Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fresh Layers

Ever notice that layered things can be better than unlayered? Here in Northern California the temperature during a 24 hour period can swing from a chilly and foggy am temperature of 45 to a hot 90+ degrees at lunchtime and back to a chilly evening when the fog rolls in again. Layers of clothing make it possible to leave home in the morning comfy in three or so layers and still happy at noon in a tank top, having discarded the sweatshirt and long sleeve over shirt during the morning as temperatures heated up. In the food world there is lasagna...yum!...and layer cake...double yum!... and trifles with all those layers of custard and ladyfingers and fruit and whipped cream. Lots of delicious layers in that one.

Earlier in the week I was inspired by all the wonderful veggies from the garden and the market that I found in the fridge. There was also an end of the Easy Little Bread sitting on the counter that was getting stale and needed to be used up. I decided to make a layered veggie dish, using thinly sliced yellow zucchini squash in the place of lasagna pasta noodles.

First I ground up the Easy Little Bread end in the food processor to make dry bread crumbs. They were combined with garlic olive oil and fresh Italian parsley and crisped up to make the bottom layer of the stack. On top went the zucchini slices, chopped fresh tomato, fresh corn just cut from the cob, torn fresh basil and some pepper.

Next I combined ricotta cheese, the garlic from making the garlic oil, green onions and some freshly steamed spinach. This layer was spread over the ones already in the casserole dish. More squash and tomato went over that, more pepper, then a layer of the bread crumbs and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. It looked and smelled wonderful but that was nothing compared to how it was freshly out of the oven!

The veggies had cooked to perfection, the flavors had mingled, and the crumbs and cheese on top were golden and a bit crisp. Look at those layers! Each mouthful was delightful since you never knew which of the ingredients would be in that bite. We had the leftovers two nights later and it was even more tasty then.

This recipe does take a little time since most things are fresh and need to be prepped. Nothing is difficult and it can be prepared early in the day and baked at dinner time. I served it with cold crisp carrots and that was all we needed.

Fresh Layers of Veggies
an original Elle recipe
Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 6 - 8 as a side dish

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used a multi-grain bread to make crumbs, but packaged is fine.)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
3-4 medium zucchini (I used all yellow, but any color is fine), sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch thick slices
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 ear fresh corn, kernels sliced from the cob
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 lb fresh spinach, long stems removed, steamed, squeezed dry, chopped
dash nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the garlic in the oil until light golden brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon, reserving the garlic for later. Leave the oil in the pan and cook the breadcrumbs and parsley in the garlic olive oil, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Oil the sides and bottom of a 9inch x 13 inch baking dish. Scatter half the breadcrumbs in the bottom of the pan. Layer half the squash over the crumbs, covering most of the dish. Scatter half the tomatoes over the squash, then all of the corn.

 Scatter half the basil over all. Season with some pepper (freshly ground if possible).

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese, egg, green onions, chopped spinach, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Spread the mixture over the corn layer, making sure that the cheese mixture touches the side of the pan all the way around the pan.

Layer the rest of the squash over the ricotta mixture, then the rest of the tomato. Season with more pepper.

Sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the casserole.
Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan evenly over that. Cover the dish tightly with foil. (This dish can now be kept in the refrigerator up to eight hours before baking.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the casserole on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden and the casserole is heated through. Serve at once.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer Fruits Mini-Pie

There is something so charming about a rustic pie where you pile the filling in the middle and fold up the pastry around it. Earlier this week I missed lunch and didn't get home until tea time. I had a single pie crust on hand and some perfectly ripe white peaches, plus some blackberries picked in the morning and the last few local strawberries, so I decided to fix up a quick little pie to share with Sweetie. It was hot so I baked it in the toaster oven. With a cup of tea on the side, it held me until dinner time. Because dinner was a layered fresh veggie bake and some carrots I knew that a few extra calories from the pastry would be offset by the very low calorie but delicious veggies. I'll post that recipe next!

Not sure that there are too many locals who read this blog, but if you are, the SRJC production of Sweet Charity is worth seeing just for the excellent dancing in the true Fosse style. If you are a baby boomer it will be even more fun because two of the production number spoof some 60s dances and hippy-dippy ways.

Summer Fruits Mini-Pie
Serves 2

1 pie crust circle (I use Pillsbury ReadyCrust) or dough for one pie crust, rolled into a 10 inch circle
all-purpose flour
1-2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained or patted dry
1/4 cup fresh strawberries, rinsed and drained or patted dry, then hulled and sliced
sprinkle nutmeg
water for pastry
1 tablespoon milk

Place the pie crust on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour.

In a small bowl combine a sprinkle of nutmeg, a pinch of salt, and the fruits, mixing gently to avoid crushing the blackberries. If fruit isn't sweet, add a little sugar to taste.

Pile the mixed fruits in the middle of the pastry circle. Fold up the pastry to cover the fruit, moistening the pastry where it meets and pressing slightly to adhere. Brush lightly with milk.

Place pastry mini-pie carefully on a foil or parchment paper lined small baking sheet. Use a wide spatula to support the bottom of the pastry as you move it.

Bake in preheated 375 degree toaster oven for 20 minutes, or until mini-pie is golden and pastry is flaky.

Let cool slightly, cut in half and serve.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cool and Quick for Summer Side or Main Dish

There is a couscous dish I've made many times in the past and it's always been a hit when I serve it or bring it to potlucks. It's perfect for a hot summer day because you only use the microwave and the dish itself is fine at room temperature or slightly warm. Best of all it's so quick that you'll be able to spend more time doing your favorite fun summer activities! It's light and has the summer flavors of fresh basil and ripe tomato, plus the zing of lemon juice and peel.

 I decided to try making it as a vegetarian dish and so I removed the cooked, cubed chicken that usually is included and, since I have oodles of zucchini, I added in some shredded zucchini, lightly cooked in the microwave.

If you have packaged couscous with the toasted pine nut seasoning packet in the pantry and the other ingredients around, this takes something like 10 minutes to make, so it's great for a quick meal after a long day.

We used up the leftovers the next day as a stuffing for Portobello mushrooms and it was a great combination. I marinated the prepared mushrooms in a mixture of a little balsamic vinegar, some olive oil, some veggie broth, fresh thyme, freshly ground pepper and a minced clove of garlic. Sweetie cooked the stuffed mushrooms on the grill until heated through. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos, but they really were tasty! The actual prep time for the mushrooms was about 20 minutes, including turning the mushrooms over in the marinade a couple of times and including the stuffing and grilling. Since the filling was ready to go, this, too is a quick and easy meal, although you need to remember to marinate the mushrooms early in the day.

8 Ingredient Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Serves 6-8

1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (5.6 oz.) package toasted pine nut couscous mix
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (4 oz.) package crumbled feta cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves

Note: You'll need to buy a 2/3 oz. package of fresh basil to get the right amount of basil for this recipe. Substitute 3-4 teaspoons (I used 3) dried basil if you can't get fresh.

Microwave broth and seasoning packet from couscous package at HIGH for 3-5 minutes or until broth begins to boil. Place couscous in a large bowl, and stir in broth mixture. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

While couscous is standing, use the same container you used to heat the broth and microwave the shredded zucchini on high for one minute.

Uncover couscous and fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in basil, cooked zucchini and next 5 ingredients. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, if desired.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not Quite Health Food

Yes, you CAN eat your vegetables and get a chocolate fix at the same time. It still isn't exactly health food but with the right recipe it can be close (as long as you don't add icing like I did). A few days ago King Arthur Flour added its recipe to the many out there for Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It isn't often that I believe I have a better recipe than King Arthur Flour's kitchens have, but this time it's true. Thanks to amazing YA writer Tanita Davis and her friends, I have a super special chocolate zucchini bread that also has double chocolate due to the chocolate chips and is easy to jazz up with ingredients like dried or fresh cherries, dried cranberries, etc. It even makes a spectacular 'cake' to celebrate a round number birthday, which is how I used it this week. Trust me, that added fruit makes it an extra-special recipe as does the fact that it uses plain yogurt which adds tang, helps reduce the amount of oil needed and helps the bread stay moist. Recipe is below, along with an icing recipe.

The owner of Cool Fitness in Santa Rosa, an inspirational and delightful personal trainer, coach, athlete and businesswoman, reached a round number birthday a few days ago. To celebrate I brought in a 'cake' made out of chocolate zucchini bread mini-muffins which were arranged in the shape of the birthday being celebrated, then frosted and decorated. It was almost as sparkly as she is. The idea of making a 'cake' this way was borrowed. I'm pretty sure I first saw it in a book about cupcakes, but since I do surf the web, it really could have been anyplace. You can make almost any shape that way, although this was the first time I tried it. I used the version of the chocolate zucchini bread with the dried cherries. Thanks to second sister down and her family for the great Michigan dried cherries!

One of the nice things about this week was that I also had some time to do some things that had been on my list for a while. One was making a new cover for the seat of a chair in the living room. Turned out that the base had broken down, so Sweetie fashioned another from some plywood. I covered that with multiple layers of batting and then the fashion fabric cover. I found the fabric in is sort of a batik style. It has always been a chair with a stiff seat and straight back, but sometimes that is the perfect chair. Grandma L loves sitting in it. Here is how it looks:

The other thing I've been meaning to do is to play around with a borrowed SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. Very cool camera! Here is the second photo I took with it:

Not bad for a beginner, right? Pi was, as usual, right by my side keeping me company. He really is a lovely dog, even if he STILL is chasing cats.

based on a recipe by Tanita Davis & Robin Brande & Jama Rattigan

3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini)
½ cup chopped nuts ( I used walnuts)
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup sweet dried cherries (preferably from Michigan), chopped into about ¼ inch dice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5" loaf pans with canola spray. Alternatively, lightly grease 24 mini-muffin pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat eggs (or egg substitute and water) with the sugar until well combined. Add oil, yogurt and vanilla. Beat to combine, then stir in zucchini. Add wet bowl to dry bowl and stir until just moistened. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips and cherries.

Spoon evenly into pans. Bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean if baking in loaf pans. If baking in mini-muffin pans, bake 15. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then turn onto racks. This bread is yummy when eaten still warm...the chips are melty and the fragrance is full chocolate!

To make a 'cake' out of the mini-cakes, line a flat serving plate or board with foil. Group the mini-cakes into a shape, then swirl on icing to join the cakes into the shape. Decorate as desired. I used the following buttercream icing:

Vanilla Easy Buttercream Icing

1/2 pound confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons hot milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sieve the sugar into a bowl. In another bowl beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Beat in the sugar.

In another, small, bowl mix together the hot milk and the vanilla. Add to the sugar mixture and beat until smooth. If mixture is too stiff, add a bit of hot milk. If too thin, add a bit more sugar.

Enough for 12 cupcakes or 24 mini-cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ABC Award and Seasonal Banana Bread

There is a recipe on this post, but it is waaay down there. First there is the ABC Award (Awesome Blog Content) from Katie of Apple and Spice. I've visited Katie's blog for quite a while now and I can confidently say that she is not only a wonderful blogger, well deserving the ABC Award herself, but an intrepid one. She has always baked delicious treats but made the change to gluten-free with such grace that, unless you really look carefully, you can't tell if her goodies have gluten or 'poor me' from this fabulous baker! In some ways it has unleashed an even greater talent for baking and creativity. Do visit her blog so you can see what I mean!

So I thank Katie for the Award, but I took a while to post about it because it came with a list to make. I always have trouble with those lists. You've got to give some random facts about yourself, one for every letter of the alphabet! So here's my 26 alphabet related facts about me, although I'm not sure how fun it is. Mostly these are things I do, 'hats' I 'wear':

a - artist, author These two go together since my book Classic Comfort Food depends on the artistic photographs to shine.

b - baker, bread maker, business woman At one time these went together, too, when I had a wholesale muffin business. Now baking is for fun and gifting. Bread making is a passion that seems to go on and on. Being self-published, I'm running my own business again.

c - cook This is a life-long vocation and pleasurable pursuit. Fortunately, it's something I get to do every day. It is also one of my vehicles for another 'c' word, creative.

d - designer, daughter Although graphic design is my latest effort, I've also had a stenciled designs tee-shirt business, have designed gardens and clothing for myself and lots of other things. I'm grateful that my Mom is still alive so I get to be her daughter a while longer.

e - economist of the household variety

f - friend My first friends were my siblings and they are still my friends. I'm lucky to have a handful of true blue friends whom I can be completely myself with. Virtual friends like Katie are a blessing and I still struggle with how to be a good virtual friend myself.

g - graphics specialist, gardener During the past year these have been two interests that have been really high on my list of priorities. Just finished designing a children's book and have more graphic design projects lined up. The garden is burgeoning with flowers and veggies and I love being out in it enjoying the fragrances and colors.

h - homemaker Although other pursuits often mean my house isn't dust free and pin neat, it is a home and one where visitors say they always feel relaxed. I feel very lucky to live where I do and I love our home.

i - InDesign user Until last September I was a confirmed Pagemaker and QuarkXpress graphic designer. Now I love InDesign. All of these are programs used for page layout and graphic design. I spend a lot of time using them (and Photoshop) so it is really great to have found such a wonderful program.

j - journeyer In truth we are all on a journey into the unknown...exciting isn't it?

k - kitchen wench Anyone who loves to cook and bake as I do either finds someone to help with the clean up or becomes a kitchen wench. Although Sweetie helps sometimes, often it's me and the sink.

l - lover When he was in kindergarten, our son Max made a picture that said he was special because he was loving. It was very true. I think it might be true for me, too. I love a lot of people and I try to let them know it.

m - mom The hardest job of all, and much of the time the best one, too. My daughter Katherine is one of the greatest joys of my life.

n - never bored If you know me at all this one won't surprise you. I always have many more ideas and things I want to do than there is time. Occasionally I find it frustrating but mostly it feels like money in the bank.

o - outside-the-box thinker This sort of goes with the one above. Never met a recipe I didn't itch to change. When I 'problem solve' I often come up with unexpected solutions. Sweetie knows I think differently. My siblings claim I have my own logic system. This is not always the most comfortable trait to have.

p - Pi lover I'm besotted with our new dog, Pi. It's as simple as that.

q - queen of the hill We live at the top of a hill with a nice view back over the plain. Looking out that way from our deck I often feel like the queen of the hill even though most of what I see isn't really mine except to look at. I do appreciate how beautiful it is.

r - reader Books are everywhere in our home and I usually have a stack of unread books next to the bed. I love to read and so am rarely up on the latest TV shows or even music. So many books and so little time is absolutely true in my case.

s - seed starter and saver Growing things from seed is such a creative, life-affirming process. I've figured out how to get a high germination rate and every year start seeds, especially veggies, for the garden. I also save seeds from sweet peas, morning glories, scarlet runner beans (and more) for growing next year.

t - tomato maven There is nothing like a ripe tomato from your own garden, especially some of the heirloom tomatoes. I've gotten pretty good at growing them, plus I always give away seedlings in the spring to friends. If the seeds germinate really well I usually have more than I can plant.

u - universe's child This refers to a belief that, mostly, things are unfolding as they should. It is counter intuitive having lost my son 13 years ago yesterday in an auto accident when he was almost 17, but it still seems to explain a lot of other things.

v - voter This year especially it's an important thing. From the Presidential race to the local fire service race and everything in between, many, many things that impact my life and yours will be influenced by how the people vote and by how many actually cast their ballots. It may be weakened by forces beyond my control, but the democratic process of voting is still essential to America staying free and strong so I vote. You should, too.

w - wife The most important of all my pursuits, and the most enjoyable. I'm lucky in love. Thanks Sweetie!

x - xacto knife wielder Hey, it's getting tough to find activities. I did this the other day when I made special "Signed by Local Author" labels for some cookbooks to be sold at a local market, so it counts.

y - young at heart Now that I see gray hair when I look in the mirror, this one is kind of funny, but true anyway.

zzzz - tired of me yet? zucchini grower extraordinaire Since I'm sharing pounds and pounds of zucchini every week with neighbors and friends, eating some every day, and since I have one plant where the leaves are each about a foot and a half across, I claim this title with happiness.
I think I'm supposed to nominate others for this award, and there are certainly plenty of blogger who qualify, but not sure I want to also 'award' them the list making. Might need a few more days to decide. Stay 'tuned'.

Now for the recipe. Lots of ripe bananas often means Banana Bread! 

The wonderful thing about a basic recipe is that you can use it as the basis for creative changes. My Mom's Banana Bread from Classic Comfort Food has been altered to make it tropical, to use dates and nuts, to be a base for a Christmas time cranberry banana bread and more. I did switch out butter for the vegetable oil and exchanged some of the sugar for either brown sugar or molasses. The fruits and nuts change often and sometimes I throw in something like coconut or (today) shredded zucchini. As you can see it is a versatile recipe.

This time I'm going to add some orange zest for a fresh zing, summer berries for sweetness and a bit of the zucchini that is taking over the garden (because I need to find ways to use it up). It makes a lovely summer tea time treat!

Mashed Up Banana Bread with Berries and Zucchini
based on my mom's banana bread in Classic Comfort Food, 2012
makes one loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas (or 2 large), mashed
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup fresh blackberries
1/4 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup shredded zucchini, loosely packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Beat butter, brown sugar and sugar together until fluffy.

Add eggs and banana pulp and orange zest and beat well.

Sift together the whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. Set aside 1/4 cup of the mixture. To remaining flour mixture add baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and zucchini. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup flour mixture over and lightly stir to coat the fruits and zucchini with the flour mixture. Set aside.

To the banana mixture add sifted dry ingredients, vanilla, and milk and yogurt. Mix just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in fruit-zucchini mixture and nuts.

Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake about 1 hour. Test for doneness with a toothpick in center. When done, toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs on it. Cool well. Store overnight before cutting...if you can wait that long. A serrated knife makes cutting easier.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Third Time is the Charm for Easy Little Bread

It's a good thing that Sara invited us to experiment with the recipe she gave the Bread Baking Babes this month! With a new 2 year old dog on the house I was looking forward to the easy part of the Easy Little Bread that Sara of I Like to Cook, our Kitchen of the Month, gave us. I had forgotten how much a young dog is like a toddler, but it is also rewarding in that, like a toddler, you gets lots of affection back for the care given. His name is Pi (like the mathematical term) and he is a rescue dog and a gorgeous black Labrador with a sweet disposition. Unlike most young labs I have known, he is mellow and doesn't' try to jump on people. The only time he is puppy-like is when he is playing with his dog toys which leads to lots of laughter and fun.

The easy little bread turned out to be not so easy for me. For my first attempt I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with a dense and fairly flavorless bread even though I followed the recipe closely.

That might have been the problem since I almost always add some sort of twist to recipes, even ones I've never tried. I love, love, love oatmeal bread so I decided to try it again but to cook the oats before adding them to the batter, plus I put in 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds for flavor. Unfortunately I both misjudged the amount of liquids to use and left it to rise too long. I ended up with a gray bread that I didn't even try to eat.

The third time was the charm! That's the one in the photo at the top of the post. I took half of the rolled whole grains (in this case a mixture of rye, wheat, oats and barley) and cooked them for a minute and a half in the microwave with 3/4 cup of water. The other 1/2 cup of grains went, uncooked, into the bowl with the flours. I also increased the plain flour to 2 1/4 cups and used bread flour because I ran out of all-purpose flour making the other two breads and a loaf of banana bread (more about that another day) plus the cup of whole-wheat flour. I increased the water by 1/2 cup. If you include the water used to cook the grains that were cooked, that is an additional 1 1/4 cup water offset by an additional 1 1/4 cup flour. The resulting bread was good. It rose, it had lots of flavor and a much better texture and crumb than the first one. It makes great toast.

Oddly enough it isn't like the twists from last month even though both are oatmeal breads. This Easy Little Bread has no kneading involved and has a much more open crumb and rough texture. Should be great with soup!

This photo is for comparison of bread #3 and bread #1 (the shorter one):
The changes I made only add five minutes to the process (for cooking and cooling the oatmeal) so it is still a very quick and easy bread. This is also a healthy bread with only a tablespoon of honey and no milk, eggs, or butter in the dough. Do give it a try. It might become you favorite go-to bread for quick and easy bread making.

If you'd like to be a Buddy you can use the original recipe, below, or try your own variations. The Third Time is the Charm version is below the Easy Little Bread recipe in case you want to try my version. Once you have baked YOUR version, send an e-mail with a photo and a link to your blog to Sara at iliketocookATshawDOTca by July 29th to be included in the round-up and to get a Buddy badge. Do visit the other Babes' sites to see their breads this month. I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event, a wonderland of yeasted breads that you should visit regularly if you love baking breads.

The following is from Susan's post...just to keep my readers up to date :) Thanks Susan!

And now for something a little different:

The Babes will bake and post on August 15th in honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and we would love for the Buddies (that is, anyone who would like to play), to join us in posting on that day. Big thanks to Elle for creating the invitation. For the recipe we will be baking, please email Susan: susan at wildyeastblog dot com (NB: This is an invitation for NEXT month, August. THIS month (July), Buddies are still invited to make the Easy Little Bread.)

Easy Little Bread
from 101 Cookbooks

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit - 5 - 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat - to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn't steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

Adapted from Gran's Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 35 min

Third Time's the Charm Easy Little Bread
based on recipe from 101 Cookbooks

1/4 cups warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)(I used a mixture of rye, wheat, oats and barley rolled whole grains)
1 1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115F)
1 tablespoon runny honey
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used part bread flour...ran out of all-purpose)
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)(I used a mixture of rye, wheat, oats and barley rolled whole grains)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing (I used spray canola oil to oil the bread pan)

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit - 5 - 10 minutes.

While yeast is blooming, cook the 1/2 cup rolled oats/mixed grains with the 3/4 cup water in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Cool. Mix in the 1 1/2 cups water and the runny honey and stir to mix well. There may be some clumps of cooked grain...that is OK.

In the meantime, mix the flours, 1/2 cup oats/mixed rolled grains, and salt in a large bowl..

Add the yeast mixture and the wet mixture to the dry mixture in the large bowl and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter (or spray with cooking spray). Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 55-60 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. If the top is too pale, leave the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat - to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn't steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter. Makes great toast!

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: Total water used for Third Time bread is 2 1/2 cups. Total flour and grains is 4 1/4. Depending on your flour you may need slightly more or less flour, but batter is meant to be fairly loose and sticky. No kneading is necessary.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Awesome Sticky Buns

I love being invited to gatherings where I can bake something that is usually too tempting to have in the house, something that is awesome in its deliciousness and always a hit at parties. Last Saturday we were invited to a breakfast barbecue, that's right, breakfast! I was asked to bring sticky buns since the host and hostess knew that I love to bake such things. The challenge was to have them still a bit warm even though I was to be at the gym at 8 am and the picnic was at 9 am about 45 minutes north of our house at Lake Sonoma dam.

The solution was to make the dough for the buns and to do the filling and cutting into discs, then to freeze the discs, cut side down, until solid. Frozen discs went into plastic freezer bags, with waxed paper in between the discs. In that way I could do all of that well before the event.

The night before I melted the butter and added it and the brown sugar to the bottoms of the pans

(for the second pan I used a round pan and only put in 6 slices...we didn't need a full 24 buns!), topped that with the discs, leaving space between bun discs, and let them rise overnight in the 'fridge.

In the morning I preheated the oven, added the heavy cream to each pan and baked them. Once they were baked they were put into cardboard boxes that had been lined with crumpled newspaper. Sweetie took over from there since I had to leave for the gym. He left the foil on the top of the pans, put the daily newspaper on top for more heat retention, then took them to the picnic.

They were only slightly warm, but the sticky part was still plenty sticky and runny and so, so good!

If you don't have a picnic to go to, you can bake the recipe all at once. Just skip freezing the slices. Put them, cut side down in the prepared pan, let rise, add cream, and bake in the preheated oven. Imagine how good your house will smell! I warn you, these are addictive. That's why I had to take them to a leftovers to tempt!

Awesome Cinnamon Sticky Buns from DeeDee
Frozen slices version
Makes 20 - 24 rolls

1) 1 Pkg yeast
    1 1/2 cups warm water (about 108-110 degrees F)
    1 teaspoon sugar
Place yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes to proof the yeast.

2) 1 cup sourdough starter
    1/2 cup melted butter, cooled (1 stick)
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    2 teaspoons salt
Add the yeast mixture to the the sourdough starter. Mix in the melted butter, sugar, eggs and salt.

3) 6-8 cups flour
Add enough flour to make a soft dough (6 - 8 cups). Oil a large bowl or rising container, Add the dough, turn to coat, cover and let rise until doubled.

4) Divide dough in half. Work with each piece separately.

Roll the first piece of dough to a 12" x 10" rectangle.

5) 1/2  stick butter (1/4 cup), melted
Spread dough liberally with melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edges unbuttered

6) 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon

7) 1/3 pound brown sugar
Cover with the brown sugar, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edges without brown sugar
(Optional - sprinkle with 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans for Pecan Sticky Buns)

8) Roll up from the long side and cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices (cut 10-12). I used dental floss to cut them and they turned out great that way. Here the first batch is laid out for the freezer.

9) Repeat from step #4 with the other half of dough. You will have a total of 20-24 slices.

10) Place slices, cut side down, on a parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Remove from sheet and seal airtight in a zip closed gallon bag. (I put a small piece of waxed paper between the slices to make them easy to remove when I was ready for them.) Return to freezer until ready to bake.

11) When ready to bake, remove frozen slices from freezer. Cover bottom of two 9 x 13 inch pans well with 1/2 cup melted butter each (which means you will use 4 sticks or 2 cups butter for the recipe).

12) Sprinkle with about 1/3 pound brown sugar in each pan (which means you will use a full pound plus 1/3 of a pound of brown sugar for the whole recipe).

13) Add the frozen rolls, cut side down. Pour about 2/3 cup heavy cream around the rolls in one pan and 2/3 cup heavy cream around the rolls in the other pan (for a total of 1 1/3 cups heavy cream). Let rise until doubled.

14) Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 25 - 30 minutes until brown.
Let rolls cool slightly before serving so no one gets burnt with the hot sugar. Serve with the bottom, sticky, side up.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

I never expected to be a book author but now I am one! Here's how it happened:

Last fall I took a class to learn InDesign, a page layout program. This is the kind of program that graphic designers use to lay out pages for printing or for use on the web. I already knew QuarkXPress. It used to be the gold standard for page layout and design but Adobe made so many improvement to InDesign that it's now the program to know and use. I also know Pagemaker, but it is no longer supported and print shops don't want to see Pagemaker files. It was fun learning the new program, but a lot of work, and it was only the first of a number of classes to learn different aspects of the program. I'm hoping to take the second section starting next month...that's the one where we produce a book.

I guess I'm sometimes impatient because I couldn't wait until August to create a book. When I visited my Mom a year ago May, I noticed that the family cookbook that I had put together many years ago was in tatters. I offered to make her another one. The old version was simply a series of recipes typewritten and 'illustrated' with cutouts of black and white drawings from our childhood times. Now I have the skills to create a cookbook that is professional in layout and illustrated with full color photos. All that time learning how to photograph food for this blog paid off. If you look at the first letter of the last name of the author and spell it out you'll understand my blogging name, too.

For Mothers Day my Mom received the prototype copy of Classic Comfort Food - Family Food from the 50s. It has almost all the recipes from the original cookbook, plus others that were requested by my sisters and brothers, nearly 100 recipes in all. Since then I've created a slightly better version which includes Tales from the Table; my memories of learning to make pie crust, of burning cookies and other stories. It has been a learning experience and a lot of fun, but has also taken a lot of time. This blog has had fewer posts as a result, but I hope to change that soon.

My siblings will be getting copies as early Christmas gifts, but I found out when I showed off the cookbook at the gym that friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers are willing to buy this collection of mid-century recipes. If you would like a copy for yourself, here is the link to Blurb, the company that publishes the book. They make it easy to buy one copy or as many as you want, and they ship it right to you.

Since it was originally planned to just be a family book, having it for sale has me a bit bemused. I'm not going to get rich selling this cookbook, but it does feel good to be able to share good memories and classic recipes that have stood the test of time. Will the food of my childhood appeal to you? I do hope so! There are lots of basic recipes for things like Fried Chicken (cooked on the stove top and finished in the oven for crispy skin), Mac and Cheese, Chocolate Cake and many more comfort food classics. There are also Southern recipes like Hush Puppies, Ambrosia, Hoppin' John, Lane Cake and Carolina Cole Slaw. There is even a wonderful recipe for my Aunt May's Soda Bread (Irish) and for Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce and Beef Stroganoff (Northern European), plus that all-time favorite Tuna Noodle Casserole. In truth most of these recipes don't reflect the way I cook now, but it is fun to make them now and then and savor the comfortable feelings and memories they bring.

To give you an idea of the kind of recipes that are in the book, let me give you one. Most of the recipe give specific amounts and serving but a few, like this one, are open-ended. This is one of my favorites and a big favorite of my Dad's. If you have had creamed corn out of the can, you are in for a big surprise. This dish is nothing like that kind of corn.

This creamed corn comes directly from fresh corn on the cob. If the ears are not field fresh, it's OK. Mom says that she and Dad used to go to a farm stand at the end of the day when the farmer was willing to sell lots of ears for little money since they had sat out all day in the summer heat. They still made excellent creamed corn.
The juices that you scrape from the cob thicken during cooking (the sugar turns to starch) so there isn't really any cream or dairy involved. When I made it I was in a bit of a hurry so I cheated and sliced the kernels from the cob, then used the back of a knife to scrape the juices onto the cutting board. It helps to use a cutting board that has want to save all that lovely juicy slurry from the inner kernels. To do it properly you slit each row of kernels and then scrape out the inner part of the kernel. It give a much more luxurious texture but it is slower. I don't know if this dish keeps well once cooked because we have never had any leftovers.

Do take the time to try this recipe if you are living where corn is in season now. If you use a small amount of bacon grease to keep it from sticking in the pan it is even tastier...but then almost anything tastes better with bacon. If that doesn't appeal to you, use a non-stick pan. A little corn oil or cooking spray will keep the mass moving as it thickens.

I would love to hear back from you about your take on this recipe, or on any of the recipes in the book.

Dad's Creamed Corn

Husk fresh corn (Silver Queen, a sweet white variety, became a favorite in later years). Slit kernels with a sharp knife, top to bottom. Scrape the pulp and juice from the kernels (Dad got a gadget in recent years that does the scraping; before that he used the back of the knife. Both work to scrape out as much pulp and juice as possible).

In a heavy frying pan (best: a cast iron one, greased with bacon drippings) cook the corn, seasoned with salt and pepper, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Stir constantly and add milk if the mixture gets too thick. (A wooden spoon or silicon spatula works well for stirring.) Serve hot.

Allow about 1 large ear of corn per person, with an extra ear if you are serving more than four people.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

July and Meatballs

July is one of those months that hold beginnings and endings for me. It was the month I met my first husband and the month, years later, when I left him. I was the month of my first sleep-over camping experience as a girl, the month I started my last job, and the month we lost our son in an auto accident over a decade ago.

It was also the month, in 2008, when a wonderful blogger, Sherry Cermak of the What Did You Eat blog died of a heart attack. She was very young and touched a lot of hearts with her blog. A number of bloggers honored her by making something from her blog. I made Turkey Meatballs with Plum Sauce, inspired by a post of hers. Today, starting off the month of July, I made the recipe for dinner, making a few changes as I usually do. I always think of Sherry now when the plums come in. They are just ripening, so I used a few from my tree for the sauce. If you choose to make this dish, think for a moment of Sherry if you visited her blog or knew her, or of someone you know who died too young and was a sweet person. It never hurts to remember the good ones.

Turkey Meatballs with Citrus Plum Sauce


2 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
1 yellow onion, finely chopped, divided
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup rolled oats, whirled in a blender or food processor until lightly ground
1 egg
2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup fresh citrus juice (I used a combination of orange and lime)
1 cup fresh diced plums, peels left on

Make the meatballs

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and sauté two minutes. Set aside 1-2 tablespoons of the onions. Add the celery to the pan and continue to sauté’ until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon into a bowl and let cool. Set the pan aside.

Add the turkey, oats (I actually used Quaker Multi Grain Hot Cereal, mix of rye, barley, oat and wheat whole grains), egg, oregano, salt and pepper to the cooled onion mixture, and mix gently but thoroughly with your hands. Shape the mixture into 12 meatballs and arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

Cook the meatballs and make the sauce.

Bake the meatballs until opaque throughout, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the fry pan and combine the citrus juices, and plums in the fry pan and place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the juice comes to a boil and the fruit is warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved onions to the sauce, taste for seasonings, add salt and/or pepper as needed.

Divide the meatballs among dinner plates, spoon the plum sauce over them and serve immediately. Serves 3- 4.