Monday, December 19, 2011

Misery loves company

God I hate blog posts that doesn't have pictures. That and people who blog recipes that aren't their own. So I'm writing this post as part of my home therapy. I'm fighting an overall sense of depression, god I just want to crawl under something and never come out again, tonight. Here is my self prescribed therapy list. 1 take super long nap with face completely under quilt. 2 bake bread (this always helps, so I know I'm screwed today) 3 run away to a very foamy bubble bath with large glass of wine. 4 sit alone in dark bedroom. 5 bitch on blog. I've made it to step five as you can see.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Making my ancestors proud

Get ready to dish out some sympathy for me. This week at work I fell down one step. I thought I was on the bottom and I guess I had one step to go. Somehow I magically sprained both of my ankles. Or rather my left foot and my right ankle. Left foot was so bad the doctor told me not to put any weight on it until he rechecks me on Wednesday. I'm not really following that advice... Still, I've spent the past three days on the couch elevating and icing my feet. One of my good friends pointed out that this was not the kind of accident that happens in real life, it's the kind that happens in a horrible teenage drama movie. I mean, really both feet?

And yet, we needed bread. So I hiked up my pajama pants, limped into the kitchen, and started a loaf of bread. Boo yeah! That's the kind of badass shit our pioneer ancestors used to do. Minny broke her arm because Pa decided to ford the river instead of paying for the ferry and then the next day she was up kneading bread.

I should be honest and confess that this had nothing to do with being a stronger person or providing for my family or the joy of being in the kitchen... I have some work to do, that I could actually do from the couch, that I'm avoiding. Procrastination is a huge motivator.

I do have an actual post planned, but it's the kind that involves me doing some dishes and since I can't reach the bottom shelf of the dishwasher on my crutches, y'all will just have to wait.

Sigh. Back to work.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Homemade vanilla extract

Here is the link to Suzanne McMinn's vanilla recipe. It is a good one. I do not use the dark rum in mine because I'm cheap. I get my beans from eBay and they're cheap and high quality. Enjoy!

This is a bottle I started on October 1st and will be giving away for Christmas.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I have no ingredients bread

Sundays and or Mondays, depending on my work schedule that week or when we run out of bread, are my baking days. I make the week's bread and I usually bake half of it, and put half of it in the fridge to bake later on in the week. I also try to make something sweet to stick in husband's lunch for the week. Husband is 5'11". I'm barely scratching 5'4". We weigh the same thing. Drives me nuts. So obviously the man needs calories. Today I was going through all of my recipes on pinterest seeing what I could bake with the ingredients I had. And pretty much came up with... nothing. I coulda made chocolate chip cookies, but those are so boring. So I decided to see what I could experiment with. I started by referencing my handy dandy banana bread recipe. I graduated from college on a Sunday and got married the next Saturday. On the way to my camping trip honeymoon, my godparents gave me this card. There was money in it! :)
We didn't have any internet connection back then at our old duplex and I guess I hadn't any other paper, so on our way home from our honeymoon we stopped at a friend's house and I googled this banana bread recipe and wrote it on the card. There's also an unknown phone number written in the margin. I have no idea what site this recipe came from, but it is a damn fine recipe for bread.
I started with 1 cup of AP flour.
And added a half cup of cocoa powder. I wanted it really chocolaty. Did you know that cocoa powder acts like flour? That's why I used only 1 cup of flour and a half cup of cocoa instead of the full 1 1/2 cups of flour in the recipe.
A cup of sugar and a tsp of soda. By the by, this is totally not the way I normally bake. I always start out by creaming my butter and sugar unless the recipe otherwise specifies. Here I mixed the dry ingredients and the sugar, which is technically a wet ingredient. Not sure what I was thinking.
Since I'm out of WW flour (did you notice that I was using only white? So not me.) I added a palmful of flax seed meal for some fiber.
1/3 cup butter.
An egg.
1 tbsp of my amazing homemade vanilla. It's awesome. Vodka and vanilla beans. It's been steeping for months. I'm making 2 large bottles for Christmas gifts.
And 1/2 of a bag of cinnamon chips. These are seriously addicting. I ate the first half of the bag.
The dough was very dry and not really coming together. Banana's are very wet, and I used the same amount of flour as the banana bread recipe. It needed moisture. I added a splash of milk.
I spooned it into the well greased bread pan and used the back of the spoon to smooth it into the corners. Lick finger, lick spoon, lick bowl. In that order. Lather, rinse, repeat. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes or until it's done.
I checked on it at 30 minutes and it was nice and high. You can see that it did fall sometime between then and when I pulled it out of the oven. I'm really not sure why, I haven't had this happen very often, so I can't really make any recommendations to keep it from happening next time. Albus the cat would like a slice. Please?!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homemade Gatorade

Last weekend my husband ran his second marathon. He came in at just over 3 hours and 6 minutes. I'm super proud! He spent the past spring and summer training, which meant he went through a lot of sports drink. Even when waiting for his drink to go on sale, we still spent a lot of money. In order to save, I started buying the powder that you mix with water yourself. It worked, but only comes in a few flavors. Husband likes grape. Grape was not a choice. I decided that I could make him grape flavored myself and save even more money. The folks at Gatoraid have spent a lot of time and money perfecting their electrolite formula. There are many variations all over the internet. The following is what I came up with based on what I've read. I started with one packet of grape flavored Kool-Aid.
Add 1/2 cup of sugar. I poured all of the dry ingredients into a clean waterbottle so I could easily shake them together at the end.
Here's where I split a few hairs. Some recipes called for salt for the sodium. Some called for salt substitute for the potasium. My grocery store had lite salt which had 10% of your daily potasium needs instead of 19% in the salt substitute. However, the salt substitute was almost $6 instead of $1.50 for the lite salt. I went for the lite salt, but used the same amount, 1/4 tsp.
Some recipes called the baking soda optional and some completely left it out. You can't taste it, and it is good for you, so I included it. This is 1/16 of a tsp eyeballed as I don't have a 1/16th tsp spoon. Do any of you have any measuring devices that small?
I shook the dry ingredients together and used a funnel to add the last ingredient, 2 tbsp lemon juic to my container. You could use a pitcher, but I had this glass milk jug that I liked.
Finally, add 8 cups of water.
It certainly looked like grape Gatoraid. I personally thought it tasted better that the Gatoraid. It tasted more like a drink and less like a cough syrup.
One final note: Electrolyte imbalance is serious. I will not be giving this to my husband the day of or the day before his next marathon. I'd much rather spend a few dollars buying him a professionally made drink that I know will provide him with exactly the kind of electrolites he needs instead of accidentally making a mistake with my measurements and sending him to the hospital. I WILL be sennding this with him to work when he's outside on hot days or when he's training and having his shorter runs. After this marathon he didn't even want a sports drink anyway. He went for the water and chocolate milk.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pretty Pictures

These are the pictures I took when it was raining and I was killing the battery in my camera.
My bird feeder and fall salad greens getting rained on. It just all of a sudden started pouring after not having any rain for weeks. It was short lived though.

And the cat who begged and begged to be let outside all afternoon. I have the best timing don't I? He hid under the overhang and then right as the last batch of cookies came out of the oven, decided to make a break for it and dashed under the deck where I had to retrieve him.

This is the view from my front door and also from my living room window. I wasn't too hot on these trees in my front yard until they turned these gorgeous shades of orange and red. They're perfect when the sun hits them in the afternoon.

Banana, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Cookies Experiment

Tea time. I've gotten really into tea time lately. Everyone deserves a touch of caffeine and a cookie in the middle of the afternoon. We all need a respite from whatever it is that we're working on at 3 pm. In that spirit I realized that I have 2 bananas left that are as black as Santa's soot. Peanut butter, banana, chocolate chip cookies anyone? Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens (375 degrees)

I started this by reading through my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook peanut butter cookie recipe and making some adjustments. First off, Betty would have us use shortening. I don't ever use shortening. The transfats ya know? So instead I needed 1/2 cup of butter.

Yes, I know that's not a half cup of butter, I messed up the first few measurements by looking at the wrong side of the cookbook page. I adjusted and was able to get back on track.

Next, I went for a scant cup of brown sugar. Many cookie recipes call for half brown and half white sugar. I prefer to go with all brown most of the time. One: because brown sugar has molasses which I associate as a very fall flavor and two: because I like the chewiness from the brown sugar. Why a scant cup you may ask. Because I know two things about bananas, they're wet and sweet. I didn't think I'd need the whole cup with the sugar from the banana.

This is my awesome wet ingredient measuring cup that my mother-in-law gave me last year. She's awesome too. You need 1/2 cup of peanut butter. I used chunky because it's all we have in the house. Anything else would be sacrilege.

We're also going to throw in one egg. And of course, one banana. Mix on low to medium speed with your hand mixer until they are smooth.

Knowing that my banana was adding moisture to my dough (really, it's more of a batter) I decided to add an extra tablespoon to the amount of flour. Add one and 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon of ap flour, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. I mixed these dry ingredients most of the way in and then added the good stuff.

The good stuff being the chocolate chips. I mixed on low until everything was combined. Shouldn't take too much mixing at this point.

Into the 375 degree oven they went for 9 minutes. The batter/dough was the texture of whipped cream cheese or butter, and I was nervous that the 1 tablespoon of flour wasn't going to be enough.

But it was. They were beautiful and delicious. Just enough banana flavor to know it's there but not overwhelm. They have a cakier texture than most cookies, which I happen to think goes very well with a cup of afternoon tea. Or how about some ice cream. This recipe made 3 dozen plus 2 oversized cookies that my husband and I will enjoy with ice cream on top as we laze on the couch in front of the TV tonight. Because sometimes you've just gotta make Monday night special. And by the way, a full cup of the sugar would not have hurt anything. And I apologize for not having more pictures of the final result. My battery died from taking pictures of the rain as the cookies were in the oven.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Potato bread experiment

For the past three weeks I've been making potato bread. I've been experimenting with how much whole wheat flour and how much all purpose flour I can use. I like to use as much whole wheat flour as I can. Gotta eat your whole grains kiddies! The first week I used 1 cup Of White flour and it was a VERY soft and doughy bread. It was great for sandwiches, but throughout the week, it got almost soggy on the bottom. The second week I didn't use any white flour and I baked it on the oven rack for 5 minutes to dry out the bottom. This week I tried using 1/2 cup of white flour.

To begin. Cut up 1 russet potato into large chunks and add to cold water. You could peel them now, but I peal them afterwards because it's faster and I like burning my fingers. If you cut them into large disks, and then cut them in half, they're easier to peel.

Bring the potatoes to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium high so they do not boil over. They should boil for about 10 minutes or however long it takes to soften them. Test them with a fork. Drain off all of the water and then carefully, pull off the softened peals. They're hot. I'm not too picky about getting 100% of the peals, just do your best.

While the potatoes are boiling, measure 3 cups of whole wheat flour into your big mixing bowl.

Look at those awesome whole grains!

Add between 1/2 and 1 cup of all purpose flour. I used 1/2 a cup with this loaf and it was denser than sandwich bread should be. Next time I'll use closer to a whole cup.

Also while your potatoes are cooking proof 1 heaping tsp of yeast in 1 and 1/3 cup of luke warm water. We don't want the water too hot or the yeasts will die right off. I always proof my yeast no matter what kind of yeast I'm using.

Add 1 tbsp of sugar so the yeasts have something to munch on while they're waking up.

Don't forget to season your bread. I used "this much" salt. I'm bad about measuring when I make bread. Also, keep in mind that if you're making sandwich bread and you make a delicious garlic bread, it's going to taste bad with your peanut butter. I tend to just use the salt.

Also, add about 1/4 cup of powdered milk. If you'd rather not, you can slightly heat up some real milk and use that to proof the yeast instead of water. Milk adds a bit of protein that helps out the consistency of the bread.

When your potatoes are cooked and pealed, using a fork give them a very good smash. You don't want any large chunks of potatoes in your bread.

Make a well in the middle of your flour mixture and begin to work the potatoes into the flour using your fork.

Then, switch to using your fingers to mix in the potatoes. Crumble up any large chunks you find until your dough looks like sand.

Make another well in the middle of your dough and add the water and yeast.

Using your trusted wooden spoon work as much of the flour into the dough as you can. When you've done as much as you can with the spoon, switch to your hands and work the dough until all of the flour is incorporated. You do not need to kneed.

When your dough is completely mixed together, remove the dough from the bowl and spray the bowl with cooking spray. Add the dough back to the bowl and rotate the bowl to form the dough into a nice tight ball.

Cover the bowl with a slightly moist kitchen towel, not dripping, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 60 minutes. This is what it looks like when it's done rising.

Grease your bread pan with cooking spray. With quick jerky movements, wiggle the bowl to release the dough. You should be able to "pour" the dough into the pan.

You can use your fingers to push the dough into any corners.

Your dough can now rise uncovered in another warm spot for another 60 minutes. Or if you go outside to talk to your neighbor and forget that you've got dough rising, 90 minutes. This is what it looked like when I remembered to check on it.
I always give three lateral slashes to my dough with a steak knife. Back in the days of community ovens, those slash marks identified whose bread was whose. Now it's just a nice touch.

Bake your bread for 30-35 minutes at 350. You do not need to preheat your oven. Turn it on and throw the bread in.

After 35 minutes I pulled the dough out, ran my knife around the edges of the pan, and eased the hot bread onto a cutting board. Then, with hot pads, I transferred it from the cutting board to the oven rack. I baked it for another 5 minutes straight on the rack. This keeps the inside chewy, but prevents the outside from being soggy as with the first loaf of potato bread I made.

After 5 minutes, I was gifted with this. The color on that crust is amazing!

It will be very difficult, but if you can, wait 30 or so minutes until the bread has cooled to cut into it. I never can. I ate my first slice of this loaf with salted butter. Other great choices for homemade bread are honey, or a dipping oil of olive oil, ground black pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Fresh bread out of the oven is one of the reasons to get out of bed in the morning.