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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flour Tortillas

I've seen flour tortillas run $2 or more at the grocery store! Save money by making your own. Tip: If you're getting store bought tortillas, they're much cheaper at your local Mexican grocer. I frequent mine all the time. The staff is very helpful and friendly, and their exotic variety of produce and herbs are fresh and less 'messed with' than the produce at chain grocery stores.

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 good sized handful of Crisco
1/2 cup hot water

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add Crisco and combine with your hands until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Add the hot water and stir until ingredients hold together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, working in flour as needed. There will be tears and cracks, the important thing is that it doesn't stick. This will make the rolling out process much easier. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Divide your dough into 8 portions for burrito size or 12 for taco size. Create a round ball with each portion. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball out as flat and round as you can. Stack your flattened dough rounds and set aside.
Lightly grease a 10-inch skillet and let it heat up on the stove for a minute or two over medium heat. One by one, cook the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side. Once you see a few bubbles form, you can flip. I prefer a spatula. If it's not brown enough for you, flip it again.
And it's that simple. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Herb Focaccia

There are so many wonderful things to do with the basic Italian bread recipe! This focaccia is very versatile; it can be used for sandwiches, or served alongside soups and pastas.

For dough - follow directions in the Italian bread recipe up until after the first rise.

For herb topping:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic salt

Heat oil on the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds, then add herbs and let steep for an hour.

Take your risen dough and spread it out flat on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for another 40-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450.
After the dough has risen again, poke holes in it with your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon. The holes should be an inch or two apart. Brush your herb oil on top of the bread, coating thoroughly. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Italian Bread

This is basically the same recipe we used for the pizza dough and breadsticks. For the bread, we will provide a step-by-step photo tutorial, complete with a video about kneading dough. (It's pretty much 7 minutes of me kneading dough. But if you want to see what the process looks like, give it a watch!)

1 cup water between 80-105 degrees
1/2 tsp suagr
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (2 heaping teaspoons)
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
Cornmeal for dusting
Water in a mister bottle

(Pictured - Flour and salt mixture, olive oil, and nicely bloomed yeast.)

Mix water and sugar, add yeast and stir. Let that sit for 5 minutes, until it's foamy like the head of a beer. 
In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Add olive oil and the yeast mixture. Combine the ingredients with your hands until they hold together; allow the mixture to rest and hydrate for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough mixture out onto a floured surface. Knead for 7-10 minutes, working in no more than 1/2 cup of flour while kneading. Your result should be smooth and elastic, and it shouldn't stick to your hands or your work surface. To see how it's done, watch my video:

Clean the bowl you used to mix the ingredients, and coat it with some olive oil or cooking spray. You want enough to coat the sides of the bowl and your dough ball. Put your dough in the bowl, grease it up, and cover with a dish towel moistened with hot tap water. If your oven has a light, turn it on. If your oven doesn't have a light, turn the oven on high for 20 seconds, then turn it right back off. Place the bowl in the oven and shut the door, let it rise for 1 hour. Once it has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Punching down is exactly what it sounds like.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll into footlong logs. Place them on an upside-down cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal (if you have a pizza stone, by all means use it.) Cover with a dishtowel and let rise for another hour.
Place a pan of water in the bottom of your oven and preheat to 450. Allow the oven to heat up for at least 10 minutes.
Score the bread 4-6 times diagonally, or one long cut lengthwise, with a sharp knife.
EDIT: If you can, let the pan heat up in the oven and slide your loaf onto it when you're ready to bake.

Spritz the loaves with water, then quickly get them into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Your end result will be lovely...Crisp and crusty outside, tender and flavorful inside. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pepperoni Breadsticks

There was a little Italian place on the strip mall near my high school. Everyone who was anyone went there and got the pepperoni breadsticks! I've recreated this classic favorite for the home cook.  This recipe makes 12.

1 cup water, 80-105 degrees
1 tsp sugar
 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups flour
1 tsp garlic salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
36-72 slices pepperoni
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic salt

Mix sugar and water, stir in yeast. Proof for 5 minutes.
In a bowl, mix flour and salt. Add yeast mixture and olive oil. Combine ingredients with your hands until they hold together, then turn out onto a floured surface. Knead for 7-10 minutes until you have a smooth elastic ball that doesn't stick. Place ball in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 425 and dust a 9x13 baking dish with cornmeal.
Punch dough down and let rest for a minute or two. Divide dough into 12 portions. With each portion, create a 4x8 inch rectangle. Line with 3-6 pepperoni slices and roll up longways, sealing the edges. Roll it in one direction away from you to tighten, don't roll back-and forth, it'll fall apart. Place your rolls into the baking dish, sides touching. Combine olive oil, parmesan, and garlic salt; brush or spoon over top. Bake at 425 for 25-35 minutes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hamburger Buns

Making burgers today! I could go to the store and pay $1 for a pack of buns, and I won't lie, I do that pretty often. But, if you want a nice homemade burger bun, here's what you do:

1/2 cup water between 80-105 degrees
3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups flour
1/4 cup Crisco
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg for egg wash

Combine the water and sugar; stir in yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.
Put your flour, salt, Crisco, and egg into a bowl. Add yeast mixture and mix with your hands until it comes together. Turn this out onto a floured surface and knead knead knead. It should end up somewhat stiff. Place your dough ball into an oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour.
Once risen, divide into 4-6 portions. Press them somewhat flat with your palm and let those rest for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375.
Take an egg and mix it with 1 Tbsp water, this is your egg wash. Spoon or brush your egg wash over the buns. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Peek Into My Kitchen

Hello friends! I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you all where the magic happens.

Me, my itty bitty kitchen, and my Pokemon apron. Fun fact, I love Pokemon. :)

My fridge! We're not fancy here, but we do have red and white wine.

The freezer: Mostly leftovers, assorted meats, old bananas, and coffee.

My hot sauce collection. I enjoy hot sauce...
(look closely in the background, the pink/yellow box is Pokemon instant curry sauce.)

My little baby cilantro plant, and the view from my window. Note the dry Indiana grass...Really hoping for rain this weekend!

And there you have it, straight from my humble home. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pound Cake for Two

This can be easily transformed into an elegant romantic dessert by topping with fruit, chocolate, honey, ice cream; the sky's the limit. ;)

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt
2/3 cup flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 8x4in. loaf pan. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg, then milk and vanilla, and finally the flour. I prefer to use a hand mixer; your batter should be light and fluffy. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for about an hour; check after 45 minutes. Pound cake typically bakes for over an hour, but this small batch version will take a little less time.

Remember that sangria we had with the quiche? Well, there was some fruit left in the pitcher, so I stirred it in with a couple tablespoons of honey and drizzled it on the cake. :)

Rich Flavorful Quiche

No two quiches are ever alike at my house; but I always start with a flaky crust and I'm never shy with the cheese. This makes a great brunch. Serve with salad or fresh fruit, and a nice mimosa or sangria. :)

The Crust:
1 generous cup flour
1 good sized handful of Crisco (approx. 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp water

Mix the flour and salt with your hands. Add Crisco, and gently toss it around with your fingers until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Starting with 2 Tbsp water, form the mix into a ball. Keep adding water until the mixture holds together. If you wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 1/2 hour or so, it will be much easier to work with. Roll it out into a circle and lay it in your pie pan.

The Filling:
3 eggs
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup's worth of veggies and/or meats; I used onion, mushroom, broccoli, and ham. Be creative!

Combine your filling in a separate bowl and pour it into your pie crust. Bake at 400 for 1 hour.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Soft Crust Pizza

A recipe for nice puffy pizza crust, along with helpful hints. :)

The Crust (serves 4):
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup water between 80-105 degrees
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix sugar and water, stir in yeast and let proof for 5 minutes. It should look like a headdy beer.
Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add oil and yeast mixture. Combine by hand until everything holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; about 10 minutes.
Place your dough ball into an oiled bowl. Cover with a moist cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and let it rest for a minute or two.
You can form the dough into one large circle, two medium circles, one large rectangle (pictured), whatever you like. I use a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal. If you have a pizza stone, even better! I suggest pre-baking the crust at 425 for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings.
Top your crust with whatever sauce, cheese, and toppings you like. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

*Tip: If you're using toppings that might have moisture, i.e. canned mushrooms, jarred olives etc., wrap them in a paper towel and squeeze the water out before placing them on your pizza. This prevents a watery mess.

*For deep dish, grease a cake pan with olive oil and press the crust into the bottom. Up the time to 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chinese Style Beef and Mushrooms

This isn't exactly like the stuff you get delivered in the cute little folded up white boxes, but it works for an emergency craving. Serves 2.

2 Tbsp oil
1/2lb steak, cut into bite size strips
1/2 a green bell pepper
1/2 an onion
1 garlic clove
1 6.5oz can mushrooms
1 cup beef broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp water mixed with 1 Tbsp flour*

*I know, it's a sin not to use cornstarch! The thing is, I'm fresh out. ;)

Mince the garlic and cut the pepper and onion into small pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the beef, peppers, onions, and garlic; cook until beef is cooked and onions are translucent. Add broth, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and mushrooms. Let this simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Add flour/water paste slowly and stir it into the broth. Let this simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
The rice pictured is just plain brown rice. I already had 2 burners going on the stove, so I did the broccoli in the microwave: Place in a microwave-safe bowl or mug, add 2-3 Tbsp water and top with plastic wrap. Poke a hole in the plastic wrap and microwave for 3-5 minutes. Steamed broccoli!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

I used to make this for my husband back when we were first dating. I don't use flour; rather, I reduce the broth mixture and thicken only with sour cream. The result is slightly thin and very rich. This recipe serves 4.

2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, cut into small pieces
1lb steak, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup beef broth, or water with 1 bullion cube
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1 6.5oz can mushrooms, drained
1 cup sour cream
4 handfuls egg noodles

Melt the butter in a large skillet and cook the onions until translucent. Add the beef and brown the edges. Add broth, wine, and mustard; let this simmer uncovered. The time it takes you to boil water and cook pasta should be plenty.
While the beef is simmering, boil water and cook egg noodles. Drain and set aside.
Once the beef mixture has reduced by about half, turn off the heat and add mushrooms and sour cream. Turn the heat back on very low, and stir until combined and heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve over noodles.

Tip: Want to keep that wine at a crisp cellar temperature? Set it on or near the air conditioning vent.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Dinner - Country Ribs

It's Sunday, and at my house, that means Sunday dinner. Even though it's just me and my husband, I love to take the time on Sunday afternoons to put together a nice spread. I'm doing some country ribs, mac n' cheese, and broccoli.

The oven rib method is pretty universal; you can do just rub, just sauce, or both. I'm doing both.

The Rub (for 1.25 lb of country style pork ribs):

1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix the spices together and coat the outside of the meat. Bake uncovered in a 325 degree oven for 90 minutes, then add sauce if desired. Mine is composed of ketchup, mustard, molasses, liquid smoke, cumin, garlic salt, and well...Arby's sauce. It's a long story. See, two Christmases ago Hubby got me an industrial-sized box of Arby's sauce packets. On its own, I find it too salty, so I use it as a component. I can't give any specific amounts of anything, I didn't really measure. You can use your favorite store bought sauce, or look online for some great regional sauce recipes.
Pour the sauce over the ribs and bake uncovered at 375 for another 60-90 minutes.

For the mac and cheese, see "Cheese Sauce" in the June archives. Mix sauce with cooked pasta, top with a thin layer of shredded cheese, then a thin layer of breadcrumbs, then drizzle a little butter on top. You can slide it in right next to your ribs and let it bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

For the broccoli, I just steamed it for 5 minutes until it was bright green. Sitting next to the mac and cheese, it really doesn't need anything on it...Maybe a little salt. :)