December 10, 2011
My Pantry Shelf celebrates its first anniversary this week. The year has absolutely flown by (as it probably would have with or without the blog), but 90+ posts later this blog has taken on a life of its own. This project began as an avenue to share my passion for cooking and preserving fresh seasonal ingredients. Eating homemade meals made with fresh ingredients is a core value in our family. Regardless of the time constraints of our busy lives, we make a strong effort to celebrate our family meals, expose our children to a wide array of seasonal foods, and utilize as much of our garden produce as possible. I firmly believe that the modern working family, with a little planning, can still eat homemade nutritious meals made with the bounty of the seasons. This is my little space in world to share my enthusiasm for fresh foods. It is full of ideas for how to prepare dishes to eat right away, as well as inspiration for how preserve the freshest foods to enjoy later in the year.
This site has proven to be more than I could ever have imagined. My life was full with two small kids and a full-time teaching job before I began writing these posts. Surprisingly though, instead of overwhelming an already busy woman, My Pantry Shelf fulfills a deep need that had gone unnurtured in recent years. It gives me a place to be creative and interact with others who share my passion for food. Through this space I have met so many wonderful cooks across the country who also seek to fill their days and their bellies with delicious foods. This space belongs to me and all of you who have come to share it with me.
Thank you to everyone who reads and cooks along with me. It is such a delight to know you are out there and trying my recipes. I truly appreciate those of you who have reported back after making these dishes in your own homes and to those of you who spread the word about this site and help it grow!
As a tribute to the year, here are some highlights…
The most popular posts of the year:
My family’s favorite recipes:
Food52 contest winners and Editor’s Picks:
Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart (winner Best Dirt Cheap Dinner)
Tequila Lime Tart (Editor’s Pick)
Orange Quinoa with Almonds, Olives, and Feta (Editor’s Pick)
November 19, 2011
Pumpkin pie is essential at any Thanksgiving feast, but to be honest it is not the part of the meal that I look forward to. After a heavy meal of turkey, gravy, and of course stuffing, I find it hard to rally excitement for pie. Generally I enjoy a few bites of the filling and leave the crust lonely on the plate. This is what got me thinking about skipping the crust completely and making a pumpkin pudding in its place.
Pumpkin Coconut Pudding is a thick, silky coconut milk based pudding seasoned with traditional pie spices. This rich pudding is familiar enough to satisfy the expectation of a Thanksgiving pumpkin dessert, yet different enough to stand out as something special. Using coconut milk means that the pudding (without the whipped cream) is actually vegan, so you can safely serve to a mixed crowd including those lactose and gluten intolerant folks who seem to be cropping up in every family. This pudding could not be simpler to make. Heat the coconut milk and pumpkin, then stir in a slurry of spices and cornstarch to thicken it. For a casual fare, spoon it directly from a serving bowl and let guests add their own toppings. For a fancier presentation, spoon hot pudding into beautiful dishes or glasses and decoratively top before serving. This may be a break in tradition, but who knows, perhaps I am not the only one who is happy to leave the crust behind.
August 24, 2011
Summer is not complete without a morning spent picking blackberries. Last weekend, under the pressure of a fall-like chill in the air and the craziness of back to school time, the kids and I pushed out for a ramble along the creek. We brought the wagon, a gazillion containers, and a baby doll or two. We dressed in our jeans and forced socks and closed shoes onto our spoiled summer feet. We were ready for a real berry picking session. What we found however is that like all other summer fruits (tomatoes especially!) everything is super late this year.
Not about to let a little thing like red under-ripe blackberries get us down, we assigned ourselves roles for our Blackberry Team. I picked the berries, my little man dumped the small containers into the bigger ones, and my little lady dragged the wagon up and down the trail laughing hysterically. After an hour of hard work (and just a few scrapes), we cruised home with a half-gallon of berries. Just enough for a few smoothies and Apple Blackberry Cake. While we suffer a shortage of ripe blackberries, we have boxes and boxes of Gravenstein apples from my parents’ trees.
Apple Blackberry Cake is a treat to make each late summer or fall. Though it is simple to prepare, somehow the cake has the ability to pass as both an elegant special dessert and a casual weeknight treat. This time it even disguised itself as a birthday cake. The apples are peeled and sliced and then pressed into a basic butter and brown sugar batter. The blackberries scatter across the top lending both a colorful burst and a tart contrast to the apples. The sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the top help to form a nice sweet crunchy topping. This cake is well matched with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I would not mind eating a slice for breakfast either with a nice cup of coffee.
June 22, 2011
Our ice cream maker does not get much attention in the winter. It sits lonely in the pantry, waiting to be remembered. It is not that ice cream is not just as good in the wintertime, but I seem to be busy making other desserts and rarely break it out. So the other day when our first hot days coincided with my son’s case of strep throat, I knew it was time to make some ice cream.
The process of making homemade ice cream is simple. Cream, milk, sugar and eggs cook into a custard. The custard cools and then is poured into the ice cream maker to freeze. The difficult part is making an ice cream that does not have an icy taste. For a long time my go-to recipe was from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible. It is a great recipe and as usual his descriptions of the process and what can go wrong are extremely helpful. After reading a glowing review on food52 though, I decided to try a new recipe this time. I was not disappointed.
This Vanilla Ice Cream is rich and smooth with beautiful bits of vanilla seeds flecked throughout. It did not have the iciness that plagues so many homemade ice creams. Do not be tempted to reduce the fat here. Yes, this is a rich treat, but really you only need a small scoop. Enjoy yourself in moderation. If you really can not find a vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but it will not be as good. If you are new to vanilla beans and have questions about how to scrape the seeds, check out Marissa’s great video on Food in Jars.
May 23, 2011
It is birthday season in our family. By some lucky roll of the dice, almost every member of our family was born between April and August. We celebrate the birth of someone every couple of weeks, usually with the a candle topped Chocolate Birthday Cake.
This cake began as my own personal favorite. I, like many, am a huge fan of chocolate. I am fairly certain that my birthday cake was chocolate for at least the first 25 years of my life (perhaps longer). About 5 years ago, I came across this recipe for chocolate cake from Ina Garten. Since then, I have made it countless times.
Imagine my delight when this cake became a favorite for my family as well! This year already, I have made it five times. In fact I have made it so much that I was reluctant when asked to make the most recent batch. I thought- Hadn’t we already eaten that cake enough this season? There are so many other good cakes to try. But then I whipped up the batter, baked the cake, and tried a sample crumb, shhhhh. This cake tastes sooo good! I would happily sign on to many more years of baking this exact cake.
Chocolate Birthday Cake is rich, chocolately, and incredibly moist. The buttermilk gives it a pleasant tang and the last minute addition of brewed coffee deepens the delightful chocolate flavor. As with any chocolate dish, it will be as good as the cocoa you use. I prefer Ghiradelli or Scharfen Berger. The frosting choice will create the identity of the cake. Mocha Buttercream is the frosting I most often pair with the cake. I have also made it with vanilla buttercream and strawberry buttercream. Really, you cannot go wrong. This cake is absolutely decadent and delicious. The very definition of a chocolate cake. It is perfect for a birthday or any time you need a good chocolate fix.
from Ina Garten
makes 1 8-inch layer cake
Parchment paper for lining pans
Butter for greasing pans
1 3/4 cup all- purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment. Dust pans with flour.
Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl: flour, sugar cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined. Pour in the hot coffee and mix until it is incorporated. Be sure to scrape down sides and bottom to ensure all the flour mixture is thoroughly moistened. Batter will look very thin.
Pour batter evenly into the 2 prepared pans. Slide pans in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place pans on a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the inside edge of each pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto the cooling racks. Peel the parchment off the bottom. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
Lay one layer, flat side up on your cake plate or stand. Spread a layer of frosting over the top. Place the second cake round on the frosting, flat side up. Apply a generous amount of frosting to the top of the cake. Spread the frosting over the top and down the sides. Finish by filling in any places where the cake is exposed and smoothing the top and sides with a spatula. If the frosting is too loose, put it in the refrigerator and allow it to set up before spreading. The frosted cake can be kept on the counter until ready to serve. If it is a very hot day, keep it in the refrigerator to prevent the frosting from weeping.
Unfrosted cakes can be made ahead and frozen. After they are completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to three months. Be careful not to place anything onto of the cakes. Even though they are frozen, then are still delicate and will crush easily.
For a larger cake and crowd, you can double the recipe. I have done this successfully many times.
adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven
makes enough for 1 8-inch layer cake
1 cup butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh coffee, cooled
Cream the butter. Add the vanilla and mix. Sift in the cocoa and sugar (Do not forget to sift. If you add lumps in at this point, they are almost impossible to remove). Add the coffee and beat. It may appear curdled or separated at first. Continue beating frosting until it is fully incorporated, light, and fluffy. Spread on cake.
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April 8, 2011
It is time to tap into the gatherer within! While there is a significant movement pushing people to develop their own victory gardens and support local growers, we still tend to ignore the wild plants volunteering all around us. Dandelion, Taraxacum officional, grows wild across much of the United States and so is accessible to just about anyone. Though you probably think more of Round-up than of salad when you see a dandelion, I am here to change that perception. Dandelions are delicious! Dandelion is often wrongly perceived as a foe to the garden and rarely considered an edible treat. Dandelion is both beneficial to the garden, highly nutritious, and tasty.
Dandelions help the garden in multiple ways. Dandelions send down a tap-root that breaks up heavy soil. The root also helps draw nutrients from down deep and then deposit them on surface as the leaves decay. They are also beautiful. It would be hard to find a child that is not in awe of the snowy globes of dandelion seed.
The name, Dandelion, comes from the French, dent de lion, or tooth of the lion. This is a nod at the serrated leaves of the plant. Identify dandelion by its serrated, hairless leaves, its non-branched flower stem, and its milky sap. Dandelion is highly nutritious. It boasts vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, and more. Well stocked produce markets offer dandelion greens, but those are a cultivated variety. Most people do not realize that the garden weed is edible. The heavy rains of winter mean a beautiful crop of dandelion growing, with any luck, right outside your door! Harvest dandelion in the spring when the leaves are long, bright green, and fleshy. Since dandelion is often the target of toxic sprays, make absolutely certain that the dandelion you pick is from an area that is free from harmful chemicals.
The dandelion root and leaves produce a wonderful herbal vinegar. To make dandelion vinegar, harvest the root and leaves from a dandelion plant or many (you will be “weeding” at the same time!). Wash the dandelion carefully, remove any flowers or flower stems. Mince the plant and cover in balsamic vinegar. The dandelion infuses the vinegar with deep, earthy flavors and nutrients. Strain the vinegar and serve in salad dressings, add to a soup for a delightful acidic burst, or use anytime you would use plain balsamic vinegar. The flowers are beautiful added to salads.
dandelion leaves and roots
Wash leaves and roots. Remove any flowers, flower stems, or dried leaves. Mince. Place in a sterilized jar and pour balsamic vinegar over the top so that the herb is submerged by 1 inch. Cover and let sit for 3 weeks. Strain the vinegar and use as you wish.
Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Dandelion Vinegar