We were warned off butter just as we were warned off the egg. Now, years later, both the egg and butter have been held virtually harmless in regards to nutrition and health. Now that we can cook with butter again, we need to become familiar again with how it is packaged so that we can measure it correctly in our recipes. Let’s start with looking at how much a stick of butter is in cups.
Get the red pen out and keep it handy by the recipe file and cookbooks. Whenever you come upon a recipe that calls for “butter or margarine,” scratch out “or margarine.” No longer do we have to choose between flavor and health when it comes to this all natural golden nectar.
Time to Switch, Again
Did you make the switch to something other than butter? Maybe a spread that claims to be so near the original in taste you can’t believe it’s not butter? You might have gone with a spread touting the benefits of a yogurt or olive oil formula, or for the big brown crock of spread.
I can honestly tell you that I did not make this change. When I was growing up, there was always a choice in the refrigerator. You could have butter or you could have spread. I was the only one who always chose butter. When at a restaurant, I asked for real butter. The server may not realize this, but they have it available. Every good restaurant does because real butter is what a real chef uses.
When I ran my own household, there was always at least one person in the house who preferred the yogurt spread to real butter, so I still had options in the refrigerator. I sat alone at my end of the table with the butter server all to myself, spreading it on every roll and heaping it on every baked potato. They were all sure I wouldn’t make it past 30.
And yet, here I am, living long enough to see my beloved butter vindicated at last. In fact, dietitians are now coming to understand that removing all that good fat – butter, eggs, and red meat – contributed to the obesity epidemic we’re facing today. Processed foods, mostly carbohydrate, is what’s bringing the diabetes and other weight-related ailments our way.
Not only is butter no longer considered harmful but it is found now to have health benefits. In other words, butter is good for you. It has vitamins like A and D, which help stave off diseases like cancer and diabetes. The vitamin K in butter works with its vitamin D to promote stronger bones and muscles. Take all three – vitamins A, D, and K – and you get a better chance at having healthier teeth with fewer cavities.
The fat in butter is good for you, too. In fact, after reading the articles linked above, it looks like Dr. Atkins was right after all about the benefits of fats and proteins versus carbohydrates. The latest research hints that we might be able to enjoy our bacon, steak, and eggs quite literally to our heart’s content – and we can cook or spread it all with butter as we go!
In the Midwest, we have long known that butter is a very good thing. We build monuments to the source of its goodness at our State Fairs. The first butter cow went on display at the Ohio State Fair in 1903. Iowa displayed its first State Fair butter cow in 1911.
For the 2016 Ohio State Fair, the butter display included a salute to the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Iowa State Fair went with a tribute to the original Star Trek series – you might recall that Capt. James T. Kirk hails from the state.
Iowa really indulges their butter sculptors. Last year’s display was a tribute to the Monopoly game. Previous years have included the Peanuts characters, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Abraham Lincoln, and a full reproduction of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
You may be wondering how much butter goes into a butter cow. The Iowa State Fair butter cow weighs in at 600 pounds. That’s a bit less than her real life counterpart at half a ton, and represents about 2,400 standard sticks of golden, buttery goodness.
While we’ve come to a mention of butter in its most familiar form, let’s look at how much butter is in a stick.
The standard package of butter in your grocery store weighs one pound and contains four sticks. Each stick, then, weights a quarter of a pound.
When you need to measure out a half cup or less of butter, leave the stick in its wrapper. Look along the side of that handy piece of paper. It shows you where to cut to get the right amount of teaspoons, tablespoons, a quarter cup, and how to get to a third cup.
When you want two tablespoons to brown the rice and vermicelli mix for Rice-a-Roni, cut off two sections at the larger lines, at the bottom as the wrapper reads. How convenient is that?
Do you need a quarter cup for a recipe? The wrapper tells you that four tablespoons equal a quarter cup, so you cut at the fourth of the bigger sections at the bottom.
That’s right in the middle of the stick, too, since a whole and entire stick of butter measures out at exactly one half cup.
It is as easy as can be. One stick of butter is equal to a half cup, two sticks is one cup, three sticks is a cup and a half, and a full pound in four sticks of butter nets two cups.
Pats and Curls
Want to impress your guests at the next holiday or special occasion dinner? Serve up rich, pure butter in pats, curls, and molds.
Working with softened butter – not totally soft or melted but softened – individual serving sizes of butter can be presented to guests in lovely shapes. Pick up a sheet of candy molds, a butter curler or a set of butter paddles and you are on your way. It is a task that school age children can help with after only a few minutes of instruction.
Not only is it an attractive added touch, but do you remember how the butter dish (or, spread tub) looked by the time it got to you at Thanksgiving dinner last year? It is more convenient for guests plus cleaner overall to either place two or three molded pats or curls on each person’s bread plate, or to pass around a bowl of shaped butter that people can pick up with tongs.
Butter Do’s and Don’ts
There are lots of good things we can do with butter in cooking and around the house, and as hard as it is to imagine, there are a couple things one should not do with butter, so we do have a “Don’t” section.
- Slather it on your bread, roll, or baked potato.
- Fried eggs should always be cooked in real butter. Always. Never make an exception.
- Melt a stick of butter and pour it into your microwave popcorn bag.
- Try drawn butter instead of cocktail sauce with your cooked and chilled shrimp.
- Substitute an equal amount of melted butter for oil in your cake recipe.
- Use it to get the sticky off – when you have hot glue from crafting on your fingers, hot wax from shaping your eyebrows on the counter, even gum in your hair will work itself out with the help of some butter.
- Always and only use real butter in your cookies. If a recipe calls for half butter and half shortening, go with that, but never, ever use spread or margarine in place of the butter.
- Toss pasta in butter after draining to add a flavor boost plus keep noodles from sticking together.
- Un-stick a ring from your finger with a little bit of the golden glee.
- Fish for dinner? Got that fishy smell on your hands? Rub a little butter all over them and then wash with warm, soapy water as usual.
- Cook your next steak in butter.
- Then, put more butter on your steak when it’s on your plate.
- Rub it on ink. When you have ink stains on a surface like your table or counter top, rub a little butter into it. Once dried, wash with warm soap and water.
- Having trouble swallowing a big pill? Coat it lightly with butter and it will slide down.
Butter has great moisturizing qualities, and does wonders to help brown a main course, but it should never, ever be used as a handy substitute for sun tan oil.
Also, do not be slow in returning to delicious, nutritious, and versatile butter for all your cooking needs. There are few recipes it doesn’t make better, from cookies to corn to steak. Stop buying all those plastic tubs of something called spread and pick up a pretty butter dish for goodness of real, pure dairy. There’s no way around it — you’ll be glad you did. And come back here to share all the things you’re doing with butter in your recipes once you’re back to using it. Thanks for reading!