Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Semi-homemade Fiesta Green Beans....or Not

I happen to live with a roommate who, for some reason, doesn't like tomatoes. However, she does like green beans. What to do when I decide that I want tomatoes in my green beans? Stir in some salsa to my serving. It's a great idea for those families with picky eaters and members with different tastes. So, there you have it...semi-homemade fiesta green beans! Because of all the anti-oxidants in the tomatoes AND the healthfulness of green beans, this is a great, easy dish for Sweetnicks' ARF-Tuesday! Check out her site for more great recipes. Easy Fiesta Green Beans
1 can no salt added french style green beans
garlic powder
Mrs. Dash seasoning
your favorite salsa
Pour green beans (half drained) into a skillet. Place skillet over medium heat. Season beans with powder and Mrs. Dash. Cook beans until tender and hot. Take out the amount you want and scoop a generous tablespoon or so onto the green beans. Stir and enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Say Po-tay-to, I Say Po-tah-to

Well, not really...I say po-tay-to...but this month's Daring Baker's challenge gave room for different versions of the same thing...potato bread! I've never made potato bread but make bread quite often. I knew that this would be the perfect bread to make for my family Friday to go with our newly traditional gumbo on the day after Thanksgiving. Since my parents moved last year, our house has become the location for Thanksgiving, which is the big holiday for my dad's side of the family. We had 23 people there...not including the little kids. So, I had lots of samplers for this challenge. The entire morning as people began arriving from their respective hotels the question kept being voiced, "Whacha making?" When I told them potato bread, I think their mouths becan salivating. In this recipe the amount of flour you use is dependant upon how much potato you use and how much liquid is produced. I think I ended up using 6 and 1/2 cups of flour (out of a possible 8 and 1/2) and my dough was fairly sticky; however, I didn't want to jeopardize the tenderness of the bread by adding too much flour...SO, I just worked with the stickiness! Tanna gave us the option of doing loaves, rolls, focaccia, breadsticks, really whatever shape bread floated our boats as long as it was savory. I decided to do a focaccia an some rolls. When I pulled out the rolls, I was concerned. They felt really hard on top...THEN I tried to get them out of the pan. AHHHHH...stuck! I didn't spray the pan and they were very stubborn coming out. I'm not a big roll fan, so I didn't taste these and was extremely disappointed with them until my Aunt said that they were perfect. She described them like a baguette...crispy on the outside and melts in your mouth once you get inside. I think that's a pretty good roll! The focaccia bread was by far the more popular version (except with my 15 month old cousin...she's really into bread right now and loved the rolls!) with my family. I used waxed paper to put the dough on and, again, didn't spray it. When I tried to pull the paper off, any dough that had not been on flour was stuck! It took some TLC to get it off, but it was worth it. This had the perfect texture. It was so soft and flavored nicely with olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and parmesan cheese. Overall, this was a good challene. A nice little change from all those sweets! The bread was fairly simple to put together and quick for a yeast bread (I started at 8 am and was finished by around 12:30). Check out the other Daring Bakers and their bread here. This is the recipe with instructions for rolls and focaccia.

8-16 oz. floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups(950 ml) water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):
Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender (this doesn't take long!). Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Measure out 3 cups (750ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated (now you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe). Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface (I used a really big bowl, so I just left it in the bowl) and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; the kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.
To make rolls: Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the (1/3 is what I used) dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.

To make focaccia:Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450°F(230°C)

For rolls: Dust risen rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool.

For foccaia:Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.
If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Because Thanksgiving is Thursday...a Casserole

I don't make casseroles that often because they tend to be sauce laden, but I went to a Thanksgiving party last Friday where there was lots of good food. I decided to take a broccoli casserole. This is super easy, pretty good, and kid friendly. I did make a slight change in the recipe that makes it not quite as bad for ya. Originally, it calls for a 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter to be stirring into the broccoli with the cheese, but I've found that it really doesn't neet this extra butter, the cheese is enough. Doing this does make it a bit more creamy and thick, but it's still yummy and I guess cheesier tasting. Anyway, this is a casserole I grew up eating and enjoyed making. Because of the broccoli, this is a Thanksgiving worthy entry for Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday. Stop by and check out the other great recipes. Broccoli Casserole
2 bags of broccoli (15 oz bags)
1/2 stick margarine (I left this out!)
1/2 lb Velveeta (8 oz., 1/4 bar)
30 Ritz crackers
1/2 stick margarine, melted
Cook both packages of broccoli as instructed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Drain broccoli and return to warm pot. Stir in cheese (and if using, 1/2 stick of margarine). Put broccoli in a casserole dish. Crush crackers into small crumbs and stir in 1/2 stick melted margarine. Sprinkle this over the broccoli. Place casserole in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pumpkin Season

Well, I think that one of my favorite baking items during this holiday season is pumpkin. I don't know why but it's true! At the grocery store I was planning on buying the "normal" 16 oz can of pumpkin, but the larger size was SO much cheaper...and I'm cheap! Thus, I bought the larger can. I just decided that I could put it back in the refrigerator in between uses. What recipe to use? I decided on one from my newest cookbook, Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster. I really like the cookbook and wish that I could spend more time cooking "real" food from it! Maybe one day, just not right now. Everything has it's season...including pumpkin. SO, I picked out a pumpkin muffin recipe and started. YUM! These were really good muffins. I changed just a little bit...the recipe below is with my changes. Because of the pumpkin and cranberries, this is a great recipe for Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday. Stop by and check out the other great recipes. Pumpkin Muffins
3 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (I think I used a bit less)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (originally six...I did this on accident)
2 large eggs 15 oz pumpkin puree (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup milk
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin tin* with cooking spray. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the sugar, butter, and eggs together. Stir in the pumpkin puree, milk, and raisins and chips. Pour into the bowl with the flour miture. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened - be careful not to overmix. Scoop batter into the muffin tins using a 1/3 cup measure. Bake for 25-30 minutes...I think I actually cooked mine for around 22 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes in the tin before removing them. *This says it makes 12 large muffins, but I got 12 regular sized muffins, 12 mini-muffins, and 6 muffin tops. Maybe I just didn't fill the tins enough, but I still would have gotten more than just 12.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Caramel Blondies

A few weeks ago I was asked to make some sort of dessert for the college choir at my church. I decided to pull out a quick, easy favorite. It is a simple brown sugar blondie. The recipe is from my mom's best friend...her desserts are always great! I've discovered that you can do a couple of variations on this. The original recipe calls for pecans. However, if you don't like nuts or don't have any on hand, you can replace the nuts with oatmeal. Either way is good but has it's own unique flavor. So, if it's chilly outside...gather the kids together (or yourself like I would!) and make some blondies. This is a simple recipe and would be GREAT for letting kids help. Caramel Blondies
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 stick butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla. When smooth add dry ingredients and nuts. Mix until just blended. Spray a 13X9 pan. Pour the batter into this pan and place into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Marriage Made...in the Oven

This past Sunday, my Sunday School class - dubbed the GAP class for Graduates And Professionals - had a lunch after church. Because I'm not very picky about what I take, I decied to tell the hostess to let me know what she needed. I was told to bring a vegetable. Hmmm...green bean casserole was already coming, there were going to be salads...I need to take something that's not green. I've taken roasted squash before plus that costs too much right now to take a lot of fresh squash (yellow, mind you!). What's in season, I ask myself. The only thing I can think of is winter squash and sweet potato. Well, I've recently discovered that, although I CANNOT eat a baked sweet potato, I do like roasted sweet potatoes. So, at the grocery store, I picked up a HUGE sweet potato. Honestly, I felt a little bad for the thing. It was going to end up being picked up and thrown to the side because it was so big...too big to bake and, honestly, that's what most people get fresh sweet potatoes to do. Anyway, I brought the little guy home, chopped him up, and put him in the roasting pan. But he looked a little lonely. What can I put with Mr. Sweet Potato. Ah HA! I think the he would very much like to spend his last days with Miss Fuji Apple. So, out came Miss Apple (actually two)...they were chopped and mixed with Mr. Sweet Potato. It was a beautiful marriage melded together with some cinnamon (the spice of their lives), thyme (what marriage survives without that!?), and allspice (um...a little twist to make things interesting?). I think all the flavors worked well together. My class members enjoyed it as well. In fact, I told several of them the "recipe." I think the apples added a lot. Because of the health benefits from sweet potatoes AND apples (they're a healthy couple too!), this is my entry to Sweetnicks' ARF-Tuesday. Check by and see all the other wonderful recipes. Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples
1 LARGE sweet potato, cubed
2 medium Fuji apples, cubed (probably could add one more)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme (not rubbed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
sprinkle all spice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put potatoes, onions, and apples in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil (probably 1 Tablespoon) and then "top off" with some cooking spray. Toss this around the pan. Sprinkle the thyme, cinnamon, and allspice over the veggies and toss. Place pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Check at 10 minutes to stir. After 20 minutes, be sure the potatoes are tender...if not, keep going.