Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Don’t Laugh, its Biscuits

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

A while back, I posted my recipe for chicken pot pie, which included a reference to homemade biscuits. Now, I wasn’t even thinking about some of you not having much experience with biscuits. Of course, I knew that people in England call cookies biscuits, but I never even thought about y’all missing out on the thing that we call biscuits.

Well, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond for your request for a recipe. For one thing, I was stumped about the measurements. I know you all use metric now, and I really wish we Yankees could figure out how to convert ourselves and join the rest of the world. And it makes me wonder – when you converted, how did you manage to make all the old recipes you knew and loved without the old measures? It’s got to be hard to convert recipes while keeping relatively round numbers. Do you have Tablespoon and Teaspoon measures over there, or just 10 ml and 5 ml measures?

Well, I’m going to leave it up to you folks to convert the measures. The recipe I use is very similar to this one. The only problem I see with this recipe is that it claims to make three dozen biscuits. I think it would make more like one dozen, at least in the size and shape I bake ‘em in.

The other hang-up I had with typing in a biscuit recipe is that it’s very difficult to learn how to make a good biscuit just by reading a recipe. It’s really something that you kind of have to watch someone doing to get a feel for, kind of like making a pie crust. So I waited till the next time I made biscuits, and I invited the world into my kitchen. Here’s the don’t laugh part.

Unfortunately, the memory card on my little camera ran out just as I was going to cut out the biscuits, but I think it’s pretty obvious what happens next. You cut them out just like roll-out cookies. I put them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and stuck them in the oven till they looked like the picture above.

I hope that helps, and enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie and Ice cream

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

It’s time to answer a couple of questions.

I bought the Greek Gods ice cream at our local fancy-ass grocery store with the carpet on the floors and the guy who loads the groceries into your car for you. Starts with a B and ends with a ylerly’s. Very good ice cream.

As for the chicken pot pie, yes, you may have my recipe. Technically, this isn’t really pot pie since it’s not really pie. It’s pot pie filling with biscuits on the side, but it’s faster and easier since you can make and bake the biscuits while the soup is simmering, plus you can save the leftover biscuits and serve them with jam for breakfast the next morning.

Let’s start with those biscuits. Just make your favorite kind of biscuits. I use the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, with real butter. Biscuits really aren’t that scary to make from scratch, and it’s likely you have the ingredients in your kitchen right now. Butter, flour, salt, milk. However, if you really don’t feel like making biscuits from scratch, it’s okay to buy the kind in the can and bake ‘em up. They just won’t taste as good. But don’t bother making the biscuits till you’ve got the soup done and simmering in the pot. ‘kay?

Now on to the soup. You’ll need:

Some cooked chicken – one of those packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts works great, or if you have a bunch of leftover roast chicken, that works great too. A pound to a pound and a half.
A couple/few potatoes. Two if they’re big ones, three if they’re medium.
An onion, diced up.
Some carrots, chopped – about the same amount as the onion piles up to, more if you really like carrots.
Celery – same amount.
2 T olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper

1/2 cup olive oil or butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth

Peel the potatoes and cut them up into 1/2 to 1″ cubes. If you’re using raw chicken, cut that up into chunks too – you can cook it in large chunks and cut it into bite-sized pieces when it’s done. Handling cooked chicken is much less disgusting than raw, right? This sounds crazy, but dump both the chicken and the potatoes in a pot of water and boil until they’re cooked – about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside for later.

Okay, chop up all the veggies, and cook the carrots, onions and celery in the olive oil in a big pan – like a dutch oven or stock pot – till they’re starting to get tender. Dump them out of the pan and set aside for a few minutes.

Now make the roux – that’s a fancy name for gravy that turns into the base for soup. In the same pan, melt the butter (do not substitute margarine! That’s just disgusting. Olive oil works great if you want to substitute something.) When the butter is melted, dump in the flour and whisk it till it starts to get a little browned – a few minutes. Next, slowly add the chicken broth, whisking as you go along so it doesn’t end up lumpy. Add in the milk the same way.

Now, add back in your veggies, toss in a few handfuls of corn if you like corn, you can add in some frozen peas or green beans if you like those. Hell, you could make this as a vegetarian dish if you skip the chicken and use veggie stock. It’d still be good. Toss in the chicken now, too. Let the whole thing simmer on low for a little while, and start making your biscuits.

When the biscuits are 5-10 minutes from done, toss the cooked potatoes into the soup. When the biscuits are done, serve up the soup and eat up. This stuff freezes pretty well, and makes enough for leftovers for our family. Yum!


Friday, February 1st, 2008

Now that I’m feeling a little more comfortable with baking standard wheat bread, other kinds of yeast breads seem much more do-able. I recently made a recipe from a magazine that involved baking little buns around korean-spiced cabbage-beef filling. They were good, and that boosted my confidence even further.

So when I saw a recipe (via a blog which I can’t remember at the moment) for Indian Naan bread, I thought “Hey, I could do that!” Joe and I used to go out for Indian food all the time before Julie was born, and it’s something that I miss. Especially the bread. We really should try going back out for some now that the food allergies are behind us, but in the mean time, I’ve been cooking chicken tikka masala at home using this stuff.

It’s just a seasoning packet, which I buy at my local co-op, but it’s really easy to make and it tastes really good and my family pretty much eats it without complaint. Naan bread would fit perfectly with this meal, so I made up my mind to give it a try.

Here’s the dough after its first rise – the recipe said to make it into golf-ball sized balls and let it rise again.

In order to get to this point, I had to employ a couple of diversionary tactics. One was letting the girls play with soapy water in the sink.

Another was agreeing to make chocolate chip cookies. Okay, Julie didn’t have to twist my arm that hard, and I figured what else should we do while we waited for the dough to rise?

mmmm…don’t ask me about the weight watchers points. Please.

Anyway, dinnertime rolled around, and I took some pictures as I did my cooking – here’s the bread on the indoor grill.

The stack of done ones after the first batch was done. I was using the foil to cover them up and keep them warm.

Oh, and here’s rolling the dough out from balls to flat bread loaves. And the melted butter for slathering on each side as its grilled.

And finally, dinner. Just before I tucked in.

It was good, and everyone ate well. The bread was tasty, though not quite the same as what I’ve had in the restaurants. It kind of reminded me of what soft pretzels would taste like if they were grilled. Oh – and the tikka masala packet doesn’t say to add spinach to the dish, but I throw some in at the end just to add a little green to the plate.

Mannah! Recipe!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember that I’ve been experimenting with baking bread at home. I love baking bread. I love the smell of the rising dough, of the yeast releasing its gasses. I love the sticky, bendy texture of the dough. I love the taste and mouthfeel of fresh bread still warm from the oven, topped with something sticky and sweet or just plain. I love the control over exactly what goes into the food I’m feeding myself and my family. It drives me crazy that most supermarket whole-grain breads of the kind that are supposed to be healthy contain high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient that I do my best to avoid bringing into my home.

So I’ve been trying different recipes – not all that many really – mixing them up in my KitchenAid stand mixer and baking them in my standard home oven. Today I rediscovered a recipe that had come highly recommended by a friend who has been famous for her baking for longer than she would probably want me to say. I ran across it while I was poking through my recipe books a few weeks ago, and I pulled it out waiting for the right time to try again. Today was the day.

My friend Jean is not only a master knitter, and a wonderful baker, but she also volunteers regularly for a non-profit restaurant called St. Martin’s Table in Minneapolis. She met me for lunch there one day several years ago, and I think I remember eating this bread then and that it was a fine meal overall. I’m pretty sure they’re only open for lunch, and all the volunteer servers donate their “tips” to charities selected by the group that runs the restaurant. It may seem odd that I, an avowed heathen, should be promoting a christian-based group. But I didn’t feel one bit uncomfortable there they seem to be a quite liberal religious group, and I liked it there.

I know I bought a copy of their cookbook at the bookstore inside the restaurant’s space. And that is where I found the recipe that I followed today. It was so *good*! It’s whole wheat, with just enough white flour to give it that chewy lift that has been missing in my other loaves. This is table bread, the kind that you can slice thin for sandwiches or make toast out of. It’s a good sized recipe that makes two full-sized loaves. And it was foolproof to make. Although the process takes about three hours start-to finish, I paid attention to it in only about 5-10 minute intervals. I think I probably spent about 15 minutes actively working on it, and that includes cleaning the pans.

I was so excited, I wanted to share this recipe with all of you, so I called up the office at St. Martin’s table and talked to their manager, Deb. She said go ahead and share it, so here’s the recipe. Thanks, Deb!

St. Martin’s Table Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Gently heat 3 1/2 cups of water until lukewarm. Turn off heat and add:

3/4 cup oil
2T of dry yeast
3/4 cup honey

Let stand 4-5 minutes until yeast is dissolved and frothy.

When yeast mixture is frothy, add
2T Salt
2 cups unbleached white flour

Mix together until flour is incorporated. Let rest for 2 minutes.

Add additional flour by cupfuls to make a ball (The dough will be slightly sticky.)
8-10 cups whole-wheat flour

Knead until smooth and elastic (at least 10 minutes), and form into a ball. Place in a large, greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down. Form into two loaves, place in greased pans and again leave covered in a warm place until doubled in size. Bake in 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes.

Okay, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about how I followed the recipe. I heated my water in the microwave using a 4-cup pyrex measure. It was a little bit on the warm side when it came out (you want it no more than about your body heat, because you want to grow the yeast, not boil them to death). But I added the honey and the oil (extra-virgin olive oil in my case) and then it was lukewarm. The yeast I had on hand was one of the grocery-store brands that comes in three packets attached together. I just dumped in all three packets because that was close enough.

I dumped the white flour (I happened to have a bag of Pillsbury’s Best Bread Flour on hand, so that’s what I used) and the salt into the bowl of my mixer and stirred them together a bit. Then I added the foamy yeast mixture and stirred it up. It looked quite soupy and gross at this point.

While I was waiting for the yeast to fizz, I had measured about 8 cups of whole wheat flour (I happened to have a bag of Dakota Maid Stone Ground on hand) into a separate bowl. Part of my reason for doing this was because I am forever losing count of how many cups I’ve measured and I like to set myself up so I can have a redo if necessary. Because I was measuring right out of the bag, using a smaller scoop to dump into the 1-cup measure, I held the 1-cup measure over the bowl so that any excess would fall in the bowl instead of all over the counter. Which meant that in the end I had a little more than 8 cups in the bowl. I figured once I had added all that was in the bowl, I could scoop some more out of the bag if the dough was still too wet. Oh, and because it can be important in bread baking recipes, I’m going to mention that it is rather humid here today for January in Minnesota – meaning not as bone-dry as it usually is, but still not what anyone in their right mind would consider truly humid.

So I turned my KitchenAid on to speed 2 and gradually poured flour from the bowl into the mixer. When the bowl was empty the dough had formed into a nice big blob that was sticking to the dough hook, and although it was slightly sticky, it wasn’t gumming onto the sides of the metal bowl any more. And it didn’t look glisteningly wet, either. I let the mixer run for a couple more minutes, but electric mixers are much more efficient at kneading than hands, so 10 minutes would have been way too much.

I took that empty bowl from the flour and poured a bit of olive oil in the bottom, then swirled it around and even spread it a bit with my hands. Having some oil on your hands while you’re transferring the dough is a good thing – it keeps it from sticking to *you*. I covered it with a damp kitchen towel, and stuck it in the oven.

Oh, but I forgot to mention that I like to raise my bread inside the oven, so I usually heat the oven to about 200 F when I start the yeast blooming, then turn it off and leave the door a bit cracked so it doesn’t stay too hot. Then, I put the dough in there to rise and it’s just nice and toasty warm and draft-free. The yeast seem to like it.

I set the timer for an hour and ran around playing Mommy. When I came back, the dough was ready. So I took out my two loaf pans and let Julie oil them this time just like I’d oiled the bowl. In the mean time, I literally made a fist and poked good and hard at the dough to get the big bubbles out. Note: take your engagement ring off before doing this – you don’t want to be scrubbing bits of dough out of the prongs, do you? I used a rubber spatula to score the dough down the middle, then tore it in half with my hands, and gently shaped it into loaf-shapes as I transferred it to the pans. Back in the oven, back under the damp towel, set the timer for another hour.

When I came back, the dough had risen again, and I could see some big bubbles right under the top. I didn’t want the crust splitting away from the middle, so I went ahead and pushed it back down a bit. I didn’t bother taking the bread out of the oven to pre-heat, I just turned the oven on to 350 and set the timer for 45 minutes. Back to playing Mommy while the scent of fresh bread wafted throughout the house. Ding! Timer went off. I took the bread out and had to work hard for 15-20 minutes to distract the girls, who wanted desperately to sit down and eat it. For the record, Sophie threw a little temper-tantrum because she wanted to eat bread immediately. It was so cute, I wanted to take a picture. Would it be wrong of me to take a picture of her sad little angry face? I didn’t.

Finally, even though the bread was still quite warm, I took out my serrated knife and sliced it up. It sliced like a charm. The texture was perfect – soft and not too dense, yet without any huge bubbles. The crust was nice – only slightly crusty – and the bread held together well as I smeared it with butter and jam for the girls. I still hadn’t eaten lunch yet (I’d been too busy mixing bread while they ate), so I had peanut butter and jelly on mine.

And, by the way – those are two good-sized loaves. Homemade bread really deserves to be eaten within 24 hours, or barring that, frozen and thawed when you’re ready to eat it again.

Knocking on Wood

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Oh, my gosh I have some of the best news today that I’ve had in a very long time, people. I’m knocking on wood as I tell you this because it’s not 100% certain yet, but Julie may have outgrown her wheat and soy allergies!!!!!11!!!one!!!1

Ever since we figured out that the food allergies were the source of many of Julie’s woes during her first year and a half of life, we’ve been hoping that she’d outgrow them in time. That’s why we’ve been hyper-vigilant about not exposing her to the foods she’s allergic to – the more exposure your immune system gets to any protein it thinks is dangerous, the more antibodies it builds up to fight it off. We considered ourselves extremely lucky last year when she outgrew her allergies to egg and dairy, and it almost seemed too much to hope that by now she’d be entirely free.

Let me just explain – as a mom, I’ve gotten used to having to carefully examine every label on every food I bring into the house. Even if it’s something we’ve bought many times before, manufacturers change their formulas all the time without mention. I’ve gotten used to making most of her meals from scratch. To having only one brand of any given prepared food – sausage, crackers, bread, cookies, candy, macaroni and cheese – to choose from. To driving to three or four different grocery stores every month because the stuff she can eat is specialty food not carried by every store. To feeling comfortable eating out at the same four restaurants all the time because we’ve eaten there safely before – but still worrying every time we go that maybe we or the people who work there will miss something.

I’ve gotten used to explaining what allergies are to friends and family, to teachers and other parents and strangers we meet. It continues to amaze me that most people don’t seem to understand that virtually all bread contains wheat, even if it’s white bread. Just last month Julie’s teacher gave her a lollipop that contained soy lecithin, and I figured it out only weeks later when I was looking at Halloween candy and considering that same lollipop as an option. Fighting to protect our daughter from food that is poison to her has gotten to be routine in this family. Even Julie seems mostly resigned to it.

So imagine my shock and happy surprise today in the allergist’s office when the little red spots where the scratch test was developing failed to raise up into welts. As her skin calmed down from being pricked, the red spots faded just like the control, leaving only the welt from the histamine control. When the doctor came back in and suggested that we cautiously try feeding her wheat and soy – one at a time, of course, starting with small, cooked amounts and working our way up to normal diet amounts – I felt like jumping up and down and giving someone a high five.

Instead, I hugged Julie, tried to explain to her what this might mean, and suggested that we go to the grocery store to buy her a special cookie with wheat for her to try. I don’t think she understands the big picture yet, but she loved the idea of going to buy cookies.

We ended up getting some bunny-shaped graham cracker thingies – the ingredient list was short and there were no artificial colors or anything else weird in there to muddy the picture. The girls were thrilled, and so far so good. Cross your fingers for us!

Monday Ramble

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

All day long, I’ve been thinking of stuff I wanted to mention in the blog. Let’s see how much of it I can remember…

First, the freshest in my mind – a bit of a rant. I just had another angry-making interaction with a doctor’s office! This time it was an appointment for myself. I’d met with a nurse practitioner at this office about a month ago, and on her recommendation had scheduled an appointment with a doctor to consult about having a certain procedure. Then, Joe takes off work and comes home early so I can go to the appointment, I get to suffer through the humiliation of an exam, and then the doctor tells me that she doesn’t *d0* the procedure, and proceeded to tell me that I should do XYZ instead. X being quit nursing Sophie, Y being put up with the problem, and Z being take a drug every day (and pay the $30 copay every month) until menopause. And that may or may not solve the problem, but at least we’ll know we tried. I left the room feeling humiliated and angry.

I should not have been scheduled with that doctor. Thankfully, we ran into the nurse practitioner on the way out, she saw the look on my face and got me to tell her what was wrong, and has now scheduled an appointment with a doc who *does* do the procedure, and she swears is her favorite. Still, that will probably mean another day leaving work early for Joe (I’m not going to explain this problem to my MIL – I’d rather tell the whole Internet about it than try to explain it to her – so I’m not going to ask her to watch the girls for this one.)

Okay, and without going into details in public, anyone out there had or considered having an ablation? If so and you’re willing to discuss it via e-mail, that’d be great. shellyk at shellykang dot com.

And now let’s talk about something nice. Brownies! mmmm….brooowwwnies….

I made them (obviously) in my new Bakers Edge pan. See how all the pieces have lots of crust? That’s the point. Mmmmm! I’ve been coveting this pan for well over a year now, and finally I just broke down and bought it. We had dinner guests on Friday, and they were a good excuse to bake. I immediately gave away the leftovers to my awesome neighbors so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them. Good thing, too, because I thought about those brownies All.Weekend.Long. I’m still thinking about them, actually.

I also spent the weekend thinking about Rhinebeck and wishing I were there. Joe says once I’m done nursing Sophie, I can take a knitting vacation of my choice. This might be it next year. For those of you who were there and blogged about it this year? I am so jealous! I would have loved to be at that Ravelry party. I would have totally crashed it.

But instead of oogling all things fiber in upstate New York, I got to buy a new minivan (still loving it!) – and to answer a couple of questions – no, no stickers on the new vehicle. I put them on the Civic because I figured it couldn’t look any worse than it already did, all covered in hail damage, so that was my chance to express myself in the particular medium. The van color is dark pearlized gray. Yes, I got the automatic doors, and they so totally rock.

Yesterday we spent some time in the yard raking leaves, a chore that I actually look forward to with the girls. Julie loves jumping and playing in the piles, and I see my job when we’re out there as 80% entertaining them, 20% getting the leaves raked.

Oh, yeah, she’s wearing the leggings and the tiger hat I knit for her last year. Sophie got in on the leaf-lovin’ action too.

I finished the little mittens for the Mitten Fairy last night, and threw them in the washer today. Before:

And After:

And to sum up that quickie project, they are Malabrigo leftovers from the hat and mittens I made for Julie last winter, knit in the Felted Gauntlet Mittens pattern by Jean Christensen available at the Yarnery.

Alright, I promised a ramble, and you sure are getting it. Another little thing I’ve been up to is entering some of my stash in Ravelry. I kind of want to clean out my yarn closet, so I’m combining some bins into bigger ones so that I can store them in my upstairs (clothes) closet. I just finished entering my collection of Brunswick Pomfret, a yarn that hasn’t been made for at least 20 years, and with which I have something of an obsession. Looking at it all the last couple of days, I am a little scared of just how much of an obsession I seem to have. I love this yarn to death, but it’s frustrating to knit with it because when I design something, it needs to be in a yarn that’s currently available. Still, I will get around to knitting with it. Really.

Those are just two of the 24 colors in my collection, totaling almost 20,000 yards. And that’s not including the little bin of scraps! Ack!

Tonight Sophie tried on a couple of hats I pulled out of the FO stash – more hand-me-downs from Julie. The green one is cute, but a little tight.

This rainbow one is also cute, and a little loose, but serviceable.

I’m still clicking away at the little leggings. I think the legs will be done before bedtime tonight.

Ah, and finally, speaking of bedtime, that leads us into some utterly gratuitous cute-kid pics.
Bed time has evolved into a little wild goofy time the last week or so. Sophie thinks it’s hilarious to hide under the covers on our bed and play peekaboo.

These photos are grainy because they came off the Sidekick, and because Sophie was moving so fast.

Julie gets in on the action, too. A moment before I took this one, both girls were climbing all over poor Joe.

Believe it or not, there are about ten other things I was going to mention, but I think we’ve all had enough for one night!