Sunday, April 5, 2009

Week 26: Classic Gougeres

I have still been making a bit of soup lately and had not made any more crackers since Week 19 of my blog! So I was looking for some other carb to go along with my primarily veggie soup and came across Molly Wizenber’s recipe for Gougeres, in Bon Appetit last month. I read her article, which is really cute, see the link below, and thought, these things sound pretty easy. So you ask, what is a Gougeres? Sounds a little like the cheese, but spelled differently, hum. Well there is Gruyere cheese in her recipe, but they are like a little pop-over or puff pastry and really yummy with a nice hot bowl of soup. She explains that this dough recipe is a puff pastry dough and the same as what is used for eclairs, so how could they be that bad and I decided to try them.
I am still amazed what you can do with butter, flour, and eggs. These three ingredients can make most anything. This is a super quick recipe to whip up and most of the ingredients are in your fridge and pantry. There is nothing better than hot bread on the table and no yeast needed! Yeah! The recipe below calls for Gruyere cheese and I only had about 2 oz of Monterrey Jack cheese, so I used that. These would be perfectly fine without the cheese I think and am sure with Gruyere they are superb! But on a budget, no cheese or any cheese will work. I thought experimenting with flavored salts would be fun and my next batch will be with truffle salt! Yum.
Gougeres are definitely not very hillbilly, but they are simple and easy to make, so they fit the bill. Have fun with them! Scott & I plowed through about a dozen in one sitting, so be careful, because they are pretty addictive. To reheat just pop them in a toaster oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees and they taste great. Enjoy!

Classic Gougeres

  • 1 cup water

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or other fancy salts you might have)

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 4 large eggs, chilled

  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 oz)

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (go heavy on the pepper if you like it)

Step 1: Position 1 rack on top third and 1 rack on bottom third of oven. Preheat to 400 degrees.
Step 2: Line 2 rimmed baking sheets (jelly roll pans) with parchment paper. (Not really sure if this step is needed and need to experiment without the parchment paper, since it gets pretty dark)
Step 3: Bring 1 cup water, butter, and salt to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisking until the butter melts.
Step 4: Add flour and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until flour absorbs the liquid and forms a ball, that will pull away from the sides of the pan. Stir vigorously until a film forms on the bottom of the pan and the dough is no longer sticky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. (This is a little challenging to "stir vigorously" but just stir like crazy.)
Step 5: Remove pan from heat and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 6: Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs one at a time.
Step 7: Stir in cheese and pepper.
Step 8: Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, spaced about 3 inches apart. They don’t expand that much, but you want to have some breathing and growing room. One sheet should fit a dozen. Using a damp fingertip, press down any peaks of dough.
Step 9: Bake until golden brown, but 30 minutes. Mine were done at about 25 minutes, but my oven bakes hot. Reverse position of pans after about 15 minutes to help bake more evenly. To test for doneness, cut into a gougere and the center should be a little eggy and moist.

Serving size: makes 2 dozen

Recipe credit to: Bon Appetit, April 2009 by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette Blog.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Week 25: Bean Pie

Okay, my boyfriend has been bugging me to make a bean pie, how hillbilly is that!? So we decided to make one this week. It sure sounded strange and I never considered beans as a dessert item, but I know a lot of Asian foods use bean paste in desserts, so I figured it might be kinda similar. And, I was not too far off. As crazy as it sounds, this is a pretty good tasting pie. The beans are sweet, due to all the sugar, and the pie comes out a bit like a pecan pie but a little more custardy. My guess, this was an inexpensive way to make a pie since pecans are a bit pricey.

So I have a little confession to make. I am not really very good a reading recipes. I kinda look over them and usually read them, but not in super detail all the time. I once made these beautiful lemon poppy-seed muffins, I was so excited, they were gorgeous and when I bit into them...I had forgotten the sugar! They were like a biscuit, bland and just down right disappointing. I thought I was doing pretty well with this pie until it was in the oven and almost done, with a beautiful golden brown crust and I began to re-read the ingredients and realized, oops...forgot the butter. Well, it actually turned out fine. I am sure it would have been richer and maybe more fluffy, but the taste of the pie is great. So, the moral of the story is, do the best you can and slow down a little to stop and smell the roses and read the recipe all the way through at lease twice. Oh, and I didn’t even realize that the pie crust was supposed to be cooked & cooled before putting in the custardy mix until I was doing this write up. Oops, again! Oh well, still it turned out fine. Okay, I'm a hillbilly.

We have been using pre-made pie crusts, since I got them on sale for $0.25 for 2 pie crusts! I don’t think you can even make pie crust for that, well maybe, but still pretty cheap. This pie has a really wonderful taste with all the spices, so enjoy a great dessert that is definitely hillbilly! Enjoy!

Bean Pie

  • 2 cups Great Northern Beans (2, 15-oz cans), drained. (Dry is fine too, just soak them!)

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (forgot this!)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk

  • 1 pie crust, 9-inch, baked, cooled (um, forgot to bake this too)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I guess if you read directions, you were suppose to bake the pie crust, not sure how long, but I just put my mix in a chilled pie crust and it all worked out fine.
Step 2: Mash drained beans. The recipe said to use an electric mixer, but I could not get that to work, so I took a potato masher and got them as mashed as possible.
Step 3: Now I used my electric mixer and added the following until blended: eggs, sugar, butter (enough already), vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, combine the baking power and evaporated milk.
Step 5: Add milk to the bean mixture and blend with mixer.
Step 6: Pour into pie shell and bake for 50 minutes or until set.

Serving size: 8
Calories: 383 per serving, 332 per serving (without butter)

Recipe credit to: Southern Food

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Week 24: Protein Bars

I am an afternoon snacker! By around 3:00 pm I need something to eat or I overeat at dinner time. I usually have a piece of fruit and string cheese, a protein shake or bar. We have been making a lot of muffins lately since the calories are pretty low and it takes the edge off. I have been making cranberry muffins like crazy lately since my boyfriend bought about 20 bags of fresh cranberries during the holidays and we are still going through them! Now that we have cleared up some freezer space...I decided maybe a change in afternoon snacks would be good. So, after watching an Alton Brown, Good Eats, episode on the Food Network, I thought an attempt at making my own homemade delicious protein bars would be a good alternative to cranberry muffins. The result, well, was pretty good and easy. I did need to go to the store and buy some dried fruit and tofu, which I did not have in the house, but the rest of the items were pretty standard in my kitchen. Test them out. I think they would be great snacks for kids and certainly adults too. Enjoy!

Protein Bars

  • 1 cup soy protein powder, vanilla

  • ½ cup oat bran

  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour

  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ cup raisins

  • ½ cup dried cherries

  • ½ cup blueberries (they were so expensive, I used white raisins instead)

  • ½ cup dried apricots

  • 1 package (14 oz) soft silken tofu

  • ½ cup unfiltered apple juice

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter (less sugar)

  • Cooking spray

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Coat muffin pans with cooking spray. Recipe makes 24 standard/medium sized bars.

Step 3: In large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Set aside.

Step 4: Coarsely chop the raisins, dried cherries, blueberries if you are rich, and apricots. Place in a small bowl and set aside for later.

Step 5: In another mixing bowl, (just about used up all my bowls), whisk the tofu until smooth. (Not exactly sure how that would be done, but I just whisked the soft tofu until it was mostly broken down, it wasn’t really very smooth, but I think it worked fine)

Step 6: Add the following items one at a time and whisk after each. Add apple juice, brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter.

Step 7: Add your liquid mixture to the protein powder bowl and stir until combined. Fold in the dried fruit.

Step 8: Put mix into muffin tins. Alton Brown has you put them in a baking pan, but I didn’t want to cut them after, so I think as long as you are good with "round" shaped protein bars, you will be good.

Step 9: Bake for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees. I just poked an oven thermometer in one of them and the timing was pretty close.

Step 10: Remove from oven and let cool completely before eating. Well, I couldn’t wait and ate one that was piping hot! Storage for up to a week in an airtight container. They should also freeze well.

This was actually a pretty easy recipe and the taste is really nice. Okay, they are nothing like the protein chocolatey bars that you get in the store, but they are a little sweet with all the dried fruit and have a nice light peanut butter flavor. These might have been easier than the Granola Bars I wrote about in Week 17, only need to bake once. So enjoy this healthy little snack, and do something hillbilly today!

Serving size: 24 muffin tins. Calories: 152 each.

Recipe credit to: Mr. Alton Brown, Food Network.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Week 23: Homemade Pasta

Well, last week you were introduced to my Italian Grandmother’s pasta sauce, so I decided I would try and make some homemade pasta. When I looked it up, there are only 3 ingredients! What?! I am always amazed at what you can make with eggs and flour. Millions of baked goods I think. I got a few attachments to my Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas a few years ago and have not really used them yet. So I decided to break out the pasta maker attachments and give it a go. I was a little afraid it would be a bit of clean up, but actually, it was really simple and surprisingly easy to clean up. Have fun with it! Make all kinds of shapes. I need to experiment a little more, but definitely worth just a little effort.

Homemade Egg Noodle Pasta

  • 3 large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Special ingredients: Kitchen Aid Mixer and pasta maker attachment

Step 1: Break and beat eggs in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add water. Fill with extra water until the liquid amount is at 3/4 cup mark.

Step 2: Sift flour and add to Kitchen Aid bowl and attached flat beater.

Step 3: Turn to Speed 2 and gradually add egg/water mixture to the flour. Mix for 30 seconds.

Step 4: Stop mixer and switch to the dough hook and knead on Speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Step 5: Remove mixture from bowl. I needed to add a little more water since my flour is always dry. Hand knead for 30 seconds to 1 minute. I divided mine into two balls and just formed them so that they would stick together. Add a little water as needed. It should be a little sticky to the touch.

Step 6: Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Step 7: Roll into small, walnut size balls.

Step 8: Assemble your pasta maker attachment to your Kitchen Aid mixer. Select the type of pasta you would like to make. I tried the thick spaghetti.

Step 9: Turn mixer to Speed 10 and slowly feed the dough into the hopper. You will need to add a few before it starts to come out of the pasta holes. When the pasta is the length you want, stop the mixer and cut with a knife.

Step 10: Lay pasta out on the counter or I put a little flour on a cookie sheet and just let them dry out a little while I was feeding the mixer with little pasta dough balls. Fun!

Step 11: Cook the pasta in 6 quarts of boiling water with a tablespoon of salt. I cooked my fresh pasta for about 5 minutes, I was not really sure when it was done, but fresh pasta does not need to cook for long.

Step 12: Enjoy with your favorite pasta sauce, like Grandma Jam’s.

Okay, I know this seems like a lot of steps, but I found that this was pretty easy to make! It is pretty hard to beat just 3 ingredients. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid mix you could just combine and then roll out the dough and cut your pasta. Homemade pasta is really wonderful, easy and fast to make and just a little Italian hillbilly! Enjoy.

Yield: 1 pound of dough. About 184 calories per serving.

Recipe credit to: Kitchen Aid

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Week 22: Grandma Jam’s Pasta Sauce

I have wanted to share my Italian Grandmother’s pasta sauce recipe for some time now, and I have been craving it lately so I think it’s time. Next week I plan to attempt some homemade pasta, which I have not really done before, so stay tuned, it should be interesting! Get ready for a little Italian cooking!

Well, a little history on my Grandma Jam. She was an Italian dynamo standing 4-foot, 11-inches tall! She always wore high heels, just to gain a few inches, wore beautiful jewelry to match every outfit, and had wonderful hip clothes. So cute! And she really loved to feed her family. Whenever we would visit her house, she always had steamed artichokes, roasted peppers, beets, and of course a big old pot of pasta sauce. There were always candy or treats hidden in the dinning room cabinet that we would always find and eat!. But, her pasta sauce is by far my favorite sauce I have ever had. I tend to like sweet flavors and Grandma’s sauce has a nice sweetness that makes pasta (rigatoni are my favorite) taste soooo good. This is certainly not a low-cal sauce with all the pepperoni, but boy is it tasty. Enjoy!

Grandma Jam’s Pasta Sauce

  • 1 large can tomato sauce (use a good Italian brand of sauce, makes a difference!)

  • 2 small cans tomato paste

  • 1 small/medium onion (whole or cut in half)

  • 1 garlic clove chopped

  • 1 pepperoni stick (cut in 2" pieces) or just a bunch of sliced pieces

  • 1 non-smoked ham hock (browned or meat with bone)

  • 1 tomato sauce can filled with tomato juice or water

  • 2 tomato paste cans filled with water

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 spring parsley fresh (dry = ½ tablespoon)

  • 1 spring oregano fresh (dry = 1 teaspoon)

  • 1 spring basil fresh (dry = 1 teaspoon)

Special ingredients: a big stock pot

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large stock pot or crock pot. I use the crock pot and just let it cook! For the stove top version, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 2 hours until thickened. For the crock pot, mix and put on low for 8 to 10 hours. Add additional spices to taste.

Step 2: Throw away onion, fresh herbs, bay leaf and I also throw away the sliced pepperoni pieces (they are pretty cooked out and tasteless)

Step 3: Serve with your favorite pasta.

Uh...that’s it! Yes, Grandma can cook! She used to add meatballs or browned ground beef it you want a meat sauce. This freezes really well and the sauce actually tastes better after it has been frozen since the flavors become enhanced. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Thanks Gram for being a little hillbilly!

Recipe credit to: Grandma Jam

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Week 21: How to get your interest rate re-adjusted, down!

I decided to deviate from my normal blogging of food related topics this week to see if I can help anyone who is having problems with their adjustable rate mortgages. I know this doesn’t seem very hillbilly, but actually it fits into my hillbilly theme really well. I am writing about helping my brother get his crazy adjustable rate mortgage that was at a 11.25% interest rate, re-adjusted down to 6.68%! Now I would say, that is like help’in my kin, and that is hillbilly.

So here is the short version of what has been going on for the last 3 months. My brother’s home had an adjustable rate mortgage that adjusted over a year or two years ago and was sitting at 11.25%!! Crazy! No wonder so many homeowners are defaulting on their homes with rates like these. So I began trying to help my brother either refinance or see if we could get his interest rate re-adjusted. We first decided on trying to get the rate dropped, since refinancing was really not a good option for him, since his home has come down in value. We decided that collectively, we spent over 8 hours on the phone, getting transferred from one department to the next, trying to find someone that knew anything at the lender! I kept track on one of my attempts and was transferred 8 different times, was given 7 different phone numbers, and got nowhere! No wonder so many mortgage companies are going out of business, their service is horrible. So after my fury and relentlessness, we prevailed! My brother went to phone in his next payment today and got a live person that said, his rate was being adjusted from 11.25% to 6.68% and that he didn’t need to make his next payment until April. VICTORY!! He was about as happy as a clam.

So I wanted to give anyone that has a loan with GMAC the steps needed to re-adjust your loan. Watch what vocabulary you say on the phone and do not deviate from the script given below, because it took multiple attempts to learn the right words to say, to get through to the right person, to get the result we wanted. Each department does not know what the other department is doing, so you will most likely get wrong information if you just try the regular customer service department. Good luck, best wishes, and I hope you have the same success as we did!

Step 1: Download the following form from GMAC’s web site, Financial Analysis for Homeowner Help. Fill it out and fax it back to the number on the document: F: 866-709-4744

Step 2: In the income & expense section of the document, make sure your income is at least $250 more than your expenses. They want to see that you have a little cushion in your finances. (Trust me on this!)

Step 3: Follow up about 3-5 business days after you have faxed in the document. Your information should be in the system by then. The number to call for this is: 800-799-9250. Ask for an Account Specialist. (Very important to say this, don’t describe your document or anything, just ask for an Account Specialist)

Step 4: The Account Specialist is the only person that can help. I believe they are in the Loss Mitigation Department, but if you ask for the Loss Mitigation Department directly you will get sent all across the company! This person will ask some questions and whoever’s name is on the loan will need to be on the phone. Trust me on this too. I do not have 3-way calling, so I had to put my land line on speaker phone and my cell phone on speaker and do my own hillbilly method of 3-way calling, so that the Account Specialist could hear my brother and he didn’t have to try and call back and get lost in the transfers, again. Answer all the questions. If they ask if your hardship is permanent or temporary, say that it is permanent.

Step 5: They said it would take about 10 business days to see if he could get his rate readjusted. Make a note in your calendar and call back if you have not heard anything to: 800-799-9250 and ask for... yes, an Account Specialist.

Well that is it. No guarantees, but at least you will get to speak with someone that can help you. Remember, the Account Specialist is your friend. These steps seem pretty easy as I am writing them up now, but this was days worth of calling and re-calling to get the right information. Another note, if you don’t have your taxes escrowed/impounded, do it! Ask to speak with someone in the Escrow Department and they can help you out. Make it easy on yourself and just have your taxes taken out every month and be done with it! No one has all that extra money just lying around waiting to pay their taxes, and if you do, then you probably are not in this position anyway and signed up for a fixed interest rate when rates were at historic lows! Best wishes!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Week 20: Brownie Bread Pudding

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! We decided to cook in for the holiday and made a wonderful ham with a yummy cranberry glaze, homemade mustard (for another Blog), scalloped turnips (from the Pioneer Women’s web site), and broccoli. A pretty good meal!! We were about 2 hours behind schedule somehow and didn’t eat until 9pm, but hey, we had fun anyway.

We were trying to decide what to do for dessert, of course we were planning something chocolate, and it got decided for us. A few days before Valentine’s Day, one of Scott’s co-workers had brought in some brownies for their Valentine’s party and they were like bricks! They were made from one of those brownie pans that is shaped like a zig-zag so that every piece of brownie has edges. Well, I guess they got over baked or maybe the zig-zag pan is just not what it’s cracked up to be?! Who knows? Anyway, Scott said why not just make a bread pudding out of the dry brownies & the next thing I knew we had a bag of brownies at home to make bread pudding. So the challenge began!

Well, first let me say, bread pudding is about my most favorite dessert in the world. There is something about bread pudding, with just simple ingredients, you can make so many varieties of sweet and savory bread puddings. Valentine’s Day 2004, Scott researched about 50 bread pudding recipes on the web and put them all together in a bread pudding cookbook! Ah, how romantic! It was a wonderful gift and I have been making all sorts of bread pudding for years now. So now I needed to adapt a recipe to use brownies instead of bread. I decided on a chocolate bread pudding recipe and just omitted adding chocolate, replaced it with brownies and reduced the amount of white bread. I was amazed how wonderful this bread pudding turned out. (okay, they're brownies, how bad could it be?!) We were going to add cherries in the recipe and forgot to put them in. So we decided to soak the dried cherries in some liqueur and then just pour it over the top, and let me tell you, an excellent choice!! Our little cherries were so drunk on Grand Marnier, they were amazing!

Well, have fun with it. Bread pudding is pretty forgiving and you can pretty much add whatever you want and it will pretty much turn out great! This was definitely a hillbilly recipe and thanks Emeril for getting me going!

Yummy Brownie Bread Pudding

  • 3 cups dry brownies

  • 1 cup day-old white bread

  • 2 cups Half & Half

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier (separated in half)

  • ½ cup dried cherries

Special ingredients: Grand Marnier or any type of brandy or specialty liqueur you would like would give a nice little flavor to your topping

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

Step 2: Pre-soak the dried cherries in 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (super yum!)

Step 3: Wisk together eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier

Step 4: Add Half & Half to the egg mixture. Mix well.

Step 5: Cut brownies and bread into 1-inch size pieces

Step 6: Place white bread in the milk/egg mixture and let soak for 15 minutes.

Step 7: Place brownies in the bottom of the greased pan.

Step 8: Pour white bread, egg, and cream mixture over the brownies.

Step 9: Bake in the oven for about 45-55 minutes. Bake until the pudding is set. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the brownie bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream (my favorite type) and pour the soaked cherries over your ice cream. You could even heat up the drunken soaked cherries a little and then pour them over the ice cream, that would be pretty good too!

Enjoy just one of my favorite bread pudding recipes. It is any easy dessert & pretty impressive. And it might be a little hillbilly!

Recipe credit to: Adapted from Emeril’s Creole Christmas

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Week 19: Homemade Crackers

I am a carb lover!! Give me pasta, bread, sweets, and crackers and I am all over them! I can admit that I am addicted to carbs and I am okay with it! We have been making a lot of soups lately since it has been chilly in Southern California, yes, in the 50's! Well, we finally used up all of our crackers and I thought, hey, why not make our own crackers. We used to love a home brand of multi-seed crackers at Whole Foods, that were loaded with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, and all kinds of spices. Well, I guess Whole Foods decided to out source these crackers to someone else and we just don’t like them anymore. So I thought I would try and see if homemade crackers would do the trick.

So, I took out my Joy of Cooking and of course, they had a section on crackers. Really, all they said is use any bread dough or pizza dough and just roll it out thin and cut them into crackers. Easy! Who knew?! So I decided to use a basic pizza dough recipe, which used ingredients I always have in the house (I think all bread is like that). The process was really easy and I just used my dough hook with the Kitchen Aid mixer. The part I had a hard time with was trying to roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick! How the heck do you do that? Any suggestions would be appreciated!! I was able to get the edges pretty thin, so they crisped up nice when they were baked, but the middle pieces were thicker and didn’t crisp up and dry out as much as I would like in a cracker. The taste was great, but when they cooled down, they were a little more rubbery. (They are great re-heated in the toaster oven!)

So, it is worth a try to make your own homemade crackers and experiment with different doughs and toppings.


  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (105 to115 degrees)

  • 3 ½ to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Special ingredients: nothing, just use what you have in the house for seasonings. I had some truffle salt crystals that I crushed and sprinkled on top of the crackers, YUM!!

Step 1: Place yeast and water together in your mixer bowl and let stand for 5 minutes until dissolved. (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, but this could all be done by hand as well, just a little more tiring!)

Step 2: On low speed mix in the flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil and stir.

Step 3: With the dough hook mix on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes. I found I needed more flour in my dough since it looked too sticky and no way I could roll it out. I think you just get a feel for how much is enough flour. I stopped it a few times and pushed on the dough to see if it sprang back a bit, if so, then you probably have enough flour and the kneading process is about done.

Step 4: Transfer dough to a bowl that has some olive oil in it and just coat the dough ball with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours in a warm place. I just sat it on top of the stove to keep it warm.

Step 5: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Step 6: After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into two balls. Let sit for another 10 to 15 minutes, lightly cover.

Step 7: Now the messy part! Put flour down on the counter, take one of your dough balls and start rolling it out to 1/8 inch thick. (Tips would be helpful!!) Try and get the dough as thin as possible. You may need to add flour on top to keep from sticking, but I tried to roll it into a rectangle so my crackers would be square-ish.

Step 8: Cut into squares or any shape you want.

Step 9: Place crackers on jelly roll pan. (I think it will work better than a regular cookie sheet, since we want them to be crispy) Brush crackers with oil.

Step 10: Place any toppings you want. I used course salt, but if you have other seeds, herbs, garlic, etc. go for it! Have fun.

Step 11: Bake for 6 to 9 minutes. I found my thinner crackers were done in about 7 minutes, but the thicker crackers got a little puffy and were just good to eat right out of the oven.

Step 12: Let cool completely and enjoy. For storage, I put mine in zip lock, but they soften up some. I decided to freeze most of them and take out a handful of crackers when I need them and they will stay much longer.

I think that is it. These crackers were pretty easy and fun to make. I definitely like them better than the new Whole Foods version of a flatbread cracker, but you really can’t beat a Triscuit every now & then. Have fun and enjoy!

Recipe credit to: Joy of Cooking

Monday, February 2, 2009

Week 18: Cranberry Vodka

Okay, you might think I am a big drinker, but no, not really. I just like making things from scratch and experimenting with food. My boyfriend got crazy over the holidays and bought a million bags of fresh cranberries before they were out of the grocery store. Fresh cranberries can only be found in the fall and around Christmas time since they are harvested only once a year. If you have always wondered how cranberries are grown, just Wikipedia cranberries! I have seen the commercials with the two guys in the cranberry bog, but how do they grow, in the water? We had no clue, so we looked it up and in short, they do grow on bushes and as an easy way to harvest them, they flood the area and the cranberries then float and are easy to collect. Check it out, amazing!

Anyway, we have been getting creative with our cranberries and decided to make a liqueur. Wow, did this really turn out wonderful. A nice tart liqueur and can be made into all sorts of drinks. Martini’s are a great use for this fresh and really dark red drink.

So, if you have a bag of cranberries in the freezer and don’t know what to do with it, try this easy recipe and enjoy!!

Cranberry Vodka

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries

  • 3 cups vodka

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 cups sugar

Step 1: Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool completely.

Step 2: Place cranberries in a food processor; process 2 minutes or until finely chopped.

Step 3: Combine sugar mixture and cranberries in a large bowl; stir in vodka.

Step 4: Pour the vodka mixture into clean jars; secure with lids. Let stand 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every other day. We put our mixture in a big glass bowl that we stirred every other day. Depends on what you have available.

Step 5: Strain the cranberry mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl, and discard solids. Carefully pour liqueur into clean bottles or jars. Note: Liqueur can be stored refrigerated or at room temperature for up to a year.

193 calories for 1/4 cup.

Recipe credit to: Cooking Light, December 2003

Week 17: Homemade Granola Bars

Sorry for the long delay in posts. Was on vacation for a little bit! Little too cold in Florida for January for me and back to California for 80 degree weather!
I was watching the Food Network again! I really love Alton Brown, he is quirky and always has good ideas and interesting things to cook. I saw his program on making homemade granola bars and thought, perfect. Protein bars and granola bars are always expensive and I tend to eat snacks during the day and really liked having some granola bars around for my mid-day treat. The great thing about making your own granola bars or protein bars, is that you know what is in them and no preservatives! These are pretty simple and you should have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

I took a few of these granola bars in a zip-lock bag on a trip and ended up putting in a brownie I had made as well for my afternoon snack. Well, you can imagine the brownie mashed into the granola bars and, WOW, what a combo! Brownie Granola Bars! Yum. The combo was really great! Since you are baking the granola, you really can’t put in chocolate chips or anything that would melt, but this is a nice way to add some chocolate.

Homemade Granola Bars

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds

  • 1 cup sliced almonds

  • ½ cup wheat germ

  • ½ cup honey

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or almond extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin tins.

Step 2: Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. (I lined the sheet with tin foil, just for easier clean up.) Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract, and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Step 4: Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.

Step 5: Put mix in muffin tins and press down. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

The granola will look like it will fall apart when you take it out, but when it cools, it will harden due to the honey and sugar. Not to worry! Well, there you go, homemade granola. Has some fun with it, mix up your dried fruit, nuts, etc. I think this a pretty flexible recipe, so be a little hillbilly.

Recipe credit to: Alton Brown, Good Eats on the Food Network

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week 16: Pie Birds

Who doesn’t like pies?! I had always thought of pies as sweet desserts, but when my boyfriend, Scott, got a Pie cookbook for Christmas a few years ago, we realized the diversity in sweet and savory pies! Marie Calendars has made millions on Chicken Pot Pies! (Have you seen the calories in the frozen varieties?) Scott is currently on a pie kick, pie for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner! So we have been making a few pies lately, with store bought crust for now, but soon we will move up and experiment with making our own pie dough. Fruit pies are some of my favorites and usually you just make slits in the pie for venting. But, we starting looking into pie vents, AKA, pie birds, and there is just something cool about a little bird in a pie. Anyone can cut a regular little slit in a pie, but a pie bird is so cute and an amazing little invention.
So for Christmas this year I decided to get Scott your traditional black pie bird and... I couldn’t find them anywhere! I checked Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, other local cooking stores, hardware stores, and nothing! The only place I could find a pie bird was online. You practically pay more for shipping than the pie bird, but he was cute. Scott loved him and we decided to name him, Charlie. So this weekend, we used Charlie the pie bird in a mincemeat pie. Charlie did his job, our pie tin was a little too big, but all in all, it worked well and Charlie was happy to be doing his job and venting steam.

I’d recommend when making your next fruit pie, forget cutting those little vents and get yourself a little pie bird and have some fun. It is a bit hillbilly so enjoy! Here is an amazing pie cookbook if you love pies as much as we do and they use pie birds too!

Pie, by Angela Boggiano

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Week 15: Presser Cooker Cooking

Pressure cookers have always been a mystery to me. As a kid, I remember this scary, whistling, dangerous pot on the stove. My mother was burnt a few times and boy those are nasty burns! Well a few decades later, it seems pressure cookers have gone hi-tech! A few years ago, I got a pressure cooker for Christmas, but this was no ordinary whistling scary pressure cooker, but a German designed, hi-tech, hard to get burned pressure cooker! I got a WMF Perfect Plus pressure cooker and a wonderful cookbook called, The Pressure Cooker Gourmet, by Victoria Wise. If you have a pressure cooker, get this book!

I love the concept of short cooking times with the taste of cooking in the oven. I still have some work to do with cooking in the pressure cooker and need to try some more recipes. My favorite way of cooking cabbage is in the pressure cooker, it takes 5 minutes of cooking and 5 minutes of cool down. Easy and awesome. So that has been about all I have cooked in my pressure cooker until this past weekend, when we decided to make game hens! Big step I know, but the recipe sounded so good, Game Hens with Fig, Orange Zest, and Herb Couscous Stuffing in Honey Almond Glaze. Yum! Total cook time was 22 minutes with 5 minutes of rest. We could have cooked the birds a little longer since we had monster game hens, so we microwaved them for a few minutes, but the pressure cooking method was easy. We definitely need to work at this, but I think this is a great way to cook a little hillbilly. Have fun and don’t be afraid to cook with a modern pressure cooker.

Recipe credit to: Pressure Cooker Gourmet, by Victoria Wise