left on walnut

Category: In the kitchen

Milking Eleanor

Weather-worn doors slid open on Pop Printy’s Indiana barn. Light shone through cracks between boards and dust would suspend in each slant of light. Spider webs shrouded the windows.

The cow’s name was Eleanor. Barn cats clustered when Eleanor was milked, hoping for a shot at warm milk. Pop would pour a little milk into an aluminum pie plate for the cats, or sometimes squirt a bit right from the cow into a cat’s mouth. Milk was stored in pails in a milk house, down a hole in the ground to keep it cool. I wasn’t allowed to play in the milk house, for fear I’d fall down the hole.

In the house, Mom poured fresh milk into bottles and let cream rise to the top. She skimmed off the cream and made butter and sour cream. She made buttermilk, too, for biscuits. Not much was on that farm that wasn’t homemade.

I still make buttermilk and sour cream like Mom Printy:

  • My sour cream jar holds around a cup, I’d say. I pour about a quarter cup of buttermilk in the jar and then fill the jar with cream. I stir it a bit and then cover the jar with a clean cloth and set the jar in a warm place for a day or so.
  • My buttermilk jar holds two cups. I pour maybe a half cup of buttermilk into the jar and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Buttermilk needs to sit in a warm place for a day or two just like the sour cream. You can start with buttermilk from the store, but be sure to buy the kind that has actual cultures in it.

Remembering Texas

I lived in Texas while working on my doctorate. I don’t remember Texas sheet cake. I remember Aggie bonfires, the next door neighbor as beautiful as an Egyptian queen, and the kindergarten teacher in the class where I watched kids write.

I also remember finding a scorpion in the apartment once, fire ants, and getting my first speeding ticket. I remember walking across campus on a day so hot I thought I’d catch fire. Texas sheet cake would be a better memory than any of those.

Cooking Light just named Texas sheet cake one of the best chocolate recipes of all time in their 25th anniversary issue. I made it today. It’s memorable.

Texas Sheet Cake (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15×10 jelly roll pan and dust it with flour.
  2. Stir together flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Combine water, butter, and cocoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Pour into the flour mixture. Beat with a mixer at medium until well blended.
  4. Add buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs. Beat well.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Baked at 375 degrees for 17 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Place on a wire rack.
  6. Combine 1/2 cup butter, milk, and 1/4 cup cocoa in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in powdered sugar; stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla and the chopped pecans. Spread over hot cake. Cool completely on wire rack.


blueberry morning

Two mornings this week, Tom shoveled while I stayed inside eating toast. This  morning I made blueberry muffins. In the great division of labor, I’d rather bake than shovel. I feel guilty though, especially since it’s starting to snow again.

Blueberry Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounce package frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Line muffins tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the frozen blueberries. Divide among the muffin tins and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Serve them to your husband on a cold morning and feel less guilty than before.

Best of 2011

We were married on New Year’s Eve. Each year for our anniversary, we make the dishes we consider the best of the year. Here’s this year’s menu: