A recipe has to be really good if it requires an ingredient that’s not normally in my kitchen and probably won’t be used again soon.

Buttermilk comes to mind as one of those ingredients. Recipes usually call for less than a cup of buttermilk, so even buying the smallest amount available, there’s quite a bit leftover. Maybe it’s a consistency issue but I’ve never liked drinking buttermilk, so if I don’t find another recipe where it’s called for, it sits in the fridge until after the use-by date. To me, it is difficult to tell if it is no longer usable without checking the date.

When in need of half a cup of buttermilk I need to remember there’s an easy alternative item I always have available. One tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white vinegar added to a cup of whole or 2% milk and left to sit for 10 minutes gives great results. It will curdle slightly, and you use curds and all as you would store-bought buttermilk. You can also add 1 1/3 teaspoons cream of tarter to one cup of milk for similar results.

The lemon juice or vinegar used help tenderize the gluten for softer texture and more body in baked goods, as well as that distinctive tang with very little fat. If baked goods have baking soda, buttermilk will help it properly activate. Baking powder, however, already contains an acid for leavening, so use regular milk in those dishes.

Looking for dairy-free buttermilk? Combine 3/4 cup plain or vanilla almond milk yogurt, 1/4 cup almond milk and 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar then let stand 10 minutes.

Another alternative to store bought buttermilk is yogurt. Substitute one cup of yogurt for each cup of buttermilk needed. If using a thick yogurt such as Greek, it can be thinned with a little water.

Because of its acidity, buttermilk is the perfect tenderizer because it breaks down the connective tissue. One cup for each pound of meat sealed tightly in a plastic bag for 30 minutes up to 24 hours in the fridge will do the trick. Be sure to shake off the excess liquid and discard the marinade.

What better use of buttermilk than homemade buttermilk dressing? Fresh is best. Buttermilk helps make the chicken easy and crispy and the pecan pie special. Today’s recipes and helpful info are from Taste of Home.

Have a great week, and happy eating.

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Basic buttermilk dressing

2 cups mayonnaise

2 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Yields 1 quart (32 servings).

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Chicken Kiev

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon minced chives

1 garlic clove, minced

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3/4 cup crushed cornflakes

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/3 cup buttermilk

Hot cooked rice, optional

In a small bowl, combine butter, chives and garlic. Shape into a 3-by-2-inch rectangle. Cover and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Flatten each chicken breast to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut butter mixture crosswise into six pieces; place one piece in center of each chicken breast, Fold long sides over butter; fold ends up and secure with toothpick.

In shallow bowl, combine cornflakes, parsley and paprika. Place buttermilk in shallow dish. Dip chicken into buttermilk, then coat evenly with cornflake mixture. Place chicken seam side down in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove toothpicks before serving. Serve over rice, if desired. Yields 6 servings.

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Buttermilk pecan pie

Single pastry crust, baked and cooled

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 3/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and salt. Gradually stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Sprinkle pecans evenly on crust bottom; add filling. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until center is set. Cover loosely with foil last 10 minutes if need to avoid overbaking. Cool completely on cooling rack. Serve or refrigerate within 2 hours. Yields 8 servings.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.