Friday, March 1, 2013

Buttermilk Biscuits (like Dad use to make)

Yesterday I was fondly remembering how Dad got on a buttermilk biscuit kick when I was around 13 years old. After figuring out just how easy they were to make, he made them about 3 times a week for a while. Every morning I would grab a warm biscuit, put a generous pat of butter and some jam on, then sprint out the door (it seemed we were always running to catch the school bus)! If you make them right they are so light and delectable!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3 cups COLD flour (I keep mine in the fridge anyway, but if you don't you might want to throw it in the freezer for a bit)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
8 Tbls cold butter
2 Tbls shortening (no shortening? just use 10 T of butter)
1 Tbls sugar (or honey, or agave)
1 1/2 Buttermilk
a bit of cold milk, half and half or water
a little melted butter for basting

Place flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk well to combine.
Grate the cold butter (using the large holes on a cheese grater) into the flour, throw in the pat of shortening. Using a pastry cutter incorporate the butter and shortening into the flour. (*This can also be done with two butter knives sliding the two knives together, through the flour mixture, in a scissor like motion).
The fats should be chopped up into little bits and evenly distributed throughout the flour.
Mix the buttermilk and sugar. Dump over the flour and begin to gently incorporate by scraping down the sides of the bowl as you turn it. I usually need about 2 Tablespoons of of additional liquid (the cold milk, half and half or water) to bring it together. Flour your hands and knead about 4 times in the bowl.
Next, to bake, you can use either the drop method or roll them out. BOTH are GREAT.
Lightly grease the baking sheet then
Drop the biscuit dough in blobs (about 1/2 cup) on the baking sheet. Baste with a little melted butter.
Flour a clean surface and drop all the dough from your bowl on it. Lightly flour and roll into a large area, about 12 inches wide. Fold each side in like you are making an envelope. Lightly flour and roll out again. Repeat this process twice. Then using a floured round cutter make your biscuits. Baste with a little melted butter.

Bake at 425 for 15 - 20 minutes (depending on their size). They should be golden brown on the top and bottom. MAKES ABOUT 12 GENEROUSLY SIZED BISCUITS.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why can't it be spring?! I was browsing through some old photos and saw this one from last is making me crazy hungry for tomatoes from the GARDEN!!

HOW TO: peel a boiled egg

Rinse eggs and let sit in COLD water.
Tap egg on counter all the way around the center of the egg to create lots of broken shell.
Slide the spoon up through the broken shell to separate the shell from the egg.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Newbie (NOT)

Apparently the new word for Newbie (according to my 14 year old son) is Noob. That's right - Noob. Pronounced like Boob with an N. How silly of me....or I mean....duh!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Experimental Pizza Time

Tonight, after work, I spent some time in the yard trimming back the lavender and rosemary. All in preparation for warmer days. It smelled heavenly!! The Rosemary in particular was OUT OF CONTROL and it's fragrant branches called out to be used in something new and wonderful... so with the Cheese Board (in Berkley CA) as my inspiration I tried a homemade potato and rosemary pizza. I also made a couple less experimental versions and served it all with a side of roasted beet, avocado and goat cheese salad. Wonderful. Just Wonderful. I would have to say though, that the potato pizza did seem ill suited for dinner....but I think it would make a really, really good addition to eggs for breakfast!

Pizza dough instructions:
Start with a cup of warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve. Add 2 teaspoons of yeast and stir briefly. If the yeast begins to puff up a bit (that means it is good) proceed by adding 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in 1 cup of flour to make a paste and beat vigorously. Now you can add flour either my hand or by dough hook (for a mixer) until you have a semi-firm dough - about 1 1/2 to 2 more cups. (It should hold together, not be too sticky to the touch and be supple enough to knead). Don't worry too much, it will be good not matter what and practice makes perfect! Knead by hand or by mixer until it is smooth and no longer has lumps. Set aside (covered) in a warm spot until it has risen to double in bulk. Now cut of sections and shape into small, imperfect pizza shapes. Brush with olive oil and top with whatever pleases you. Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown. NOTE: for crisper crust remove the pizzas from the stone or pan you baked them on when they are almost fully cooked and allow them to bake on the bare oven rack for 4 - 5 minutes.

Potato Topping:
Very thinly slice potatoes ( I only used one - it was a small pizza). Pour a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and add to it a bit of fresh garlic, thinly sliced onion, and fresh rosemary. Saute on low heat for a minute or so them add the potato. Try to lay the slices out evenly in the pan for even cooking. Cook until the potato is fried brown at the edges and cooked through. Sprinkle heartily with salt and fresh ground pepper. Cool a bit. Top the unbaked pizza dough with the potato mixture. Cover sparsely with fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with parmesan and more rosemary. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The best version of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day I have come up with yet!

Okay, for those of you who don't know about the wonderful book Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day let me give you the low down....they have simplified the homemade bread process down to a few simple steps and a "master recipe" that makes having warm, crusty bread from scratch as easy as pie. Easier actually, much easier than pie! I was super excited about the book - so excited that I keep lending it out. (p.s. Who has my book?) In this bread I have tweaked the "master recipe" to my liking and would love to share it with you. This recipe will make 2 - 3 nice sized loaves. You can cut off dough for one loaf at a time and save the rest in the fridge.

Ciabata"ish" Loaf That Will Make You Drool:
In a very large bowl (with a lid that fits) blend:

1 1/2 Tbls. yeast
3 c. warm water
2 tsp. sugar (I like turbinado)
2 tsp. salt

Add between 3 - 4 cups flour to make a wet, not too stiff, dough. Stir fairly well.

Now set the dough aside to rise (covered) for about an hour.

At this point you can cut off some dough to use now or just throw the bowl in the fridge and use the dough throughout the week.

When you are ready to bake some bread you will need to dust the dough in the bowl with some flour (for easier handling) and cut off as much dough as you would like to use. WARNING: the dough will be wet and you should handle it minimally. This is the key to having a wonderful loaf!
Place the bread on a well floured pizza peel or cutting board. Just tuck in the edges to make a ball or long loaf and then put it down. Don't bother making it pretty. (You can use cornmeal to dust the surface if you rather- but I hate that texture - so I do not.) Cover the bread once more with a hearty dusting of flour. Let the loaf rise until it is no longer cool to the touch. In the meantime preheat your oven to 425. If you will be baking the loaf on a baking stone remember to preheat the stone with the oven. Place a broiler tray in the oven as well.

When the oven is hot transfer the bread to the stone (or baking sheet) and pour 2 cups of water into the broiler tray. (The water in the air will give the bread such a wonderful crust.) Bake until golden brown ( 15 - 30 minutes depending on loaf size) and then let cool for at least 10 - 20 minutes before cutting into.

We have made every size and shape of this bread...everything from sloppy joe buns to big loaves we sliced and served with soup. I have even rolled it out and made fried scones with honey butter! Yum!

What a delicious doesn't get much better (or easier) than this! Balsamic Marinated Chicken, Gorgonzola, Grape and Sweet Pecan Salad.

I can hardly call this a recipe, it is more like an ensemble cast of ingredients with a few helpful pointers, but here goes anyway...
First marinate the chicken in your favorite Balsamic Dressing. I do like the Newman's Own variety. You can Marinate it for just 10 minutes to overnight. It is really fine either way. Once the chicken has marinated you can grill it or pan fry it. While it cooks throw some chopped pecans in a frying pan (preferably not your nicest frying pan - the nuts really eat away at the non-stick coating) and toast for a minute or two over medium heat. Stir constantly. Dump in just a bit of brown sugar and heat for a minute more. Add the tiniest bit of water - to get the sugar to adhere to the nuts. Stir over heat for just 30 - 45 seconds. Turn the heat off and wait for them to cool. (These are wonderful on salads, or for snacking!) Now you just need to assemble your salad - greens, crumbled Gorgonzola, grapes, chicken and pecans. I recommend drizzling it with a little more of the balsamic dressing....but a number of salad dressings would be nice...mostly those on the sweet side.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brownie edges with Peppermint Frosting hats!
So...this may sound crazy, but I was craving brownies from a box today. Am I pregnant? I think not, but all the same, I am full of unpredictable cravings. I don't think I have bought a brownie mix in years so I was unsure of just which one to buy....I decided on a Ghirardelli (double chocolate) and the flavor suits me fine. Note: the box said to bake for 40 - 45 min. and I was like "what?" and the box was like "yes!" and I was like "no way!" (but it did take almost that long). Tip: It is always a little shorter if you bake them in 2 bread pans like I do and that way every brownie is an edge!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup

This came together the other night so quickly, less than 30 min. and was such a warm comfort!

Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup

Onion, roughly 1/2 c. chopped
Garlic, one clove smashed
Carrots, 2 - 4 carrots peeled and sliced
Curry powder (I used Curry Masala) approx. 1 Tablespoon
Salt 1 tsp.
Pepper (a couple pinches)
Red Lentils, approx. 2 cups
Chicken Broth, 2 cans
1 cup water
Coconut milk (1/2 of a 13 oz. can)
Frozen Peas, 1 cup

Saute the onions over low heat with a little olive oil until they begin to get tender, add the garlic and carrots, saute until the carrots are almost completely done (they can finish while the soup boils). Add the curry powder, salt and pepper, and lentils. Stir together to distribute flavors. Add the chicken broth, water and 1/4 cup of the coconut milk. Boil over medium heat until the lentils are soft all the way through. At this point add a bit more curry powder if the soup is not spicy enough for you (some curry powders carry more heat than others). Stir in the remaining coconut milk and peas. Remove from heat, let rest a bit to heat the peas, then serve.

The Annual Halloween Cookie Decorating Contest

Sugar cookies, frosting, a few classic decorations and lots of kids = fun times!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Four Cheese Mac and Cheese

I'll admit I am yet to find what I consider the perfect cheese combo for homemade mac and cheese. I have determined that I like a little Gruyere, regardless of how expensive it is (you just need a little) and that (for textures sake) it really helps to have a little bit of American (I know, horrible stuff, but it helps). Other than that I use a cheddar base. The forth cheese is Parmesan - which I use in the topping. This recipe is a bit better if you replace the milk with half and half (duh) but I don't think it is necessary....of course even with regular milk this is not something you want to have for dinner every night! Everything in moderation right?

Pasta 16 oz. shape of your preference
Cheese approx 2 1/2 cups (I suggest 1/2 c. Gruyere shredded, 1/2 c. American cubed, 1 1/2 c. Cheddar shredded)
Onion finely chopped, about 1 Tablespoon
Garlic finely chopped, one medium clove
Olive Oil & Butter
Milk about 2 cups
Flour about 1/3 cup
to flavor the sauce: pinch of nutmeg, pinch of crushed red pepper, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, salt & black pepper to taste.
to top: bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, and bits of butter.

First cook the pasta according to the manufacturers directions. Rinse well and set aside. Next you will need to prepare your cheeses, set aside and start the Roux (Roux is just a fancy word for the base of the sauce - made up mostly of flour and milk). First saute the onion and garlic over low heat with approx 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the onion is soft and transparent get out your whisk - now you will be going back and forth between adding a little flour then a little milk (whisking all the while) until you have about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of semi-thick white sauce - something about the consistence of heavy cream. When you have a moment (perhaps after an addition of milk, while you wait for the sauce to thicken) you can add your seasonings. The thing about flour is this... it will continue to thicken with will just need to add more milk or take it off the heat if you want it to stop thickening. To add the cheeses, remove the pot from the heat, throw in the cheese and stir to melt. You may not melt it all completely, and that is just fine. Add your cooked noodles and stir to coat. A little of the sauce should still pool up in the bottom of the pan, just a bit, and if this does not happen then your sauce is too thick: just add a bit more milk and stir. Pour the noodles and sauce into greased casserole dishes (you can use just one, but I like a higher bread crumb to noodle ratio, so I end up with one 9x13 dish plus a bread pan). Cover the noodles with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Dot with butter. Cover with foil. Put in an oven set to BROIL. Let the pasta heat through ( 5 - 7 minutes) remove foil and allow to brown nicely under the broiler. Keep an eye on it!! Serve while warm. Yum.

Beets from the garden...what color!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Coconut

So today I really wanted those fabulously fattening, filled with refined sugar....Mounds bars (or Almond Joys would have sufficed), but frankly I cannot justify buying that crap! I pretty much satisfy my rare, but intense, candy bar cravings once a year. That's right: Halloween. It is pretty easy to do considering that my kids still like the chewy, fruity stuff and are happy to pawn off the chocolate on Mom. In any case, the Halloween candy has hit the shelf at the grocery store and has been calling my name for days. Sadly. So I decided why not indulge in a cookie with chocolate, coconut and (to hearty it up a bit) oatmeal. I think they turned out great! So please enjoy... Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Coconut
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar (I use organic - it is now available at Costco)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 rounded tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unbleached flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 - 3/4 c coconut
3.5 oz. dark chocolate bar, chopped

Cream together the butter and sugars very well. Add your egg and vanilla, mix, scrape down the bowl, mix again. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt separately. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and stir slightly, scrape down the bowl, add the oats, coconut and chocolate - then mix again (just until all is incorporated). Bake the cookies in mounds (about 2 Tbls. of dough) at about 10 to a sheet. They will spread slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. They will be very fragile when first removed from the oven, let them sit for a minute before you try to move them to a cooling rack. They will harden and set up a bit more as they cool.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thank you!

Well Kristin was the first one to let me know that our Blumatoes are actually called "Wonderberries", a man-made cross between Solanum villosum and S. guineense, produced in the early 20th century by renowned plant breeder Luther Burbank. Crazy. However did they pop up in my garden I wonder? If only they could speak...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bread Crumbs

Waste not Want not!
So, these big sandwich rolls I bought the other day had gone just beyond their prime. Not yet moldy, but too dry to know what I mean? So I just thought I would briefly post about the place such breads play in my life. They are perfect for making bread crumbs, which are easily frozen and ready to use for any number of dishes. I try to always have them on hand (you do not want to be near me if I reach into the freezer for bread crumbs, a dish of pasta on the counter waiting to be topped, and do not find bread crumbs - it gets ugly). I like to dress mine up with just a little of Parmesan and some salt, but it is also smart to have some with only salt - for dishes where Parmesan may not be quite the right flavor accent.
It is as simply as this: break the bread into chunks, put it in your food processor, add a little salt and Parmesan and then pulse until the chunks become fine little crumbs. Place the crumbs into freezer safe containers (I reuse these great little "to go" containers that I get at a local deli) and freeze for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Has anyone ever had Blumatoes in their garden?

It's a blueberry - it's a tomato- it's a Blumato (or so we call them!)

Has anyone else had this occur in their garden? Last year we planted a blueberry plant too close to the tomatoes and they must have cross pollinated because half way through the summer these funny shoots grew out of the blueberry plant that had suspiciously tomato like leaves and strange little berries. The berries are nearly black, round, shiny and are full of seeds (just like tomatoes). They are slightly sweet, a little sour, and not terribly unpleasant. The kids say they taste like Trix, but let's just say no one wants a whole bowl of them. I am thinking that they must be pretty high in antioxidants, right? Oh anyway.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rainy, chilly days call for Chai

I am just putting this here to tempt you..... homemade Chai. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I will not give you my recipe yet, I am debating whether I will ever post it at all. We' ll see......

Easy Chicken Parmesan

I was busy writing for my internship and preparing activities for the kids in school tomorrow...who would have thought I had time to make this as well?! Surprise! And the only thing my husband had to do for dinner was boil the pasta.

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup dried bread crumbs ( I always have these in the freezer - when a loaf is just past it's prime do not throw it out - dry it up instead! Combine, In the food processor, the dried bread, a little salt and some Parmesan cheese. Throw it into a freezer safe container and keep it on hand!)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
(honestly I used half and half - we were out of milk)
salt & pepper
Fresh Mozzerella
(two - 4 slices your preference)
your favorite bottled Tomato Pasta Sauce

Olive oil (about 2 Tbls.)

1 Tbls. butter

First the chicken must be totally thawed. Take each breast, fold it between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper and beat the daylights out of it with a rolling pin! They should be uniformly smooshed to about a half inch thick.
In a large rectangular casserole dish dump the red sauce. It will serve as a pool of sauce for the chicken to bake in. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper. In two dishes have the bead crumbs and (separately) eggs set aside. You want an assembly line: chicken, eggs, breadcrumbs. In a large frying pan place the olive oil and butter over medium high heat. First dredge the chicken in the eggs, shake off a bit, then cover each side in the bread crumbs. Place the chicken in the frying pan and fry until golden brown on each side (but don't worry about cooking it through, that will happen in the oven). Once the breast is browned, place it carefully in the sauce in the casserole dish - you want the top to remain un-sauced. Repeat the process with the next chicken breast. Cover both breasts with a slice or two of fresh Mozzerella. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes - take the foil off for the last 5 minutes to brown. While the chicken bakes boil water and cook your preferred pasta to serve the chicken and sauce over. Another fabulous idea, but one that takes more time, is to serve the chicken on top of Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
P.S. Chicken Parmesan makes for great sandwiches!! Just serve on toasted hoggies or ciabatta rolls.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pancakes and Bed Head go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Ode to lazy mornings, summertime nectarines, music (downright danceable) coming from the computer, maple syrup and perfect pancakes. Ahhhhhh. On top of that a little boy with crazy bed head who is convinced our dog dances when we leave the room (yes, I put the thought in his head, but he believed it).

Perfect Pancakes

Okay folks with this recipe the tips on "how to" are extremely crucial so read up. They make all the difference in the pancake texture.
2 T. butter (melted)
1 T. sugar (I use turbinado)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 t. salt ( I use Real Salt or Sea Salt)
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 and 1/4 c. unbleached flour
cold water

Mix melted butter with sugar. Add egg and buttermilk, mix well with whisk. Separately sift or whisk together the remaining DRY ingredients. Go stand by the sink and start a medium trickle of COLD water. Add your dry ingredients to the wet with a rubber scraper (not whisk) and add water as needed to get a thick, lumpy batter. It will usually take about a 1/2 cup of water . Don't mix it until it is uniform, it should be lumpy. Just mix it until all the flour is incorporated. As you make this recipe over and over you will begin to see the subtle changes in texture based on how long you mix the batter. But even if you do over mix it - you will have good pancakes. For perfect pancakes that are not heavy and have a high rise the batter will be thick enough that you need to sort of spread them out when you dump them onto the griddle. Set your griddle to medium heat and only flip the pancake over once the bubbles have begun to form in the middle of the cake. Butter is a good option on the griddle because it makes for a lovely taste and texture, and I for one don't use butter on the pancakes after they are cooked. We like to have ours with yogurt and jam or fresh fruit. We eat them for dinner sometimes too....yum!