Monthly Archives: January 2009

A Bread Success

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This weekend was wonderful. Even though it was (really) cold, it was bright and sunny, not dreary and gray. School isn’t too busy yet (and probably wont be..3Litis much?) so the weekends are actually something to enjoy. My toe is almost healed so I was able to workout on both Saturday and Sunday (and I went for a run OUTSIDE tonight and FROZE but it felt great). I also cooked and baked up a storm. On Saturday, Julia suggested that we take the boys to a FREE wine tasting and then they came over while I made Mexican Meatball Soup. Wonderful recipe but I didn’t take any pictures (whoops!). I am excited because I have two portions frozen for a quick weeknight dinner, one of which we heated up tonight. YUM! Then I baked up some Snickerdoodles really quick to take to an apartment warming party. I don’t like to show up empty handed ;-) But the real accomplishment this weekend was baking bread. Real sandwich bread.

I can’t believe how easy it was to make a real homemade loaf of sandwich bread and how few ingredients are involved.

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Mix 2/3 bread flour with 1/3 wheat. Don’t you love my flour canisters? I really do. I have 4 of them and kinda wish I had a few more.

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It is true that you can only buy powdered milk in massive quantities (at least this was true at Treasure Island) but I hear there are other good recipes (granola at Homesick Texan to name one) to use some of it up. Anyone in Chicago need some powdered milk? I can hook ya up ;-P

After Ethel (my KitchenAid) did the mixing and kneading, you let it rest for and hour or so until it doubles. Then comes the fun part of stretching it out into a rectangle…

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…then shaping it and rolling it to the proper loaf shape.
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After a 2nd rise and 45 mins in the oven…out came a loaf of bread!
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I was a little concerned because it felt rock hard on the outside, but really the “crust” layer was perfect. It made a wonderful sandwich yesterday and I enjoyed a slice tonight with a little melted sharp cheader to go along with the leftover soup.

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And the best part about it? I know EXACTLY what went into it. No partially hydrogenated this or xanthan gum that. Just flour, yeast, salt, sugar, powdered milk, water and a little time. Amazing.

Give it a try for yourself. It really does give you a feeling of triumph and accomplishment.

The recipe can be found here. Now I have another cook book to add to the endless wish list :)

Chocolate espresso snowcaps

These are good. Really good.

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I was a little skeptical with using the only brand of instant espresso that I could find at Domincks and mixing it with a really good chocolate bar but it really made for a dense, rich but yet not heavy cookie.

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I received a new cookie scoop from Dave’s sister for Christmas (Thanks Bets!) which made a bigger cookie, so I didn’t get as many as the recipe promised but they were still just as good.

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They are also fun to make. After scooping up the dough, you roll the balls in fluffy white powdered sugar.

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I then placed them on a cookie sheet with my new Slipat (Thanks Mom!). Make sure to give them space because they really do spread a decent amount.

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Kristin is right. These really are magical. They go into the oven fully white and then they come out like this…
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Try them…you won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps
From Martha Stewart via The Kitchen Sink

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, for coating

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Shape dough into balls using a cookie scoop. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice.

Place balls on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.**

**I just baked them one sheet at a time since I only have one Slipat and having the oven on helps to warm the apartment!

13 Beans

Over the past few months I have wanted to place an order with Rancho Gordo (and buy his book) for some interesting heirloom beans. I did appreciate the quality of the fresh black beans that I was able to purchase this summer at GreenCity, so I have been wondering if they are worth the premium (and the shipping cost). I think I will decide on a few varieties to try in the next few weeks. Anyone try them out or have an suggestions on which of the many tempting varieties I should try? For now, I was just tempted by a bag of 13 Bean Soup that I found at my trusty Treasure Island. Aren’t all the colors wonderful?

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The beans do take a little planning because they need to be soaked over night but the result is wonderful. Warm, hearty, soothing. Perfect for a cold winter weekend. I didn’t get a good picture of the final product, but believe me, it is worth trying. Mine turned out a little thick, so I would not really call it soup, it was more like a thicker stew or veggie chili.

13 Bean Veggie Chili
Recipe adapted from the Bob’s Red Mill Bag

2 Cups of 13 Bean Soup Mix
1 Ham Hock
1 Medium onion; chopped
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used Hunt’s Fire Roasted diced w/Garlic)
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Aleppo Chili Peppers (optional, I thew some in since I have them; crushed red pepper flakes would also work for some spice)
2-3 Cloves of garlic; minced

Wash and soak the 2 cups of beans overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse and bring 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) of water to boil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add the beans and ham hock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours.

Add chopped onion, tomatoes, spices and garlic. Simmer for 30 mins. (Be careful towards the end because it will thicken and I did burn a little of the bottom of mine).

Serve in a bowl with a hunk of crusty bread. Would also be good over white rice.

The Cold and a bit of a cold

On top of having a 48 hour period of below zero temperatures (not wind chills….brr) in the middle of the week, I am also fighting off a bit of a cold and dealing with 2 separate foot issues.  Needless to say, I haven’t been doing much interesting cooking this week.  Dave and I enjoyed some of the leftover beef stew during one of the arctic nights.  Instead of cooking, I have been slowly making it through the stack of magazines that piled up during finals.

Much more enjoyable than casebooks

Much more enjoyable than casebooks

 I haven’t set up a good system short of little stickies marking pages of interesting recipes or starring and tagging posts in my reader.  Any suggestions of how to organize my “To Cook List”?  Excel sheet? Long written list?  I am open to suggestions.  

Gourmet’s January issue is particularly wonderful because it is focused on Italian food.  The recipes for Sunday Ragu and the Spaghetti and Meatballs on the cover look amazing.

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 I think I am going to try out the first batch of homemade pasta next weekend to test out the new KitchenAid Attachment I treated myself to (yay 25% rebate)  I just ordered a pasta blend from King Arthur (along with a few other fun things (yeast, sugar, cake pans)..for the free shipping of course)

Unfortunately my two cortisone shots to the heels on Monday (for Plantar Fasciitis) and my foot procedure yesterday (laser zapping of some annoying plantar warts) have hurt my workout schedule this week.  I did do a little run/walk on the treadmill on Wednesday but it might be a few days still until I will be able to do that this week :( I am hoping that I can get in a really good habit of planning workouts like a work shift or class in my schedule this semester.  I am only taking 2 classes and working at the IRS and I am done by 5 every day!  It will be amazing to have so much free time, hopefully I can make the best of it and drop the 10 pounds by May :)

I am currently simmering a big pot of 13 Bean Soup that I will tell you about later tonight or tomorrow.

I am off to watch the Eagles hopefully beat the Cardinals.

Snowy Stew

Sorry for beginning 2009 with 11 days of silence. It was not my intention. I spent 7 of those days in sunny Florida for a Disney filled vacation with Dave’s Family.

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It was just what I needed: sun, warm weather, pool/hot tub, great company and of course all 4 Disney parks that make up DisneyWorld. After having a pretty crappy end to 2008, this was just what I needed to start 2009 on a better note.
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As part of the terms and conditions of me being invited on the trip (not really, but it was a way for me to feel better about the Schmidts oh-so-graciously getting my plane ticket to Orlando), I bought the supplies and cooked breakfast for the 9 of us all week. It was a little hard waking up between 7:30-8:00 on vacation, but I forgot how fun it is to cook for a crowd. I didn’t do anything super fancy, just eggs, lots of bacon, cereal, etc but it was still a whole lot of fun. Rich and I also made our respective Mac and Cheese recipes for dinner the first night. As you can see, he approved.

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Of course when I got back to Chicago, it snowed for 2 1/2 days straight. It is still beautiful and such, but it makes it hard to go for a long run outside. I should have run more than once in FL! It took me 2 days to make it through my backed up and loaded Google Reader and give me a little more perspective of what I want this blog to mean to me in 2009. I have found a few blogs out there that are more of the: this is what I ate and did today rather than, this is a super awesome recipe that I just made. I don’t think I want to take it in the direction of a food diary (maybe in the future, not yet) but I do think I will add more personal stuff here, rather than just a post to try to get onto tastespotting and what not.

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Any how…I was also very fortunate to add a few new tools to my kitchen that I will be using here over the next few posts. Yesterday, while Dave was at his first day of Intensive IP Trial Ad, I watched the snow and read through my reader and the Kitchn and found a recipe for Beef Stew which sounded perfect. Warm, cozy, something I have never made, and a perfect use for my new dutch oven! It was the perfect dish to make on a snowy, lazy Saturday afternoon. And the best part is that I have two full portions frozen for a quick meal during the semester.

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Beef Stew
Adapted from Classic Beef Stew

1.5 Pounds beef (bottom/top round), trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized chunks
4 Cups of low sodium chicken broth (I like TJs Brand)
1 Tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 Bay leaves
3 Pounds of red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (I left the skin on)
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (Listen to Bitten and buy the tube!)
1 cup of red wine (optional-but it gives you a good excuse to open a bottle)
1 cup frozen corn
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk or cream (I used 1%)
Salt and Pepper (I got to use my new Peugeot pepper mill; Thanks Deb and Rich!)

Set a large dutch oven or pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Toss the beef cubes with salt and pepper. When the pot is hot, add a teaspoon of oil and enough beef cubes to so that it is full, but none are touches. Let them sear without stirring until they “unstick” on their own. Once they are mostly cooked on all sides, take the cubes out and sear the rest of the meat in batches.

Once all the beef cubes are seared, deglaze the pot with one cup of broth. Scape the bottom of the pan to lift up the fond. Once the pot is deglazed, put all the beef back into the pot and add enough broth/water until the liquid is just below the surface of the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for around an hour, until the meat is easily skewered but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, add one teaspoon of oil to another pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the onions are turning translucent. Add the potatoes and cook for a few more minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste evenly coats the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper during the process. Remove from heat and set aside until the beef is done simmering.

Once the beef is done, add the vegetables to the meat and add more broth/water to cover. Simmer uncovered for another 40-60 mins until the meat is very tender. Stir in the wine and corn.

Whisk together the milk and flour. Add a little stew broth to the mixture then slowly add it to the stew. Stir to fully incorporate. Remove the bay leaves and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in individual bowls with some warm crusty bread (or with egg noodles if you are Dave)
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