Create: Got buttermilk?

Buttermilk cake/ Good House GuestThere are always those recipes that call for a tablespoon of this, a dollop of that or a quarter cup of an exotic or rarely-used ingredient. Said item then sits in your refrigerator, ducking behind those everyday stars – like milk and orange juice – just taunting you to make use of it before it morphs into a science experiment.

The latter is usually the way those things go over here. But there are those rare moments when I become this resourceful (not wasteful) keeper of the kitchen. And so I had to share this recipe for a lemon buttermilk cake that saved me from dumping the creamy remains of this icebox lurker. 

It’s spongy, lemony and all-around delicious – the only thing I would change is to double up on the glaze. With the dairy-heavy ingredients, I have this vision of this recipe as one handed down between the generations of a farming family. Somewhere out in the Midwest, on a green patchwork of well-tended fields, the creamy batter would be stirred with love and efficiency in a farmhouse kitchen, and placed in a window to cool only just until a small hand couldn’t resist crumbling off a corner any longer.

Agrarian roots or not, this is a darn good cake, and perfect excuse to use the leftover buttermilk taking up space in your fridge.

Create: Go Nuts!

Guest post by Adam Miller

Allow me to introduce Adam Miller: writer, editor, curious traveler and the guy to stay up with way too late talking about music. He cooks too, and offered to reveal his family’s Spiced Nut recipe for the holidays. So Adam can now add Good House Guest contributor (our first!) to his list of distinctions. Thanks Adam! Follow Adam around on Twitter and read more of his food writing here. 

 A batch of these savory-sweet snacks would make an excellent gift for upcoming Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s parties. Adam suggests presenting them in a Mason jar with a ribbon. We guarantee everyone will, er, go nuts for them.

My mom and aunt have been making spiced pecans and almonds for years. I’ve always loved them. A bit sweet, a bit salty, and a bit spicy—they’re the perfect snack. They’re also great in salads and an impressive garnish to add to a cheese plate. Funny thing about these, though, is that I never considered making them myself. Just seems like it must be a lot of fuss, right?

So wrong!

Although they take a bit of time in the oven, the actual work involved is 5-10 minutes, tops. It’s worth the minimal effort because these are so much tastier than any of the store-bought mixes. (Don’t worry. I still love you, trashy gas station Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds. See you next road trip!)

Make sure the nuts you buy are raw. Raw nuts are available pretty much any place that sells nuts in bulk. This recipe is for one pound of nuts. I use a mix of almonds and pecans, but I’m sure you can do it with any combination.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 lb. raw nuts

1 egg

1 Tbsp. chili powder*

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. rosemary, crumbled

Preheat your oven to 250°. While the oven warms, prepare the mix by separating the egg and discarding the yolk. Beat the egg white with 1 tbsp. of water until frothy. In a separate small bowl, combine all the spices (everything except the nuts). Blend the spices and add to the egg white mixture. Mix well. Add the nuts and fold in until all are coated. Spread the nuts across a non-stick or lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Stir and bake for 30 more minutes. Allow nuts to cool and store in an airtight container.

*Chili powders vary greatly. I found that the one I was using was a little too salty and not spicy enough, so I only used half a Tbsp. of the chili powder and added half a Tbsp. of cayenne pepper. You could also make your own with cumin, cayenne, a bit of salt, and whatever else you enjoy! Really, the spice mix can be tinkered with a lot.

Create: Saucepan Brownies

I met my best friend in the first grade. So I’ve probably gobbled up dozens of her mom’s brownies over the years. But I didn’t fully appreciate them until last summer when I sat, with my son in my lap, watching as this mom from my childhood stirred and mixed her specialty cocoa confections. Could you imagine finding one of these packed into your lunch box? You’d never put that up for grabs.

Beyond appreciate, I have declared Mrs. Gatti’s saucepan brownies the best straightforward chocolate brownie around. According to a very informal (and unsolicited) taste test, these easy-to-make little squares of bliss have turned even those who aren’t much for brownies into believers too.

Next dinner invite you’ve got dessert covered.

Saucepan Brownies

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • (optional: 1 cup chocolate chips)

Grease a 9×13 pan. Preheat oven to 325° for glass pan or 350° for metal pan. In a medium size pot over medium-high heat, melt together the chocolate and butter. Stir continually and watch the heat to avoid burning. Remove from heat. Once cooled slightly, stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add salt. Gradually stir in flour until blended. (Optional: stir in chocolate chips). Pour evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and watch them disappear. (I like to serve with berries or a scoop of vanilla ice cream).