Thursday, January 28, 2021

This Blog in 2014

 A year in which you remodel a kitchen and also lose your remaining parent and beloved mother is quite a year. Some highlights of 2014 include a full month of posts in November (there are lots and lots of new recipes in just that month), a super colorful Tie-Dye Cake in September, photo above, that is perfect for a celebration (even as a birthday cake for a guy who is over 50), the loss of my Mom

in December which still touches me years later, and the story of finding a new local bee hive for a neighbor (with a sweet honey comb gift after the bees settled in to their new home), among other posts. 

Perhaps the thing that impacted my cooking and baking the most was the new kitchen that we had been planning for almost two years. Sweetie and I did the demo ourselves and much of the work, but we let the pros do the plumbing and install the cabinets and counter tops. I even got to design and hand paint two Murals as in the main kitchen and one in my new, wonderful Bake Center! Everyone who bakes for enjoyment should have a Bake Center. It took over 30 years, but finally happened in 2014. There are posts from April through November, so no links...just go wander around to find them.

Of course doing a complete kitchen remodel down to the studs didn't stop me from cooking and blogging! Sweetie loved an Apricot and Pecan Loaf by Dorie Greenspan that I baked in April.

 I learned how to make pizza on the grill using a pizza stone. The dough is my go-to one, Pizza from Roberta's in Brooklyn which uses Italian flour which I buy from King Arthur Baking. Salads were a great main dish concept, too. This one has a fresh and zingy Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing which goes so well with the chicken, sugar snap peas, avocado and fresh strawberries of the salad.

Swapping out refrigerators actually made it easier to make this Chocolate-Buttermilk Layer Cake when the evening turned out to be too hot for the whipped cream frosting.

In July I made a batch of California Blondes, which used up some of the dried fruit and nuts I had on hand as well as giving us a quick snack when the going got tough.

As long as the oven was working I could throw together a Mixed Berry and Peach Galette fairly quickly.

The oven is also the star of Smashed Potatoes because the super-hot oven gives the pre-cooked potatoes a chance to develop a crispy aspect that is addictive. Besides, it's easy.

Warm early fall weather usually means the farmers market has relatively inexpensive multi-color bell peppers that are large enough to stuff. Remembering the expensive $3.99 or more per pound that is charged in winter makes it even more enticing to make Lamb Stuffed Peppers for dinner when the price is so much lower.

It's also a good time for squash dishes like Afghan Squash that shines with warm flavors from tumeric and ginger.

If you ever wanted to know how to caramelize condensed milk to make dulce de leche, check out NoHandle's post in mid-March. He uses it to make Banofee Pie, which looks delicious! The name of the pie is a portmanteau of Banana and Toffee.  This recipe can be made any time of year because bananas are a year-round staple.

There are a number of bread recipes that I want to point out, both sweet and savory. Perhaps my all-time favorite is for the Ultimate Sticky Buns. This recipe produces the most delicious, decadent, rich sticky buns imaginable. You use a lot of butter, a lot of brown sugar, and plenty of whipping cream, along with a sweet dough. Worth every calorie! Another amazing bread, but savory this time, was a Bread Baking Babes challenge...a bread with wine, shaped like a grape bunch. I used a local zinfandel wine so Beaujolais Bread became Poizin Bread!

Another interesting bread is the brioche style bread that the Bread Baking Babes made in March which was proofed in water. James Beard was the inspiration for that experiment, one which turned out pretty well. Water-Proofed Bread was also made by a number of Buddies!

Another great bread was Brother Juniper's Wild Rice and Onion Bread, which I used to be able to get in the grocery store. Ever wondered how 
Peter Reinhart became a world renowned artisan bread baker? Read all about it in this post.

Going to finish up with a favorite recipe...the old family recipe for Skillet Corn Bread from scratch. It goes together quickly and goes with so many winter time meals...soups and stews, fried fish, BBQ, braised get the idea. It's one of about 28 recipes from many to highlight. In the web version of this blog, to the right of the posts, there is a chronologic listing of all the posts. Go to November 2014 and wander and I'll bet you find at least one recipe to make. Same is true for all the other months...these are just some of the great recipes!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Butternut and Delicata Squash Soup in the Instant Pot

The food section of our local newspaper comes out on Wednesday. Lately they have been have lots of good recipes. One that sounded promising was this soup, but it was made by roasting the squash for a long time, then doing the rest in a soup pot. I was sure that making it in the Instant Pot would work well and take far less time...and I was right. Since I've only used the appliance four times in my whole life, I still feel hesitant about how things will turn out, but the only way to get more comfortable is to use it.

For starters, the original recipe said to cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and roast in a hot oven on a lined baking sheet. The first thing I changed was to use two kinds of squash...mostly because I only had one smallish butternut squash and the recipe called for 2-3. To use the Instant Pot I needed to remove the ends, peel the squash, cut in half to remove the seeds, then cut the squash (both kinds) into large cubes - 1 to 1.5 inches. 

The original recipe had one sautéing the onion and carrot and garlic in a soup pot, but I used the sauté feature on the Instant Pot to do it there, then added the rest of the ingredients except for the squash and combined them, then added the uncooked squash and stirred it to coat. I only used 2 cups of broth. You don't lose moisture when using the Instant Pot so less was needed, but I also left the extra broth out because I wanted my soup to be fairly thick and I decided I could add more broth after the soup had been blended and the creamer had been added. The only thing I would do differently in this part would be to grate the ginger as they asked. I did a fine dice, but that still left tiny chunks of ginger once pureed, which isn't as nice as having the ginger sort of melt into the soup as grated ginger would.

I didn't have cashew butter, nor do I care for cashews, so I just left that part out.

This soup is amazing! I ended up adding a full cup of creamer(to tame the ginger heat a bit more) and no additional broth and the texture was just beautiful. Lots of flavor from the squash and the other ingredients, especially ginger, but a bit of a kick from the cayenne, too. The color is a deep gold and just lovely. There are lots of garnishes you can add, including chopped parsley or cilantro, a swirl or yogurt or sour cream, a few bacon crumbles, some toasted, chopped walnuts and a swirl or walnut get the idea.

If you use vegetable broth and, as I did, non-dairy creamer (soy in my case) this is a lovely vegan soup.

Ginger Butternut and Delicata Squash Soup

 2-3 small butternut squash (halved and seeded) OR
 2-3 small butternut and/or delicata squash, peeled, seeded, cut into cubes if using Instant Pot version

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and diced

1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly cut

2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

6 cups veg or chicken broth, homemade if possible (I used 2 cups for Instant Pot version)

1/4 cup cashew butter (I omitted this ingredient)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)

pinch cinnamon and nutmeg

1/2 cup coconut milk, cream, soy creamer (I used 1 cup soy creamer)

Roasted and Stove Top Version 
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast, cut side down, for 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil and saute' onions and carrots until soft (5-7 minutes) in a soup pot. Add garlic and ginger and cook another minute until fragrant.

 When the squash has cooled a bit after being removed from oven  scoop the flesh into a Vitamix or high-powered blender, along with the sautéed veggies, stock, cashew butter, salt, pepper and spices.
Blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Alternately, put the ingredients in a large soup pot, stir, and puree' with an immersion blender until very smooth.

 Heat before serving and add coconut milk, cream, or soy creamer for richness. 

Garnish with chopped parsley and, if desired, a sprinkle of cayenne, swirl or yogurt or sour cream, sprinkle of crisp cooked and crumbled bacon.

Instant Pot Version:
Heat the oil and saute' onions and carrots until soft (5-7 minutes) in the Instant Pot pot, using the saute' setting. Add garlic and ginger and cook another minute until fragrant.

Add the 2 cups broth, salt, pepper, cayenne, pinch cinnamon and nutmeg to the pot and stir together with the onion, carrot, garlic, ginger. Add the uncooked squash chunks and stir to coat. Affix Instant Pot lid, seal the vent, set to high pressure and 8 minutes. Cook the time it takes to build pressure plus the 8 minutes. 

Vent the steam slowly. When fully vented, remove the lid and use a stick blender to blend until very smooth, OR ladle carefully (probably two batches, but maybe three) into a Vitamix or high powered blender and blend until smooth. Return to Instant Pot pot and if serving at once, stir in the soy creamer, cream or coconut milk, stirring well to thoroughly blend. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit at Keep Warm setting up to 30 minutes. If serving later, reheat the soup, then add the creamer and stir to blend.

Garnish with chopped parsley and, if desired, a sprinkle of cayenne, swirl or yogurt or sour cream, sprinkle of crisp cooked and crumbled bacon.

Kickin' back with hot soup

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Much Of The Best Of 2013

We are at about the half-way point of this blog's existence. There is an average of 8 posts a month, about two a week and many of them are recipes. The Bread Baker's Dog blog hasn't been used since 2011, so all the recipes are right here and the index for them is mostly on the right in the web version.

I started the year off health-wise by having a bad case of kidney stones, resulting in both surgery and not being able to post as Kitchen-of-the-Month with the Bread Baking Babes when I was supposed to. Fortunately Elizabeth picked up my job and we did end up with some Buddies for the Jam Fan Tans, a fun, individual sweet roll (photo above).

Cherry Soda Bread (above top), Maple Pecan Bacon Soda Bread (above) and fresh Blueberry Soda Bread (below)
                                                Fresh Blueberry Muffins (below)

There are also a number of versions of Irish Soda Bread this year, including Michigan Cherry Soda Bread, the unusual Maple Pecan Bacon Soda Bread,  another made with fresh blueberries; Soda Bread with Blueberries. Of course you can have fresh blueberries in your classic Blueberry Muffin, too.

                                Irish Corned Beef (above) and Bridies (below) by NoHandle

NoHandle was a guest blogger a few times, too. One you may want to try is the Irish Corned Beef in March, the story about and recipe for Bridies, a portable lunch, and the chocolate chip cookie challenge with the link found a few paragraphs down.

The garden was bountiful in the summer and fall, so there are post about lots of ways to cook with tomatoes. One that is easy but delicious is Five Ingredient Tomato Salad, which also has burrata as one of those ingredients. Our local strawberry farm plants different varieties, so we often have strawberries from spring through early fall, which allowed me to bake a French Strawberry Tart in the early December!

On the classic recipe front, we ended the year with scalloped potatoes with cheese and milk from Julia Child and Simone Beck from Mastering the Art of French Cooking . This delicious side dish, also known as Gratin Dauphinois, has been updated a bit by using Yukon Gold potatoes, along with butter, salt and pepper, Swiss cheese and milk. It's decadent and delicious and not really difficult to make. The same post has a recipe from Julia Child's Baking with Julia for Buttermilk Rolls, light and delicate yeast rolls that are perfect as dinner rolls.

In the same vein, I baked a
Classic Pound Cake using a recipe from Jim Fobel's Old Fashioned Baking Book. It's everything you want a pound cake to be, with a tight crumb and just the right amount of sweetness.

If pound cake isn't your favorite, how about a
Classic Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate Cookie? This one is from King Arthur Flour and it's a winner. While you are thinking cookies, you may want to see NoHandle's guest post exploring which of two classic chocolate chip cookies is better...including the one for which someone paid $250 for the recipe.

2020 was the year of Banana Bread as households locked in due to the pandemic restrictions took up baking. I have a really good recipe for
Banana Bread with Walnuts and Chocolate, just in case you are getting a yen for some now.

Another classic, and one that has been lost for a while as fizzy tablets from the store took over Easter, is the old fashioned way to color
Easter eggs. With the pandemic people seem to be looking to revive lost skills and arts, so you might want to try this way.

            Butternut Squash Soup made with Caramelized Onions made in a Crockpot (above)
                    Fresh Tomato Gazpacho (above) and Home Made Oyster Stew (below)

Soup is one of my favorite things to eat for lunch or dinner and this year I made a wonderful
Butternut Squash Soup and a recipe for Crockpot Caramelized Onions which you need for that squash soup, a bright harvest time Fresh Tomato Soup, and Oyster Stew for the months with an 'R' in them.

Since baking is one of my favorite pastimes and a big part of this blog, it's fun to look at some of the baked good, especially ones that aren't classics, which I made this year. In December baked  Persimmon Nut Bread, a sweet tea bread, using persimmons from our tree. That post also explains why ingredients for baking should be at room temperature. The persimmons are the kind that are soft and sweet when ripe and you might still find some at your farmers market if you want to try this bread.

For a yeast bread that impresses, but is fairly easy and foolproof, try Fast Focaccia. The post has lots of photos to get you to the finish line.

Another kind of bread (which is called a cake but actually bread) is old fashioned Lardy Cake, made with real pig lard. It really adds to the crisp topping and probably the light texture of the cake, too. For an actual cake, and one that uses fall fruit, how about a Quince Pecan Upside Down Cake? The hard part is finding ripe pineapple quince (bottom photo).

We've done bread and cake, so how about pie? Lots of people avoid making pie because they are afraid of making the crust. Well, Martha Stewart has a pie crust made in a food processor that is pretty much fool proof...and excellent. Food Processor Pie Crust makes enough for two circles of a double crust pie like an apple pie or two single crust pies, like pumpkin or pecan, right? What would you choose?

Speaking of pumpkin, it has become a trendy flavor in the fall, mostly as 'pumpkin spice' coffee or ice cream, but I have an unusual pumpkin spice muffin that has a hidden surprise in each muffin. Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling might just become your favorite way to feed your pumpkin spice cravings.

To round out the baked goods, how about Apricot Scones? Sweetie loves these with dried apricots in every bite.

I'm going to end with a pot luck dish that I love. It has both brown and wild rice and seasonings and carrots. If you make it with water or veggie broth, it is vegan, a nice thing to bring to a potluck since the pickings for vegans are often slim. It is also dairy free, a concern of mine. Most of all it is pretty easy to make and delicious. The carrots add a dash of color and the dish I brought it in is always empty long before I'm ready to go home; Wild and Brown Rice with Carrots and Herbs.

There are plenty of other delightful recipes in 2013, so after you check out some of these, wander around the blog and discover your own favorites!