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Author Archives: 4hursts

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I love baking bread.  I love the whole process, proofing the yeast, kneading the dough…first rise, second rise…the waft of fresh baked bread.  Delicious.  Satisfying.  Time consuming, but fun.  I made the mistake a year ago to buy some yeast so I could have fun making bread.  I bought in bulk…4 total pounds of yeast.  Fortunately, it was in 2 vacuum sealed bag, so one bag is still sealed.  But now, before it expires in December, I need to use some yeast.  So if you have ideas or requests, I’m taking them 🙂  That said, I have been working on mastering sandwich bread for our family.  My favorite recipe to date comes from none other than King Arthur Flour.  Of course those guys have figured out how to make good bread!

We have a few requirements.  My husband wants it to be big enough so he doesn’t have to make 2 sandwiches in order to not be hungry by mid-afternoon.  My daughter prefers “soft” bread.  I prefer name-able ingredients including a majority whole wheat.

Then we have the technique.  We had a lot of failed attempts.  Sometimes the middle fell in…weird shaped bread.  Sometimes it was just too big, we had to cut it to fit in sandwich containers.  Some were too dense, some with too many holes, etc.  But I think we found our winner!  Each time it just gets better.

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I would encourage you to read their blog on this bread,  but I’ve made some modifications, for better or worse…so here’s our recipe!

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons molasses, or maple syrup
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of the water in the recipe
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dried milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Warm the water.  Dissolve the yeast with the honey.  Mix the flours, dry milk and salt in a bowl.  Add water and frothy yeast mixture and molasses.  Knead.  Knead until it is smooth and soft.  Set in a warm place to rise.  My best tip is to turn on your oven when you start and after about 3-4 minutes, turn it off.  Grease and cover a bowl with plastic and stick it in your warm oven until the dough doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours).  Then shape it and put it in a greased pan.  Now, be patient here.

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Let it rise until it is about 1″ over the edge of the pan.  It may take an hour, it may take 2, just be patient!  I have tried to speed this up by using that same warm oven trick, but it doesn’t work here.  That makes the bread rise too quickly and then fall because there’s not enough structure.  Just let it rise.  Then bake.  Bake about 25 minutes at 350.  Cover with foil and bake another 10-15 minutes.  It should sound hollow when you tap on it.

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread – Success!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Breaking Bread, Homemade Staples

 

Uniquely Valuable?

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I have been wrestling recently with a desire to be uniquely valuable.  I only want to be part of a team, if there’s something I can offer.  I want to make sure the things that I’m doing offer more value than any random animal or person could offer.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  While I think it comes from a good place of wanting to recognize my own uniqueness and how to utilize that best, I think I can also get caught in the pride of only wanting to do something where I am uniquely valuable.  The problem there, is at some point, it becomes all about me.  Now, I am an only child and grew up with a lot of my world being all about me, and really, let’s face it, as humans, generally we do see the world that way, but I don’t think that’s really how we were designed.  In fact, what I’ve come to appreciate is that it actually has very little to do with what I can bring to the table and much more with what God is going to do.  I get to participate in something great He is doing, and He gives me the opportunities, the circumstances, the gifts to witness and marvel.

So how does this pondering relate to this blog or to food?

Well, mostly it helps explain a long absence.  See, I started writing about a certain subject or food or recipe and then I would go off reading other blogs.  There’s plenty out there to enjoy.  And honestly, food blogs are a dime a dozen.  But the great ones are fun.  The writers are captivating, the photography is inspiring and the food, is well, reliable, predictable and delectable.  So I could write a fun post, but then I got caught in the pattern of comparing myself to others.  I’ve worked hard to challenge my 5 year old to stop doing this, but to just try to be her best, improving on yesterday or the time before.

So what is my unique value?  What about yours?  What makes us unique is that we are who God created us uniquely to be.  We are where God intended us to be and we have opportunities with neighbors, friends and family to grow, to teach and to serve.  So this fall, when I wrestled with the large questions of what made me uniquely valuable, I came to the conclusion that first and foremost, I am a daughter of God, then my husband’s wife and my children’s mother…everything else comes into place when I set things in order.

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And as it relates to food, cooking and this blog in particular?  I know there are dozens of blogs out there, some with better features, but mine is this one.  My unique value is my friends, this circle, that I get to cook for.  My unique value is the creative ideas to tinker with a recipe.  And for me, this blog offers and outlet for me, a resource of recipes and a chance to share with close friends and those afar, some of the dishes I love most.

I hope you’ll take a chance to consider your unique value.  Who did God create you to be?  Where is your identity?  Love that, own that.  And then   come back and enjoy a favorite recipe.  To tempt you, I’m on a bread baking mission, so this week, I’ll highlight some of my favorite homemade breads.  Hope you’ll come back.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Chicken Pot Pie

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On a cool day  , Chicken Pot Pie is a satisfying warm, protein and vegetable rich hearty meal.  My kids like that we get biscuits with pot pie – just one more conduit for honey!  It’s also become a favorite for me to take to families when we deliver meals.  It’s an easy meal to scale, larger or smaller and easy to freeze.

So the basic idea is to cook up some chicken, make a roux (butter, flour and milk), cook some vegetables and mix it all together.  Put it into a pan, top with your crust of choice, bake until bubbly and serve.  I recently picked up some sweet potatoes (just after Thanksgiving, when they were on sale), and thought they would make a nice addition, so I peeled, cubed and roasted a sweet potato and added that in.

Chicken Pot Pie
2 large chicken breasts
3 thighs
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup milk

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 large celery stalks
3 large carrots
1 small onion
1 cup frozen peas
1 sweet potato

1 cup chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspon salt

Braise chicken in hot oil.  Cook in 2-3 Cups chicken broth.  (cook about 30-45 minutes).  Strain, reserve.  Let the chicken cool and cut into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 450.  Peel and cube sweet potatoes.  Spread on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy on the outside.

At this point, you can prepare biscuits or spciy crumble or crust to top the pot pie with (see recipes for options below)*

On the stove, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add carrots, onions, celery.  Saute about 5 minutes.  Set aside.  Melt butter, add flour, cook.  Add in milk, chicken broth, lemon juice, spices.  Bring to boil, cook about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, add vegetables, frozen peas and diced chicken.

Pour mixture into pie dish, bake at 425 for 15 minutes until bubbly.  Add topping.  Bake another 5-10 minutes.

Spicy Crumble
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cold butter, diced in small cubes
1 cup packed parmesan
1 3/4 cup cream

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Preheat oven to 450.  Whisk flour, powder, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne.  Cut in butter.  Stir in Parmesan.  Pour in heavy cream and mix until combined.  Drop on to baking sheet (2-3″ size – mini biscuits).  Bake 10-12 minutes.

Alternative: sweet potato or traditional plain biscuits.

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Crockpot Chili

When the weather gets cold, I always think about chili.  This batch is probably my easiest.  I will admit that I do cook all of my beans from dry, which is easy enough, just time consuming.  Growing up, we mostly had vegetarian chili, so I’m used to beans, and lots of them.  Then, typically I add in peppers and corn.  I was keeping it simple, so just frozen corn this time. So, I prefer a variety of beans.  I had about 2 cups of black beans still – cumin flavored.  Then I cooked about 4 cups total of red kidney beans, pinto, cannellini, navy and small red beans.  Some tomatoes (pureed and diced), some ground turkey, chili powder and 8 hours in a crock pot.  I warn you, this makes a ton of chili.  Make freezer space, or plan to share.  But if you can prep the various things in advance, it’s so easy to just dump, simmer and enjoy.

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Crock Pot Chili

6 cups beans (any variety)

1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1 4 ounce can green chiles

1 pound ground turkey (or beef or bison)

1 large onion, diced

1 cup liquid ( I keep my cooking juice from black beans and mix that in now, or you can add water, or any other appropriate flavor – beef broth, red wine or chicken broth would also work nicely)

1/4 cup chili powder

Other spices as you like them – oregano, garlic, cumin, onion powder, etc.

1 small bag of frozen corn

Cook meat and diced onion until meat is cooked and onion is soft.

Puree whole tomatoes with juice in blender, VitaMix or food processor.

Mix tomatoes, beans, meat, onions, green chiles, tomato paste and diced tomatoes (with juice) in crock pot.  Add additional cup of liquid.  Add spices and give one stir.  The pot will be full, the beans should be just barely covered by liquid.  Turn the pot on low and simmer at least 6 hours (or on high for about 4 hours).  30 minutes before eating, add in the bag of corn, stir.  Serve with rice or corn bread.  Top with cheese or sour cream.  Yum.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Hump Day, Seasonal Soups and Salads

 

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Cranberry Coffee Cake

Do you have any leftover cranberries or cranberry sauce?  It would be great in this coffee cake for breakfast.  Not the stuff out of the can, though…sorry…may have to let that sauce go.  You can use fresh cranberries in this or you can reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup and use cranberry sauce.  Yum.  My younger daughter loves peering in the oven when something is baking and consistently jumps with delight over coffee cake.  How can you not?  It’s just cake for breakfast.  We dress it up with streusel instead of frosting, but it’s the same thing.  (Consider muffins…cupcakes without frosting?)

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Cranberry Coffee Cake (Printable recipe here)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt (preferrably Greek and vanilla or one or the other)
1 cup cranberries (or cranberry sauce – please reduce yogurt by 1/4 cup if using sauce)
 
Streusel
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup oatmeal
 
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix streusel ingredients, set aside.
Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt).  Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
Add eggs, one at a time.
Beat in yogurt, mix well.  Slowly add dry ingredients.  Stir in 1/2 cup cranberries.
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Pour half batter in a greased 9×13″ pan.  Top with 1/2 cup cranberries and 1/2 streusel topping.  Top with remaining batter and remaining streusel.  
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The batter will need to spread thin, but will bake up thick.
Bake 35-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting.  Enjoy!

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Breakfast (any time of day)

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

What will be on your dinner table?  What must be there?  Is there a special recipe?  It’s my mom’s stuffing around here.  This year I modified it by making a bunch of different homemade breads as the base, but I count on her stuffing.  This year, my oldest daughter was even really excited about there being stuffing.  But my kids have never been mashed potato kids…that’s my other one.  Turkey, of course, some cranberries, sweet potatoes in some form and a vegetable – green beans, ideally.  That’s my list.  What’s on yours?  I’ll share some  of my recipes in the next few days.

Who will be at your table?  Over the years, the tradition of who will be at the table has evolved.  Growing up, it was family.  It was all of my family and it was wonderful.  We were mostly local and could all gather around a large table (and a side table).  My aunt brought pies and everyone contributed their pieces.  Slowly, we transitioned to having friends.  Now that family is more dispersed, we enjoy our time with friends.  Whoever you are with, whatever you are eating, I hope you can take a moment and be truly thankful.

Thankful for family, for friends, for a roof, for food, for those close and those far, who are sacrificing in their own way.  And, are you thankful for Jesus?  Are you thankful for his sacrifice?  Do you know him and are thankful for His faithfulness to us?

Remember this child’s prayer, come as a child to Him and invite Him to Thanksgiving:

Come Lord Jesus, Be our Guest

Let thy gifts to us be blessed.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Kitchen Notes

 

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Homemade (from scratch) Chicken and Rice Soup

Homemade soup intimidated me for a long time, especially making your own stock.  It seemed much easier to just buy chicken bouillon cubes at the store.  I can’t recall why exactly I started reading about making my own stock but I was impressed by the nutritional value.  The idea that we should eat chicken soup when we’re sick is less about a red can of processed soup and is really rooted    in the original soup making, homemade stock and all.  Stock is nothing more than water and stuff simmered for hours.  In this case, it’s chicken bones, onions, spices, carrots and some spinach.  For vegetable stock, it’s lots of vegetables.  By simmering the bones, you release all kinds of nutrients in the marrow.  And with the vegetables, you know how folks say not to overcook vegetables because they lose all their nutrients?  Well, you probably lose some in temperature, but most in the liquid.  So now, that stock is PACKED with nutrients.  So stock is easy – time consuming, but easy.

I recently discovered the easiest method yet of cooking a whole chicken.  Now, buying a whole chicken is the most economical way to eat chicken, not always the most convenient, but definitely the most economical.   Different methods have different flavors and textures, but if your goal is cooked and tender chicken, pull out your crock pot.

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If you can plan ahead, start first thing in the morning.  Stick an onion inside a whole chicken and couple of vegetables in the bottom.  Put your chicken and seasonings in the crock pot (read – NO LIQUID).  Put on the top.  Turn it on.  8 hours later, open the top, pull out the chicken and let it rest.  Leave the liquid (yes, now there is liquid) in the pot.

If you want shredded chicken, start pulling it apart as soon as you take it out, while it’s still warm.

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If you want chunk chicken, try to pull off the skin and pull out the bones, but leave the chicken in tact to cool.

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As you’re pulling off the skin and bones, just dump everything back into the crock pot, leaving it on low.  Add about 2-4 cups of water, more seasoning, if you want and cover.  About 8 hours later, come back.  Strain and reserve the liquid off the wilted vegetables.  Discard bones, skin and vegetables.  Savor the stock!

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After you cool the stock, it should get gelatinous.  This is good, it means you got good nutrients and marrow from the bones.  It’s delicious, nutritious and easy!  To use the stock, you will probably add about 1 cup water for each cup of concentrated stock.  I like to pour mine into ice cube trays and smaller containers so I can pull out a little at a time.

This particular night, I transitioned to chicken and rice soup (printable recipe: Chicken Rice Soup)

1 1/2 cups stock

1 cup brown rice

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 onion, finely diced

3 stalks of celery chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp oregano

In a large pot, heat homemade chicken stock with 2 cups water.  Add vegetables and cooked chicken.  Liquid should cover vegetables and chicken by about 1/2″. About 1 hour before eating, add 1 cup brown rice and 2 cups water.  Let boil and simmer.  Serve warm.

 

 

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