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Archive for the ‘Mother’s Kitchen’ Category


I love this picture!

I was gone for 3 days attending a family wedding in Phoenix.  When I came home, I brought a nasty sinus infection back with me.  Not sure what I was thinking there…Anyway, today is the first day I have actually felt good in almost 2 weeks.  So of course, I spent the day in the kitchen!  Well, not all of it.  🙂  But since it was stormy and rainy it seemed like the thing to do.

Dinner menu for tonight:

Beef and Vegetable Soup

Cracked Wheat French Bread

Lemon Poundcake with home canned peaches.  Yummy!

Right now the soup is in the crockpot, the poundcake is in the oven and the bread is rising on the cabinet.  Wow my house smells good.  I’m so glad I can smell again!

I’m not sure if Beowulf and the Village People survived my unintentioned neglect, though.  Right now Beowulf (my sourdough starter) has been newly fed and is snuggled up to the crockpot.  And the Village People (my water kefir grains–there’s a lot of them and they look funny 🙂 ) have been submerged in a fresh batch of sugar water in hopes of having a lemon-lime soda-y beverage soon.  I’ve only gotten one batch of water kefir so far–hope these Village People aren’t a one-hit-wonder…Y-M-C-A…But I digress…

Things are slowly getting back to normal, although I haven’t had the energy to tackle the bathrooms yet.  Maybe tomorrow?

What’s on your menu tonight?

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Yummy Baked Manicotti

Preparing healthier meals is one of the journeys I am on in this new year.  This baked manicotti recipe is one that I put together from several different recipes I found.  The cheeses are homemade as well as the spaghetti sauce, and the basil and parsley are from last summer’s garden.  I get my eggs from a friend who has pastured chickens which is a huge blessing!  The only thing in this that’s not so good for you is the white pasta shells.  Since we don’t eat pasta much (maybe once a month or so), and since my tastebuds seem very whole wheat pasta resistant, I am ok with the compromise this early in my journey, although when all the pasta I have is gone I hope to switch to the brown rice pasta.  🙂  You can always use whole wheat, sourdough, or brown rice pasta for yours.

Baked Manicotti Recipe

12 large manicotti-you can also use the shell shaped ones for fun

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

3 cups spaghetti sauce

Prepare pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water.

Put one cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Pretty sauce

Mix egg, ricotta cheese, 1 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, basil, and parsley in a small bowl.

Mix the herbs, egg, and cheeses well

For easy stuffing, put the cheeses in a plastic baggie that seals and snip off a bottom corner.

Cheese mixture in the baggie with the corner snipped off

Insert the cut corner into the manicotti and squeeze the bag to pipe the mixture into the shell.  Be careful you don’t overfill it or it may split.  Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish.

Stuffed shells on their bed of sauce

I actually had some odd sized shells so I just stuffed until I was out of stuffing.  🙂  Now you need to pour the rest of the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the last 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese.

All ready for the oven

Now bake this in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Bubbly and nicely browned

I served this with a simple salad, green beans, and garlic toast made with my Italian Herb & Cheese Bread recipe that I also use for pizza crust.

This is really simple to make.  You can even assemble the dish ahead of time and put in the oven when you get home from work.  Just let it come to room temp while the oven is preheating.  You’ll need to add about 10 minutes or so to the cooking time if you bake it cold.  Give it a try and then come back and let me know what you think!

I linked up at Foodie Friday, Monday Mania, and Simple Lives Thursday.

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Last week a friend and I went to dinner at an Italian place.  My friend ordered a dish in a wine sauce and she let me have a taste.  I decided right then that I needed to come up with a recipe that had a wine sauce.  This is what I came up with using ingredients that I already had at home.

Chicken and Broccoli in Wine Sauce

Here’s what I used:

3 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (preferably organic, free range)
2 bunches of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, thickly sliced and the slices cut in half
4 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 c homemade chicken stock
1 c white wine (I only had a white zinfandel, so that’s what I used)
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
pinch of sea salt
ground pepper
thyme
toasted sesame seeds
Put the chicken stock, wine, minced garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
While the sauce is reducing, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions and saute until they are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and chicken.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken is no longer pink.  Put the broccoli in the skillet.  It will steam beautifully just sitting on top of everything else.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Check sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Pour the sauce over the mixture in the skillet.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme and toasted sesame seeds.  Stir to distribute sauce and seasonings.  Serve with a green salad and garlic toast.
This was a really quick and easy meal and it made the house smell really good.  The kids liked it so much that they ate it all and didn’t leave me any leftovers for today! 😦  You could serve it over pasta or rice for a more filling meal, or if you want to stretch it.  This will easily served four adults, or in my case, 1 adult and two teenagers.  I just love it when an experiment works out!
Do you experiment in the kitchen?  What has been your favorite experiment so far?

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Soaked oatmeal that is.  Soaked?  What’s that?  I’m so glad you asked. 🙂  Soaking grains, beans, and nuts helps them to be more digestible and allows our bodies to absorb more of the nutrition in them.  I’m going to be posting about that in detail in a few days.  In the meantime, I want to share with you one of my new favorite things for breakfast. 

Soaked Oatmeal

1 cup organic rolled oats

1 cup filtered water

1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, yogurt, or kefir

1 cup milk

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight.  It needs to soak for 8 to 24 hours.

You want to make sure that the oats are just covered by the water

  

Oats soaking under my cute little tea towel

When you are ready to make the oatmeal, put 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  While the milk is heating I usually drain and rinse the oats to help remove the sour taste.  If I’m using raisins, I add them to the milk as it’s heating to soften them up. 

Can you see the raisin trying to hide?

When the milk comes to a boil, add the oats, 2 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. 

Combine all the ingredients

Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally,  until it’s the consistency you like. 

Perfect, creamy consistency

It doesn’t take very long to cook at all.  Add some butter and the sweetener of your choice and serve.

Since I am the only one who eats it here, I actually just use 1/4 cup of oats and reduce the other ingredients accordingly.  I’ve made it plain and with raisins and cinnamon.  I think next time I may chop up part of an apple and some pecans and add that in with the cinnamon.  Just as a side note, if you are using nuts or seeds, you should add them to the oats and soak them as well.

Breakfast is served!

Why don’t you give it a try?  What do you like to put in your oatmeal?

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At my house, we love pizza.  I mean, we LOVE pizza.  And the best pizza is always homemade.  That way you have the perfect thickness of crust, the exact amount of sauce, and the perfect combination of toppings.  I even have individual deep dish pans and three different sizes of pizza pans.  Did I mention that we LOVE pizza?

A size for any appetite!

Over the years I have tried a LOT of different pizza crust recipes.  The sourdough crust is good, but I have found the hands down, go-to pizza crust.  And it’s not even a crust recipe.  It’s a bread recipe.  Shocking.  I know, right?  Who uses a bread recipe for pizza crust?  Well, uuhhmm, I do…and it makes the most amazing pizza crust you’ve ever eaten.  It’s a recipe that I got a few years ago from my sister.  In the beginning, I made bread with it (like I was supposed to), and then I got a little crazy and I made some bread sticks to go with spaghetti one night.  Then I had the brilliant idea (yes I did say brilliant, because that’s what it was; brilliant) to make pizza crust out of it.  It was love at first bite.  I’ve never looked at another pizza crust the same way again.  I have gone so far as to make the pizza crust in the mini pans and freeze it so that we can have pizza whenever we want without having to wait for the dough to rise.  I have even, at times, used half the dough for a free form loaf of bread and the other half for pizza crust.  All at the same time.  What can I say, I live on the edge.

So in an effort to spread the love, I am about to share with you the Best. Pizza. Crust.  Ever.  (It’s really good for bread too.  :))

Italian Herb and Cheese Bread Recipe (AKA The Best. Pizza. Crust. Ever.)

1 Tbsp yeast

2 c. warm water

2 Tbsp dehydrated sugar cane juice, Sucanat, or Rapadura

1/4 c. olive oil

1 Tbsp sea salt

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 c. romano cheese, grated

5-7 c. flour of your choice

Put water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve.  Add all the other ingredients except flour and combine thoroughly.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.  Continue adding flour a cup at a time until dough becomes shaggy and leaves the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

Clean out mixing bowl and oil with olive oil.  Place dough in bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  After dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured board.

For Crust:

Cut off a portion of the dough and roll it to fit your pizza pan.  You can also make a freeform crust and bake it on a cookie sheet.  How much dough you need will depend entirely on how big your pans are and how thick you like your crust.  Heat your oven to 450 F.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in the oven before heating and let preheat for at least 20 minutes.  While your oven heats, get out your pizza ingredients (or not if you are going to be freezing them :)).

When your oven is heated up, re-roll or re-press the dough to fit the pans.  It tends to shrink a little.  Use a fork to prick holes all over so that the dough doesn’t puff up.  Place in oven.  The crusts need to bake for about 15 minutes.  I like to take them out after 7ish minutes and remove them from the pans and put them back in directly on the pizza stone.  That makes the bottom crust crisper.  After 15 minutes remove them from the oven and top with your favorite fixins.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned to your liking.  Sit back, relax, and receive the praises from your family for making them The. Best. Pizza. Ever!

Uuuuummmm, can you smell it?

And if you want to actually make bread with it, here’s what you do:

After the first rise, divide dough in half and form into two loaves.  This works equally will with loaf pans, round free form loaves, or french style loaves.  I have made four thinner baguette style loaves for brushetta or toasted rounds.  Let the loaves rise 1/2 hour or until doubled again.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tbsp water beaten together) and sprinkle with a little romano cheese.  This isn’t necessary, but it gives the loaves a pretty color.  Slash the loaves.  If using loaf pans, bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.  If free form or french style loaves, bake at 450 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  For an artisan crispy crust, throw a cup of hot water into a heated pan in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in.  This bread is good anyway you want to eat it:  still warm from the oven, toasted, cold.  I’ve even made croutons out of it for salads.

So go whip up a batch and let me know your favorite way to eat it!

I shared this at Fight Back Fridays and

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English muffins, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Ahhh, English muffins.  There is nothing I love more to pair with my morning cup of tea than a freshly baked sourdough English muffin.  Sometimes I eat them with just buttery goodness oozing into all the little holes in their golden toasted interiors.  Occasionally I will throw caution to the wind and slather a spoonful of blackberry jelly across their nooks and crannies.  And when I’m in a particularly wild mood, I will add a fried egg, a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and some bacon or a sausage patty.  I know, right?  Just call me wild and crazy!  But no matter how I choose to “dress” them, I enjoy them thoroughly.

As you can imagine, I worked diligently to come up with my own recipe for these little beauties as soon as my starter could be called “started”.  I am happy to report I was successful in my endeavor.  Not only are they a staple at my house, but I have a friend who lamented that I have “spoiled her for store-bought ones.”  They are probably my most popular baked good among my friends and family and I get many requests for them.

In the interests of others of you helping to supply the general populace with amazing English muffins (that will spoil them all for store-bought ones), I am sharing my recipe with you here.

These work best with starter that has been fed within the past eight to twelve hours, although they will be fine if it hasn’t been, they just won’t rise as high.  There is a “secret” ingredient in these that helps to give them a stronger sourdough “tang” without having to wait all day.  It is citric acid, sometimes called sour salt, and it is available to most health food and natural food stores.  I usually have some in my pantry because I use it in cheese making as well as my homemade dish washer powder which you can find here.  If you don’t have any citric acid that’s perfectly ok, the muffins will still be wonderful. 

So let’s go to the kitchen and get started!

Sourdough English Muffins

4 Tbsp honey

2 cups warm water

1 Tbsp yeast

2 cups sourdough starter

7 to 10 cups unbleached all purpose flour

¾ cup non-fat dry milk

½ cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

1 ½ Tbsp Kosher salt

¾ tsp citric acid (optional)

cornmeal or semolina to sprinkle on pans and on top of muffins

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Stir in and dissolve the yeast, and then mix in the sourdough starter and 1 cup of flour. Let this sit for a few minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble.

Mixture is bubbling

Add the dry milk, butter, salt, citric acid (if using) and a second cup of flour, and beat well.

Add the rest of the ingredients

Add 5 to 8 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form a dough that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Holds together well

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and springy, but slightly on the slack side, about 8 minutes.  This dough is supposed to be slightly sticky.  Add flour only as necessary to prevent sticking.

Dough after kneading

Clean out and grease your bowl and place the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that a thin film of oil coats all sides.

Dough in the oiled bowl before rising

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel, let it stand until it has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Dough after rising

Punch down dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, cover it and let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out separately to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into rounds; re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. I use a large cutter for my English muffins that makes them larger than the ones you would get at the store.  My cutter makes 24.  The number you get will be dependent on how big your cutter is. 

Rounds on cornmeal covered baking sheet

Place the rounds onto cornmeal- or semolina-sprinkled baking sheets, sprinkle them with additional cornmeal or semolina, cover with a damp towel, and let them rise until light and puffy, about 1 hour.

Rounds after rising

Transfer the rounds to an electric griddle preheated to 275°F. If you don’t have an electric griddle, you can use a non-electric one on your stove top, or you can use a big skillet on the stove top. 

Rounds on griddle

Cook for 10 to 12 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190°F. Remove them from the griddle and cool on a rack.

Finished muffins cooling on a rack

You may have to play with your griddle to find the right temperature for the muffins.  I have more than one griddle and I have to set them on different temperatures.  They need to be nicely browned and crispy on the bottoms before you flip them.  If they cook faster than 10 minutes, you need to lower the temperature to make sure that they cook all the way through. 

And just in case you didn’t know, English muffins are not just for breakfast anymore.  These are also really good for sandwiches at lunchtime or a late night snack.  They are basically just pretty good at any time!

So what are you waiting for?  They don’t make themselves, ya know.

Why don’t you share your favorite thing to put on an English muffin?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Yummy!

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a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!

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