Home > Archive: February, 2011

Archive for February, 2011

Blogging About Bread

February 27th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

It's Sunday so I usually bake some bread. I did -- I baked white bread and some banana bread.

Amazing stuff, this bread. It's not just a certain style, type, flavor, color, or size. It can be baked in pans, on stones, on trays, or even in pots. There are different things you can utilize to whip up a loaf -- all purpose flour, wheat flour, rye, rice flour, potato flour, well, you get the idea.

I blogged earlier that I went through 3 bread machines because my husband adores bread. But, he isn't alone. Panera, which used to be called St. Louis Bread company, is pretty famous for their bread. In our local Panera, there are paintings of bread.

For Christians, in the Lord's Prayer, there is, "Give us this day, our daily bread." So, bread has played an important part in every day life. Although we ask for more than bread, you get the picture -- we want to be well fed.

I remember baking bread at my former school and the teachers would come in and relive memories of who baked bread with or for them. The aroma aroused that memory.

Remember the ongoing line about if you go to jail you only get bread and water? I wonder what kind of bread? I always pictured that real soft white stuff of my childhood that you could squeeze together and make a ball. Some of the other breads might make it a good experience however. I like a hot, crusty bread. I'd prefer to eat it outside of the bars, but...

This will age me, but remember when people would ask if you had any bread and they didn't mean something to eat, but money? I guess as important is bread is to many, money is as important.

Being sort of frugal, I like baking my own bread because I can make different kinds with many of the same ingredients. It's far cheaper for me to make a loaf of bread than to buy it commercially. Plus, it's kind of fun experimenting with different breads and flours.

There are so many things you can do with bread. You can have it accompany a meal like a slice of bread with pasta. Or you can have a bread stick in olive oil. Yum, especially if it is hot and the olive oil has been flavored with garlic and rosemary. We make sandwiches with bread. And I have used bread to make egg stratas. Plus, we can have toast with our eggs or simply alone. I've used older bread to make bread crumbs for toppings. Or, I've toasted bread and cubed it for croutons for a salad. And, I've even taken some bread to feed the ducks down at the lake. I haven't even touched on the flat breads like cornbread! Not to mention sweet breads like banana and zucchini...yum!

I like different breads for different things. I enjoy the bread sticks if we are having pasta or a salad. I enjoy cornbread with ham. I like rye as well as whole wheat bread for sandwiches and toast. Pitas are delightful for gyros. French breads are great for brueschetta. Texas Toast thick stuff is delightful for French Toast. The bread world is amazing, isn't it?

Do you have a favorite bread?

Sweet Potato Casserole

February 26th, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Sweet potatoes have suddenly become a wonder food. If you've noticed in the news, the media is touting all the good stuff they have in them for one's health. I like them, but my husband claimed he didn't.

A couple of months ago he said he'd try one if I baked it. I did, he did, and he discovered he kind of liked it. We've had them baked a few times since and he comments that he missed out on something all these years.

I've been looking for a sweet potato casserole recipe that would be easy to make ahead and then bake off. The only problem I've encountered is so many of them have so much sugar in them. I like sweet stuff as much as the next person, but one recipe had a cup of brown sugar AND a cup of white sugar. Why even eat the potato -- just make candy and be done with it?

Anyway, I took a few recipes and came up with my own. I fixed it today and it isn't bad. I know most recipes either have pecans or coconut and we don't like either, so I left them off the top, but you like them, by all means, go for it.

Sweet potato casserole

5-6 small sweet potatoes or 2-3 large ones, peeled, cubed, and boiled until soft.
1 can of evaportated milk
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 T of nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
Coconut or pecans for topping -- optional

Drain the cooked sweet potatoes. Mash with the evaported milk and add the brown sugar and nutmeg. Once this mixture has cooled a bit, add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Put in a greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes covered or until thoroughly cooked through. The time will depend on how deep your baking dish is -- less time if it is long and less deep, and more if it is deeper.

I like trying new things, but so many of the recipes anymore seem to have too much salt or too much sugar. I hope to eat stuff that is somewhat healthy for me.

Who Needs Perfume When We've Got Garlic and Onions?

February 22nd, 2011 at 12:26 am

There's just something aromatic about sauting garlic and onions and even celery in olive oil. So many good smells emit from the kitchen.

I sauted onions, celery, and mushrooms for the brisket and then added some garlic. My husband came into the kitchen and told me, "It sure smells good in here." I had to laugh. He doesn't care for fancy perfumes, but he sure likes the aromas of food cooking.

I know when I bake bread he likes it too. I remember last year when I baked bread at school people would open my classroom door to get a whiff and then smile. We humans like good smellin' stuff!

Somehow I don't think I'll be putting a little olive oil and garlic behind my ears, but I'm happy about making my hubby pleased. Think of the money I'm saving him in perfume by cooking and having that great smell? Am I being frugal????

So, what is your favorite aroma?

Balsamic Brisket

February 21st, 2011 at 02:29 am

Yesterday, I happened to watch "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" on Food Network. I've not viewed it before and was taken in by Ann's easy breezy style. She showed making a brisket that made our mouths water. It looked juicy and delicious, so when we did our weekly run to the store, we picked up a small brisket.

I have tomorrow off for Presidents' Day so I plan on fixing it for supper tomorrow night. She served potato pancakes with it -- she used mashed potatoes to bind the potato pancakes instead of flour or bread crumbs.

Beef Brisket

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 (5-pound) beef brisket
Kosher salt
1/4 pound slab bacon, skin removed and reserved, bacon cut into lardons
3 large onions, thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced on the bias
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and finely sliced
2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
4 bay leaves
1 fresh thyme bundle
1 bunch finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Coat a large roasting pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the brisket generously with salt. Add the brisket to the pan and brown well on both sides. Remove the brisket from the pan and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lower the heat to medium, ditch the excess oil, and add the bacon and reserved skin to the pan with a little more oil. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crispy and has let out a lot of fat. Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and cook until they are very soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Toss in the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce it by half. Taste it - it will be very vinegary, but that's ok, don't worry. Season with salt, if needed. Lay the brisket on top of the veggie mix and add the chicken stock to the pan until it just covers the brisket. Add the bay leaves and thyme.

Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven. Roast for 1 hour, check the brisket, and turn it over. Add more stock if the liquid level has reduced. Cover the pan again and return it to the oven for another hour. Remove the foil and roast for 30 minutes more.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the brisket to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Skim off any excess fat from the cooking liquid. If the vegetables are swimming in liquid, reduce the liquid on the stovetop over medium-high heat. You want the sauce to be soupy. Taste the liquid and re-season if needed. Slice the brisket against the grain on the bias. Serve topped with the onion-mushroom mixture and sprinkle with chopped chives.

I certainly hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Big Brother is Eating

February 20th, 2011 at 04:31 am

I tried a new recipe today for bread. Like that's a big surprise, because I'm always on the look out for a new bread recipe. But, if someone had said a year ago that I'd think about trying a recipe for poppy seed bread, I'd say "Nah!" Banana bread or cinnamon bread or peach muffins yes, but poppy seeds????

Long story short, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. To be exact, my half brother and I didn't really see each other for over 40 some years. I mean, I knew he was around and vice versa, but because of problems with our mother, and the fact he was older and almost an adult when I came along, we just didn't get to know each other.

A few years ago when our mother died, I called and told him. He and his delightful wife attended the funeral. We talked a bit, but never really did too much together. Part of it is because I don't trust people very much. Again, an issue with my childhood and I certainly don't want pity. But, through the years we are getting to know each other and my brother realized I like to cook and bake. He shared that his grandmother (we had different dads) used to make poppy seed bread and how much he liked it.

Well, I decided if he likes it so much, I thought I should find a recipe. I've talked to my sister-in-law and I think I might have found one that is similar to what his grandmother used to make. Big brother will be eating his poppy seed bread tomorrow when I give it to him.

Poppy Seed Bread

Original Recipe Yield 2 loaves

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/8 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Mix together the flour, 2 1/4 cups white sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and eggs. Mix in the vegetable oil, poppy seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 1/2 teaspoons almond flavoring. Beat with an electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly grease 2 loaf pans or 6 small loaf pans. Bake 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you have a recipe for poppy seed bread you'd like to share, please do! Hopefully Big Brother will find this one to his liking!

The Incredible Edible Egg...sorry, egg council, I stole your saying!

February 13th, 2011 at 09:31 pm

Years ago eggs were advertised as the Incredible Edible Egg. Then came the harsh warnings that eggs were bad, bad, bad for you and that they will raise one's cholesterol to skyrocketing numbers.

Well, last week, a new finding is eggs aren't quite as wicked as they were once thought. Research says that since chickens are eating better feeds, the cholesterol isn't quite so high.

For all of you brinner (breakfast + dinner) fans, I bet I just heard a hoot and a holler.

Anyway, eggs are tasty not to mention cheap. Right now one grocery store is offering "Ten for ten" which is a buck a dozen of large eggs. That's less than a dime an egg!

I like a good casserole and one with eggs always seems to be a bonus at my house. My husband loves eggs.

I have been poring through cookbooks and think I found a new recipe that I'm going to try. Well, I've already made it and have it in the fridge to bake off later this week. It's from one of those church cook books, but no one's name is on it so I can't give credit to anyone.

Hash Brown Egg Bake
1 pgk shredded hash browns
1 1/2 c. diced ham
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 eggs, beaten
1 pt whipping cream
1/4 c green pepper chopped
1/8 tsp garlic salt
3 T butter

Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl. Add beaten eggs and stir. Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan. Top with butter pieces. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.

Sounds like a hearty meal for brinner to me!

A new chicken casserole

February 12th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

I'm always on the look out for a new casserole dish, especially a chicken casserole.

A dear friend buys me a subscription to "Simple and Delicious" magazine and the newest one had this recipe. It actually makes up two batches, one to use now and one to freeze. I haven't tried it yet, but plan on making it this afternoon. My only change is I'm going to make my own cheese sauce instead of buying the cheese soup.

Chicken Club Casseroles

4 cups uncooked spiral pasta
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 cans (10 3/4 oz) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup mayonnaise
4 mediums tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Colby-Monteresy Jack cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, soup, bacon, milk, and mayonnaise. Stir in tomatoes and spinach.

Drain pasta; stir into chicken mixture. Transer to two greased 8 in square baking dishes. Sprinkle with cheese.

Cool one casserole; cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Cover and bake remaining casserole at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until bubble and cheese is melted.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 375 for 60-70 minutes or until bubbly.

It sounds good for a winter day.

Battery Bleahs

February 11th, 2011 at 12:48 am

Stupid me. I volunteered to purchase a battery for a timer we use at school to test fluency. It's just a small little stopwatch with a button battery, no problem, right?

Have you been to the battery section lately? I thought this shouldn't be a problem, the battery had a number on in. Oh, what a naive person I am.

Dumb me. I looked, and looked, and looked and couldn't find a battery with a number like it. I started holding the battery up to the packages thinking maybe that would help. That narrowed it down to a couple, but I wasn't for sure.

Of course like most stores there is little assistance when you need it. I know they cut back on employees to save money. I wound up spending close to 30 minutes looking for this battery. I finally located a genteel older clerk and explained my difficulty. She said, "Oh, you have to look at the bottom of the packages because many companies say this specific model replaces different battery numbers."

Easier said that done. I think the print that said that had to be either 4 point or possible 5 point fonts. Then, I couldn't find one that said the exact same number. The serial number had an extra letter than my battery.

What is wrong with our country when you have to have a multitude of different battery sizes? It's a struggle just dealing with AA and AAA's and now button batteries with different sizes and numbers. And why does this number have to replace a multitude of different numbers?

And, for those of you who have had the charming experience of battery buying lately, you know these little button batteries aren't cheap. I certainly didn't want to select the wrong one and have to keep it because it didn't fit. I'm not sure what the return policy is on batteries that have been taken out of the packages. For those of you not in education, most of these little purchases come out of our pocket, so although you might think spending $5 on a battery isn't bad, imagine spending it and not being able to use the battery and still having to purchase another battery. I guess I could glue it to my ear for an earring, but other than that, I am not sure what other uses I could come up with.

I found that nice lady and asked her and she said that it was the same and although there was an extra letter in the serial number, it would work. I hoped she was right. I certainly wasn't going to go back and kick her if she was in error, but I had already spent 30 minutes being frustrated. I didn't want to add to my stress.

I'm happy to report the battery worked. It fit, the timer worked, and I tested for fluency today.

As for volunteering to find a battery for something else, I'm going to leave that for someone else. I hope I can find someone else.

And for the battery makers I have one word, "Bleah!"

Grandma's Recipe Box

February 6th, 2011 at 09:00 pm

Last night I was looking at my grandmother's recipe box. It's an old wooden box and most of the recipes are typewritten on cards or papers that have yellowed with time.

I found 4 wine recipes. I've concluded that wine making must be an art because of the time it takes. I had heard my grandfather made his own wine and I assume these were some of the recipes. However, other than the basic ingredients, there were few instructions. Maybe they knew what to do and just needed a reminder of the measurements.

One recipe for a fruit salad said buy a 10 cent box of crackers...think that might be a hard one to follow!

There's my grandmother's peanut brittle recipe in there. I've made it a few times and I have great respect for my grandmother and her hands of asbestoes...she would stretch the hot peanut brittle after taking it out of the cooking pot because the thinner the better. For years my mom wouldn't give me the recipe. I found that odd because the one time my mom tried to make it, she burnt it. It isn't any great secret, that's for sure. Yet she didn't want to give it up.

I found 6 recipes for fruit cake. Yep, 6 different recipes for fruit cake. I guess I find that amusing because nowdays people have jokes about fruit cake.

But the funniest recipe of all has to be how to get rid of a tapeworm!

Meat Market Magic

February 3rd, 2011 at 09:09 pm

It was quite a suprise to learn we would have yet another snow day today. The temps are pretty cold, but we've had school with the temps this frigid before. I don't know the real reason, but I am surmising it was probably a problem with getting lots of parking lots plowed and busses ready to go.

We did get out and about some today. DH had cabin fever and wanted to go out. We went to a local market and bought some meat to put in our freezer. I like their beef and pork and they wrap it in sizes that are managable to use. Today was also senior day so we got 10% off since DH is past 62.

We often eat the same types of meat over and over. I guess I don't get too wild when it comes to different things. I don't know if it is because I don't want to fail or if it is I don't want to waste money.

Every so often I get brave and try something new, but it usually is the same type of meat I've tried before. I think I need to venture out and see if magic can be made with different cuts of meat. Would this make me brave or just plain silly?

Snow Day!

February 2nd, 2011 at 08:48 pm

Today is our second snow day for our school district. We don't get them often, so having two in a row is an indication of how grim the weather has been.

We received a layer of ice, then some snow, them some frozen something or other on top of that, to be complimented with yet another coating of snow. With cold temps and some high wind gusts, there is no doubt we are in winter. The most frightening part was the lights flickering on and off. Some parts of our city did lose power. We had an ice storm in 2006 and being without power even just two days made it tough. With the frigid temperatures predicted, it could be life threatening if we were to lose power.

The good thing about being home is we ate well. I fixed a big breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast and that make my hubby very happy. Lunch was a cheese spread on homemade bread. Supper was a pork loin roast, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and a fruit salad.

Today I used the leftover pork roast and made pulled pork sandwiches. Hubby was pleased about that. Tonight it is beef stew as long as we have power.

Our cul-d-sac is pretty deep. The city plows usually don't get to our subdivision until days after a major storm, so I'm not looking for them anytime soon as they struggle to dig out the city. I called a guy to plow our driveway and so far he hasn't shown which is frustrating because two of our neighbors had their driveways plowed and we could have asked their people to do it while they were here, but we hope our guy shows.

I hope all of you who are suffering from this storm are safe and warm!