DIY Crème Fraiche


Aw, yes, crème fraiche (pronounced KKKREM FRESH in the most obnoxious French accent possible.) It’s the snooty, more sophisticated cousin to sour cream. Crème fraiche is thicker, less tangy, slightly nuttier in flavor, and it is delightful in both savory or sweet dishes. It also has a higher butterfat content compared to sour cream, which makes it a great addition to sauces and soups because it won’t curdle at higher temperatures.


Also stacked against sour cream, crème fraiche is more difficult to find in grocery stores (especially in our rural neck of the woods) and it is more expensive. So chic. So European.


The good news is that it’s quite easy to make crème fraiche in the comfort of your own home, where you can call it “cream fraytch” if you are true, red-blooded Ohioan like I am. All you need is a pint of heavy cream, real buttermilk, and a little patience. The stand-in buttermilk mixture of milk and vinegar or lemon juice won’t work in this recipe because the heavy cream needs the active bacteria found in the true buttermilk to get that crème fraiche explosion going.


To make the crème fraiche, combine the pint of cream and 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk in a sterile mason jar. Give it a good stir, secure a coffee filter over the top of the jar using a rubber band, and place the jar in an oven or a draft-free place for about 24 hours. The mixture will thicken. After the 24 hours are up, give the mixture another stir and put the jar in the fridge for another 24 hours. When this time has passed, you will find a magnificent jar of homemade crème fraiche waiting for you and ready to jazz up any and all food you make. My current favorite way to use it is to treat myself to fresh strawberries, a dollop of crème fraiche, and a small drizzle of local honey. It is so lovely.

If you are interested in making this recipe, here is the helpful video I watched before I embarked on this fun experiment. Good luck!

Source: Food Wishes

Homestead Living: Wheat Pita Bread

While I find making food from scratch very fulfilling, there are a few items that I currently don’t have much desire to attempt on my own.  These include: cheese (maybe because we now live in an area with so many cheese houses),  yogurt (Fage Greek yogurt is my favorite), and ketchup (sorry hipster restaurants; I just am not on board yet). It’s fun and empowering to learn methods to make nourishing meals without needing to rely on so many pre-packaged and processed components; but, for me, the choice to make something from scratch has to make sense for our family’s health,  budget, time, and tastebuds.  Artisan bread, hummus, jam, pizza, granola, hot fudge sauce, and now this wheat pita bread are recipes that I believe meet all four of the aforementioned categories.

I finally got around to making this bread a few weeks ago. The dough doesn’t require any extraordinary ingredients, just a little time to allow it to rise and rest, and the baking process goes very quickly with the use of a pizza stone. I was so pleasantly surprised with how lovely these precious little pitas turned out. They were soft and fluffy and were a fabulous accompaniment to our dinner of chicken shawarma that evening. Our little rump roast gladly gobbled some up as well. That boy loves to eat.

In our quest to embrace more of a “homestead living” lifestyle, I am happy to add this recipe to our list of foods we will gladly make at home.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wheat Pita Bread

Yield: 8 whole pitas


  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
  • 1½ cups bread flour, divided
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour, divided
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling


1. Combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Stir gently to combine.  Whisk in ¼ cup of the bread flour and ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm and dry area until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.

2. Remove the plastic wrap and return the bowl to the mixer stand, fitted with the dough hook.  Add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 1¼ cups bread flour, 1¼ cups whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt.  Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Allow dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the middle position.  Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500˚ F. Lightly sprinkle 2  large baking sheets with cornmeal. Set aside.

3. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball.  Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle.  Place the rounds on the baking sheets and loosely cover with clean kitchen towels.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. The dough should puff up slightly.

4. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, onto the baking surface (you can place directly on oven rack if you don’t have a stone). Bake 2-3 minutes, until puffed and pale golden.  Gently flip the pitas over using tongs and bake 1-2 minutes more.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining pitas.  Store in an airtight container. Pitas should stay fresh for 2-3 days.

Source: Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally from Gourmet (May 2003)


Homestead Living: Maple Syrup Granola


It’s  been three weeks since we moved into our little house on the hill and I must say that settling into country living is going pretty smoothly so far. Smith and I are starting to get into a good routine and I am really enjoying my newly updated kitchen (pictures to come soon). One of the goals I have for our new location is to attempt to embrace more of a homestead type of living. This doesn’t mean I’m swearing off modern medicine (I’m a physical therapist, after all). It just means I am hoping to broaden our horizons with more made-from-scratch foods, gardening, and composting. I plan on including my steps toward a modified version of this type of lifestyle. The first project? Homemade granola.

t am always shocked to see the price of granola in grocery stores considering how easy it is to make and that all the ingredients for a basic batch are readily available. Robert has finally joined the Greek yogurt train, but he prefers eating it with a bit of granola. As a result, i decided it was time to start making our own at home.

I perused through recipes and landed on this one. It’s from the folks of the ever-reliable Cook’s Illustrated. It’s a simple concoction with a delicious result. The original recipe calls for almonds and raisins, but old Bert is a no frills type of guy and we kept it simple. This is a great granola recipe that you can jazz up with lots of ingredients depending on your personal preferences. Nuts, dried fruits, seeds, chocolate chips, etc. The possibilities are endless so save yourself some moolah and start making your own granola today!


Oh and I just couldn’t resist throwing in this picture of my little ham loaf…


Maple Syrup Granola

Yield: 5 3/4 cups


  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk in the oil until well combined. Add in the oatmeal and mix until the oats are evenly coated.

3. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet. and gently pat down with a spatula.

4. Bake for 40-45 mins, or until lightly browned. Be sure to rotate the pan after about 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Break up the granola with a spatula and store in an airtight container.

Source: My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball

Homemade Larabars (No Bake Granola Bars)

Thanksgiving week is upon us. We’re busy preparing our house for guests and getting things ready for the big feast this Thursday. Some of the first items I made were easy breakfast foods for people to enjoy while they are staying at our house. It’s always chaotic in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day and as the day goes on and it gets nearer and nearer to dinner, certain unnamed relatives (ahem… my brother and sister) tend to gravitate towards the kitchen for samples of what’s to come. While I love my siblings dearly, I think it would be better for everyone if they can have food early on in the day to keep them away from the war zone.  As a result I made banana bread, pumpkin bread, and these incredibly easy homemade Larabars for everyone to enjoy.

They’re made with very few ingredients and are especially wonderful because they are a no-bake treat that is customizable and comes together in a flash. The main binding ingredient are Medjool dates, which can be found in the produce section at the grocery store. The sticky and sweet fruit acts as the glue and then it’s easy to basically throw whatever else you want into the bars- dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter, oatmeal. The choice is up to!

Besides being an easy breakfast, these bars are also great pre-workout snacks to fuel you through a good calorie burn before you sit down to a big plate of food this Thursday. :)

Homemade Lara Bars

Yield: 10-12 bars


  • 1 cup pecans (or other nut)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely copped
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (or other dried fruit)


1. Place the pecans, oats, chocolate chips, and coconut in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Place the dates and cherries in the food processor and pulse until a sticky ball forms. Add the date mixture to the nut/oat mixture and mix with your hands until uniformly mixed.

3. Pour the mixture onto parchment or wax paper and form into rectangle. Wrap up the dough and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow it to harden. Cut into bars and enjoy! Wrap individually in parchment or wax paper if desired. Store in the fridge.

Inspired by 100 Days of Real Food

Homemade Pie Dough

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is just over a month away. We’re having a meal at our house again this year and I’ve been thinking of scaling things back a bit because I always feel like I consumed a block of lead after the marathon day of eating; and it would be nice to not be in a total food coma for the entire extended weekend. It probably isn’t necessary to have 6 different desserts after eating a huge meal, but the jury’s still out on that.

One thing’s for sure and that is that I will be making some sort of pie- whether it be pecan, apple, or pumpkin. You can’t have Thanksgiving without pie. I believe it is in the Constitution. Every great pie comes with a great crust. I used to be intimidated of making my own crust until I found this recipe from Martha Stewart and discovered how simple it really is. All you need is butter, flour, sugar, salt, and ice water. Her recipe uses a food processor, but it can be done with a pastry cutter or an electric mixer if you don’t own a food processor (although, I highly recommend them!). This pie is perfect for both sweet and savory pies and is delightfully buttery and flaky.

If you feel like getting a jump start before Turkey day arrives, this dough can be frozen for up to a month.

Pie Dough (Pate Brisee)

Yield: 1 double-crust or 2 single crusts for 9 inch pans


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup ice water


1. Pulse the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until combined.

2. Cut the butter into cubes and place in the food processor.

3. Pulse until the mixture resembles oatmeal flakes.

4. With the machine running, slowly add the ice water until the dough just comes together (don’t mix for more than 30 seconds).

5. Divide the dough onto two separate pieces of plastic. Wrap into flattened discs. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour before using or freeze for up to 1 month.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts

Homemade Vanilla Bean Creamer

I am a morning person more than I am a night owl, but I occasionally struggle to get out of bed in the morning. One of the main things that lures me out of a deep slumber is the promise of a fresh cup of coffee. Sometimes I drink my coffee black and other times I like to jazz it up by adding in creamer, especially if I am making iced coffee. When I am on a creamer kick, I usually use a vanilla version from the grocery store. However, I’ve been wanting to make my own version for a long time now and I finally decided it was time a week ago.

I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier. It really can’t get much easier as there are only 3 ingredients in the creamer I made and there is minimal prep work. Plus I feel a little better drinking my sassed up (is that a verb?) coffee with minimal preservatives.

This recipe is very adaptable and would be great with cinnamon, almond extract, peppermint extract, chocolate sauce- the list goes on and on.

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope you are enjoying your cup of coffee as much as I am.

Vanilla Bean Creamer

Yield: About 3 cups


  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


Pour the half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean pod and allow the mixture to come to a low boil, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow mixture to steep for 30 minutes. Pour the creamer through a sieve to remove the pod and other larger pieces. Store in an  airtight bottle in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats

Strawberry Pineapple Jam

My mom always made her own jam while we were growing up- blackberry, red raspberry, pepper jelly, strawberry. You name it. She is quite an ambitious woman. I took for granted the luxury of having stores of delicious jam at my fingertips, and especially realized this when I left for college and was stuck with cafeteria stuff.

Because I apparently wasn’t a very good helper to my mom, I always assumed making jam was  a seriously complicated and time-consuming task; and while it does take a little planning, I was pretty pleased with the fact that it isn’t as arduous an undertaking as I had previously thought.

You need very few ingredients- fruit, Sure-Jell pectin, and sugar. And it turns out that the Sure-Jell box has several ratios for different fruit jams on a sheet inside the package. Each fruit has different pectin levels that help the jam mixture set and, as I am in no way an expert in this arena, it was nice that all of that work was done for me.

Another perk, is that this jam didn’t need to be placed in a canner to achieve the seal on the jars. My mom told me about an easy trick in which you screw the lid and seal on, flip the jar over, and allow it to set for several hours. I let my jam set overnight and every single jar sealed perfectly. Excellent.

With strawberry season almost into full swing, this jam would be a delicious and great way to use up some of spring and summer’s bounty. And it makes  a great shower favor as well! :)

Strawberry Pineapple Jam


  • 3 cups clean and hulled strawberries, crushed
  • 2 cups pineapple, finely chopped
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar


1. Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

2. Measureexactly 3 cups crushed strawberries and 2 cups chopped pineapple into a large 6-8 quart pot.

3. Stir pectin into prepared fruit in pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat (it shouldn’t stop bubbling when boiled), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Carefully stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil approximately 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken on the spoon or when it thickens when placed in a small bowl over ice water.  Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

4.  Ladle the jam immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims with a wet washcloth to remove any jam on the outside of the jars. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Immediately turn the jars over and allow to set for several hours. The lids should seal with this method (you shouldn’t be able to spring back the lid with your finger). If it hasn’t sealed it must be stored in the refrigerator. Eat immediately or store sealed jars for several months.


Homemade Ranch Dressing

What is it with Americans and ranch dressing? People eat it with everything- salad, raw vegetables, baked potatoes, pizza, chips.  I’m starting to think all of these foods are just vehicles for the creamy sauce that us Americans apparently can’t eat enough. I’m not usually a fan of ranch dressing. I prefer blue cheese and vinaigrettes, but I saw this recipe on Pinterest and thought I should give the homemade version a try. The result? No contest. The homemade version is ten times better than what you buy in the store. It’s so much more flavorful with the fresh herbs and garlic. And it barely takes 10 minutes to throw together. I even lightened it up by swapping some of the mayo and sour cream for plain Greek yogurt.

If you love ranch dressing, you must give this version a try.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Yield: 16 2-Tbsp dressing


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • 1 small handful of parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (white pepper, preferred)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender with only 1/4 cup of buttermilk.

2. Blend for 10 seconds. Gradually add in more buttermilk until you achieve the desired consistency.

3. Store in an airtight container for 1 week.

Source: Slightly adapted from Pennies on a Platter