Thursday, July 31, 2008

Homemade BREAD....


There are SO many bloggers and food websites out there that churn out wonderful baked goods, especially bread!

My blog here tonight is intended for those folks who have either (1) Tried to make homemade bread and were disappointed with the results, or (2) have NEVER made homemade bread.

Believe me, I have turned out many a BRICK of bread over the years, and finally learned what
not to do. (A lot like my life, actually, lol)

Anyway, I encourage you to give this a TRY......it WILL work and you will so enjoy the results.

Take a 2 quart bowl, plastic or tin or whatever, and first of all....fill it with HOT water and let it heat up for 10 minutes......

More breads are ruined because folks pour warm water into a cold bowl......and the temperature declines and the yeast won't rise....

SO.... (trust me, ) warm the bowl with water.....

pour the water out, now we are going to "proof" the yeast......

sprinkle one or two packages of yeast, (dry usually) onto 1/2 cup of very warm water...... here's the deal....pour the water in first and make sure it's 'very warm' to the touch, not overly hot.....if you can't keep your fingers in it, it TOO hot! If you can, but it's very warm, it's the perfect temperature.....You see what I mean? I know, I know, I could tell you the water should be exactly 183 degrees, but I'm a visual and feel guy when cooking or baking, and especially so with bread. So trust your judgment.

Once the water is perfect, after you heated the bowl.....add two to three tablespoons of sugar, to the one or two packages of yeast......

Stir......

and let it sit.....

This is called proofing.......

If, after 15 minutes, that mess in the bowl is BUBBLING up and all FOAMY, then everything is perfect, and you are ready to proceed.....

If, after 15 minutes, that stuff looks like old cream of wheat, and ain't got no bubbles, then throw it away, 'cause it ain't gonna rise...

You see what I mean? Proof the yeast first.....If it works, your bread will be beautiful......

Whew.....

Now onto step two.....

Now, in a bowl, place two TBL butter, one cup milk, two TBL more of sugar....and microwave until just melted......

add to the yeast mixture......and immediately add..... one cup of flour and one tbl of salt...... and run the mixer with the dough attachment...... (Or mix by hand but this will be tougher but good for your arm strength)

It will no doubt be sticky and loose.....

so add flour in 1/2 cup increments, and continue to beat, until the dough, clumps around the dough hook solidly....... (Or your spoon)

It may take two more cups of flour, don't worry......just add 1/2 cup, and watch as it beats in.....and wait....

When it is all sticky, and clumped around the beater........in a solid ball....you are done

throw some flour on a board....over a 10 inch area........and scrape out the sticky dough
onto the flour....... Throw a bunch of flour over the top...........

and then you knead the bread.... you knead by pulling up 1/3 of the round mess under your hands and pressing it down with the heel of your hand, turning the pile of dough 1/3 around, and picking up a side and mashing it into the remaining dough, and turning again and picking up and mashing......

and you do this about 15 times....... turn, mash, turn mash, all with the heel of your hand......

You'll notice the bread dough will be getting lighter, more incorporated with flour, and smoother.....

don't overknead...... 12 - 15 times should do it...

Now, you need to let the dough rise once......so take a bowl, (the same one you used if you want, but wash it out) Add a tbl of oil, and swish around some oil with a papertowel to spread the oil.........

place the "dough ball" into the bowl, and turn over, and cover with a towel or paper towel, and let rise for one hour in a warm place.....(I usually let the oven heat at 300 for two minutes and then shut it off, so the oven is "warm"

It will rise until "doubled"

Take it out of the bowl, drop onto floured bowl, and punch down to take all the air out....

Knead only two or three times.....

Now, you probably have enough dough for TWO loaves.....

So cut in half..... butter and flour two loaf pans.......

Shape each loaf into a loaf shape and place in pan.....

place into slightly heated oven and let rise again for 45 minutes to an hour.....

remove from oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees.....

at this point you can cut diagonally across each loaf a bit to give some definition, and/or wipe the top of the loaf with melted butter...

(my personal favorite)

and place loaves into oven and bake for 45 minutes....and/or

until tapping on the top of the baked loaf sounds "hollow".... take 'em out, cut 'em up, butter and jelly, and enjoy.....

You've just made homemade bread.....!

Trust me, this will work.....as this IS the definitive way to make bread.... From this basic procedure and recipe we will tweak it to make, Calzones, Pizza dough, Cinnamon Rolls, etc.

Enjoy!



C'mon, tell me you don't wanna make one of THESE in your kitchen.....

Monday, July 28, 2008

World Class Peanut Butter Cookies


I call these World Class Peanut Butter Cookies because I first time I tasted them, that's what I thought.

These cookies have to be tried to be believed. Four ingredients only and absolutely delicious. They have replaced chocolate chip cookies in this household, believe me. They just melt in your mouth. Please note they have NO flour. It can be a fragile cookie (which is what makes it so good) so my advice is to measure the ingredients exactly.


25 min 10 min prep
16 cookies....
  • 1 cup peanut butter (Chunky or Smooth)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  1. Cream together peanut butter and sugar.
  2. Add egg and baking soda and mix thoroughly.
  3. Roll into 1 inch balls and drop onto cookie sheet.
  4. Using the back of a fork flatten in a cross-hatch pattern.
  5. (Wet fork or dip in sugar to keep dough from sticking) Bake at 375 degrees for 12- 15 minutes. (Bake until they start to brown around the edges)



Enjoy....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Snicker Doodle Muffins

So although my blog is very new, someone asked me the other day, what made me start one. So I thought I would blog it along with a new recipe.

First of all, I'm a self-taught cook who years ago just got sick of the stuff I would fix for myself. I mean I was limited to a baked potato and a 12 inch Hibachi. (Remember Hibachi's or am I dating myself?)

Although, my Grandma Patterson story helped spark an interest early on, I still wasn't very good.

In any event I made a concerted effort to learn to cook better. I remember buying a Graham Kerr
cookbook, which turned out to be incredibly complicated and advanced. But, I continued to use it, and although a lot of it was over my head at the time, I did learn to make a french omelette, a roux, certain sauces and reductions, and to even roast meat.

I then started having children, (well I wasn't having them I was fathering them) and children seem to like to eat so I was always cooking for them, and it has continued.

My children are now grown so I find I don't cook or bake nearly as much as I used to.

Anyway, to get to the point, last Christmas, at work we had a two week interval where each day someone would bring in cookies or bars or whatever to share with others at work during the Holidays.

Somebody brought in the following:


A Snicker Doodle Muffin! It was so good I bugged him for the recipe. He finally remembered and his wife sent me the link to the recipe and it turned out to be one link in a food blog called Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. So I spent some time going through her food blog and it was an extremely well done site with what seems like hundreds of recipes.

So I thought about it and decided to Google and find the TOP rated blogs for food. That's where I came across The Pioneer Woman's Blog. I can only tell you it is a phenomenal blog which covers Food, Cooking, Photography, her family, and her life on the ranch. Check it out yourself.

Anyway, that's it. After reading those two blogs and a few others, I decided to make my own newbie attempt at one and you are now reading it.

I find it so enjoyable as it's gotten me back to cooking and baking, and is probably becoming a hobby.

I told this story to Peabody of Culinary Concoctions and she gave me permission to use and blog her recipe for the Snickerdoodle Muffins, so here you go......and thank you Peabody!

(psst, her photos are so much better than mine, it's embarrassing, )

So I made them today and they really, really are a great muffin.


But, of course there is a punchline to this particular day's effort. I decided NOT to follow Peabody's recipe exactly. I figured instead of rolling sticky dough around in cinnamon sugar and then maybe having them stick in the muffin tins, I would just spoon the dough into muffin
liners, and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top.

I admit they look nice in their little liners, and in fact they taste out of this world. BUT, I also made a couple without liners and rolled them in the sugar as Peabody suggests and here's the result.....:


Apparently, the dough will STICK to the liner and not rise up as much as without a liner. And, let's face it, having cinnamon sugar all over the muffin is the only way to go.

My muffin pan happened to be teflon but you might want to grease the muffin tin a bit when
not using liners.

Lastly, I found it was much easier to work the dough into a ball and cover with the cinnamon
sugar if the dough was refrigerated first for 15 minutes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Memes.....

I didn't know what Meme's were, but I saw them referenced on several sites I read through my News Aggregator......

(Excuse me, but of COURSE you use a news aggregator, right? You don't surf to every site you want to see each day do you? If, by chance, you do, and I'm sure you don't.... try using Newsgator to collect all RSS feeds in one place. It's the only way to surf
the net, I swear)

Now, where was I? Oh Yeah...... (The first thing to go is your memory, and I can't quite recall what the second thing is)

So I've been seeing Meme's listed on sites and people responding to them by baking certain things, or doing certain things, and I figured out it's kind of a viral communication thing common to the internet. And apparently Food Bloggers galore "tag" each other to do certain things.

Well, my blog is new, and I think I've had a total of 103 hits in two weeks so obviously no one is going to "tag" me to do anything. Which is ok, not sure I want to feel obligated to do anything anyway.

BUT, today's meme was a playlist tag of favorite songs...... so I'm going to post one myself....

BTW, the last song by Antigone Rising? I work for a Coffee Company in Seattle, WA, (cough)and they discovered this 5 woman band, and they played live at our headquarters and whenI heard them, I could not believe how good they sounded. They've since broken up and the lead singer, Cassidy has gone on her own..... If you listen to her, I think you'll see why, she has an individual style and syncopation that I enjoy. (Did I just type syncopation? what is wrong with me?)

Anyway, here ya go....don't hate me for my selections.... it's what I like.... And the fact that it's mostly Country is my daughter's fault. More on that later.....


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buttermilk Cornbread





Do you like cornbread? Do you like a dense cornbread?

Well then, this recipe isn't for you. I make a buttermilk cornbread because I find the buttermilk with rising qualities of the soda combine to make it rise nicely and is really light when done.

I adapted this recipe a few years ago from several I found at Recipezaar.
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown or white sugar (depending on your preference)
1 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 stick of butter
Additional 1/4 cup brown sugar to sprinkle over the top before baking.


1. Combine dry ingredients and set aside except for sugar.
2. Mix eggs, buttermilk and oil and sugar. Mix until well blended.
3. Fold in dry ingredients, mix until blended.
4. The batter will be uneven or lumpy, that's o.k.
5. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet in oven at 400 degrees with butter until melted. (You are, of course using cast iron, right? lol, well if not, use a 13 x 9 baking dish, but STILL preheat with butter until hot before pouring batter into pan. The hotter the better but don't burn the butter. The preheating imparts a nicely baked patina to the cornbread bottom.
6. Pour into heated baking dish or pan and if you like, sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned. A visual clue for doneness is if cracks appear in the cornbread and or it is pulling away from the pan at the edges. I tend to cook and bake by visual clues so forgive me if I seem imprecise to you. But hey, I'm just sayin', it's how I roll. (grin)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Merlin Steak Dinner

I'm a guy. A meat and potatoes guy admittedly. And one of my favorite meals has always
been a grilled steak, with my steak sauce, a baked potato, and spinach souffle.

So last night, I decided that's what I'm having for dinner.... and of course, being new
to blogging, I thought I should document as I went. But it got a little funny as
I went about my business, here's the story.

So, I went to the Safeway, and bought a nicely marbled NY Strip Steak. I'm a Filet
Mignon person (who isn't if they can afford it) but none was to be found.

So I peppered it and seasoned salted it:



I let it come to room temperature as I find it will sear better that way. Could be my imagination, but I'm a creature of habit.

I pierced a nice russet potato with a fork and microwaved it for nine minutes. (They bake quicker in the oven that way, and it makes the skin wonderfully crunchy)

I then fired up the old grill, and placed the microwaved potato in the oven along with the Spinach Souffle. (I used Stouffer's Souffle, I love it, but I've always sworn I'd make my own from scratch someday, now that I have a blog, I'll do it soon. Besides I might be a meat and potatoes guy, but what meat and potatoes guy can't make a souffle huh? I'm just sayin' )

I then, as things cooked and the grill heated up..... threw my laundry load into the dryer
and heard a god-awful pounding when it started.

Checked it out and found my wallet in the dryer. Sure enough, it had gone through
the wash in a pants pocket. I've never done that in my life.


So here are my contents drying.....

I think it was an omen.

Because a little bit later, I went out to check the grill, and it was dead. I had run out of propane!


It's ok. I know how to pan-sear a steak.....So, out with the old Cast Iron. I'm a cast iron guy. Cornbread? Cast Iron. Searing meats? Cast Iron. Omelets? Cast Iron. You get the
picture.
(Warning, kitchen hint coming up. I personally hate kitchen hints, because either you 1. Know it already, or 2. SHOULD have known it. But here it comes. If you use a cast iron skillet over time it will eventually get a buildup from having used it for so long. Know how to clean it? Got an oven with a Clean Oven option, where it bakes for 4 hours at 500 degrees? Just put your cast iron pans in there and kick it off..... Your pans come out and all that stuff just flakes off....Try it and see)


A little butter, and a little olive oil.


Medium high heat such as to sear one side and then the other. Would ya guess I might like it medium rare?

Meanwhile, my special sauce for steaks is being started in the other smaller cast iron pan......


Butter, and shallots, and brown sugar..... (and the balsamic in a few)


























Meanwhile, time to sear the steak.....







Now THAT is searing a steak just right......

And of course, my damned Fire Alarm went off a minute later!!!!

Just not my day......

Anyway, all ended happily. I rest my case:.............
















Scroll down just a bit further.....heh, heh, dinner was good!!!




Did you forget the link for the sauce? Here it is: Ron's Steak Sauce.




Oh, and one more "Kitchen Hint" and this will piss you off....lol Every tube of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, etc. has a tab at the ends of the tube that you can press in so the roll won't come out when you are using it. Don't feel bad, I didn't know either.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Take on Recipezaar

One of my stated favorite places on the internet is Recipezaar.

One of the things I like is that anyone, anyone, can post a recipe
and have it published online. It's a free for all, and it can be
frustrating, hilarious, and sometimes an absolute goldmine. It's
the variety of the different posts I enjoy so much.

I actually subscribe to their RSS feed for new recipes (I have no life)
and scan them as I find them so varied.

Here are some actual examples of descriptions from today's feed:

"This is a slight altercation of a Rachael Ray recipe. I really liked, DH thought it was okay."

"mutton curry will taste gud "

"Found this at 3 Fat Chicks.com. Great recipe, very filling with HUGE portions!!

"Chocolate Covered Bacon I haven't tried this, but I definitely will. Sounds crazy enough to work! Bacon = yum. Chocolate = yum. It has to work...right? --"


There are folks who post all kinds of recipes, and in the description,
state: "Found this recipe, haven't tried it yet"

Are you kidding me? LOL .... Why would I want to try a recipe that you can't comment on.
And WHY in the world are you publishing it?

The other category of publishers that get me are those, who ah, shall
we say, really don't know much about cooking or baking. Now don't get,
me wrong, I'm no gourmet, but I DO know my way around a few cuisines, yet
I'm in no way putting anyone down. But when I read a recipe for "World's
Best Crockpot Baked Beans" it piques my interest.

When I then read: "Empty 4 cans of beans into crockpot, add 1 cup ketchup,
throw in 4 slices of bacon and cook on low for 8 hours, I can't help but
laugh out loud. Sorry, but that won't get my vote for the best baked beans.

But that's my point, that's the beauty of this site, it's so original and
honest that it's fun.

But lastly, here is the jewel that is recipezaar.com Occasionally, every
once in a while, when you're looking for a particular recipe, you will
find one there, that you just KNOW, you just KNOW, has been handed down
from generation to generation, and you know if you prepare it, it will
be the highlight of your dinner.

Here's an example...... Last Christmas, I decided to make a Prime Rib Dinner for my
kids as they were coming up Christmas Eve to Seattle. I'd never made one before. So
I was searching, and searching, and I kept coming across this recipe that told me to
prepare the roast in a certain way, cook at a very high temp for a period of time, then
SHUT the oven off and NOT to open the door. The recipe professed that no matter
whatever time you served it, (within a 5 hour window) that it would be perfect.

My kids, naturally dilly-dallyed (did I actually type that?) all the way from Portland,
OR to Seattle, WA such that they had NO clue when they would arrive despite my
cell phone inquiries.

They arrived at six p.m. about 3 hours later than I expected.

I served dinner, cut the Prime Rib Roast, and it was PERFECT, absolutely PERFECT!!!

THAT, is the beauty of Recipezaar!!

Do check out Recipezaar it's worth the stop.

p.s. Read my blog at Christmas this year, I'm cooking another Prime Rib and will reveal the
same recipe to you.

Picture to follow.....



Ron's Bread Pudding




















Are you like me? Does your freezer always seem to have remnants of several types of bread?
White bread, whole wheat bread, half a loaf of Italian, two kaiser rolls, etc.?

Well the answer to that is simple.... Bread Pudding!

I love bread pudding. Below is my tried and true recipe which I've been making for years.
It seems to me that most people like raisins in their bread pudding, I prefer currants as
they seem to have a milder taste which I like. Also, some folks like to put Bourbon sauce
or a whiskey sauce all over their bread pudding. I prefer it plain, with just a touch of
whipped cream.


Eight to Ten slices of bread of almost any type. (The one pictured I used plain white bread and plain whole wheat bread)

2 eggs
1/2 cup currants
1 tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup of milk
1 can of evaporated milk
4 pats of butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Tear the bread in pieces and place is a greased 8 x 8 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, beat the two eggs.

Add both sugars and combine well with the eggs.

Add the milks, cinnamon, melted butter and vanilla to the egg/sugar mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture evenly all over the bread. With the back of a large spoon pat
down the bread a bit to condense it slightly.

Place 4 pats of butter atop the bread pudding mixture.




















Cover with tinfoil and bake for one hour at
350 degrees. (Covering keeps it very moist as it
bakes) Remove tinfoil and bake uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with topping of your choice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quick Acorn Squash with Cranberry Sauce




I don't know about you, but I love Acorn Squash.

But it can be a hassle. It's hard to cut through evenly, scrape out seeds, and then bake for what seems like forever.

Well I got the answer. Not only that, I grew very tired of acorn squash with butter and brown sugar. So here's a variation you might like, as well as a cool way to make it easier to make Acorn Squash.

First of all, take the squash, rinse the outside, and pierce the skin two or three times with a fork. Then, microwave on high for NINE minutes......

After nine minutes, the squash is totally soft and easy to cut, be careful, it'll be hot! But it's easily sliced in half......




It should look like this. Also it's then easy to scoop out the seeds and the threads inside.












Then I add a pat of butter, after I make a few pricks of the fork into the flesh so the butter will permeate the meat......









I then add a tablespoon or so of jellied cranberry sauce on top of the butter and then dust the squash and filling with Nutmeg and Cinnamon....

Place squash into 350 degree oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes until browned to your liking. (Remember, the squash is 90% cooked already because of the microwaving)











Enjoy......!







mmmmm, Acorn Squash (In Homer Voice)

Now, for a couple of variations..... One is to chop up a Granny Smith apple and add it to the squash and then lay the cranberry sauce on top and then bake. I would increase the baking time ensure the apple is cooked, but then again, we eat apples all the time raw so I'm not sure it matters.

The OTHER thing, and my favorite, is to take a small casserole dish, add water and two pats of butter, microwave for 45 seconds, and open some Stove Top stuffing and add about 4 tablespoons of the mix to the water and butter. Stir and let it sit......

Besides, you're not gonna miss a few tablespoons when you finally make the stuffing. And now we're talking..... Acorn Squash with stuffing and cranberry sauce..... Purty good stuff....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Aaaarrrggghhhhhh!!!!



Now that's funny right there....