Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sundays Are For Baking Bread - Part Two

One of the first things I purchased from King Arthur Flour Company was a sourdough starter. They send it to you in a small plastic container which you immediately have to adopt, Brangelina style, or it will die.  You not only have to feed it once a week you have to also bake some recipe that uses a part of it or throw a part of it away.  You also have the option of giving some to a friend - just make sure it's a friend you can loose.   Sourdough starter is a lot of work, so if you get some know it is a commitment. I tried several times, over the course of my life, to start my own starter, but it never worked out for me.  I never had the right container, it would spoil or I would spill it in the refrigerator.  King Arthur has a wonderful crock that you can purchase that will hold the starter and that's what I did.  It not only works but looks great too.

I lifted this bread recipe directly form the King Arthur website.

Rustic Sourdough Bread

1 cup "fed" sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups King Arthur Unbleched All-Purpose Flour

  • Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.
  • Allow the dough to rise, in a covered bowl, until it's doubled in size, about 90 minutes
  • Gently divide the dough in half; it'll deflate somewhat
  • Gently shape the dough into two oval loves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Spray the loves with lukewarm water.
  • Make two fairly deep horizontal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife (I use a razor blade) wielded firmly, works well here.
  • Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Notice my bread looks a little dark. I added 1/4 cup of ground flax seed for a quarter cup of the flour. Since there are only two of us I usually cut this recipe in half. Life is good - Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Company's Coming It's Time For A Beef Bolognese

Richard, Carol & Mike enjoying Pizza & Wine in Italy

Our good friends Richard and Carol Stange came to visit us this past weekend. We met them during a Rick Steve's tour of Europe and became instant friends. The food we shared, especially in Italy and France, was fantastic, so when they came knocking on our door I wanted to make sure the food I served would be worthy of the occasion. They would eat two dinners with us, so I made one French entree (that will be another blog) and one Italian entree. On February 17, 2008 I found a fantastic recipe for Beef Bolognese in the New York Times Magazine written by Christine Muhlke titled "Slow Food".  She had adapted this from Insieme in Manhattan. The bolognese is a meaty ragu or gravy, if you prefer, that is enriched with milk. Slow food is certainly an appropriate title given that you will spend two hours in basic prep work and an additional three hours simmering and skimming the gravy. Worth the effort? You bet!

Richard, Carol, Mary & Mike Indianapolis June 2009

Beef Bolognese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/3 pound pancetta, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups tomato paste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups red wine
2 2/3 cups whole canned tomatoes, drained of juices and torn
4 cups meat stock
Rotini or pappardelle, cooked al dente 
Grated Parmesan.

  • Combine the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to brighten in color, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, and just before it starts to brown, add the beef and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 25 minutes.  Add the milk and cook at a lively simmer until the milk is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Stir in the tomatoes and the stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Skim the fat off the surface. Toss with al dente rotini or pappardelle and serve with grated Parmesan.  Serves 6
Beef Bolognese on Spaghetti

Sometimes, o.k. many times, I make a mistake when cooking and this time was no exception. I purchased prosciutto instead of pancetta.  This gave the gravy a smoky taste. It wasn't bad just different. If you can, try this with the pappardelle pasta (I located it at our local Trader Joe's). It is an Italian flat pasta that is cut into a long ribbon shape. The name comes from the Italian word pappare a verb which means "to gobble up" - and gobble you shall do. Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

I don't really like sweets.  If I make a dessert it is because I have company or I'm feeling sorry for Mike.  This belief has held true until I came across a recipe for soft chewy oatmeal cookies on the internet.  I can't give any one person credit for the recipe. The hard copy is in my recipe book, but there is no one to honor.  Just know it belongs to someone else - although I have made a few changes.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 sticks (6oz) unsalted butter; softened but still firm
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats (Do not use instant oats)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup seedless raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (Most recipes will tell you the nuts are optional - I say they are not. They are good for you and they make the cookies taste delicious!)

Put raisins and dried cranberries into a separate bowl. Pour boiling water over the fruit to cover. Let sit 5 minutes and then drain and cool. This will allow the dried fruit to soften and enlarge.

In a bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla extract; beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Mix into butter mixture with spoon until just combined.

Turn over on to 375 degrees.

Drop the dough by heaped tablespoons onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets leaving a 2" gap between each cookie.

Check cookies after 10 minutes. Let cook until the edges are golden brown. Cool on sheet for at least two minutes before transferring to a rack. Be careful when removing the cookies - they will stick if you didn't use parchment.

Makes about 44 cookies

As every child knows the best way to eat cookies is straight from the oven with a cold glass of milk. Ten seconds, per cookie, in the microwave make a good substitute for a cold cookie.  Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm Melting and So Is My Cheese

During this economic downturn everyone I know is trying to save a few pennies.  I decided rather than head out to the grocery store that I would rummage through my refrigerator and try to make something out of nothing. In the back of the cheese drawer I found what I was looking for -  two different kinds of Swiss cheese.  Since it has been at least 90 degrees, here in Indianapolis, the smart thing to have made would have been a nice cool cheese plate, but my mind kept returning to Switzerland and fondue. Hot gooey, yummy fondue. Mike, my better half, and I were fortunate to take a trip to the Swiss Alps in 2006.  One day we took a hike through the Alps.  It was a cool 35 degrees, foggy and misty.  After two miles we came to a tiny village called Kleine-Scheidegg. We ate a wonderful lunch of cheese fondue, bread and new potatoes and had a lovely German beer. Just the thing to warm us on a chilly afternoon.

Me in Switzerland

Ignoring the Indiana heat I began my preparation of cheese fondue - something I normally consider a winter dish.  I lifted the recipe from the instruction booklet that came with my Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot - CFO-3SS.

Classic Cheese Fondue
Makes 6-8 servings

1 pound Gruyere cheese (not processed), grated
3/4 pound Emmenthal cheese, grated
6 teaspoons cornstarch
1-1/2  teaspoons dry mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled, cut in half
2-1/4 cups dry white wine (not chardonnay*)
2-1/2 tablespoons Kirschwasser

Place the grated (I always use my food processor) cheeses in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the cornstarch and dry mustard and toss to coat the grated cheese completely. Reserve.
Rub the bottom and lower half of the sides of the fondue pot with the cut sides of the garlic cloves. Add wine to the fondue pot. Turn the temperature to Setting 5 (medium) and bring the wine to a strong simmer (bubbling, but not boiling strongly). While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or nonstick whisk, gradually whisk in the grated cheeses, sprinkling in one handful at a time; don't add any more cheese until each handful is completely melted and smooth. The mixture will slowly thicken. When all the cheese has been added, stir in the Kirschwasser and serve. Reduce the temperature setting of the fondue pot to setting 3 (medium-low). The fondue should just simmer; it should never boil.

*I always use Chardonnay because that is what I always have at home. It tastes just fine to me!

Mary & Mike enjoying fondue - note the shorts!

I'm not sure we saved any pennies by eating the left-over cheese. To compensate for the heat we had to lower the thermostat. Perhaps we will know once the electric bill arrives. Life is good -enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Slow Grilled Chicken Breasts

After the rub has been applied

Have you noticed lately how difficult it is to buy a bone-in chicken breast at the grocery store? It seems most of us just want the boneless/skinless variety.  Sometimes I'll buy a whole chicken to just get a couple of breasts, but then I have to figure out what to do with the legs, thighs, and wings. Don't get me wrong, I use boneless chicken several times a week.  You can add it to sauces, eat it as nuggets, put it in soups, stir fries or any other number of things.  I just don't like them sitting next to my mashed potatoes.  They seem -  well, blah! But the mighty whole chicken breast is moist, meaty and flavorful.  It's as if when you pull out the bone you pull out the flavor. Now I watch when my store puts them on sale and I purchase at least a dozen and I freeze them. The cost is less than $.80 per breast.

Last year I lifted a recipe for slow grilled chicken breasts off the internet site  The original recipe was by Howie Rumberg, an associated press writer, and was originally published in several newspapers across the country on May 14th, 2008. This has to be one of the best grilled chicken recipes I have ever eaten.  You could even say it is to die for - and with all the sodium in it you just may! I have adapted it slightly to reduce the salt.

Slow Grilled Chicken Breasts

3 tablespoons coarse or kosher salt
2 tablespoon freshly-ground pepper (I reduced this to 1 - a personal preference)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts*
4 teaspoons olive oil

*You can use skin-on or skinless bone-in chicken breasts.  Both are delicious.

Preheat your barbeque grill
  • If using charcoal, the grill is ready when the coals have a gray-white ash coating. Using a poker, divide the coals into two piles, pushing each to one side of the grill. Place a pan between the coals beneath the grate to catch fat drippings and help prevent flare-ups.
  • If using a gas grill, leave one side off and heat one side to a medium to medium high heat. If possible, place a pan beneath the chicken to catch fat drippings and help prevent flare-ups. There wasn't enough room to do this on my grill, but I didn't have any problems.
While the grill heats, prepare the chicken breasts. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the salt, black pepper and brown sugar. Rub olive oil over the chicken-on both sides and then pat on the rub. Arrange the chicken breasts skin side up so the chicken pieces are not over the flames or hot coals. Cover the grill (leaving any vents open), cook for 30 minutes, and walk away. Do not open the lid of the grill for 30 minutes - walk away!

After 30 minutes, open the grill, turn the chicken pieces over, recover the grill, and cook for another 30 minutes without opening the grill. Check chicken at the thickest part with an instant read thermometer. The temperature should read 165 degrees.  Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4. Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Romaine Salad with Oranges and Red Onion

I love a good orange.  I don't ever remember eating a bad orange when I was a child. I used to eat so many that the acid from the juice would make my chin and lips raw.  Santa Claus always put an orange in my Christmas stocking. Over the years oranges have not been my favorite. Most seem dry and flavorless.  Maybe we only ate oranges in season where today we eat them year round. In 2009 oranges have been back on my grocery list.  I haven't eaten a bad one.  I was delighted that Giulia Melucci, author of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, has given me a new way to eat an orange. This salad is light, healthy and quick to make.

Romaine Salad with Oranges and Red Onion

1 head romaine lettuce
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch strips
2 navel oranges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Wash and dry a head of romaine lettuce and cut the leaves crosswise into 1-inch pieces.  Put them in a bowl with room enough for tossing and add the onion. Remove the stem ends of the oranges, then take off the skins with a paring knife. Cut into slices 1/4 inch thick and then cut the slices into quarters, removing any seeds and startlingly obvious white pith. Dress and toss the salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a little salt, and freshly ground pepper.
Yield: 4 servings

We ate this salad last night at dinner.  Next time I may sprinkle a bit of ground flax seed, over the top, to ramp up the Omega 3's. Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sundays Are For Baking Bread

I like getting up on Sunday mornings and baking a loaf of bread. I like the smell, I like the feel of the dough and I really like eating the results.  I also like to watch Mike, my husband, carry it to work in his lunch bag.  I recently discovered the King Arthur Flour Company.  They have everything when it comes to baking. Their website will teach you to bake, give you recipes, let you ask questions and shop for all kinds of things including flour, speciality pans, tools and gifts.  On my first web order they gave me a box mix for Lemon Seed Poppy Muffins!  These folks are hip with their own blog and twitter account. The company is 100% employee owned and empowered. They give away 5% of their profits to over 250 non-profit groups each year. What is not to like about this company - I say give them your baking business.

Today's bread recipe was lifted from the back of a King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat flour bag.

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread

1-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1-1/3 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup (My friend and fellow bread maker, Ann McKenzie just gave me a pint of maple syrup, so today 1/4 cup is in my bread)
3-1/2 cups King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (only if you like - see note)

Mixing:  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough" or "manual.") Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping:  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 30 to 60 minutes, or until it's crowned about 1 inch above the edge of the pan.  A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking:  Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 40 minutes tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes.  Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan an thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf). Let it cool on a rack before slicing. Store in a plastic bag at room temperature. Yield 1 loaf.

Note:  Diastatic Malt Powder has active enzymes that helps yeast grow fully and efficiently throughout the fermentation period, resulting in better texture, more flavor and improved shelf life. It can be purchased at King Arthur Flour.

This bread is perfect for sandwiches.  You can toast it or grill it or just slice and eat this moist, fine-grained and nutty tasting bread. Life is good - enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Strawberry Festival

I took the day off, from cooking my lunch, and headed down to Monument Circle, in Indianapolis, to attend the 44th Annual Christ Church Cathedral Women's Strawberry Festival. Wow! I arrived around 12:30 to discover thousands of folks enjoying the huge strawberry shortcakes that are sold for $6.00 a pop. Each serving included a large biscuit with a ladle full of strawberries and a large scoop of ice cream topped with whipped cream. Christ Church says that 95% of funds collected are distributed as grants and donations to local, national and international non-profit organizations.

Little Kids Eating Short Cake

Big Kids Eating Short Cake

Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Confessions of a Prego User

One of the dishes my mother used to make on a regular basis was spaghetti with a red sauce and ground beef.  We referred to it just as spaghetti never thinking for an instant that there was any other way to prepare it or that spaghetti was just pasta!  My brothers and I thought this was the best dish ever.  When I married and had my own children I tried to recreate my Mama's dish.  In the beginning the dish had browned beef and onions, tomato sauce, an entire can of tomato paste and plenty of sugar.  Later the tomato sauce became a jar of Prego.  My children thought this was the best dish ever. Now that I am older my understanding of "spaghetti" has changed and the gravy that goes on top can be something entirely different.  So with apologies to my children your Mama's spaghetti will never taste the same. 

Mama's Tomato Sauce with Pasta
1 - 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 - 8 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, drained
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/4 cup of chopped onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
3/4 cup red wine (I prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon - choose what you like to drink)
Fresh Basil
3/4 teaspoon salt, for pasta water
1/2 pound pasta

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onion is translucent but not browned. Add both cans of tomatoes, the red pepper flakes, sugar, wine and a couple of basil leaves.  Reduce your heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Boil your pasta.

While reading Giulia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti I learned several secrets that I believe the Italians have been keeping to themselves. It is about how you get the pasta and gravy together and get it to the table hot, looking great and tasting truly wonderful.

Tip # 1
Salt your pasta water.  Salty water is essential to flavorful pasta; it should have the aroma of the Mediterranean.
Tip # 2
You can't time pasta; you know it is done only by tasting it.
Tip # 3
Heat your pasta bowls.  I put mine in the microwave during the last few minutes that the pasta is boiling.  Be careful when removing them - they are hot.
Tip # 4
Drain the pasta and put it back in the same pot that you boiled it in.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, a ladle of your sauce and torn basil leaves.  Stir. Place in hot bowls and top with another ladle of sauce and a few basil leaves and parmigiano cheese.

During the summer feel free to use fresh tomatoes just know that your cooking times will differ. Feeds 4

Save the Prego for Italy - it means "you are welcome".  Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ahh Cake!

I am currently reading I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti written by Giulia Melucci. 


This hysterical book is about failed romances and successful cooking.  Giulia supplies the reader with plenty of laughs and fabulous sounding recipes.  I read about this book from blogger Erin at Erin also a cook and lover of all things pink shared Giulia's recipe for Hot Pink Cake which according to Gulia was lifted from a Hershey's cocoa can!

For the Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder (the better the quality, the better the cake; I used Ghirardelli but Hershey's is fine)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, left out of the fridge for about 30 minutes
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk ( I used skim because the grocery store only had a gallon of whole)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (I try to reduce my carbon footprint by not turning on my oven until I am halfway through the  recipe.) Generously butter and flour two 8-inch baking pans and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Add eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until all ingredients are combined and the cocoa bits are smoothed out.  Stir in the boiling water. (Do not panic - this batter will look way to thin.) Pour batter into pans and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to cooling racks.  Wait until the cakes have cooled completely before frosting.

For the Frosting
1 stick very soft butter
1 pound confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
A little too much red food dye

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer at low speed until creamy.  Add more milk if necessary.  The trick is for the icing to be not too thin and not too goopy.

Check out my results:

This cake is rich, dense and delicious.  Can be made into 24 cupcakes. If you aren't having a party slice into individual portions, wrap in Glad Press and Seal and freeze.  Life is good - enjoy!