Friday, October 31, 2008

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

So today is the last day to get a cupcake in for October's Cupcake Hero: Squash. So I made pumpkin spice cupcakes with molasses cream cheese frosting and toasted pecans. That would make far too long of a name. So I'm calling them Thanksgiving Cupcakes because on Sunday, in my never ending quest for turkey leftovers, I'm having my mom and stepdad, sister M., and Grandma down for a Dinner of Giving Thanks. Dinner of Giving Thanks should not be confused with Thanksgiving Dinner. This is just a small dinner with a big turkey so that I can have my favorite November lunch: A turkey sandwich on white, nutritionally negligible, bread, with Miracle Whip. Yes, it's plain. It's also the only time of the year where I will buy either Miracle Whip or fluffy white bread. I'm so excited.

Oh my, I've gotten way off track here.

So my little cupcakes. It's been sort of a hellish week. I've had something due in every class. One class I had a test AND a paper. So yesterday afternoon, the project due in that class was something we were doing in class, I whipped up these cupcakes. They were yummy! The molasses complimented the pumpkin cupcake and the toasted pecans just took it over the top. My class really enjoyed them.

Meanwhile the Brain stayed home and passed out Halloween candy. Why would our little town, and lots of other little towns across the Ohio, celebrate Halloween on the 30th? Because the 31st is a pagan holiday and they don't want to celebrate it. Does this make sense to anyone? I celebrate Christmas on the 24th. Does that mean I'm not celebrating Christmas? Ugh.

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin butter. Add the eggs one at a time and allowing each one to be absorbed before adding the next one. Beat in the milk. Then slowly add the dry ingredients, making sure they are fully incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among cupcake wells. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center shows a few moist crumbs. The center should also spring back when lightly pressed.

Cool pan on rack for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. package cream cheese
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp molasses
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Beat in the molasses. Slowly add the powdered sugar. If the consistency is to soft, add more powdered sugar.

1/2 cup pecan chips

Place the pecans in a dry pan over moderate heat. Toast the pecans just until they start to smell.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with molasses frosting. There will be leftover frosting. Sprinkle cupcakes with toasted nuts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daring Bakers do Pizza!

This month our lovely Daring Baker Challenge was hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums. Rosa picked Peter Reinhart's Pizza Dough. Go check out Rosa's Yummy Yums for the recipe and the story behind why she picked it. I found this recipe to be not too difficult. Of course finding instant yeast is just not happening here in rural Ohio. You'd have a better chance of spitting and hitting a political candidate. Not that I'm advocating spitting on political candidates. But I digress, I substituted active dry yeast instead of the instant and proofed it in 2 oz of the water (which I'd heated to 100°F.). It worked out just lovely. Oh yeah, and I cut the recipe in half because we simply don't need that much pizza floating around our happy little family of 2.

And I did try tossing it. (look an action shot!)
But I had a hard time with the catching it part.
And taking a photo of it. This would be my kitchen after some pizza dough went flying through the air.
And because I wanted something a little upscale and I figured the Brain (and his secretary) would like "normal" pizza, I decided that mini pizzas would be best. The Brain (and his secretary) got sausage, green pepper, and mozzarella with roasted tomato sauce.
I got a Parmesan, olive oil, kosher salt, and cracked pepper pizza that was supposed to get a salad on top, but I ate it in the car on the way to school instead. Just a little itsy bitsy note though, Parmesan doesn't need more salt. But overall it was tasty.
And I also made myself this pizza, with Trader Joe's goat brie, honeycrisp apple slices, and a sprinkling of Kraft caramel bits. It was super good! I may make this pizza dough recipe again just to make this particular pizza!
Overall I would say the pizza was tasty. But I am more of a thick crust than a thin crust kind of pizza gal. I like my pizza to have some chew and bread to it. Although I can see that this thin crust has it's advantages in some types of pizza and judging from the Brain's lackluster response to it, we'll be making my regular thick crust pizza dough more often.

Make sure you check out all the other Daring Bakers to see what kind of pizza they made!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

For the most part I am considered to be a maker of "fancy" food. Ask my mother. Even though I think that my food is fairly simple to prepare (there's a growing selection of slow cooker meals), and uses ingredients that mostly I can find out here in rural Ohio, I still get labeled as an elitist in the food department. I apparently don't cook for the people. This alone has been troubling, but this past week, some good friends of our family had a death in the family and I wanted to send over a casserole.

Yeah, yeah, you're thinking. Big whoop. This was actually a fairly difficult job. First, I had to think of a "farmer food" casserole. The patriarch of the family isn't particularly fond of vegetables. About this time, a classmate of mine told me that farmers like potatoes (or noodles), meat, and cheese. She was an expert because her dad wouldn't eat vegetables. (I should also make the disclaimer here, that I'm sure farmers exist who eat vegetables and this is probably a mere stereotype, but the patriarch of the family I was cooking for does not in general.) So the task to make a meat, cheese, and potatoes casserole, was a little daunting because there's a lactose intolerance problem in our happy little family, so for the most part I don't cook with cheese. Or at least not large proportions of it. I finally came across this delicious Scalloped Potatoes and Ham recipe from my trusty St. Columban's Catholic Church cookbook. I also came to the conclusion that we'd be having ham steak for dinner, not extra casserole.

Then the delivery of this casserole posed some more problems. See I had class the night that I made this. And unfortunately, by the time I finished it, the family was at the viewing. So it went in the fridge for the night. The next day, I tried to call and deliver it before I left town, but that happened to be right in the middle of the funeral. I was having no luck. Fortunately, the Brain is a wonderful husband. He took it over after he got home from work. He's also friends with the couples children. I really hope they enjoyed it and that they are receiving some comfort in this sad time.

On a thoroughly happier note, I went up to Michigan this weekend to see my family and because the 2008-2009 season opened at the Michigan Opera Theater. The season opener was the opera Margaret Garner based on a true story of an escaped slave. The libretto is written by Toni Morrison and is incredibly powerful. My best friend T. and I came out of it marveling at the symbolism, thankful for waterproof mascara, and a little annoyed that Black History wasn't included more in our education. The opera has left the Michigan Opera Theater, but the entire cast is going to Chicago to perform at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University November 1-9. If you can get the chance, go see it!

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
adapted from the St. Columban's Catholic Church Cookbook submitted by Rudolph York

1 1/2 lb. ham, cubed
1 large onion, diced
10 raw Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
4 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In greased 9x13" casserole arrange half of the ham cubes. Top with half of the onion and half of the potatoes. Sprinkle with half of the flour, salt, pepper, and cheese. Repeat with remaining half of everything. Meanwhile, heat the milk with butter until butter melts and pour over all. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are done.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bacon, Onion, and Brown Lentil Skillet

So besides using the slow cooker a lot (seriously, it rarely goes back in the cupboard), I'm also finding speedy recipes super handy. And lentils are a legume that leans on the speedy side of life. I won't call it the Ferrari of legumes because c'mon, a lentil is not exactly a sexy bean. I'm not sure which bean would be the "sexy" bean, but a lentil isn't it. And yes, it's Legume Wednesday! Whoopee! This would be the late-night version of Legume Wednesday. OH boy. Pillow talk with the lentil. Maybe it is a sexy bean.

This recipe popped off the page of October's Cooking Light at me. It's a big-time pantry recipe for me. Really, in recent years it's been rare for me to be without bacon, and with Chester in the freezer I've got almost enough bacon to last until next summer. So yeah, bacon, lentils, carrots, celery, onion and stock. And the whole thing took definitely less than 30 minutes. And it's one of those seriously damnass good recipes. The portion size is pretty big and it's a nice smoky dinner with a great mouthfeel. Oh look! I used a "foodie" word! It's basically nice and chewy and delicious.

And joining me this Legume Wednesday is Zylo with her Mashed Black Eyed Peas with Garlic Puree. It sounds super delicious! Go check it out. Would you believe I've never had a black eyed pea? It's something I've been meaning to try out.

Bacon, Onion, and Brown Lentil Skillet
4 servings

6 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup dried brown lentils
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 tsp drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add onion to drippings in pan. Saute 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add carrot, celery, thyme, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add broth and lentils. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are just tender. Uncover and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for 6 minutes or until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley and pepper and sprinkle with bacon.
Remember to make sure your ID, Voter Registration, and Social Security card all have your name typed EXACTLY the same way so that your vote will count too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns

Fall has definitely hit. It's chilly outside. And this morning there was a cold looking rain. I wasn't going outside. Actually, I was trapped inside all weekend with a nasty case of the flu. The Brain, I think, was worried I was going to permanently meld with the couch. Fortunately, yesterday I took a turn for the better. And by last night I was back to my normal self. I even was back to yelling at the TV during the Rachel Maddow Show. And rooting for Warren Sapp as he hustled across the dance floor. I admit it. I'm a Dancing With the Stars junkie.

So at some point this weekend while I lay on the couch staring at my bookshelves, which are full of cookbooks, I realized that I do really have a bunch of cookbooks that I haven't cooked from. One of them is Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. Now this book was a birthday present (that I picked out for myself) last year. And I just haven't planned ahead enough to make any of the breads out of it. So there I was with the time to plan and no real desire to cook. Yes I was definitely sick. But the thing is, I have a loaf of Zingerman's Whole Wheat Farm Bread on my counter that I've been slowly working my way through. I really didn't need any more bread.

But I did find a recipe in this cookbook / bread making manual for some Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns. Fabulous! The recipe reminds me a little bit of the Julia Child French Bread Recipe. It's very long. But in the margins is a nice little commentary that gives the bread profile (Enriched, medium soft dough; delayed fermentation method; commercial yeast) and tells how many days it will take to make (2) as well as a breakdown of how long each step will take. So I feel like the recipe really wants me to succeed. I still haven't found any instant yeast and am seriously thinking I may have to pick some up online, but earlier in the book there is a little commentary that says if you want to use active dry yeast, that's fine, just increase the amount by 25% and hydrate in 2 oz. of the lukewarm water (about 100°F.) for 2 to 5 minutes. So I tried to do that. But then I ended up adding a lot more flour because the final dough recipe called for more instant yeast, but no additional liquid. So I did what I figure I had to do and added 2 ounces of water. I sort of figured that if I added the yeast without any extra hydrating it wouldn't do anything. If anyone has a better idea I'm open to suggestions.

As a result, I did have more than the 8 to 10 buns that the recipe called for. I got 12. And I think they are really good. The Brain came home for lunch and he thought they were like eating whole wheat bread. But to be fair, he took an end piece that maybe I didn't get the cinnamon and sugar all the way to the end on. And he took it without frosting. I took a bite of mine and went back and made more frosting to dribble on top. They aren't as sweet as say those sickly sweet deep-fried ones at the grocery store, but I think they're better than them. And really, this is the kind of cinnamon roll I could eat for breakfast with a steaming hot cup of coffee. And best of all, although hard to believe, these are low fat (only about 2g each), high in fiber (over 7g each!) and they're made with whole wheat flour exclusively so you could even convince yourself they're sort of healthy.
Time for a healthy breakfast!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns
closely adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp (.14 ounces) salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1% milk

Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight (12 to 24 hours).

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp (heaping) active dry yeast
3 ounces 1% milk (a little more than 1/3 cup)
2 ounces lukewarm water (about 100°F./ 38°C.)
1 large egg slightly beaten

Hydrate the active dry yeast in the 2 ounces of water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Mix all of the Biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still tacky.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the refrigerator to take off the chill. It will have risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.

Final Dough:
Use all soaker
Use all biga
7 Tbsp (2 oz.) whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp (.18 oz.) salt
3 3/8 tsp active dry yeast
2 ounces lukewarm (100°F./ 38°C.) water
3 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 Tbsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (or more to taste)

2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Hydrate the yeast in the 2 ounces of lukewarm water for 5 minutes.

Using a pastry scraper, chop the soaker and biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some additional flour over the pre-doughs to keep the pieces from sticking back to each other.)

Put the pre-dough pieces in the bowl along with the 7 Tbsp flour, salt, yeast, honey, and butter. Mix on slow speed with the paddle attachment for 1 minute to bring the ingredients together into a ball. Switch to the dough hook if need be and mix on medium-low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pre-doughs become cohesive and assimilated into each other. Add more flour as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. (If you're using active dry yeast and extra water, you will need to add a bunch of flour).

Dust a work surface with flour, then roll the dough in the flour to coat. Knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating only as much extra flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you are preparing a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and made any final four or water adjustments. The dough should have strength and pass the windowpane test, yet still feel soft, and very tacky. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1 1/2 times it's original size.

When the dough has risen, dust the work surface with about 1 Tbsp of the extra flour and gently transfer the dough to the floured work surface with a plastic bowl scraper (try not to rip or tear the dough). Roll the dough out to a 9-inch square approximately 1/2 inch thick. (My square turned out to be more of a 12-inch square). Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon sugar all over the surface (making sure to get the edges) and roll it up into a tight loaf. Slice the dough into 1 inch thick slices and lay them out, 1 inch apart on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Mist the top of the buns with pan spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until the buns are nearly double in size.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (240°C.) Place the pan on the middle shelf, lower the temperature to 350°F (177°C.) and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes. While the buns are baking mix together glaze ingredients. The buns will be a rich brown and very springy when poked in the center. If they still seem doughy, continue baking.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the buns for 5 minutes before glazing.
I'm a real American and I'm voting for Barak Obama. Although I do have the urge to point out that all you big city people aren't real Americans. You bunch of phonies! hee hee!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mushroom Sauce Pork Chops

I'm stuck in classes most nights and starting in January (or maybe December) I'll have a long term substitute teaching position to replace a pregnant math teacher. The Brain also works long hours for some clients who would test the patience of a saint. Thus our happy little family has become fairly dependent on the slow cooker. It didn't start out so well. In the beginning the slow cooker produced some of the very worst dinners yet. But, now that I've got the lovely Chester Pig in the freezer and found some delicious slow cooker cookbooks, I think I'm getting the hang of it!

This is the Brain's all time favorite slow cooker meal. He's also a really big fan of the Party Beans, but these Mushroom Sauce Pork Chops are his favorite. I think. I know he really really really likes them. I like that some time in the morning I just have to sear the chops and then throw them and a whole bunch of really inexpensive pantry items into the slow cooker and when I get home tired and hungry from school this delicious pork is all ready for me. And this pork is so tender usually just the bones are left in the slow cooker.

Mushroom Sauce Pork Chops

4 pork chops
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 Tbsp quick cooking tapioca
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sherry
1 (4 ounce) can sliced mushrooms
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
egg noodles

Trim fat from chops and brown on both sides in a skillet in hot oil. Drain off fat. In 5 quart slow cooker place onion and then chops. If you have a mortar and pestle grind tapioca to a powder, otherwise place tapioca in a plastic baggie and whack away at it with a meat tenderizer. In a bowl, combine tapioca, soup, sherry, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and garlic powder. Pour over chops.

Cover and cook on low for 8 or 9 hours. Serve over egg noodles.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barefoot Summer Borscht

Tonight I do my first peer teaching. Pretty exciting. Nerve racking really. I've created a worksheet. I've thought about what I'm going to say. I've found a nifty SOHCAHTOA video. I've got the Mt. Sohcahtoa poster all finished. And although I'm only teaching for 10 minutes, I'm nervous. Do I have too much content for 10 minutes? What if it all goes over my classmates' heads? What if I get a smartass in class who decides to ask questions that I don't have the answer for? I'm sure it will be fine, but these questions have me nervous.

Unfortunately, I can answer what black bean soup tastes like when you add cinnamon instead of cumin. It tastes like dirt. So there will be no black bean soup recipe posted today. Instead, I give you a delicious soup I made this summer instead. It's Ina Garten's Summer Borscht as printed in her cookbook The Barefoot Contessa at Home. I checked the book out of the library and now I understand what all the fuss is about the Barefoot Contessa. Ina's recipes were easy to follow and totally delicious. I'm adding this particular cookbook to my Christmas wish list, but I'd be happy with any of her cookbooks. Hint. Hint.
And because it's such a beautiful pink color I'm entering it in Cilantro & Lime's Baking For Breast Cancer, even though it's not actually baked. I believe it was so hot outside when I made it that I was baking, but that's a stretch really. But seriously, breast cancer awareness is important to me. I just spent part of the weekend at a party for a close family friend who is now a survivor of breast cancer. The good news is that when breast cancer is detected early then there is a 98% 5-year survival rate. So remember to give yourself a breast self exam at least once a month! (I got my information from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.)

Summer Borscht
Serves 6

5 medium fresh beets (about 2 pounds without tops)
kosher salt
2 cups chicken broth
16 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 English cucumber, seeds removed and diced
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and also set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, the chicken stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 Tbsp salt, and the pepper. Peel the cooled beets with a small paring knife or rub the skins off with your hands. Cut the beets in a small to medium dice. Add the beets, cucumber, scallions, and dill to the soup. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Season to taste and serve cold.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Farafalle with Sausage, Cannellini Beans, and Kale

Have you ever been so angry you walk around your house completely useless because you're muttering to yourself about how angry you are? Well, I've had a rough morning and as a result I'm just about angry enough to spit (like spitting would help). In the interest of not leaking that anger (or mentioning the person with which I'm angry), today's Legume Wednesday will be fairly without commentary.

All I can say is it's a truly delicious dinner and I'll definitely be making it again. Yum!

Farafalle, with Sausage, Cannellini Beans, and Kale
adapted from Cooking Light

16 ounces uncooked farafalle (bow tie pasta)
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 pound pork sausage
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 (14 oz.) can fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
1 (16 oz.) package fresh kale
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Keep warm.

Drain tomatoes in a small sieve over a bowl, reserving 2 tsp oil; slice tomatoes. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sliced tomatoes, reserved 2 tsp tomato oil, onion, and sausage to pan; cook 10 minutes or until sausage is browned, stirring to crumble. Add garlic to pan. Cook 1 minute. Add seasoning, pepper, and broth to pan. Stir in kale; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Stir in pasta, reserved 1 cup cooking liquid, and beans. Sprinkle with cheese.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Black Currant Jam from Norway!

This week I received a fabulous package in the mail from Siri of Transplanted Baker. Siri sent me some gorgeous and delicious black currant jam. I don't think I've ever had a non-dried currant before and I can honestly say I love this jam. It's almost a molassesy tasting fruity jam. And it's absolutely delicious on Zingerman's farm bread. Which I also love and pick up pretty much every single time I go anywhere close to Ann Arbor.

Siri also sent me a Norwegian candy bar, but I have no photos because I ate it immediately and oh my it was delicious too! It was a Kvikklunsj and it was like a Kit Kat, except it was so much better it was almost not in the same category.

So why am I the lucky recipient of the jam? Well it was Molly at Batter Splattered's Jam and Jelly exchange. This was a totally fun event. Megan over at Megan's Cooking got the jam I sent just in time for her birthday. Hooray! Go check out Transplanted Baker and Megan's Cooking and Batter Splattered. This was a fun way to get to "meet" new bloggers! And try new jam in the process!

And just in case you wanted to know what it feel likes to be a total math geek, go to your local college campus and carry a poster like this around for a while.
Anyone know a good way of getting kids to spell SOHCAHTOA without using Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Toking On Acid? I'm aiming it at 9th graders for crying out loud.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Country Lentil Soup

I've decided to bring it back. It's Legume Wednesday! See I got to thinking. Part of the reason I was doing Legume Wednesday was to show how easy and versatile legumes are. For example, I think the entire prep time for this lentil soup may have been a whopping 5 minutes. It would be less if you are speedier at chopping 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks and used dried herbs. I was out of thyme. Oh the irony! And seriously, there are so many people out there who are far busier than I am and they're still blogging regularly, and besides they might appreciate an easy and hearty bean meal.

Ergo. It's back! SO today for Legume Wednesday, I brought out the kickass cookbook, 1001 Best Slow-Cooker Recipes. I have to admit this is the first recipe I've made out of this cookbook, but it was so easy and delicious that I'm sure there will be more. And the Brain can tell you that I have a bunch of cookbooks that I haven't cooked anything out of. Or maybe only one or two things anyway. It's his prevailing logical argument against me buying more cookbooks.

So yeah, this is a delicious Country Lentil Soup. Super easy to make. I mean really, there's minimal chopping and then it all just gets thrown into the slow-cooker and 8 hours later you have some really yummy soup. What better way to enjoy a rainy day in fall?

Country Lentil Soup
6 entree servings

3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 tsp fresh marjoram, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
salt and pepper, to taste
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients, except salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese, in 6 quart slow-cooker; cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each bowl of soup with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Apple Pie

It's fall! I happen to really really like fall. But every fall, I start to feel bad. Because there's the one project that up until now has eluded me. My greatest downfall as a housewife. Well that and vacuuming. Man I hate vacuuming. But doesn't my front door look pretty? My greatest downfall has been pie making. I suck at it.

Well I did until now. I went grocery shopping and decided I would do something nice for the Brain. He loves pie. I don't. So there's lots for him when I make it and usually he forces it down. There have been some really bad pies that have come out of my oven. Burnt ones. Soggy ones. Fairly transparent ones. I've even screwed up using the already made roll out crust.

But I've been looking at all the apples in the store and I decided to give it one last go. The Joy of Cooking recipes for pies haven't turned out so well for me before though so I knew I didn't want to retry them. Finally I remembered that in the midst of all my fancy cookbooks, I had a big red Betty Crocker cookbook. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that everyone's mom has. I think my mom gave me hers actually. I figured you can't go wrong with Betty Crocker. I was right!

For the first time ever, I created a pie that was beautiful. And the Brain kept saying from the living room. "This is a good pie! A DAMN good pie!" I almost made another one on the spot. Except I didn't have any more of the roll out pie dough and I wasn't about to learn how to master crust the same day that I finally make a good pie.

Apple Pie

Pastry for 9-inch two crust pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of salt
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (I used a combination of Gala and Granny Smith)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line pie plate with one half of the pastry. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in apples. Mound apple mixture into pie plate. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust, poke with fork and cut a steam hole in the center. Cover edges with 3-inch strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking. Bake until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slit in crust, about 45 minutes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Operation Baking Gals- October!

Alright, so I'm really slacking on getting these posts up, but I did mail my packages. I also had a lovely long conversation with the mail lady. That would be one of the very nice things about living in a small town. I have long conversations with the ladies at the post office. The teller at the bank notices when I lose a little weight. It's like that old Sesame Street song, "These are the People in Your Neighborhood". SO I went to the post office this morning with my jam, and my two soldier packages.

Yes, it's time for another installment of Operation Baking Gals! This time I have two soldiers. A soldier who is now on his second tour in Iraq and another soldier who has 50 soldiers with him. So I sent one soldier some of Aunt Nicky's Butter cookies cut into leaf shapes.

And then I sent another soldier some Cowboy cookies, delightful oatmeal-pecan-chocolate chip-coconut cookies of unfortunate Republican roots, made over by the lovely Martha Stewart (who has a really neat blog now. Check it out! And yes, neat as in tidy, duh, but also neat as in cool.)

And finally I searched the library book of the month, The Complete Cookie. I also got the Maltese Falcon (ooooh good) and Fahrenheit 451 (yikes scary). I don't just read cookbooks. In The Complete Cookie, I came across a delicious recipe for Caramel Meringue Filled Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies. They were really pretty easy to make and super delicious.

I hope the cookies brighten the soldiers' day.

Caramel Meringue-Filled Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
from The Complete Cookie

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg white
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp dark molasses
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer set at medium speed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

Drop the dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, until the cookies turn light golden.

Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

For the filling, bring water to a simmer over low heat in the bottom of a double boiler.

Meanwhile, combine the egg white, sugars, water, molasses, and cream of tartar in the detached top of the double boiler. Whisk to blend. Fit the top of the double boiler over simmering water, making sure that the water doesn't touch the underside. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and begin to beat immediately with an electric mixer at medium speed. Continue to mix for about 8 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Spread about 2 1/2 teaspoons of the filling on the flat bottom of a cooled cookie and top with a second cookie, flat side in, to make a sandwich. Repeat the process until all the cookies have been filled.

Freeze for 2 days and then mail off.