True Confession

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This week our Art of Simple Food recipe was Garden Salad. Well I didn’t exactly make it like the book said or even try anything new. I didn’t make a salad with produce bought at the farmer’s market or from my garden. The truth is this is the salad I have almost every night:

And I love it and don’t want to change! I don’t usually use this salad mix but I do like it. I was out of town and Tom bought the salad at Costco. I only buy this mix when feeding a crowd because otherwise it usually goes bad before we can finish it. But I do like bagged salad! Especially Trader Joe’s Herb Salad mix:

They also have a Baby Spring mix I like and I like to buy romaine hearts and baby spinach and make my own mix. I like to buy the salad mixes at the farmers market. None of them have a leaf that doesn’t belong. Another confession …. I often have greens growing in my own garden:

 

But sometimes I’m too lazy to go pick them! Or I forget that they are ready to pick and buy bagged salad and the greens in the garden will keep longer than those in the fridge! And I like creamy dressing, not vinaigrette. We usually serve up the salad just as shown in the first picture and you put it together yourself. This way you can put what you like in the salad. If it is just the fam I just put out the bags. I get all fancy and put the mix-ins in bowls, like the picture, if we have guests (unless it is my sister or mom, they just get the bags) I do have a vinaigrette-like dressing that I love and it only take 5 minutes to make but unless I’m having guests for dinner I rarely make it. Here is the recipe:

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp White wine vinegar

1 Tbsp Flat leaf Italian Parsley, Cilantro or Basil chopped

Salt and pepper to taster

Put it all in the blender and slowly pour in 1/2 cup canola oil as the blender runs (this emulsifies it and makes it creamy)

It keeps in the fridge for at least  week.

When company is coming I pour this over mixed greens (usually bagged), avocado, candied almonds and dried cranberries.

There you have it. I’m not changing my salad regime and this week I couldn’t even find the motivation to try the Art of Simple Food way! Greek Salad may also be a challenge since olives are one of the four foods I don’t like!

 

 

They Have Risen!

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This week for our TWD recipe we baked whole wheat loaves. My experience with yeast breads is limited. Our first recipe was a  companion recipe of this one, white loaves. Although they tasted fine, they never rose. I wasn’t sure if I really knew what the recipe meant when it said to let the yeast mixture rest until creamy.

Is this creamy?

I had bought new yeast after the white loaves, thinking maybe my yeast was too old. When I went to make the wheat loaves, of course I couldn’t find the new yeast. Serena was trying to avoid her homework and offered to go buy it for me. So I couldn’t blame any failure to rise on my yeast this time. I started to mix and worried about my stand mixer as it heated up and jumped around the counter during the 10 minutes of kneading. The mixer survived and the dough looked great and wasn’t sticky at all. I was not able to find malt extract so I opted to just skip it rather than try to find an adequate replacement.

Before the rise.

You can see by the size of the bowl I chose that I had “high” hopes. I let it sit for 1 1/2 hours to rise. I was working on my Sunday school lesson and checked on it at every breaking point in my lesson plan. It was working, there was pressure and moisture building up under the plastic wrap. The end result was amazing to me, it really did double its size!

It has risen, indeed!

I punched it down, which broke my heart because I was sure it would never rise again, and put it into two loaf pans. They looked so pathetic and small in the pans that I didn’t even take a picture. I busied myself with a garden project outside to avoid checking on it every 15 minutes. An hour later …

They have risen, again!

I put them in to bake and soon the house smelt heavenly. They seemed to be cooking faster than the recipes stated 35 minutes so I took them out of the pan to let the sides turn golden when I had 15 minutes left rather than 10 as the recipe stated. Unfortunately the house soon began to smell like burnt bread. The bottoms were burning but I stuck them back in the pans and all was well.  They turned out beautifully

The final product.

The bread was perfect sandwich bread, moist and tender but a little lacking on the flavor front which is typical of sandwich bread . I wonder if the malt extract would have made a big difference? We are fans of a crusty flavorful bread you want to tear off a chunk of. This was great sandwich bread but I don’t think I like sandwich bread all that much. I found myself think that the Irish Soda bread was a lot easier, quicker and tastier. Oh well if I ever have a need for a whole wheat sandwich bread recipe I’ll have it!

If you would like the full recipe visit the blogs of this week’s hosts at  Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together.

I’m looking forward to the next recipe, Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf.

Happy Baking!

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Popovers 2x’s

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This week the TWD BWJ recipe was popovers. My family and I were very excited because my mother-in-law often makes fabulous popovers for holiday meals and I have never attempted them at home. My youngest daughter even asked me to wait to make these when she was back from her church youth group trip. She is not much of a foodie so this was a significant request. Well the first batch was quite a disappointment compared to Grandma’s!

 

They were very toasty! The insides were beautifully hollow but the outside….. well that was another story. The recipe directed me to bake them for 25 minutes at 425 and then lower the temp to 350 and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes. Well these were over toasted before the 25 minutes were up so I just turned off the oven and let them sit until we were ready to serve dinner because I was afraid they might still be doughy inside. They were not. We ate them all and no one complained but this was a definite do over. Even before they were out of the oven I emailed grandma “what went wrong” ? I missed her call  the next day but she left me her recipe on voicemail. She had always had great success with the Sunset magazine recipe http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/classic-popovers-10000000656213/ . I took a look at this, it was not much different but did have different baking instructions. I also posted to the TWD P&Q : Popovers post (I think this means Posts and Questions?). As I was posting my dilema, I realized all the things I had done wrong, first I had been obsessing all day on a practice version a Rainbow Cake I was making for a bakery order.

 

This was my version of Whisk Kid’s Rainbow cake meets Ina Garten’s lemon cake with a lemon buttercream frosting, I was making this by special request for a 65th birthday! Anyways not only had I forgotten to take the eggs and milk out of the fridge to come to room temp for the popovers, I only had nonfat milk (recipe call for whole or 2%) and I set the oven to convection which is what I always use for baking but it does brown a bit quicker.

Round 2 went a bit better:

 

I used whole milk and eggs at room temp. I put all the liquid ingredients in the  blender first and slowly incorporated the flour. And I lowered the oven temp. The end result was much improved but still not quite like grandma’s. I had to turn off the oven at 17 minutes and they were still a little over toasty. I think I’ll give grandma’s version a try next time!

If you’d like to try them for yourself Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake with Amy are this week’s hosts and have the recipe posted on their sites.

Next up Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake and those nagging 8 recipes I’m behind on!

Bake on!!

Garden Time!

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So happy to be back to Tuesdays with Dorie and to be able to use my home grown blueberries for this Berry Galette. I received this blueberry bush several years ago as a gift and it has never produced many berries. It is a self fruiting variety but it has been much happier this year after I planted two friends for her near by. Maybe I’m just paying more attention to her now that there are 3 bushes? Anyways we have blueberries! I had just stripped it clean for a large bowl of berries when we came home from vacation so I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough berries for the recipe but the recipe only calls for 1 1/2 cups and I was able to get 2 cups plus about 4 raspberries from my first year raspberry bushes.

I mixed the dough by hand and it was very wet and sticky even after refrigerating it for several hours but I used plenty of extra flour to roll it out and it came together ok.

I used two cups of berries and the honey. The berry galette only called for 1/2 the dough so I use the rest of the dough to make a Tomato-Cheese Galette using tomatoes and basil from the garden also.

I thought they were both delicious and took them to a party where they were well received! A fun and easy recipe that you could create endless variations on.

For the recipe please visit the host bloggers at:

Host baker: Lisa

Tomato Thymes in the Kitchen

Host baker: Andrea
The Kitchen Lioness

Or buy the book Baking with Julia and join in with all the fun!

Next recipe Popovers! (and the 8 recipes that I missed as my schedule got the best of me!)

Pizza?

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Really? This was pizza? Really?

That aside we loved this dish! I stuck to my credo of “prepare this exactly as instructed in the recipe” but could not resist making a little vegetarian pie on the side for Serena.

This is project #5 for my online baking group Tuesdays with Dorie. I was very excited for our first savory dish. The ingredients were fresh and simple:

Easily modified for the little vegetarian pie … just leave out the prosciutto.

My only mis-step was that I didn’t realize how handy my high end pastry cutter would have been. I purchased this very expensive cutter to evenly slice my texas sheet cake into frosted brownies. It would have been perfect for cutting the lattice crust. Luckily Tom walked in the kitchen and suggested it in time for me to use it for the mini Serena pie!

The results were beautiful as well as delicious!

This like so many of the recipes for TWD / BWJ are a perfect canvas to create your own unique recipes with! Next time I will make the crust a little less sweet and add more veggies to to the pie. It is perfect for breakfast, brunch or breakfast for dinner. The possibilities are endless. Bon Appetit!

For the recipe please visit the host bloggers at:

Host baker: Emily
Capital Region Dining

Host baker: Raelynn
The Place They Call Home

Or buy the book Baking with Julia and join in with all the fun!

Next recipe Lemon Loaf Cake!

Simplicity

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I’m baking and learning new skills with the Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) baking group. Project #4 for our group was Irish Soda Bread and it was a delightful surprise! Delicious, simple and something I probably would have never made outside of this group. I am sure that I must have tried soda bread before but it was obviously unremarkable since I can’t even remember it. My impression was that soda bread was dry and tasteless but this was moist and delicious. When I joined the TWD project I decided I would make each recipe exactly as published on the first time around. I have tendency to modify most recipes to my tastes and one of my motivations to join the group was to start baking outside of my comfort zone and to make new discoveries in the kitchen. I resisted all the modifications mentioned in the P &Q posts on TWD and simply made the bread with flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk.

This is a picture of the bread fresh from the oven

This a picture 15 minutes later with only 3 of us home for dinner! We tore it straight from the loaf and added a little of our favorite vegan buttery spread, Earth Balance Organic, perfection. There is very little quite as comforting as warm bread, fresh from the oven. This will be a go to recipe in our house! Once I had fulfilled my self imposed requirement to make the recipe exactly as printed in the book I made a whole wheat version, substituting half the flour with whole wheat flour. I generally prefer whole wheat breads and tease my family about their preference for “nutrition free” sourdough loaves but I must admit the white loaf was better. It allowed the very subtle taste of the buttermilk to shine. I look forward to trying many modifications of this recipe, adding dried fruit, cheese, etc… but I think I will return to the base recipe over and over. Such an easy way to put fresh bread on the table!

To see the complete recipe visit the blog of either of this week’s hosts at My Culinary Mission or Chocolate Moosey or better yet purchase the the book Baking with Julia and join in on all the fun!

The Third Recipe is a Charm!

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The rugelach is delicious! Maybe not pretty but tasty which is alway my priority. I had never heard of rugelch much less tasted it. The recipe presented several challenges but the result were scrumptious and the future possibilities are endless. I loved that I could make this over several days. The first day I made a triple batch of apricot lekvar because I loved the idea of having extra for toast and to give away. Turns out a single recipe makes enough for leftovers but the recipe did not indicate that. No harm my friends and family will appreciate the extra jam like spread. The second day I made the cream cheese dough….

It was a little sticky but all I needed to do was put it together and chill. Day three I rolled it out. I am a cookie baker and dough is a relatively new concept for me so this was a bit difficult. I had went for it and rolled it out straight on my granite counter tops which worked out better than I had thought. I loved that I had the flexibility of all that space! The rectangles were not perfect but putting the yummy filling of a cinnamon sugar mixture, apricot spread, raisins and toasted walnuts onto the dough was a sheer delight….

..and even though I am a bit of a newbie to dough it behaved very nicely as I rolled it into logs. Next it needed to chill overnight. On day four it was slice and bake day. I glazed the roll with an egg wash, sliced it into 1 ” pieces and dipped it into the cinnamon sugar nut mixture.

The recipe instructed me to coat the cookie generously with the nut mixture, which I did, but after looking at some other pictures I think I may have over done it. On the first baking day I baked a dozen and took them to Team Paradox for our FIRST robotics tournament where we set up a quick lunch in the parking lot between competition matches. They were well received. I loved the flavor but was not confident about the baking time. The recipe says the tops should be golden and the bottoms caramelized. I felt mine were a little over done on the bottom but just right on top. Perhaps this is because I over coated them with the sugar nut mixture??? Maybe because I have a convection oven I need to adjust the temperature lower? I tried a couple of batches turning each piece — cut side, bottom, cut side but they looked a little wonky and sometimes fell apart. I also took 4 to the airport for my son Willie who was coming home for spring break from Penn State. He ate all four before I even noticed. Today I took them to my fellow teachers at Sage Garden Project and tomorrow I’ll take the to my Master Gardener’s carpool mates. Luckily they freeze beautifully and I can keep experimenting with baking methods until I get it right. Once I have the baking method down I can’t wait to try new fillings. These are definitely a keeper! For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Margaret’s The Urban Hiker and Jessica’s My Baking Heart, as they are co-hosting this week. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll

Looking forward to the next recipe, Irish Soda bread, another first for me and just in time for St. Patrick’s day!