Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cassoulet, baby

Here's a delish dish for you to try anyday!  I made a variation of this one and the fam liked it.  The Big Kid and I loved it, the middle kids gobbled it up once they learned they'd get a cookie when their (modest) serving was done.  The Man ate it.  The littlest one ate the carrots most enthusiatically. 

The finished product.

I am no expert at using dried beans, though I try and I try and I try.  They just aren't as soft as I'd like.  When I make baked beans, I'd like them to mush more than I can get them to.  For this recipe, I did use dried beans again and prepared them as per the directions on the back.  I used the quick method because the dish was a last-minute decision.  Well, I was preparing lunch at 8:30am so I guess it wasn't that last-minute, was it?  Anyhoo, no canned cannelini nor white kidney in the house so I used a bag of Bella Tavola Great Northern.  Leftover prepared beans will be used in a white bean dip.
Cassoulet cooking in the pot.

I used a regular white onion in place of the leeks as that was what I had.  That's the only substitution I made and the dish was great!
Cassoulet ingredients before...
... and after.  RRRRarrr
(that`s onion, carrot, celery and garlic)

I will be making this fancy-named meal again, it was easy and nourishing.  I bet it freezes well and could be put in lunches and appreciated.  Today's version was very simple and clean-looking though I'm sure you could throw just about anything at it and it'd be good.  Traditionally, a cassoulet has meat in it, duck and mutton.  Mine did not and probably won't ever, only time will tell on that one.
The most enjoyable part of the dish was making the garlic confit!  It smelled wonderful in the house and the garlic and oil will be enjoyed a few more times before it's all done.  I envision it drizzled on mashed or baked potatoes, splashed into soups, or on a plate to dip bread into.  Action verbs, yeah!
I want you to meet my friend, garlic.


Despite the fact that the recipe that inspired me originally does have all the instructions to make the garlic confit, I saw that a favourite chef of mine and author of a cookbook that I own also has an explanation online so I'm linking to it here.  Stefano Faita is wonderful, you may have caught him on Kampaï hosted by Mitsou?  "Bye, bye, mon cowboy."?  No?  Well, maybe you should check it out - great show, very informative and funny too.  He's not hard on the eyes and neither is Mitsou, so both The Man and I enjoyed watching this show together... back when we had a TV... and time to prioritize the TV... and the option to watch when the show was actually on... sigh.

So, here we go.

Easy Cassoulet
Adapted from The Allergic Kid

2 cans, 15 oz, white beans, such as Great Northern or Cannelini or white kidney
2 Tbsp olive oil from the garlic confit
2 onions, sliced and roughly chopped
5 carrots, diced roughly
3 stalks of celery roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic from confit, more or less to taste
1 Tbsp dried, whole rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp liquid chicken bouillon, or veggie
S&P to taste
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Briefly sauté veggies and garlic, then add 5 cups water, beans, rosemary and bay leaf.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Garlic Confit
1 head of garlic, broken apart and peeled
enough EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to cover the garlic
- use the smallest pot you have that will accomodate the garlic.  Cover with EVOO and heat on medium low heat.  Once oil is very warm or hot-looking (mere minutes) turn it down to very low and simmer for 1 hour until garlic is brown.  OH MY...  There is an oven method for this as well.


My garlic simmering with dried, whole rosemary.  Next time, I`ll do more garlic at once.

** in a hurry? Simmer for less time, just to heat and cook the vegetables to your desired doneness.

** making this a second or third time?  Use more or less garlic and water to your desired taste.  Add different vegetables that you like to make it your own.  Try a can of diced tomatoes.  Chop a fresh tomato or two.  Let me know how that goes and what you tried.
Man, you could give this stuff away as gifts!

This can be a vegan recipe easily, it`s high protein and low fat (you can use less oil than in the recipe above).  It can be very economical.  It can be doubled for a big batch.  It can be coddled in a big mug on a cold winter day.  It seems versatile to me and one I`m going to keep in my repetoire.

1,000 VIEWS

At the moment that I write this, I've had 1,030 views since Day 1.  That excites me and I have all of YOU to thank!

Share with your friends, use my blog as a food and recipe reference and ask me questions.  I take suggestions as well.

Notice how even the photography has developed up to now?  I'm working on it.  I'm also finding my groove and soon I'll find my purpose.

Thank you, thank you!  More to come.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Clubhouse sandwiches, zero soup and homemade wedges

This was our supper tonight.  For the first time in a while, the table was busy because we couldn't keep enough food on the three wee ones' plates.  Usually it's busy because the middle two keep running away.  It was a refreshing change that we didn't complain about.

This is the stuff magic is made of!

I took apart a store-bought rotisserie chicken, sliced tomatoes, a cucumber, and cheese and separated lettuce leaves a bit earlier in the afternoon to prepare.  The bacon was cooked at breakfast time.  The Big Kid was in charge of the toast.  I assembled the clubhouse sandwiches (I really wanted to link to more exciting information about clubhouse sandwiches than Wikipedia, but it was all I found.).

Assembled clubhouse sandwich.
The oven wedges are so good! My whole family likes them.  I'm sorry I have to admit I like them with real mayo (I use Hellman's brand) in a very French way I learned in Montréal.  Ahhh, some habits are hard to break; fries and mayo is one of them.


Plated with wedges.  Miam miam!
The soup is a Weight Watchers recipe I found a while back (I've never been a member though).  It is chock full of vegetables.  Tonight, in a rare move, I made just enough soup for supper and no extras.  Tomorrow is an Avery's run to stock up on veggies so today I was running low.  I put whatever vegetables I have on-hand in this soup.  This time, I added a generous dash of Italian seasoning for a change.  This soup freezes well and is good packed in lunches on a cold day.


Zero soup.
The father was overheard saying "Man, she'd do anything for bacon!"  Referring to his "eat this, get bacon" deal he was making with her.  Who wouldn't?!

Clubhouse sandwich
makes 1
3 slices toast
Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
mustard
3 oz cooked, shredded chicken meat
2 slices tomato
2 slices cheddar

slices cooked bacon (slighly crispy)
lettuce leaves
- toast, mayo, mustard, chicken, toast, mayo, cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce

Roasted Potato Wedges
from Canandian Living Make it Tonight
makes enough for 4 servings
2 lb potatoes, about 4
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp gr cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
- wash and prick potatoes, microwave according to your machines directions.  Mine took 12 minutes for all 4 together.
- cut into wedges, toss with oil and spices
- spread on greased sheet in single layer
- 450F for 20 minutes, flip once


This would also be a good place to make some coleslaw.

Apples

I have a lot of Cortland apples right now, I smell an apple post soon!

What do you like to do with apples?

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Banana Bread

Let's talk the comfort food that is banana bread.  Oh, warm banana bread smothered in real, salty butter. Oh, tiny chunk of heaven. 

Great travel food for road trips (guess that's why Irving still bakes it), well appreciated at brunches, a wonderful breakfast and snack food.  The all-round winner. 

My Mum handed a great recipe to me for banana bread many trips around the sun ago and I still use the exact same recipe card today.  There are no whole grains in it.  Most of the time, I make substitutes to make it healthier but sometimes I just want a hug and this'll do it for me.  Yep, I'm an emotional eater.  And an emotional baker.  I don't cry while I bake, but when I'm excited about some big event (and sometimes it's just an event, like a friend coming over that I see every week, that's enough of a reason for me) I whip out the recipes and flours and sugars.  There's just something there for me.

In the following recipe, feel free to sub out half the oil with applesauce or plain yogurt.  Feel free to cut back on a third of the sugar completely.  Always use very ripe bananas, you need the sweetness from them (I throw one random banana gone brown into the freezer until I have enough to bake with, let thaw, peel and proceed with baking.)

Mum's Banana Bread
September '97
1/4 cup oil or butter, melted
2 eggs
1 lb bananas, mashed (3 or 4)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
chocolate chips (optional)
- mix wet, mix dry, combine only to moisten dry ingredients.
- grease pan, bake at 350F 40-50 minutes

A note on my recipe card (yep, I make notes almost every time in my cookbooks too) says that in August '05 I added 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/4 cup wheat germ and 1/2 cup of raisins to a batch.  That sounds yummy too!

Tell me where you take this recipe!  Who do you share it with?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Blueberry muffins (muffin base)

This is the first recipe I baked with my middle daughter, one of "the twins".  She was 2.8 years old and wanted to work with me in the kitchen.  I have "issues" with messes but nontheless agreed right away.  We had a good time together, I did not get stressed out and she didn't push my boundaries.  We actually had a good time. 

Normally, the kitchen is very much my territory.  I let you in to help me when I've given you very specific tasks to do, you do it and get out.

This was fun and pleasant and I felt good about it.  She was so proud to say these were her muffins!  That was the big reward for me!

I would say these are a great muffin that could be switched around to make a few other kinds.  Add about 1/4 cup peanut butter to the batter, and / or throw in some chocolate chips and you can use any frozen fruit you prefer. 

The muffins were light and fluffy and baked up nice and tall so they looked good too.  I'd say you could sell these in a bake sale no problem.

The original recipe has a yummy streusel topping that you can put on to bring these to a brunch or an outdoor gathering like a picnic, but I find it messy in the house.

Blueberry Muffins
from Canadian Living
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 Tbsp vinegar and top with milk to equal 1 cup, let sit a minute or two)
1/4 cup butter, melted (or applesauce, just as good)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (don't thaw them, just throw them in right at the end so they don't colour your muffins)
- mix dry, mix wet.  Combine only to moisten the dry ingredients.  Add berries to the last couple of stirs.
- greased or paper-lined muffin cups, fill 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes at 375F.
- be sure to take all muffins and loaves (bread especially) out of the pan as soon as you can.  It'll keep a nice crispy crust and they won't get all mushy.  Take this lesson with your for all your muffins and loaves.  (Cakes are different, they need to cool completely so they don't break when you handle them.)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Pumpkin muffins

Here is a blog from a friend of a friend of mine.  While I have yet to visit her restaurant in the Valley, I can assume it's fantastic from her recipes. 

I've been following her blog for a few years now and have found results to be consistent and recipes very reliable - I like that in a source.  I know if I try something it'll work!

Here are some pumpkin muffins I made from this recipe.  I did not have a full can but rather a half can of pumpking purée to use up so I made 18 muffins or cupcakes.  I served these without the brown butter glaze as I had no butter in the house at that moment.  I did make a cinnamon icing and it was delish.

Simple Pumpkin Muffins
just a smaller quantity than the recipe on her blog
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin (or 1/2 large can)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking pwdr
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 12 cup muffin tin (or use paper liners). In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the pumpkin and whisk to combine well. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and whisk just until combined. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan.  Drizzle with cinnamon icing.

Cinnamon Icing
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)
- mix up and drizzle on muffins, waffles, pancakes, scones...

Monday, 20 February 2012

And the winner is...

Aunt Maureen! 

Honestly, the odds were in her favour as she did have the most entries!

Yay Aunt Maureen!  We'll figure something out soon.

In the meantime, Allyson, you can still come babysit my kids.  I won't mind.

Thanks for playing everyone!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Move more, eat less

There are many ebbs and flows and cycles I must listen to.  Some are daily, some occur weekly, bi-weekly and we all know about the monthly one.  There are also seasonal and even every-now-and-then ones.  Pregnancy is a cycle with phases not to be ignored.  We go through even bigger cycles of childhood, teenage-hood, young adulthood, less-than-young adulthood (which I think I'm in now), mature adulthood and then it's all downhill from there!  No, seriously, I'm not there and haven't been so therefore cannot pretend to have any idea what life is like in the stage after this one.
My clothes are just getting a little too tight.  The pattern seems to be that this occurs every few months.  I've been the same dress size (with the exception of actually being pregnant and a few months after that while things are evening themselves out again and I find my balance) since I was about 15 years old.  I've been a small and a big version of the same size.  I've trained to be a firefighter and remained in the same wardrobe, but believe me, they were loose and looking back through pictures, they looked really good on me.  I've been at the place where I am right now before too, where everything is just a little too tight and I don't like how I feel in my clothes.  I've been expecting this. 

For me, the answer is simple.  Move more, eat less.  Yes, for me it's as easy as that. 

So this week, I will walk every day.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 will sit in their "jogging" stroller and #4 will be strapped on my back.  They will be quiet.  They will sit still.  And they will enjoy it, dammit.  Truth be told, #4 will be asleep before I pass the neighbour's driveway and, if I time it right, Thing 1 and Thing 2 may even fall asleep so I won't have to deal with the dreaded naptime.  How I loathe thee, naptime.  Bedtime too is long and sometimes painful (for the adults), but that's an entirely different blog.

In my house, there are no "diets".  Diet is a term to describe what we eat, not an effort to lose weight.  I've never dieted in this sense, ever.  Perhaps that is why I am always the same size.  To eat less means two things.  I will have to eat less in general and I will have to eat less of the things I don't need (sugar and flour).  There will be no taking of remnants from my kids' plates (you know you do it), it's better off in the compost bin than in my body.  I will have a container of cut up raw veggies at the ready.  I will drink water. 

With the privelege of eating well comes the responsibility of moving my body.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Movin' on up

Milestones. 

Yesterday, I got 100 views exactly in one day.  My graph that shows me my views is now on a new scale, so the line is low but I'm okay with that. 

I now have 10 Followers.

Today, when I Googled "rana foodie", my blog came up 7th on the list where 24 hours ago it was not on the first page of results nor the second.

Yep, I'm movin' on up.

Do I have goals for this project?  Why am I here?  Why do you read it?  Where is it going?

Funny thing about this.  I've wondered if there is a reason; as if perhaps some kind of big change was coming.  Maybe, but it'll happen organically and I'm not going to push it or create something that's not meant to be.

Thanks for joining me on this ride, I'm really thrilled with it so far.

Friday, 17 February 2012

A giveaway!

For each comment you leave for the next 24 hours, your name goes into a hat (or a bag or something like that) for a draw to win! What you will win I do not know, the winner and I will work something out. You can comment on any post but each comment has to be unique (you can't cut and paste the same thing on every post).

Any questions? Start your engines. GO!

FFF (Fun Food Friday)

I try to plan a fun meal for the Friday supper.  I let the kids choose or prepare the meal.  Previously (before"the twins"), we had FFF (Family Fun Friday).  We'd eat a fun meal and play a game all evening or watch a movie with popcorn and snack food.  Well, "the twins" kinda put a kink in those plans.  Now that they are older we can start this tradition back up again.  It will be a welcome return.  We, the three older people in the family, are naturally game lovers.  The day we bought an old version of Monopoly, we played all day.  I won't exaggerate.  We played all day.  And it was sunny out.  And summertime.  I know!  Bad!  We had so much fun!  (The big kid giggles when he tells that story.)
Tonight, the big kid requested a seven layer dip and I obliged.  I did not get a picture, my apologies.  I'm still not used to photographing my food, it's unnatural for me. 

I layered it on each person's plate to serve to them, I don't trust the middle kids to be social dippers and refrain from double-dipping and whatever else almost-three-year-olds do to their food.  I served it with store-bought nacho chips with cheese melted on them.

Big kid's FFF layer dip
1.  Heat and mash a can of beans (I used romano, you can use pinto or black beans or whatever, I think) and mix with some taco seasoning mix and enough water to keep it dippable (about a half a cup).  Plop on plate or spread it out on one nice serving dish.
2.  Mix half a package of cream cheese with 125ml (half a small container) of sour cream.  Spread over bean layer.
3.  Chop up some peppers (red or green or both), a tomato and iceberg lettuce.  Sprinkle generously on top.
4.  Grate about a cup of cheddar cheese and sprikle on top.
5.  Serve with nacho chips, homemade or store-bought or a fork.

What are some of your fun foods?  How do you like to spend your family fun nights?  I'd love to hear about them.

Evan's Fresh Seafoods & Restaurant

Strolling through the Farmer's Market location at Alderney Landing this evening, we happened upon a new-to-us vendor called Evan's Fresh Seafoods & Restaurant (I confess it has been a while since we`ve been to the Dartmouth Market, I can`t say how long they`ve been there but they looked settled).  My eldest son asked for a glass of water which was served to him from a glass bottle with a reusable plastic cork, reminiscient of an old milk bottle, he thought that was great!  He got to chatting with the two girls behind the counter and when I came up, they were conversing in French.  He thought that was great too!  Turns out, Joline had recently moved here from Montréal to run / work at her father's restaurant, Evan's with her sister Jocelyne! 


I copied this straight off their FB page, I hope that\s cool.
That`s Joline d'Entremont and Oussama Ait Oumenni.

Before we left, he ordered some fries to go and this decision resulted in finding the second best fries I've ever had in HRM.  I think that's great!

They had a nice display of fridges with various fishes for sale.  The menu looks good - I like a place with a limited menu, usually you can count on them to be good at what they do.  In this case, you order fish.  Don`t go looking for a hamburger from a fish place, they`re good at fish.  SOLD!

Their website is a work in progress, for now they are keeping their Faceook page up to date.  Actually, pictures of them are up there, check it out.  In fact, go eat there.  Their fishcakes looked delish (I saw them on someone else's plate), the fries WERE delish.

According to the menu posted, you could go for breakfast Saturday!  Fishcakes for breakfast!  Yum!

Kitchen organizing 1

I love an organized kitchen.  I love an organized anything.  My kitchen is not organized, but some cupboards and shelves are.  Since I've been buying more and more in bulk, I need somewhere to put it when I get home.  Enter glass bottles.  Ahhhh, calm and pretty.

Here are two of my shelves that are working for me.  I'm not showing you my whole kitchen, just the good parts!

 Love bottles, love baskets.  Here's a bit of both.

Love my larder from Lee Valley.  I love my handy Man who built my whole kitchen from scratch to my specifications!

Nuts, lentils, corn meal, raisins, chocolate chips and carob chips, oats, rice, quinoa, barley; OH MY!  Sunflower seeds, popping corn, sugars, flours, pumpkin seeds, figs, spice mixes, honey, pasta...

Some are in 250ml Mason or Bernardin bottles, some are 500ml, and right on up to 4L bottles that I got by special request from my Nanny.  Now, SHE's organized.

Want to share some of your systems that work for you?  How about what you'd like to do in your dream kitchen?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Supper tonight? BURGERS!

Why not make hamburgers for supper tonight?  Here is a great recipe I adapted from a Canadian Living recipe for Best Burger that I found in my cookbook by them called Make It Tonight.  Great collection of recipes broken down in sections based on how long from idea to plate, fewest ingredients, in one pot, slow cooker, to freeze, BBQ, for company and a few other sections.  I recommend it as a good, little starter cookbook.


I have an aunt that makes all her bread products, she has left a comment in the Bread post.  I have, too, made hamburger buns that got rave reviews.

I like a messy burger.  Not a neat and tidy "date" burger, but rather one that drips and oozes down my fingers and onto my plate (if I'm lucky it'll miss my shirt).  I top mine with whatever I can find: mayo, ketchup, mustard, relish, barbeque sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion and BACON.  Many people like cheese on them too, but not me.


Here's a picture of my burger, fully loaded; it was so good!

This burger rivals a burger at my local joint, the Mic Mac Bar and Grill.  They serve great food, particularly steaks (get the fried onions) and french fries.  I love the crispy bits of fries, truly love.  (I think my priorities are skewed just a bit...)

Rana's Best Burger (it's okay if you call it that, I don't mind)
adapted from Canadian Living
1 egg
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 small onion, grated or food processor'ed
1 clove garlic, minced, pressed or food processor'ed
1/2 tsp each S&P (I used kosher salt)
1 lb ground beef, pork, or turkey
- mix water and egg, add all remaining ingredients.  Mix by hand, with your hands or in your stand mixer.  Mix well, a few minutes.
- shape into patties and grill right away, refrigerate up to 24 hours, or freeze up to 1 month well-wrapped.
- cook to internal temperature of 160F, about 15 minutes (turn once during cooking) (mine were thin patties and only needed 8 minutes, just don't leave them alone on the BBQ)

I double and triple this recipe and cook some to eat now, some get cooked and frozen for quick lunches and some patties are frozen raw for later.  We BBQ year-round at our house, MIAM!

What, if anything, do you add to your beef when you make hamburgers?  What do you love to put on your burger?  What do you miss most about summer?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Crêpes

Tomorrow morning, we will have crêpes.  It's one of our regular breakfasts on rotation.  It's one everyone enjoys to varying degrees (like every other meal) from like to really like to get-excited-and-go-to-sleep-with-a-smile-on-knowing-it's-on-the-menu-tomorrow like.

We've had lots of success finding recipes for cake-like molasses cookies, carrot cake and crêpes on this site.  The success lies in knowing what you're looking for and finding it.  My Man is French Canadian and each time we've made the three recipes I just mentioned from this site, he said they were like how he remembered them from when he was a kid.  I make a great carrot cake with a cream cheese icing, but I grew up adding pineapple, nuts and coconut to the batter.  For him, a carrot cake had carrots in it and that's it.  Huh, who'da thunk?  One of his favourite cookies I make is a molasses cookie recipe from my Nanny (I've mentioned her before and I've a lot more to say about her, she's the bomb).  But, it's not a fluffy, squishy cookie like from his childhood.  One day, he went looking for something to make - himself.  He stumbled on this site and looked up "mélasse" and made a batch of the highest rated cookie and they were really, really good.  I don't make them, but he does whenever he wants them.  He still asks for my cookies, but they're two very different cookies, both good.

Ah, back to the crêpes.  These are not pancakes.  These are real crêpes like his father used to make (my Man is the baby of six kids - six!) for his family.  I never had a crêpe recipe in my repetoire before a couple of years ago.  Sure, I made Crêpes Suzette a few times for my parents' bridge group (is this an accurate memory or a mix of a few events?).  They were good, but they were dessert.
Here is the recipe we use regularly (in English, just in case you don't speak French). 

Crêpes
1 cup flour
dash salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
- whisk together really well to very smooth (best if ingredients are at room temperature to start)
- let rest as long as you can, mere minutes or up to an hour.  I put this in the fridge overnight and take it out as early as I can to let it warm up a bit, whisk it again.
- heat the pan up (I use 4.5 on 10 on my burner), lightly coat bottom of your pan with light-tasting oil
- drop about 1/3 cup batter in the middle and swirl the pan to spread it out thin
- in about 30 seconds, the top should be dry and the bottom a light brown, carefully turn over and cook a few more seconds to light brown.
- repeat, serve as you cook them or stack them in a covered container in a warm oven so you can enjoy with your family at the same time.
This recipe doubles and triples really well.  Store the leftovers in the fridge tightly sealed or freeze.

TOPPINGS: table syrup, maple syrup are obvious ones.
- roll it up and squeeze a lemon on top, dust with icing sugar
- spread peanut butter, with or without a banana, a light sprinkle of brown sugar or a drizzle of syrup, roll and eat like a cigar.
- your Nanny's jam with or without whipped cream
- Nutella or chocolate icing, though it's hard to justify this as breakfast, it does make a wonderful snack if you have any crêpes leftover.
- fruit, of course!

What would you / have you put on your crêpes?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sauce day

Not everything we eat around here is sweet or contains flour.  Approximately three times a day, every day, we all sit down to a meal.  We eat together at our house.  The exceptions are, of course, when you are at school or work.  Otherwise, we do all eat together.  It's just not optional.  Everyone helps out to set the table and clear it.  The rules are that you stay at the table, in / on your chair.  You don't have to eat but you can't leave until we're done.  You'd think that would be simple enough and it worked really well when there was just one kid, but with two toddlers in the house, that's hard to insist on.  The baby still gets strapped into her highchair so she doesn't wander yet.

Every once in a while, I have a sauce day!  Usually this takes place the day of or the day after a big grocery run to the local farm market for fresh veggies.  I come home with my treasures and I love to take the time right then and there to chop many of the veggies up to prep for the week's menu.  While I'm at it, I make SAUCE. 

Here is the pot with the first round of hardy vegetables in it to soften.

Just about anything goes into it and I use it to make spaghetti sauce, chili and lasagna.  We eat one meal right away and just about everything else gets frozen for future meals.

I'll try to get a recipe here, but this is the only thing I make that I don't use a recipe for!  I follow a recipe religiously, very little variation, once I find something that works.  But for sauce, there just aren't any rules!  It's different every time and we always love it - it's even better the next day.

This is not such a pretty picture, but you see the browned beef and black beans on top of the vegetables.

Here goes!  My apologies for the vagueness of the quantities, that's how this recipe rolls.

Spaghetti sauce for a small army (or to freeze)
a few onions, small dice
a head of garlic, crushed a roughly chopped
about a pound of carrots, peeled and small dice
a couple of parsnips, peeled and small dice
a sweet potato, peeled and small dice
half a bunch of celery, very small dice
one bunch of broccoli, small dice including the stalk
one red, one green, one orange or yellow pepper, small dice
one zucchini, small dice
a few mushrooms, very small dice (to hide them)
whatever else you have in the fridge, freezer, pantry (spinach)
- soften the first few, tougher veggies in a pot with a spot of oil and a little water for a few minutes.
- add all the veggies and stir a bit, I salt and pepper (S&P) here
- in another pot, I have browned 1 pound of ground beef and added 1 19 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed and slightly mashed (I may also add a pkg of firm tofu broken up real small if I have any in the house, it lends itself nicely to sauce taking on all the flavours and adding a high quality protein, calcium and iron and is relatively inexpensive for its nutritional value).
- dump in any italian seasoning mix you like, store-bought or made by your Nanny.  Taste.  Season.

I had to move into a bigger pot!

Now I add all my tomatoey stuff.  Cans of crushed tomotoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste (taste and add a tablespoon of sugar if you need to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.)

Simmer for a couple of hours and serve this as spaghetti sauce.  Freeze a meal or two worth for another day.

NEXT STEP, take about 3+ cups of it and set it aside for a lasagna.

TO THE SAUCE remaining in the pot, add some cumin (how much depends on how much sauce is left and how much your family likes cumin), dump in some frozen corn and a can or two of beans, drained and rinsed.  Traditionally, you would add red kidney beans but did you know white kidney beans have more iron in them than red?  Go ahead, check the side of the can.  Huh!  Voilà, CHILI!  Fridge or freezer for another meal!  Serve this with a side of cornbread and a salad or in tortillas.

CHILI!

NOW FOR THE LASAGNA!  Have at the ready a 9 x 13 (or whatever size pan you want) lined with tin foil and sprayed with oil.  I use ready-to-bake noodles for convenience, read the box that you have and prepare your noodles if you have to. 

I make my own ricotta but you can buy some if you like.  I add an egg and a squirt of prepared basil to 2 cups ricotta.  I also like to add a can or frozen (and thawed) package of spinach to this layer.  S&P.  Mix it up, set aside.


Grate about 2 cups of cheese, mozza or cheddar or mix them.  We're weak in our house and don't go beyond a medium cheddar, but feel free to experiment here to your taste.  Set aside.

Assembly, 3/4 c sauce in pan, spread it out thin.
Noodles.
Sauce.
Noodles.
Ricotta layer.  1/2 your grated cheese.
Noodles.
Sauce.
Repeat until sauce is used up, noodles are used up or you run out of room in your pan.
End with grated cheese.

Freeze unbaked (then bake frozen at 375 for at least an hour covered until centre is hot, uncover about 15 minutes to brown cheese) or bake now 375 for 30-45 minutes covered until centre is hot, uncover about 15 minutes to brown cheese.  Make up some garlic bread and a salad and holy moly invite some friends over for supper!  Tell them to bring the wine or dessert!

 
Finished lasagna before baking.

This is quite an afternoon of chopping and doing dishes.  It cannot be accomplished in my house with my family around so I normally as The Man to take the kids away for a few hours.  Frankly, I don't care too much where they go, just go.  I do miss them but this gives me more time with them the days I don't have to cook so it's worth it for me.  I am nowhere near Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) and don't strive to, but there are some great ideas for freezer meals to explore. (I wanted to put a link here but all I could find quickly were people wanting to sell you OAMC menus and such and I didn't want to push that on you.  Geez, I'll get a link here soon for you though, I've seen some great ideas for free.)

Do you have any ideas for me for big batch cooking?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Best brownie (and a secret to success)

Here we go!  This is the best brownie recipe I've ever made.  Honestly.  You can ask all the people whose lips have been graced with this magic and they'll agree with me. 

Now there you go, you can see the ooey, gooey center here with the just-baked-enough outside. 
Drool.

How's that?  Convinced yet? 
Oh, now THAT's a good representation of what you're getting into here -
trouble, that's what!

Drooling? 
Uh-huh, I thought so.

(this is a very early picture, before I had the faintest idea what to do with my camera)

First, the recipe, then some tips and a secret.

Fry's Fudgey Brownies
taken right off the side of the cocoa box
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup fry's cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- sift dry ingredients
- in big pot, melt butter.  Stir in cocoa, stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add dry ingredients to wet.
- pour into greased 9" x 9" pan
- 350, 25 - 30 minutes
TIPS - I've worked with this recipe quite a bit and here are a few things I've worked out for you so it can be perfect your first time.  Don't misunderstand, this is an easy, fail-proof recipe, but it can be awesome.
1) SIFT the cocoa into the melted butter
2) use butter
3) use good quality vanilla, the best you can afford
4) use happy chickens' eggs if you can afford them or have a neighbour that raises them or a farm friend
5) any ingredient that you use that is organic seems to make a difference or fairly traded
6) this is a full-fat, not-every-week recipe; that said, you can sub margarine or half applesauce for the butter, you can use two egg whites for each egg and you can sub half the sugar for honey if you wish and you can use whole wheat flour.  All these changes work, I've done them, but they do affect the end result.  None are bad, just different.
7) add-ins, you can add anything you like to this recipe.  After all these years, I still prefer them "virgin" but my gosh, go crazy with the chocolate chips, marshmallows, walnuts, peanuts, globs of peanut butter, chopped dates - maybe just not all at once!  I've double the volume of the batter with add-ins and it still bakes up just fine.
8) UNDERBAKE.  Just when the edges are set and the middle in not set (if you were to check with a toothpick it'd be like batter).  You know it!  That's delectable.  You will learn your own tolerance level of underbaked-ness as you practice this recipe.  In my oven, that's 27 minutes most of the time, I check every time like it's the first time.  Can be made in a 9" x 13" but keep an eye on the time, don't overcook the edges and in this size pan you don't get as much gooey middle.
9) these freeze really well.  Make ahead for a special event.  These are really good right out of the freezer so that's not very useful in terms of self-control.

And here's what you've been waiting for, the SECRET!  After you've added the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the butter and cocoa, whisk it a lot.  That's the secret to getting a nice, crispy layer on the top.  I think it's dissolving the sugar and perhaps that is forming the crust, in any case, whisk the wet a lot, like for a whole minute or two (your arm will get warm with the exertion, keep going). 

Shhhhhh, you may only share this secret if you have made it and tried it.

Want to lower the fat?  YOU CAN!  Sub half the butter for applesauce.  OR sub all the butter for half applesauce and half yogurt.  Sub 2 mashed bananas for 2 of the eggs.

Serve as is, with a dusting of icing sugar, a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream, a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream or a buttery, chocolatey frosting like this one:
Fry's Fudgy Icing
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 c cocoa
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 c milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla
- mix butter and cocoa well, alternate adding the icing sugar and milk.  Add vanilla.

If you just want one brownie and you want it NOW, check out this big single serving Brownie In A Mug, you won't be sorry.

Here's a recipe using half this Fry's recipe with a graham crust base and roasted marshmallows on top- S'more Brownies.

No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Corn Flake Bars

Just a quick fix, had a craving and a bit of cereal.  No pics.

No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Corn Flake Bars
  • 3 cups corn flakes , crushed a bit
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter (or smooth)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips

  1. Heat peanut butter, sugar and corn syrup over low heat to melt. Stir in cereal.
  2. Pat into a 8x8 lightly greased pan. (I line my pan with foil and then lightly spray it. When it is time to cut them, the foil lifts right out.).
  3. Melt chocolate chips over low heat or in the microwave and spread over top. Cool until firm.
** I used mostly Rice Krispies, that's what I had.  Worked just as well.  I might add in raisins next time, I just like the sweet chewiness they add.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Chocolate cookies

Wow! 

I have very little else to say about these cookies except:

Wow.

The dough was a treat all by itself.  Then, I baked them as directed.

Wow again.

Here is my picture, but hers are much better.



Hot Chocolate Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose (120g)
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • packed 1/4 cup pitted dates (45g)
  • scant 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (170g)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 T unrefined coconut oil
In a food processor, blend first five ingredients until dates are finely pulverized. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, oil, and 3/4 c of the chocolate chips. Melt (I microwaved 1 minute, then stirred). Pour the dry ingredients, as well as the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, into the wet. Stir until evenly mixed, making sure to break up any big clumps. It’ll seem dry at first, but keep stirring until it all looks dark and shiny. Bake at 355 F for 7-8 minutes. (Take out when still undercooked, as these continue to cook as they cool.) 

Wow.

EDIT: Well, it turns out not everyone thinks these cookies are as mind-blowing as I.  My kids love them and I love them, what else is there to say.  I hope you do too!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Peanut butter oat bran cookies

These cookies have travelled 1,870 kilometres.  They're THAT good.  Well, really I just missed a couple of friends that recently moved THAT far away and they just had a baby and I wanted to give them some Rana-lovin', if you know what I mean.  So, I shipped them some love-in-a-box.  They got a batch of these and some of my bestest brownies ever (which I just realized I haven't posted the post for yet, yikes, that's an important one!  I have made these brownies, like, a million times and this just happened to be the best batch ever and it went to them, I'm so happy about that.)

I didn't get a picture of them, but they were beautiful.  The dough rolled wonderfully into little balls that spread into perfect little circles.  Awwww.  These cookies don't spread much on the pan, so you can put them a bit close to each other and maximize your oven time.

You have been warned though: this is an AWESOME dough, make it just to eat the dough, maybe push a few chocolate chips in there, completely, utterly addictive (or just don't taste it, that's safe too, abstinence - yeah, right!).  I used half butter, half applesauce.  Next time I'll replace 1/3 cup of the flour with a mix of flax meal and wheat germ.  You could press a thumbprint and drop of Nanny's jam or any superior quality jam you have in your house.  Other add-ins to try include raisins, sunflower seeds, chocolate or carob chips.

Peanut Butter Oat Bran Cookies
½ cup margarine , melted
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 eggs or 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups oat bran
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
 
- oven to 350F
- mix melted butter/applesauce with sugars
- add egg, mix well
- stir in PB and vanilla, beat to smooth
- add remaining ingredients, mix well
- roll in tablespoon balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet
- bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown

EDIT: by the way, I didn't think these cookies were anything special once they cooled, but AFTER FREEZING they were great, bordering on awesome.  They also made a great stand-in for a graham wafer crust for a chocolate pie (more on that later, too),

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

I'm asking you a question today

I recently wrote to a friend of mine who "eats clean", that's her goal.  Interesting term, because honestly, I know I don't eat clean.  I've been dabbling in vegan recipes more and more and want to know if I should invest in and what, if any, are the benefits of xylitol, agave, stevia (and drops of vanilla stevia), even reducing or eliminating gluten.  I have a pretty standard, grocery store pantry and wonder if these products would be a great idea.  We have no food allergies, or sensitivites that we know of.  I have two boys that are active, but then how much do I chalk up to them being boys and at what point do I want to modify their diet to help them feel calmer?  I bake often and often wonder if I'm making the right choices for my family.  I already eat little processed foods and very little take-out foods, I make a lot from scratch.  I'm certainly not hard-core healthy in my choices and I would like to do what I can to keep deiseases like diabetes at bay (there is no history in my family yet).  I do still have to feed six hungry, growing mouths and on one income.  I always wonder where the balance is that if I was using better-quality ingredients, would we eat less volume thereby freeing up money that can be spent on each ingredient.  We don't eat organically often.  What are your thoughts and where would I start? What's the best bang for my buck - where will I make the greatest impact?

While you ponder your response, make these cookies and eat them for breakfast or snack. (I realize the recipe looks scary, but it IS just a cookie recipe and so very, very good. There's no extra work here, just a lengthy description of some of the ingredients. Tahini is sesame paste you buy in your grocery store in the ethnic food section, you may know it as a main component of hummus, yeah baby!) More on tahini here. My Mum likes it on toast.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
inspired by UrbanVeganista's site
my notes are in green
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup Mesquite flour* I did not use, but mixed flax meal, wheat germ and oat bran
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, rounded
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup xylitol ** I used white sugar, sorry Veganista
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar ***
  • egg replacer – equivalent of 2 eggs**** I used 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
* Mesquite flour is hard to find, at least in my corner of the world, but it completely changes the outcome of the recipe. The cookies are good without it but completely different. Mesquite is not only nutritious but gives a nice texture and unique flavour to the cookies. Mesquite and tahini make these very special cookies! Currently, the only source of mesquite flour I have is Navitas Naturals. It used to be available at the Bulk Barn and perhaps it still is available there in larger cities.  I have yet to try mequite, but have been shopping more and more at the Bulk Barn, so will look for it next time.
** I use xylitol because it kills me to use sugar. Xylitol is suppose to be much healthier (less calories, lower GI, good for your teeth, a natural not artificial sweetener). It is a sugar derived from birch bark and corn. Keep away from pets – they cannot digest it and a small amount can kill them!
***I am going to try to replace this with Coconut sugar which contains nutrients and is lower glycemic.
**** I use EnerG egg replacement powder because it is easy, works and is not messy. A flax or chia seed replacement would most likely work but may change the texture.
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Make egg-replacer and set aside.
3. Combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
4. Beat tahini and coconut oil with electric mixer, add sugar and beat, add egg replacer and beat, add vanilla and beat.
5. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir in evenly.
6. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
7. Form into balls and flatten slightly on baking sheet. Use wet hands. Also, you may want to chill the dough first to prevent spreading when cooking and to make the dough more manageable.
8. Bake for about 14 minutes. (It all depends on how soft you want to cookies.)

Thought of a comment for me yet?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Chocolate pancakes

Do you have breakfast planned for tomorrow?  I almost always know what's for eats the next day when I go to bed the night before.  I love to have a meal plan and like to grocery shop. 

We're going to start our day off with a hot cereal.  It'll be mostly oats, with whatever grains are in the house thrown in there.  Tomorrow, it'll be oatmeal porridge with oat bran, flax meal, wheat germ, natural bran, and cream of wheat.  We'll top it with brown sugar or syrup and a drop of milk.  Mmmmm.

For our snack, morning or afternoon, I'm going to make chocolate pancakes.  I've quadrupled the recipe here and added an egg for good measure.  I have received two thumbs up from the big kid and the middle kids were too busy eating to talk, that's an approval if I ever heard one!


These could be made fat-free if you wanted, just use two egg whites and stick with the applesauce. 


Brownie Batter Pancakes
quadrupled the measurements in the link
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup sugar (or a bit less)
dash salt
big 1/3 cup applesauce (or oil, I used applesauce)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup milk
- Sift dry in a medium bowl.  Mix wet well, add to dry, mixing only to wet the dry ingredients. 
-Drop onto greased, hot pan (so a drop of water will dance on the surface).  Wait until the edges dry a bit and the top is pretty much covered in bubbles.  Flip.  Eat.  With butter or syrup or a dusting of icing sugar or Nutella, whatever your vice is.
** I noticed I had to turn the burner a little lower than usual to keep them from browning too quickly - instead of cooking them at 4.5 (out of 10), I ended up at a straight 4.

Lazy Granola

One of my kids' favourite snacks remains yogurt, granola and stuff.  I love this recipe for Lazy Granola.  I've made it many times now and I love a few things about it.

I love how it smells in the house, but it's not so strong that I can't sleep (sometimes food smells do that to me, that's why I can't have a breadmachine to program so I wake up to fresh bread, the smell just rouses my senses and I can't sleep through it).  I like that it's bare naked and you make it what you want, the base of oats, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla are a perfect balance.  I like that it doesn't stick to the pan.  I like that it requires only 20 minutes of oven time and I can whip a batch up really close to the kids bedtime and it takes a minute to throw together.  I do wish that it stuck in little clumps just a bit more, if you can suggest how I might achieve that, please pass on your secret.  Feel free to suggest another recipe that works well for you, I like to experiment.

Lazy Granola
14 cups rolled oats
1 cup oil (I use coconut or butter)
1 cup of honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon (rounded for us)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Melt the honey and oil together, either in the microwave or on the stove. Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over the oats in a large, lightly greased, roaster pan, stir well, and place in the oven at 350 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes, stir, place back in the hot oven, close the door, turn off the heat and leave overnight.
Some of the things we've added so far are: coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, chopped walnuts, flax meal. 

We usually buy Astro 6% fat plain and unsweetened.  I drizzle maple syrup or honey on each serving to take the edge off, but I don't think the kids need it; when I forget, they don't mention it.
This granola works on yogourt, in a bowl with milk, or dry in a small container in a kid's lunch and let them dress it up so they'll eat it.

Edit: I've baked this for 40 minutes and it was much more crispy and light. I highly recommend it.

If you're not looking for a big batch, you can scale mine back easily or try this one.  It looks good too.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Cake balls

Cake balls are fun, easy to serve and easy to eat.  They are highly addictive, be warned.

I have made cake balls a few times and have always been pleased with the results.  I have always used my own cake and homemade frosting so I know the ingredients are top quality.  My best are the ones that come from Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cake recipe and Fry's Fudgy Icing (recipe below).  The combination does not disappoint, especially once dipped in good semi-sweet chocolate and shared with a friend.

After you dip these, you can sprinkle things over them right away before they set if you like (sprinkles, nuts, coconut).

So, here's how it goes.  Bake a cake, cool.  Make a batch of frosting.  (If you make one 9" cake, make enough frosting that would just cover it, I'm guessing 1 cup or so.)  Crumble your cake in a big bowl into crumbs, seriously, break it up.  Even if it has a nice crusty edge on it, break it up nice and small, forget the crust, what you're going to make is so much better anyhow.  Dump your prepared frosting on top and mush it all up.  I've started with a pastry cutter and then moved to my very clean hands to completly incorporate it.  It should be mushy.  Put it in the fridge for about an hour to chill and harden.  Take a heaping tablespoon of the cake / frosting mush and roll into a nice ball.  Repeat until all your mush is gone (eat as much as you want as you go, of course).  Chill again while you gently melt your chocolate.  Roll each ball in the chocolate and let chill again.  Serve, eat, devour, or freeze for later (they do freeze well).  This can be done with scraps and leftovers as well, throw them in a bag in the freezer and when you get enough cake bits, make some cake balls.

You can use any combination of cake and icing flavours to suit you, here are some suggestions.  If you want, you can stick a lollipop stick in each one before you dip them, then you have cake pops, fun too!

Fry's Fudgy Icing
from my mother's Fry's cookbook and in my repetoire since 1997
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
-mix butter and cocoa well, add vanilla.  Alternate adding the icing sugar and milk to desired consistency.

late-at-night cake for one

Sometimes, you just have to have chocolate cake.  Some of those times, it's 9pm and you're not going to bake anything; that's when you pull out this recipe for mocha microwave cake.  Oh yeah!

One-Minute Mocha Cake
(can be gluten-free!)
adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons white flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or veg oil (or applesauce or mashed banana)
  • 2 tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 Tbsp brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
The original recipe uses instant coffee granules if you don't have leftover coffee.

Combine dry ingredients and mix very, very well. Add liquid, stir, then transfer to a little dish, ramekin, or even a coffee mug. Microwave 45-50 seconds (or more, depending on how powerful your microwave is). If you don’t want to eat it straight out of the dish, be sure to spray your dish first (and then wait for the cake to cool before trying to remove it).

If you're wary of consuming a minute amount of coffee that close to bedtime, here's another one that's just a chocolate cake.  I vote for not including the egg in it and it's a bit more fudgey. 
I've tried both recipes for about 55 seconds in my microwave and they've come out great most of the time - I have to admit, now and then it'll come out wet or rubbery, but I blame that on sloppy measuring.  When you're working with small quantities, it makes a difference when you round a teaspoon or measure flat like we were taught in Home Ec in high school.
If you're not lookin' for a chocolate fix at all (you're not a woman, are you?) check these out, I can't vouch for them though, I gravitate to the chocolate recipes. 
Pssst, I know you're reading my posts, why not say "hi!" or write a note here, I'd love it!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dishes

I actually like to wash dishes.  This is handy because there are a lot of dishes to wash in the run of a day here.  We don't have many dishes which is also handy because then they can't pile up.  I also have some control issues.  My partner does a fine job of washing them but I still enjoy doing them so I know they are clean.  I don't know, I guess there are some things I should let go of.

How do you feel about doing the dishes?  Do you like to let a machine do it?  If so, who empties and fills it?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Photography

I'm no photographer but will be working hard to improve for your viewing pleasure.  Tips and hints are greatly appreciated.  I'm using a digital camera, usually on a "point and shoot" setting.

Bread

As stated in an earlier post, I like to make bread for my family. 
Here is a picture of two white loaves and two challa loaves.  The challa was fun to make and even more fun to weave with six strands.  I did hoped it would be a bit more dense, eggy and sweet than this was.  It was yummy and quick, but not what I was looking for I guess. 

 

 
I have not succeeded yet in finding a wholesome, nutritious bread recipe that works as well as this one does.  It is a white bread.  Gasp!  Yes, we love it and it gets great reviews from my family.  It freezes well, makes awesome toast, French Toast and sandwiches.  It doesn't stand up very well served in a hot sandwich (with gravy over it) but I have a strong aversion to soggy bread anyhow, always have, so that was not a requirement for me in an everyday bread recipe.

This recipe makes two loaves.  I have only recently begun doubling it and getting five loaves out of it.  An energy saver - both my energy and my oven!

I played with the recipe a bit, thinking it called for too much sugar but have since gone back to using the full 2/3 cup.  I have replaced the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey and it was okay too.  I have replaced up to a cup of flour with other grains (flax meal, wheat germ, oat bran, whatever is on-hand) and it has come out well, very well in fact.
I use my KitchenAid mixer to to most of the kneading.  I let the yeast proof in the mixer boal, add the oil, salt and six cups of the flour all at once (not what the recipe says) and let it go on level 2 for about six minutes.  Then, I take the dough out and knead it old-school.  I love this part, you can really feel it coming together and when it gets too tight and when it's a smooth dough you know you're going to have great bread.  I spray oil the mixer bowl (technically it's still dirty because I haven't washed it yet, but there's nothing in it or stuck to it) put the dough in it, grease the dough lightly, cover with a glass pot cover or plastic wrap.  I've heated the oven up for 1.5 minutes and the oven is off but slightly warm.  Rise for one hour, punch down, shape, rise in greased pans for about 30 minutes, heat oven up, bake 30 minutes (on the dot in my oven with my pans - my old dark bread pan requires five extra minutes to brown the crust), take out of pans immediately, let cool and eat.

Amish White Bread
2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour
-In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.               
-Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
-Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
-Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

You really should let it cool before you slice into it and slather it with salted butter or peanut butter or your Nanny's homemade jam (we're so spoiled).  If you cannot wait and must cut it open right away, turn the bread cut-side down on the cutting board until it is cool.  Bag it, freeze it, eat it.  SO GOOD!

Important tip when baking bread that I learned from my Mum is to take the bread out of the pan immediately after taking it out of the oven to keep the crust crisp and not soggy.  She used to butter the top of the bread right away too, but I find that messy to work with the loaves after the fact, so I don't do that.
 
Go buy some yeast and use it!  Tell me how it works out, I'd love to know!