Friday, February 5, 2016

Breads and not baking any...

So sadly, I don't bake much bread these days. Mostly because my expanding waistline protests and it raises my blood sugar to new heights and I like my feet so plan to keep them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I realize there are a lot of photos of breads I have made which for one reason or another, I did not post.  So here are some pics of the ones that made me proud....

We were having subs this day. I have been baking hamburger buns, kaiser rolls and whatever we need for the meal that day.

Finally! Look at that crumb...

Sadly these rarely make it off the cooling rack before being consumed

Kaiser rolls? There are no rules here

I use parchment paper as a couche and just put it in the oven to bake.

Leftover Meatloaf to Pizza

I am not sure what I was thinking when I thawed a pound of ground beef and ground pork. I made one very large meatloaf and we ate and snacked on it most of the week, but by the end of the week there was a good sized hunk left and I had no idea what to do.

I bought a pizza dough from Trader Joe's last Sunday and that had to be used as well so...meatloaf pizza. The dough came out of the fridge to rise on the counter a bit and I chopped up the remaining meatloaf and added it to a skillet with a bit of olive oil. In retrospect, it may have been best to use a non stick skillet. I added a bit of fennel to make it taste more like sausage and browned it up a bit using a bit of water to scrape up the brown bits and then set it aside.

I simply assembled the pizza as usual. Pre heat the oven to 450.  Oil the dough generously on a  piece of parchment and spread it out evenly. This crust is amazing and less than a $1.50.

Next came the remaining sauce form the last pizza I made (lucky me!), the newly revitalized meatloaf and a few handfuls of cheese.  Worked well. I did not take a picture as you have seen my pizza before but this time the unusual meat treatment was a bonus. It kinda tasted like sausage albeit I started with and Italian style meatloaf, but the addition of a teaspoon of broken fennel seeds made a nice change.

I see our life changing a lot lately especially with cooking over the last year. I really don't cook as much with our friends out of Omaha now and when I cook I am not so much about scaling back. I cook with an eye towards the rest of the week and what I can take to lunch the next day. On the other hand, I have made some great new food out of leftovers. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pot Roast Leftovers....

What to do, what to do?

I know this looks like a hot mess but...
I know Brenda is getting a little tired of my enchilada nights but I still crave something cheesy and luscious so I made a little enchilada sauce from the new Bon Appetit but it proved a bit much and my lovely bride revealed she is not a huge fan of red sauce.  So, on to plan B.

I  finished making the sauce anyway and then moved on to making some spectacular enchiladas. I have a package of low carb tortillas burning a hole in my pantry and a lot of cheese including fresh mozzarella. 

The sauce as I mentioned came from this months issue of Bon Appetit and it's pretty easy to make if you have all the stuff lying around and I happen to have 2 older bags of dried chilies. I went for it but he first taste was really off putting. I checked the recipe but left nothing out. It was just awful to the point I didn't want to taste it again but taste I did. Hmmm...sugar? A spoonful of sugar to offset the bitterness.  It still lacked sauce? anchovies? beef bullion?  Racking my brain, I opted for bullion, just a teaspoon and the flavor corrected itself. Maybe it was the salt I don't know but it made the difference. Did I tell you that it is hot? It is hot.

Brenda did share that she is a fan of the Chipotle Cream sauce I made for the enchiladas last week. Ok, I can do that again but I am eyeing my red sauce.

I dipped tortillas in the red sauce and coated them well, filled them with shredded roast beef and a thick slice of fresh mozzarella then rolled them up. I only make 4 to keep us from overeating. I placed them in a pre-sprayed casserole, spooned a bit more red sauce, then topped everything with the Chipotle Cream and cheese. Baked until bubbly at 350. Great flavor and the combined sauces were a perfect match.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On a Cold Winter's Night...Pot Roast

Nothing beats a pot roast and when they are on sale, watch out. I am all over that. Super easy to prepare and always tender and melting. I used the crock pot of course and stopped on the way home for Denich 'potatoes' known in you country as turnips. Low carb and high fiber potato subs in our home I would serve them to guests. Anything prepared with a splash of cream and knob of butter can't be all bad.

My mom occasionally served a pot roast with a Yorkshire pudding but I opt for its glamorous step child, the Popover. Rarely do I get them to turn out this spectacular even though I have a real pan for them. The secret is making sure everything is room temp or warmer.

Ok. The recipe for Popovers
Preheat oven to 450. Prepare pan with cooking spray

1 1/2 c flour
 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 Cup milk, room temp
4 eggs room temp ( place in warm water out the fridge to hurry them along.)

3 tbs drippings or butter

Mix wet ingredients thoroughly including butter. Mix flour and salt them combine all and mix till frothy.

Pour batter into cups 2/3 to 3/4 full

Place pan in oven on lower rack and set timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes turn down oven to 350 and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and make a small slit in each to allow steam to escape. Serve immediately.

I placed the leftovers in the fridge and had one this morning after I microwaved it for 20 secs. It was great.

Pot Roast

Everyone has a favorite method, this is mine.

I prepped the crock pot with a layer of sliced onions, a few cloves of crushed garlic, thyme and a bay leaf. Since my roast was frozen solid the night before...I placed it on top of the onions and left it overnight, covered in the crock pot. The next a.m. I placed 1 can of broth, a few carrots and let it go on low for 8-10 hours.

I strained the drippings, setting aside the fat for the popovers. I browned 8 ounces of mushrooms in a saute pan then added the fat free broth I skimmed. I used some of the fat to mix with equal parts flour and added that to the gravy to thicken. 

For the turnips, I peeled about 4 large ones. Diced them and put them in a pot with salted water. When tender after about 15 minutes, I drained them well. I used my immersion blender and a knob of butter and a few tablespoons of cream and pureed them. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Grinding Garam....

This week one of the fellows came back from India and, as promised, brought me spices. Some of the east Indian fellows are impressed that I attempt to cook Indian foods and am the proud owner of a masala daba or spice box. 
 So the raw materials look a lot like potpourri. Cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom, pepper, mace, nutmegs, cumin and assorted unidentified bits.
It took a few grindings and screenings to get a fine spice powder and I will probably grind it once more before use but the house is redolent with smells of cinnamon and cloves and heady peppery spice. After this, the coffee grinder is now for spices only. 
I can't wait for and nice butter chicken or tiki masala. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A New Year and some healthy eating...maybe

Haven't posted in a bit but cooking is hit and miss these days with both our work schedule and not having to have anything special at home because we are empty nesters.

The fridge broke so we had to clean it out to get it fixed and threw almost everything away. We now have a sparse fridge and ice again! Yay.

We made a special treat for New Year's as we had no plans and were entertained out. Brenda stopped by and picked up a huge lobster tail a little over a pound.  I cooked it by steaming first but it was so thick and  little under done down deep so I split it and broiled it the rest of the way. The sirloin I made was just so so. I put it in the sous vide way too late and it takes a good while to cook a steak in the sous vide. About 8 hours so...

I had a bag of frozen artichokes so we had that as a veggie and it was really quite good sauteed with some bread crumbs on top and then finished under the broiler. 

The next day at work afforded me some great left overs with a bunch of raw squash and zucchini to use as a side. Delish!. 


Monday, December 28, 2015

Season's Eatings

We are fortunate to be in this country and this part of the world where I prepared an embarrassing amount of decadent food for the holiday.  This year we had a few bumps in the road with our plans but dinner came out great. After a Christmas Eve with good friends consisting of Potato Leek soup, crab legs and shrimp we feasted again Christmas Day on Prime Rib Roast, Duck and various sides. I still feel full after all that but then on Sunday we entertained again, this time I made a Chicken Picatta and sorely burned the baguettes to the point of no return.

The sad part about the season this year was no church service matched our needs (work schedules) and the weather pattern so we missed the services we really needed to attend. 

Roasted perfection

Digging in.
Perfectly medium rare

On the plate we had Mushrooms roasted in duck fat, Gene's Potatoes, Asparagus with hollandaise, Roasted Duck and Roasted Prime Rib.  Whew! That was quite a meal. 

On Sunday we entertained the Kropp's and since I royally burned the bread and made a scene that would blush a teamster,  Bob reenacted the murder from Psycho with a baguette which would have dented steel or clubbed a seal to death. Such a disappointment after spending 24 hours conditioning the dough and then forgetting it in the oven.

Friday, December 25, 2015

New Icon finished and delivered

Sometime last year I was commissioned to paint an icon by a friend for his wife. Since it was not to be delivered until today, I was unable to post anything about it. This is the process and finished piece...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Soup of the French Onion

So we had a craving or at least I did and so did Mackenzie. So she agreed to join us for dinner last night as I put the finishing touches on the French Onion Soup. Brenda had a late lunch so we ate a bit later than usual and we had a visitor who should have stayed and had soup with us but did not. Sorry Mvi,  but you missed a good meal, you should have stayed.

The soup is not really that big of a deal to make. It's hard to screw up really. I did a little research and while most of the recipes called for beef or chicken broth as a base, I was intrigued and found a highly recommended stock made by Swanson. I used the low salt variety as I like to control my saltiness.  Sam's Club had a large bag of even larger sweet onions and I peeled about 4 or 5 of them.

I have a nice 5 quart cast iron that sauteed the onions for me till they were golden and it took a good hour, so don't be in such a rush.  The variety of onion really makes a difference. I thought this might be too sweet but it calmed down after a bit.

French Onion Soup

4-5 large sweet onions but use what you like, red, yellow.
2 cloves minced garlic
4 T butter
1 cup red wine
2 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1 T beef bouillon before I add the salt and I get a little flavor boost in addition.  I use the Better Than Bouillon brand.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1 t Fish sauce
1 t apple cider vinegar

2 cartons no salt Beef Stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock.

Toasted bread
Swiss, provolone or whatever melt-y cheese you love
White Truffle butter (op) I just happen to have a tub and used it to butter the toast before broiling.  Yes please, there are no rules here.

I used my trusty mandolin and had my way with the onions in short order. I added the butter to the dutch oven and then the onions with a generous dose of salt and then let the onions cook down for about an hour keeping a close watch and very low flame, I added the garlic after a few minutes. They were golden and a nice fond on the pan came up with the addition of the wine. I added the herbs, bouillon and then the broth and allowed it to come to a boil then lowered to a simmer until the onions were good and soft, about 45 minutes. I was in no hurry.  Checked the seasoning, added salt as needed and the cider vinegar and fish sauce. Remove the bay leaf.

Spoon a good dose of soup into a heat proof bowl and top with the buttered toast and a healthy dose of your favorite cheese. Broil till the cheese is bubbly.  How is that for decadence? I read a recipe where they dosed the soup with cheese then added the crouton and more cheese on top. Too much to hope for? I think not. Great warming no meat meal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pumpernickel on a Whim

Not much to do on Saturday with no plans so time to make some bread. I had to run out and get Rye Flour since Brenda's request was for Pumpernickel. I had heard it was a tough bread to make but it actually turned out rather nicely.  We had the Baumer's come over for a bit of soup and the bread went well with the cheese soup.

As usual, I searched a bunch of recipes looking for common ground and settled on this one although since making this loaf, I have found some even more interesting recipes. Brenda asked for no caraway but now I think its essential for flavor and I will grind them in the future to add to the dough.  I used the big mixer for this as the dough can be stiff.  In the future I might make this in a loaf pan as it spreads  a bit and I wanted a thicker sandwich slice for Ruebens.

From Smitten Kitchen 

Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Special equipment: Spice grinder (optional), instant-read thermometer

1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm warm.
3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I always make my black bread this way.)
[Note: This, or any bread, can also be made by hand, simply mixing the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and kneading the dough on a counter until springy and smooth.]
5. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm.
6. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.
8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan.
9. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.


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