Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bread, Bread and more Bread

Ever since I made some No-Knead Bread for my Secret Recipe Club assignment last November, I've been hooked on this bread.  Well, not exactly hooked.   And then the members picked it as the most popular recipe that week, so that was even more fun.   Secret Recipe Club Most Popular for the week.

 It's more like addicted. 

When something is so easy to mix, make and bake, and it tastes so good, it's really hard to not keep on making it. I've bought 25 lbs. of flour so far, just since November.  I've gone through 20 lbs, and have another 5 # bag in the pantry ready to go.  

But I haven't eaten every single loaf myself.

 I've shared.

I've made a loaf and brought it to Boat Club, a couple of times now, made it for Tapas Night, brought it with me when I was invited out to dinner and have also made some and just given them away.

I have discovered that a loaf of this bread just doesn't last long.  It gets eaten, fast.

Somewhere along the way, I decided, just for fun, to take a picture of every loaf I've made so far.

And I've also given out the recipe, to anyone who expressed even a little teensy interest in it.

I've experimented a little with the rising times, and have discovered that no matter how careful I am to make it the same way every time, each loaf has its own characteristics, but they're all delicious.  The only disaster (not really, we ate them anyway) I've had is the time I decided to make two batches, combine them into one bowl for rising, and then divided it in half again, using half the dough to make bread bowls for soup and the other half I baked in a Pyrex loaf pan.  They didn't rise real well, either one.   We ate the evidence though.  The bread bowls weren't big enough and the bread baked in the loaf pan, well, it was a touch anemic.

The next time I made two batches, I didn't combine them, I kept them separate, and then just baked them one after the other.  That worked.

I've also tried baking one loaft on my Pizza stone, but,well, gee, the bread tasted OK, but it just didn't achieve the rise like the ones baked in the dutch oven.  

Here's the gallery of hits and near misses: 
The first loaf, aka Alpha Loaf.  The crust was phenomenal and we scarfed it down in short order.
#2.  Just as good as the first one.  And it didn't last long at Boat Club either.  I love it when people eat my food.

And then came #3 I baked this one on the Pizza Stone, and really, not such a great idea.
This was bake #4, and I made two batches.  I tried to make a faux sourdough out of them, and you know they weren't bad, just not sour enough.  However, the loaf on the left I made with rye flour and it was very good.  I'm going to try making it again, soon, and then I'll detail how to make it.  
Bake#5  I baked this for Christmas Eve dinner, and even with the Prime Rib, and all the sides we had, there was no bread left at the end of the night.  Doesn't it look pretty?
Bake # 6  For New Years Eve, final bake of the year, and what a way to go out.
Bake #7 I had to start the New Year off right with this gorgeous beauty, and it tasted wonderful as well.  The crust was a tad thinner than usual, and that was not a bad thing.
Bake #8 I just astound myself when I see the beautiful bread coming out of my oven.  And I took this one with me to a friends house for dinner. 
Bake #9 Do I need words?

Bake #10 Let the good times keep on baking.   I did slash this loaf after forming it and I think that helps it raise a little more.  Just don't remember to do it all the time.
Bake #11  You don't think I got too carried away with the bread making stuff, do you?  At any rate, here are the 'bread' bowls I tried to make.   Tasted good, just weren't big enough.
And here's the other half of the bread making almost fiasco.  And I didn't get a picture until after we'd consumed half the loaf.  I baked this in the Pyrex pan, but it just wasn't quite right.
And for Bake #12, I made a loaf for Boat Club.  Just had to do it. And forgot to take a picture until I'd already sliced it. 
Bake #13 Hey, we're up to a baker's dozen already.  This loaf was gifted to another friend, I didn't taste it, but I'm told it was yummy.
Bake #14   This loaf was not as good as the previous ones.  I tried to form the loaf on parchment paper without any flour, and that just did not work as well.  But we ate it anyway.  I didn't tell anyone at Tapas I had experimented.   They ate it anyway.   

Stay tuned for more of my bread making adventures...  Just kidding, but I do want to try some more fun stuff with this bread.
I'm seeing some lovely Asiago cheese baked inside, maybe with a dusting of herbs? 

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Toasted Pine Nut Stuffed Mushrooms

Who doesn't love stuffed mushrooms?   I guess there are a few people out there, but most of the people I know love them.

And since I had pound of mushrooms in the fridge, languishing, forlorn, and forgotten, well almost forgotten, I decided to cook them up for Tapas.   I also wanted a vegetarian friendly dish as well.

To start with I stemmed the mushrooms, and chopped up the stems, pretty finely.

  Set those aside while I browned some panko bread crumbs in a little butter and olive oil.   
Just to get a little color on them, add so much to the flavour.

I then sauteed the mushrooms (and forgot to take a picture), and set those aside.
Next up, I threw a handful of pine nuts into the pan with just about a teaspoon of olive oil, and browned them just a little.  By cooking the pine nuts a little you add a whole new flavour dimension.

I then chopped them up and added them to the bowl with the mushrooms and panko bread crumbs.   Mixed it all together and decided that it needed something...  So I went into my spices and added about 1/2 teaspoon tarragon.  Tasted it again, and WOW.

I cannot make stuffed mushrooms without cheese.  Sorry, just not on.   So I went to the fridge, fully intending on grating some mozzarella up, but decided to add some grated Colby Jack that was in the fridge.
And it was good.

I par cooked the mushrooms just a little in a pan, enough to make them release their moisture.  Didn't waste it though, I added that mushroom juice to the filling.

Stuffed the mushrooms with the mix and then topped them with some more shredded cheese.   There is no such thing as too much cheese.  Just isn't.  (My camera decided to have a Diva moment and would not take any pictures for a little while, it decided that the SD card in the camera was faulty. sigh...  I fixed that one though and swapped out cards, but it meant I did lose a couple of pictures). 
Baked them for about 25 minutes (the last half of the time with the Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts).  And did not get a picture of them as I was pulling them out of the oven.  

But here they are on the platter, in all their glory.

And here they are on the table, getting ready to be eaten.

No real measurements here,
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 lb. Mushrooms
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
2-4 tablespoons butter and olive oil
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1 cup (approx) Grated cheese.  

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Retro: Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

I love old recipes, and get nostalgic from time to time for a few dishes I've enjoyed in the past.  One staple that was always brought to any potluck for years and years and years, were Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts.   I love those little suckers, and managed to scarf up a few every time someone brought them.  But I'd never made them, and the other day while wracking my brain for something to make for Tapas Night, I thought of them.
Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

I mean Bacon wrapped around anything makes it instantly edible, at least to my way of thinking.   Maybe not to a vegetarian, but I'm not one of them.  I'm an Omnivore and proud of it.

At any rate, this is such a simple recipe to make, but of course I had to 'fancy' it up just a tad.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
1 lb. Bacon
2 cans Whole Water Chestnuts
1/2 cup La Choy Sweet and Sour Sauce
1/2 cup Bullseye Barbeque sauce
1 tablespoon Sesame Seed Oil
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Cut bacon slices in half and par cook them for a few minutes, you don't want them cooked all the way, just a little bit.  I find it cooks a little more evenly that way.  Personal preference.

After bacon is cooked, just a little, wrap a whole Water Chestnut in the bacon strip, securing it on one side with a toothpick.   Place in a greased casserole dish.  

Mix the rest of the ingredients together and spoon over the bacon wrapped Water Chestnuts, and  bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

The sauce will caramelize on the bacon chestnuts. 
Serve immediately.  Also, if you have any leftover water chestnuts, just throw them in with the rest of the stuff and let them cook.   I had people picking them out of the pan and eating just those.  Hmmmm, I wonder... I can just bake the Water Chestnuts in the sauce and forget about the bacon, nah, wouldn't work.

At any rate, try these for a fun blast from the past.   I know I'll make them again. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chinese Chicken Salad

I made a Chinese Chicken Salad for Boat Club last week, and meant to post this a few days ago, but Real Life has a way of rearing its head sometimes and tripping me up.

And Tapas Night was just the other day as well.

I swear the older I get the faster time flies and sometimes I have trouble catching it, well, most of the time I have trouble catching it.

At any rate, I did make a yummy salad, and I want to share how I did it with you.

To start with, I used Ina Garten's little trick for cooking the chicken.  Although, if you have a rotisserie chicken, use that, but I didn't and I wanted to make this with chicken breasts so I did this.  Ina showed how to bake chicken for dishes such as this, by baking them in the oven.  I used to poach breasts, but you know they got kinda 'dry' and really, the flavour wasn't all that great either.  Boneless, skinless breasts are actually moist and tasty now.

Place your chicken breasts (you can use other parts of the chicken if you want) on a greased rimmed baking pan.
Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil, or just do what I do, drizzle on a little olive oil, season accordingly, and place in the oven for about 20 minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 160 deg.

Take them out of the oven, let cool and cut them up however you want.

Simple, and good.   Since Ina shared that little secret, I no longer make 'dry as dust' and tasteless boneless skinless chicken breasts.     I make up a bunch like this when they are on sale, and always try to have some cooked chicken in the freezer, comes in so handy, in so many recipes.

Ideally you should use a Napa Cabbage in this salad, but the ones in the store the other day looked too tired to use.  So I grabbed a Savoy cabbage and just cored it and sliced it very thinly.   Savoy cabbage is somewhere in between Napa and regular green cabbage in flavour.
Added some sliced Water Chestnuts for crunch as well as a bunch of green onions, sliced up and then to top it off, I added a can of Bamboo Shoots, totally optional, but good.  I've also added fresh bean sprouts to this when I've made it in the past.    Crumbled up a package of Ramen Noodles, (uncooked), and then dressed it with an awesome dressing.  Recipe just below. 
And I almost forgot, I chopped up some almonds at the last minute and threw it in there.  As well as the chicken, I figured I should mention adding the chicken at least once.

I made a nice dressing using some of the Ken's Asian Sesame dressing as well as some of this Cape Cod Toasted Sesame dressing,  I tried to replicate the Soy Vay Chinese Chicken Salad dressing I used to buy.
  I added lots of toasted Sesame Seeds as well as some Sesame Seed oil, and then also added just a teaspoon of sugar, it needed it.  And it was very good.

1/4 cup Ken's Asian Sesame with Ginger and Soy
1/4 cup Cape Cod Toasted Sesame dressing
1 teaspoon of toasted Sesame Seeds
1 teaspoon of Sesame Seed Oil
1 teaspoon sugar
mix together and pour over the salad and let sit for about a half hour so that the flavours can get to know each other, they get along much better that way.
Toss together and enjoy.

And by the way, there was a little left at the end of the night, so I took it home, and heated it for breakfast the next day.  It actually tasted pretty darn good.  hmmmm, I think I have an idea...

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tapas for January

Another month, another Tapas Night.  
I had to laugh last night, as I was frantically elbowing people out of the way so I could take pictures, (just kidding on that one), one of my guests said "Oh good, hurry up and take a picture so we can eat".  As I said, I had to laugh, but then I started to wonder, if people were being polite and waiting for me to document their contribution before digging in.   And I so hope not, the whole point of Tapas Night is to get together and enjoy each others company.   

Which I did, I ended up visiting with so many people, and having so many interesting conversations, I barely got to taste a lot of the food.  

So I had to enjoy, in retrospect, with my eyes only.  sigh...

The first few are my things, I kinda got, oh, somewhat carried away this month...

 Pine Nut and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms, one of my contributions, the recipe will be posted, soon.
 No-Knead bread, I think it is official, I'm addicted to this stuff
 Bacon wrapped Water Chestnuts with Sweet n' Sour Barbeque Sauce,  the recipe will get posted, soon.
 Brie Log and Pear Apple slices, I visited Trader Joe's the other day and kinda, sorta got carried away.
 Tri Tip from Trader Joe's with an awesome Horseradish Sauce, which I will share at a later date.
 Tomato Florentine Soup, killer soup.  I've had this one in the past.
 A nice assortment of nuts...
 Quiche, which by the time I got back to the table, was gone. But I heard it was good.
 Fruit topped Tart, I did manage to snag a taste and it was yummy. 
 I didn't taste these, but they looked good.  I think they were a veggie patty.
 Spinach Maria, and if you've never had this before, OMG, I have the recipe here for it. 
 I didn't get to taste this, but it looked so pretty and judging from the empty dish at the end of the night it was good. 
 Chocolate Lasagna.   I managed to get a small piece cut and set aside for me for later, but it disappeared.  Reports are it was deadly good.  Rich and yummy.
 Garam Masala Chickpeas, very tasty and different.

 In the front, cheese and crackers and in the back a nice spicy dip with chips. 
 I believe this was an Artichoke Spinach dip, I didn't get a chance to taste it however,  In the back there is a Pimento cheese spread and crackers.
 This is the table with some of the various offerings.
 Carrot sticks and dip, perfection.
 Pimento Cheese and crackers
 Mine Spinach Quiches, I was told they were good.  
 Pretzels and dip
 Salad, it looked lovely.
 Killer Beans, actually curried beans and very good.  I snuck some out and put it in the fridge for later. 
 Salmon Croquettes, I noticed they disappeared fast.
 Fish Dips, something I'd never had til I moved to this area, but now love. 
And last but not least, a nice twist on pigs in a blanket, with a lovely mustard sauce on top.

But best of all, really, the guests.  I enjoy them every month and look forward to seeing them and talking with them.  

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