Saturday, August 28, 2010

Retaking Homemade


I ran across a post today, that I found through Twitter (I've become addicted!) called Retake Homemade.  What does that mean?  Well, here's a little quote:

I am proposing that we start a movement, people! To teach people that good food does not have to be complicated or come from a box. That you can put a meal using fresh, healthy ingredients on the table in the same amount or less time than it takes to open those boxes and cans and microwave dinners :shudder: To show them that it doesn’t have to be complicated or creepy...
That's it.  Simple.  Basic.  What I want to do!  You can read more about it here on Pots and Plots by Kait Nolan. 

So, what does all this mean to me?  I try my best to serve good meals to my family.  I'm not going to lie, we have definitely had our ups and downs when it comes to eating.  We fall prey to the call of fast food.  If I'm lucky, I get to go out for lunch with my best friend on a weekly basis.  I'm not going to pretend that everything we eat is healthy, nutritious and homemade. 

However, I will say that I don't use much prepackaged or convenience foods.  I just can't tell that they taste of anything except salt.  I'll never forget a couple of years ago, my oldest kiddo just had to have canned spaghetti that looks like an O at the store.  I finally gave in just to see what his reaction would be!  I totally admit it -- it was an experiment.  I heated them up, he took about two bites, and said "Mom, this doesn't taste very good.  Yours is much better." And he didn't eat another bite of them.  He hasn't asked me to buy any more either!  And just today, he saw a commercial for pancake mix.  You know, the kind that you add water, shake, and pour.  He told me it looked nasty. 

I also want to make it clear that no matter what it sounds like, I am not passing judgement on anyone out there if you serve your kids canned spaghetti, use pancake mix, or anything like that.  Velveeta is a staple in my pantry.  I'll admit it!  Some people take major issues with the stuff, but it has its uses!  We all do what's best for our families.  I have never understood the "mommy wars" and I certainly don't want to be a part of them. 

But, I do want to be a part of showing people that it's not as hard as you think to make a homemade meal.  Or even a homemade snack.  I love to bake.  I like to cook.  Love to bake.  And when I can share that love with others, it just makes it that much better. 

I've been thinking for a long time about what I want to be when I grow up.  I'm still trying to figure it out.  But one thing that I've been coming back to is teaching people to cook.  I don't want to be a fancy pastry chef.  I don't want to slave over the stove for five hours to make a dish that no one can pronounce, let alone want to eat.  I want to show families that there is something out there other than fast food and frozen dinners. 

And if I can join in on something like Retake Homemade, then I will! 

For today, I'm going to link to the first recipe that I posted on this blog:  Alphabet Soup with Albondigas.  (take pity on me, it was my second blog post ever!)

Enjoy! :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Adventures in the Kitchen with a Two Year Old.

I was hoping to be able to post about some yummy sticky pecan rolls, but I'm still tweaking the recipe just a bit.  Instead, I want to share some (a ton!) of pictures and explain what it's like having a two-year-old in the kitchen.  Or at least, my two-year-old in my kitchen.  :)

These days, whenever Sprout even thinks I'm going to be cooking something, he comes running into the kitchen saying he wants to help.  He then proceeds to haul out one of the step stools and drag it to wherever he thinks he needs to be. 

So, how do you cook with a two-year-old?  And what can they help with?  Good questions.

Well, step one is to find the closest two-year-old.  This one looks like he might be up to something.  And apparently, if mama is wearing an apron, he requires one as well.


Next, he might climb on the counter you just very carefully cleaned.  It's okay.  He's just after the magnets on the refrigerator. 



After he gets them all lined up, he'll want you to take a picture of them.  "Picture, mommy!"  These two-year-olds of bloggers, they learn early!


So, what else can they do?  Two-year-olds are good at watching the mixer work.  They'll even keep a hand on it when it starts to walk across the counter, as mine does sometimes when I'm working with bread dough.  Or when it "drives", as Sprout calls it!



But...you have to watch them as they watch the mixer.  Because sometimes things are tempting.  Like taking off the screw that holds the accessory attachment cover thingy on (very technical term) and it falls into the dough. 


And if you're not paying attention, they will get out their rolling pin, grab a piece of the dough, and go to town with it.


Breadmaking, even quick cinnamon rolls, is a longer job that requires patience, which two-year-olds don't have a lot of.  They will eventually get bored and have to go outside and ride their tractor. 


Yes, this is me.  In need of makeup.  Wearing a Death Cab for Cutie shirt.  And my purple apron.  In a Wonder Woman pose.  :)


And a teaser of the sticky pecan rolls to come. 


Enjoy!  :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chocolate Doughnut Muffins


You may remember that a while back I made some baked doughnut bites.  They were good, but upon further review they need some tweaking.  I'm working on that.

However, I've been tossing around these chocolate doughnut muffins around in my head for a while.  What does it say about you when you're thinking about recipes and ingredient proportions while you're driving down the highway?? 

Anyway, these are oh-so-good.  I baked them in mini muffin pans again, to try to get the impression that they are more like doughnut holes.  (By the way, do you prefer "doughnut" or "donut"? and a funny quote about it all.)  They were then dipped in a chocolate glaze.  Do they truly taste like chocolate cake doughnuts?  Not exactly. But the chocolate glaze?  It tastes just like the glaze you would get at a doughnut shop.  For "research" purposes, I even stopped at a doughnut shop and got a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate glaze to compare (hey, it was next to the place I get my hair cut at!).  I didn't do too shabby if I do say so myself!


My 8-year-old helper and taste tester couldn't stay out of these.  Honestly, I had a hard time with that myself.  The muffin has a pleasing chocolate flavor, was moist and not too heavy.  I even mixed them by hand instead of getting out the stand mixer.  The glaze is easy to make, although you'll probably have some left over.  I'm thinking about what I can do with the extra (other than eat it with a spoon). 

Chocolate Doughnut Muffins
adapted from King Arthur Flour

2-1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375'F.  Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray (makes 36 mini muffins). 

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, cream together butter, oil and sugars until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well until combined.  Stir in half the sifted dry ingredients until combined.  Mix in the milk, then add the remaining flour mixture and combine well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking tins, filling each cup almost full.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar or dip in chocolate glaze.

Makes 36 mini muffins.

***

Chocolate Doughnut Glaze
from the only man I might leave my husband for, AKA Alton Brown (um, just kidding honey!)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

Heat butter, milk, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until butter is melted.  Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the chocolate until it is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Dip tops of doughnuts (or muffins) in the glaze.  Allow glaze to set for 20-30 minutes before serving. (You can also double dip the muffins if you'd like!)

Enjoy!  :)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Okra Fritters


Okra.  You either love it, or you hate it.  Or at least it seems that way.  I've noticed that people tend to have very strong opinions when it comes to okra.  I, personally, love it.  Apparently so does Sprout.  He's eaten it fried, raw, and even pickled.  He hasn't had the chance to eat it boiled yet.  I like it all of those ways.  So, when I saw some at the grocery store, I decided to make okra fritters with it!

This is a pretty simple recipe and quick to whip together.  I pan fry my fritters instead of deep frying.  Although, if you don't deep fry it, would it still be considered a fritter?  Either way, these are good!  D's response was "surprisingly good".  I'm not sure how to take that...

I realize the picture I am using is not the greatest -- it was one of those snapped super quickly while a crowd of hungry people were hovering, waiting to eat supper!

Okra Fritters
adapted from Everyday Food

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups chopped okra (can use fresh or frozen; if using frozen thaw first)
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
canola or vegetable oil

Place just enough oil in a large, heavy skillet to coat the bottom of the skillet with a light layer. Heat oil over medium heat.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add okra and stir to coat. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to the okra mixture and stir until combined.

Test oil by dropping one piece of okra into your skillet. If okra starts to sizzle and bubble it is ready. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter into the oil (don't overcrowd your skillet - work in two or more batches). Gently flatten each mound so that it cooks evenly. Fry until golden, flipping once, about 4 minutes each side. If they start to brown too quickly, adjust your heat down. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels, seasoning with additional kosher salt. Serve warm. Makes about 1 dozen fritters.
 
Enjoy!  :)
 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread


Mmmm...Oatmeal Breakfast Bread.  It just sounds all warm and yummy, doesn't it?  Natalie of Oven Love chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. 

This is a quick bread and I loved how, well, quick it was to put together.  I know, welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department.  :) 


Anyway, with oatmeal, raisins and applesauce in the bread, and brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans for the topping, it makes a great treat for the morning...or the afternoon.  My loaf turned out super moist.  It almost reminded me of a bread pudding.  It was tough, but I let it cool as much as I could stand before cutting a slice.  It was definitely easier to slice once it cooled completely. 

The Munchkin wouldn't try it, but Sprout and I loved it.  I sent a few slices to my parents, and they both enjoyed it as well.  I can definitely see myself making this again. 


If you'd like the recipe, hop on over to read Natalie's post (I just love the little oven at the top of her blog!) and be sure to check out what the other TWD bakers did with this week's selection!

Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream


Chocolate.  Ganache.  Ice.  Cream.  I'll just get right down to business.  This stuff is amazing!!

Katrina of Baking and Boys! chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  She has my wholehearted gratitude.  ;) 

Chocolate ice cream is probably my favorite when it comes down to it.  Or really good chocolate ice cream, that is.  This particular recipe starts out by making ganache, which is a French term for a smooth mixture of chopped chocolate and heavy cream.  I have to confess, I'd never actually made ganache before trying this recipe.  I can say, it's super easy!  You put your chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate).  Next you bring some heavy cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate.  After letting it sit for a couple of minutes, you start stirring and are rewarded with a beautiful, glossy, bowl of chocolate bliss.  Not that I stuck my {clean} finger in for a taste or anything. 

For the record, I had a hard time keeping the Munchkin out of the chocolate while I was chopping it for the ganache. 

This recipe also calls for making a custard, which you then add to the ganache and chill in the refrigerator before churning in your ice cream maker.  It only calls for 4 egg yolks, which is not bad, since I've seen recipes that use many more than that.  I don't usually mess with recipes that call for a custard, because I tend to not have the time.  My thinking has since been changed!  The custard really came together quite quickly and without too much trouble.  Just as I was pouring it into the ganache, the baby woke up from his nap, so that was great timing at my house!

After chilling in the refrigerator, it truly is pudding-like.  At first I was worried that it wouldn't freeze properly, but it did.  I was sure to share the privilege of licking the almost empty bowl of custard with the Munchkin.  {This is the kid that won't eat pudding...seriously.  I guess if you make it with good quality ingredients, it's a different story.  I don't like the box mix pudding either.  blech.  My apologies if you love the stuff.}

My poor little ice cream maker had a mishap during the process.  The lid tumbled to the floor and broke.  I'm not sure who was more distraught at the thought that we wouldn't be able to make the ice cream - me, or the Munchkin!  But, it was still usable, thank goodness!  I have since ordered a replacement lid.  Whew!  {for the record, I've also discovered through reading that some of the other TWD bakers just placed the custard base in the freezer, and stirred every hour or so.  This is apparently a method that David Lebovitz talks about.}


While it was in the machine, the Munchkin said to me "what if we chop up some more of the chocolate and add it in?"  I have to admit, I had already planned on doing this, but I let him think it was completely his idea.  It was definitely a good one.  We used about one ounce of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate.  Straight out of the ice cream maker, it was like thick soft serve.  After storing it in the freezer for about two hours it was perfect.  Not super soft, but not too firm either.  A few more hours and it was frozen solid.  That's what happens when you use a good quality chocolate.  No worries, a few minutes on the counter will soften it right up!


I loved this chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream.  It's probably my new favorite recipe.  The Munchkin {despite all the chocolate sneaking and bowl licking before} took a few bites and was done.  His favorite ice cream has always been plain ol' vanilla.  D said it was probably the best chocolate ice cream he'd ever had, but it was way too rich for him.  The Sprout, well, he loves just about anything, and gobbled it up.  I wish I'd taken a picture of him with ice cream all over his face! 

If you would like the recipe {and you should definitely try it!} be sure to check out Katrina's post.  And stop by and see what the other TWD Bakers did with this week's selection!

Enjoy!  :)