Homemade Butter

Ah, yes. You knew this day would come, didn’t you? Actually, I first made homemade butter well over a year ago, but I never got around to posting it on the blog. I was recently inspired to make butter again after Gabe and I flew back from Paris a few weeks ago. We spontaneously upgraded our tickets to business class (honeymoon, right?) and were blown away by the experience. I almost cried when I woke up a bit overheated from a nap and was instantly greeted by a flight attendant passing out cookies ‘n’ cream Häagen-Dazs.

There were so many lovely little touches that will make it very hard, alas, for me to continue the rest of my life as a BOTPP (“Back of the Plane Person,” according to my brother-in-law), but I was surprised that one of my favorite parts of the flight was the butter. Yes, you read that right. Since we flew Air France, we were treated to rich, creamy butter from Normandy that was flecked with tiny crystals of sea salt. I shamelessly spread it on my bread as thick as jam. And then I vowed to make some once we got home.

I don’t have cows from Normandy, but I was able to get a pint of organic heavy cream from the grocery store. And using my stand mixer (set to “super domestic”… I mean speed eight), within a few minutes I had about a half pound of soft, rich, homemade butter. I added extra flakes of sea salt to give it that French flair, bien sûr, and you should too!

Homemade butter

Homemade Butter

  • 1 pint heavy cream (organic, and especially grass-fed, will give you the best flavor)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

Pour the cream and 1/4 tsp. salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.* Then cover the entire mixer with a dish towel. I can’t stress this enough: unless you want a kitchen splattered with cream, cover up that mixer.

Turn the mixer to medium high. The mixer will first turn the cream into whipped cream, then it will start to separate. You’ll hear a lot of loud splashing when the solids have separated from the liquids. When you see large chunks of butter have formed and are starting to stick to the paddle, the butter is done. Stop the mixer and use a colander or mesh strainer to drain the liquid into a small bowl. (Congratulations: you have just made buttermilk! Use it for biscuits or pancakes or something.)

Squeeze the butter with your hands and rinse it under cold running water until the liquids run clear. Squeeze as much water as possible from the butter, then taste it and knead in more salt if desired. Form the butter into a ball or sticks and refrigerate. The butter will keep for about a month in the refrigerator, longer in the freezer.

Makes about 8 ounces butter.

Source: Very slightly adapted from Living Well Spending Less.

* I’ve also read that you can use a food processor instead of a stand mixer. I’ve never tried this myself, so please let me know if you try it and it works!

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A “Grown-up” Airplane Birthday Party

Last week Gabe and I hosted a dozen friends to celebrate his 27th birthday. A few years ago I threw him a Star Wars-themed birthday party, and this year I went with another one of his favorite things: airplanes. This guy of mine has loved airplanes since he was little, so it was a fun opportunity for us all to goof off and act like kids again.

Decor was super simple. Silly signs welcomed guests past the “security checkpoint” and guided them to the baggage claim (front hall closet), lavatory (bathroom), and flight deck (balcony).

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Upon entering, everyone had to grab two name tags at random: their pilot name and their vehicle. Gabe had lots of fun brainstorming names from movies, video games, and real life. My favorite was when a pregnant friend got to be Han Solo flying a big balloon, which worked well with her adorable protruding belly.

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I used the silhouettes and names of WWII airplanes to make little food signs. The food was pretty low-key, since I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks and didn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. We interspersed homemade goodies with store-bought snacks, and everything was a recipe I’d made before so I wasn’t too stressed.

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Here’s the menu:

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For drinks we did a DIY beverage station with little recipe cards for each cocktail:

  • Dauntless dark and stormies (2 oz. dark rum + 6 oz. ginger beer)
  • Engine and tonic (1 oz. Tomr’s tonic syrup + 2 oz. Prairie gin + 3 oz. soda water)
  • We also had a crazy assortment of beer. I couldn’t find any beers with airplanes on the labels so I was thrilled when friends managed to do it for me, showing up with Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler and Alaskan ESB, among many others.

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For entertainment, I printed off paper airplane templates for people to construct, but the big hit of the night was a whole bunch of foam airplane gliders from Oriental Trading Company. Forty-eight gliders, to be exact. It was a mad melee of flying airplanes soaring every which way, and then a remote control helicopter somehow got in the mix and was bombarded with planes. So ridiculous and silly, but so much fun.

Thanks to all our party-goers for making the night a blast!

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(P.S. While planning this fun birthday bash, I was inspired by several other blogs, including two parties from Hostess with the Mostess here and here, and the blog I’m Topsy Turvy.)

Behind the Scenes at Lingonberry Jam

I’ve been pondering a post like this for a while now, but a few days ago– when I found myself lying on my stomach on the kitchen island trying to get a good shot while there was still light– I realized it was about time I shared the shenanigans with you. In the name of keeping it real, here are some sneak peeks from taking food pictures in three different apartments.

I often get my serving dishes all set up first to test the light and composition before adding food, especially if I’m using something melty like ice cream. In this picture below, I placed my dishes on a window ledge in the bedroom, since our single kitchen window didn’t provide much light. Yes, that’s dirty laundry in the lower left-hand corner. Oh, and that purple napkin? Totally one of my dress shirts. Use what ya got!

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

When we moved from our first Boston apartment to the next one, there wasn’t even one window in the kitchen. I prefer to shoot with natural light, so I had to move my setup to the living room. Nothing like apple pie in a window.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

In our Minneapolis apartment, we’re blessed with south- and west-facing windows. YES. It may be cold, but we’ve got sunshine! Additionally, we have a bright and open concept, which means I can take pictures in the living room or kitchen, giving me different lights and textures to work with. Of course, some creative cropping is always necessary. For the chicken wing picture below, I used an outdoor table and placed it in front of the pantry near the window. Then I cropped out the wall and countertops.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

In the past, in order to get a pretty white background, I would tape dishtowels to the window. (My neighbors probably thought I was crazy.) See that little corner of blue sky? With some slight adjustments to the exposure, this silly system worked pretty well.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

Lately I’ve had a new toy to play with! Gabe got me a little pop-up studio for Valentine’s Day. I’ve had a lot of fun putting it in different places and shooting from different angles to see what works best. That’s the moral of the story, really. Trial and error!

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

With a little coaxing and creativity, and a willingness to play with various camera settings, even a point-and-shoot camera can take some pretty, pretty pictures. Peppercorns, anyone?

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

Soufflops

Holy schmoly, it’s been a whole month since I’ve posted. Uffda. First there was Hawaii, then the Cape, then the end of my internship, then the start of a new semester. My cooking this month has basically revolved around sandwiches and sausages. And one happy batch of popovers.

Last night I decided to get myself back into cooking mode– something I’ve desperately missed– by trying my hand at chocolate soufflés. I understand the basic principles of soufflé-making and have used the techniques in other recipes before, like molten chocolate cakes. Nothing was terribly new or frightening.

But last night was a bust. I turned away from my mixer for one second and looked back to find clumpy, overbeaten egg whites. Being stubborn (or curious?) I decided to forge ahead, knowing in my heart of hearts that the soufflés wouldn’t rise but hoping I could prove the laws of physics wrong.

Nope. Physics won. And while the dessert still tasted okay, it didn’t have the airy texture or dramatic puff intrinsic to a true soufflé. Sufficiently humbled, I sighed and vowed to try again someday.

Luckily I’m resilient (or naive) enough that experiences like this don’t dissuade me from kitchen challenges for long. Besides I just saw a recipe in Food Network Magazine for homemade candy corn. Bring it on.

Red, White, and Blue Tartlets

We did it. We moved all our earthly possessions four blocks down the street in 90-degree weather. (Thankfully we had professional help.)

There’s still some cleaning to do in the old place, but the new one is just lovely. We can see downtown Boston from our bedroom window. And the kitchen? Oh the kitchen! More on that later, but let’s just say I am one happy girl.

Perhaps you would like to say this little ditty along with me (à la, Goodnight Moon):

Goodbye dirt and floors that droop,
Goodbye cleaning up mouse poop,
Goodbye pipes that get too hot,
Goodbye sketchy dumpster lot.

Goodbye kitchen without drawers,
Goodbye scuffed up wooden floors,
Hello roof deck full of joys,
Goodbye pre-teens making noise.

Hello sun and skyline view,
Goodbye landlady, and a big f*** you.

Sorry, Mom. It just felt so right to include that last line. ;)

Now on to the food. Happy Independence Day! I celebrated by hanging more frames on the wall; Gabe celebrated by eating lots of blast-off popsicles.

Also, I made tartlets. Because they’re my favorite. And now I have this bee-you-ti-ful kitchen in which to work on my photography skills. Enjoy!

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Fixer-Uppers and Fire Escapes

This week I have a little bit of a lull in my class schedule, probably the last hurrah before the crazy push toward the end of the semester. Gabe and I spent the weekend doing various social things, including Law Prom and a Sunday matinee of The Hunger Games.

When he needed to spend time studying, I celebrated my rare homework-free weekend by fixing annoying little problems around the apartment. The management company stopped by to fix some of the issues, including a broken back burner and crumbling bathroom ceiling. They also pulled out our stove in an attempt to solve the mouse problem… leading to the discovery that there already was steel wool behind the stove. So the mice might be getting in behind the dishwasher. Which is a whole ‘nother to-do.

Their little visit got me into fixing mode, and pretty soon I was standing on a ladder trying to figure out what kind of lightbulb we needed to replace our flickering kitchen light. And then, since I was already up there, I finally washed the puréed carrot off the kitchen ceiling. (Yep, this carrot.)

After Gabe and I got back from the movie (which was awesome but had me sobbing in the theater) I started cooking a batch of pulled beef. It took a bit longer than usual, and finally I had to pull the entire pot from the oven, place it on the fire escape (thankfully last night’s weather was still refrigerator-temperature!), pray to the gods of all that is good and holy that no squirrels would try to steal my brand new Le Creuset, and go to bed.

Thankfully, the sun came up this morning, I finished cooking the beef, and all was right with the world.

Except that I returned from a trip to the grocery store to find TWENTY-THREE new mouse poops on the stove.

I’m running out of both patience and disinfectant.

I swear to god, either I’m going to go insane, or there will soon be a cat living in this apartment. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, is disgusting. Sigh.

Mushroom Risotto

I (obviously) love to cook, but it’s not always an effortless experience. Believe me, I have my fair share of culinary mishaps.

My hands and arms are covered with kitchen-related scars due to cutsburns, and all-around klutziness. Sometimes tastebuds take the brunt of my goof-ups. (Just ask my sisters… I once made dinner for them that tasted like eating a lawn.)

And sometimes it’s my pride. (To me, the most devastating part about this failed batch of macarons was thinking about how pretty they could have been in those springy colors. Sigh.)

But despite all my mishaps, I always try to learn something from my mistakes. Last weekend, for example, I learned that making risotto with brown rice takes longer than with white.

A lot longer.

My poor dinner guests waited patiently as I stood by the stove for two and a half hours, sweating over a dish that was only supposed to take 30 minutes. Uffda. Thankfully the final product was absolutely delicious! And so I present this recipe with the caveat that I trust Mark Bittman and believe that his original instructions are correct. Just follow his advice and use white rice, or parboil your brown rice beforehand.

Trust me. I’m an “expert.”

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