Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slow Cooking Dinner: Sausage and Vegetable Medley

4 cups vegetables (I had broccoli, cauliflower, celery and carrots)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 potatoes cubed
6 fully cooked sausage links
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup white wine
1 large handful baby spinach

*With a 4 qt slow cooker
1. Cut the vegetables into 2 inch cubes and place at the bottom of your slow cooker.
2. Slice the sausage and add on top.
3. Pour in the broth and wine.
4. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.
5. Add a handful of baby spinach and turn to high for 15 minutes before serving.

**This has got to be one of the easiest dishes I make- and it's yummy. Today, I used Johnsonville's New Orlean's Spicy Smoked Sausage(it was on sale last week at the commissary!). I've really like Chicken and Apple Andouille and Italian sausage in the past. For kids, I would do a sweeter sausage. I used Bloom, a wonderful, not super sweet Riesling- since that's what I had on hand. Typically, a drier wine would be used but I use whatever I have in the wine fridge with positive results.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slow Rise Baking: Pizza Dough

There is nothing better than homemade pizza. I love mine with olive oil, fresh sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Grilling it as an extra crispness to the crust.

3 cups unbleached All Purpose White Flour
Generous 1 1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp instant, fast rising or bread machine yeast
Scant 1 1/2 cups ice water
1 tbsp olive oil

First Rise:
1. In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, salt and yeast.
2. Vigorously stir in the water, scraping down the sides, just until thoroughly blended.
3. Stir in olive oil until evenly incorporated.
*If the mixture is too dry to mix, add in just enough water to facilitate mixing, as the dough should be firm. If the dough is soft, stir in enough flour to firm it.
4. Brush the top with olive oil, and cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Dough can be refrigerated for up to 10 hours before rising at cool room temperature for 4 to 12 hours.

Second Rise:
1. Stir the dough to deflate it.
2. Divide it in half using oiled kitchen shears. The dough portions can be used immediately, refrigerated for up to 12 hour, or frozen wrapped airtight for up to 1 month.
Each half makes one pizza.

20 minutes before baking time, place a rack on the lowest slot of the oven. Preheat to 500 degrees. Place a rimless baking sheet(or rimmed upside down)on the lowest rack.

1. Place dough portion on a oiled pizza pan or large sheet of spray coated baking parchment. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then press and stretch the dough into an 11 1/2 to 12 inch round with oiled fingertips. If it is resistant and springs back, let it rest for a few minutes before continuing. Push dough outwards to slightly build up and thicken edges. Tent with non-stick spray coated foil and let rise for 25-45 minutes depending on whether you prefer a thin, slightly dense crust or a lighter, medium-thick one.

2. Place pizza pan with dough on the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until dough begins to firm and puff up.

3. Remove from oven and spread the sauce to within 1/3" of the edge all around. Apply whatever toppings you would like. Return to the oven and bake until the top is bubbly and the edge is puffy and nicely browned, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

This got RAVE reviews from the husband..although for the future, he can easily eat a whole one by himself. I'll need to make more than one in order to have the leftovers that are so delicious.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken

I love rotisserie style chicken. But I hate buying it at the grocery store. One- it's always so salty. Two- I can buy whole chicken quite a bit cheaper. This recipe made it a lot easier to prepare at home because I don't have to watch it. This is one of the single most versatile dishes I make. I use this chicken to add to sauces, soups, sandwiches and salads. I make it at least once a week on a day that I'm not using the crockpot for dinner.

Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken

1 4-5 lb whole chicken
2 to 3 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 whole garlic cloves
1 onion, quartered


1. Using a 6 quart slow cooker, skin the chicken and remove the neck and innards from the cavity.

2. In a bowl, combine the salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme, Italian seasoning, cayenne and black pepper. Rub the mix all over the bird, inside and out. If desired, shove garlic cloves and onion quarters inside the bird. Place chicken breast side down into the slow cooker. Do not add water.

3. Cover and cook on high for four to five hours or on low for 8 hours. The meat is done when it is fully cooked and has reached the desired tenderness.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Scratch: Parmesan and Chive Cornbread

Parmesan and Chive Cornbread

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup skim milk
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
handful fresh chives chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Combine dry ingredients.
3. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Fold in chives and parmesan
5. Pour batter into greased pan.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Serve warm.

I liked this recipe but I think I would prefer a sharper cheese or herb. It was a little too subtle to stand up to the rather hearty chili I served it with. :) It was good, though. I never realized how simple corn bread was. Makes me feel a little silly for using the boxed mix.

I think one of my weekend projects is going to be to mix up a couple freezer bags of the dry ingredients. Make it just as simple to make "from scratch" corn bread as the boxed mix.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Made Bread

Our family has a taste for artisan bread....which happens to be quite expensive. I recently decided to try my hand at making breads at home, since they can take a big bite out of our grocery budget. I have always avoided baking for the most part at it seemed more chemistry than anything else- and that's not really my strong suit.

But once I started looking, I found the book Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. The recipe's lack of kneading appealing, as was the stated intention of being easy!

My first shot at bread turned out wonderfully. It was easy, relatively mess-free, and the most challenging part was waiting to bake it. The slow-rise method featured in the book also means the steps are quite short. This made it easy to fit in when the baby was occupied or napping without eating up all my free time. The bread light, smooth, and rich with a wonderfully crunchy thin crust. This will definitely be a repeat!

Easy White Bread Loaves

6 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour, plus more as needed
3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp table salt
1 tsp instant, fast rising or bread machine yeast
1/3 cup corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups ice water

First Rise
1. In a *very* large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil and ice water.
3. Thoroughly stir the mixture into the bowl with the flour, scraping down the sides until thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, a bit at a time, stir in just enough more water to blend the ingredients; don't over-moisten. If necessary, stir in more flour to stiffen it.
4. Brush or Spray the top with oil.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
6. Rise options: Refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours, then let rise at cool room temp (about 70) for 15 to 20 hours. If not refrigerating, let rise at cool room temp for 15 to 20 hours.

Second Rise
1. After 15 to 20 hour rise, vigorously stir the dough, adding more flour if necessary to yield very stiff dough.
2. Using well oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut dough in half, placing portions in 2 well-greased 8 1/2x4 1/2 (I used 9x5) loaf pans. Smooth and press the dough into the pans using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips.
3. Evenly brush or spray the dough tops with oil. Make a 1/2" deep slash lengthwise down the center of each loaf.
4. Tightly cover the pans with non-stick spray coated plastic wrap.
5. Rise Options: At warm room temp (80+) let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. You can refrigerate from 3-24 hours, then let rise as previously noted. As dough rises, remove the plastic as the dough nears it and continue rise tunil the dough reaches 1/2" above the pan rims. Dust each loaf with 1 tbsp flour.

1. Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425, let oven heat for 15 minutes.
2. Reduce oven temp to 400. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until tops are nicely browned. If loaves are over browning, the tops can be covered with foil. Loaves are done when a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs or the center reads 208 to 210 on an instant read thermometer.
3. Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out loaves and let pans cool completely.

Bread will store at room temp for 2 to 3 days or may be frozen in airtight container for up to two months.