Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Some Photos To Enjoy

No recipe, just some photos.

First some garden photos:

Then some photos from the summer project...hopefully finished.


Next post will have recipes.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Love That Garlic


My focus the last few days has been the garden. The flowers are blooming like mad and the veggie are finally harvestable...at least some of them. We get about one good sized zucchini per day, a handful of firm, slender tiny green beans, another handful of pear shaped cherry tomatoes, and a small cucumber every other day. Should be baking a cake for the Cake Slice Bakers, or bread for the Bread Baking Babes, but I'm in the garden now that the bath project is done.



In order to really enjoy the beginning of the harvest season, I decided to do a meal that is perfect for this kind of collection of veggies. With the addition of some boiled red potatoes, one hard boiled egg, and two kinds of mains (grilled salmon for me, tri-tip for Sweetie), we had a feast with the addition of a drizzle of home made aioli. You can dip, but the drizzle (see photo at top) looks pretty.

One of the most visited posts over the 10+ years I've been blogging is the one for Spinach-Rice Casserole, a comfort food and economical vegetarian dish from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. I'm showing how ancient I am with this, but I bought the book when it was new and when the idea of a vegetarian restaurant was pretty new, too.The recipes are from the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York and the book is unusual because it is hand-lettered instead of being typed. Mollie did very cool illustrations, too, some helpful, some fanciful, but all lovely. If you don't have a copy, you can go online to places like Powell's and try to find a used copy. Worth the search.

My Sweetie has always been a meat and meat kinda guy, so the idea of vegetarian meals was never a hit with him. He did, however, enjoy trying new things. That casserole became a side dish and was enjoyed partly because the only other thing needed (by Sweetie) was his meat or poultry or fish entree.

Another loved recipe from this cookbook was for Aioli, a delicious garlic mayonnaise, which is served as a sauce for fish or, even better, as the dipping sauce that ties together a meal of steamed veggies, potatoes, hard boiled egg and whatever protein of the meat/poultry/fish variety that Sweetie wanted to make that day. You better love garlic if you make and serve aioli the way that Mollie makes it. It makes an assertive mayo, so was mostly made when the kids were off at camp or something similar. The garlic goes raw into the blender and there is a fair amount of it too. Be sure to use a good olive oil, too (not a finishing olive oil, but one that tastes good since you really taste the olive oil in this, along with the garlic). This makes enough for a generous serving for 4, but it keeps in the fridge for days. This afternoon I made a tuna sandwich filling using a little of it. Wonderful!

If you have your ingredients gathered, this only takes about 10 minutes in your blender. I suspect you could use a food processor, too, but I've only ever used a blender. For variations, you can add hot sauce or herbs like basil, mint, oregano, chives, etc. If you like roasted red peppers, adding some to the blender can make this sauce perfect for putting with grilled sausage. Bet you figure out your own variations.


Aioli
from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (don't use anything else...you need the hit of lemon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tamari (I used soy sauce)
3 medium cloves garlic, crushed...or use more if you really love garlic
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups oil (I used all olive oil, but you can combine it with other oils for a milder taste)

Combine the lemon juice, salt, tamari, garlic, eggs and egg yolks in a blender and blend well at high speed.

Turn the blender speed down to medium. Gradually drizzle in the oil in a thin stream. Keep the blender running at medium until all the oil has been absorbed. The mixture should be thick. Turn the blender off because overbeating will cause the mayonnaise to thin out again.

Refrigerate until ready to use, or use right away. Refrigerated aioli will be a bit thicker than freshly made. Store leftovers in the refrigerator...I like to store in glass because the garlic really is strong.

Serve as a dipping sauce with a plate full of steamed veggies like green beans, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrot sticks, zucchini, etc. Include some good bread for mopping up the sauce. Nice additions include hard boiled egg halves or quarters, fresh tomatoes, cooked fish, chicken, pork or beef, the latter three cut into bite sized pieces.




Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Hearty Bread


I'm not baking bread as often as I used to. Lots of things getting in the way of it, but mostly it's because Sweetie asked me to not tempt him with warm bread quite so often...he has no resistance to bread hot from the oven but wants to continue to fit in his clothes.

Still, I have a sourdough starter and it seems a shame to waste the 'toss off' that comes with feeding it. Before I went to LA I used it to make some pizza dough, which I then froze. One day soon I'll make pizza for dinner, but for now the calories are held at bay.

I fed it again a couple of days ago and decided that it had been a long time since I've made a hearty, seedy bread. If I give half of it away then Sweetie and I can still have some and feel virtuous at the same time. After doing a half-feeding of the toss off (1/2 cup each all-purpose flour and water, instead of a full cup of each), I let that sit in the fridge over night. The second day I fed the mixture with a feeding of 1 cup graham flour (Bob's Red Mill brand) and 1 cup water. It made for a soupy mixture since the last time I fed the starter I added extra water knowing that it would be well over a week before I could feed it. The reason I mention this is that I started with more hydration in the dough than usual. If you have 100% hydration starter, you won't need as much flour for the bread.

The graham flour mixture sat on the counter for about 20 hours before I started the dough and it was nice and bubbly, plus there was a great yeast fragrance, but I knew I would be adding a lot of things needing a bit of extra lift, so I whisked in 1 teaspoon active dry yeast.

In a bowl I mixed together dark rye flour, flax seed, all-purpose flour, and salt. These were added to the sourdough mixture using my stand  mixer and the dough hook, letting everything come together and finishing with some all-purpose flour to stiffen the dough a bit. Once the machine kneading finished, I did some more on a floured board. The dough was just a bit tacky, so I used my bench scraper to lift the dough up and over for kneading.

After kneading a few minutes, I flattened the dough out into an oval, then sprinkled on 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup of Salad Toppings, a mixture I found at Costco that contains pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Rolled up the dough, folded the ends over, then flattened it again to allow for the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup Salad Toppings to be worked in. More kneading until all was evenly distributed, then into the rising container for a few hours to rise. I like to spray the bottom and a bit up the sides of the container with spray olive oil, then turn the dough in it to coat surface of the dough with oil. Probably not necessary, but I like the dough to stay soft on the surface and that takes care of that.

After the dough doubled in bulk, I turned it out on a floured board, punched it down, used the bench scraper to cut it into three pieces, then weighed them so that they were each about 14 oz. Rolled each into a snake shape and put them, lined up, on a baking sheet. After braiding them loosely, I covered the braid with a clean tea towel and let it rise. All that was left was preheating the oven, painting the plait with beaten egg, and baking it until golden.


This makes a hearty bread. It has a fairly fine grain and is studded throughout with seeds, nuts, and the occasional cranberry piece. I served it with dinner and one guest described the variety of flavors and 'lots of musical notes', but they all work well together. This is not a sweet bread since the proportion of cranberries in the Salad Topping is small. It has lots of seeds, which is lovely, and makes great toast.

I had a couple slices today for lunch as Avocado Toasts with some smoked salmon on top. Yum!


Hearty Seedy Braid
my own creation

1 cup sourdough starter, plus about 2 tablespoons water if your starter is 100% hydration
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup graham flour
1 cup water
1 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional (about another 1/2 cup or so)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup mixed sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten

Take the 1 cup sourdough starter and put into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the all purpose flour and the water. Whisk into the sourdough starter until well combined. Leave on counter, uncovered for 2 hours, then lightly cover and refrigerate.

The next day whisk together the graham flour and the water in a small bowl. Add it to the sourdough starter mixture and let sit, uncovered, on the counter until the next day.

The next day, whisk together the rye flour, flax seeds, all-purpose flour and salt in a medium bowl. Put the sourdough mixture into a stand mixer bowl. Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Stir about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the sourdough mixture with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Put the bowl on the mixer base and start up the dough hook on low speed. Slowly add the remainder of the flour mixture. If needed, add additional all-purpose flour as the mixer kneads the dough for at least 8 minutes. When kneaded, dough should clean the sides of the bowl and be tacky but not sticky.

Remove the dough from the dough hook and bowl onto a lightly floured board or clean work surface. Knead the dough a few turns, then flatten into a large oval or circle. Sprinkle half the pecans and half the seed mixture over the dough, roll up jelly-roll fashion and flip end up over the log. Press down to flatten the dough again, sprinkle on the remaining pecans and seed mixture, roll up again, then knead until the pecans and seeds are well distributed in the dough.

Oil lightly a rising container. Place the dough in it, then turn dough over so that all is coated with oil. Flatten the dough in the rising container, cover with a clean shower cap or with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place to double in bulk.

When dough has doubled, turn out onto a lightly floured board or work surface. Using a bench scraper, cut into three pieces (weigh if necessary to keep about the same weight), then roll each piece into a snake shape. Place the three snakes next to each other in a baking sheet, braid loosely, tuck ends under, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until about doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When braid has almost doubled, use a pastry brush to paint the plaits with beaten egg. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown. When you tap the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow. Cool for at least 10 minutes on a rack, then slice and serve.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Birthday


Happy Birthday Max. This Party Cookie is for you - although we did eat it tonight after dinner.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Party Cookies


Having a great time...wish you were here. That's what a classic vacay postcard might say and that is what I would have written if I'd sent postcards while in Manhattan Beach last week and earlier this week. The weather was perfect. The beach was gorgeous and I got to drive a dope car, eat great food, hang with the neighbors and their doggies, and best of all spend time with my daughter. Too bad that she was recovering from a really bad summer cold almost the whole time I was there, but real life isn't a post card.

One of the fun things I did was make Giant Party Cookies in a big saucepan with a wooden spoon since there was no stand mixer or similar. The lovely thing about this kind of recipe is that you really don't need fancy tools...a pot, measuring tools, a wooden spoon, foil, and a large baking sheet or pan is it. Even the ingredients are pretty simple...basically chocolate chip cookie ingredients with oatmeal added. Be sure to have some items on hand to decorate them. Colored sugar, dragees, chocolate jimmies, colored sprinkles...use your imagination.

There is a bit of history that goes with this recipe. When the kids were little there were always school birthday parties. In those ancient days it was OK, even expected, that the mom would bring in dozens of cupcakes for the classmates of the birthday boy or girl for the party. The poor teacher had to put up with the resulting sugar high.


I don't enjoy making cupcakes. I love making cakes, but the repetition of icing and decorating thirty or so cupcakes for all those kids just wasn't my cup of tea. My solution was the Giant Party Cookie, which is a super sized chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, shaped as desired, then decorated with drizzles or patterns of icing and sprinkles of various decorating candies. The cookies are just thick enough to hold up the birthday candles if that is what you are making them for. K decorated ours and we took one to dinner at the neighbors and the second to her work.


We were just going for fun, so I made one in a sort of round shape and the other is a sort of heart shape (if you use a round pizza pan you have more room to make shapes), but in the past I've done a football shape for a football event, a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day, etc.  K is very artistic, so she made a pattern on each cookie and used M&Ms and colored and funfetti sprinkles for decor. Both the neighbors and the co-workers were charmed. The great thing is that you can cut a piece the size you want with these. Not much of a sweet tooth? Cut a small piece because these are fairly sweet with all the decorations. Fun!

The recipe below is what I used with these changes: I substituted dried cranberries for the nuts and put the M&M candies on after the cookies were baked, plus we used a packaged white icing instead of the confectioners sugar and hot milk icing. The photo is of a heart cookie I made when I was first blogging. On that one the M&Ms went on to the raw shaped dough as the recipe describes.


Giant Party Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ cup quick rolled oats
2 cups (12-oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts

For circle or heart shaped cookie:
1 cup M & M candies in appropriate colors
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk
Assorted cake decorations such as dragees, colored sugar, colored small shapes, chopped nuts

For football shaped cookie:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk
1 tablespoon cocoa
more confectioners sugar as needed

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape bowl and beaters. Gradually beat in flour and beat until mixed. Beat in oatmeal. Mixture will be stiff. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a 12” pizza pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray. Put 2 cups of the dough on the foil. Using floured fingers, shape dough into desired shape, either circle or heart. Make shape about 10” in diameter. Exaggerate the shape since cookie will spread. Football shape can be made on foil lined rectangular cookie sheet. For circle or heart, sprinkle M&Ms over dough shape and pat lightly into dough.

Bake one sheet at a time in middle of oven for 15 - 18 minutes until golden brown. Let sit on sheet for 10 minutes, then slide shape on foil onto a cooling rack. Continue to bake the rest of the dough. You can make regular drop cookies with the remainder of the batter if desired.

Once the cookie has cooled, decorate for a party! Mix the confectioners sugar and milk and drizzle over the cookie in a random pattern or pipe in a design. While it is still wet, sprinkle cake decorations over as desired.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Vacay



Off today to the LA area to spend some time with my daughter and with the ocean. In need of a vacation, so this is perfect. Won't be doing much on the internet for the next week or so.
Sweetie will still be at home with sweet Pi doggie and Grandma. He might even do some more work on the farm house project...or not. He deserves a vacay, too, but he prefers a staycation.

Enjoy your Summer.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

A True Cat


Merlin, better known as Buggy (for Love Bug), came to us for a short visit and stayed 16 years or more. He was a cat who should have been an indoor cat because he had long, beautiful hair for a coat, but his preferred place was outside. For many years he was indoors when it suited him and outdoors when he felt like it, including sitting on the back porch just out of reach of the rain when one would have thought that being indoors by the fire would be better.

He had many of the classic attributes of a cat. When we did construction projects, he was the sidewalk supervisor, checking out our work and squeezing into spaces he wanted to explore, even if that meant we had to wait a bit for the next joist to go in. He also perfected the maneuver of coming towards you, calling in his Siamese voice, then, once you started towards him, he would turn and stay just out of reach until he led you to where he wanted you to go. Herding humans was easy for him.


He always found the best spot. It might be the perfect patch of sun on a chilly day or the spot where shade and breeze were just right on a hot day. Above, he found the chair with the pillow by the Christmas tree, not the uncushioned bench or chilly floor.

He had a purr that wouldn't quit when it suited him. Sweetie loved on him every day and so Merlin would start to purring when he saw Sweetie sometimes. Sweetie was the only one Buggy would sit still for when it came to grooming, especially when it was time to remove matted fur that had gathered into a chunk. He would let me remove foxtails and burrs, but not the matted fur.

He will be greatly missed now that an embolism caused some paralysis and we had to let him go. He was grouchy and touchy and independent as hell, but that only made him dearer. Rest now Merlin. Thanks for the memories.