Saturday, December 26, 2009

The joys of a well-stocked kitchen...

It's always a lovely treat to be in someone else's kitchen, especially when I know where everything is, and everything is (more or less) neat and tidy.  Cooking seems to come more easily (helpful), and the cook is happier (vital!)

41.  Sweet-Sour Beets, pg. 223

Akin to a dish known in some places as Harvard Beets, Sweet-Sour Beets is a lightly dressed-up version of cooked beets.  With a vinegar/sugar sauce, these beets make a nice side dish with enough personality to be recognized in its own right.

I peeled and grated about 2 1/2 c. of gold and chiogga beets (because 1 or 2 beets is a bit vague) and cooked them in the butter for about 20 minutes.  If I make these in the future, I would probably simply cook the beets whole, then peel them, and either slice, grate or chop them.  Grating the beets raw, while providing a nice presentation, does take a bit of time, and having to peel before cooking is a royal pain.

Overall:  3 out of 5  A nice, traditional dish.  Works its beet-y magic, but probably won't wow at a dinner party.

On a side note:  I just remade Cream of Cauliflower Soup, and found that by using just a cup more stock in addition to what I used for steaming the cauli. (and tonight, turnips and jerusalem artichokes) but using all the milk really makes a smooth, creamy soup.  I used a hand blender to blend the entire soup, and the result was beautiful!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! 

Family time inevitably lends itself to much food preparation and subsequent gorging (for those of us with less self-control...)  It's exciting to see who brings what dish, and to eye which will be predictably super tasty. :)

Yesterday morning, one of my brothers showed up at my parents' house with two freshly baked loaves of Pilgrim's Bread.  His loaves were beautifully browned and rounded, and I had a hunch that restraining myself from snacking in the hours leading up to our family meal would mean the chance to snag an extra slice without feeling too guilty. :)  Needless to say, the bread was superb and I'm keeping tabs on the extra loaf in the kitchen...

A couple weeks ago, I, too, had made up this recipe (and then forgotten to write about could I?!) 

40.  Pilgrim's Bread, pg. 58

Though I was poked fun at for gushing to my siblings yesterday about how this bread "is such a good slicer", it remains absolutely true that Pilgrim's Bread is one of the best out there for slicing from my experience.  The cornmeal gives the dough more structure while not adding too much of a corny taste.  And while I had misplaced my rye flour when I made it (I really do these things happen? I'm not sure...), last night's sure dose of rye does give the loaf a more complex taste, and it would be a sad day if I missed putting it in again.  When I made my batch, in place of the rye, I used wheat germ, and it still turned out very satisfactorily.

If you're a repeat bread baker and looking for results, I recommend adding vital wheat gluten and potato starch flour to your bread doughs.  The vital wheat gluten helps the bread rise better and increases shelf life.  The potato starch flour makes a tender crumb.  Neither are essential, but both do nice things to enhance your bread.

This dough is a bit softer and lighter than the oatmeal bread, so be careful when moving the raised loaves into the oven for baking.  I, unfortunately, jarred one of mine, and it fell a bit when I put it in the oven. 

Overall: 4.4 out of 5  A great multi-grain bread that keeps its shape!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

39.  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, pg. 287

This page, by far, is the most disheveled in my copy of MWL, and entirely due to this recipe.  I've made this recipe many times and have rarely been disappointed (minus those few times I tried substituting applesauce for ALL the shortening, and/or using a banana instead of the eggs...remember that one, Mom? :))  This recipe brings together the best of all of the cookie world, in my opinion.  Chocolate, oats, and peanut butter.  Yum.

I almost always use all veg. shortening, though occasionally will split it with butter.  (Never have and never will use lard, as it suggests.  Sick.)  Because I like peanut butter a lot, I typically dump in a very hearty 1/4 c., probably more towards 1/3 c.  Using crunchy peanut butter does make a more dramatic entrance for the PB flavors, but for a more subtle approach, use creamy.

I'm not a huge nut-in-cookie fan, so have never tried adding extra nuts, but I'm sure making this cookie a bit more divine (for you nut fans) will not pose a hardship on your tastebuds.

Baking time seems to be a bit longer -- anywhere from 12-15 minutes from my experience.

Overall: 5 out of 5  A new classic which never fails.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

[[Another review from Amanda Maust, who lives and works in the Democratic Republic of Congo! Thanks!!]]

38.  Molasses Crinkles, pg. 290
I have been craving molasses crinkles for some time now but had been unable to find molasses anywhere in DRC.  Although I had been told it could be found in several stores and the market I was unable to actually find any.  Now I'm doubting that it really can be found.

However, a woman that lives on campus has a friend that lives near a sugar refinery and the refinery throws away molasses, which is a biproduct of the refining process.  Waste to some equals deliciousness to me!  Long story short...I procured a liter of molasses for about a buck and thus began a weekend of molasses cooking craziness.

The molasses crinkles in More With Less are wonderful and I have even given out this recipe to several people after making them here.  These are the only things I do differently with the recipe:

-I use butter instead of shortening
-Here I have omitted the ground cloves because I don't have any
-Only bake for 8 minutes if you want a chewy cookie, and I do!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Birthdays are great occasions for cooking special meals, and Husband's birthday on Saturday was no exception.  We were fortunate to have my parents visiting for the weekend, which meant more mouths to feed (a good thing in a home where I tend to make too much and then we have too many leftovers!)  The morning started with...

36.  Apple Walnut Pancakes, pg. 74

One benefit of being an employee of Lancaster Farm Fresh is the exposure to new fruits and vegetables.  One particular apple has found its way into my list of favorites -- Gold Rush.  Initially, for those of you who are like me, you may squirm at the word "Gold" when attached to an apple.  I've never been a fan of Golden Delicious apples with their grainy, supposedly sweet flesh.  But Gold Rush?  Would they be different?

After several customers at our farm stand at Lancaster's Central Market asked us to describe the apples, I decided to take a stab at educating myself with some personal experience with one.  One bite in, and I was sold.  Crisp and smooth, sweet but with a definite tang, Gold Rush were determined Tasty!

With a few on hand and a pancake breakfast needing to be made, I didn't hesitate to use them.  I'm pretty sure I've had these pancakes before with sweeter apples, and think that using a sweet-tart apple is actually the way to go.  After toasting a few pecans (subbed for walnut) in the frying pan, the batter was off and running.  Fairly standard as a mix, and as long as you don't overmix these guys turn out great, topped with maple syrup.

Overall:  4.7 out of 5  A hearty pancake that will stick to your ribs until mid-afternoon.  

Dinner inevitably began to approach, and since Husband had requested steak for his meal, I jumped at the chance to make for the accompanying dish...

37.  Mashed Potato Casserole, pg. 230

Most of us have probably had mashed potatoes baked in some fashion.  This recipe is likely very similar to whatever you're familiar with.

Opting for a more traditional approach, I nixed the entire herb and spinach section.  I like my mashed potatoes to taste like potatoes, and with a side salad we were still guaranteed to get greens in the meal.  Once the potatoes were mixed, I did top it off with feta cheese instead of cheddar, which was complimentary but not overpowering.

I would make potatoes like this every night if I could.  And they're not terrible for you if you leave the skins on....right? :)

Again, this is one of those great recipes that can be tweaked to your liking.

Overall: 5 out of 5  It's buttery, simple mashed potatoes.  That should say it all.