Saturday, June 30, 2012

Buttermilk Peach Ice Cream with Cinnamon

Happiness comes in many forms.  Maybe its warm sun on your face and your toes in the sand, or maybe its sharing a laughter-filled conversation with your loved ones.  Maybe its the good news you've been waiting to hear.

It can be found in the smallest, simplest biting into a fresh peach that's so incredibly juicy that you have to strategically stand over the sink to eat it, while juice unavoidably runs down your arms.  And you know what?  That darn peach is so delicious that it's okay to get a little messy!

After all, it's the little moments that make life so fun.

This Buttermilk Peach Ice Cream certainly put a smile on my family's faces recently.  It's the height of peach season around here, and I couldn't help but want to break out the ice cream maker after buying these peachy beauties.  I started searching for recipe inspiration online, and I stumbled upon a recipe by one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Homesick Texan.

The ingredients intrigued me.   Buttermilk in ice cream?!?  Genius!  It sounded pretty incredible, so I got to work.  I love this recipe for its simplicity.  A lot of ice cream recipes are custard-based, which requires eggs and a lot of extra time standing over the stove.  This version comes together easily and tastes nothing short of heavenly!

The trick is allowing the peaches to macerate for a few hours along with the cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice.  This easy process really concentrates the flavors and takes it up a notch.

Plus, the buttermilk adds a great little twang to the ice cream, which is subtle yet perfect.

Bon Appetit, my friends!  Let's all find happiness in the little moments this summer...They're all around us!

Buttermilk Peach Ice Cream
Adapted from:  Homesick Texan

2 cups cream
1 cup buttermilk
2 pounds (about 6) whole peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon juice

Toss peeled and sliced peaches with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Cover, refrigerate and let macerate at least for a couple of hours, preferably overnight or all day.

Puree half of the peaches in a blender, and then mix puree with cream, buttermilk and vanilla.  Next, roughly mash the remaining peaches with a potato masher and then add them to the cream mixture.

Freeze according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions.
To peel the peaches, place them into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water to halt the cooking. The skin should rub right off after blanching. 

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Drool-Worthy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes


"How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways..."

So maybe Elizabeth Barrett Browning wasn't talking about blueberries when she wrote her famous poem, but she could have been.  Especially with fabulously sweet, perfectly round and beautifully blue little berries like these.

Every year, Brad and I look forward to the day when these huge buckets of blueberries are available at the farmer's market.  It's the best $20 you'll spend at the market...hands down.  Each year, we scoop up one of these buckets, and I get to work figuring out how to put them to good use.  And let me just tell you...The berries mysteriously  start disappearing handful by handful, thanks to my sneaky husband.  During blueberry season he can be found sneaking handfuls right and left, making a little game out of it.

Oh, that husband...  :)

One of our very favorite things to do on the weekend is indulge in Sunday morning pancakes.  The Sunday after our farmer's market trip, I whipped up these buttermilk pancakes and added a very generous cup of blueberries to the batter.  The results were nothing short of glorious.   Glorious, I tell you!

The buttermilk makes these pancakes extra fluffy and tender.  This weekend, pick up some berries from your local farmer's market and treat your family to these pancakes.  You'll be so glad that you did.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from:  The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook by Julie Fisher Gunter
Yield:  18 (4-inch pancakes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries
Maple syrup

Combine first 5 ingredients; stir well.

Combine eggs, buttermilk, and oil in a bowl;  add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in blueberries.

For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle.  Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked;  Turn and cook other side.  (Store unused batter in a tightly covered container in refrigerator up to 1 week.  If refrigerated batter is too thick, add milk or water to reach desired consistency.) 

Serve pancakes warm with butter and maple syrup.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cherry Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing

Even though tomorrow is the first "official" day of summer, it sure has seemed like summer for weeks here in Alabama!  The highs have been in the 90s, and the days are filled with the hot, humid heat that the south is known for.  

But you know what?  All the humidity-filled bad hair days are totally worth it when you take a big bite of one of the first ripe, juicy tomatoes of the season.  Growing up, I wouldn't touch a tomato with a 10-foot pole.  I wouldn't even hear of having a tomato slice on my cheeseburger, and you could just forget about cherry tomatoes.  These days, I definitely appreciate the wonderfulness that is a summer tomato, though.  

I saw this particular recipe in the June 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine (by The Neelys), and the photo starting calling my name the second I turned the page.  There was a big bowl of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, tossed in a lovely dressing and topped with thin slices of basil.  In the words of Liz Lemon...

"I want to go to there!"

The following weekend, Brad and I visited the farmer's market and I found a beautiful selection of red and yellow cherry tomatoes that were perfect.  I scooped them up and added them to my stash, excited to try this recipe.

And I'm so glad that I did!  The buttermilk-basil dressing is to-die-for.  It's seriously like an explosion of summer in your mouth.  

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Cherry Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing

6 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved if large
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons finely chiffonade (thinly sliced) fresh basil leaves
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced

Add the cherry tomatoes to a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and toss.
In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, basil, shallots, and garlic. Season with pepper, to taste. Drizzle dressing over tomatoes and toss. Serve immediately. 

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream = Frozen Happiness

Oh, the joys of a big bowl of homemade ice cream on a hot summer day!  Is it possible to resist such a wonderful treat?  I think not!

Last year, Brad surprised me with a homemade ice cream maker, and I've had so much fun making the smile-inducing wonderfully delicious frozen goodness ever since.  A good recipe for classic vanilla ice cream is something that everyone should have in their ice cream repertoire.  You can add extra deliciousness like fresh peaches, blackberries or strawberries...or just about anything else your little heart desires.  The possibilities are endless. 

I made this particular batch to go atop Bubba's Peach Pie that I recently made.  They were a match made in heaven, of course.  This ice cream was also incredible served on top of a Blackberry Peach Cobbler that will be posted here on the blog soon.

So, go break out the ice cream maker and cool off with a bowl of frozen happiness.  With the first day of summer quickly approaching, there's no better time.  And...there's no better recipe to kick off the season than this one.

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2 vanilla beans
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs

With a knife halve vanilla beans lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, cream, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove pan from heat. 

In a large bowl lightly beat eggs. Add hot cream mixture to eggs in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170-180°F. (Do not let boil.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, at least 3 hours, or until cold, and up to 1 day. 

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker, in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made 1 week ahead.
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Bubba's Peach Cobbler Pie...Fit for a Wedding!

The best food has the ability to tell a story, bring people together, feed our souls, and maybe most importantly, it can be the source of memories that put a smile on our face for years and years.  Food that's accompanied by a cherished story or memory is the best kind, don't you think?  And this special recipe for a beloved peach pie is one such story.

The story begins with a friend of mine from high school - Jana.  Jana recently shared this family recipe with me, along with a story about her grandfather, Jim Champion (aka "Bubba").  At the peak of peach season every year, Bubba would travel to his mountain house near Helen, GA where he would make lots and lots of these peach pies.  He would then freeze the precious collection of delicious pies and save them to eat throughout the year, simply pulling them out of the freezer when their lucky friends or family would visit.  

This idea alone is enough to make me want to run out and buy a deep freezer to fill with pies!  :)

But the story doesn't stop there...This past weekend, Jana's brother got married and he wanted these peach pies instead of the traditional groom's cake.  So, Jana made peach pies for the wedding, using this recipe.  And don't you know it...They totally stole the spotlight from the bride's wedding cake!

I'm not surprised at all, because this is indeed no ordinary peach pie.  It's filled with plenty of love and fresh, glorious peaches.  The filling that's spread over the peaches almost gives the pie a cobbler feel.  It's hard to explain, but easy to fall in love with!

We topped it off with homemade vanilla bean ice cream (which will be posted soon!).  I also used one of my favorite homemade pie crust recipes, which is by Melissa d'Arabian and is posted below.  It was nothing short of perfect peachiness on a plate!  

Jana - Thank you so much for graciously sharing this family treasure of a recipe!  It quickly became a new favorite of mine, too.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Yes, please!

Freshly sliced peaches added to the pie shell

Next, the filling is spread over the top

And a pretty lattice crust finishes it all off.

Bubba's Peach Pie
Source:  Jana's Grandfather - Jim Champion (aka "Bubba")

NOTE:  You can bake this pie and then freeze it for later enjoyment.  When ready to eat, simply let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

2 unbaked pie crusts, store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
2 -3 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced into wedges
1 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup if peaches are extra sweet)
1/3 cup butter or margarine 
1/3 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy.   Next, add flour, egg and vanilla.  Mix together well.

Place 1 pie crust in the bottom of a greased pie plate, and arrange sliced peaches in the pie shell.  Spread the filling over peaches in an even layer.

Next, create a lattice crust on the top using the second pie crust.  Not sure how?  Here's a helpful link from

Place the pie plate on a large cookie sheet and place it on the middle rack in the preheated oven.  Bake at 300 for 1 hour.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Basic Pie Crust:
Yield: 2 (9-inch) pie crusts 

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and chilled
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 to 10 tablespoons ice water

Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful of water. Keep adding water until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps.

Transfer equal amounts of the dough into 2 resealable plastic bags and pat each into a disk. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Remove 1 of the disks from the bag to a flour coated surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Gently fit the rolled dough into a 9-inch pie pan, and refrigerate while you prepare the pie ingredients.


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Sunday, June 10, 2012

BLT Salad with Arugula, Feta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

On a recent trip to the farmer's market, we luckily got there early enough to pick up some beautiful handfuls of crisp, peppery arugula from Jones Valley Urban Farm, which is an awesome "teaching farm" here in Birmingham, AL.  There, they teach folks about the value of agriculture and the benefits of eating fresh, healthy ingredients.  It's awesome because they've transformed over 3 acres of vacant downtown property into a lush garden.  Pretty cool, huh?

Now, this particular arugula wasn't just peppery, it was flat-out spicy.  I topped it with thick-cut bacon, fresh cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and a quick and simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It was the perfect light lunch after a morning at the market.  

A few slices of whole wheat bread on the side would make a great accompaniment to this easy-peasy salad.  

Bon Appetit, my friends!

BLT Salad with Arugula, Feta & Balsamic Vinaigrette

6 slices thick-cut bacon
4 cups baby arugula
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and fry until crisp, turning often, about 5 minutes per slice.  Transfer to a wire rack or to a plate lined with paper towels and drain. 

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette - Place the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in an air tight container.  Shake to thoroughly combine.

Once the bacon has cooled, chop or tear into small pieces.

Toss the arugula in a large bowl, along with the tomatoes, bacon and desired amount of balsamic vinaigrette, reserving the remaining vinaigrette for later use.  Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top.


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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lemon-Coconut Cake...Oh, Baby!

When it comes to mother-in-laws, I consider myself incredibly lucky.  Brad's mom, Carol, is a pretty fantastic woman.  She is the sweetest, most caring person, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life.  In fact, we don't like the term "in-law" around here...She's Mom 2.  :-)

Every year on her birthday, she gives me a "birthday cake challenge."  See, she comes up with an interesting  flavor combination, and lets me run with the idea.  This year, she wanted a layer cake with both coconut and lemon flavors.  I immediately pictured a scrumptious coconut cake with homemade lemon curd between the layers. 

With that idea in mind, I got to work trying to find the perfect recipe and found just what I was looking for over at  This is a spectacular recipe, which incorporates buttermilk in the cake batter.  This lends a perfect crumb and texture to the cake, which turns out moist and delicious.

The lemon curd comes together fairly quickly with the help of a double boiler, and adds a fresh, citrusy note to the cake.

Here are Mom 2's Past Birthday Cake Challenges:

Last year, she requested a cake flavored with fresh orange, coconut and pecan, so I came up with THIS CREATION, which was delish!

In 2010, she challenged me with a chocolate cake that had a coconut-cream cheese icing.  This Dreamy Coconut-Chocolate Cake with Coconuty Cream Cheese Icing was the fabulous result.

In 2009, the challenge was a cake inspired by a Mounds bar...something with chocolate and coconut.  My creation?  An incredibly decadent coconut cake, with actual melted Mounds bars as the filling between the cake layers.  This Mounds Bar Cake, my friends, is probably one of my personal favorites!

You may remember this Chocolate Kahlua Cake from back in 2008.  It was delicious, too!!

I wish that I had more photos of this year's Lemon-Coconut Cake.  However, it was so delicious, that the tiny little piece in these photos was the only piece left for me to shoot.  I guess that's a good thing?

I wonder what next year's challenge will be.  Stay tuned!

Bon Appetit, my friends!
Lemon-Coconut Cake
Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) layer cake.

Lemon Curd:
3 large eggs
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
1 tablespoon (4 grams) finely shredded lemon zest (outer yellow skin of lemon)
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

Coconut Cake Recipe:
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated white sugar, divided
1 tsp coconut extract
1 3/4 cups (420 ml) buttermilk
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

2 large (60 grams) egg whites
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups (150 grams) sweetened shredded or flaked coconut (can use unsweetened dried coconut)

Lemon Curd:
In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate until cold. The lemon curd can be made several days (up to a week) in advance.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Butter and flour two - 9 inch x 1 1/2 inch (23 x 3.75 cm) cake pans, and then line the bottoms with parchment paper (or spray with Bakers Joy).

Coconut Cake:
While the eggs are still cold separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In bowl of electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Gradually add 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  

In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.

Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.  
Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack. To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

In a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, place the egg whites, sugar, water, and corn syrup. With a handheld electric mixer beat the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes on low speed. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the icing is shiny and satiny with soft peaks.

Remove from heat, add the vanilla extract, and continue to beat on high speed for another 1 to 2 minutes or until the frosting is thick. Use immediately.

To Assemble: 
With a serrated knife, cut each cake layer in half, horizontally. Place one cake layer on your serving plate and spread with about 1/3 of the lemon curd and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of coconut. Continue with the next layers, stacking and filling with the lemon curd and coconut. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the 7-Minute Frosting and then sprinkle with about 1 cup of coconut. Cover and refrigerate the cake until serving time.

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