Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers September Challenge: Lavash Crackers

I have never made my own crackers from scratch before and I was running out of time to meet the challenge deadline because Procrastination is my middle name-sooooooo-my crackers um, er...didn't really turn out like crackers-they were more like heavy dry pitas, maybe even closer to hockey pucks. Yeah this was a pretty big fail on my part.

I don't have a rolling pin...Yes, yes. I know. Why on earth would I join a group called "Daring Bakers" without even owing a proper rolling pin? Beats the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of me! But I did and I attempted this recipe, and definitely did not get my dough thin enough.

I made a roasted red pepper hummus to go with the hockey puckesque pitas. Better luck next time, eh?

Anyway-here's the recipe:

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers*

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)*

1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt*

1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast*

1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar*

1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil*

1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature*

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet. 5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Penne Wise Pumpkin Pasta-Sans Penne

Do you have any favorite pasta shapes? Or any shapes that you just don't like? I love orzo (who doesn't right?), rigatoni, tortellini (but that's probably due to the lovely cheesy filling), angel hair and radiatori. Orzo has an almost melt in your mouth texture when you eat it and rigatoni and radiatori really hold onto thick chunky sauces well. Angel hair has a nice lightness to it. On the other hand-I don't like rotini or fusilli. Something about its shape gives it a texture that I don't enjoy all that much. I'll eat it-but I definitely don't prefer it.
Last night I used some radiatori pasta to make Rachel Ray's Penne-wise Pumpkin Pasta recipe that I found on the Taste and Tell blog I've been food gawking at lately. I didn't have any penne and I knew that the little radiator shaped pasta curls would hold onto chunks of a pumpkin based sauce nicely.
I was excited to try this dish because anything with pumpkin in it is a winner for me. I love what pumpkin can do in both sweet and savory dishes. Hmmm...I think I'll try a new pumpkin recipe and post it here each week up until Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Turkey Day...what better to pair with pumpkin pasta then some sage and onion turkey meatballs? I didn't follow any real recipe for the meatballs, just threw ground turkey, bread crumbs, sauteed onions, sage, black pepper and salt and egg and a little thyme together and baked the meatballs. The kitchen still smelled like turkey day after I cleaned up and went to bed last night. Mmmm.
I like this-I think I added a little more Parmesan than the recipe called for and I also didn't use the cream that the recipe called for. I had about a 1/4 cup of half and half on hand and then added some skim milk to get the 1/2 cup of dairy required for the recipe. I don't think this hindered the recipe at all. It was still tasty. I also had to sub dry spices for the fresh and onion for the shallots because that's what I can afford right now.
I have to say -if you are looking for something with bold flavor-this isn't the dish for you. It was a light and mild flavored pasta dish-but I find that to be pretty normal for most savory dishes that are pumpkin based. There always seems to be a light freshness about them. I will definitely make this again.
Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta
1 pound whole-wheat penne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated
2 cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream**
1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 pinches ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper
7 to 8 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced plus more, for garnish
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat water for pasta, salt it and cook penne to al dente.
Heat the oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium heat.
Add shallots and garlic to the pan, saute 3 minutes.
Stir in chicken stock and combine with pumpkin, stir in cream then season sauce with hot sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 to 6 minutes more to thicken.
Stir in sage, toss with pasta with grated cheese, to taste.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scones, Galettes, Pasta and More!

I am addicted to food blogs, but really what respectable foodie isn't? There are so many talented, interesting cooks out there and so many delicious recipes to try. I myself haven't cooked anything blog-worthy in over a week. Times are hard-I've been doing big batches of chili and other cheapie family meals that last a couple of days in order to get by till next payday and the next round of grocery shopping.

That does not mean my urge to cook and bake isn't there though-its actually full on strong! The arrival of fall makes me want to roast, slow cook and bake things everyday. Being here in Georgia, fall is kind of an odd day it will be 85 degrees and the next overcast and cool so I've still got some summery things to try out during our transition into the cooler temps. I've been carousing food blogs daily and have a giant list of new recipes I plan on trying in the near future-should funds allow it.

Anyway, here's a sneak peak at some of the food blog recipes I plan on trying in the upcoming days and weeks:

BLACKBERRY SCONES by Everybody Loves Sandwiches

Lemon Nutmeg Scones by Taste and Tell

Blackberry Peach Galette by Everybody Loves Sandwiches

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette by Smitten Kitchen

Ina Garten's Grown Up Mac and Cheese by Butter and Sugar

Rachel Ray's Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta by Taste and Tell

Spanish Style Plantain Omelet by Bren

Low Cal Spring Rolls by La Mia Cucina

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Salad

Chipotle Corn Salad by Alosha's Kitchen

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In the Kitchen with Spiderman

Today we have a special guest appearance at the Grow.Food.Love Kitchen! Its none other than Spiderman! Spiderman has joined us today to show us how to make Twirly Whirly Pizza originally shared with us online by Parents magazine.

Twirly Whirly Pizza

1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza dough
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup shredded Italian-mix cheese, divided
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves

1. Heat over to 400°F. Unroll dough from tube. Spread pizza sauce on top.

We caught Spiderman getting ready to lick the spoon while he helped spread the sauce on the dough...this is why spiderman does NOT get to help when we make food for guests.

2. Sprinkle with half of cheese and top with spinach leaves.

What a great leaf spreader you are Spiderman!

3.Roll up, starting with short end.

4. Cut into 8 pieces, then lay pieces flat in a greased pie tin. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

**my dough was really moist for some reason and this made cutting it and keeping its shape very difficult. Next time I think I will flour the dough a little bit and not roll it quite as thin.

This turned out to be a fun recipe for us and you could really add just about anything you want to it. Its just pizza that looks kind of like a cinnamon roll.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pantry Raid: Sweet Craving @ 10pm on Sunday

I don't really buy sweets-OK, well sometimes I do, but I make a conscious effort to keep things like candy bars, baked goods and other store bought goodies out of the house most of the time. Yet, even without having ice cream sitting in the freezer or Oreos in the pantry when that unrelenting merciless late night craving hits-I still find a way to get my sweet fix.

I have been known to whip up a batch of cookie dough to binge on if the craving comes on too strong. In terribly desperate times I've taken a spoon to the honey flavored peanut butter jar and went at it. Its sad really. Sad.

Well last night the craving came on, and I thought I'd throw together a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and be a happy fatty mcfatterson-but come to find out I only had a little more a cup of flour left. Not good...what to do? what to do...

I scanned the pantry and my eyes fell upon a box of banana pudding. Hmm...but there's no milk for the pudding. More hmmm...I want cookies dammit-is all my brain is screaming at me. Now we live 12 miles from the closest store and being that Hurricane Ike is responsible for the gas shortage here and the high price of gas if you can find it-I wasn't making any cookie runs...

I kept eyeing the pudding and thought "pudding cookies"...and off to Google I went. I came up with this recipe from was the easiest recipe yet and seriously took only about 15 minutes start to finish before I was able to pop a hot baked cookie in my mouth.

The recipe calls for vanilla pudding, but all I had was banana. I decided instead of loading my cookies with chocolate chips I would just do a thumbprint in the middle to press them down a bit and drop a couple of chips in the indentation.

Now these were by no means some to die for, heavenly cookie-but they were tasty, quick and satisfied my sweet craving just fine.

Pudding Cookies

1 cup self-rising flour
1 package (3.4 oz) instant pudding mix, Vanilla or French Vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)


Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips.
Stir in chips.
Form small balls of dough; place on unbaked baking sheet.
These cookies don't spread, so you may want to flatten a bit.
Bake in preheated 350° oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Makes about 18 cookies.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekly Menu Planner: Sept 13-19

I'm late with my menu planner-I spent all night Friday in line at the gas station to buy nearly $5 per gallon gas then came home and just sat and watched Hurricane Ike coverage. I really need to wean myself off the news for a bit-its just making me too depressed.

I'm not feeling inspired-well I am, but I'm so broke that we are sticking to large batch cooking and lots of leftovers this week. This menu sure won't be hard to stick to at all-not alot of planning or cooking required. I really feel like baking-but just discovered I'm out of flour. BOO to that.

Saturday- Corned Beef, Cabbage and Smashed Red Potatoes
Sunday- Leftovers
Monday- Chili and cornbread
Tuesday- Leftovers
Wednesday- Leftovers
Thursday-Pasta Bake and Salad
Friday- Leftovers

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Angel Hair Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto

Once again I fell off my meal plan bandwagon...I was supposed to be making a couple of new dishes-Turkish Chicken thighs and Curried Baked Brown Rice and Lentil Pilaf-but I rummaged through my freezer and found the chicken thighs I *thought* I had were non-existent. So for a short on time adjustment I pulled out some salmon fillets and figured I'd just grill them on the Georgey and browse some blogs for a side dish recipe while at work.

Can I just say, Gawd I love the food blogging community?! There are so many creative and amazing foodies out there and they've become such a great resource and source of entertainment for me. While browsing I came upon a blog called La Mia Cucina that I decided to add to my favorites because I really relate to her love of cooking and her sense of humor.

Through her blog, I read about a blogger who had recently passed. It was touching to read all the comments on her page from all of her food blogging friends. What an odd thing our Internet is-its almost ghostly in a way-these little biographies we will leave behind for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I don't know why it seems so different than writing a book or a diary-but it does. Its a strange feeling of some sort of ongoing spirit. I can't really describe it...

Anyway-I decided to browse this woman named Sherry's recipes and make one in honor of her. Weird I know, but I just felt like I wanted to. She had recently made a simple dish of Angel Hair Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto that was perfect. I had all of the ingredients on hand thanks in part to my little garden! YAY! involved pine nuts and I do love me some pine nuts.

Aren't the veggies pretty? Its so nice to just go out on the deck and pick what I need-rinse it off and use it. (I used the cucumber and the green pepper for a salad to go with my pasta)

Part of the recipe called for roasting your own peppers-and although I've seen it done before-I have never taken them time to do it myself. I'm a little freaked out by fire-but I chose a gas stove for my house-go figure...I'm just full of contradictions. Its sort of who I am. I think I rushed the charring a bit and they could have been charred a bit more-because I had a bit of a hard time peeling them.

Sans roasting the peppers-this recipe takes maybe 20 minutes total from start to finish to complete. Nice and easy and it tastes great too. Thanks to Sherry for sharing this great recipe with all of us!

Sherry's Angel Hair Pasta with Sweet Red Pepper Pesto
3 medium red bell peppers or bottled roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

1.Roast the red peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, core and chop the peppers.
2.In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Let cool.
3.Transfer the peppers and pine nuts to a blender or food processor. Add the garlic and whole basil leaves and blend until coarsely chopped.
4.Add the olive oil and cheese and puree to a chunky pesto. Season with salt and pepper.
5.In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and cool slightly under running water.
6.Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with the pesto. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.
7.Top with the chopped basil and pecorino and serve at room temperature.

??? Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies ???

I developed a sweet craving last night around 9pm and didn't really have anything ready-made in the house to put a dent in it so I pulled out a cookbook and started skimming...I didn't want anything too labor intensive, and actually I thought I'd just whip up a batch of cookie dough and snack on some dough and then maybe bake the cookies the next day. I kept thinking chocolate chip and fell upon this Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the Gooseberry Patch: Sweet and Simple Cookbook

Not a ton of ingredients and not much more work than mixing a few things together...nice and easy.

I love pumpkin so I figured this would be a winner. I wasn't really impressed though. the dough isn't really all that great for snacking on. SO I just went ahead and decided to bake the whole batch last night. the bake time was only 8 minutes so I figured I'd have the 3.5 dozen baked in no time.

I baked one batch for the allotted time and they just did seem done at all, and I am not someone who is afraid to take my cookies out a little under baked-I actually like them better that way. I love a soft gooey cookie. these-just seemed more than a little underdone. So the next batch I let bake an additional 2 minutes and checked them-they still seemed like they could continue baking...I added another 2 minutes and pulled them out. Still seemed the same.

I think these cookies just have a more cake like consistency. Which is fine-but I was going for cookie-not cake.

Another thing I wasn't thrilled with was the nutmeg-I just think there was too much in this recipe. I think maybe the addition of some brown sugar and maybe pumpkin pie spice instead of the 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of nutmeg would have made these better.

I do have to say though that my husband came home and was at first turned off by how soft the cookies were but when he tasted them he said he thought they were pretty good and gobbled up three of them right there. That's a feat in itself because this man is not much of a foodie and isn't impressed with much when it comes to food.

Then this morning I gave two to Red to take as a morning snack to school. He ate them in the car before we even arrived at school and said he liked them and a 3 year old has no qualms about letting you know when they DON'T like something they are eating.

So maybe they are tasty-I mean, they weren't gawd awful. *I* just think they could be better...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
6 oz chocolate chips
1.Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
2.In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and mix together.
3.Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and then add to pumpkin mixture. Stir well to combine.
4.Stir in chocolate chips and then drop by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Weekly Menu Planner-Just a Little Late...

It was a busy weekend so I didn't get my meal plan done for this week until this morning. I'm feeling kind of uninspired and craving alot of bad food so I hope I'm able to pull off the meals this week. It would be nice if we get some rain to cool things off too. I love to cook when its rainy and cool.

Monday-Grilled chicken and pineapple kabobs, veggie fried rice
Wednesday-Turkish chicken thighs and curried brown rice and lentil pilaf
Friday-Twirly Whirly Pizza and Salad
Saturday-Grilled T-bones with chimichurri, smashed red potatoes and roasted green beans
Sunday-Dinner Out!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bar-B-Cups, Because Sometimes You Have to Improvise

Yes, Yes, I made a menu plan...but just because I have a written menu plan-it does not mean I will suddenly leave behind my entire old unorganized self-cold-turkey and be able to stay on task all the time. Tonight is Kid's Choice night and I had planned on making some Grilled Nutter Butter Nana Sammiches and Triple Berry Smoothies-but when I went grocery shopping on Saturday-the bananas were looking too sad for me to waste my money on them so I passed them up.

I planned on picking some up at the store on lunch break today-but it was an insane day at work and I also had a lovely appointment with my fav doc-Dr. Joe, for an adjustment and deep tissue massage. Ahhhh, so the whole muscular zen thing got me all distracted and alas, the bananas melted from my mind along with all the other tension of the day.
Luckily though, there was a recipe posted on Taste and Tell, a rockin' blog I seem to be stalking and copying from pretty often as of late, that I wanted to try and had all of the ingredients on hand already.

The recipe is Bar-B-Cups and its totally a fun kid friendly recipe. I adapted it a bit so that it would be a little less fattening. I bought the reduced fat version of refrigerated biscuit dough and used some cooking spray to grease the muffin tins. The use of LEAN ground turkey made a difference in the fat and calorie count as well. I also cut the biscuits in half and used less biscuit in each muffin tin and more of the turkey.

**Side note-check out these really cute summery plates and tumblers I found at CVS for 75% the other day! SCORE! I know its the end of summer-but they can be used next season and they are kid friendly plastic and for 19 and 25 cents each you can't beat it.**

OK, back to the recipe-this takes less than 30 minutes to make. We had it with some steamed broccoli and baby corn spears.

Bar-B-Cups-My Adaptation of the ORIGINAL

1 lb. lean ground TURKEY
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can reduced fat flaky refrigerated biscuits
1/4 cup shredded cheddar

Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. In large skillet, brown ground turkey over medium heat until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Stir in barbecue sauce, onion and brown sugar. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors, stirring constantly.Separate dough into 12 biscuits. Depending on the size of biscuits you buy-you might be able to cut each biscuit round in half and then place 1 biscuit in each muffin cup. Firmly press in bottom and up sides, forming 1/4-inch rim over edge of cup. Spoon about 1/4 cup turkey mixture into each biscuit-lined cup. Sprinkle each with cheese. Bake at 400°F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges of biscuits are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from muffin cups.