Thursday, April 29, 2010

Double-Shot Mocha Chunks (Treats For Co-Irkers)

Cookie dough can sometimes be difficult to work with and likes to leave me puzzling over why one time my cookies will turn out flat and the next time I make the same recipe they barely spread out at all in the oven. I usually bake a test batch of 3 or 4 cookies just to see how the little buggers are going to behave before moving on to bake the rest of the batch. Take these cookies for instance. The test batch came out looking like piles of poo, with absolutely no oven spread whatsoever.

So for the next batch, I flattened them a bit with a fork before baking them. They turned out looking like piles of poo that had been stepped on.

For the third batch, the anal retentive, obsessive compulsive perfectionist in me canvassed the entire kitchen until I came up with an appropriate tool to flatten them completely, plus it left them with a pretty little design as a bonus.

I can tell you're dying to know what I used, aren't you?

It's the plunger piece from my food processor! (Go ahead, you know you want to applaud me for that one.)

These cookies are delicious, brownie-like delights, with little semi-sweet and white chocolate surprises. Have a glass of milk ready. You're going to need it.

Double-Shot Mocha Chunks (from the King Arthur catalog)

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper or silpats.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, baking powder, espresso powder and salt. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth. Add in the cocoa powder, then the flour. The dough will be stiff. Stir in the chocolate chips and white chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 9-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan for a minute or two before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Multi-Grain Boule

Have you ever been so in awe by the beauty of something you've baked that you're hesitant to eat it because you'd rather display it as a work of art on your coffee table or fireplace mantle?

That's how I felt about this bread. If your breath is not taken away by the sight of a perfectly baked loaf of bread then of course you have no idea what I'm talking about, but there's just something about having something homemade turn out so perfectly that I temporarily committed one of those seven deadly sins: PRIDE. I quickly repented however, because I was hungry, and cut into my masterpiece to make certain that it was as perfect on the inside as it was on the outside. And it was. This hearty multi-grain bread is filled with healthy goodness and is perfect for sandwiches or served alongside a steaming bowl of soup or stew.

Multi-Grain Boule (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1 cup (8 ounces) boiling water
1 cup (5 ounces) Harvest Grains Blend
2 cups (16 ounces) sourdough starter
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 TBSP olive oil


1 TBSP sesame seeds, artisan bread topping, or your favorite blend of seeds. I used "Everything Bread and Bagel Topping."

In bowl of standup mixer place the harvest grains blend and pour the boiling water over it. Let cool to lukewarm and then add the sourdough starter and the remaining dough ingredients. Using dough hook, mix and knead until you've made a soft dough, 8-10 minutes, adding additional flour or water if needed. (I had to add a couple of tablespoons of additional water.) Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl, rolling dough to cover all sides of the dough ball with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until it's almost doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare a banneton by dusting heavily with flour or line a large mixing bowl with a linen towel and dust heavily with flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface and gently fold it a few times to deflate it. Shape it into a large round. Place the round upside down into prepared banneton or bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until it's very puffy, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray paper with cooking spray and dust lightly with corn meal. Gently turn the dough over onto the baking sheet. Spray with water and sprinkle dough with seeds. Using a lame or a very sharp knife, make four slashes across the top of the loaf, in a cross hatch pattern.

Bake the bread in preheated oven for 38-45 minutes until loaf is golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. I rotated my loaf half way through the baking cycle and tented it with foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove bread from oven and transfer loaf to cooling rack to cool completely before slicing. While bread is cooling, feel free to display it on your coffee table or fireplace mantle.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Sixth Photo

Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie invited me to play along with a little game that's been making its rounds in the blogging world. The game is called My Sixth Photo and although I'm still not certain I'm doing this correctly, I took it to mean the sixth photo I could find on my computer. My apologies to Lauri (my sis-in-law) for being the subject here, but I'm playing by the rules and this photo was #6 in my files, dating back to July, 2007. I know she'll forgive me because her nose, teeth and tongue are clean.

The event? My son and now daughter-in-law's bridal shower-bachelor-bachelorette party. What a day we had, starting with the traditional bridal shower in the afternoon and ending with a bunch of slightly/moderately/severely inebriated people on an old rented tricked out school bus. The bus driver toted us from bar to bar and we picked up and dropped off people along the way. We even had my 90 year old mother on that bus for a short time after the bridal shower before dropping her back off at the nursing home. She admitted to me that she'd never ridden a school bus before and I assured her that this was NOT how we typically rode the school bus back when I was a kid. (would have been fun though, don't ya think?)

Anyway, this post brought back some really funny (and a few embarrassing) memories of that day and I'd like to extend the offer to play along to any of my fellow bloggers who'd like to have a little bit of midweek fun. Go find your sixth photo and your inner child!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chicken, Mushroom And Brown Rice Casserole

My son Kellen is a single guy who works about 60 hours a week. Along with working that more-than-full time schedule, he also tries to get to the gym as often as he can and he's finally come to realize that his diet also needs to fall into place with his "getting fit" agenda. His problem? Very little time and/or knowledge when it comes to cooking. He's become bored with turkey sandwiches, basic salads, and grilled chicken breasts. Next week he's planning on taking a few days vacation and coming to visit me for Mother's Day. He told me that he and I could "hang out" on Friday and do whatever I'd like to do. Guess what? I've decided that he's going to get a crash course in cooking on that Friday so he can go back home armed with some simple recipes and techniques that will get him started in the cooking world.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I have quite a few recipes on my blog that are easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you might have on hand. I feel that once a basic technique is learned, you can substitute or even omit certain ingredients depending on your own tastes and availability of ingredients. Once you've acquired even just a little experience, you learn quickly which ingredients are absolutely necessary and which ones can be changed and/or omitted.

For instance, this particular recipe for chicken, mushroom and brown rice casserole could be easily changed by substituting leftover pork loin, roast beef, or even canned tuna (which he loves.) The cheeses could be switched out to cheddar and Monterey jack if desired, and the roll of the rice could be played by orzo or even some type of whole wheat pasta. The wine could be omitted all together and the broth changes only depending on which type of meat is used.

So what are the the constants here? The base of this recipe is in the use of aromatics for the sauce. I rarely cook any casserole or soup without beginning with olive oil, onion, celery and garlic. Next come the spices. I chose thyme here, but since my son's spice rack includes only salt, pepper and hot sauce, our first order of business is to fix him up with some very basic seasonings to have on hand. Here's where I'm going to ask for your help. If you had to pick 10 starter spices/seasonings that would benefit a beginning cook, what would they be?

Chicken, Mushroom And Brown Rice Casserole

1 cup brown rice
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3/4 tsp dried thyme
salt pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup half and half (can use fat free or use whole milk)
3 oz swiss cheese, shredded
3 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
3 cups seasoned, cooked and diced chicken breast meat (about one pound)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cook rice per package instructions. Set aside. (One cup uncooked rice yields about 4 cups cooked rice)

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5-6 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with thyme and pepper and saute until mushrooms start to brown and lose their moisture, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to cook the flour, about two minutes. Add the white wine, chicken broth and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat and add the half & half and the cheeses, stirring until sauce is thickened and smooth. Fold in the diced chicken, rice and parsley. Stir to combine well. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's A Good Thing He's So Cute (Grandma's Brag Book)

Hubby and I just returned home from watching the new grandbaby while his mama returned to work. We thought it might help ease her back into the working world without having that whole hassle with the babysitter for her first few days.

I'll admit that I couldn't have done it alone. If hubby hadn't come along with me I'd have been a crying mess by the time Gavin's parents returned home in the evening. Back in the day, I used to be able to hold a crying baby in one hand, cook dinner with the other hand, and all while folding laundry with my feet. But it's been too many years since I've had a tiny one around and I was sorely out of practice. It turns out that our precious little Gavin is a fusser, just like his daddy was, and if he wasn't sleeping or eating, he was fussing (I chose that word in the event that his parents read this blog post and don't want to hear that Gavin is a screamer, again, just like his daddy.) We chose to deal with the fussing in the only way we knew how; we fed him. Constantly. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that his weight doubled in this past week, but not worrying about a schedule is one of the perks of being a grandparent I think, so if we got him all out of whack while we were there, it's only because we're old and we're used to peace and quiet.

We had one mission to accomplish while Gavin was in our care and that was to take him to meet his great grandmother (my mother.) So on Thursday we had our son install the bullet proof, straightjacket car seat in our car and headed north 75 miles to the nursing home where she resides. Armed with a diaper bag the size of a suitcase, we felt fully prepared for any possible baby emergency. Three outfits, a dozen diapers, 4 bottles, two pacifiers, a box of pacifiers wipes (did you even know that they make those?) diaper wipes, changing pad, blankets, a burp towel and the kitchen sink. I rode in the back seat with him in his rear-facing car seat and all was right with the world for that day.

He behaved like a perfect gentleman while visiting his great grandmother.

And when we returned home and he started screaming again, we fed him.

Not all baby pictures are flattering, but they must be posted.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Whole Wheat Caramelized Banana Muffins

Hubby is not a creature of habit except for his breakfast during the work week. My job here is simple. Always keep a dozen hard boiled eggs in the fridge and a batch of muffins on the counter. On his way out the door, he sticks an egg in his shirt pocket and juggles his muffin with his car keys and computer case while he puts on his shoes and off he goes at 6:15. There have been a few mishaps along the way when I've mistakenly put the carton of raw eggs on top of the carton of boiled eggs in the fridge and you can probably imagine what happens later on in the morning when he goes to crack that "supposed to have been" boiled egg. I'm just happy that I'm not there to witness the tongue lashing I'm getting as he's cleaning up the mess. (HEE!)

These muffins require a little time in that the bananas go through a caramelizing process in the oven before the final batter is mixed, but the resulting flavor definitely makes it worth the extra effort. The simple glaze and pecan topping take these muffins up and a notch and adds just the right amount of additional sweetness and crunch to make them quite delicious.

Whole Wheat Caramelized Banana Muffins

2 cups sliced ripe bananas (this was two large bananas for me)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (8 TBSP) butter, divided
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat)
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used Splenda)


2 TBSP butter, softened
1 TBSP reduced-fast cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2-3 TBSP milk
2 TBSP chopped pecans for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9X9 baking dish layered the sliced bananas. Sprinkle bananas with brown sugar and dot with one TBSP cold butter cut into little pieces. (leave remaining butter on countertop to come to room temperature.

Place baking dish in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through cooking cycle. Remove bananas from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour,baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk eggs, sour cream, and vanilla

In mixing bowl cream together the remaining 7 TBSP of butter with the sugar/Splenda until light and fluffy. Add in the egg mixture and beat well. Stir in the cooled, reserved bananas and their juices (I mashed mine a little bit before adding in.)

Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to incorporate all ingredients. Do not over mix.

Spray a 12 count muffin pan with cooking spray. Or use muffin liners sprayed with cooking spray. Divide batter between the muffins wells. Bake muffins at 375 degrees for 16-18 minutes. Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from muffin pan to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze:

Whip cream cheese and butter together until combined and fluffy. Add in the powder sugar and beat well. Drizzle in enough of the milk to make a glaze that is easily drizzled over the muffins. Top with chopped pecans if desired.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grilled Pork Loin And Spinach Salad With Thai Peanut Dressing

I love spinach. In fact, I think that if there was a contest for a Ms. Female Popeye, I'd make it to the semi-finals (the swimsuit round would kill any chance at the finals.). If picturing me with huge tattooed forearms doesn't turn you on, the image of a corncob pipe hanging from my mouth should be able to seal the deal for ya. And let's not even get into my fondness for Olive Oyl, in a totally culinary and non-lesbian sort of way, of course.

Tonight's dinner started out to be something entirely different. I had some leftover grilled pork loin that was supposed to become part of a stir fry with pasta. The temperature hit 82 here today however, and I thought it was entirely too warm in my kitchen to be boiling water and heating oil and basically making the house even hotter. A spinach salad sounded so much more refreshing than a heavy pasta dish, so I used the sauce I'd already prepared and adapted it to be used as a dressing for this salad. It was a great choice. The combination of baby spinach and crispy vegetables made for a wonderful warm weather salad but the pork and sauce/dressing made it a stand alone and hearty meal.

You may have seen my recipe for Thai peanut dressing elsewhere on my blog. Its versatility makes it a great accompaniment to pork, chicken and pasta. I've even found it makes a fantastic pizza sauce!

Grilled Pork Loin And Spinach Salad With Thai Peanut Dressing (serves 4)

1/4 cup peanut butter
2 TBSP sugar (I used Splenda)
1 TBSP fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
3 TBSP chicken broth or water
1 TBSP reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz. cooked pork loin, cubed
8 cups baby spinach
4 oz. sugar snap peas, diced
1 orange or red bell pepper, seeded, julienned
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 green onions, green and light green parts only, diced

In sauce pan over medium low heat, combine peanut butter, sugar, lime juice, broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Stir until peanut butter is melted and dressing is smooth. Add the cubed pork loin, stir to combine and remove from heat.

Arrange spinach on salad plates or bowls. Top with sugar snap peas, bell pepper and water chestnuts. Spoon pork and dressing on top and garnish with green onions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fake-Out White Bread With Hi-Maize

Hey all you whole grain, fiber freaks out there, do you sometimes miss having a sandwich made with that soft white bread that you grew up with as a kid? I know I do. There are times when I just want to sink my teeth into a grilled cheese sandwich made with Wonderbread and no matter how many times I've tried to grill a sandwich with traditional whole wheat bread, it always turns out soggy and lacking the crispy crust that white bread will give me. Well folks, the waiting is over. I've come up with the perfect fake-out white bread that even your pickiest anti-whole grain family member will love. (Just don't let them see the bag of white whole wheat flour on the counter top or you'll be busted before you even begin.)

*This bread takes a little bit of time and planning in that it involves making a biga the night before you want to make the bread, but the biga recipe will yield enough for three loaves of bread, so once you've refrigerated it overnight, the next day you can use the 6 ounces that are called for in the bread recipe, then divide the remaining biga into two 6 ounce portions and freeze them for future use. Just spray two individual freezer baggies with cooking spray and place one 6 ounce portion in each baggie, squeeze out the air, seal the baggie and place in the freezer. The next time you want to make this bread, toss a baggie into the fridge to thaw overnight and you'll have it ready for you the next morning. Are you with me so far?

What makes this bread so fiber rich? Obviously the whole wheat flour contributes to the fiber count, but it's the addition of the Hi-Maize that cranks up the total to over 4 grams of fiber per slice. If you're not familiar with Hi-Maize, it is a natural dietary fiber made from corn. It can be added to foods to boost the amount of fiber, without changing the taste, texture or appearance. From the King Arthur Flour website: Most starches are digested and absorbed into the body through the small intestine, but some resist digestion and pass through to the large intestine where they act like dietary fiber and improve digestive health. This type of starch is called "resistant starch". Hi-maize® resistant starch combines the health benefits of resistant starch (including prebiotic properties) and the texture benefits of a high quality carbohydrate—e.g., white flour.

I worked on this bread recipe for awhile before I added in the Hi-Maize, so if you have no interest in purchasing it or don't already have it available in your pantry, you can still make this bread without it by using 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour. The rest of the directions remain the same.

Hubby calls this boob bread. (I don't have to explain why, do I?)

I'm all for "going green" but I'm fairly certain that this does not apply to bread, so when I kept finding that mold was becoming an issue now that there are only the two of us eating bread here nowadays, I decided that by baking the bread in two mini-loaves, I could keep one of the loaves on the countertop and freeze the other half for the next week. I can almost see your jaws dropping out of amazement for my ingenuity, but I'm going to have to give credit to the bakers at King Arthur for coming up with this concept.

Fake-Out White Bread With Hi-Maize

The biga (makes 18 oz. see * above)

2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP to 1 cup water, room temperature

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the flour and the yeast. Add the 3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP water and using your paddle attachment, mix until the dough comes together to form a course ball. Switch to your dough hook and knead dough for 4-6 minutes, adding additional water or flour as necessary until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Spray a bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl, rolling it around to coat the dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2-4 hours, or until nearly doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead lightly to degas. Return it to the bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place bowl in refrigerator overnight (and for up to 3 days.)

The final dough:

6 oz. biga
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Hi-Maize
2 TBSP vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup dry milk (I use Baker's dry milk)
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 TBSP honey
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
8-9 oz water (around 100 degrees)

Remove biga from refrigerator one hour before making final dough. Spray a plate with cooking spray. Divide biga into 5-6 smaller pieces and place on plate. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.

In bowl of stand mixer combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, Hi-Maize, vital wheat gluten, dry milk salt, and yeast. Whisk together. To the flour mixture add the egg, butter, biga pieces and water. With heavy spoon or whisk stir ingredients together until course dough forms. Using mixer and dough hook knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, adding extra flour or water if needed. The final dough will be smooth and supple.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and roll it around to coat it in oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let ferment until double in size, 60-90 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and lightly degas. Separate dough into two equal size balls. Flatten each dough ball and tightly roll into smooth balls. Place side by side in a greased 9X5 bread pan.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until dough is at least an inch above the sides of the pan, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in oven and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate loaf, tent with foil to prevent over-browning, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. The bread should register between 195-200 degrees when done.

Remove bread from oven and cool on cooling rack. Brush with melted butter if desired. (I desired)

Let cool completely before slicing.

If you really enjoy working with Hi-Maize it's also available in 5 lb. bags from Honeyville Food Products (much cheaper per ounce than from King Arthur Flour)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy One Month Birthday Gavin! (Grandma's Brag Book)

Do you want to know what the tastiest part of a baby is? It's on the back of a baby's neck, just below the hairline. And if you position your lips perfectly, you'll get to feel the fluff of their hair against your nose as you're kissing that indescribably soft skin.

He's one month old already! How can that be?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scotcheroo Cookies (Treats For Co-Irkers)

It's been almost two months since I have made treats for hubby's co-irkers. Shame on me! A lot has happened to me during that time frame however, so I'm fairly certain that I'll be forgiven. I've had some minor medical issues, become a grandmother, and I've lost and regained my sanity all in two short months. . The grandmother thing of course did not cause the insanity but baby Gavin did help tremendously in assisting the return to my normal mental state. I'm sure there are those of you out there who would testify that insanity IS my normal mental state, so was all the fuss really necessary in the first place? Yes, it was, at least in my own pea brain.

If you're a fan of Scotcheroos (remember them?) you're going to love these cookies. All the traditional Scotcheroo flavors are present: Rice Krispies, peanut butter, corn syrup, and both butterscotch and chocolate chips. They are a breeze to put together and their only drawback is that they need some refrigerator time before baking them, so plan in advance and you'll be good to go.

Scotcheroo Cookies (makes about 4 dozen)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can use regular all purpose flour if you want)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In mixing bowl combine the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the corn syrup and mix, then scrape down beaters and bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla. Scraped down beats and bowl again, then add the flour mixture and mix well. Using sturdy spoon add the Rice Krispies and butterscotch and chocolate chips.

Cover dough and refrigerate dough for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place tablespoons full of cookie dough two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Place cookies immediately into preheated oven and replace unused dough back in fridge. It's important to keep the dough cold until right before you're ready to bake each pan of cookies and remember to always use a cooled baking sheet.

Bake for 9-10 minutes, until center is just set and the edges have just begun to brown. Remove cookies from oven and let cool for a few minutes on baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash With Sopressata

One of the toughest things about food blogging is accepting the fact that not all food that tastes good, looks good. I mean how does one make green split pea soup look appetizing? Or mashed potatoes with gravy, noodles and corn all swirled together? (Or maybe I'm the only one that eats my mashed potatoes like that?) Anyway, you get the point and you're just going to have to believe me when I say that even though this dish looks like a pile of baby poo topped with a pile of doggie barf and parmesan cheese, it really, really was a tasty dish. However, after I photographed it, I stirred it all together and ate it just like I eat my mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles and corn. YUM!

Roasted Butternut Squash With Sopresatta (adapted from Heidi Cooks Supper)

For the baby poo:

One butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy pulp removed.
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP half & half, milk or heavy cream (depending on how naughty you're feeling)
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place squash halves cut-side up on the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Roast in preheated oven for 40-60 minutes, or until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Scrape pulp from squash into a mixing bowl. Add half & half and parmesan cheese and mash well until smooth.

For the doggie barf:

3 oz. sopressata (or other dry-cured salami, cut into a fine dice)
1 cup diced onion
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups (packed) baby spinach, julienned
2 TBSP half & half, milk or heavy cream (again, depending on your level of naughtiness)
grated parmesan cheese

Over medium heat, saute salami until slightly crisp and most of the fat has been released. Remove salami from skillet with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the onion to the skillet, season lightly with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until onions are translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until they're just starting to lose their moisture, another 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add in the spinach and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until spinach has lost its raw color. Add the half & half and simmer for a minute or two to reduce. Return the salami to the skillet.

To serve:

Reheat baby poo briefly in microwave and spoon into serving bowl. Top with doggie barf and garnish with as much parmesan cheese as your little heart desires. (Don't forget to stir it all together until it really resembles something that you just don't think you should eat.)

By the way, the doggie barf would also make an excellent topping for your favorite pasta, if you're not a butternut squash kind of person.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Best 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Ever!

"This is my best pizza crust ever!" Just ask my hubby how many times he's heard me say that but "this time I really mean it." (You can also ask him how many times he's heard me say THAT...HEE!)

My regular readers already know that I'm a whole grain freak. For any newcomers, welcome to my whole grain obsession. For many years whenever I made pizza at home I just used a store-bought Boboli whole wheat pizza crust. It was OK. It did the trick. But I wanted something better than OK. I wanted something that tasted like real take-out pizza, but it had to have a 100% whole wheat crust. AND I DID IT! I developed a whole wheat pizza crust recipe that could rival any take out pizza you've ever ordered. It's whole grain, it's delicious, and the only way you'll make it unhealthy is how you decide to top it. If you're a fan of regular pepperoni, fatty sausage and ground beef, consider yourself lucky that you've at least added some whole grains and fiber to the crust. I can only help you so far, just like you can try to tell me that one glass of wine is enough. Agree to disagree..... I think I've blogged about that before.

I think the key to making any pizza at home is by using a pizza stone. The crust bakes evenly and gets perfectly crisp instead of having the soggy spots you sometimes get when using a regular pizza pan. I'm also going to clue you in here that I NEVER knead any of my bread or pizza dough by hand. I always use the dough hook and my Kitchen Aid mixer. It's perfect every time and a lot less messy, in my opinion. If that makes me a cheater, then a cheater I am.

This particular recipe does take a little planning in that the dough does require overnight refrigeration to help develop the flavor. Each batch of pizza dough will make enough for two 12" pizzas so I am also known to take half of the final pizza dough and freeze it for future use. Simply thaw it overnight in the fridge and it'll be ready for you the next day when you're ready to make your pizza. Have I made this sound more complicated than it is? I certainly hope not, because once you figure out the process, it's really quite simple.

The Best Whole Wheat Pizza Dough...EVER!

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 TBSP vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp pizza dough flavor (optional, but it really does add much to the flavor)
1 tsp honey
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)

In bowl of mixer, whisk together the flour, yeast, wheat gluten, salt, and pizza dough flavor (if using.) Add the honey, olive oil and water. Mix well with a large spoon to combine all the ingredients, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. Knead with the dough hook for 7-8 minutes, adding additional flour or water if dough is either too wet or too dry. Place dough in greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch dough down and cover well with greased plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

On the day you're making the pizza remove the dough from the refrigerator about an hour and a half before wanting to serve it. This is where I divide the dough in half and freeze one half for future use if I'm only making one pizza for hubby and myself. To do this, spray the inside of a freezer baggie with cooking spray and place pizza dough in bag, press out the air, then seal and place in freezer.

Spray your counter top with some cooking spray and place dough on it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rest for one hour.

About thirty minutes before baking the pizza, place pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.

After dough has rested for an hour, spray a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray. Place dough on parchment paper and starting from the middle of the dough ball, gently spread the dough out into a 12" circle. It the dough resists, just let it rest a few minutes longer before working with it again.

Transfer the crust along with the parchment paper to the baking stone in the oven. I use a pizza peel to do this. Bake for five minutes then remove the crust and parchment paper from the stone.

Top crust with sauce, cheese and toppings. This time you'll be able to return the crust to the pizza stone without the parchment paper. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned. Remove from oven and serve.

For this particular pizza I used a Thai peanut sauce instead of traditional tomato sauce and I topped it with a little Monterey jack cheese, some sauteed seasoned chicken breast chunks, orange bell pepper, broccoli and green onions.

Thai Peanut Sauce (enough sauce for one 12" pizza)

1/4 cup peanut butter
2 TBSP Splenda (or sugar)
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to soften peanut butter, then stir well to combine.

I'd like to wish each and every one of you a blessed and happy Easter.

Oh, and GO BUTLER!!!