I'm not going to lie; the past couple of weeks I've been in a cooking rut and had a couple of failed recipes (serious bummer). Between a weekend of deep fried Moon Pies and RC cola and a pizza for our Weekly Pizza blog, healthy eating went a little by the wayside. I also had to throw out about 1 cup of kale I just hadn't eaten, and 1/2 cup of peas that got pushed to the back of the fridge. I got carried away thinking that all of my CSA, farmer's market, and homegrown goodies deserved to be part of a special meal. However, there's been a few stressful things I've been dealing with personally (and not so personal if you were one of the lucky people to witness quite the crying scene between my daughters and me at our pickup last Wed.) and I keep putting aside that food and opting for a sandwich or omelet, saving the good stuff for a good meal. This has led to an overabundance of awesome veggies, sitting forlornly in my pantry, praying to be eaten before spoiling. So my goal for the past week has just been to eat them! Boring as it may be I have only a handful of recipes to share for the past 2 weeks because I have been busy steaming, sauteeing, and grilling my little heart out! We also got some rutabaga and more patty pan squash and beets last week, so I'm still trying to figure out what to do with those!
|The most delicious heart attack waiting to happen!|
|Green Beans, potatoes, cabbage, onion, rutabaga, tomato, eggs, chicken breasts, ground beef, zucchini and tomato|
|Sneaky Little Bit is trying to grab green beans, onion, brats, corn, peaches, potatoes, beets, eggs, dill, and patty pan squash|
While I do have a few recipes to share, we'll get to those in a minute. Today I want to talk about bread making a little bit. I've had a handful of people mention to me they wished they made bread more often, or could learn to make it themselves. In all honesty, it's really not *that* hard. Sure, the loafs that take 2 days, special ingredients, and skilled hands are out there, but that's not your starting point to learn. Start with some sourdough, or a good basic white bread. I highly recommend pretty much anything at King Arthur Flour's website as they have awesome reviews, and even more important, very actively involved customer service who will literally walk you through a recipe over the phone. I also highly recommend their flour for the quality and flavor. Even though it's slightly more expensive than some other brands, it's still cheaper to make bread from it than to buy a loaf from your grocery store.
Here's my best advice when it comes to bread making: just jump in and try it already! Obviously that doesn't give you much direction, but look at it this way, if a recipe totally bombs you can always dehydrate it and make croutons or bread crumbs for other recipes. And it's still cheaper than if you had bought those ingredients at the store. Yeast is nothing to be afraid of. In the right recipe, it is your best friend! It gives bread texture, flavor, rise, airiness, all those qualities you want!
My second best advice is to be patient. So much of the process is feeling, seeing, smelling what's going on with your bread. When a recipe says, "let dough rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk", what it's really saying is, "around an hour or so it should be doubled in bulk, but if it's not, that's okay, let it sit a while longer and keep an eye on it." For most basic recipes you have 2 rises, the first being the bulk of the rise, the second after you shape your dough into whatever shapes you need and let it get puffy again. For most basic recipes, it's okay if you let it sit longer than a recipe says. It will likely develop more flavor and be generally happier. Happy bread bakes better than angry bread that's been rushed along.
Just a few more tips and I'm done, hang in there. :) A wetter dough is usually better than a drier dough. Don't be afraid to let a bread machine do the kneading for you. It can really save your wrists. Just keep an eye on the dough to make sure it's not too dry during the first 5 minutes or so of mixing. Of course if you want to knead, go right ahead and have fun, I find it to be rather therapeutic. Just don't beat it. It just wants to be nicely stretched and pushed around a little. Kind of like a little second grade boy picking on a girl he has a crush on, a little playful pushing. Once it starts to spring back when you poke and it, and it's a smooth(ish) ball, it's ready to chill a bit. For a good starter recipe check out this hearth bread.
And what's a food blog without pictures of our food? Here's some of my less creative, but still AA delicious, meals:
|Grilled pork chops, zucchini and cabbage, green beans and cornbread. I LOVE grilled veggies!|
|More veggies:corn, veronica cauliflower, onions, and zucchini, and some oh so yummy brats!|
|Have you ever pressure cooked a roast before? It's soooo tender. Too bad it was the first time to use my new pressure cooker and I broke the handle. Oh well, replacement is on order!|
Until next time, happy cooking (and baking)!!
Recipe # 1 - Lamb and Beef Gyro Meat with Homemade Pita Bread
My husband has a favorite Greek restaurant up in Nashville, but unfortunately they are only open on weekdays from 12-4 (how about those hours, huh?) so he rarely gets to eat there since he works over half an hour away. Every now and then I will take a stab at replicating their food for him, and this is quite honestly the closest I've ever gotten. You'll notice in the Gyro Meat recipe it calls for 2 pounds of lamb, but I did a split with 1 pound lamb (ground here with my Kitchenaid meat grinder attachment) and 1 pound AA ground beef. I ran the lamb through the course grinder first, mixed the beef and other ingredients in with my hands, then ran the whole mix back through the grinder with the fine plate. You could just as easily use a food processor instead of a grinder if you wanted, just don't pulse too long or the texture might be a little off. I did the pitas after the meat came out of the oven so it wouldn't take as long to preheat, and so they would nice and warm. We stuffed the pitas with meat, white rice cooked in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce, and then drizzled some homemade ranch dressing on there. I have to admit, though I'm not the Greek fan my husband is, it was pretty delicious, and very filling! Next time I think I would use only a 1/2 lb of each meat since we had a bit leftover and it doesn't reheat super well.
Bonus - the leftover pitas made a great dessert when stuffed with apple butter. :)
|Next time I'll have to make more pitas!|
Recipe #2 - Sweet Southern Cornbread
Most people think of Southern Cornbread as not very sweet since, after all, the main ingredients are cornmeal and buttermilk. My hubs prefers something with a little sugar in it, but nothing like the cake like cornbread you can get that's loaded up with a combo of cornmeal and AP flour. So I used the above recipe, and just change the sugar to 1/2 cup instead. Just enough sweet without ruining the texture or corn flavor! Since my mom so kindly gave me a bag of local organic cornmeal from Readyville Mill we've been really enjoying have cornbread more often! I will definitely be picking up some more when this bag runs out. It is delicious!
Recipe #3 - Homemade Flour Tortillas & Taco Meat
I had never made tortillas before, and had found so many different recipes and methods online. So I decided to combine those together, and here's what worked out for me!
3 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c vegetable oil (could substitute olive or canola if that's what you've got on hand)
3/4 c of hot water (I brought mine to a boil in the microwave)
First combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. Add the oil and mix with a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles course damp sand. It should still be grainy, but not really dry and powdery. Add your hot water and mush into a ball with your lightly floured hands. If you need to let it cool off a bit, that's fine, but it's best to do it while the water is still warm. I divided my dough into 8 equal portions, and rolled each of those into a ball. Preheat a flat bottom skillet on medium high, no oil or anything needed. Here's where it gets fun!
Lightly dust your countertop and rolling pin with flour. Flatten your dough ball into about a 1/2" thick round.
Roll out into a circle, about 1/8" thin. It should stretch easily, and hold together pretty well when you pick it up.
Place in skillet and keep a close eye. It will puff up and start to brown, shouldn't take more than 30 seconds-1 minute on each side. Keep wrapped in a clean soft kitchen towel until using so they don't harden up.
For the taco meat, I browned the meat with onion and bell pepper, then seasoned with cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper and paprika.