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Absent?

I apologize for my absence.  I’ve been trying to catch up on lots of things, but I’ve also had my nose buried in a few cookbooks I picked up at the library.  It’s been fun to read new recipes, new techniques, new ideas!  

I’m prepping for Christmas cookies, Thanksgiving dinner and really, just having fun in the kitchen.  Hopefully lots more recipes to come.  Just fyi, I’ve been reading Green Market Baking Book, Homemade Pantry and the King Arthur Cookie Companion.  

Finally, as we approach Thanksgiving, and then swiftly move into preparing for celebrating Christ’s birth, have you paused to consider what are you most thankful for?  

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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Garlic Bread – Monkey Style

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I love the idea of monkey bread.  It’s balls of dough, baked together to make a lumpy, pull apart loaf.  Typically it’s sweet and cinnamon-y and starts with refrigerated cans of biscuit dough.  I’ve always wanted to take this concept and make it savory.  There’s plenty of recipes for this idea or box mixes you can buy to get started, but I wanted to try homemade dough.  So I took a half recipe of my pizza dough, let it do the first rise.  Then I had a bowl of melted butter, egg, Parmesan cheese and spices.  We took balls, rolled them in the “batter” and stuck them in a pan together.  The result was beautiful, garlicky bread.  It wasn’t overly greasy or gooey, which sometimes is fun to have but it had great flavor and pulled apart into dunk-able chunks.  We were having spaghetti, so there was plenty of sauce to sop up with yummy bread.

Garlic Monkey Bread

2 teaspoons yeast

2 teaspoons honey

3/4 cups warm (tap) water

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour (I used 2 cups bread and 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup almond flour)

Take 1/2 cup of the hottest water you can out of the tap (it should be hot to the touch, but not burning). Sprinkle yeast and honey over the water and stir to make sure your yeast is active. It should get frothy in a few minutes. Meanwhile mix together flours (all purpose will work just fine), salt, and spices. Once yeast mixture is frothy, add in oil, mix into flour. If you soaked whole wheat flour, now is the time to add it in. Otherwise, just add an extra 1 cup warm water to flour and yeast mixture.

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Knead. For as long as you can stand, but at least 5 minutes. It’s messy at first, but then it comes together. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle with a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, keep kneading! Take a clean bowl, coat it with oil and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic and wait until it doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

 After the first rise, mix together

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1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 egg

Stir together in a bowl.
Roll dough in batter, place in greased loaf pan.

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Bake 375 for 25 minutes. After about 15 minutes, cover with foil so it doesn’t burn the top.

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Pizza: Friday Night Family Favorite

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I started to write “we love pizza”.  While I believe that’s true, the reality is  love pizza.  I have sweet memories or ordering pizza with my parents and watching tv on Friday night when TGIF had quality family programs or a movie or something else.  I think I get it genetically, my mom seems to love pizza too.

A few years ago, I was watching America’s Test Kitchen and was intrigued by their deep dish pepperoni pizza.  I worked on that one for a while.  It was great.  I was hooked. Making homemade pizza was so fun.  It was my first real venture into yeast dough.  Have I mentioned how marvelous I think it is to watch as flour and water and salt mixed with a teeny amount of yeast becomes this living bubbly warm and delicious smelling dough?  It’s fantastic.

So, for several years now, my family has endured my pizza making adventures.  We went really deep dish for a while, then I started thinning it out.  My favorite is probably a bit thicker than “hand tossed” from a delivery place.  But the next challenge was a crispy bottom crust.  I could make a good dough.  I mean, it is flavorful.  I sprinkle oregano, basil & garlic powder into the dough so that the bread itself has flavor once you finish all the toppings.  Recently, after a bunch of reading, experimenting and more advice from my parents, I think we have found a truly successful, repeatable pizza.  We use some corn meal and HEAT!  A pizza stone is beyond our kitchen accessory space allotment right now, but  I learned that I can preheat my oven to 500, with a baking sheet in there and make a nice hot baking sheet.  I move my crust (on parchment and cornmeal) to the HOT pan, drop the heat to 425 and I get a GREAT crust – soft, fluffy to eat, but a crispy bottom that you can actually bite and cut into.

Once you have a great crust, you can have fun with the toppings.  In the summer, we lay fresh basil, sliced red onions, artichoke hearts and ham on top.  We like pepperoni, sliced spinach, bell peppers, sausage, chicken.  Once I coated the crust with barbecue sauce, added corn and chicken and then topped with a mixture of colby jack and mozzarella. This time we have some ground turkey and onions on hand.  I mix in a bit of sage and it’s almost like sausage.  I chopped some fresh spinach and finely sliced some red onions.  My kids just like plain cheese!

Pizza Dough (Printable recipe: Pizza)

1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm (tap) water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
4 cups flour (I used 2 cups bread and 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup almond flour)

Toppings of your choice

2/3 lb shredded mozzarella cheese

If you’re using whole wheat flour, soak the flour with 1 1/4 cup warm water to soak/soften the grains.

Take 1/2 cup of the hottest water you can out of the tap (it should be hot to the touch, but not burning).  Sprinkle yeast and honey over the water and stir to make sure your yeast is active.  It should get frothy in a few minutes.  Meanwhile mix together flours (all purpose will work just fine), salt, and spices.  Once yeast mixture is frothy, add in oil, mix into flour.  If you soaked whole wheat flour, now is the time to add it in.  Otherwise, just add an extra 1 cup warm water to flour and yeast mixture.

ImageKnead.  For as long as you can stand, but at least 5 minutes.  It’s messy at first, but then it comes together.  If it’s too sticky, sprinkle with a bit of flour.  If it’s too dry, keep kneading!  Take a clean bowl, coat it with oil and place dough in bowl.  Cover with plastic and wait until it doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

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If you’re making homemade pizza sauce, now is a great time to do it.  Open a can of 28 oz tomatoes, puree them.  Add in lots of oregano, a little salt and some basil, hot peppers if you like a little kick.  Simmer this in a skillet until it reduces and thickens ~ 30 minutes.

ImagePrepare parchment paper with about 2 Tablespoons of corn meal in piles.  You can put them on pans or just on the counter on the parchment.  Take dough, press into the middle so that it deflates (no need to punch here).  Spread out the corn meal and take 1/2 of the dough and stretch/roll it on the corn meal into desired shape.  We usually have 1 large and 2 smaller pizzas, so adjust your fractions accordingly.  If it’s not stretching, just let it rest, move on to something else and come back in a few minutes.

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Once your dough is stretched and ready, cover and let it rise for another 45 minutes.  Now get your toppings ready – cook your meat, cut your vegetables, shred your cheese, etc.  After 15 minutes, turn your oven on to 500 (or as hot as your stone/sheets can handle) and put them in the oven – a large baking sheet works just fine here.  You just want the pan to be HOT!  Once the dough is puffy again, I sprinkle it with a bit of Parmesan cheese, spread on the sauce, top with toppings and cheese.

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Pull out your hot pans, drop the oven temperature to 425 and gently slide the parchment & pizza straight on to the hot pan, back into a hot oven.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown, firm when you try to pick it up and cheese is bubbly.

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We had leftovers this last time, so I wrapped up a whole pizza in plastic and foil and stuck it in the freezer.  Easy freezer pizza for another night!  Happy Friday Night Pizza 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Friday Family Fun Night

 

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Waffles – Family Recovery Meal

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An easy meal for us – a guaranteed delight around here is waffles.  We’ve all been a little under the weather for the last couple weeks.  Not incapacitated, just not thriving.  Blogging about food is just tough when you just don’t have the energy to think about food.  So, we missed a day of recipes yesterday and hope to all be on the mend soon.  Waffles are a great way to recover – they can be dressed down, just plain, not too spicy or complicated or they can be dressed up with honey and peanut butter, maple syrup and apple butter.  And my whole family just loves waffles.  Waffles ought to be simple but I’ve worked to make them crunchy and fluffy enough.  I was quite satisfied with the results this week.  If there’s any leftovers, just take a cookie sheet, line with wax paper and lay them out individually.  Freeze them and pop them in a plastic bag.  When you need a quick breakfast, put them in the toaster.  As convenient as Eggos, just homemade (and possibly healthier :))

Waffles – Printable recipe (Waffles)

Makes about 12 4×4″ waffles.

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 cups milk*

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 cup crispy rice cereal*

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

*I’m sure this recipe is good without the cereal addition. If you choose not to add in the cereal, just reduce your milk to 1 3/4 cups.

 

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Turn a skillet on medium high and put in your stick of butter. Melt and then brown the butter. Set aside to cool.

Mix eggs on medium high until airy, add milk. Mix until frothy.

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Stir in flour, cereal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix together.

Stir in melted butter until well combined.

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Pour onto a hot waffle iron. Cook approximately 4 minutes or until done.

Top with your favorite toppings. Enjoy.

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Peanut Butter

ImageWe love peanut butter.  When we first got married, we would buy peanut butter in 4lb containers…and eat it in a month!  Slowly, grocery stores stopped stocking them, so we would check for stores on road trips.  I think one time we bought 10 containers of it!

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Fast forward a few years and we still love peanut butter.  But now we have a Vita Mix!  Possibly the most utilized gift our family has received was the gift of time and labor and resources from our parents to create our wonderful kitchen in our new house.  But the second most utilized gift is probably our Vita Mix.  We use it at least 4 times a week.  During the summer, Brad and the kids make smoothies several times a week, we make soup and sauces, refried beans and PEANUT BUTTER!  The concept is simple enough.  Dump in peanuts, turn it on, tamp the peanuts into the blades and voila!  My mom helped with a suggestion of a bit of coconut oil (2 teaspoons) and I drizzle in some honey.  This is spreadable, delicious, natural goodness!  If you don’t have a Vita Mix, just ask us for some…we love making peanut butter and are happy to share 🙂

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1 lb peanuts (50% salted is great.  If they’re unsalted, you should just add some salt to the peanuts – maybe 1/2 teaspoon, otherwise the peanuts don’t grind as smooth)

2 teaspoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons honey

Put everything in, turn Vita Mix on, slowly increase to 8.  Blend and tamp until peanuts start to grind.  It takes about a minute.  Scrape into a jar and top.  What doesn’t get scraped gets turned into a peanut butter smoothie 🙂

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Homemade Staples

 

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Balsamic Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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A little orzo, balsamic vinegar, feta, olive oil…it just sounds Mediterranean.  Sometimes I’m looking for an interesting side dish and frankly, this one can be a main dish too!  I originally used it alongside tilapia, but it works well for meatless Mondays!

Now I cooked my chick peas from dried, but you can easily open a can of chick peas and be good to go!  If you do cook them from dry, I find chick peas take a bit longer.  You need to bring them to simmer, then let them soak at least 4, closer to 8 hours.  Then it takes about an hour to simmer them before they soften.  I prefer them cooked with a bit of salt as well.

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The other nice thing about this recipe is you can prepare the pieces at any point and just assemble when it’s time to eat.  Letting all the flavors marinate is great.

Balsamic Mediterranean Orzo (Printable recipe: Balsamic Mediterranean Orzo)

2 cups cooked orzo

1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
1 cucumber diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 can chick peas
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried basil
salt, pepper to taste
(You can have fun with additional ingredients: spinach, black olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, etc.)
Cook orzo according to package directions.
Prepare the remaining ingredients.
Stir together dressing ingredients.
Once orzo has cooled, stir in cheese and vegetables and dress with dressing.
Eat room temperature or cold.
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Meatless Mondays

 

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Thank you note

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We’ve had a full week around here, enough to warrant at least a mini pity party.  I was all set for that on Thursday – a big self pity fest!  I had thank you notes on my to do list though.  I wanted to make sure to thank volunteers who had helped facilitate a great event a couple weeks ago and didn’t want to forget.  So I set off to write a few obligatory notes.  But thankfulness took over.

I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for folks around me, friends, guidance, love, support but most notably the grace of God for me, a sinner, incapable of overcoming those things that overtake me.  You see, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  Yes, there is sin, but in confession, there is forgiveness! My identify is therefore in Christ, not in my pity party, not in the overwhelming circumstances or my pride in my busyness.  And there, in a Starbucks on Thursday morning, immersed in obligatory thank you notes, I was reminded of the source of my true gratitude.

As the Thanksgiving season comes upon us, can I challenge you to take a day and write a thank you note?  Just think of someone you’re thankful for.  Hand write a note.  Stick a stamp and mail it off.  You will be amazed how thankfulness will change you and how being appreciated will change them.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” – Psalm 107:1

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Kitchen Notes