Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy halloween!

husband picked out the pumpkin face (online) and scooped the innards. i carved the scary expression and baked the seeds. the dogsons watched from the floor, confused about the entire process. they can't remember year to year...

they were so in the halloween spirit.

enjoy all the candy and spooky costumes. we're on the lookout for trick or treaters as i write this :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

spaghetti and meatballs with basic marinara

since i've been pregnant, i've wanted comfort foods. it started with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. then hamburgers, sometimes 3 times a week. spaghetti and meatballs were next. i just can't get enough of those simple, basic flavors. now that i'm home, i'm loving meal planning and being in the kitchen everyday - plus i decide what we eat, so it's been heavy on (healthy) comfort foods. husband has not objected ;)

my goal is to make as much as i can from scratch, so i decided that making marinara for my spaghetti was a must. plus, i've never made it myself. i rely on ragu (i seriously love ragu). i wanted something simple and satisfying and settled on the first recipe i found: marinara sauce from everyday italian by giada de laurentis. i halved the recipe, but plan to make it again and freeze the extra.

marinara sauce (adapted slightly from everyday italian)
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 32-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves

1. in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat
2. add onions and garlic and saute about 10 minutes, until translucent

3. add celery, carrots, salt and pepper and saute 10 minutes
4. add red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute
5. add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 1 hour
6. remove bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste

delicious! the flavors of the veggies and tomatoes are very apparent and the subtle spice of the red pepper flakes makes it just interesting enough without being too hot. i of course paired it with homemade meatballs (no recipe - i had no breadcrumbs and resorted to ritz crackers...) and thick spaghetti, topped with fresh basil and shredded parmesan.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

soft white bread

homemade white bread

operation make bread has begun. first on my list was white bread. it's my favorite for sandwiches (like egg salad) and french toast, and it seems like one of the easier, no fail breads. plus, we don't ever buy plain white bread, so it's a treat to have in the house.

i used another recipe from the bread bible and was careful to read through the instructions start to finish. bread takes a while, lots of steps, and you don't want to be baking at 3 am because you didn't plan around rising times.

basic soft white sandwich loaf (the bread bible)
dough starter
2 1/4 c plus 2 1/2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c water, room temp
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp honey
3/4 tsp instant yeast

1. combine ingredients and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes
2. cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours
(beyond 1 hour, place in fridge - i did this overnight, resulting in a 2 day process)

2 c plus 3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c dry milk
3/4 tsp instant yeast
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 tsp salt

1. mix flour, dry milk, and instant yeast
2. sprinkle over sponge and cover with plastic wrap
3. allow to rest from 1-4 hours at room temp (sponge will bubble through flour)
4. add butter and mixture to mixer with dough hook attachment
5. on low speed (#2 on kitchen aid), mix for 1 minute, until moistened
6. cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 2o minutes
7. sprinkle with salt and knead dough on medium speed (#4 on ka) for 7-10 minutes
(dough should come away from bowl at the end and be shiny, smooth, and sticky)
8. turn dough onto a floured surface and cut it in half
9. shape the loaf:

shaping the bread dough (steps 10-15)

10. press or roll dough into a wide rectangle with the long side facing you
11. dimple dough to remove air bubbles
12. fold over right side just past center, then fold left side until just overlapping the right
13. press the center to seal the dough
14. starting at the top edge, roll the dough over and press the seam, repeating to the bottom
15. roll the dough back and forth until it is just longer than the bread ban
(be careful not to break the tight skin on the surface)
16. tuck the edges under and place in a greased loaf pan
17. cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours
(repeat the shaping for the second loaf)
18. preheat the oven at 350F for 45 minutes before baking, with a sheet pan on a rack on the lowest level and a baking pan on the bottom of the oven

19. set the loaves on the hot baking sheet and add 1/2 c ice cubes to the baking pan on the bottom
20. bake at 350F for 50 minutes, until golden brown (rotate halfway through baking)
21. glaze the bread with melted butter, remove from pan, and cool for 1 hour before slicing

bread success! it wasn't hard, just time consuming (hours, not actual work), and it came out with a nice golden crust and a yummy, soft crumb. my first loaf (i have only one bread pan) didn't rise as it should have because it wasn't warm enough in my kitchen, so it came out a little squat and dense. with the time and heat from the baking of the first loaf, the second loaf was able to rise much more and came out domed over the top of the pan. both loaves were excellent, but the second one had a better consistency and looked nicer.

i plan to make this recipe again in the coming weeks and it will probably be my go-to basic bread. it makes great french toast and excellent garlic bread.
husband devoured it!

this is the less risen loaf - but you can see the inside

Saturday, October 17, 2009

buttered jalapeno corn muffins

i love cornbread. but i'm picky about it. i don't like corn kernals in it. i don't like it when it's mushy or soft. i don't want it to be overly sweet or not sweet at all. to be honest, i like jiffy corn bread mix and whole foods jalapeno cornbread and not much else.

but i feel shame in buying a jiffy boxed product when i have free time and the necessary ingredients...and i want to kick whole food's face in. so i've been left searching for a recipe that's not too complicated (remember jiffy?) but fits the taste bill, too.

sorry...blurry pictures...

i found the perfect combo in a recipe from "the bread bible" by rose levy beranbaum. i've been scouring this book for my upcoming bread baking endeavors and can't wait to try other recipes based on the success of these muffins.

quintessential corn muffins with jalapeno (adapted from the bread bible)
1/2 c stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 c plus 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour (recipe calls for bleached, i had unbleached)
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
2/3 c sour cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp canned jalapeno, drained and chopped

1. preheat oven to 400F
2. whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
3. in a small bowl whisk egg and sour cream
4. stir egg mixture into dry ingredients until moistened
5. fold in melted butter until incorporated; batter will be lumpy
6. dredge jalapeno in a bit of flour
7. fill 6 lined muffin tins with a scoop of batter, top with a few jalapenos, and cover with a tablespoon more batter
(each should be filled almost to the top; fill empty muffin tins halfway with water)
8. bake muffins for 15- 18 minutes until tops are golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean
9. cool top side up on a wire rack

now i know it said to cool, but a warm corn muffin with melted butter? yeah, not cooling that opportunity. plus, i needed it for pictures!

and i'm glad i sliced into that muffin. it was perfect! barely sweet, fine crumb that was not too dense or too soft, a perfect domed top, and bits of jalapeno to amp up the flavor. husband and i polished these off in two days, happily. they are quick to make (almost as easy as jiffy) and taste better than whole foods. winner!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

simple snickerdoodles

i'm back in the kitchen! the first thing i unpacked was the boxes with my baking supplies, pots, pans, and the rest of my kitchen. it wasn't long after that i stepped up to my giant butcher block prep station. i had been craving snickerdoodles for this now cooler weather, but without the internet, i had no recipe. luckily i scanned my cookbooks (oh, yeah, that's how people used to get information...books!) and found a similar cookie in "baking in amercia" by greg patent.

in the recipe's original form, the measurements for ingredients included 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. so the cookbook calls them 1,2,3,4 cookies, but they taste like snickerdoodles to me.

oh, and here's my new work table. it's higher than a regular counter top, huge (note the scale of the mixer vs. leftover space), and i can cut and prep right on it. sorry for the blown out picture - i'm still getting used to this thing called light. it's not pittsburgh and we actually have windows that allow bright, fresh light in the kitchen (and every other room).

cookie process

the author divided the original recipe by 4. i doubled that version, so it made half of the original. ha, confusing. i'm including the book (quartered) version which makes 12 large cookies.

1,2,3,4 "snickerdoodle" cookies (baking in america)
2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), room temp
1/2 c sugar
1 egg, separated

1. sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and cinnamon and set aside
2. in a large bowl, cream butter and 1/4 c sugar for 3-4 minutes
3. in a small, beat egg yolk until thickened, gradually add 1/4 c sugar and beat 2-3 minutes
4. add egg yolk mixture to butter mixture
5. in a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat egg yolk until stiff and add to butter mixture
6. stir dry ingredients into batter mixture
*the recipe says the dough will be stiff, mine was not, so instead of following the next few steps, i used a cookie scoop to create balls*
7. dust surface with flour and turn out dough onto flour, dusting with a bit more
8. pat dough into 3x4 inch rectangle and cut into 12 1-inch squares
9. roll each piece into a ball and place them 3 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet
*i dip the top of the ball into cinnamon sugar before putting on the cookie sheet*
10. flatten cookies to about 1/4 inch using the bottom of a glass
11. bake for 12 minutes, until golden with porous tops - do not over bake or they will be too crisp

12. cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack

i have always loved snickerdoodles and these were just as good as i remembered. slightly crispy edge, chewy center with a sugary-cinnamon bite. husband was so excited to come home from work to fresh baked cookies and even though they contain no chocolate, he devoured three of them right after dinner. these really are best warm from the oven, but kept tightly sealed, they're still good a few days later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

i moved!

first home cooked meal at the new place
(not the candy corn)

husband and i have officially relocated to the chicago area. so far, so good. i really enjoy our new apartment. the kitchen is fantastic - i'll share pictures from daylight ASAP. i'm not working now so i should have more time to craft, bake, cook, and make. i'm also hoping to find something to "do" with my life that interests me and supports my hobbies.

in the mean time, i'm getting hooked back up to the internet (today!), watching much missed good eats on food network and lots of hgtv remodel/design programs (it's been 3+ years since we've had more than 15 channels), and playing in the kitchen with my much tinier pantry supplies.

chops, salad, potatoes.

since husband works and i'm at home now, it is my pleasure to have dinner waiting for him at the end of the day. our first meal at the new place was as basic as can be: salad, boiled potatoes with butter and chives, and pioneer woman's pan-fried pork chops. it wasn't fancy, but it was filling and a good intro meal before i start whipping up culinary masterpieces...

now that i'm connected to life again (internet), i can search for new things to try, make some plans for grocery shopping (round 1 was filler supplies), and maybe write some regular blog posts.