Meet the next 5 pounds you will add to your hips

I have to dedicate this blog post to my boyfriend. He telecommutes most of the week and goes in to work a couple of days. On his telecommuting days, he is less stressed out and he is really happy. On the commuting days…he usually somehow seems to run out of time getting ready for work. The most awful things happen to delay him (and they are never his fault!) and he gets crabby as he realizes he is going to show up late and have to work well into the evening. Today was one of those days.

When I used to work, I had mornings like that too. Now I don’t. So when I see his morning spinning out of control, I just try to stay out of the way and hope for the best. This morning I had to be a little in the way because I was on a mission to make a sourdough knockoff of the Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves from the King Arthur site. I didn’t mean to help delay him, but I may have gotten in the way enough to get a little bit of the stink eye. Well, I’ll make it up to him with what I am about to show him and you. I stumbled onto this recipe the other day and when I saw that they were little loaves packed with cups and cups of cheese until they burst in the oven like little volcanoes of cheesy goodness, I had to say “sign me up!”

So this blog post is dedicated to F. who will see an email on his blackberry when I post to my blog. I am hoping it will make him giddy with anticipation over coming home to eat this bread with some lamb stew. I’m hoping he will smile and not care that I ate half a loaf already (in the interest of testing these breads for the good of the blog, of course!).

I started the dough last night. I decided that a half cup of starter would give the sponge just enough umph to power this dough. The next day when I didn’t see the bubbly mass that the site said I should, I added more starter to the dough itself. It worked out well. I stored the dough in the oven with a touch of heat and the light on and the dough puffed up really high.

These work like cinnamon rolls but you fill them with cheese! Three cups worth. Yes you heard that right!!

These are melty good loaves! In went a mixture of aged sharp provolone and aged sharp white cheddar. I also decided to add a lot of garlic and a mixture of fresh herbs which included rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and fennel fronds. I wanted the cheese to ooze herbs and garlic. Oh yeah!

Make sure you line your cookie sheets with parchment.

When you bake the loaves, they will ooze and ooze. But they come out of the oven so brown and pretty!

Here is the glamour shot where you get to see the flavor, the fat and the calories just oozing and glopping out of the bread. It was so delicious that I had to have three slices. Good thing my lamb stew is a WeightWatchers recipe, lol!!

These remarkable eruptive loaves are going out to YeastSpotting where you will find a variety of other interesting yeasty items.

Provolone-Cheddar Stuffed Garlic Herb Loaves

Starter:

1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp salt

½ cup active sourdough starter

½ cup water

Dough:

All of the starter

1 ¼ cups water

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup active sourdough starter

Filling:

2 cups shredded aged provolone cheese

1 cup shredded aged white cheddar

5 – 6 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 tbsp mixed fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, fennel fronds

To make starter: The night before you want to bake, mix together all of the starter ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter at least 12 hours. The mixture starts out as a dry lump but should expand into a puffy dough lump.

To make dough: Combine starter, water, salt, whole wheat and white flours and sourdough starter. Mix well and then turn out onto a floured board and knead for up to ten minutes until the dough is soft and stops being really sticky. You should be able to stretch the dough without breaking it (window pane test). Grease a large bowl. Set the dough into the bowl and cover with a damp clean towel. If your home is cool, turn your oven on to 350 degrees F. for exactly one minute. Turn off the oven and store the dough in the oven for up to 5 hours or until it has doubled in bulk.

Line your workspace with parchment because this dough is wet and sticky! Turn the dough out onto the parchment, and gently flatten and stretch the dough into a 9” x 12” rectangle. Cover the dough with cheese, garlic and herbs. Roll up cinnamon roll style, beginning from the long end toward you. Cover the dough with the damp towel and allow to rise until extremely puffy but not exactly doubled. Another 2 hours or so.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and arrange two pieces cut side up on each sheet. Note: you will have two loaves that are cut on top and bottom. I pinched the bottom seam closed on those two to prevent bottom cheese leakage. Also, you may need to shape the loaves a bit so that they are a bit open on the top, cutting the dough may squish the loaves and you want them to be pretty on top.  Let the dough rest for up to 20 minutes while the oven heats up.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer loaves to wire racks to cool. Enjoy while they are still a bit warm so that the cheese will still be soft.

Magical

I recorded a special about Julia Child on PBS last week and just got around to watching it last night. The documentary did a good job highlighting her career but one TV show clip had me sitting in rapt attention. I found a similar clip on YouTube to share with you.

Julia Child shows how to make an omelette on a crappy electric stove like mine, with a Teflon pan and two eggs in 20 seconds flat! Just awesome!

I found an excellent blogging resource

Hi Everyone, I found something and I am so excited about it that I wanted to share it with you.

I keep a list of blogs I like to read. As I find new blogs, I get excited, read them a lot and then forget about blogs I used to love to read. Such was the case with Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen. I hadn’t been there in ages but I used to love her site because Jaden is so open to sharing her blogging knowledge. I could go there and get photography tips, marketing insights and use her food styling wisdom.

I popped over there a couple of days ago and found out that Jaden and Diane from White on Rice Couple have put together a forum for food blogging. The site has only been up for a few days and they still need to work out a few of the kinks, but I was amazed at how much I am beginning to learn after just a couple of days. So far, I have seen how someone put together a light box for their photography, I am learning about the kinds of issues people have when they set up their own URL and I am learning that advertising on a blog will not make someone rich (but they did have suggestions about how to make a living otherwise). I am so happy this resource is now online because the community that is forming around this forum is answering two and a half years of questions that I have been afraid to ask.

I truly think this site is important for us. For instance, my boyfriend’s mom recently asked me to help her set up a blog that she plans to monetize. I have no idea how to set up that kind of blog. I started researching it for her and found a lot of good information on the web but it took me hours and brought up more questions than answers. Now I have a single place to go where I can ask for help and get the answers quickly.

The only thing that is strange to me so far is the social networking aspect of this forum. I have never used Facebook or Twitter and I have only recently signed up for LinkedIn. The fact that being on this site for ten minutes gets me seven people who want to friend me is kind of scaring me…but that’s just my own personal problem.  😀

Jaden, Diane, this is one blogger who wants to say thank you. You have made me very happy.

Muffin manna

I promise we are going grocery shopping TODAY!

That being said, I woke up this morning to find that my significant other had made it to the refrigerator before me. His reward for being both a morning person and a breakfast lover? Leftover French toast and leftover frittata. He was set. I’m really not a morning person and breakfast, in my opinion should be put off for at least a little while until the grogginess wears thin.

Once I made it into the kitchen, I realized that there was one egg, a little tiny bit of milk that was flirting pretty heavily with it’s expiration date, and a teensy bit of yogurt. Hmmm. Maybe a muffin and some green tea could somehow be coaxed out of the last remaining food items in the house.

I grabbed a beloved breakfast cookbook and found a muffin recipe I hadn’t tried before. It was for Orange-Cherry Corn Muffins. I had one last bag of frozen sweet cherries and two teeny blood oranges left. I didn’t expect much from these muffins made of scraps but they came out so good that I had to keep the “sharing my breakfast” theme up with you.

These muffins turned out to be different from the original recipe due to my usual need to make things healthier and an unusual need to find appropriate ingredients. Here are some substitutions I made:

Whole wheat pastry flour for white flour

Honey for sugar

Blood oranges for Oranges

Yogurt diluted with milk for buttermilk

Olive oil for butter

These muffins were tender, moist and tangy and had a pretty sunny color due to the blood oranges and cherries. The best muffins I’ve had in a long, long time. My boyfriend… well, let’s just say that with an appetite like his, there is always room for dessert. He loved his second breakfast.

Blood Orange-Sweet Cherry Corn Muffins

Adapted from Sunlight Café by Mollie Katzen

Olive oil Spray

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup cornmeal

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp blood orange or orange zest

½ cup blood orange juice or orange juice

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt thinned down with ½ cup nonfat milk

1 large egg, beaten

½ tsp vanilla

4 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cups frozen sweet cherries, undefrosted and coarsely chopped.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, F. Spray 8 – 10 standard muffin cups with olive oil spray (The recipes in this book annoy me. The muffin recipes always make an odd amount of muffins and she gives a range for how many you will end up with. When dealing with this book, I always start out spraying 8 cups, if the recipe makes up to 10 muffins like the author says, I spray a couple more as I need them. I don’t do all 10 because I ruined my muffin tins spraying too many cups once for one of these recipes, be careful).

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda and zest.

In another bowl, combine orange juice, honey, yogurt/milk mixture, egg, vanilla and oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the chopped cherries. Mix until combined well, being careful not to overwork the batter. Spoon batter into muffin cups until just full. Again the recipe gives a range of 8 – 10 muffins, depending on how you fill the cups you may get 8, you may get more, I got 9 and one of the cups was slightly overfilled.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

The alchemy of flour, salt and water

This morning, as I sat where I am sitting now, I really meant to put my nose to the grindstone and not delay the inevitable and sit and look for a job. But I sit and look for a job a lot. Since this is a chore that is not very exciting or particularly rewarding, I tend to let my mind wander and I get distracted. This morning, since I also delayed something else that is inevitable: eating breakfast, I found myself sitting in front of a computer, hair a mess, teeth not brushed, still in pajamas obsessing about a breakfast burrito. Normally this would not present a problem. We often pick up whole wheat tortillas at the store when we purchase groceries, but this past weekend it seemed like a much better idea to have a lot of fun instead of doing chores so we never quite made it to the store.

The prospect of cleaning up the mess known as me, and transporting myself to a grocery store in order to come home and cook seemed a hell of lot more daunting than skipping straight to the kitchen and creating an even bigger mess by starting a whole step backwards. When I say starting a whole step backwards, I of course mean making the wraps for my breakfast. Last week while perusing the Indian food section of my cookbook collection (yes, I have so many books that they can be categorized into sections, don‘t you?), I was noticing that there was a chapati recipe in each book. Recipe is a little bit of an overstatement. Chapatis are flour, salt and water, kneaded for a few minutes, flattened with a rolling pin and cooked in a heavy, hot pan. Same thing in each book. Easy.

But… I was thinking, would they be the same thing as the tortillas I buy? Not really, flour tortillas have a little bit of fat in them. The chapati recipes I was looking at have no fat, but the dough is kneaded for as long as I would knead a yeasted dough. They wouldn’t be soft but they should have a nice texture. The other challenge to my idea of a breakfast burrito would be the size. I only have a nine inch cast iron skillet. My chapatis would be bigger than a standard corn tortilla, but not big enough to wrap things up burrito style. I would have to make my breakfast resemble something more along the lines of a large taco. Fine with me. Filled with eggs and cheese and other goodies I could scare up from the depths of the vegetable drawer and the pantry, my chapati breakfast wraps would be a triumph!

Would you care to make breakfast with me? First let’s make chapatis:

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour and ½ tsp salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and slowly start to mix in between ¾ – 1 cup of water. I started with ¾ of a cup but being that I was using stone ground whole wheat instead of Indian atta flour, I think I needed more moisture. I used almost a cup of water. Begin kneading the dough in the bowl until it starts to stick together. Transfer the dough to your favorite kneading surface (mine is a lightly floured wooden board) and knead for seven minutes or more until you are able to form a supple, smooth dough. Form this dough into a round ball (see above), cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough into eight even pieces and roll one into a thin round (about 9” in diameter).

Heat a 9” or larger cast iron skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke and then lower the heat to medium. Carefully transfer the first round of dough to the pan so that it lays flat.

Cook for about a minute until it starts to form bubbles. Turn the chapati over and press down with a clean dishtowel to make sure all of the surfaces contact the pan. Cook for about a minute and turn over again. Make sure the edges especially are cooked all the way.

Remove the chapati to a tortilla warmer or a dishtowel lined basket to keep warm.

Repeat the process seven more times until all chapatis are cooked. I was able to roll each chapati out in the time it took for the bubbles to form on the first side, so I did these assembly line fashion. If this is too stressful, roll them out and stack the dough between pieces of wax paper or parchment so they are ready to go.

While my fresh chapatis were safely tucked away warm and toasty in a tortilla warmer, I did a reconnaissance of what food was left in our kitchen. Here is the lovely chapati wraps I was able to make for a hearty brunch.

Chapati breakfast wraps

(Makes 4 wraps)

4 chapatis

2 – 3 tsp olive oil

½ red onion, halved again and then sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thinly into rounds

Salt and pepper to taste

5 eggs, beaten

15 oz can black beans

Chili powder and cayenne to taste

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

¼ cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, pitted and cubed

If the chapattis are fresh, keep them warm. If not, toast them on both sides in a cast iron skillet and keep them warm until you are ready to use them.

Saute the red onion in olive oil until it softens and begins to brown slightly. Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until the zucchini softens and just begins to brown a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Season with chili powder and a dash of cayenne to taste.

When the veggies are cooked, add the eggs to the pan. Scramble the eggs, stirring until fluffy and cooked.

Put a chapati on a plate. Top with ¼ of the scrambled egg mixture. With a slotted spoon, drain some of the black beans and use them to top the eggs. Next add the shredded cheese, then cilantro and avocado.

As I said before, the texture of the chapatis was not soft like the flour tortillas we Americans are used to. There was a toothsome quality but they were still soft enough to wrap up the fillings. They had a good wheat flavor with a little bit of a smoky charred flavor from toasting in the cast iron skillet. I really enjoyed them as a wrap for this egg mixture and they were surprisingly easy to prepare.

I used stone ground whole wheat flour for these but I may try using whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of stone ground whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve never used atta flour so I am not sure what would be closer to authentic. If anyone has experience making chapatis with the proper flour, let me know what you think!

A whole lotta yum

So… you may recall that I promised my boyfriend that I would bake treats with reduced sugar or no refined sugar at all. It’s been weeks and everything was going just fine until he said, “I want a cookie”. After I asked (excitedly), “Do you really want a cookie?” and he said “no“… well, I have of course been obsessing over cookies with real sugar. Sweet, chewy, bendy cookies. It sucks.

To make matters worse, everywhere I looked people were blogging about their cookies. Like this one, or that one or this other one or yet another. I was also bumping into websites (even healthy recipe sites) with cookies, like this or this. Ugh.

Today, I set the DVR to record the Oscars so that I could go on an adventure. We drove up north to look for wild flowers. We didn’t find the big field of lupine and poppies I remembered so we stopped at a local lunch place where we ate monster sandwiches. On the way out, I noticed what looked like giant biscotti. These things were enormous!! We both were obsessing over them and we almost drove back to the restaurant to get one, but we stopped at a local winery where we drowned our craving in Pinot Noir instead.

On the way home, my boyfriend mentioned that he wanted to get a sugar free pie on the way home. We have a bakery that makes these amazing sugar free fruit pies with dates or apple juice as the only sweeteners. Great pies but I was feeling frugal after splurging on lunch and wine tasting. I wasn’t about to let him spend $15.99 on a pie, so I told him I would make him pie.

I envisioned a variation on the sweet lemon crust from last time. I would do an orange scented crust and then the filling would be loaded with orange flavor and blueberries and spices. I always have such delusions of grandeur…

The crust came together like a charm. Flecked with orange rind, it was beautiful in it’s raw state. I have developed a habit of rolling the pastry out much larger than my pie pan and then I pinch the edges together, roll them under until they form a thick crust and then pinch the crust all the way around to give it a slight fluted shape. When I used this method this time, I created a hilariously outsized crust.

The filling was lightly sweetened with honey, but I think I needed more cornstarch. Our first couple of slices saw a pure collapse of the filling which was too wet. A consequence of not enough thickening agent and frozen fruit and liquid sweetener. As a consequence it was difficult to photograph a pretty slice. I forgot to add cinnamon and vanilla which I thought would be great in the filling so I was worried that the pie would fail, especially when I saw how wet the filling was. However, the flavor was wonderful. The crust, due to the acid in the orange juice, was as light and flaky as a croissant. A beautiful and delicious pie. But… I may still want a cookie. Harumph!

Sunshine in a blueberry pie

Crust:

3 cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks

1 tbsp honey

Zest from an orange

4 – 5 tbsp orange juice

4 – 5 tbsp cold water

Filling:

26 oz frozen wild blueberries

Juice and zest from an orange

3 tbsp (or more) cornstarch

3 – 4 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 9″ pie pan.

Mix flour, salt and zest. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add honey and orange juice to the flour mixture. Begin to mix in a tablespoon of ice water at a time, gently mixing the flour and liquid together, trying not to over-knead the pastry. Mix in just enough water to be able to form a ball of dough. Cut the dough ball in half and put half in the refrigerator. Roll out the first ball of dough until it is large enough to overhang the edges of your pie pan by at least an inch or two. Store the pastry in the fridge while you mix the filling.

In a large bowl, mix together, orange juice, zest, honey and cornstarch until well combined. Add frozen berries and stir until combined. Pour filling into pie shell, store in the refrigerator while you roll the top crust.

Roll out the top crust into a round that is one to two inches larger than the pie pan. Top the pie with the top crust. Pinch the overhanging lower and upper crusts together and then roll them under themselves to form a thick crust. With your thumb, make a fluted pattern by indenting the top of the crust edge. Cut steam holes into the center of the top crust. Bake the pie for 55 – 60 minutes until well browned. Check the pie at the half hour mark. If the edges are browning too quickly, use a pie shield or (if the crust is enormous like mine) crimp foil around the edges. Cool the pie completely before serving.

A friendly reminder: play with your leftovers

When I was a kid, my Mom would admonish me to eat everything on my plate because there were starving kids in (the third world country of her choice for that week). I’m not sure why parents did that. Kids are a bit selfish and it’s hard to get guilty about a kid you’ve never met in some country you’ve probably never been to. Sometimes I wish I had taken the parenthood route. Why? Because now you can hit ‘em with this one: “Jimmy finish your food! You know that food waste causes global warming and we’re all going to die!!”. Now that should get little Jimmy’s attention!

Anyway, the threat of global destruction isn’t half as personal as what many of us are going through economically right now and wasting food is really wasting money, isn‘t it? I am guilty like all of us of buying food and letting some of it go to waste each week and it makes me sad to toss out perfectly good food especially as we see our grocery bills go up and up. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on finding ways to identify what is hiding in the fridge and I’ve been finding creative ways to make use of it. For instance last week when we weren’t particularly hungry for an actual dinner but we wanted something to munch while watching the Olympics, I made a veggie tray of carrots, celery and radishes (all things I buy for soups and salads and toss out a few of each week as they rot). A quickie guacamole made out of an overripe avocado, lemon juice and salt made a terrific dip. This was healthy and strangely satisfying. That same week I also turned leftover brown rice into sourdough rolls.

A couple of days ago I made the Indian Spiced Salmon from the Muir Glen cookbook that I got with the tomatoes I reviewed. The recipe is a knockout, full of garam masala and sweet from honey. The problem with this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce since you need to braise a couple of pounds of salmon fillets. We ate a generous amount of the sauce with our four servings of salmon over two days, but when we were done, we had a full two cups of the sauce left over! Organic canned tomatoes are pricey so it seemed like a shame to waste the sauce but I didn’t really want to eat it on pasta due to the garam masala and sweet honey flavors. I saved the sauce anyway (which normally means putting off throwing it away until I find where it got pushed into the back of the fridge two weeks later). I also made a pan of homemade polenta to go with the Tuscan chicken dish we liked so much from the same book. This makes a load of polenta. Such great food but what on earth do you do with the odds and ends and things you are tired of eating?

I was so proud of myself this morning. Having a desire to try an Israeli/North African dish called Shakshouka (tomato sauce poached eggs) for a very long time, but a failure to remember to buy the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could use leftovers to make something similar. Fifteen minutes later we were eating breakfast food good enough to be served in a fine restaurant on leftovers that could have ended up in the trash next week. Here is how simple this meal was:

Mock Shakshouka (tomato poached eggs)

2 cups leftover tomato based sauce of your choice (I used leftovers from this salmon dish)

5 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the sauce over medium high heat until simmering. Crack 5 eggs over the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes to the desired doneness (5 minutes for runny yolks, longer if you like a hard poached egg). Serve eggs with a liberal amount of sauce.

Griddled Polenta

6 or more 1” thick slices of homemade or store bought cooked polenta

Olive oil spray

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Spray liberally with olive oil spray. Lay polenta in pan and griddle for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crisped.

Wow! That was easy and so delicious. We got an extra high quality meal this week with little more than the effort to imagine what could be done with leftover food. Please, I encourage you to go into your kitchen today and really look hard at what is sitting in your pantry and your refrigerator. A box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and frozen peas could be your next satisfying lunch with the benefit of keeping wasted food out of the trash, money savings and the end of that nasty fast food habit.

You can thank me later.