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Perfect Bread

Like I mentioned earlier, one of my goals for this year is to bake more bread. And thanks to Karen’s generosity, I’m all set to scratch sourdough off my baking bucket list. I started feeding Fester last week, and he’s been a happy part of our family ever since. I even felt some guilt when I moved him from his warm spot next to my KitchenAid mixer to the fridge. (Side note: All credit for the name “Fester” goes to Karen’s husband, Arron.) 

My one hang-up with the sourdough process is the “discard” step. After four days of gradual feeding, the instructions said to reduce the starter down to just 1/2 a cup, feed that portion and then discard the rest. And I have to discard starter whenever I feed Fester from here on out! This goes against my thrifty nature! Not to mention the fact that I’m lovingly feeding him on a regular basis (which is more than I can say about the plant in my office…). Why would I want to throw some of it out?

So I’ve been searching the internet for things to do with “discarded” starter. Thankfully, King Arthur Flour has some great ideas and recipes. After reading several recipes, I decided to start with this cinnamon raisin swirl bread. I had everything on hand for them (unlike these delicious-sounding English muffins).

It took a few hours to make the bread, but most of that was hands-off time while the dough rose. And making the dough couldn’t have been any easier. I literally dumped it into the mixer and let the dough hook do the work. I was a little concerned when that the dough was going to be too soft and sticky to work with, but I rolled it out on a greased pastry mat and didn’t really have a problem.

I’m just a week into this sourdough / bread baking adventure, but if my first experience is any indication, this is going to be a tasty ride.

cinnamonraisinsourdough

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Sourdough Bread

Note: I’ve been loving measuring by weight instead of volume (fewer dishes! improved accuracy!) lately, so I’m giving this recipe in weights. The good people at King Arthur Flour also provide standard volume measurements, so feel free to click over there if you need things in cups. 🙂

For the dough:
4 ounces of sourdough starter, fed or unfed
12 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (KA calls for instant; I used the active dry that I always have on hand.) 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
2 1/2 ounces softened butter
5 3/8 ounces lukewarm water

For the filling: 
1 3/4 ounces sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 5/8 ounces raisins

extra butter for finishing, optional

To make the dough, combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on to medium-low speed and mix until the dough comes together, then increase the speed to medium and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl (I used my 8-cup Pyrex bowl.) and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2  to 2 hours.

While the dough rises, stir the sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Lightly grease your counter (or a pastry mat), and then turn the dough out onto the prepared work surface. Gently deflate the dough, and then roll / pat it into a rectangle that’s about 6″ x 20″.

Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash, then spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the surface of the dough.

Working from one of the short ends of the dough, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the ends closed to seal the log, and make sure the long seam is pinched closed.

Transfer the dough log into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is about 1″ above the edge of the loaf pan.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°. When the dough is done rising, bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, or until the interior of the loaf measures 190° on a digital thermometer and the top is golden brown. Tent the bread with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes to prevent the top from becoming too brown.

Remove the bread from the oven and run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the bread. Turn the bread out of the pan and brush the top with extra butter, if desired. (This gives the bread a soft, satiny crust.) Allow bread to cool before slicing.

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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What We’re Eating: 1/30 – 2/4

January has been unusually busy for me this year. Between a work trip to Florida and a wedding in Ohio, I spent a lot of time NOT cooking this month.

I’ve been trying to make up for lost time over the last week or so though. I finally got the ball rolling with my sourdough starter (which we’re affectionately referring to as “Fester”), and it seems to be growing nicely. Last night was the first time I had to discard some of the starter as part of the feeding process, and I decided to use the discarded portion to make some cinnamon raisin bread. It’s rising now, and I can’t wait to see if it’s a keeper. Andy came home from work, observed the bread-making process and declared this sourdough adventure a “good thing.” 😀

We also celebrated Andy’s birthday this past week, and he wanted to stay in, rather than go out, so we invited Andy, Bethany, Judah and Sadie over for birthday burgers. I made the fried onion burgers from Cook it in Cast Iron, and we finished off the meal with the monkey bread from Bread Illustrated and vanilla bean ice cream. (The monkey bread, by the way, was incredible. I will never make monkey bread any other way again.) 

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday 1/30 – Ham and cheese pie and salad
Tuesday 1/31 – Salmon and root vegetable gratin  (I actually made this in November and froze half of it. I figure now’s as good a time as any to eat the second half!) 
Wednesday 2/1 – Pasta e Fagioli (New recipe for the week!) 
Thursday 2/2 – Chipotle chicken tacos
Friday 2 /3 – Homemade pizza (It’s Friday, after all!) 

It’s safe to say that I’m glad to be back in the kitchen again. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Toast: Not Just for Breakfast

I first tried this recipe in an attempt to use up some ricotta cheese before it went south. I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it seemed better than letting the cheese mold in the back of the fridge. I didn’t know how Andy would feel about them, but I went ahead and served them for dinner anyway. (Yep, my kitchen is a dictatorship. I like to think of it as a benevolent dictatorship though…) Turns out, we both loved them.

I can’t decide what takes these things over the top. Maybe it’s the caramelized onions. Or the cheese. Or the bread. Maybe it’s everything put together. Either way, this is our new favorite appetizer. I may never make soup again. (Just kidding, Andy. Mostly.) 

I like to tell myself that, as far as appetizers go, this one is relatively healthy. Yes, there’s cheese and bread, but it’s buried underneath a hearty serving of squash and onions. Which meant that cramming several of these in my face on New Year’s Eve was perfectly acceptable.

It’s best on fresh, homemade bread, but it’s not bad on crusty Italian bread from the grocery store bakery. I’ve garnished it with mint (per the recipe) and with parsley (after my mint was done for the year), and we’ve liked it with both. And, as you can see from the picture, it’s just as good if you forget to buy something green.

I’m not sure how Deb figures that four slices of bread is enough for all of the squash. Maybe her bread is bigger than mine, or she heaps the squash more heavily. I’ve also given up measuring the ricotta for the toasts. Instead, I just take a spoon and smear a generous scoop of cheese on the warm toast before piling the delicious squash-onion mixture on top. (Of course, this means my “instructions” will be more like guidelines. Oh well.)

squashtoasts

Squash Toasts with Caramelized Onions and Ricotta Cheese

olive oil
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 2-1/2 to 3 lb. butternut squash
pinch red pepper flakes
coarse salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 – 1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped parsley or mint, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and the cut each half into slices that are about 1″ thick. Toss the squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender (usually 25-40 minutes, depending on how thick your squash slices were). Remove from the oven and let the squash cool until you can handle it (about 20 minutes).

Scrape the squash from its skin and put the roasted squash into a large mixing bowl. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. (I use my 12″ Lodge.) Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and then add the onion slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften and turn brown. Reduce the heat and let the onions cook until they are golden brown and delicious. Add the vinegar and maple syrup to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is jam-like.

Remove the onions from the heat and add them to cooked squash. Use a fork to mix the squash and onions together. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Slice the bread into 1″ thick pieces. Heat a large skillet (again, I use the cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Toast the slices of bread in the skillet until they are golden brown on each side. Depending on how many slices of bread you have, you may need to add more olive oil to the pan. Place the bread on paper towels to drain while you finish cooking the bread.

Spread a generous spoonful of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread, and then top with a scoop of the onion-squash mixture. Garnish with the chopped mint or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) in the refrigerator.

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Happy New Year!

Greetings, 2017! It’s good to see you.

Things have been quiet around the blog lately, which explains why my post count is down from the previous year (38 instead of 41, whoops). The year started strong, but when life picks up, my time for writing and taking pictures gets pushed aside.

While I may not have written as much as I’d hoped to last year, I did a halfway decent job of cooking more things from my cookbooks and magazines. In fact, my copy of Cook it in Cast Iron has an almost-permanent spot on the kitchen counter.

I finally got around to sharing some of our very favorite things. The more we like something, the harder it is to get a picture of it!

I was a little disappointed that the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap didn’t happen this year. Maybe that will change in 2017.

Here’s a few observations from 2016:

  1. We like ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

     

  2. Pork roast is my new go-to.
  3. We still like our veggies (even if they come with hitchhikers).

     

  4. Chocolate cake is the best. ChocolateChocolateCake

     

    I’m hoping that 2017 will be the year of bread in my kitchen. Thanks to some not-so-subtle hints (AKA a Christmas list to some wonderful friends), I’m now the proud owner of Bread Illustrated. Plus, my awesome friend Karen gifted me everything I’d need to get going with sourdough. (That’s my late January project. I’m traveling a bunch this month, and since sourdough is essentially a pet, I didn’t want to stick Andy with the hassle of feeding and tending a jar of starter.) Of course, all of these extra carbs mean that I should probably spend a little more time on the bike trainer this winter. Details. 😉

Here’s to another year of adventures, both in and out of the kitchen!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Upgraded Hamburger Helper

I did not grow up eating Hamburger Helper, or Tuna Helper, or any of those “add a pound of meat and enjoy” type meals. It just wasn’t something my mom bought. My dad did make his own version though, adding ground beef, onions and peas to mac and cheese. While I haven’t had that in a really long time, it was always a hit in our house growing up, and it’s easy to see why: cheese, pasta and meat, all in one pan.

Now that I’m responsible for making dinner every night, I can totally appreciate the convenience of a one-pot meal. Especially one that’s full of pasta and cheese. If I’m really on the ball with things, I can have all of the prep dishes (which are just a couple measuring cups / spoons, a cutting board, cheese grater and a knife) washed before dinner’s ready.

When I first saw this recipe, I thought it had a lot of potential. I mean, we love pasta, beef, cheese and Tex-Mex flavors. The sour cream and cream cheese worried Andy at first, but he was hooked after one bite, and now it’s one of our favorite comfort food dinners. Sometimes I take a page from my dad’s playbook and throw in frozen peas for a true, one-dish dinner. It’s also great with a side salad if peas in your Tex-Mex sounds weird to you. 😉

creamytacomac
Creamy Taco Mac

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green (or red or yellow) pepper, diced
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
4 tablespoons taco seasoning (I always make my own.)
8 ounces small / short pasta
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro

Brown the ground beef in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the meat is close to being browned, add the onion and chopped pepper. Cook until the onion had turned translucent. Drain any extra fat off of the pan, if necessary.

Add the diced tomatoes, taco seasoning and beef broth to the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then stir in the pasta. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender (about 7-10 minutes).

Add the cream cheese to the pot and stir until it has melted into the broth. Add the peas, if using. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream. Stir until the sour cream is well-incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Barely adapted from Elly Says Opa, who adapted it from Delish

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Beef, Main Dishes

 

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CSA 2016: Late Season Share

Each season, we receive 18 weeks of freshly picked farm goodness from Olden Organics. It’s a great way to eat lots of veggies throughout the summer, especially since our garden doesn’t always live up to our expectations. The summer always seems to fly by though, and before I know it, we’re done with our weekly produce pick ups.

Thankfully, our CSA program includes one final “late season” share that stocks our fridge for a few more weeks. We picked it up in early November, and I still have some of these items in the pantry and fridge.

csa-2016-late-share

This year’s share included:

  • 4 apples
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 bunch of collard greens
  • 1 head of romanesco
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • several russet potatoes
  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • 3 heads of garlic
  • celeriac
  • 1 bag of sweet potatoes
  • onions
  • butternut squash
  • fennel
  • 1 jar of Hippie Wayne’s marinated mushrooms

In true “addicted to fruit” fashion, we ate the apples. I made cabbage and noodles with the head of cabbage, and I tried a new recipe for the collard greens. I ended up roasting the romanesco with olive oil, salt and pepper, and it should go without saying that I’m putting the onions and garlic in almost everything I make.

The cranberries are stashed in the freezer, waiting for the perfect recipe. (Or, if we’re being honest, they’re waiting for me to decide which recipe to make.)

I wasn’t sure what to do with the fennel and celeriac, but then I saw this recipe. I think I’m going try it! I plan to share the mushrooms with some fungus-loving friends, since neither of us are fans.

That wraps things up for the year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. (Here’s hoping that 2017 goes a little lighter on the kohlrabi!) 

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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New Reading Material

Look at what I have for two weeks!

I’ve had this on my library wish list for several weeks, and I finally made it to the top of the waiting list. I will probably read through it, and hopefully get to try at least a few recipes. I am so excited! If I’m on top of things, I will get a few pictures too. 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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