Wednesday, March 31, 2010

100% Sourdough Rye (BBA Challenge)

From this day forward, no one will be permitted to call me a quitter. A feet-dragger maybe, but never a quitter. I absolutely DID NOT want to make this 100% sourdough rye bread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, but because I cannot stand being called a quitter, I finally tackled the project. Because I am also an avid future predictor, I knew I'd hate this bread and once again I was correct in my prediction.

I'll make this as brief and as painless as possible for you all. Here are my starter and soaker. So far so good.
Proofing went fairly well, I thought. Perhaps I was wrong all along. Maybe this will turn out after all.

Ahh.... here's where the truth shall set me free and reaffirm my suspicion that this bread was doomed. Here's a shot of my loaf of brain before I put it in the oven.

And here's the finished product.

The obligatory crumb shot.

And here's how I served it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chocolate Coach's Oats Muffins

I think you're all aware by now that I love anything chocolate, and anytime I can add chocolate to a recipe that is relatively healthy, I'm all over it. These muffins get a double punch of chocolate by using Dutch processed cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Are they calling your name yet?

I am smitten with Dutch processed cocoa because I just love the extra dark richness it gives to the finished product without the added bitterness that regular cocoa sometimes does. Whichever one is your favorite, it's important to know that the leavening agent (baking powder/baking soda) changes depending on which type of cocoa you use. If you want to try this recipe with regular cocoa, just skip the baking powder and use a full teaspoon of baking soda instead. My one and only gripe about Dutch processed cocoa is that I've never been able to find it in any grocery store. I order mine online from King Arthur Flour. And if any of my kids are reading this post, your mama's run out of King Arthur gift cards and Mother's Day is right around the corner.... just in case you're at a loss for what to give your darling mother on her special day. (Sometimes you have to drop the hints hard, you all know what I mean?)

And since I seem to be on a roll regarding product promotion, if you're looking for some really tasty and unique oats that offer the benefits of steel cut oats, please check out Coach's Oats or visit Lizzy at her Coach's Oats blog for more delicious recipes. Hubby and I adore this product and can't wait for it to become available in our area.

Chocolate Coach's Oatmeal Muffins (makes 18 muffins)

1 3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup Coach's Oats (or regular old-fashioned rolled oats)
2 1/2 TBSP Dutch processed cocoa
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar Splenda (or 1 cup packed regular brown sugar)
1 cup Splenda (or one cup regular granulated sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and spray liners with cooking spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer stir together the boiling water, oats, cocoa and butter. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Add the sugars and mix on low speed until combined well. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine well.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the batter and mix on low speed just until combined well. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Fill cupcake liners a little over 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes in pan before removing muffins to a cooling rack.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh Lord, I've become one of THOSE grandmas....

Yep, I'm going to be one of THOSE grandmas who thinks photos of her grandchilden are important to other people. I never planned for it to happen, but somehow it just did. I've decided to make Sundays my "Grandma's Brag Book" day and at least you'll know which posts to skip if you're not into photos of other peoples' grandchildren. Someday years from now, my grandchildren will be able to get online and see how much their cuckoo grandma adored them and that's all that matters to me. Just be thankful I'm not the type to make you sit through a three hour slide show of the Grand Teton Mountains (sorry Dad, but that really sucked...LOL)

This weekend Gavin met his great grandparents. Not only is he the first great-grandchild on hubby's side, he makes this a four generation family. Great-grandpa informed him that if we're going to make it to five generations he needs to get cracking.... and soon! (We all chuckled and then got really scared at the same time...LOL)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Banana Pecan Roll

Are you still undecided about what to include on your Easter brunch menu? This banana nut roll might be exactly what you're looking for. I know you've all had a pumpkin roll at some point in your life, most likely during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Well, we're switching it up here by using bananas instead of pumpkin and I've gone the whole healthy route on this one. With the exception of the powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (just a few tablespoons) this recipe is sugar free and it's also made with whole wheat flour.

I think I've mentioned before that hubby and I both teeter on the edge of having high blood sugar levels, so I really do try to substitute Splenda when I can for the sugar in a lot of my recipes. However, if Splenda is not your thing, just use regular sugar. And if you're not a whole wheat junkie like I am, use regular all-purpose flour. See how we can all play in the same sandbox and get along famously?

Banana Pecan Roll (adapted from Penzey's Spices)

5 eggs, divided, room temperature
8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/3 cups Splenda, divided
3 TBSP milk
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (this was two medium-large bananas for me)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Spray a 15x10x1 jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together one whole egg, the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the Splenda, the cinnamon and milk until well blended. Pour/spread into the prepared pan. Set aside.

Divide the remaining eggs into white and yolks. In a medium mixing bowl beat together the 4 egg yolks, banana and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add 1/3 cup of the Splenda and beat well.

In another mixing both beat the 4 egg whites, adding the remaining 1/2 cup Splenda gradually. Beat until stiff. Gently fold into the banana mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Gently fold into the banana mixture, being careful not to beat down the egg whites. Lightly pour or distribute over the cream cheese filling in the pan. Top with the chopped pecans.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes (this took 18 minutes for me because I was using an insulated jelly roll pan) Keep a close eye on it and as soon as the top springs back lightly and pulls from the side of the pan, it's done. Pull the pan from the oven and dust liberally with powdered sugar if desired.

Run a very thin knife around the edge of the pan. Place a clean, smooth-textured kitchen towel on top of the cake and quickly flip over. Gently peel off the parchment paper. If some of the filling sticks to the parchment, scrape it off with a spatula and replace it on the cake. Roll up the cake starting with the short side. Do not let the towel roll into the cake but use it to act as a guide. Lift it in the towel and set it on the serving plate, unrolling just enough so it isn't sitting on the towel. Tuck the towel around the sides while the cake sets. After 20 minutes, remove the towel. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Dust again with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sausage, Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

These past few weeks of limited blogging have reminded me of just how much I miss cooking by the seat of my pants. Without having to worry about exact measurements, taking notes or photos, and sans the stress of presenting it all to you in a pretty package, I found myself whistling away in the kitchen once again. Somehow my blogging had become an almost daily demand and that was making it feel more like a job than the hobby it had started out to be. Being able to step back for a bit helped me to decide that I really do still enjoy blogging, but just not as often.

With all that in mind, today was a day that I felt like cooking and blogging about it. I'd recently made the trip to Trader Joe's in Indianapolis and picked up a few items that I don't normally see in my little hometown Kroger. I found some (already cooked) black beluga lentils and some Muir Glen chipotle fire-roasted tomatoes. We also stopped at a larger Kroger where I found my beloved Johnsonville smoked turkey sausage links, and then we swung by Penzey's Spices where I bought a ginormous bag of their fantastic taco seasoning. What to make, what to make?? A stew, of course!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can morph it into your own recipe by using regular smoked sausage, any kind of petite-diced tomatoes, and your own favorite lentils. I'm merely helping you along by adding the amounts and technique. Unless you're another Rachael Ray, "eyeballing" something can be difficult. And a "palm full" of a specific spice is a different amount to different people. I mean, what if you have man-hands and you're adding cayenne pepper to a recipe? And let's not even get into how one person's idea of a dollop or a squirt might be vastly different from the next person's. Perhaps now you can understand why it's occasionally fun for me to cook without blogging about it. I know how big my "pinch" is and I know that my man-hand palms hold more than a tablespoon, but for you, my friends, I shall write this recipe using measurements because I love you.

Sausage, Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew (makes 6 generous servings)

1 medium sweet potato (7-8 ounces) peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1/2 pound fully cooked smoked sausage links, sliced lengthwise, then diced into 1/2 inch chunks (This was 3 Johnsonville smoked sausage links for me)
1 1/2 cups diced onions
8 oz sliced mushrooms (I used cremini mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour if desired)
2 cups chicken broth
1 package taco seasoning (I used 4 TBSP of Penzey's taco seasoning. If you make your own taco seasoning blend, feel free to use the amount you'd normally use to season one pound of meat)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, with the liquid
1 1/2 cups cooked black lentils

In a microwaveable dish, place cubed sweet potatoes. Cook in microwave for 4 minutes on high. Stir and cook for another 4 minutes on high. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat 1 TBSP olive oil. Add sausage pieces and fry until browned and crispy. Remove sausage from skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the same skillet and add the chopped onions. Saute for 4-5 minutes until onions have softened and become translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and saute for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have lost most of their moisture. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle flour over onion/mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly to avoid burning, for another minute then slowly add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat a bit and stir until mixture is smooth. Add the taco seasoning, the sweet potatoes and tomatoes with their liquid. Simmer for 4-5 minutes then add in the sausage and lentils. Simmer for a few more minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mustard-Roasted Tilapia

Dear Tilapia,

Welcome back into my life. I've missed you. For years and years (those being the diet years when I made myself eat fish) you were the one and only fish that I could tolerate. You were mild and never tasted fishy, which always amazed me, considering that you are indeed a fish.

However, a few years back I ate one of your relatives that must have been sprayed by a skunk or something even worse. Since that time, I have shied away from you. Perhaps you hadn't even noticed my absence, but in case you also missed me, I'm sorry for judging you for that one bad skunky/fish experience.

Now I don't know if fish read blogs, but in the event that you do, please check out the Crabby Cook. He'll make you chuckle if you're the sort of fish that enjoys sarcasm, which I most certainly do. The recipe I adapted from his blog is actually one of Ina Garten's, but I wouldn't have found it had it not been for his blog.

Again, I'm so glad to have you back in my life. I'll be seeing you in my oven again soon.


Mustard Roasted Tilapia (adapted from Ina Garten)

12 ounces tilapia filets (this was three moderately sized pieces for me)
kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 TBSP whole-grain mustard
1 TBSP finely diced sweet onion
1 tsp drained capers

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the tilapia filets in a baking dish and season generously with kosher salt and pepper.

Combine cream, sour cream, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, onion and capers in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture over tilapia, completely covering each piece.

Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. To serve place fish on plate and spoon pan sauce over fish.

(I had more sauce than I needed to cover the fish before baking so I refrigerated it and it was excellent the following night on grilled pork loin chops)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread (BBA Challenge)

I'm a little concerned that the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge police are going to arrest me for POOO (Posting Out Of Order, Penal Code Section 317.25) but I was out of bread and wanted to make whole wheat bread so I thought I might as well use the recipe from the book. If indeed I am arrested for this offense, I'm hoping that one of you out there will bail me out of jail. It would be the kind thing to do. And I'd probably bake you a batch of cinnamon rolls for doing it.

First off I'm going to admit that I've made much easier and as tasty whole wheat bread. Not that this bread wasn't delicious, it was just a tad too dense for my taste. And in all honesty, it's not even really a whole wheat bread in that it involves a soaker, for which Mr. Reinhart suggests using various other grains. I ended up using some coarse ground wheat, corn meal, and some oats. This mixture is made the night before and left to rest on the counter.

This recipe also involves a poolish, also made the night before. Now here's where I'm going to admit that I deviated from the recipe. I've made many loaves of 100% whole wheat bread and I've never had success unless I add vital wheat gluten to the recipe. Mr. Reinhart's formula calls for high-protein whole wheat flour and I had no idea where to get that, so I added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to the poolish and then also added 2 tablespoons to the final dough recipe the next day. The dough came together perfectly and proofed well. I formed it into two loaves because he suggested using two 8x4 pans. I'm one of those who likes to use my 9x5 pans for baking bread and if I were to make this recipe again, I'd make it into one loaf and just use the 9x5 pan.

If you're a fellow Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge member, you'll understand why I'm dragging my feet on the 100% sourdough rye. I know I have to make it if in the end I want to claim that I baked myself through the entire book, but I think I may decide to omit that one and a few others that have received some less than stellar reviews. Now that I've POOO'd and hopefully not ended up in the slammer, I think I'll be able to pick and choose the breads that are left that I will most enjoy. After all, there really is no sense in wasting the time and money making something that you don't really think you'll like, right?

I'm off to make out with my new grandson for the next 5 days. Hopefully I'll have something to post about upon my return!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Welcome Gavin Michael!

My dearest Gavin,

Today was one of the most wonderful days of my life. Your birth brought back the flood of memories and tears of when I gave birth to your own father. Such emotion is difficult to explain but rest assured that you've changed many lives forever. And you're just so stinking adorable I can't wait until your Mom and Dad get you home from the hospital and I can properly squeeze the living daylights out of you. I'll stop shy of hurting you of course, but you can expect to be kissed from head to toe on Saturday.

Right now however, I feel it is my duty to warn you about what's ahead of you so you're able to deal with it when it happens. You're not even a day old yet, but I'm a planner and you might as well learn that asap.

You will ultimately fall in love with one of your stuffed animals. You will most likely choose the one your parents wouldn't have thought you'd choose, but you'll know it's the one when you're only able to fall asleep while rubbing the silky little tag underneath its tail. And here's a heads-up for you. When you become attached at the hip with this beloved stuffed animal, please remember that it is your responsibility to remember to bring it back home with you when you visit my house so that I don't have to meet your daddy two hours away at 10:00 at night because you absolutely cannot fall asleep without stroking that little silky tag.

Perhaps whilst suffering through the angst awaiting the return of your beloved stuffed animal, you'll be tempted to use the "F" word. When Mom asks you where you heard THAT WORD, you will not say "Grandma."

Somewhere around the age of four, you're going to have an accident regarding going poo. Please remember that in trying to clean it up yourself, it is not appropriate to wipe your hands up and down the wallpaper in your attempt to get them clean. Just call out for help. Trust me, Mom or Dad will come running.

When you start kindergarten, please keep in mind that just because you missed your bus, you're not allowed to walk three miles home and then not answer the phone when the babysitter,your parents, the neighbors and/or the police are trying to find out where the heck you are. You'll save years of your parents lives just by not making them suffer through this one incident.

When you enter 6th grade, call me. I think it might be best if you just come and live with me for that year. I won't be nearly as hard on you when you accumulate 1800 demerits as your parents will.

You'll most likely have allergies. I'm sorry, but it's a family thing. You'll get used to the allergy shots and you'll end up all the better for it, but just because you don't like your current bicycle, you're not allowed to leave it behind the allergy doctor's office and tell your Mom and Dad that someone stole it.

And when you're all grown up and a Senior in high school, please remember to toss the Jack Daniels bottle and condom wrapper into the neighbor's trash instead of leaving it under your bed for your mother to find. Become a planner like me and you'll be able to get away with almost anything.

That's about it except that you need to always remember that no matter what you do or don't do, your parents will love you forever and unconditionally. It's one of the perks of being someone's child. Enjoy it sweetheart.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Tuna And Mushroom Pizza

When I was a kid, my mom could get quite creative in her attempt to feed our massive brood and one of her favorite Fridays-In-Lent recipes (but SO not one of mine) was tuna pizza. She'd take one of those Chef Boyardee pizza in a box kits and make two large cookie sheets worth of pizza. That woman could spread pizza dough thinner than a mandolin can slice potato chips, and then she'd use that one little can of sauce to cover each with just a hint of tomato, followed by one can of tuna, and then she'd finish it all off with that tiny little bit of powdered mozzarella the kit included. That was it. No real cheese. No other toppings. We siblings all realize that she was doing the best with what she had to work with, but to this very day we laugh ourselves silly over the Lent pizzas we'd used to have to eat. Remind me someday to also tell you about the hot dog pizzas we'd get every once in a while.

In trying to get over the trauma of my childhood Lent pizza, I decided to take it on the Mags way and see what I could come up with. This pizza uses a white sauce instead of the traditional tomato sauce and lots of flavor is added with wild mushrooms, garlic, thyme and just a hint of heat with some crushed red pepper flakes. Truth be known, I was just going to use a can of Campbell's mushroom soup but found none in the pantry. Now I'm glad I was out of it.

The real prize for me was in finally coming up with the perfect pizza dough recipe to use with this pizza. I will post that recipe at another time, so feel free to use any pizza dough recipe you like. One pound of dough and the sauce and toppings listed below will yield two 12" pizzas.

Tuna And Mushroom Pizza

1/4 ounce dried mushroom blend
1 cup chicken broth
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, divided
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup half & half (I would have used whole milk but I was out)
salt and pepper
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
8 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 cans of tuna, drained
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Remove pizza dough from refrigerator one hour before making the pizza. Divide dough into two equal balls. Spray cooking spray on countertop then place dough there and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

About a half hour before planning on baking the pizza, place baking stone in oven on middle rack and preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Heat chicken broth to boiling. Add dried mushrooms and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Finely dice the mushrooms, discarding any rubbery pieces or stems.

Heat butter and one TBSP of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the soaked/diced mushrooms, garlic, onion powder, 1/4 tsp of the dried thyme and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute for a minute or two then sprinkle in the flour. Cook and stir the mixture for two minutes, making sure that the flour doesn't burn, then slowly add in the reserved mushroom/chicken broth, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the half & half and remove pan from heat. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In another skillet heat remaining TBSP of olive oil. Add the sliced button mushrooms and onions. Season with salt, pepper and the remaining 1/4 tsp of dried thyme. Saute until onions have softened and the mushrooms have given up their moisture. Set aside.

Spray a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray. Gently work the dough into a 12" circle (or oblong as mine ended up.) If the dough resists, just let it rest for a few more minutes before trying to stretch it again.

Using a pizza peel, transfer parchment paper/pizza dough to baking stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and top with 1/2 the sauce, followed by half the mozzarella cheese, one can of drained tuna, and then half of the onion/mushroom mixture. Return pizza to oven and bake for an addition 7-9 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned around the edges.

Repeat above instructions for the other half pound of the pizza dough.