat you will be applying in the cooking process. Once you complete minimal prep and throw it into your pot of choice, it will sit on the stove and meld flavors, doing its magic without much supervision.

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Food, Recipes

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Aside from the infamous pumpkin spice flavor, nothing screams “Fall is HERE!!” like apple cider, and anything apple flavored really. I think there is good reason for the craze that hits us all at this time of year.

I know here in the Lowcountry, our summer spans from late March to right around the end of September with 80-90 degree temps hitting their peak, so we yearn for that brief moment where the seasons turn. We may not be able to bundle in our sweaters, but the air is a little crisper and we are all ready for those Autumn flavors and cozy baking projects.

I just finally invested in my very own donut pans, because…I mean…who are we kidding. This girl is bound to make some donuts. I love baking and have been dying to try this recipe and several others out. I am surprised it took me this long to finally give in and order these baking pans to add to my growing collection, but boy am I glad I did.

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Food, Recipes

Bennigan’s Style Ultimate Baked Potato Soup

As soon as the cooler weather rolls around, I start to crave all of the fall foods. In particular, chili (which we will get to later) and this recipe for the Ultimate Baked Potato Soup.

Recently, I had a comment pop up asking for recipe ideas for a Dutch Oven. This one piece of equipment is an absolute kitchen staple in my book, and a perfect vessel for soups, stews and frying. I use mine for just about everything and anything.

The enamel coating is perfect for all kinds of cooking, as it is naturally non-stick. That said, I cook with a lot of butter whenever I use mine, so I suppose that helps it to be more resistant to sticking. Plus, they deglaze like a champion once you add a little liquid to them, leaving you with those flavorful brown bits in soups and stews that build flavor.

If you have a Dutch Oven, or have been gifted one and aren’t sure what to do with it, the sky is the limit. Any soup recipe, stew, sauce…use this vessel for building your recipes and allowing them to develop with even heat. The cast iron holds and conducts heat steadily and beautifully for slow simmering. Once you are done prepping, you can just about set it and forget it on a low heat.

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Food, Recipes

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

I know it’s basic Betty territory, but I really do love it when pumpkin spice latte season rolls around each year. I think for me, it signifies the turn of the seasons and signals the official end to summer. Nothing against summer, but fall, and the months leading into the holidays, equal my wheelhouse for joy.

In my defense, I have always loved the coffee portion of this craze the most for this seasonal treat. I will admit it has gotten a bit out of hand with pumpkin spice eeeeverything, but if you are like me and go cuckoo for that creamy flavor mixed with your morning java, you have to give this a whirl.

It is super easy to make your own pumpkin spice creamer at home. You can mix this with your own choice of coffee, and nowadays, you can get a fairly priced espresso maker and get down to the business of making your very own legit lattes.

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Food, Recipes

Autumn Apple Bundt Cake

Ahhh the beginning of fall. That magical time of year when the air feels crisper, giving us that first little shiver in the morning to tell us that the end of summer is drawing near. The leaves begin to turn and shimmy from the trees to the ground and we have that first inkling to reach for an extra sweater to ease the chill in our bones.

It brings me a thrilling sensation. I am a lover of baking. This is the time of year when all things come to life in this realm of my life. Warm, hearty pies, spongy cakes to accompany an evening tea. There is something that is so lovely and comforting about it all.

The stars of the autumn show when it comes to the baking game are obvi pumpkin and apple, accompanied by their spicy cousins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Naturally, as soon as the first cool breeze hits me, I am off and running to the store for my first batch of fresh, seasonal apples. This is their prime time to shine.

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Ham Delight Bites

If you live in the south, the chances are high that you have had these mini bites of delight at any given party or get together. They are an absolute staple, and if you have tried them, you know why. If you haven’t, then you must add these to your list to whip up for a holiday nibble or gathering.

Growing up in NY, I don’t remember ever coming across these mini sammies. We moved south during my junior year of college, and I remember coming home for the first holiday season and attending get togethers at the homes of my parents’ friends. These little gems were everywhere! Each time I mentioned how delicious they were, as if I had unearthed some sort of ancient treasure, I was generally met with a giggle.

I understand now that the humor in it all was that these have been a must in the south for ages, almost a given, at any get together. There are actually catering companies throughout the south, rated and revered based on this one finger food…I am looking at you Ladyfingers of Raleigh, NC.

They were new to me and I was forever changed for the better for finding them. So now I will share them with you. This recipe is straight from the Southern Living cookbooks, to give credit where it is due. I am simply repeating their genius here with a few small tweaks. Make these once and you will be asked to make them for every occasion, I guarantee you.

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Food, Recipes

Monster Cookies

It seems only fitting to post a recipe for my favorite Monster Cookies, with the ghoulish Halloween season just around the corner!

I call these Monster Cookies because they are chock-full of just about any kind of chip or candy you can fit into the dough. It uses a basic recipe, and it is a great project with kids, as you can add just about any kind of candy flavor that you like.

I have posted my own recipe using M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces and Reese’s peanut butter chips. If you want to swap the chips out for chocolate chips, or add both…go for it! Just try to keep the ratio of dough to candy low enough so that you aren’t just eating a glob of candy with little specs of cookie in between.

These also freeze beautifully for about 2 months, if they last that long! Just be sure to allow them to thaw for a little so you don’t crack a tooth on an M&M (I have almost done it!).

These are super easy and fun! Enjoy and leave a note in the comments to tell me about your version!

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Food, Recipes

Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

I have been baking banana bread to my heart’s content for years now, to the point where I have my recipe and the steps fully memorized. I have been doing this since before it became chic to do so in the midst of the pandemic.

I have always had extra bananas lying around from my morning smoothies and I have always loved baking a homemade treat to give to friends. Something about it just says, I like you. It is my ultimate expression of admiration for another, to put time and love into baking my banana bread.

That said, this week I was staring at the brown-flecked bananas sitting on my countertop and I dared to dream even bigger. I thought, there must be something new, maybe even better to bake with those slowly wilting beauties. A browning banana never goes to waste in my kitchen. Not on my watch!

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