Author: Blondie

Serendipity Chicken with Cream Sauce

Jacques Pépin’s Chicken in Cream Sauce (Poulet à la Crème) is an adaptation of his mother’s recipe. Jacques added white wine and mushrooms to the basic recipe. This change brings about a subtle sophistication in the flavor. Of course, the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff and I knew this would be a perfect dish to try out and share with you. – So, let’s head to the kitchen and make Serendipity Chicken with Cream Sauce.

Jacque Pepin Poulet a la creme

Hi! Thanks for joining me today.

There are few places I’d rather be than cooking in the SFH Test Kitchen. Yes, even now in the midst of the longest heat wave of the year, this kitchen is a joy. That’s because this is where my Hubby and I can be together and share the adventure of cooking.

Why test Jacques’s recipe for chicken with cream sauce?

Jacques admits that his mother might not approve of the changes he made to her recipe. But he notes that his recipe “is easy, fast, and good.” We at the SFH Test Kitchen understand that the essence of creative cooking is the desire to take an excellent recipe and make it your own. So just as Jacques adapted his mother’s recipe, we too will add our own personal touches. – Our goal is to take a simple French country meal and turn it into a simple everyday farmhouse meal.

Level of the challenge

I take Jacques at his word when he says his recipe “is easy, fast, and good.” Unlike the adherence to technique demonstrated by some chefs, Jacques follows a more relaxed approach. This is easy to see when one reads his recipe and then views two or three videos showing how he cooks the dish himself. – It’s never done the same way twice.

This is a meal meant to be cooked by the average mom, just like Jacques’s mother cooked it for him. It could be a great restaurant meal, but it works quite well in a simple farmhouse.

Selection of good-quality ingredients

Jacques’s recipe calls for fresh tarragon. But none was available. Fortunately, last year Hubby dehydrated our homegrown SFH tarragon. It worked quite well as a taste substitute, though it was lacking in its visual presentation.

Skillful, creative substitution is what separates a good chef from an apprentice short-order cook.

Using good-quality ingredients doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium price. Most of our ingredients were purchased at Aldi, Walmart, and Sam’s Club. We shop our own pantry, Aldi “red tags”, and all the sales. Rest assured; this is a meal that doesn’t have to be expensive.

Use of cooking techniques

This recipe does not require a master chef to be in the kitchen with you. No, this is a meal that can be handled by a dedicated amateur cook. – Nevertheless, basics are basics. How you hold the knife, how you brown the chicken, and how you make a simple cream sauce, these are techniques that must learned and practiced. All of these skills are essential to making this recipe work.

Development of superior taste and flavor

Now, I’ll let you in on a little cooking secret. A chicken thigh without the skin is not necessarily my favorite thing. That’s why, when I read this recipe, I was a bit perplexed. Despite my deep respect for Jacques, I chose to leave the skins on.

Here’s why. – The primary taste components of this dish are the chicken and the creme sauce. Unfortunately, the taste of chicken without the skin is overcome by the cream sauce. When the skin is left on and browned, the taste of the chicken and the cream sauce are united. – It is a marriage feast of flavor.

Ironically, in a video you can watch here, Jacques left the skins on. The video was made a year after this recipe was published. Thanks to my Hubby for finding the video. Now I know Jacques and I are not so very different.


Jacques chicken cream sauce

Jacques says that his mother would serve this dish with rice pilaf. However, he makes no recommendations concerning how the dish should be served.

My sweet hubby suggested that since it is a rustic, country dish, it might go well with homemade sourdough bread. So, he made a loaf, and guess what? – He was right!

Jacques Pépin was absolutely correct. His Chicken in Cream Sauce (Poulet à la Crème) “is easy, fast, and good.” – So, try it out and tell us what you think. Until then.

Happy Cooking!

Recipe Resources

If you would like to learn more about Jacques’s recipe for chicken with cream sauce, here are some resources that will help.

  • 2015 – Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen – This is the cookbook with the recipe and background commentary by Jacques.
  • 2015 – Poulet à la Crème – This is an article containing a full excerpt of the recipe and commentary from the book Heart & Soul in the Kitchen.
  • 2016 – Jacques Pépin’s Chicken with Cream Sauce – In this episode of the Rachael Ray Show, Jacques demonstrates how to prepare this dish. This video is fun because Jacques’s daughter Claudine and granddaughter Shorey join him in the cooking.

Did you like this post? If so and you want to see other Jacques Pépin recipes tested by the SFH Test Kitchen, please click here. Of course, your questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Jacques chicken cream sauce

Poulet à la Crème - Serendipity Chicken with Cream Sauce

Jacques Pépin's Chicken with Cream Sauce (Poulet à la Crème) is an adaptation of his mother's recipe. Jacques added white wine and mushrooms to the basic recipe. This change brings about a subtle sophistication in the flavor. Of course, the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff knew this would be a perfect dish to try out and share with you. - So, let's head to the kitchen and make Serendipity Chicken with Cream Sauce.
Prep Time 10 minutes
50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4 People


  • 1 Large saucepan


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs: about 3 pounds, skin removed (about 2 ½ pounds skinned) - We used 4 chicken thighs with the skin on.
  • 8 mushrooms; about 6 ounces, washed and sliced.
  • tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine We used chardonnay.
  • ¼ cup water You can substitute chicken broth.
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh tarragon; optional We used dried tarragon.


  • Add olive oil and butter to a large saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Add the chicken thighs to the pan in one layer and brown over high heat for about 2½ minutes on each side.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle on the flour.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Turn the chicken pieces with tongs so the flour is dispersed evenly.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Stir in the wine and water and mix well.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Bring to a boil and add the salt and pepper.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Cover, reduce the heat, and cook gently for 25 minutes.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Add the cream, bring to a boil, and boil, uncovered, for about 1 minute.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce
  • Serve sprinkled with the chopped tarragon, if desired.
    Jacques chicken cream sauce


This recipe is a modified version of the way Jacques Pépin's mother prepared this dish. We decided to leave the skins on to add extra richness in flavor.
Keyword Chicken with cream sauce, Jacques Pepin, Poulet à la Crème

A Birthday to Crow About

Let me tell you all about my birthday. It was a birthday to crow about.

all about my birthday

Is a birthday just a party? Must there be balloons, cake, and ice cream? Is there some magic and mystery in the passing of a year? If you live here at Serendipity Farmhouse you really never have to ask, “What is it that makes a birthday special?”

That’s because you already know – Here at SFH, Birthdays are a great blessing from God.

Family Traditions

Our three children are grown and have their own wonderful children now. Over the years, they’ve created their own family birthday traditions. But when I have a birthday, each of my children makes a special effort to let me know how fondly they remember the time when we were all together. – This year, their special expressions of love for me have filled my heart with great joy. Thank you, sweet children. – I am blessed!

My Dear Friend

For 38 years, Nancy and I have shared in an enduring friendship. We’ve helped each other during hard times, and we’ve enjoyed the good times together. There are few things greater than having a good friend. – I am blessed!

This year, Nancy spent the day with me. I made a special meal using a recipe for Silver Palate Pasta. She gave me the recipe years ago. It’s a superb blending of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes and basil with linguine and melted brie – it was all so good.

After opening of presents and sharing in good food, Nancy, Hubby, and I made our way to my favorite Quievremont Vineyard & Winery for just a “splash” of wine.

A Birthday to Crow About

all about my birthday

My loving Hubby set the theme for this birthday. It was the combination of two of my great passions – simple French-style cooking and decorating my kitchen with every conceivable type of chicken.

Knowing that our favorite chef, Jacques Pépin, is also a painter and lover of chickens, Hubby decided on the perfect gift for me. And there it is hanging on my kitchen wall, an autographed print of Jacques’s painting Black and Yellow Rooster. Could there ever be a birthday present better than that?

But the Jacques Pépin-Chicken theme went on beyond the rooster print. Dear Hubby also presented me with Jacques Pépin Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef’s Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird. And if that wasn’t enough, Son #1 also added to my Jacques Pepin collection with the book Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen.

It’s been a wonderful birthday with family and friends. You might even say it was a birthday to crow about. Yes, it’s what a every birthday should be – a great blessing from God.

A new specialty page for the SFH Blog

So, as my birthday week draws to a close, Hubby and I are making plans to have the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff try out many new recipes by one great, inspiring cook – Jacques Pépin. His Black and Yellow Rooster print will get to watch all the action. And if you’d like to see what we’re cooking from Jacques’s cookbooks, just check out our new blog page – Recipes by Jacques Pépin – Serendipity Farmhouse. (To see it, click here.)

Until next time – Happy Cooking!

How to Make Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix

For more than eight years, we’ve searched for the secret of how to make the best possible Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix. We are now on the verge of unlocking that secret. Come join with our Test Kitchen staff as we go through the final round of tests. Your taste buds will be glad you did. And you will find out about Pierre’s challenge.

The Quest for Perfect Farmhouse Salsa Mix

Salsa mix

When I started to write this post, I asked the basic question: What is salsa? Hubby replied with a tedious response worthy of the Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia.

I responded by simply saying, “We’ve all had salsa, we know what it is, and we know what we like. Our Test Kitchen can make a salsa mix that will work every time.”

Our beloved Pierre LeChat, skeptic that he is, countered both of us with a challenge:

Really? What does the Test Kitchen have to show for eight years of experimentation and testing! Allow me to be the judge of the quality of your Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix!”

Pierre had thrown down the gauntlet. We had to put up or shut up.

5 Criteria for Excellent Farmhouse Salsa Mix

1. Level of the challenge

Every year, SFH produces between 12 to 30 pints of salsa. Each batch of 5 to 6 pints has had a slightly different recipe. This year, we wanted to standardize the basic recipe in the form of a mix. To the extent possible, the mix would use dehydrated vegetables and herbs from our own gardens. This meant we had to do three important things:

  • 1st – Ensure that our gardens produce sufficient quantities of needed vegetables and herbs.
  • 2nd – Develop the skills needed to dry/dehydrate the SFH-produced ingredients.
  • 3rd – Determine the proper ratio of ingredients for the salsa mix.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

Our Test Kitchen staff knew up front that the SFH gardens would never support production of all the needed ingredients. Consequently, we worked hard to source ingredients of the highest quality. We well understand that this effort is not ‘just once and done.’ – Most anything can be improved. Our Farmhouse Salsa Mix ingredients will always be under review.

3. Use of cooking techniques

The primary technique employed in preparing our salsa mix is dehydrating. For the present, that includes dehydrating jalapeños and other hot peppers. Eventually it will include drying garlic and turning it into garlic powder.

A secondary technique employs vacuum packing ingredients in mason jars for long-term storage. This is needed to store individual ingredients and the prepared salsa mix itself.

You can see some of our early work developing these skills in our posts Hot Peppers Above & Beyond, SFH-TK Skills – Herbs, and Crisis Averted in Rainy Day Catch Up.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

As I said earlier, “We’ve all had salsa, we know what it is, and we know what we like.” But that doesn’t mean everyone likes the same thing. Our Test Kitchen had to produce a recipe that would satisfy the broadest spectrum of tastes. But more importantly, the recipe had to satisfy my Hubby and me. Certainly, it also had to be a hit with our children and grandchildren.

So, we reviewed literally hundreds of recipes on the Web and in cookbooks. That gave us a few general ideas.

We also looked at the three big makers of packaged salsa mix. We saw what ingredients they shared in common. Then we looked at which ingredients set them apart. This table shows some of what we learned.

We grow our own jalapeños, and they are great in salsa. So, even though only one company uses them in their mix, we knew they had to be in our mix too.

Despite all the research, our success depended on the most important factor of all – test, test, and test again. The Test Kitchen had to determine the optimum ingredient quantities and ratios. It’s been a long haul, and we’re not finished yet. But the recipe we’re giving you today will work.

5. How to Use Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix

While this may be just a mix in a mason jar, it is a mix with a message. That message is – this mix that will provide you great-tasting salsa anytime you want it. You can:

  • Make fresh salsa that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Freeze salsa and store it for up to a year.
  • Use it for canning salsa that can be stored up to 18 months.

What Will Pierre think of Our Mix?

On July 21st, we put together our latest version of Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix. On the 23rd, we put the mix to the test. We used the mix along with our own tomatoes and fresh garlic. Instead of the five pints we expected, we were able to can six full pints. After canning, there was just enough left over for Pierre to taste.

In our next post, Pierre will tell his tasting tale. Then, he will recommend how the entire world should rank Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa mix. This will be one post you don’t want to miss.

Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix

Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix

For more than eight years, we've searched for the secret of how to make the best possible Serendipity Farmhouse Salsa Mix. We are now on the verge of unlocking that secret. Come join with our Test Kitchen staff as we go through the final round of tests. Your taste buds will be glad you did.
Cuisine American
Servings 14 pints


  • ¾ Cup Diced & dried red & green bell peppers (You can use just red or green if you desire.)
  • ¾ Cup Dehydrated jalapeño peppers (You can substitute other types of hot peppers.)
  • ¾ Cup Dehydrated onions
  • ¼ Cup Canning salt (We use Mrs. Wages® Pickling and Canning Salt.)
  • ¼ Cup Chili pepper (Substitute chili powder if desired. Note that the powder contains additional spices.)
  • ¼ Cup Garlic powder (Substitute minced garlic if desired when actually canning. Do not add fresh garlic to the dry mix!)


  • Assemble and measure all ingredients. Crush dehydrated jalapeño. (We used a mortar and pestle to crush the peppers.)
  • Mix ingredients thoroughly.
  • Store in airtight container until time of use.


Mild Mix: Use 1 ¼ cup diced & dried red & green bell peppers & ¼ cup dehydrated jalapeño peppers.
Hot Mix: Use ¼ cup diced & dried red & green bell peppers & 1 ¼ cup dehydrated jalapeño peppers.
Keyword salsa mix

Spicy Dilly Beans @ Serendipity Farmhouse

Have you ever wondered what spicy dilly beans are? Well, they’re simply pickled green beans that are flavored with dill, garlic, and spicy pepper flakes. But there’s more to it than that. In this post, the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen takes a look at how to pickle green beans. More importantly, the Test Kitchen staff learns a few lessons along the way and shares them with you in this post.

Hi! Chef Blondie here! – Perhaps your home gardens are similar to what we have on our vast 1.203-acre estate. If so, you probably have the ingredients you need to pickle spicy dilly beans. But, even if you don’t have a garden, all the ingredients are in season and readily available. Now is the best time to learn how to make this delicious treat.

This is my first food preserving post of the season. So, it’s worthwhile to review some of the basics. Allow me to recommend some authoritative food preserving resources that have served the SFH Test Kitchen very well:

1. Spicy Dilly Beans – Level of the challenge

Pickling is not a difficult process. It is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. There is a quick pickling process and there is a canned pickle method. The recipe we used is the canned pickle method. It uses a stronger brine and a water-bath canning process to extend shelf life. – This is one of the simplest recipes we use in the SFH Test Kitchen.

2. good-quality ingredients for Spicy Dilly Beans

Produce & Herbs: Ingredients are very important to the process of pickling. Using produce and herbs straight from the garden is the best way to go. If you don’t have your own produce and herbs on hand, check out your local farmers’ market or a nearby community supported agriculture (CSA) outlet. – We used our own green beans, garlic, and dill.

Salt: Salt is an integral part of many pickling processes and flavor twists. Canning or pickling salt that does not contain iodine or non-caking material is ideal. – We used mrs. wages Pickling & Canning Salt for this pickling session. It produces a very clear brine.

Distilled Vinegar: Use apple cider or white distilled vinegar, but the pickles may taste best with the recommended type in the recipe. Apple cider vinegar is milder and offers a different flavor note than white distilled vinegar. – Remember, whichever vinegar you select should be at least five percent acetic acid.

3. Use of cooking techniques

My friends, this is where I and the entire Test Kitchen staff strongly recommend that you stick to the best practices for pickling and canning. For a review of those best practices, click here. – If you follow these guidelines, it will build your confidence and give you great results.

4. Development of superior Dilly Bean taste and flavor

If you’ve selected the best ingredients and have followed best practices, this recipe won’t fail. The flavor will be there. – Should you have family members or friends who prefer less spicy food, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes, or leave them out completely.

5. Presentation of Spicy Dilly Beans

Spicy dilly beans look great on a charcuterie tray. They also work well as a side to a light summer lunch or snack. It doesn’t matter much how you arrange them. That’s because they won’t remain there very long.

6. Lessons learned

The soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen takes great pride in its work and its achievements. We strive for culinary perfection. And we do that by critiquing ourselves and learning from our mistakes and through constant study. Here are three lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Store Jars Without Ring Bands

The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) recommends that jars be stored without ring bands to keep them dry as well as to allow for easier detection of any broken vacuum seals. However, if you choose to re-apply the ring bands, make sure all surfaces are clean and thoroughly dry first.

No Need for Alum or Pickle Crisp

Some recipes for pickled dilly beans call for either alum or Ball Pickle Crisp to add crispness. The NCHFP article Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled Foods advises that alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, alum and Ball Pickle Crisp are not necessary for pickling dilly beans. 

Heat the Water Bath Faster

Heating up the water bath can take a long time and slow down canning. We’ve learned to heat some of the water in an electric kettle. It cuts the overall heating time by half.

  • spicy dilly beans

    Spicy Dilly Beans

    Have you ever wondered what spicy dilly beans are? Well, they're simply pickled green beans that are flavored with dill, garlic, and spicy pepper flakes. But there's more to it than that. In our accompanying post, the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen takes a look at how to pickle green beans.
    Course Appetizer
    Cuisine American
    Servings 4 pints


    • 1 Boiling-water canner with rack
    • 1 Jar lifter
    • 1 Bubble remover or headspace tool
    • 1 Jar funnel
    • 4 1-pint Mason jars with new lids


    • 2 pounds green beans
    • ¼ cup Ball Salt for Pickling & Preserving
    • 2 ½ cups vinegar 5% acidity
    • 2 ½ cups water
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 4 heads fresh dill or ¼ cup dill seed
    • Ball Pickle Crisp optional



    • Wash green beans under cold running water & drain. Trim ends off green beans.Peel garlic and crush or slice thinly.
      spicy dilly beans
    • Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.


    • Combine salt, vinegar, and water in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (180°F); simmer 10 minutes.
      spicy dilly beans


    • Pack green beans lengthwise into a hot jar, leaving ½-inch headspace. Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic, and 1 head of dill or 2 teaspoons dill seed. Add ⅛ teaspoon Pickle Crisp to pint jar or ¼ teaspoon Pickle Crisp to quart jar, if desired.
    • Ladle hot pickling liquid over green beans, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
      spicy dilly beans


    • Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process pint or quart jars 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes.
    • Remove jars from canner; do not re-tighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.
      spicy dilly beans

The Delight of Bread, Berries & Shallots

The delight of bread, berries and shallots are just part of a summer day at Serendipity Farmhouse. In the course of a day, any number of surprises can fill our home with unexpected joy. And this day, joy came in the form of a fresh loaf of bread, a container full of wild berries, and a basket of our own garden-grown shallots. Each serves to remind me of why Hubby and I love our life together in this little old farmhouse.

Shallots Bring Flavor to the Table

bread, berries and shallots

Whether it’s Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, or just good old-fashioned American cuisine, shallots bring a unique flavor to the table. Last year, we planted shallots, and this year we harvested. – This was success on a first try.

Last night, some of our shallots joined us for dinner and today some joined us for lunch. – They were welcomed guests!

Sourdough Bread – Almost Ready for the Great Reveal

Hubby was up at 4 AM today. With Mr. Monte’s help, he continued his series of sourdough bread recipe tests.

Once, Hubby is satisfied that this recipe is foolproof, he’ll provide a post with all the details.

bread, berries and shallots

Hubby Beat the Bear to the Berries

Bread, berries and shallots

The last few days, there have been several sightings of a black bear in our neighborhood. Perhaps the bear is looking for the patch of raspberries that Hubby spotted while mowing today. – Well, today, Hubby beat the bear to the berries.

As soon as he saw the berries, he ran to the house and yelled to me. “Give me my camera and a plastic bowl! – I’ve got to get those berries before the bear does!”

Within a minute, my brave (sometimes foolish) Hubby was out picking those berries. He had his signature gnat net covering his head to protect him from ticks. He put on his rubber boots to protect himself from snakes. And all the while he picked berries, he kept checking to make sure his multitool knife was close by. Who knew when the bear might come?

Hubby’s bravery was rewarded. He came back to the farmhouse with a container of the most beautiful raspberries. There wasn’t a single one of them that had a flaw.

My knight in shining armor, having been most successful in his quest, presented the berries to me. – In his own way, he showed me that to him Serendipity Farmhouse is his castle, and I am his queen.

Muffins to Cheer up My Day

When my heart is filled with concerns for family and friends, it helps to work in my kitchen and make sourdough muffins. Following the recipe, mixing the ingredients, cleaning up afterwards, all of that gives me time to think and pray. Baking banana nut muffins adds a needed quiet time to cheer up my day.

There are times when it’s better for the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen to take a day off. I need some time alone. Just leave the cooking to me.

This week there was such a day. I had received texts, emails, and phone calls. My loved ones needed prayers. So, I retired to the kitchen and prayed as I tested a new sourdough starter muffin recipe.

Testing Amy’s Sourdough Banana Nut Muffins Recipe

About a week ago, I posted a recipe for what I called The Best Cranberry Sourdough Muffins. Since then, Hubby and I have continued to search for ways to make best use of our sourdough starter discard. Recently, we found a recipe for Sourdough Banana Nut Muffins by Amy at little spoon farm. – Using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence, let’s see why this recipe will become a regular here at the SFH Test Kitchen.

1. Level of the Banana Nut sourdough muffins challenge

This recipe is a bit more involved than Daisy’s Cranberry Muffins. There are more ingredients and more steps to follow. Nevertheless, there is nothing out of the ordinary here. The biggest challenge to this recipe is restraining yourself from eating the entire batch of muffins yourself.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

Supposing that your sourdough starter discard is ready to go, all the ingredients you will need should already be in your kitchen or pantry. Well, almost all. Ripe bananas are the flavor attraction in this recipe, and you can’t do without them.

3. Use of cooking techniques

Take it slow! Pay attention to the order in which ingredients are mixed and combined. This is the best part for me. Watching it all come together provides the satisfaction and peace one can experience while cooking.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

I found that this recipe is well balanced and delivers the banana nut flavor advertised in its name. The only minor variation I made was using light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar.

5. Presentation

I chose to serve myself a single muffin with a hot cup of freshly made black tea. The muffin and tea were a morning snack on my deck. From there I could look out on my yard and vegetable gardens.

A bluebird had decided to sit on a fence post and share with me his enjoyment of the morning sun and gentle breeze. As for the texts, emails, and phone calls that had troubled my mind, I’ve done what I could do. – It’s in His hands now.

What if you make more muffins than you need?

The condition of your sourdough discard and the level to which you fill the spaces on your muffin pan may have an effect on the number of muffins rendered by this recipe. In my test case, I ended up with 18 muffins, many more than the expected dozen.

As we chefs, bakers, and home cooks have learned, it’s beneficial to have good friends and neighbors who like to share in what you make. Within minutes of baking these delicious sourdough banana nut muffins, a half dozen of them were in the care of a dear neighbor and her daughter.

A little time in the kitchen, makes up for hours and days of useless worries.

Sourdough Banana Nut Muffins Recipe

This recipe by Amy at Little Spoon Farm is one that you will want to share with your friends. It's fun to make and the muffins will brighten up your morning. Who knew you could make something this good with your sourdough starter discard?
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American


  • Muffin tin
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Spatula



  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter melted
  • 1 cup (200 g) dark brown sugar see notes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 (350 g) very ripe bananas about 1 cup, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (125 g) sourdough starter discard


  • 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (125 g) walnuts chopped


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and line a 12 count muffin tin with paper liners, or lightly grease.
  • Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, use a fork to mash the bananas until smooth.
  • Melt the butter in a mixing bowl and add the dark brown sugar. Use a spatula to cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, mashed banana, sour cream, sourdough discard and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with the spatula until just combined. (Do not over mix!) Gently fold in ⅔ cup of the chopped walnuts.
  • Divide the batter into the muffin tin and sprinkle the remaining ⅓ cup of chopped walnuts on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack.


  • The condition of your sourdough discard and the level to which you fill the muffin pan may effect the number of muffins rendered by this recipe. In our case, we ended up with 18 muffins.
  • For a more thorough set of notes, refer to the original recipe at: Sourdough Banana Nut Muffins - Little Spoon Farm 

Chicken Livers – An Interesting Way

Jacques Pépin just taught me how to make chicken livers in an interesting way. I’ve always loved fried chicken livers. Growing up, I could count on them always being on the menu. I just couldn’t get enough. But I never had chicken livers anyway but fried. Well, on Mother’s Day, that all changed. That’s when lovely Daughter #1 gave me a new cookbook – Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple. And that is when I first learned about Chicken Livers Persillade.

Hi! Chef Blondie here.

Serendipity Farmhouse

I have to admit that it was my dear Hubby who found the recipe. He and I share this love for liver of all types. As soon as he stumbled upon the recipe on page 318, he shouted, “Eurika!” or some such thing. When he showed me the recipe, my first words were, “Where can we find some chicken livers?! The SFH Test Kitchen is going to make this ASAP!”

Testing Jacques’s Chicken Livers Persillade

We had planned to publish a gardening post today. But Jacques’s cookbook with its great new recipe, combined with the availability of chicken livers and other ingredients, demanded that we disregard our weekly posting schedule. Well, to be more truthful, Hubby and I wanted to have chicken livers, and we wanted them, “Right now!”

It was to that end that we hastily mobilized the entire staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. They all assembled, and we discussed the task. We quickly came to complete agreement on the course of action and grabbed our aprons.

Using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence, we explored why this recipe introduces one to the preparation of chicken livers in an interesting way.

1. Level of the Chicken Livers Persillade challenge

By its very name, Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple, the title describes the level of challenge in this recipe – “Quick and Simple.” The basic technique of sautéing is at the heart of preparation of this dish. However, because Jacques recommends that the livers be cooked at high heat, the butter and oil will have a tendency to splatter. – A word to the wise, be prepared to cover the pan with a splatter screen. Cleaning up oil splatters takes time and detracts from the enjoyment of the meal.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

One great joy of cooking is being able to use ingredients of your own making or from your own garden. How unfortunate it was that our homegrown garlic had run out just a few days earlier. We had to use store-bought.

On the other hand, the parsley in our herb garden was thriving. So, we were able to enjoy its fresh flavor in the persillade. (Read more about persillade in Criterion 4 below.)

One big bonus in ingredient selection, was the fact that Hubby recently scored a huge success with a sourdough bread recipe. Not only had the bread come out just perfect, but for the first time, some of our own home-milled hard white wheat was incorporated in the recipe.

When toasted, four slices of this loaf became the perfect foundation for the cooked chicken livers persillade.

3. Use of cooking techniques for Jacques’s Chicken Livers

The two primary techniques used in preparing this dish are quite simple and straightforward. The liver is sautéed, and then the persillade is added. At that point, the pan is immediately removed from the burner. So simple – So elegant. This recipe can make a beginner look like a pro.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

Persillade is a sauce or seasoning mixture of parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar. Jacques Pépin uses persillade in a range of diverse dishes. For example, in his Roe and Liver Persillade recipe, he demonstrates that a persillade adapts just as well to a fish dish as it does with chicken livers.

Persillade is a common ingredient in many dishes. You might think of it as a standard sauté cook’s mise en place. It is basically built around parsley and garlic. In Jacques’s Chicken Livers recipe, the persillade is added at the very end of the cooking process. That way, the garlic and parsley remain in the foreground and work side-by-side with the flavor of the sautéed livers. – Nothing is hidden.

On the other hand, if you add the persillade early in the cooking process, the parsley and garlic flavors mellow out, and they give an entirely different presentation to the flavor and aroma of the dish.

5. Presentation

Chicken Livers Persillade is a simple dish. It’s rather rustic and the use of toasted slices from a large country loaf like our homemade sourdough bread enhances the impression. So, no need to be fancy. Simply serve and enjoy.

A Couple of Practical Notes

At $1.96 for 1¼ pounds of chicken livers, Chicken Livers Persillade is a gourmet meal without the gourmet expense. According to Jacques, 12 ounces of chicken livers will provide four servings. The SFH Test Kitchen staff had no idea what it would do with the extra 8 ounces of livers. That is when I stepped in and said, “We will cook them all.”

So, we cooked them all. – – Please refrain from asking the obvious question, “Were there any leftovers?” My staff is sworn to secrecy.

chicken livers; Jacques Pépin

Chicken Livers Persillade

This quick dish should be prepared at the last moment and served immediately. It makes a nice appetizer for a dinner, and it can also be served with salad as a main course for a brunch or light lunch.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4


  • 1 Nonstick pan at least 9 inches in diameter


  • 12 ounces chicken livers, about 14 preferably plump and pale in color
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil We used EVOO.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine (2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 slices from a large country loaf, ½ inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter, toasted We used homemade sourdough bread.


  • Separate each liver into its two halves, discarding any connecting sinews.
  • Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a nonstick pan at least 9 inches in diameter.
  • When the mixture is a hazelnut color, add the livers in one layer and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Turn and cook on the other side for 1 minute, taking care to avoid splatters. (If using more than 12 ounces of liver, cook a little longer on each side.)
  • Add the persillade (garlic and parsley) and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Mix well.
    chicken livers; Jacques Pépin
  • Place a slice or two of toast on each plate, top with the liver, and serve immediately.
    chicken livers; Jacques Pépin
Keyword Chicken livers

The Best Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

If you have leftover sourdough starter, follow this recipe to make the best cranberry sourdough muffins ever. They’re super easy to make and they give a delightful lift to a simple breakfast or afternoon tea. (Especially when smothered with butter!) Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, we have a special name for these delicious treats – Daisy’s Cranberry Muffins.

farmhouse food

Now that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen is experimenting with sourdough, we have a problem. We have too much sourdough starter and we don’t want to waste the excess. After extensive research, we’ve found several recipes for extra starter that would otherwise be discarded. The recipe for Daisy’s Cranberry Muffins is our favorite so far.

Testing Daisy’s Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

We didn’t arrive at success with this recipe overnight. My Test Kitchen staff started with a very good base recipe for Blueberry Sourdough Muffins from the King Arthur Baking site. After a few tests and several adjustments, the staff came up with the recipe that has become our standard of excellence.

Using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence, let’s take a closer look at what makes Daisy’s recipe work so well.

1. Level of the cranberry sourdough muffins challenge

King Arthur has developed a very good basic recipe. It’s easy to follow, and the results are consistent. Additionally, the recipe is versatile and allows for easy changes.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

With the exception of three items, ingredients used in Daisy’s Cranberry Sourdough Muffins are familiar standards. Our Test Kitchen staff has found King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour to be reliable and consistent in quality. With regard to dried cranberries, there are many good products available. We recommend that you pay close attention to the expiration date on the package.

Needless to say, make sure that your sourdough starter discard is either ripe (fed) or still relatively fresh. After all, this is the star ingredient for your muffins.

As an aside, many of us who are into sourdough, give names to our starter. Being Downton Abbey fans, this was a no-brainer. Our starter is known as Mrs. Patmore, named after the senior cook at Downton Abbey.

It only made sense to name the sourdough starter discard after Mrs. Patmore’s assistant cook, Daisy Mason.

Sourdough Starter

3. Use of cooking techniques

If you’ve made muffins before, this will be a cinch. Only regular muffin making techniques are used.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

There was only one point where the Test Kitchen staff decided to make a significant change. The recipe calls for one cup of yellow cornmeal. We determined that was too much for our taste. So, we cut the amount by half and compensated by adding more flour.

During our first test of the recipe, we had no blueberries on hand. That’s when we elected to use dried cranberries. The addition of the cranberries brought about a satisfying burst of flavor. We were so delighted with the result that we’ve decided to stick with cranberries in the future. Of course, blueberries and other types of berries, such as currents, might give you results better suited to your personal taste.

5. Presentation

I’m sorry, but I can’t comment on presentation yet. These muffins have a knack of finding their way directly to the table. The duration of their presence on the table is usually no more than a few seconds. Consequently, there’s no reason to make a big deal over presentation.

What if you don’t have sourdough Starter?

So, you don’t have any starter? Well, there are several ways of going about getting some or making your own. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you have a friend who’s into sourdough baking, ask for a gift of one cup of starter and read up on how to feed and care for it.
  • Should you want to start from scratch and do it yourself, there are many YouTube videos and blog posts with all the information you need. – Here’s a link to a post describing How to Make a Sourdough Starter offered by Farmhouse on Boone.
  • Suppose you think some of this is too complicated. Well, you can purchase starter kits that come with fresh sourdough or sourdough cultures. They usually provide a good set of instructions. Here are links to two examples: Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter & Cultures for Health San Francisco Sourdough.

To quote Jacques Pépin: “Happy cooking!”

cranberry sourdough muffins

Daisy's Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

Make the best cranberry muffins ever with your sourdough starter discard. This recipe is super easy and the muffins taste great.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Afternoon Tea, Breakfast
Cuisine American


  • cups (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour We use King Arthur
  • ½ cup (69g) yellow cornmeal, preferably whole grain
  • ¾ teaspoon salt We use sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup (227g) sourdough starter, ripe (fed) or discard
  • ¼ cup (57g) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup (50g) vegetable oil We use Canola oil
  • ½ cup (170g) honey
  • 1 cup (170g) dried cranberries up to 2 cups if desired
  • Demerara sugar or coarse sparkling sugar, for sprinkling tops if desired


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with papers and grease the inside of the papers.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • In a second bowl, beat together the starter, milk, egg, vegetable oil, and sweetener. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the cranberries just until blended.
  • Fill the cups of the prepared pan two-thirds full. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with sugar.
  • Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Don't let them cool in the pan, or they'll steam and the outside will become tough.
Keyword Muffins, Sourdough

My Tree of Motherly Memory

There it stands, strong and silent, ever there to support me – I call it my tree of motherly memory. In photos from the past, you can see its strength and size. It reminds me of my concern for the children I would raise. This picture of me leaning on my tree shows the worry in my eyes.

A Day for Motherly Memory

Today, children and husbands are giving cards and gifts to mothers everywhere. For many of us, this is a time we think back dearly on our moms who are no longer with us. Hubby lost his mom on the day before Mother’s Day years ago – such a very sad memory. And, of course, my thoughts and prayers will be with my children’s Granny Ida.

There’s So Much More to Say

Let me step aside and take a different view of this day for mothers. With all this praise for us from our children, wouldn’t it be fitting to also think of them. I had the privilege to raise, care for, and teach three beautiful children. A fourth child did not make it to term. I wish I could have met him and cared for him too.

Those three beautiful children have grown and matured. They are now parents like me. They are good parents. And, just like me, my two daughters and my daughter-in-law have experienced the worry of child-bearing and the daily concerns and heartaches of motherhood.

When all is said and done, look how my children have grown. See what they have become. They have loved me so much, and they have helped me to grow in the virtues of patience and perseverance. I am so proud of them and who they are.

What is the Lesson I Have Learned?

My girls visited yesterday. We had tea and charcuterie. They brought flowers and presents, including a gift bag from my son. I’m sure the phone will ring today, there will be a call from each one of them.

There it stands, strong and silent, ever there to support me – I call it my tree of motherly memory. I can picture it as the the large tree behind me in that park in Pacific Grove. But as I open my cards and look at the flowers and gifts today, I know there is a lesson to be learned. That tree in the park is just a symbol of something much larger and stronger.

The real tree that supports me is my Faith, my Hubby, and the three children God has given me. I have learned that it is my family that is my tree of motherly memory.

How to Love Your Garden

Frost alerts, bug infestations, pest invasions, blight devastation, black rot destruction – with all this drama, can you ever learn how to love your garden? Here’s what we do at Serendipity Farmhouse to avoid the recurring yearly dread of impending doom.

Love your garden

Several days ago, I came in from working in the vegetable gardens. It was a cold day, and I had hesitated to go out. But the tomatoes and peppers were begging to be planted.

I wish I could hear everything my plants have to say to me. It seemed that my dad could hear them, and he gave them anything they wanted. – He was a garden whisperer.

Reasons to Love Your Garden

There can be little doubt that we here at Serendipity Farmhouse love our vegetable and herb gardens. We write about them often.

The Joy of Faithful Stewardship

As the SFH Chief Gardener, I am obligated to make an accounting of our successes and failures, our improvements and our setbacks in the garden. It is my job to make a twice-yearly report to our patron, St. Isidore. We know that all that we have and every breath we breathe is a gift. That means that our humble gardens are treasures entrusted to our care. That is why I said in my post Feast Day Garden Talk this time last year:

We’ve tried to be good stewards of what God has bestowed on Serendipity. The fruits of these labors constantly bring us joy.

The Fruits of Our Labor

And that brings us to the question of what to expect from the time and labor invested in vegetable gardening. I think expectations should be based on purpose and scale. For example, if you are a commercial farmer, you need to grow enough to make a profit in the marketplace. But, if you are a homesteader, you seek to produce enough to meet your personal needs.

Hubby and I are neither farmers nor homesteaders. We merely want to supplement our other food sources with vegetables we like that are either hard to find or otherwise too expensive. The feature picture of me reaching for okra pods from a 10.5-foot okra plant is the perfect example. We are still eating frozen and pickled okra from last year’s harvest, even though it is virtually impossible to find okra in the grocery store now. – Certainly, that is a reason to love my garden.

Personal Accomplishment

I started out by listing several of the many disasters that strike fear and dread in the hearts of gardeners. Hubby and I have experienced them all. And that is where perseverance comes into play. Just as we have overcome adversity in our years of marriage, so too have we worked to overcome adversity in our gardens. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be found when you work through your problems. Eventually, you can say as I did in my post Report to St. Isidore – 2022:

The harvest for 2022 will go down in history as the best year yet for the vegetable and herb gardens proudly cultivated here on the vast 1.203 acres of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate.

One More Reason to Love Your Garden

I’m sure, if you think about what really makes you happy in your life, you will be able to find any number of reasons to love your garden. When there’s a frost warning, or the bugs invade, keep those reasons in mind.

Perhaps you will even find a reason that overcomes every fear of failure. I know I have.

When I write about my gardens, I can’t help but thinking about Dad. This is especially true in May, because that is planting season. That’s when Dad’s expectations were high, and when he worked so hard to make everything just right. – Dad passed away some years ago on May 24th. I like to think that, on that day, his thoughts were about going home to a Garden made just for him.

Dad, I know how much you loved working with your tomatoes and other plants. You were the one who taught me how to love my garden. Thank you for that wonderful gift!

2023 Plantings (So far)