Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big Blog Giveaway (part deux!)

It happened again. I missed a week. I can explain though. I didn't cook. Well, not a lot anyway. I went out to dinner twice last week for my birthday. I made the trusty spaghetti standby one night when I got home late and didn't have anything prepared and roasted a chicken with just salt and pepper another night. I zipped through the Wendy's drive through last night at about quarter to 10 when I was finally heading home. (I had the worst baked potato I've ever eaten and they forgot to give me a fork. Next time I'm driving the mile across town to go through Burger King!) And then I was up in Michigan Saturday night for Girls' Game Night and really mostly that's about drinking and junk food. So yeah, other than making another loaf of this bread, which I sometimes think I'm existing on, I haven't cooked. I apologize.

But I can tell you that I have used the random number generator and came up with winners for part one of the Big Blog Giveaway! YAY!

The first winner, and winner of the pincushion, is cdziuba! She just started blogging at CeeCeeBlogger and I'm excited to see what her blog turns out to be!

The second winner, and winner of the cupcake liner bowls and potholders, is The Blonde Duck! The Blonde Duck is a writer and an all around fun girl who has some pretty interesting stories going on.

So being that I have no recipe for you this week, lets just skip ahead to the prizes I'm giving out this week...

The first prize is this cute set of cupcake kitchen towels, a couple silicone spatulas one of which is emblazoned with cupcakes, and some cute pink cupcake napkins. Hooray for cupcakes.

The second prize is much less girly. It's some bacon and egg band aids, a finger shaped spatula, and some magnetic page holders so you can mark your recipes without slews of post it notes. I figure because I do have some male readers they might appreciate something not pink or semi-ruffly.

The third prize isn't pink, but it's sort of peach and semi-ruffly. It's also not finished. It will be an apron similar to my Christmas/winter apron shown below. It doesn't have the appliqued gingerbread men on it, but it's still very retro and totally cool. You could also check out my everyday apron (as modeled by my lovely mom). Don't worry, if we get the forecasted 10 inches of snow tonight I'll have plenty of time to finish it and I promise to post a photo as soon as it's done!
So there you go! Leave a comment! Let me know if you prefer one or the other prizes. And once again I will use the random number generator to pick the winners next Monday night. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Big Blog Giveaway (part one!)

Yes, you read that correctly. This is part one of the BIG BLOG GIVEAWAY! Sorry for the shouting but the phrase big blog giveaway makes me think of Al Roker giving the Sunday football forecast on the Today Show on Fridays.

So I'm now 37 years old. Whoo. Where did the time go? Anywho, to celebrate, I baked 7 dozen cupcakes so I can jazz up a bunch of 7th graders. And because I can't give all of you lovely readers a cupcake I'm having a BIG BLOG GIVEAWAY! And I'm doing it in two parts so that there's plenty of opportunity to win.

Prize #1 is this oh so cute cupcake pincushion that I made just for this giveaway. Yeah, my mom made one for me for Christmas and I decided that it's so cute that I had to give one away. Not the one she made me. I'm using that one. By the way, these are filled with walnut shells to keep the pins sharp, but if you're allergic to nuts that might not be such a good thing.

Prize #2 is this cute set of cupcake potholders and cupcake liner bowls. I saw these and thought that perhaps some of you happy cupcake bakers might really like them.

So yeah that's it for part one. But I'll be announcing part two next Tuesday. How do you win one of these fun prizes? Well leave a comment and let me know which prize you would prefer. That's it. Super easy. And on Monday night I will have the random number generator pick out the winners. SO you have until 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time on Monday January 26th to leave a comment.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coffee Break Muffins

Today I was struck by the inexplicable urge to make muffins. I don't usually eat muffins, but I recently won Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours from CB's blogaversary giveaway and I'm still trying to figure out how to plan my schedule so that I eat on a fairly regular basis throughout the busy busy day instead of consuming the contents of my fridge in one fell swoop when I finally get home at night. So I was thinking maybe muffins might be something I can eat while I'm running from one school to the next. (Which, by the way, if you are at all interested in my reflections and thoughts on schools that I go to or teach I have a new blog that I had to start for a class.)

I usually avoid muffins because really they're a baby step away from cake and eating cake on a regular basis makes me fat. Really. I have the metabolism of a sloth. You know those furry things that live in trees in the jungle and move soooo slooooow that nobody really notices them. Yeah I have a metabolism like that. But, these muffins seem to be a little on the lighter side.

There's no milk in them either (which is a big plus in our little house). Instead these wonderfully tasty muffins use coffee for the liquid and have an extra little shot of espresso just to ramp up the coffee flavor. Yeah, I adjusted the recipe to add just a little more espresso. I figure these muffins might help me stay awake on the long drive back home at night. And because I've heard that protein helps people feel full, I added some walnuts. And Holy Moly! These muffins are really great! They form a nice little crust that gets a little bit of crunch to it. I think I might enjoy my running around when I get a muffin like this to snack on. I'm so glad I won this cookbook! If you don't already own it you should go buy it.

And don't forget to check back on Tuesday for the Big Blog Giveaway! There's going to be some cool stuff.

Coffee Break Muffins
adapted a touch from Baking From My Home to Yours

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup strong coffee, cooled
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fit 12 molds in a regular size muffin tin with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, espresso powder, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps. In another bowl, stir together the coffee, butter, egg and vanilla until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Do not over mix. Fold in the walnuts.

Divide the batter among the 12 cups and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lentil Soup (the non-Crock Pot version)

I have finished the first week back to school and I have come to the conclusion that although I think I usually plan things pretty well, I need to plan better. Apparently, substitute teaching all day and then driving an hour and taking graduate school courses at night leaves very little time for much else. Like making dinner. Or eating it. I think basically this week I lived off of this bread. (Which will be included in the weekly Yeastspotting over at Wild Yeast, seriously check it out, there's always a mouthwatering yeasty roundup over there.)

So, although getting paid for today would have been nice, I can't say I was disheartened to find out that I'd gotten the call at 5:30 this morning that school was cancelled. Actually, I was snoring loudly at 5:30 this morning and the Brain is awesome because he took the call and let me know there was no school when I did wake up. The nice thing is that this makes a 5-day weekend then. See, tomorrow is a teacher-in-service and I stayed late yesterday to grade all my exams so I don't have to go. And then Monday is Martin Luther King Day. And this 5 day weekend is going to be followed by a great and rewarding day. My birthday. Which I will be celebrating with a school double header. Whee. And a BIG HUGE blog giveaway. Make sure you check back here on the 20th to see what's going on.

Today was spent cleaning the house. Because once the house is clean, THEN I get to play. And I have loads of projects to play with. And it wouldn't be a frigid cold winter day at home without my brain turning to soup. Yummy lentil soup. It started off as a Cooking Light soup, but I got way sidetracked. Overall, it's pretty yummy. And yeah, I'm hoping it makes up for skipping Legume Wednesday. sorry.

Lentil Soup
a sort of original recipe
6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
4 cups fat-free, low sodium, chicken broth
1 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can petite cut tomatoes
the juice of one lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, fennel, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf and saute for 12 minutes. Add the lentils and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Stir in the broth, water, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes until the lentils are very tender. Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaf, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Casatiello (Salami and Cheese Bread)

I know I said I was going to celebrate my love of vegetables this month, but as I was fighting the mass of people worried about being snowed in and stocking up on groceries at Walmart I came to a realization. The realization happened as I was looking at some limp and obviously imported asparagus and was furthered by the snow that has been falling since yesterday afternoon. To celebrate my love of vegetables would go completely against eating locally, or seasonally. The only reason to celebrate vegetables in January would be to fight against winter weight gain. And although I'm eating vegetables, the vegetables aren't coming from my garden, which looks like this:

the tastiest and best quality vegetables I'm finding right now look like this.
So I think I'm going to postpone my vegetable celebration until I have some fresh vegetables that are in season and local.

Instead I bring you my fun project for passing the time while snowed in. Well, besides shoveling snow, which burns a ton of calories and I consider to be strength training as well. And I think it's possible that I may be the only dork out there that actually likes shoveling snow. But I digress. My fun project yesterday was Casatiello bread. I know, I said I probably wouldn't post bread until I start really playing with recipes. But I've made this bread twice already and I love it. It's so super delicious. Chunks of salami and pockets of cheese melted in the fairly rich brioche dough. The bread is much richer if you make it the way Peter Reinhart's recipe suggests. I personally felt that I could deal with less fat, so I cut some of it out.
The Brain and I traveled with the first loaf up to Michigan for Christmas Eve. The drive was pretty much freezing rain the entire time, until it changed to snow when we hit Detroit. And let me tell you the Detroit area roads were not good. There weren't any plows or salt trucks or anything. I think they've cut back. Anywho, the Brain and I traveled at 35mph the entire trip and the smells wafting from the warm loaf of Casatiello in the back seat were mighty tempting. Almost torturous. And the bread is so worth the wait. This is the type of bread that I have to cut myself a slice and then freeze the second loaf and put the rest in the fridge and walk out of the room to eat because if I were left alone with a loaf I don't want to know how much I would eat.

I'm totally loving my bread book Christmas present!
*update!* My bread will be included in this week's Yeastspotting over at Wild Yeast! Go check it out!
adapted from the Bread Bakers Apprentice

1/2 cup all purpose flour (bread flour would be better though)
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 cup low fat buttermilk

Stir together the flour and yeast in a bowl. Whisk in the milk to make a pancake like batter. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour. The sponge will bubble and should collapse when you tap the bowl.


4 ounces hard salami
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (again you could use bread flour)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter
7 oz. Parmesan cheese cut into chunks

While the sponge is fermenting, dice the salami into cubes and fry it until it gets a little crispy. Transfer the salami to drain on a paper towel saving the rendered salami fat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the eggs and the sponge and mix with a paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute. If there is any loose flour, add some additional buttermilk a little bit at a time to gather it into the dough.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the butter into 3 pieces. Add the salami fat to the dough mixing on medium speed until it is incorporated. Do the same thing with the butter, one piece at a time. The dough will be soft. Continue to mix with the paddle attachment for 4 minutes. Then switch to a dough hook and mix for 8 minutes more.

When the dough is smooth, knead in the salami pieces. Once those are evenly distributed, add the cheese chunks. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until it increases in size by about 150%.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it in 2 pieces. Form each piece into a boule or ball shape and place in lightly oiled 8-inch round cake pans. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover with a towel and let ferment for another 60 to 90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and move the rack to the lower third of the oven. Bake the pans of bread for about 40 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through to get an even golden brown crust. Bits of cheese will be oozing out.

When the bread is done, transfer it to a cooling rack and try to wait an hour for it to cool before slicing and eating it.

Mr. Reinhart's instructions are way more specific and I think the recipe as originally written is better than this somewhat lower fat way. I love The Bread Bakers Apprentice and really encourage people new to making bread like me and who want to learn more about how to make really good bread to buy the cookbook!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Orzo with Chickpeas

I like to have the television on when I'm puttering about the house. I grew up in a big family and sometimes the house gets too quiet for me. I don't always pay attention to it, but the noise is soothing when I'm folding laundry or mopping floors. So, last Saturday, while I was cleaning our cozy little house, or knocking over liquor stores on facebook, I don't remember which. (I think I'm addicted to Mob Wars, but there's something fun about saying, "I just knocked over a liquor store!")

Anywho, I had the television on and all of the sudden there's Rachel Ray in all her EVOO, Yummo! and Delish! glory, making this really tasty looking orzo and chickpea salad. So then I had to sit down and watch and it looked pretty good. So I looked up the recipe and made it for lunch. It's really really good! I did lighten it up a little. I cut down the oil and added more zucchini. And ta-daa! Legume Wednesday starts 2009 on a light and healthy note. And yeah, this salad is good warm OR cold. Deeeeeelish!

Orzo with Chickpeas
adapted from Rachel Ray

1/2 pound orzo
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 small red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 ounces goat cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook to al dente.
Heat oil in a skillet, add zucchini, onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook 6 to 7 minutes until tender, add chick peas and heat through. Toss with herbs, orzo and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Maple Sweetened Buttermilk Cornbread

We have a pretty full fridge so I was nosing around figuring out what I could make to go with the ham steaks I made for dinner. I found some buttermilk and I have to admit I was torn between biscuits and cornbread. See, I got this really excellent cornbread cookbook a bit back and although I didn't used to think cornbread at every meal, I'm starting to consider it. So anyway I was leafing through this cornbread cookbook and I came across Crescent Dragonwagon's recipe for Vermont Maple-Sweetened Cornbread. It sounds really good. I didn't quite make it though. I really wanted to use that buttermilk and I didn't have the full amount of maple syrup. What I made turned out really good. With some salty ham steak and some peppery roasted potatoes the hint of maple comes through pretty nice.

This cornbread would be good for breakfast with some syrup, or for lunch with some beans or leftover ham, or just as a snack. I really liked it.

And I should mention that somewhere between my three tips to Michigan in a week and a half I received a wonderful package from London. I happen to love the sending packages by mail exchange kind of things I can sign up for as a blogger. Remember when Siri sent me that delicious black currant jam? Well Molly at Batter Splattered did another exchange, this time with cookies. I was lucky enough to have Rebecca in London (no blog that I know about) get my name. She sent a nice package full of some terrifically tasty cranberry and white chocolate biscotti that I have to admit I inhaled before I got a photo of. She also sent some caramels that went the way of the biscotti. Then she sent this here cute little mini Christmas pudding and some gingerbread cookies. To finish the whole thing off I got three handmade red, gold, and white star shaped ornaments. It was so exciting to get a little taste of so many different things!
I also got a little present in the mail from my bloggerganger. The other Shazaam if you will. She sent me a black cake. It's gone now too. I took it to my mom's who commented that it tastes like her fruitcake without the fruit. I think she nailed the description, but if you haven't had Mom's fruitcake, then you'll just have to be happy with the description: "Wow yummy!".
And now the cornbread recipe!
Maple Sweetened Buttermilk Cornbread
inspired by Crescent Dragonwagon and The Cornbread Gospels

Cooking Spray
1 cup all purpose white flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter cooled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray an 8 inch square pan and set aside.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk the eggs, syrup, buttermilk, and melted butter together in a smaller bowl.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients using as few strokes as possible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Quick Carrot and Raisin Salad

I think it's natural when starting a new year to think about changes you can make to your life to make it better. Whether they work or not is a whole different story. And while resolutions at this time of year are a dime a dozen, you won't find any of them here. Any lifestyle changes I'm making, I've been making for a couple months now. And really, they're personal. Sorry.

What I can share here, besides this really delicious Quick Carrot Slaw from Cooking Light, are some things to look forward to with this blog.

1: There will be a big exciting blog giveaway this month, just in time for my birthday. I'm pretty excited about it.

2: January will again be a celebration (for the most part) of my big love of vegetables. Yippee carrot salad! It's really good. I promise!

3: There will be much much more yeast bread here. I've been dabbling in it a little bit and haven't posted because I'm not changing the recipes at all. But as I get more confident in my bread baking I'll be sharing with you!

4: Perhaps you may remember me mentioning that Chester and Louise are in the freezer. While I am tremendously enjoying the pig and the lamb, the Brain informed me yesterday that we are getting 1/4 of a cow in the next two weeks. Sorry vegetarians, but I've got a hearty portion of pig and lamb to cook up to make room for the cow. and most likely there will be more meat going on. There still will be some vegetarian recipes sprinkled in though. Like this delicious carrot salad.

5: Yes, I'm in school for another semester and that means I'm going to continue to rely on the slow cooker. SO look for more easy to prepare meals for people on the go!

6: I still love legumes and Legume Wednesday will be continuing through 2009. Starting next week.

7: I have been really crappy at responding to comments and I'm going to try much harder to respond when you comment.

Yikes! That last one sounds like a resolution so I'm going to stop here. Have some carrot salad.

Quick Carrot and Raisin Salad
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield 4 servings

1/3 cup raisins
1/2 small red onion, minced
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 pound matchstick-cut carrots
3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spoon dressing over carrot mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.