Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cheddar Chicken Chowder- Redux

Here is the original recipe, as found in Cooking Light magazine, and also in the Recipe Trove here.

2 bacon slices
Cooking spray
1 pound skinned and boned chicken breast -- cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves -- minced
4 1/2 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 3/4 cups diced peeled red potatoes
2 1/4 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% low-fat milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese -- (3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Crumble; set aside. Add chicken, onion, bell pepper, and garlic to bacon fat in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add broth and potatoes; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add corn; stir well.Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon.

This time, when I made this recipe I made some changes to use some on-hand leftovers, and I swear it was even better. My first change was to the chicken breast. We had baked chicken for dinner a few nights ago, and I had a couple of pieces leftover. I simply pulled the cooked meat off the bones to add to the soup later on- I did not saute with the veggies. The chicken had been previously roasted with Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub. My next change was the chicken broth. I pulled a bag that contained 4 cups of turkey stock from Thanksgiving. This was reduced, so it was very flavorful, and I ended up adding a cup of water to it. Next, I eliminated the potatoes. The previous night we'd had company, and one of them brought some delicious roasted veggies- and left the remains with us. So the leftover 2 cups of a roasted cauliflower, potato, onion, carrot, sweet potato blend went into the soup instead.

For the corn I had one package left from freezing fresh sweet corn last year- yum! And the last major change was to the milk. I really didn't want to run to the store to pick up milk, and the gallon was looking a little low, so instead I grabbed a 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, added 1/2 cup water to make it 2 cups, and used that instead of regular milk. All these changes made for a rather incredible bowl of cheddar chicken chowder. I love how versatile this recipe actually is. You can really sub in just about anything- and your end will product will be wonderful. The only things that I think are non-negotiable here are the bacon, red pepper, and cheese. Everything else can be swapped out or switched around to utilize on hand ingredients. And the best part is that this made a lot of soup! We will be having it again tonight as a ballet-night savior, warming it in the crock-pot while we are gone. Whatever doesn't get eaten tonight will become lunches for the next two days, so this is a real budget stretcher.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Pantry Challenge

All last year I spent a significant part of blogging talking about trimming my grocery budget. I never really succeeded, but there was a part of me that didn't want to. When we can afford to spend a significant amount of money on groceries, why not? Then in September, my hubby was put on alert that he may have extended time off from work. Immediately, we started saving a little more, and trying to spend less on groceries. And while I did plan budgetarily to spend less, I ended up not spending less, because I thought it was a good idea to purchase extra here and there to stock the pantry.

I am now very glad I did just that. The last day that Andy worked was December 21, and as you may be able to imagine, it starting to get a little snug in the checkbook here. Fortunately for me, I have been able to stock the pantry a bit- not as much as I would like, but enough to get by for a while. It's one thing to try and stick to a reduced budget when you don't have to. It's another thing entirely to have no choice in the matter. When you only have X amount of dollars to allocate to food for an unknown period of time, you do what you can. All that being said, Tummy Treasure is going to shift gears for a little while. While I don't think that I cook extravagantly by any means, I do realize that many recipes I do prepare are not budget friendly. So I am on a quest. Not only do I want to feed my family of four on a strict budget, but I also want to feed them well.

Can I do it? I guess we'll find out together. Rather than stick to my general plan of only posting "noteworthy" meals or recipes, I want to at least attempt to share them all, giving tips as best as I can. Hey, we all go through our lean times, maybe I can help make your next one much easier to get through. First up, later today I will be posting my recipe for sandwich bread in the Recipe Trove, as well as a revamped edition of our favorite Cheddar Chicken Chowder- with alternatives for using up leftover bits. Be sure and check back later on for those. Happy Tuesday!

That Raspberry Cake

I really had to hunt for this one. While most people know that I'm not a cake mix person- I was completely willing to go with a cake mix cake- if I could find the flavor that my son wanted. It was his birthday after all, and that meant that he got whatever kind of cake he wanted. And raspberry cake it was. Unfortunately for me, there was no raspberry cake mixes, and the only actual raspberry flavored cake recipe I could find was a vanilla pound cake with raspberries floating in it.

So I turned to a recipe source that can be scary... a church cookbook. I have several of them that have been given to me over the years, and what I can say is that there are interesting finds in each and every one. There is some scary stuff at times, but most often, what is in this type of cookbook is comfort food. What I thought I would end up making for Zander would be a poke cake of sorts. A white cake with raspberry jello poured over the top after baking. But while looking through one of the books, I found a doctored cake mix recipe that actually called for a white cake mix and a box of jello. This one happened to be strawberry flavored, but I decided right away that it could be adapted to be raspberry. So I forged ahead. I mixed the jello, cake mix, oil, and water together, and the batter actually got a little gummy- obviously from the gelatin. Next, I mixed together the eggs and some crushed raspberries before adding them to the batter. After all was mixed together, I tasted, and was disappointed, because I expected a lot of raspberry flavor from the Jello. So I ended up adding 1/4 teaspoon of raspberry extract as well.

The end result was a good cake, and I am positive it could be adapted for other Jello flavors, I'm just not sure what adding the crushed fruit is doing. It's only half a cup of fruit for a 9x13 cake (or 2 9-inch layers). In this case, it added seeds- which my father was very quick to point out. So I might try leaving the fruit out sometime- it was already a very moist cake, and I doubt half a cup would affect it much. I think if I do this again I want to try peach- I think that would be a very pretty cake with some white frosting, and perfect for a spring festivity. So here is the recipe for Raspberry Cake- and let me know if you try it!

Raspberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 3 oz. box raspberry flavored Jello
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup raspberries, crushed
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon raspberry extract

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking pan or 2 9-inch circle pans with cooking spray, set aside. Combine cake mix, Jello, water, and oil in a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until well combined. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, crushed berries, and extract. Add to mixture and beat well until all combined. Pour into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 20-25 minutes for layer cakes, or 25-30 minutes for 9x13 cake. Allow to cool completely before icing with butter cream.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Zander!

Happy Birthday to my little Love Monkey! May 3 years old be even more fun than 2 years old!

And for those who are curious, here are a couple of pictures of his birthday cake. It came together easier than I thought, but let me say that it does take a lot of paste to tint frosting black- and I think it gave it a slight off flavor...but the end result is quite fun, and Zander loves it. The cake itself is a raspberry cake with vanilla buttercream. I will share the cake later on if it turns out okay. It was kind of an experiment, and I'm not 100% confident of it's flavor, so I will hold off judgement until the actual eating of the cake.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Cereal Aisle

I love the cereal aisle at the store. I love cereal. What I really love about my favorite grocery store is that there are TWO cereal aisles. There is the standard General Mills, Post, Kellogs, Malt-O-Meal cereal aisle, and then there is the natural and organic cereal aisle. One could buy a box of cereal a day from this place, and 3 months later you still would not have tried them all. I think that's one of the things that makes cereal so appealing! We easily have 8-10 boxes of cereal in the house at one time. I love variety- and if you felt like it, we could have a different bowl of cereal every day of the week. It keeps breakfast from getting boring and stagnant. And of course, we all have our favorites. Abigail's favorite is Reese's Puffs, Zander's current favorite is Honey Nut Cheerios, so there is certain to be box of each of those ones.

My current favorite? Thanks to my Mom who showed me the box on a recent shopping trip is Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes and Wild Blueberry Clusters. Mmmmmm. Now this is a box of goodness. And even better? A serving is bigger than normal. Usually a serving of cereal is 3/4 cup or 1 cup of flakes or nuggets. This cereal boasts a serving size of 1 1/4 cup- that's almost a full half cup more in some cases. Add a side of fresh fruit and you have the perfect breakfast with a splash of milk. And as I found yesterday, this cereal has staying power. I had a bowl at 8:30, and it was nearly 1:00 before I felt like eating lunch. I've been a fan of Kashi before- but this cemented my love affair. Perusing the Kashi site, I've also discovered that they are branching out to the prepared foods business, and I have to say, that black bean medley looks mighty tempting. It may be worth searching those out sometime for a hearty and different lunch idea.

Today the preparations go underway for the next big event in the Waz Household- Zander's 3rd Birthday! Tomorrow my little cuddle-bug will be a big three year old. This week we went shopping for the remainder of supplies to make a Thomas cake when he saw the Cars cake supplies... so I am now under orders to make a Lightning McQueen cake... wish me luck with that one. I will be sure and share some pictures should it turn out. I'm a little wary... I haven't had much luck with black icing tint before...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mutant Cookies

It started with most excellent intentions. My first thought this morning as I was enjoying a bowl of cereal and blueberries was to find a new recipe to make today. And since it's been a while since I made cookies, they were calling. I reached for a cookbook. I have yet to cook out of The All-American Dessert Book by Nancy Baggett, and flipping through, I saw a recipe called Peanut Butter Munchies that triggered a desire for Monster Cookies. So I sent Andy off to the store for M&M's and hunted down my recipe for Monster Cookies. I had clearly forgotten the quantity of ingredients needed for my Monster Cookies- 1 dozen eggs, 10 cups of oatmeal, etc. I needed much more than M&M's, and since cookies are not a must-have, the Monster Cookies were vetoed. Back to Nancy Baggett's recipe. It was intriguing, but called for vegetable oil in addition to butter- which sounded strange to me- and salted peanuts, which I don't have. And since I didn't want to make a second trip to the store, I started with Nancy's recipe, but made several changes.

In fact, I think I made a few too many changes to consider this a qualifying recipe for my cookbook challenge. Which is too bad because these really are very good cookies. They baked up slightly puffy and I thought I was in for a cakey cookie experience. So I was very surprised when I bit into one and encountered a sandy texture. The peanut butter flavor is faint, and all the add-ins I mixed in provide a new flavor with every bite. It's really the texture that's a winner though, and I have decided that these are keepers in every way. I suspect it's actually the oil that creates that sandy texture, because I remember this cookie from Cookie Madness having a sandy texture. Try them, they are really good, and pretty darn addicting I must say... You can find my revised recipe for Mutant Munchies in the Recipe Trove.


Thanks to Anna from Cookie Madness for this news! Crisco products now boast of less than zero trans fats per serving. All of their products! That is fantastic news for bakers from all walks of life. According to the press release, the new zero trans fat products are on their way to the market as I type this. So throw out your existing trans fat laden shortening and replace it with the new formulation which promises to behave exactly as the old one did- except that it's better for you heart.

What is so exciting about this to me is that a shortening and oil manufacturer has figured out how to be a zero trans fat product. If they can do it, anyone can do it. I do realize that the less than zero trans fat means that there is still a smidge in there, and they can't call it trans-fat free entirely, but that is so much better than the 2.5 grams per tablespoon that my all-vegetable shortening contributes. And I no longer have to cringe when I make my family a shortening based pie crust- so bring on the pie!

ETA this info I found explaining the difference between fully hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. I'm certainly not saying to curl up with a bowl of shortening and a spoon, but in the grand scheme of heart health, this is a way better alternative.

"Hydrogenation is the chemical process by which liquid vegetable oil is turned into solid fat. Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fatty acids, or trans fats, which are more harmful than saturated fats. Trans fats raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol. You can read more on this in my profile of trans fats.

When liquid vegetable oil is fully hydrogenated, however, almost no trans fats remain. The resulting fat is even more solid, taking on a hard, waxy consistency, even at room temperature. Full hydrogenation increases the amount of saturated fat, although much of it is in the form of stearic acid, which is converted by the body to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t raise levels of bad cholesterol. This makes fully hydrogenated fats less harmful than partially hydrogenated fats."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Weigh-In Wednesday

Need to lose that tiny handful of weight gained over the holidays? Just get sick for a few days! No, really, don't get sick, but it did help. I was really not hungry, and forced myself to eat for about three days. As a result, I was very particular about what I ate- no garbage. Mostly it was grapefruit or oranges and chicken soup or oatmeal. I drank plenty of water and herbal teas with honey- it really was a little cleansing actually. And as a result, I have lost the 4 pounds I gained over the last few months. It may not be the ideal method, but hey, it worked for me this time, and now I can focus on moving forward.

So Monday I promised a rant. Last week after I posted I decided to try and find out more about the Mediterranean Diet. One of the sites my searches led me to was E-Diets. Of course, you can't access much information there without signing up and paying a fee. But I searched around what I could and found out little bits here and there. Then in the bottom corner of the screen I saw a promo ad for trying out E-Diets for just $4.99 for 10 days ( or something very similar, I don't remember exactly). And I turned that around in my head and thought that for $4.99 I could find out anything I wanted to know about the Mediterranean Diet, and really, any other diet supported through E-Diets. That was a good deal to me, since I'd already paid about eight dollars for a South Beach book, and was hesitating about buying any more. So I proceeded to go through the sign up process. I indicated that I was interested in the New Mediterranean Diet, but I was free to change my preferences at any time. I filled in my information, filled in my credit card info, and got to the bottom of the form.

You know that disclaimer box that you see on a lot of online applications or downloads? The one that you usually just check the box and move on. I checked the box, went to click on the "submit" button at the bottom of the page, and something made me pause. I decided that I needed to check that disclaimer box and see what it contained. And sure enough, not far from the bottom there is a bit about by checking this box, you authorize E-Diets to charge $53.99 to your account, to be automatically renewed in 3 months time. Hey. Where did my $4.99 go? There were no options for a shorter time period, and I thought that was rather dishonest of them to lure me in with an ad. And of course, when you divide it out, it is indeed $4.50 per week- but for 12 weeks. My husband is unemployed right now, I need to be careful about where my dollar goes, so I clicked the back button, received an error, and left the site. Later that day I received an E-Diet e-mail and thought nothing of it. Until I was checking on my credit card account online. I wanted to be sure they received a recent payment, and sure enough, there under recent activity was a deduction for $53.99 from E-Diets. Darn e-diets. And stupid me. I had filled the whole form out AND checked the accept box. So I am the proud owner of an E-Diet account.

In defense of E-Diets, I have spent plenty of time perusing their site since, and they do have plenty of support and information online. If you are a dieter, and need help, I think it is an excellent way to go. You can get a customized meal plan, and they offer you goals, weekly weigh-ins, and you can change your options at any time. And I will also say that I would jump on the Mediterranean Diet bandwagon for at least a trial run if Andy was working. But since he still isn't (and it's been about a month now) I need to be frugal, and following a diet plan with specific needs is not budget friendly to my family. But I have the account for three months, so before that time is up, I have every intention of giving the Mediterranean Diet a fair shake. In the meantime though, I'm simply using it as a place to input my daily calorie intake- which anyone can do for free at the site Fitday. Which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to keep track of what they eat.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Simple Accompaniment

This Sunday for Company Dinner, I made a big ole pot of white chicken chili. You can find the recipe for that right here in the Recipe Trove, since I've shared that before. I did make a few changes though that were really good- and inspired by my mother who made the same thing a week earlier. This time, I added one finely chopped jalapeno to the onions, and I also added a hefty handful of cilantro. Oh my, does the cilantro make the chili a bit of Heaven. A dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of freshly chopped tomato and you have a meal in a bowl with no need for further adornment. Unless you happen to love Corn Muffins.

Of course, I love corn muffins, although I am a bit afraid to say that around a true Southerner...because I happen to like my corn muffins best with some sugar in them. I prefer them on the sweeter side. (Ducking the tomatoes) WE used to have a Chi-Chi's around here, and I would go there just to get that tiny scoop of sweetened corn cake on my plate. That stuff was heaven to me. The beauty of corn muffins is that they are the perfect accompaniment for a savory dish, like chili. Or they are fantastic with a smear of honey or homemade preserves. So without further ado, here is my recipe for Corn Muffins. Reduce the sugar as you'd like, of course.

Corn Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup light olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Prepare your muffin pan by spraying with cooking spray- both inside and around the cups.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and oil. Add to the flour mixture, and mix just until combined and smooth- be careful not to over mix.

Spoon into your muffin pan, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean, and the muffins are browning around the edges.

Makes 12 standard size muffins.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Honey on the Brain

This past Wednesday I was looking for something to do with a pork loin roast that I had in the freezer. Ideally, it would be something that I could at least finish in the crock pot. I toyed with the idea of making carnitas with it and turning that into tacos or something similar, but then I flipped through my crock pot cookbooks and found a suggestion that used on-hand ingredients and looked simple enough to throw together.

Honey-Dijon Pork Roast was my answer, and it turned out as good as I'd hoped. I followed the directions mostly, except that I started with a frozen roast, and fired it up to high for the first two hours. I also didn't turn the remains of the pot into a sauce- I didn't think we needed it, the roast was moist enough. I was intrigued by the coriander in the recipe. The instructions said to use 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds and crush them a bit, rather than use pre-ground bottle coriander. I store my whole coriander in a box with other Indian Spices, and just pulling those seeds out was a treat for the nose- all those wonderful spices combining and making my mouth water for Indian food! Crushing the coriander produced a slightly lemony scent, and I just knew the pork would be good. And it was. I would repeat this in a second- even for company.

Honey-Dijon Pork Roast

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 apples, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-2 1/2 lb) rolled boneless pork loin roast
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine onion and apples. In a small bowl, combine honey, mustard, coriander and salt; mix well. Spread on all sides of pork roast. Place pork over onions and apples.

2. Cover; cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours.

3. remove pork from slow cooker; place on serving platter. Cover with foil.

4. In a small saucepan, blend water and cornstarch until smooth. Add apple mixture and juices from slow cooker; mix well. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring occasionally. cut pork into slices, serve pork with sauce.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Still Here...

Honest, I am. I've been spending a bit of time fighting off a virus the last few days. So there hasn't been much cooking, definitely not much eating, and well, I don't think that me lying on the couch in a semi-comatose state is very interesting writing or reading.

What we have had though is quite a bit of snow that is making my little snow-bugs jump for joy. We could still use more though. Abigail keeps asking to go sledding, and our hill just hasn't had any snow yet. Hopefully it will keep up a bit tonight so that tomorrow may be the day.

Other than that... there just isn't much to tell. Andy is still not working, and up until now he's had a project to work on, so we're going to have to come up with something for him to do quick! Although we do have some shopping to do this week because our little Zander-Man is turning the big 3 on Saturday, and has requested the presence of Thomas. Yeah... lucky me, a raspberry cake that looks like Thomas the Tank Engine. I think I'm going to end up channeling a bit of my inner Sandra Lee (hey, there's gotta be some in there somewhere!) and make a raspberry poke cake. As to making it look like Thomas? Yikes! I'm hoping he lets me get away with making a trainyard on a flat cake and putting some of his trains on it. We'll see. Saturday night I will try and post the round-up of birthday festivities. Wednesday I have a rant and a weigh-in with promising results since I haven't been feeling the best. So stay tuned! I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is it Worthy?

The other day I wanted to braise a cut up chicken for dinner. I had pulled one out of the freezer, and I was busy going through my cookbooks, not quite finding what I was looking for. So I headed online to Recipezaar and typed in Braised Chicken. I read through recipe after recipe looking for something. First, I wanted a recipe that used only on-hand ingredients, and secondly, I has been hoping to crack open my jar of preserved lemons. I finally found the recipe for Braised Chicken with Lemon and Honey, and decided that would be the one. I printed it out, set it on the counter, and then proceeded to defrost my chicken in the microwave. Then my eyes scanned over to the nutrition stats. There was no way I could make this and serve it with good conscience. One serving was 1073 calories, and the fat was 104% of the daily value at 68.2 grams. Could this be right? So I put it into my Mastercook to check that information. It was correct, and I started to look at it to see just how I could trim this to make it for dinner.

I started with the chicken. I decided that since this recipe called for one whole chicken, cut up, it was including quite a bit of fat calories right there. So I took my already cut up chicken and removed the skin and obvious bits of fat. In Mastercook, that translated to Whole chicken, no skin, ready to cook. That trimmed quite a bit there, and brought the calories into a more acceptable range, and also dropped the fat down to 27.8% at 11 grams. What a difference. I also decided that half a cup of honey was quite a bit, so I dropped that down to 1/3 cup and used a more flavorful wildflower honey. My final dish sat at 359 calories per serving, and 11 fat grams- and that would be allowing for a full tablespoon of olive oil to brown the chicken, and I don't think I used quite that much.

The end result was really good! The sauce was excellent, and the preserved lemon I used added such a wonderful touch to the dish, that I am certain it added a layer of flavor I wouldn't have had with a plain lemon. The only thing I would change up would be to add a fresh squeeze of fresh lemon to the sauce just before serving. Andy wants me to make it again. I did end up sprinkling some toasted raisins and almond slivers over the top for contrast, and even that was really good. I served it with plain rice to sop up some of the sauce, and I do think it would have been better with brown rice, so I really need to remember to pick some of that up soon. Braised Chicken with Lemons and Honey can be found in its revised state in the Recipe Trove.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Weigh In Wednesday

I'm still thinking about diet. Or diets to be specific. Last week I talked about the South Beach Diet, and while I do think it is a sound diet, my final thought on it is that I don't think it's really for us. In order for a diet to be successful, you really need to make a lifestyle change, not just a temporary change in diet. I am not about to reduce my fruit intake, and we also are not willing to forgo our daily bread as it were. It's also not practical for Andy to really consider. Sandwiches are a staple of his lunch diet, and have to be because of their portability. So overall, I think that the South Beach Diet is not for us.

Over the last week I've been looking into other "diets" and I have reached a conclusion. Diets and diet programs are annoying. For example, I wanted to look into the Sonoma Diet. Do you think I could find information about it anywhere? Nope. In order to find out exactly what the creators want you to know, you need to spend money to buy their book, join online, or join a support group, all for a fee. What little I was able to garner about the Sonoma Diet is that it is similar to South Beach in that it has three phases, called waves. Again though, there is strict limitations for the first period- in this case 10 days. You need to avoid fruit for the first 10 days, and rely heavily on Sonoma's 10 Power foods for that first wave. What intrigued me about this diet (as it did when it first came out) was that it promoted a glass of wine with your dinner. Wine= Good. Then I learned that Sonoma was based on The Mediterranean Diet, so I went in search of more information because the Sonoma Diet just screams fad diet to me, and the little I could find about it wasn't very praiseworthy.

Again, my search for information was difficult. I refuse to pay a fee to find out what kind of meal plan is suggested for someone following the Mediterranean Diet. And then I finally found something, and I think it would be beneficial to share the information I learned here. What I can't find is whether the actual Mediterranean Diet has a phase program like South Beach and Sonoma, but I did find a list of steps and tips...
  • STEP 1: Make plant foods the main dishes at all your meals.
  • STEP 2: Eat grains such as couscous, polenta and bulgur in addition to breads, cereals and pasta.
  • STEP 3: Look for unprocessed foods that are grown nearby.
  • STEP 4: Add flavor to foods with plenty of garlic, onions and fresh herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme.
  • STEP 5: Include beans and nuts in your diet every day. Enjoy bean soups, almonds, pasta with beans, hummus, and green salads with pine nuts.
  • STEP 6: Opt for cheese and yogurt as your daily dairy products. These foods have good bacteria that may have health benefits.
  • STEP 7: Choose fish and seafood two or more times per week.
  • STEP 8: Enjoy poultry once a week or less and red meats just a few times a month.
  • STEP 9: Use the healthier fats to add richness and flavor to your cooking. Emphasize olive oil and nuts.
  • STEP 10: Serve fresh or dried fruit for snacks and dessert. Reserve other sweets for a few times a week.
  • STEP 11: Drink wine in moderation with meals.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant foods (grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables) are fantastic sources of fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
  • Some typically Mediterranean vegetables to enjoy include eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • Use full-flavored extra-virgin olive oil for dipping bread and making salad dressings. Choose light olive oil for baking.
  • If you drink wine, having a glass of red wine with a meal may decrease heart disease risk. But there is no need to start drinking if you don't already imbibe. Avoid alcohol when it might put you or others at risk, such as during pregnancy, when you are breast-feeding, or when you are going to be driving.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, contact a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any activity related to health and diet. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

This is interesting reading, and really, doesn't it just look like common sense? A lot of these are things that we do already, or are trying to do. Using good fats is an example. I've been using olive oil a lot more in my cooking, replacing vegetable oils and the occasional butter. What isn't listed here is that what the Mediterranean Diet strongly promotes is the idea of portion control. I am certain we all are guilty of overdoing the portions from time to time. And with some things, it is perfectly acceptable to overdo it- a crisp salad comes to mind, or a clear-broth vegetable soup are both wonderful things to eat more of. It's the extra large slice of cake, the extra pair of cookies, or the 12 oz sirloin that is more than necessary. My preliminary findings of this diet are good. It emphasizes slow and steady weight loss, which is great to me, and some of our favorite foods are from the Mediterranean region. I will be checking on the book soon, and I will be certain to report further findings. I would love to hear if anyone has had personal experience with the Mediterranean Diet.

ETA: In addition to Weigh-In Wednesday, it appears that Wednesday is now my "official" day over at Well-Fed. Every Wednesday morning you'll find a fresh new article on Kids Cuisine written by little ole me. And rather than mention it every week with a shameless plug, I'll just bring it up from time to time as a reminder. ;-)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

French Onion Soup

Yesterday as I looked out at the snow I thought it would be a great day to make some soup to go with my bread. But I really didn't want a normal soup, I wanted something special, and the first thing that came to mind was French Onion Soup. My second thought was that I should have several versions of French Onion Soup in my cookbook collection, so I should look through them to find the best recipe. Oddly enough, I found very few recipes for french onion soup. I chose the one that I thought looked the simplest, and this one came from a cookbook that I don't think I've ever used.

Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine was a cookbook that Andy had when I first met him. Published in 1993, it actually looks older. Some of the pictures are a bit unappetizing actually, but there were several that looked interesting enough to play with sometime. What I will say though, is that this was darn good french onion soup. I followed the directions mostly, but had to make a few adjustments for what I had on hand. What I really enjoyed about this soup (Andy as well) was that it wasn't overly salty. I've had many french onion soups that are just loaded with salt, and that takes away from it. This one was sweet from the caramelizing of the onions, and I used fontina cheese to sprinkle the top. The fontina was a perfect addition because it didn't take away from the soup, it just added the crowning touch in a mildly salty, cheesy way.

Other changes I made were that I used olive oil instead of butter to caramelize the onions, I cooked the onions over low for more like 90 minutes to brown them, I left out the wine, and I used a lot less cheese than called for. I left the cheese out of the bottom of the soup cups, and just sprinkled 2 tablespoons on top of each one. This is a definite winner. We both really enjoyed it and I will be making it again. I have the recipe for Onion Soup Au Gratin in the recipe trove.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Play Day

Today we woke to a beautiful blanket of snow. You've never seen two kids so excited! Abigail was very excited to head off to school and Zander couldn't wait to play outside today. Sadly, he didn't last very long as there was a pretty stiff wind blowing, but he sure enjoyed his time out while he had it.
For my version of Play Day, I chose to play some where with my latest favorite bread dough. I think I've got the best version yet of the Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread that I posted the other day. Today I made two batches to play with, one for a free form loaf, the other for some rolls. The free form loaf didn't turn out so well. This dough really expands in the oven, so trying to shape it just doesn't seem to be working well. It really needs a pan to hold it all together and help it bake evenly. That being said, the rolls turned out wonderfully. I sprinkled the tops with a sea salt/fennel seed/citrus peel blend that I've been dying to use, and the end result is very good. Reminiscent of a kummelweck, for those of you familiar with the Buffalo area delicacy, the fennel seed really shines on this bread dough. I will do this again.

As for the dough itself, I have made some changes. I am now subbing in 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, and suspect I could take that one more half cup further with little detriment to the bread itself. I have also upped the oatmeal to a full half cup. It's really a fantastic bread for eating, toasting, or making sandwiches. Here is my revised version:

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup buttermilk

  • Stir together the flours, oats, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl; add the butter, buttermilk and yeast mixture and beat with an electric mixer until the ingredients are well blended.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl; cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Punch the dough down and let it rise again, covered with a tea towel, for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350° and oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  • Punch the dough down again and place it in the loaf pan; bake for 35-40 minutes or till the loaf pulls away from the side of the pan and loaf sounds hollow when you thump it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Truly no Food here...

Just cats.

Yesterday we took the kids out to spend some gift cards we'd all received for Christmas, and we also had to stop at Build-A-Bear since the tooth fairy left a card for there too. We couldn't just get one for Abigail, so we asked Zander if he wanted one too. They both looked over all the animals carefully before they both settled on the same cat. Abigail had to stuff both of them because Zander was a little afraid of the stuffing machine, but they both filled their hearts with love and gave their new friends names and personalities.

The cat on the right is Zander's. He chose a pirate outfit- complete with parrot and sword, and named his stripey cat Garfield. Abigail named her kitty Molly, and then chose a stunning cheerleader outfit- hers of course with underpants and shoes as well. On our way home last night, it occurred to me that Abigail had chosen a red cheer outfit. Hmmm.... Save the Cheerleader, Save the World? In cat form?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Product Review Day

I am a sucker for trying new products. I've been doing really well at resisting, and there are some things that I just don't get excited about. But generally, I always enjoy trying something new in the world of chips. Potato chips, corn chips, pretzel mixes. Those are always fun to sample. So yesterday when I saw the display for a new type of Pringle chip, I was lured right in. These were not your average looking Pringle. For one, they were not in the recognizable can. They were in bags. And the label said "Pringles Select". I had to take notice. What first caught my eye was the Cinnamon Sweet Potato variety. That just sounded so good! Then I continued down the line, finding Parmesan Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Szechuan Barbecue. I looked at that display for a full minute before a bag of the Parmesan Garlic made it's way into my cart.

And of course, as soon as I got home, the bag was opened. First of all, while the trademark Pringle shape, these were a smaller bite size, and had some texture to them. I popped one in my mouth and was hit by a burst of flavor. But I have to admit, it didn't remind me very much of Parmesan or of garlic. Well, maybe some garlic. They are a decent bag of chips, and I would buy them again to accompany a turkey sandwich, but they are not drop-dead good. I still want to try the sweet potato ones to see how they compare to the Terra chips that I enjoy from time to time. The Pringles say right on the bag 0 grams trans fat. Reading the ingredient label, however lists partially hydrogenated soybean oil near the bottom of the list. So while it's not towards the top, it's still there, which leads me to believe that a serving of chips (28 of them) is under the 0 gram trans fat mark, but sitting down with a few handfuls will still be unhealthy.

The second product review today is quite delightful. Yesterday while out and about I stopped in to look at some wine. My grocery store has an excellent liquor store and wine department. So many wonderful varieties and options. I was looking at the boxed wines, because I don't drink enough wine to drink a bottle before it goes bad. The store has two sections of boxed wines. The cheaper section, and the more expensive section (expensive being $15.99 a box for Black Box). I was looking over the expensive boxed wines when one caught my eye because it was something I hadn't heard of before. A Shiraz-Grenache Blend. I like Shiraz, I really like Australian wine, but what is a Grenache? I'll let you read the details here if you want an education. I took the box home with me... a few hours later, I had a fantastic glass of wine in my hands.

The wine itself was a gorgeous ruby color- kind of a cross between a blush and a red. It really was pretty. I am one who does enjoy a blush wine from time to time (I was all over White Merlot when it first came out) but I really enjoy reds and whites as well. This one was a perfect blended wine. It didn't have the oakiness or robustness of a red wine, it didn't have the sweetness of a blush wine either. Instead it was crisp like a good white, and had a fantastic light, fruity flavor, reminiscent of strawberries and white grapes. It really is an excellent wine. Hardys Shiraz Grenache could very well be a staple around here. It is perfect and delightful enough to please both red and white wine lovers, and will perhaps expand someones palate who leans to the blush. I could easily see myself enjoying a glass of this every evening curled up with a book.

Friday, January 12, 2007

No Food Post Today...

Last night's dinner was a repeat, albeit a good one. I re-made this recipe for Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta, tossing it with spaghetti for a great twist in pasta. It was really good the second time around. I changed it up a little by using my large skillet and just using that to pop the shrimp into the oven- it seemed silly to use a separate baking dish, and made one less to be washed. Definitely recommended, you can find the recipe in the Recipe Trove using the link above.

What I did mean to post about today was a new game that we've discovered. I've heard so much about the game Apples to Apples, that yesterday I picked up the Junior edition of it. We played a round last night after dinner and it was a riot! Even Zander was able to play with help from Mommy and the two kids were reduced to giggles several times over. It's the perfect game for a little together time, as the game is quick- over in about 20 minutes or so if you want. As I was at the educational toy store, The School House, I was looking over all the games they have, and so many of them look like a blast to play. So I think we'll be getting several family games from them over the next little while. Both kids are really into playing games right now, and what better thing to do in the evening together! It was also very interesting to see that most of the games there had won several award- many from prestigious associations like Mensa. If you're looking for family fun, check out your local educational toy store or school supply store. But most definitely, run out and pick up Apples to Apples. Even the party edition looks like it would be a blast for a group of adults to play.

On tap for today? Ah, I have to go fish shopping. We've lost three of the four that we had, so we need to pick up a few more. Other than that, we're having company for dinner, only they're bringing dinner, so it's an easy day ahead for me. Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fix-It and Forget-It

This is a cookbook I really wanted to own. I mean, it's a book full of recipes for the crock-pots and slow-cookers in our lives, and who could not want an easy dinner sometimes. I received this book for Christmas a few year ago, and sadly, it did not live up to its hype. I've kept it though, because there are several recipes that I have enjoyed from this book. There have also been several recipes that I have not enjoyed. So far, I'd say we run about 50/50 with this book. The entire problem I have with this book is that the recipes are not developed in a test kitchen or by the cookbook authors. The recipes are from home cooks from all around the country. Now while this can certainly be a great asset, how many of you remember that helping of "mystery casserole" from the potluck line at church? Those recipes are here as well, so it's a matter of weeding if you want to use this book, and familiarizing yourself with what does and doesn't work in a crock pot.

Last night was ballet class, and I had planned to make chili and put it in the crock pot to stay hot while we went to class. I forgot about that plan and made the chili for Tuesday night's dinner instead. We could have had leftovers, but I did not have the fresh loaf of bread that we had Tuesday night. So I pulled out my Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook and looked for a recipe that used what I had on hand. Specifically, I was looking for something using chicken breasts. The one I ended up choosing was called Chicken-Vegetable Dish. It came together easy enough, the only problem I encountered was that I didn't have enough brown rice, and I didn't want to sub white rice, so I used an Uncle Ben's wild rice blend that I had and then reduced the seasonings in the recipe itself. I also forgot to add the mushrooms, and while that would have been another layer of flavor, the kids don't like mushrooms, so that was just as well.

The end result was okay. The chicken breasts came out moist and flavorful, and pretty good actually. The veggies and rice though tasted like something from a cafeteria, and just not very good. So we ate the chicken breasts with a salad and called that dinner. I'll share the recipe below here for anyone interested. I think what I didn't like in this was the green beans. I would eliminate them next time, because by the time the whole thing was cooked, they had that metallic canned taste to them, despite being frozen. And I think that's where the off flavor was to this dish.

Chicken Vegetable Dish

4 skinless chicken breast halves, with bone in (I used frozen boneless, skinless- still frozen)
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
10 oz pkg frozen green beans
2 cups water or chicken broth ( I used chicken broth)
1 cup uncooked brown rice (used Uncle Ben's original wild rice blend)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (forgotten)
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic, minced (used 1 large clove)
1/2 tsp. herb blend seasoning (eliminated since I had the Uncle Ben's spice packet)
1/4 tsp dried tarragon (I used 1/4 tsp Penzey's Parisienne Herb Blend)

1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker
2. Cover. Cook on High 2 hours, and then on low 3-5 hours

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Here she is... Miss America!

Well, not quite.

But Abigail lost her first tooth today, so I thought I'd share the moment. She is so excited to go to school tomorrow. I hope she manages to sleep okay...


And I promised last week that this would be the return of Weigh-In Wednesday. So here it is. I am sad to say that with all the work I did last year at losing a slight 4 pounds, thay have managed to creep back over the holidays. Or at least since I last weighed in. So I am back to square one. And I am okay with that. As I mentioned last time around, I am not in a "must lose weight" situation, but I would like to drop a size in clothing. I really have no one to impress, but by golly, I don't want to look like a "typical at-home Mom". You know the steroetype, running around in sweatpants, hair all disheveled, coffee in hand. (I do stray from that by at least getting dressed first thing every day- all the way down to my shoes. That way I'm ready to go out the door at a moment's notice.)

Anyway, Weigh-In Wednesday. Last week I mentioned that I would make some decisions regarding my plan and reveal them here. Unfortunately, I don't have a concrete plan in mind. I thought I had. I've been reading and observing over at , and she has me convinced that the South Beach Diet is a good thing. And by golly, she makes South Beach look easy and tempting! So I ordered the book, read it through, and I will say that I am completely impressed. I think the common misconception that it is a low-carb diet is a big misconsception. While it does start out low-carb, it is all about healthy carbs, and changing they way your body craves sugars. And what I didn't know was that Dr. Agatston is a renowned cardiologist, and the South Beach Diet was designed with heart patients in mind. He tried and tried again to find a diet that would help his patients with their cholesterol and heart problems to find a diet that they could live with. The side effect of this diet was weight loss. Of course, now it is billed as a weight-loss diet, but the fact remains that the intent was not weight-loss. Reading the book it is also obvious that this is not an unhealthy diet. Anyone could benefit from eating smarter.

So am I going to follow South Beach? I still don't know. I am certain that this diet is more than do-able. And given Andy's genetic predisposal towards high cholesterol, it certainly could benefit him greatly, but there are some aspects that I just am not convinced about. First of all is the two week induction phase. Realistically, I understand that what we are trying to do during the induction phase is change the way our bodies work. But when I look at that list of approved foods, I have a hard time convincing myself that I don't want to eat fruit for two full weeks. And then there's the issue of bread. We love bread, and I make plenty of it myself. And while I have been experimenting with more whole grains, I don't eliminate white flour completely. We don't have bread at every meal, but lunch for us is almost always sandwiches. Especially when Andy is working. He works construction, and usually has a working lunch, so lunch has to be able to be carried in his hand while he eats. A salad simply isn't going to cut it, and no matter how we pack it, soup is not going to be hot by lunch time during sub-zero temperatures.

I am glad I read the book though, and if we don't actually follow the South Beach plan for a while, we are at least going to apply a lot of what I've read. I wonder if I would benefit from skipping the induction phase, and just following phase two for a while in itself. I'm just unsure yet. So I will continue to think about it. And in the meantime, I will continue with including more whole grains into my cooking and less of the processed grains. Last night's experiment with white wheat flour turned out really good, so I'm going to stay on that path, while also attempting to reduce my sweet intake. I admit I've not been in the mood much for sweets since Christmas and all it's gluttony, so that is helpful. But then with the furnace not working yesterday, I baked a banana cake and some bread as well, so that cake is taunting me this morning. But I tell myself one step at a time. And that's the best I can hope for.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

An Unknown Goldmine

Yesterday when I went grocery shopping, I finally remembered to stop and look at the King Arthur Flours. I've always just gone past them, because although I know they are of an excellent quality, I also know that quality is not free, so I've just passed them by, assuming them to be out of my price range. I wanted to try the White Whole Wheat flour, so I picked up a bag and put it in my cart. Later at home, I was going through my receipt when I saw the flour, and I looked at the price. I looked again, puzzled. I closed my eyes for a second to remember if I'd seen a yellow flag by the price sticker indicating a sale. I hadn't. What was the price? For a 5 pound bag of White Whole Wheat flour, I paid $2.15. This is not a lot of money for a premium flour. So I hopped online only to confirm my suspicions that KA Flour sells it directly to the consumer for $3.95 for the 5 pound bag. The grocery store I shop at prides themselves at their low cost, bragging that they buy in such high quantities that they get good discounts which they pass on to the customer. And I should say they do. Woodman's Market in Green Bay has confirmed that I have a very good reason to shop there. And I'm looking forward to the next trip so I can pick up the bag of oat flour that I set back on the shelf.

That's not to say I still shouldn't shop at King Arthur Flour, but that saves me on the heaviest items for shipping. Now I can focus my attention on the other fun additives and baking chips and such.

That Crock Pot

Well, nothing like a migraine to get in the way of an entire day. I went grocery shopping yesterday and by the time I got home in the morning I was at the beginning stages of a headache, and it never went away. All intentions for the day pretty much went out the window, and I was so glad that I had an extra pan of enchiladas in the downstairs fridge to heat up for dinner. Yes, friends. We had leftovers last night, and not even re-invented leftovers. The enchiladas were a little more mushy after their overnight stay, but they still were pretty good, those corn crepes really have good flavor.

To accompany the enchiladas the night before, I threw a side dish in the crock pot from a cookbook that doesn't get a whole lot of use in my kitchen. I chose to make Chili-Cheese Party Potatoes from Pillsbury Doughboy Slow-Cooker Recipes. The potatoes were pretty good for what they were. If you've had a has brown casserole at all, this is similar. I left off the crushed Doritos called for at the end because, well, crushed Doritos? I was already committing a crime using cream of mushroom soup, so the crunchy topping was omitted. I think I would make these again because of their simplicity, and the fact that they didn't taste like crock-pot food. But they do need some tweaking. I would add a second can of green chiles and I think I would add a 1/2 teaspoon or so of chile powder as well for a different layer of flavor. If you don't have a crock pot, I have no doubt that this could all be placed in a baking dish and baked in a 350 oven for about an hour or so.

I want to address the cookbook I used now. As far as crock-pot recipes go, this one hasn't disappointed me yet. One of the things I like about this book is that there is a picture of just about every recipe. With 140 recipes, there is a pretty good variety. My only problem with this book is that so many of the recipes call for ingredients I don't regularly have on hand. Things like cream soups, gravy packets, and sauce packets are regularly used, and I just don't have those on hand. But overall, if you're looking for a good crock-pot cookbook with tested recipes, this is the one you want. Those folks at Pillsbury do know their flavors and the art of easy cooking.

I'm not sure what's on tap for today. Our furnace isn't working- yet again, so I may need to bake something to warm up the house a little, so stay tuned... you never know.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tortilla Making?

Yesterday for Sunday Company dinner, I decided to commit a sin and prepare a couple of recipes I've never made before. Usually when I do this, it's a recipe I've had before, but normally, I'm not a huge fan of testing recipes on company. The whole affair started Saturday when I asked Andy what we should make for company dinner. He started rattling stuff off that didn't make sense to me. Plus, he's been off of work for two weeks now (going on 3) so I also kind of wanted something that utilized the pantry. We're rubbing nickles together these days. I pulled out a beef roast that I'd bought a few months back- when we'd eaten it's better I was really unhappy with how tough it was, so I needed something to tenderize it. I decided that I would make carnitas. A long slow braising ought to do the trick with this beef, plus leave me with shredded beef to do what I like with it. The beef was cooked Saturday with this recipe from Cooking Light, and went in the fridge overnight.

During church I decided enchiladas were my answer, and when I debated stopping off at the store for some corn tortillas on the way home, I decided that I could try making my own, that would be fun. Enter recipe book number one. 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore has brought some winners into my kitchen, so I was confident it would have tortillas in it. It did, but I wasn't too confident of my abilities to press tortillas flat without a press. So I decided on a different treatment- Corn Crepes. The crepes worked really well for enchiladas, and I will use them again in a heartbeat. They gave that corn flavor I love, without drying out like tortillas do. The beef carnitas though. Meh. I'm on the fence, that cut of roast before just was bland and tough, so I will blame that on the cut of meat- it did make pretty good enchiladas.

I'll try and be back later with the second recipe I made yesterday in the crock-pot, using another one of my books. That one turned out okay too.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

A Fantastic Loaf

The other day on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board, I was discussing breads with a gentleman who mentioned that he was making a buttermilk bread at the moment. That sounded so intriguing, and I really didn't want to bother him to type up the recipe, as bread recipes can get lengthy. So I went on a search online to see if I could find such a bread. Well, I didn't find the one he mentioned (which he actually posted later anyway-thanks Bob!) but I did stumble across this loaf of Buttermilk-Oatmeal Bread on Recipezaar and it is fantastic. It is a slightly sweet loaf, with a hint of nuttiness from the oatmeal- perfect for eating slathered with butter and jam, or toasted for a quick breakfast. Even better, it uses buttermilk, which I always am scrambling to find a use for by the end of the carton.

The only changes I will make to this bread in the future are to try adding more oatmeal- I use plain rolled oats- not quick cooking, and they puff up into these incredible chewy nuggets in the bread. Mmmm. I'm going to use more oats next time, as well as make this a free form loaf on a baking sheet. It was huge. If you have 8x4 loaf pans, you could easily get two loaves out of the recipe. I have 9x5 pans, so I don't think I could get two whole loaves. Still, it was a lot of bread. Some reviewers on Recipezaar had problems with their bread falling over in the oven, so free form it will be. Maybe even today. Here's the recipe. Sorry there's no photo today- we ate it much too quickly for a picture.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread
Recipe #101533

This bread makes lovely sandwiches. Rise times are included in the prep time.
by Hey Jude

2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl; do not stir; set aside for at least 5 minutes to proof to a foamy consistency.
  2. Stir together the flour, oats, sugar and salt in a large bowl; add the butter, buttermilk and yeast mixture and beat with an electric mixer until the ingredients are well blended.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl; cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Pun the dough down and let it rise again, covered with a tea towel, for 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° and oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  7. Punch the dough down again and place it in the loaf pan; bake for 35-40 minutes or till the loaf pulls away from the side of the pan and loaf sounds hollow when you thump it.

Friday, January 5, 2007

I tried...

A few weeks ago, Kevin at Seriously Good announced a Mac-N-Cheese off for today. All in the spirit of fun and good eating, of course. I made a mental note to participate, I mean, mac-n-cheese! What's not to love about macaroni and cheese. Sadly, in my meal preparation this week, I set all thoughts of macaroni and cheesy goodness aside. Then this afternoon I saw Alanna's post at A Veggie Venture and my interest was renewed. I had forgotten about macaroni and cheese for today, but I did have a package of cheese tortellini in the fridge. Somehow, that tortellini would have to do.

I pulled a package of Spinach and Asiago chicken sausage out of the freezer to thaw, and peered in the fridge to see what I had to make some cheesy magic with. I settled on a hunk of fontina and a tub of feta. This was going to be good. I made a basic bechamel sauce with 2 tablespoons each of butter and flour, 1 and 1/4 cup of milk, salt and pepper, and about 1/4 cup each of fontina and feta. After the sauce was made, I sliced the sausage and browned it until golden brown on all pieces. The bechamel was poured over the sausage, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of course. The tortellini was quickly boiled up before adding to the sausage and bechamel. The result? Decadence. A handful of baby spinach would have made this dish really sing, but it was very good just the way it was. Maybe not quite traditional mac-n-cheese, but it was an excellent Friday night meal with a loaf of homemade Buttermilk-Oatmeal bread. I really liked the sauce with fontina and feta, and will be filing that thought away for another time. Sorry about the picture... not my finest work.

The First Dud

Last night I returned to a new favorite for dinner. Honey Ginger Chicken Bites were exactly what we all wanted. That chicken is so good. This time I made it with all chicken thighs, and I left out the orange zest, and that's the way it should be made. So good served over a bed of basmati rice. I figured that since we were having a tried and true for dinner, I could do something different for a side dish- and I chose some green beans I had in the freezer. Do you know how hard it is to actually find a recipe for plain old green beans? I flipped through several cookbooks looking for something, and was amazed that I went through 4 vegetarian cookbooks before I found one do-able recipe.

The cookbook I used last night was 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. One of my favorite Chickpea salads is from this book, so I had high hopes for the green bean recipe I chose. Garlic Green Beans was simple enough to not compete with the chicken, and also was a little more than plain green beans. It just wasn't anything to write home about. I took green beans and crushed garlic and tossed them together in olive oil. The cooked for about 5 minutes before being squeezed with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt and pepper. It sounds like it would be good, but it really wasn't. Tossing the garlic in with the beans really resulted in the garlic being steamed with the beans instead of infusing the whole dish with flavor. It was pretty disappointing. Next time I will stick with my standard treatment for garlicky green beans where the garlic is cooked first to release it's flavor and then tossed with beans. Although I like the idea of adding lemon, so I'll do that too.

So now that I've encountered my first dud recipe in my challenge, I'm trying to decide what my treatment should be towards the bad. I am considering that once I've cooked one recipe in each book, I need to go back to the bad recipes and find something else from those books to make. Kind of a three strikes and you're out program. We'll see. Getting through all my cookbooks may be a challenge in the first place. So far I've got good steam, but I doubt I'll be able to keep this pace up for long. On tap for tonight is something with tortellini...

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Check Another One

I'm on a roll. Today I grabbed another cookbook and check another off my list. Although in all fairness, I knew this book would not be difficult to check off the list. Today I turned to my trusty King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I love this book. I have yet to make a bad recipe from it, and today was no exception. Today I had it in my head that I wanted to make pita bread. I love pita bread, but I seldom buy it, because it just doesn't taste as good as the fresh stuff. I've made it once before, using a recipe from Joy of Cooking, and while I liked it, it wasn't awesome. I was also turned off by the procedure, very time consuming and daunting for the amount of pita.

King Arthur did not disappoint. The recipe came together in a snap. My only problem was that my dough was really sticky, and I had to add in about 3 extra tablespoons of flour. I left out the optional dough relaxer, as I don't have any, but otherwise followed the recipe to a "T". I'm a little disappointed with the size of the pitas, but they really did puff up in the oven and would make pockets if I chose to do so. My favorite way to eat fresh pitas though is straight up or cut into wedges and baked into chips to scoop up hummus. This recipe was so easy, in fact, that I've already determined that the next time I want gyros, this recipe will work nicely. Total time involved was less than 2 hours, and these pitas would be awesome with some grilled pork or lamb wrapped up in them. I have the recipe for Pita Bread posted in the Recipe Trove. This one is highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It's Wednesday!

And this is the one-week warning that next week, Weigh-In Wednesday will return. I'm not 100% sure what the focus will be, but next Wednesday it will return in some form or another. I think I'm going to utilize my Wednesday post to focus more on healthy eating than fitness and weight-loss, and I'm thinking there may be a temporary route to that, but I will hold off sharing until next week, when I am more concrete in my decision making.

I've also managed to knock off one of my cookbooks from my list yesterday. One down, 66 more to go. I've put together and Excel spreadsheet to help me keep track, and any new books I pick up will be added to the list as well. You'll find throughout the year that the recipes that I use to conquer this challenge will get a label of Cookbook Challenge. (Yeah, real creative, I know.)

Yesterday I was in the mood to bake a loaf of bread. And I thought about playing around with my standard recipe a bit. Then I spied my spreadsheet sitting on the table and figured I should get one under my belt. I turned to The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I had some leftover sweet potatoes in the fridge, so I had it in my mind to check out her sweet potato bread. Of course, I found one called Sweet Potato Loaf, and got to work. As my loaf of bread progressed yesterday, I was reminded why I don't pick up this cookbook more often. The few recipes I've followed literally take all day to produce a loaf of bread. This particular loaf wasn't tedious or difficult at all, it just took forever. First I had to make my sponge and let that sit for 1-4 hours (someone planning ahead could do this step overnight). Then I mixed my dough, let it rest for 20 minutes before kneading. Next it rose. Twice at 1 1/2 hours a piece. Then the dough had to be shaped, and then allowed to rise one more time (another 1 1/2 hour) before baking (30 minutes).

All that time was fine yesterday, I spent the day putting away Christmas decorations and rearranging furniture and things like that, but on a normal day? I definitely need to plan ahead to make the breads in this book. I will say that the bread was fantastic! This was a lightly sweet and very tender bread. Worthy of a day's worth of work, so the cookbook stays. It does produce fantastic results, I have to say. Yesterday's bread was delicious and also kind of pretty with it's slightly orange hue. Considering that all that was left after dinner was a small heel, I call that a success.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Breakfast for a King

Happy New Year!

This morning I woke up feeling refreshed, and after checking my e-mail this morning, I decided I needed to make a special breakfast to start off the new year. It's been a long while since I've made a batch of scones. Once upon a time, they were a Thanksgiving tradition for us. Mid-afternoon, while waiting for dinner to cook, and usually over a board game or something, we'd break out scones and tea. After a few years, it occurred to us that scones are on the heavy side for a pre-turkey day snackie. The scones haven't made many appearances since then, though I do think of them often.

Scones are extremely easy to make, and worthy of a holiday breakfast. Flour and leavening are combined with sweet spices before cold butter is cut in, and then a binder is added. I prefer my scones to be made with dried cranberries and buttermilk, but you can certainly use plain milk and any dried fruit you like. Snipped apricots work really well, as do dried currants, raisins, and occasionally I do add some chopped walnuts as well. Just before baking, I brush the scones with a beaten egg white before sprinkling with turbinado sugar. You can most certainly use plain sugar, but I personally love the larger grains of turbinado sugar.

I usually serve them with some sweet butter or some jam. Today I happened to have a jar of Meyer Lemon Cream that has been begging for scones to be made. It was truly a match made in heaven, which makes me think that fruit butters and fruit curds are essential for a good scone breakfast. You can find my recipe for Raisin Scones in the Recipe Trove. As an aside, I managed to add 73 recipes to the trove last year. That's not too bad, considering that many recipes I still posted here on Tummy Treasure.