Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Storing Starter Cultures

With holiday travel looming closer, I'm finding "sitters" for the cat and the chickens (we're taking the dog along), and realized I should make a note of how I take care of my microscopic "pets" while I'm gone.

Starter cultures don't usually need a babysitter if you go on vacation, but here are a few tips for keeping them healthy and happy while you're gone:

Sourdough: I generally just feed my starter and put it in the fridge, tightly covered. (I try to use up all but about a cup of the starter before I store it, just to conserve space.) When I get back, I pull it out, feed it, and give it at least four hours to get back up to room temperature and "wake up" again before I use it for baking.
You can also freeze a portion of your sourdough starter; again, just bring it back up to room temperature before you feed it. It may take a couple of days to get back up to full strength again.
Yogurt: Unless you're planning to be gone for more than a week, yogurt doesn't usually need any special treatment. It will easily last a few weeks in the fridge (although it's best if you make a new batch right before you leave, so it will be as strong as possible when you return).

Buttermilk: This is pretty much the same as yogurt; it should last just fine in the fridge.

Both yogurt and buttermilk can be dried for longer storage if necessary.

My sourdough and yogurt, all ready for their nap in the fridge while we're gone!

Monday, December 19, 2011


I don't know if I'd call this a recipe, exactly, but I've been making these a lot lately (they're perfect for last-minute suppers on busy days). I thought I'd share in case someone else was feeling the time crunch this holiday season!

tortillas (I try to make some of these ahead of time so I can just get them out as I need them)
refried beans (I keep some of these in the fridge for "emergencies" too), mixed with 1/4 cup taco seasoning
cooked chicken, turkey, or beef
shredded cheese
lettuce, tomato, sour cream, peppers, etc.

This is really a whatever-you-like recipe; I like to put a tortilla on the griddle, spread on some beans, add some meat, and sprinkle cheese over it all and cook until the cheese is melted. Then I move them onto a plate and add the lettuce, etc. (I like to leave them open-faced, because 1. the cold toppings don't slide off so easily, 2. it's lower carb that way, and 3. then I don't have to roll out so many tortillas!)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Honey Sweetened Fruit Pizza

It's tough to think of Christmas treats that aren't completely centered around sugar. We do make cookies, but definitely not as many as we used to. One of my favorite things to make for Christmas Eve is fruit pizza. Thankfully, I've found a lightly-sweetened version that lets the natural flavors of the fruit shine through. This recipe is actually a combination of two recipes, given to me by two of my sisters-in-law, one for the graham cracker crust and one for the cream cheese frosting.

Fruit Pizza
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
Mix well, roll out on a cookie sheet to 1/4 inch thickness (this is easier if you cover the dough with a piece of wax paper). Remove the wax paper and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
Mix well and spread evenly over cracker crust.

Top with fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sourdough Stollen

Being of nearly 100% German descent, this recipe is a must-make for Christmas. I tweaked the original recipe to make it sourdough, but it tastes basically the same. We like to have it for breakfast (smothered in butter, of course!) as often as we can during the Christmas season.
Sourdough Stollen
3/4 cup dried fruit (candied lemon peel, raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/2 cup brandy or water
Soak together at least 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 cups sourdough starter
Add fruit and mix well. Shape into loaves,* then let rise at least 4 hours. Brush with egg wash (1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 tsp water) and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*For braided stollen, cut into two loaves. Cut each loaf into three equal sections. Roll each section into a short rope about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and about 9 inches long. Lay these three side by side, pinch together at one end, and gently braid, loosely, just a few crossings. Pinch together the end pieces and shape with hands to make a nice oval shape.

Healthy (er) Peanut Blossoms

Peanut blossoms are one of my favorite Christmas cookies, but I'm always frustrated by the fact that they're full of sugar, rolled in sugar, and then topped with sugar-laden chocolate. Thankfully, I found this recipe for peanut butter cookies that are made with honey and maple syrup. I skip the rolling in sugar step, top them with homemade chocolate pieces, and voila! Healthy (er) Peanut Blossoms!

Healthy (er) Peanut Blossoms
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (I use Smuckers organic creamy)
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup*
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour (I use freshly ground whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
Mix all well, then shape into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and flatten with a fork (or top with a piece of Super Simple Healthy Fudge). Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.

*you can play with the sweeteners as you like - use all honey, or all syrup, or less of each.

This post is part of the Meet Up Monday Link Party.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Healthy (er) Homemade Chocolates

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I thought it might be time to share some of my favorite holiday recipes. I actually make this one all year 'round, but I use it most often in holiday treats, so I thought I'd share it here.

Healthy (er) Homemade Chocolates
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil - gives it a lovely coconutty flavor, like a Mounds bar)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Melt oil and honey, stir in cocoa and salt. Mix very well. Turn off heat; add vanilla. Pour into parchment-lined loaf pan (or shaped silicone pan) and let cool in fridge or freezer. Cut into squares (or other fun shapes) and enjoy!

As I mentioned, I make this all the time, not just at Christmas. I store it in the freezer, and whenever I get a chocolate craving, I have a small piece of this fudge. It's so rich, I only need a little bit, and I don't need to feel guilty about having a treat!