Monday, October 25, 2010

A Giveaway!

This giveaway ended on November 2nd, 2010 at 5:00 PM

That being said I'm about to announce the winner of the $60.00 gift certificate.

I wish everyone could win, but only one can.....

And the winner is:

BETHANY - Entry Number 13!!!!

So let me ask you a question. If I gave ya a $60.00 gift certificate, what would you buy?

Would it be: A Krups Espresso Machine?

Or a set of knives?

Or a slow cooker?

Or one of thousands of other products? Well, you might get the chance as CSN is helping with another giveaway. 

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from stylish handbags, to modern bar stools, or great cookware!

I naturally showed pictures of cookware and stuff for the kitchen because I have a food blog, but you can buy whatever you want at their sites. If you win the drawing, I will have them send you a promotional code worth $60.00 for anything they carry. Not a bad deal.

All you need to do is leave a comment telling me what you might buy. Doesn't matter what you finally decide on if you win, just let me know what you might buy. And leave your email address in typed out format so I can contact you if you win. That's it!

I will use Random.Org to select the winner after the deadline which is November 2nd at 5:00 pm West Coast time.

Thanks for reading my blog, and visiting, and thanks for entering. I value each and every one of my visitors.

Good Cooking! The Merlin Menu

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cinnamon Currant Bread - Dutch Oven Style

I recently posted some no-knead bread I baked in a Dutch Oven and it came out so well I couldn't wait to try it with a different dough. This time I didn't preheat the dutch oven, and made a dough that I kneaded as normal. I let it rise the second time on parchment paper in the pot, and preheated the oven, baked it covered in the dutch oven for a while and finished uncovered so the crust browns and it came out in fantastic shape.

This is the recipe I use for my cinnamon rolls usually, but this time, just wanted some bread with a touch of cinnamon and currants. I'll be toasting this at work this week, with some butter. Man, ya gotta love bread.

It's my new cooking toy, my Dutch Oven. I'm Lovin' the Oven.

Ingredients and Method:
2 packages yeast
1 cup milk, heated to about 110 degrees
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg beaten
4 tablespoons butter, melted, but not too hot
Approx. 3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup currants

Add yeast to mixing bowl along with brown sugar. Add beaten egg and butter to milk, mix and melt until warm, not more than 110 degrees. (If it's too hot to the touch, it's too hot to add to the yeast)

Mix egg, butter and milk with yeast and sugar mixture and let sit for 15 minutes until it foams (proofs).

Add 3 cups flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg and mix well.  Add currants and continue to mix until well incorporated. Add flour in 1/4 cup increments, mixing after each addition until dough forms a shaggy ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough hook from the mixer, scrap dough into mixing bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise, at room temperature  for at least six hours, and preferably overnight. Some may be concerned with leaving dough at room temperature with an egg as one of the ingredients. Although I've never had a problem , alternatively, you may refrigerate the dough instead. Remove dough and let come to room temperature.

Liberally sprinkle some flour on a cutting board. Scrape the dough onto the floured board and sprinkle flour over the top of the dough also. Fold dough onto itself a couple of times, and then knead 10 or 12 times to smooth it out. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and lift by paper and place in dutch oven. Cover and place in a warm place to rise for an hour to an hour and a half. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut 3 diagonal slashes in the dough and place covered dutch oven into oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove lid from dutch oven and continue baking for 15 minutes more. Check at 10 minutes because it'll brown very quickly.

Remove and let cool completely before cutting.

Enjoy!  And remember, lovin' the oven!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dutch Oven Bread

I have for years  made homemade bread. It's one of the most satisfying things to bake I think. And yet I have tried and tried to make bread that will have a nice crust and soft and moist inside. But that crispy outside crust is very difficult to achieve because of todays ovens. I've tried pans of steaming water, spray bottles of water while baking and various other methods but they just don't work that well. One reason is, that no matter how much steam you might be able to produce, today's ovens vent it, so it just kinda waves at your bread as it exits the oven. The fact of the matter is, that professional baking ovens, I understand, have steam injection systems into a closed oven, with allows the crust to be moistened by steam while beginning to bake, which is what creates the crust I'm talking about. (The moistness of the steam keeps the outside of the loaf from setting immediately as it does in a hot dry oven, which also helps with it's rising during baking, who knew?)

10 days ago I bought a Dutch Oven, plain cast iron, because I've always wanted to Braise meat in a long cooking process in the oven. Yes, I have a slow cooker, yes I have a pressure cooker, but I'm a foodie. We simply HAVE to try all kinds of cooking methods, don't we?

Anyway, apparently when you bake bread in a covered dutch oven, it "steams" inside the pot and therefore yields the kind of crust and texture we are all looking for. I tell ya, I opened up the lid halfway through, and was stunned at how it had risen and how delicious it looked and smelled.
Well, there is a reason you have not yet seen me post something I've made in a Dutch Oven. Because I've made two things already and they both BOMBED!  Miserably BOMBED!

I first tried to make Beef Bourguignon and the recipe I was following I think was defective because it was overcooked, and although the meat was tender and delicious, the gravy was the ugliest gray color I've ever seen. Cooked out all the color and the essence.

So, not to be deterred, I decided to make my own baked beans from scratch. It smelled delicious in here for like five hours as I slow-cooked them, and slow-cooked them, and slow-cooked them, and they STILL were hard. (Yes,  I soaked the beans overnight)

So I threw out the beans because I got tired of messing with them.

So it's Dutch Oven 2, Merlin ZERO.

Then I remembered about baking bread in a Dutch Oven. All I can say is, you gotta try this, you just gotta.

This is a no-knead bread recipe and is intended to be a kind of loose, easy dough, with a lot of bubbles.

Ingredients and Method:

1 package active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour and a bit more for dusting the bread after rising.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a bowl or mixer. Add the flour and salt (in that order) and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest on a counter at room temperature at least six hours
and preferably, overnight. (This allows the enzymes to continue to work to develop a nice flavor to
the dough)  It'll be loose and bubble up, that's ok.
Dust a cutting board with some flour and scrape the dough onto it. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the top
as it will be very sticky. Don't knead, just fold the dough over onto itself a couple of times, and shape
into a ball. If the dough is too loose, just knead in 1/4 cup of flour. Repeat as necessary until the dough is the
consistency you would like. Shape into a ball by pulling around the dough edges and folding underneath. Place on the counter on a piece of parchment paper and cover with a towel and let rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat the dutch oven in the oven at 450 degrees. Carefully remove the dutch oven, take off the top, and using the parchment paper, lift up the dough ball (towel removed, of course, heh heh)  and gently drop it into the dutch oven. Use a knife to slash 3 slits in the dough, diagonally.Cover and place back in oven. 
Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and continue baking for 15 minutes until dough is browned. Remove from oven and cool for one hour before cutting.

All I can say is....   Dutch Oven 2, Merlin ONE!

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Spaghetti and Meatballs

    I recently posted a delicious 3 ingredient Spaghetti Sauce that has received really good reviews from folks. I was asked if I could provide a meatball recipe to go along with it, and I thought, of course I can. Naturally I had to make it first, so I've been enjoying this dish for several days. Hope you like it.

    One thing about meatballs, I don't like meatballs that are hard, or tough, or overcooked etc. Usually this comes about by rough handling when shaping, or frying or baking first before adding to a sauce. The secret to delicious melt in your mouth meatballs is to treat it gently and to cook the meatballs in the sauce, not pre-cooked or fried.

    I hope you like this recipe. It's awfully good, and like I said, you can't beat the sauce. (Here's the recipe for the 3 ingredient  sauce as well as my slow-cooker recipe)

    Ingredients and Method:
    1 cup Breadcrumbs
    1/3 cup milk
    8 ounces ground beef
    8 ounces ground pork
    1 cup ground Parmesan Cheese
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup chopped parsley
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    2 eggs (beaten)
    2 garlic cloves, finely minced, or pressed

    Mix milk and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Set aside

    Place beef and pork to a bowl and add cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic, nutmeg and beaten eggs.

    Drain milk from breadcrumbs and add to meat mixture.

    Mix all ingredients together gently by hand. Try not to compress or squeeze the meat mixture. You're trying
    to just combine them thoroughly and yet keep a "looseness" to the meat.

    Refrigerate for 20 minutes so it will be easier to shape into meatballs.

    Shape into meatballs about the size of a golf ball using a gentle touch. Add directly to cooking sauce 30 minutes before the sauce is done. (If making slow cooker sauce, then add the meatballs one hour prior to
    the end of the cooking cycle.)

    I made this with my 3 ingredients spaghetti sauce, and dusted it with shaved Parmesan. It was delicious.


    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    You Know You're a Foodie Society Member if.....

    1. You actually plan your shopping list by searching the recipes you want to make, and post,  and buying those ingredients too.

    2. You wind up two weeks later throwing out about two of the things you bought because you just never "got around to" making the buttermilk pound cake or the ricotta cheesecake.

    3. You've ever covertly tried to take photos of the meal you just prepared for your guests, before you serve it, because you don't want to look like a geek and photograph their dinner as they watch.

    4. You have your own contact for special Balsamic Vinegar. (Thanks Steph for that one)

    5. You have your own "secret" source for cheap vanilla beans.... (Yeah, I'm guilty of that one.  See Link.)

    6. You decide to cook/bake things based upon expirations dates upcoming. Usually stupid things, like, I just made peanut butter rice krispie bars because my peanut butter chips are a month away from expiring.

    7. If you've ever delayed making something, because the natural light should be better tomorrow.

    8. If you've ever built a "photography light box"....  Yeah, guilty of that one too, see here.

    9. If you are conscious of the fact that you spend hundreds of $$ on groceries, and even more on gadgets, and pans, and cookers and such, and you make a measly paltry sum of tiny revenue of $xx.xx  from an ad or two you have on your bog.. And you don't care. You love to cook.  ha!  Cough, cough, Pioneer Woman excepted of course!

    10. Speaking of The Pioneer Woman, I love her and all that she does and has accomplished. But, I have to admit I looked one time at the number of "comments" only she received to one of her posts, and I calculated that times 30 days in a month, (in other words, not even counting the ones who visit who don't comment) and multiplied it by my measly rate of CPM stats or Visits or Impressions or whatever the hell it is..... and if I had THAT many visitors.....

    I'd get a $22,000 check each month!!!!

    I gotta find me a Cowgirl and move to Oklahoma!!!!

    11. You take shitty pictures of a meal you had at a restaurant because you were thinking you might blog about it, until you get home and see what you shot looks like.

    12. You have a business card for your blog.   (Again, guilty!)

    13. Your internet reader is constantly updating food blogs so you can pore over potential new ideas, concepts, or recipes to adapt, even though, you already have a thousand in draft form saved on your blog, and another 1200 saved as favorites in your reader, which if you made them all would take you until you're 137 years old if you made two a day. Yet you STILL save more, it's an addiction I tell ya!

    14. You own more than four types and flavors of salt and you know what 87% cacao means.

    15. You're at the store and see an ingredient or two that you have no recipe for.  BUT, you've ALWAYS wanted to make something using that, so you buy it, and then scour the net and your lists trying to find something to make.  Always the chance too, that this will wind up on the, shit, gotta throw this away, it's expired list. (See item 2, lol)

    16. If you have more pictures of food you've made than you do of your children on Flickr or Picasa online.

    17. You own a Dutch Oven. Period.

    18. You have, or are thinking of buying a Pressure Cooker, because it sounds cool to cook in.

    19. You loved the movie Julie & Julia although if you're a guy, like me, you don't admit it.  (Same goes for The Notebook, but for different reasons)

    20. You can't wait until they open a Sur La Table near you.