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Monday, February 28, 2011

Alfredo Sauce

I don't know why anyone would buy Alfredo sauce in a jar.  This recipe is easy, about ten times more tasty, and probably less unhealthy (I'm not claiming that it's healthy, okay?) than that stuff in a jar, which is chock-full of trans fats and preservatives.

If you want authentic Alfredo, you can't go wrong with this recipe.  It goes perfectly with Spicy Chicken Romano Pasta.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Huckleberry Cream Muffins

If you've never had huckleberries . . . I'm sorry. Just know that blueberries, which I do love and which you can substitute for huckleberries, pale in comparison. These muffins are in my top five favorite.

When I made these this morning, I had about a cup of very thick kefir (Click here for my What is Kefir? post) to use in place of a cup of the sour cream.  I did happen to have another cup of sour cream, but if I hadn't, I would have just used milk.  I've used kefir + milk several times and, though it makes the batter slightly less thick, it still makes a delicious muffin.

Want some kefir of your own?  Come on over and I'll give you some!
Huckleberries . . . mmmmmm.  They are so packed with flavor
that you use half as many as you would blueberries.
My friend Cori gave me this square muffin pan that she bought at Orson Gygi--don't be jealous!  It's one of my favorite cooking accoutrements . . . the shape is fun, of course, but the pan itself is so well-made and heavy duty.

I love this recipe because it makes so many muffins.  Today I got 33 muffins, and plan to freeze at least a dozen, so I can thaw a few whenever I need a little something extra to go with my oatmeal or Cream o' Wheat.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

White Bean Chili

This is what it looks like outside where I live, right now.

This is what it looks like inside.

This is my favorite chili, and it's great for cold winter days.  Shout out to my fabulous college roommate, Valerie my Palerie, for this recipe!

In the picture above, I used one can of pinto beans in place of a can of white (Great Northern) beans, because that's all I had.  I coated two skin-on, bone-on chicken breasts with the cumin and grilled them on my Foreman Grill, then discarded the skin and shredded the chicken into the simmering beans.  It was delicious--and the grated Monterey Jack cheese gave it just the right amount of extra warmth.

The bread is from the loaf of ciabatta I made today, which only took me about five minutes of prep-work, since I used refrigerated artisan bread dough.  I just posted those recipes below.   

Artisan Bread: boule (basic dough recipe)

If you only buy one cookbook this year, buy this one.
You can read about this very recipe and more on the authors' website.  I borrowed my dad's copy of the book, and need to buy my own before his gets completely covered in sticky dough spots on my favorite pages. . .

But, you lucky blogstalkers, you, I am slowly but surely making the recipes from this book into recipe cards, for the selfsame reason of floury pages: recipe cards are cleaner and more accessible.

I usually make baguettes or ciabatta with this recipe.  And after you use all of your refrigerated dough (it usually makes enough four loaves), you don't clean out the container--just mix another batch of dough and dump it in to cultivate some wee yeastie beasties . . . the bread gets more and more of an authentic sourdough taste.
Don't clean your container--it will help your bread
develop an authentic sourdough taste

You'll understand the history, process, and chemistry of baking artisan bread if you read the book, and I do think that reading about all of these things gives you an edge in baking the breads that the authors describe--plus there are pictures.  But in the mean time, here is the recipe card for one of the "master recipes."  This is the simplest one, and the one I use the most, along with the flatbread and olive oil dough recipe.

Homemade ciabatta!  It doesn't get better than this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Pizza Dough

Tonight we had pizza.  I used to think that you couldn't make pizza at home as good as at a pizza joint, but am glad to admit that I was totally wrong.  I think the things that make all the difference are A) cooking on a stone at a very high temperature, B) homemade dough and sauce, C) quality mozzarella (the kind you have to tear into chunks yourself), and D), (if you really want to put it over the top) veggies and herbs from your own garden. . . in fact, if you always use the freshest ingredients possible, you'll be amazed at the taste of your own pizza.
The "deep dish" stone: before

Deep dish: after

This is the yummy "grownup" pizza I
made with tomato, Canadian bacon, and
oregano from our windowsill herbs.
If you want to have meat on your pizza,
Canadian bacon is the healthiest choice.

I love it that my husband doesn't like pineapple
on pizza . . . because that means MORE FOR ME.
I have pizza greed.

I've tried so many different recipes for pizza dough, but I always come back to this one from my friend Jessica: it's the easiest and the yummiest.  I make pizza at least twice a month, and this recipe can't be beat.  Use olive oil and as little flour as possible for a soft crust.  I usually make three thick crusts instead of four regular crusts.

Here are some step-by-step photos I took of the kids' cheese pizza.

Complement this recipe with Best Pizza Sauce (and topping) Ever.

Best Pizza Sauce (and topping) Ever

You can't go wrong with fresh basil.  And fresh mozzarella.  And homemade pizza sauce.  Mmmm.  No wonder I make pizza so often--just writing this is making me hungry.  I love this sauce because it is easy, cheap, and packed with flavor.  (Use Best Pizza Dough with this recipe--the tomatoes can drain while the dough is rising).

*You really do need to let the tomatoes drain in a fine mesh strainer after you puree them--then the sauce is nice and thick.  When I don't have fresh basil, I use liberal amounts of dried basil in the sauce.

I made yummy "grownup" pizza tonight,
with ham, tomato, and fresh oregano

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best Buttermilk Pancakes

I remade this recipe card this morning because A) I gave away my hard copy a few months ago and needed to print another one out, B) I thought the directions needed a little tweaking, and C) If I am going to be making pancakes, I may as well take pictures to upload to the pancake post, right?

Here is the old card:
This is the old card--scroll down to print the new one.
*I plan on doing an upcoming post about kefir: a probiotic gem (I can't say kefir without saying "probiotic gem" because that is the qualifier my dad invariable added when he first educated me about the sundry and beautiful benefits of kefir).  Stay tuned. (Click here for my What is Kefir? post).
Can you even stand how cute she is?
Mollie loves three-inch pancakes the most.
This is one of my favorite foods to let my kids help with, because there's not much chance of a huge mess, and they really can do all of the steps themselves: it's a great recipe to get your kids confident about cooking.  Here is a video clip I took of my six-year-old cracking a double-yolker from one of our chickens into the pancake batter a few months ago.  My favorite part is how he says, "Blast OFF" at the end of his countdown.

And my three-year-old helped with the pancakes this morning.  She loves to whisk.  (Before my sisters leave comments about how wretched her hair looks, let me just admit to the entire World Wide Web, right here and now, that I am much better at cooking than I am at doing hair).

Here is the new and improved card.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns

If Cook's Country has any kind of "ultimate" recipe, then you can be assured you need to look no further.  It's my very favorite cooking magazine, and where I got this recipe from (the only thing I changed was the amount of brown sugar in the filling--they called for one-and-a-half cups of brown sugar, but that was too sweet for me, so I cut it back to one.  Ever health-conscious, that's me).

I wanted to remember to take pictures of these as I made them, and I did a pretty good job at getting the dough and filling, and the rolled up buns before they started to rise . . .

But after they came out of the oven, all thoughts of photography fled . . . I just started eating.  My kids and I were mostly done with our first buns when I remembered that I should have taken a picture.  So I took this picture.  I suppose a forensic investigator could learn something about my occlusion by studying the bites I'd already taken . . .

And then I went back to the pan and took this picture.  It's missing a few buns . . .

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I sure do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Triple Chocolate Mousse Pyramids

One of my favorite desserts, from one of my favorite people!  If I had an "impressive" category on the sidebar, this recipe would be at the top of the list.  I mean, just look at the picture.

Also, you can't go wrong with the words "triple" and "chocolate" next to one another.  Juxtaposition of joy, people.

Wonton Salad

It's fun to eat wonton croutons instead of boring old bread croutons.  And I love any salad with a spinach/strawberry combo.

Whole Wheat Bread

This is my "other favorite" whole wheat bread recipe, after Satiny WhWhB.  It makes a lot more loaves and requires fewer "specialty" ingredients.  When it says use "4-8 additional cups whole wheat flour," I usually use five.  Just don't try to make this without a heavy-duty kitchen mixer.  Your arm might fall off.

Texas Sheetcake: Allen Style

This cake is one of my husband, Allen's, specialties.  My sisters always ask him to make it when they come for a visit.  It really is the moistest, chocolatiest, most yummiest cake around.  The only such cake that could prompt me to use a grammatically incorrect double superlative without pause.

But Allen doesn't make it in a cookie sheet pan, like most people do.  He makes it in a 9x13 casserole dish, which is what helps make the cake so dense and moist.  And he added cinnamon, whole wheat flour, and some extra chocolate to the recipe . . . all winners.

Allen has made this cake so many times that you'd think he could whip one out in no time.  But that hubby o' mine is nothing if not slow thorough.  All of my sisters know that it will be at least a three-hour wait, from start to finish, when they ask him to please make it.  But that's part of its charm.

Al usually asks me to make the frosting, because I'm a bit better judge of a good frosting consistency.  It's pretty basic: 1 melted half cup of butter, 1/3 cup of cocoa, 3 cups of powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla and a splash of whole milk.  It's hard to wait until the cake is cool to frost it.