Friday, June 25, 2010

Pizza pockets

I've long thought of making calzones or pizza pockets. Picked up some pizza sauce with a coupon last weekend, so decided to make them today. I generally followed The Finer Things in Life's Pizza Pockets Recipe. I used my Artisan Bread in 5 dough, made on Monday with 2 cups of rice flour and sourdough starter. It's a very, very soft dough. Made a decent loaf of bread this morning, although it spread a bit and nearly burned. Did not work the best for pizza pockets, which require a good deal of dough handling. Especially a bad idea to make some in advance, let them rest on a Silpat *without cornmeal* and then have to scape them up to move them to the pan. Here's what that batch looked like in the pan:

I baked them for 30 minutes in the Sun Oven at 350. Here's what they looked like after:
The white squares are unmelted Manchego cheese (I also used Cabot's seriously sharp chedder, because these are the two cheeses we have); the red chunks on top are pepperoni so I didn't accidentally give them to Nutmeg who gets the plain cheese ones (below). You can see how thin the dough ended up, even though I tried to keep it decently thick. Here's what the first batch looked like. One 13x9 pan just fits in my sun oven, and 2 large or 4 small pockets fit. The first batch, I just put them in; the second batch I used some cornmeal. It was a little easier on the second batch, but the first wasn't difficult to get out.
There were 3, but Nutmeg and I shared one for a snack. I like the sauce! They don't brown much in the Sun Oven, but they are cooked. In 30 minutes, they were bubbling.

Edited to add: Maggie didn't eat them again, saying she didn't like them, but I greatly enjoyed them especially cold. Eric liked them, too. The crust totally didn't work and fell apart more when these were reheated. The pepperoni bits, by the way, did NOT stick to the crust. Will definitely make these again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Orange Dream Cake

A few weeks ago, I made a fabulous orange bundt cake. I have kept the web page open on my iPhone ever since as I intended to write down the recipe. I haven't. But now I can "keep" it via the blog! I even have a picture:

When I posted this to FaceBook, W. said it looked Lovecraftian. Cool! (Although I've never, ever read his books.)

The basic recipe is for Orange Bundt Cake. I used a couple tablespoons of dried zest (mainly Clementine zest, which tastes just like orange zest as far as I can tell, and is easier to make as the skin is so thin you just peel the Clementine, cut it up, and dry it. Wait, the cutting isn't all that easy. But you don't need a microplane grater at least.) Since I eschew alcohol completely (except as vanilla extract), I made an icing of powdered sugar and orange juice with some more zest in it, too (note: as long as you put it on while the cake is still warm, it will get clearer when on the cake so don't thin too far). It was moist, orangey, and really, really good.

The day before I made this, I found a regular bundt pan at a garage sale. For some reason, I remember my Mom's quite fondly, and this one was just like it (white interior and orange exterior. Or was Mom's black inside?). I bought it. Then, a few streets over, I found this totally wild bundt pan, expensive at $5 (but I got a steal on something else there) and bought it, too. The primary problem with a pan like this is all the crooks and crannies. I used a pastry brush (silicone) to get shortening in everywhere. Despite my attention, when I floured the pan, you could see I'd missed places. I tried to fix it, but may have made it worse, so I quit while I was ahead. The cake came out easily, so I guess I did okay.

The recipe filled the pan, plus to 4" ramekins. Which we ate at home while I took this one in to work.

I need to buy more orange juice. I thought I made make this again this weekend, but then I ended up with all the banana ideas so I didn't. That OJ was gone quickly (got it with a free coupon) so I don't know when I'll have OJ around again. When I do, I will save 1 cup of juice right away!

Another note: If you have a 5 year old, don't leave this on a counter to cool. S/he might swipe all the frosting off the cake pan. At least she didn't touch the cake itself!

Homemade wheat thins?

Eric and I both enjoy Wheat Thins, but almost never buy crackers due to cost and ingredients. Recently saw a recipe for homemade, good for you wheat thins from Fake Plastic Fish. Shall have to try these out. I have an awesome cracker recipe, but it calls for an inordinate amount of butter.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roasted banana ice cream

For unknown reasons, a recipe for Roasted Banana Ice Cream (scroll way down past the interview for the recipe) caught my eye recently. I made it Sunday and we had it last night. I didn't set out to make three banana dishes; it just kind of happened. And, to my dismay, turns out my brother isn't a big banana fan. But he did enjoy all three dishes anyway!

I had two problems with the ice cream. First, it says to roast the bananas for 40 minutes. My burned at about minute 35. Luckily, I was right there so I rescued most of it. But I did lost a good bit of bananas and most of the caramelized sauce. One commenter suggested putting in raw banana for more flavor, so I just put in half a raw banana. I later realized why this happened: 1. I have a baking stone I always leave in the oven since I bake bread so much. The roasting was on top of this. Probably a bad idea. 2. It called for a 2 quart pan, which was weird since usually baking pans are in inches. So I just used my 9x13 pan, which put them all on one layer. After the single stir, it was more like a few bunches of mashed banana rather than coating the whole pan. Yesterday I realized a 2 quart pan would be a casserole dish (in which, of course, you only make hot dish, not casserole). That would have about 1/2 the surface area. Will try again as it was a neat taste.

The second problem is that it froze very quickly in my ice cream machine. And then it became hard as a rock in my freezer. I've only had that happen once or twice before. We had to microwave the ice cream to get it out in time to eat before Ninja class! I'm not sure why this happens (one of my ice cream books would probably tell me why). Perhaps the fat content?

The major modification I made is that I had skim milk and 2% but not the called-for whole. I usually use heavy cream and skim for my ice cream, so I was going to get cream. But the store didn't have any in my preferred brand, so I got 1/2 and 1/2. Which I thought would get me in the vicinity of whole when mixed with skim. As I was about to make the mix, I checked my ice cream book and found a chart of fat content. 1/2 and 1/2 is about 30% fat while whole is about 4%. Whoa! I needed a whole lot of skim and not much of that to equal whole milk! I guesstimated and did 1.5 cups skim and 1/2 c 1/2 and 1/2.

Or maybe the sugar, since I ended up with less of the caramelized sauce than planned.

No picture as it's not a pretty ice cream. It's rather brown with bits of darker brown in it. Quite yummy. We also put Reese's Magic Shell on top (chocolate and peanut butter and bananas, oh wow!).

Summer Solstice Lunch

Had a lovely lunch yesterday on the Summer Solstice, including a childhood favorite in honor of the Sun:

My brother, Uncle Monkey (sometimes called Michael) remembers this as well, often served on holidays and Sundays. But as far as we know, it has no name. I need to come up with a cool name for it. It's a simple dish but absolutely delish. It's just sliced bananas with orange juice served in a pudding/custard/sundae dish. I haven't had it in ages as was delighted by the taste. (I rarely buy orange juice and until this weekend, ate a banana only a couple times a year. I try to eat fairly locally, and neither one is native to Maine or Wisconsin. But I oddly made three different banana dishes for yesterday!)

The main course was sandwiches with chevre, lettuce, and herbs from the garden (as I mentioned recently):
The bread choices were homemade bread and a multigrain and seed bread from the Franciscan Friar's Bakeshop, Bangor, Maine (they have no website, no surprise as they take cash only and appear to live a fairly simple life. And yes, the friars are really there. They have odd hours to accommodate their daily prayers. We also got "Sin"-amon rolls and whoopie pies.).

Cranberry orange bread in the sun oven

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, just it was all weekend, and I finally remembered to use the sun oven. Twice! First I made cranberry orange bread:
It looked beautiful when I took it out. Then it collapsed. And, as I feared, when I ate it this morning I discovered it wasn't fully cooked. I knew it should have taken 1.5-2 hours, but the toothpick came out clean after just an hour and there wasn't a soggy spot in the middle like I've seen before. So I trusted it. But it wasn't really done. Luckily, even gooey bread is still good to eat!

This recipe is from a generic fruit/veg bread recipe for the bread machine. It's the one thing I make ALL the time in the bread machine. It just seems easier and faster, and uses less electricity than oven. Of course, even less with the sun oven, but I can only use that on clear sunny days, usually only in May-Oct here in Maine (same in WI), and typically only on the weekend since I work during the day. The recipe works just as well in either oven.

Fruit/Veggie Bread
2 eggs
3/4-1c sugar
1/2 oil OR 1/4 c applesauce + 1/4 c oil
1.5 cups flour (up to half whole wheat, or ww pastry)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Banana bread: 2 or so mashed bananas, 1 tsp cinnamon. 1 tsp vanilla
Zucchini bread: 1 c grated zucchini, 1-2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla
Pumpkin bread: 1 c pumpkin puree, 1/2 c raisins, 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp vanilla
Cranberry: 1 c cranberries (I like to cut them in half if large ones), 1-2 Tbs orange zest, 1 tsp vanilla
Rhubarb: 1 c chopped rhubarb, 1-2 tsp cinnamon
You get the picture, use whatever YOU like!We like cinnamon and vanilla ;-)

In bread machine, just add everything and use the Cake cycle. For the oven, grease your pan (or use a non-stick pan like the one I have for the sun oven). Put in the eggs and beat. Mix in sugar, then a'sauce and oil. Put in dry ingredients (sift if you must) including spices, then vanilla, then veg/fruit. Bake at 350 for about an hour. For the sun oven, bake for 1-2 hours, covered for at least an hour.

Chopped nuts may also be added. I also play with the spices, adding some nutmeg, allspice, ginger, etc., when I think of it. The fruit/veg amounts are flexible. I usually use zucchini and pumpkin that I've dehydrated, so I just put what I think looks like enough in a bowl, add what looks like enough water, and let it sit overnight (when I think of it in advance, otherwise, use almost hot water). I rarely measure carefully. Can also throw in leftover oatmeal. Or uncooked oatmeal--which works very nicely but I tend to forget it as well. This is the one recipe I've memorized, but I didn't originally put in oatmeal, so it's not in the memory bank (yet).

I've rarely gotten the perfect fruit bread look out of this recipe, but I don't really care. I think it's the bread machine, whole wheat flour, not caring about exact measurement of the fruit, and throwing in things like oatmeal. But it still tastes great.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bread and buns

Baked another loaf of bread this morning so that we can have sandwiches for lunch when my brother, aka Uncle Monkey as his niece calls him, visits. The plan is for sandwiches with fresh chevre from the local Creeping Thyme Farm with herbs, from the container garden on the deck and the itty bitty herb garden out the front door, and greens (lettuce, red lettuce, and spinach) from the Lakes Region Farmer's Market. Also made buns for bison burgers on the grill this evening.

Had some difficult with these as the dough was very stiff. They look a lot like hockey pucks, but they aren't as dense!

Made up a new batch of dough afterward, ABin5 master recipe, but with 2 cups of sourdough starter and 2 cups of brown rice flour. Except I lost count when putting in the flour, so wasn't sure if I was at 4 or 5. So I stopped, stirred a while, thought it was 4, but then put in too much additional flour and had to add some water. ::sigh:: It's a fairly forgiving dough, as I generally get similar results no matter what I do to the dough. Some loaves are denser, some are lighter (well, actually, that rarely happens to me), some I nearly burn, some aren't quite cooked in the middle.

To solve that problem, I need an instant read thermometer. The next kitchen gadget on the list!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Baking bread

My Mom baked nearly all the bread we ate growing up. I don't think I helped make it much. The dqy long procress usually took place while I was at school. (Mom did not work outside the home till i was in 8th grade and then worked from a home office.) As an adult, I found the idea of baking bread intimidating. Eric talked me into putting a bread machine on our wedding registry and I got hooked on using it during the next few years. Then a couple years ago, I discovered Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and I've rarely used the machine since for yeast breads (I do use it for fruit/veggie breads like zucchini, pumpkin, and cranberry).

I have the impression that I don't experiment with recipes, but on the other hand, I rarely follow the ABin5 recipes straight up. I like to mix in whole grains, from wheat to spelt to oats and more. I got a greqt sourdough starter from Gail at work and have been playing with that since I adore the sour taste of sourdough breads.

I don't recall exactly what I put in these two. This first one is from last weekend. I also made some crackers--simply rolled some of the dough very thin, docked with a fork, brushed with oil, and sprinkled on some salt. I pressed the salt in lightly with the rolling pin. I forget the baking time. They were lovely the first day, but not quite as good or as crisp two days later when I had them for lunch. Not sure if they should have been kept differently; I put them in a plastic container.

This next one from just the other day I burned a little as I forgot to turn off the convection fan I used to preheat quickly.

(Just learned, after great effort to get my iPhone photos from there to my iPad so I could write and post on it, that Blogger doesn't have the full editor. I can only do a few hints and inserting photos isn't one. I guess I may write on here at times but must use the laptop for photos. Or may i can upload photos on the iPhone? I doubt it but will try.)

Crustie Cookies

This is a favorite from childhood. Via my Mom, maybe she learned from her Mom or her aunt who lived with the family. When I was kid, she'd let us make the crustie cookies and I would labor over making cool shapes and designs. As an adult, I'm more likely to just put them out as they are.

Crustie Cookies
leftover pie crust pieces from making a pie
cinnamon sugar
  1. If pieces are really small, mash together and re-roll.
  2. Cut pieces into whatever sizes and shapes you want. Good idea to keep under 2" wide.
  3. Put on cookie sheet. Prick with a fork. Brush a little water on (with fingers or a pastry brush). Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  4. Bake with pie (or 350) for about 10-15 minutes, depending on size and amount. Watch carefully as they are small and thin so can burn easily.

Banana Pastries (mini pies)

On Friday, I had to speak at a meeting in Bangor, ME, a 2 hour drive away. I got Eric to drive (4 hours of driving in one day is too much for me). Eric and Maggie found a bookstore and coffee shop where I met them afterward. I found two cookbooks, one new, one used. I usually read or buy cookbooks and rarely make anything, much less only two days after buying it. But this time, I told myself I had to choose a recipe to make right away. These pies seemed easy, I had all the ingredients (although I went shopping for stuff for other recipes Friday afternoon so I could have made anything at all), and sounded yummy. Oh, wait, I had to buy apricots.

The book is Delicious Pastries: An Essential Collection of Recipes for Perfect Pastries (link to Amazon; hmmm, an import from England). Despite the subtitle, I will not be attempting perfection. I particularly like baking desserts and ooh and ahhh over pastries. A couple weeks ago, I tried croissants for the first time and when I saw this book, I thought it was high time I tried my hand at a few other pastries. And then I start with a simple pie? Oh well, I also have puff pastry and filo dough and will expand my repertoire shortly.

Banana Pastries

Your favorite double crust pie dough, such as the one from Joy of Cooking p 665.
2 large or 3 small bananas
1/2 c finely chopped dried apricots
pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon
dash of OJ
1 beaten egg yolk
powdered sugar for dusting

  1. Make the pie crust. If it's too tough, make a second batch. I got a head start yesterday...but had to make it over this morning.
  2. While the crust chills, smash the bananas and mix in apricots, nutmeg, and OJ.
  3. Roll out the dough in 2-4 pieces. Cut 4" diameter circles [see note below]. Put a tablespoon or so of filling on each circle, fold dough over, and pinch to seal. Press with the tines of a fork to seal and look pretty. Then proceed to next piece of dough. If you do all the circles at once, your dough might dry out by the time to get to the filling.
  4. Arrange on cookie sheet or Silpat. 6 easily fit, maybe more.
  5. Brush with beaten egg (I thought this made them look weird so I'll do w/o it next time). 
  6. Cut a small hole in each pie.
350, 25 minutes or till brown. Dust with sugar or make a powdered sugar glaze. Serve warm or cold with ice cream.

Note: We think the crust : filling ratio is off--too much crust. So I will try 6" pies next time. We put a glaze on top to counteract the crustiness. The picture is from before the glaze was put on.

Use the leftover pie crust to make crustie cookies.

What? You don't know crustie cookies? Another great recipe from my Mom, and probably my Grandma. I think I've run into just one other person who was familiar with these. But on the other hand, they go so quickly (Maggie and I ate half of these for a morning snack), it might just be that others make them and eat them without telling anyone else.

Grandma Frost's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'd be willing to bet this recipe came from a cookbook, but I don't care and I'm not going to try to find out since it's so much cooler to use my Grandma's recipe than a cookbook's. I don't recall using hot water in any other choc chip cookies I've made, so maybe not. It's my Grandma Frost's recipe, via my Mom.

Hint: Put butter out long in advance; the softer it is (but not melted) the easier it is to cream. By the way, this is a good time to note that I cream by hand. In fact, I do almost all my mixing by hand. We do not own a mixer, although we do have a hand mixer used about once a year (my husband Eric uses it sometimes), nor a food processor (though we have a mini electric chopper again used about once a year), nor a blender (except an immersion blender used way more than once a year for mixing ice cream and pesto). I've mixed everything by hand since I was a teenager and realized I could get a little bit of exercise, save electricity, and not spend all that much more time just using a bowl and a spoon.

We made them with raspberry chocolate chips my Mom (daughter of Grandma Frost) gave Maggie (my 5.5 year old daughter, who made these with me) last Christmas or so. So maybe I should call these 4 generation cookies? By the way, my Mom is the oldest daughter, I'm the oldest granddaughter, and Maggie is the oldest great-granddaughter. I think that is so cool!

Grandma Frost's Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c margarine but I always use butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
2 c or 12 oz chocolate chips or 4 sq sweet chocolate chipped the size of peas.
Variation: add 1 c peanut butter

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Mix in eggs.
  3. Add in flour and baking soda. Grandma probably sifted these, but I usually don't bother. I just make sure the small dry ingredients aren't dumped in a lump.
  4. Stir in water and vanilla.
  5. Stir in nuts and chocolate.
  6. Drop by teaspoons or tablespoons, or make giant cookies on greased sheet or Silpat.
350, ~15 minutes (the recipe has no time listed and this is the first time I wrote down the time), 3-5 dozen depending on how big you make them.

The recipe card has only one step listed: "Last of all, add [chocolate amounts]." But cookies follow a pretty typical set of instructions, which I wrote above.

Morning Cookies

I like to bake; I find it relaxing and stress-relieving. When I wake up on weekends, I'm eager to get out of bed to start in on the baking. I plan what I'll be making a couple days in advance, although my plans continue up to the point I begin, and sometimes change even then. Like this morning, I intended to bake a loaf of bread in between the roasted bananas and the banana mini pies. But then I realized that timing everything would be stressful and I have some bread, so it can wait a day.

But back to last weekend and the morning cookies. I found this recipe two years ago when Eric and I were both working on losing weight. It's been a family favorite ever since. We both love fruit/veggie breads for breakfast, but they are rather high calorie without a lot of good stuff (other than the fruit/veggies and the whole wheat flour I add in). These have more of the good stuff (I think. I'm not a nutritionist) and are more filling. I do not remember where I got the original, and I modified it anyway. They are good any time of day.

Made with pumpkin and I had to get neufchatel at the store the next day, and they were so yummy we finished them off before I made the sandwiches. See, I can't even get the first recipe I post perfect!

Morning Cookies
1/4 c butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg or egg white
3/4 c applesauce (I use my homemade chunky with the peels)
1/2-1 c pumpkin or zucchini (freshly grated, canned, cooked, or rehydrated) OPTIONAL
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c rolled oats (inc to at least 1 c if using optional veg)
1/3 c wheat germ or bran
1/4 c powdered milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c chopped walnuts OPTIONAL
1/2 peanut butter or neufchatel cream cheese

  1. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg, applesauce, and veg.
  2. Add in dry. Mix till just combined. Add more oats if too wet.
  3. Stir in raisins and nuts.
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoons on greased cookie sheet or Silpat. Make 16-20. Spread dough to about 2" diam. They do not spread at all.
  5. Bake 375 10-12 minutes or till set (~15 with veg). Mate similar size/shape cookies.
  6. Cool. Spread ~1Tbs PB or CC on 8 cookies. Top with matching cookie.
  7. Chill or freeze.
W/o optional veg and 16 cookies: 287 cal each sandwich w/ nuefchatel; 343 w/ PB. 10.7 g protein w/ PB.

Beginning a blog

This blog is going to be a place to record and share what I make in the kitchen. I chose this name for a number of reasons, one of which is to remind myself that I'm not perfect and I do not have to make perfect food. It's helping already: You won't see perfectly arranged and lit photos of what I make. I'll just take pictures with my iPhone and the kitchen lighting (which isn't very good most of the time). So, on to the food....