Archive for January, 2011

Veggie Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

There are basically two salad dressings I make. One is this one, and the other…. I’ll share that another day ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve been making it for a while now, and I’m a terrible one for measuring. The truth is, I tried to measure things today in order to share this recipe and I failed at that! So I suggest that you play around with the ratios to your liking.

Here is my best estimates:

  • 1/2c frozen blueberries (can be thawed or fresh)
  • 1-2 minced fresh green chilies (I like this, but you can leave it out if you don’t like it)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4c water
  • 1-2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp flax oil (optional, but it adds omega 3)
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil

First I blend the blueberries, garlic and green chili to bits in a mixie or blender. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the ingredients except olive oil and blend again. Taste and make adjustments. If its too strong, add more water. If its too sour, add more honey. Lastly, add in the olive oil. If you have an opening in the top so that you can drizzle it in slowly while the blender is on that’s better, but its also fine to just add it and blend until it comes together and is thickened. Drizzle over any salad you like.

For the salad I put:

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Cucumber sliced
  • Green pepper in thin slices
  • Yellow tomato, diced
  • Walnuts
  • Dried cranberries
  • Mandarin oranges

You could also add carrots, spinach, jicama, other dried fruits, pomegranate, blueberries, strawberry slices, apples, celery, sunflower seeds. Endless possibilities for whatever you have on hand.

Sending this to Only Salads by Prathibha and Pari and Food Palette – Green by Torview

Williams Sonoma Wheat Bread

I saw this in a cookbook for Williams Sonoma Breads (a very thick book with lots of tips and instructions!). I didn’t check the book out of the library, instead I just wrote down this recipe. But I may go back and get the book sometime because it had tons of stuff in there! I liked that this used buttermilk and maple syrup.

Here is the recipe, cut in half for one loaf instead of two:

  • 2tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • orange zest (optional, I had mixed it with the sugar – this is not in the original recipe)
  • 1/2c warm water
  • 3/4c tepid buttermilk (I used kefir)
  • 2Tbs maple syrup
  • 2Tbs oil
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5c wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1.5-2c bread flour

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and keep aside for 10 minutes till foamy.

Mix the buttermilk, maple syrup, and oil with 1c whole wheat flour. Beat it very well for a few minutes. Add in the yeast and the rest of the whole wheat flour. Mix again. Add in bread flour 1/2c at a time(I add the salt with the first 1/2c here) till a soft dough forms. Knead until it is smooth and only slightly sticky. Form into a ball.

Place in an oiled bowl and turn the dough ball to coat lightly with the oil. Cover and keep aside to rise 1-1.5 hours.

Grease a loaf pan. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and fold the long sides over in thirds. Then take the short end of the dough and roll it as tightly as you can, keeping surface pressure on the outside of the dough. Roll it under your hands to even it out and make it the length of your loaf pan. Place it inside and cover with plastic (I keep a plastic bag from some large wraps I had bought and place the loaf pan inside this). Rise for an hour or until it peaks above the sides of the pan.

In the last half hour, preheat the oven to 350.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

I have to admit I didn’t love this bread. Its fine, but not my favorite one. Others liked it but I felt there was something not quite right about the taste. It could be the yeast I used (I don’t think I will buy that yeast again because it has a very strong odor in whatever I made with it), it could be the tang of the kefir. It could be my user error because it took FORVER for the dough to rise, probably due to the cold weather. I would give this another try though, because its probably my fault and not the recipe.

Sending to BYOB.

Final 10 days of the COTC Challenge and the Results Are In!

Whew… Its been a good month. A cold and long month, but a good one. This month I committed to baking all my own breads from scratch and buying nothing for my pantry or freezer, only fresh produce and limited dairy products. I succeeded!

First, let me recap the last 10 days. I dropped the ball a bit, and went out to eat 4 times (2 lunches and 2 dinner). Sometimes when you are out shopping and having a good time, you are too tired to cook. Maybe I’m making excuses ๐Ÿ˜€ย  I know its not healthy, but its so convenient!

This week I bought:

  • Yogurt, plain
  • Baby Greens (salad mix)

As I had said originally, my goal is not to spend as little as possible. 90% of what I buy is organic, and it does cost a little more. Unfortunately, there are no coupons for fresh produce and I am very choosy about the milk and eggs that I buy (from local farms). I DO look out for sales though, even on fruits and vegetables, and love going to farmer markets. So, here are my total spent each week rounded to the nearest $.50:

Week 1 ~ $41.50 **

Week 2 ~ $21.50

Week 3 ~ $36.00

Week 4 ~ $ 6.00

Total Spent = $ 105.00ย  for 3 people

**(this was before I decided to do the challenge, so there were 6 things bought that did not fit my rules)

My Goals for the rest of the year:

  • Seek out coupons for branded organic products (I do this some, but I could do more… by visiting websites of brands you like and websites such as mambosprouts you can find coupons on healthy foods!)
  • Create a Price Book- a pocket sized notebook in which I write the things I buy frequently, and the price of them at various stores I shop at. Then I have a quick reference of which store has the best prices for each item, and how good of a deal Im getting. I used to store all this info in my brain, but ohh… how age affects the memory and I’m only in my 30’s! Sad!
  • Continue to try to use more variety of whole grains such as quinoa, kasha, amaranth, millet and barley.

Thanks to all who followed my progress, cheered me on, and those who I joined along with at frugal follies!

Homemade Pizza Dough and Sauce

I just made an amazing pizza! One of those pizzas that tastes like it came from your local pizza place… and not the cheap crappy pizza place, but a real authentic one! I’m pretty excited about it, in case you couldn’t tell. My only worry is I wont be able to replicate it, lol. So, I will try to describe exactly what I did, so that you too (and myself) can make this gorgeous dough once again (BTW, I think this will make awesome naan!)

This is loosely based on Peter Reinharts recipe, but I did not follow it precisely (shocking right? lol)

Here is what I did:

  • 1 1/2c warm water
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1.5 Tbs olive oil
  • 1c all purpose flour, unbleached
  • 2-3 c of bread flour, unbleached
  • 1 tsp salt

Super Bubbly Crust!!

Mix 1/2c of the warm water with sugar and yeast. Let the yeast activate for 5 minutes or so. Add in the rest of the water, the olive oil and the all purpose flour. Mix it and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add in 1c of bread flour with the salt sprinkled over the top of it and sort of mix it into the flour then into the dough mixture. This is my crazy paranoid way of adding salt to bread dough because Im scared of killing the yeast. Then continue adding in the bread flour 1/2 c or so at a time until you get a very soft and still slightly sticky dough. I think moisture in the dough is key! Knead it until it just barely sticks to your fingers. Coat a large bowl with olive oil and coat the dough as well. Put it covered in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 475 (mine is a gas convection oven). Coat the bottom of your baking tray or use foil in the baking tray and put the oil on that which is what I did (unless you are using a pizza stone) with olive oil and coat your hands also. Cut the dough into about 3 equal portions, depending on the size of pizzas you want to make. One technique I picked up somewhere for making pizza is to squeeze the edge of the dough with your hands while letting gravity stretch the dough downwards, continuing clockwise around the edges. I did this until it was mostly stretched and then I put it on the baking sheet (remember to have everything well oiled!) and finish stretching it to the size you like. Let them rest about 10 minutes. Then pop this in the oven ON THE BOTTOM RACK. *This may depend on your type of oven*. I had two trays of pizza so I had one on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack, switched them after 5 minutes for a total of 10 minutes. This method produced a crisp bottom crust, no doughy middle and a light fluffy dough with lots of yummy bubbles!! Don’t let the bottoms burn.

Remove from the oven after no more than 10 minutes. It is just to partially bake the crust. Next slather on your sauce and pile on your cheese and toppings. Pop back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes (this time I used two middle racks and switched them again halfway.)

My toppings:

  • Very thinly sliced sweet onion
  • Thinly sliced green pepper
  • Black olives
  • 4 cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, Fontina)

And, yes, I did not forget the sauce:

  • 4 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/3-1/2c water depending on how thick you want it (peter reinhart says do not make it very thick, and I have to agree)
  • 2 tsp italian dried herb blend (oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil)
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes or chili powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

This is going to Yeastspotting

Countdown to the end…. of the COTC Challenge

I think I did pretty well last week except once I went to dinner with some girlfriends. However, I still cooked dinner before I left, so I don’t think this counts as breaking the rules, ya know, social obligations and all! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m still cooking away but those jars of beans and grains don’t appear to be budging. It will take some time to finish them, and that’s okay. I just need to use them more regularly.

As expected, my freezer supplies are dwindling, and its getting a little harder to think of meals to make. Don’t worry, I will begin to restock come Feb, and at least it will be fresher and more organized.

For this week I bought:

  • Bananas
  • Cucumber
  • Cilantro
  • Pomegranate
  • Swiss Chard
  • Eggplant
  • Ginger root
  • Green onions/ Scallions
  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • Italian 4 cheese blend

Just 5 more days to go!

Mexican-ish Bean Dip with Frijoles Refritos (“refried” beans)

If you have been to a Mexican style restaurant in US, you have probably come across the mashed beans known as refried beans. Well, I had some tortilla chips and dried pinto beans in my cupboard, so I thought, why not try a bean dip? I thought the refried beans will be a quick and simple thing to make. To be honest, its simple, but it does take some time. Luckily, I made enough for two batches and froze one for another day. Yay! There is some technique to getting that lovely creamy mashed texture. This video helped me a lot.

I also learned something. The term refried beans is the result of Americans “English=izing” a spanish word refritos. The prefix “re” in English usually means something that is done over again. Like replay a song, retake a test, etc. But the same is not true in spanish. So while fritos does mean to fry/cook, “re” just means to do it really well. So, it is just well cooked beans. Okay, lesson over.

  • 2c dried pinto beans- soaked overnight and pressure cooked withย  bayleaves for 2 whistles (must be very soft, even falling apart) – Don’t drain the liquid
  • 3-4 green chilies minced
  • 2 sm or 1 lg onion, diced
  • 4 big cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp dried mexican oregano, or other dried herbs
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 Tbs butter + oil
  • salt

Fry onions till brown (cook them really well for at least 15 minutes) in butter and oil. Add garlic, stir. Add the spice powders. Then add 1 ladle of beans without the liquid. Mash them really well with the onions in the pan. Add 2 more ladles of beans, along with a little cooking liquid. Continue to mash. Repeat untill all beans are in the pot (No need to add all of the liquid, just a little bit with the beans to cook with).

After mashing to the point you like, turn up the heat and keep stirring. Once beans start to thicken, reduce to medium and cook until you can run the spoon through the pan, and the bean mash does not immediately come back together. Then you’re done!ย  I divided this in half, let the other half cool first, then freeze it in a plastic freezer bag, flattened.

this is how it looks when its done

Now, butter an 8×8 baking dish (or larger if you use the whole thing) and preheat oven to 350.

Spread the beans mixture in the dish, and top it with lots of chopped spring onions and shredded cheddar cheese(mine is sharp white cheddar). Bake until cheese melts, around 15 minutes. Serve with salsa and tortilla chips. **I also like to spread the chips on a cookie sheet and pop them into the oven for 5 minutes or so after taking out the bean dip, just to warm and crisp the chips!

This dip was really scrumptious and I topped it with homemade avocado salsa. Don’t leave out the spring onions if possible because I think that took it over the top (and JF agrees!).

Salsa:

  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 2 tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 shallot, diced small
  • 2 green chillies, minced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt to taste

Mix together and let the flavors blend.

Im linking this to Aipi’s Bookmarked Recipes and MLLA hosted by Simona and Susan, to Real Food Fiesta and to Hearth and Soul!

Hearth n' Soul Blog Hop at A Moderate Life

Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Muffins – a little bite of sunshine

On these cold winter days, we need something to perk us up. Put a spring in our step. For me, that is lemons.

The first time JF and I met, we had lemon poppyseed muffins. He commented how those were his favorite, and so, they always remind me of that day. ๐Ÿ˜€

This recipe has been in my box at least four years. Four years! I had written it down out of a cookbook called Luscious Lemon Desserts. I totally lurrrve lemon!! I saw another popular lemon muffin recipe online, but using just one little lemon… it definitely did not have enough intense lemon punch for me. Lemon flavoring? No way. I did change a few things from the original; less butter, less poppyseed (I like a lot of poppyseed, but wasn’t brave enough to add the whole 3 Tablespoons the recipe called for), cake flour and whole wheat pastry flour, and the addition of ginger, which I think subtly enhances the lemony-ness. Feel free to leave it out if that aint your thing.

  • 1c cake flour
  • 3/4c whole wheat pastry flour (or you can use all purpose flour in total of 1 +3/4c)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 Tbs poppyseeds
  • zest of 2-3 lemons
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 4 Tbs (4 ounces) or half stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • juice of 2 l lemons (I got 1/3c) Meyer lemons are great too!
  • 1/2c milk, room temperature or slightly warmed but not hot
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger (optional)(increase for more intense ginger taste)

Preheat oven to 375

Rub together lemon zest and sugar in a bowl, and let it sit while you finish the other tasks. This will infuse the sugar with the lovely lemon aroma.

Line muffin tins with papers or grease them.

Mix or sift together dry ingredients. Stir in poppyseeds.

Beat together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the butter, milk, and lemon juice. Add the flour mix and stir until it just comes together without overmixing. Its okay if there is a little flour not totally incorporated. This will make for very tender muffins. Just to let you know, when I added the dry to wet, it bubbled up quite a bit due to the lemon juice reacting to the baking soda. Thats fine. If you want to wait for it to calm down, it wont affect the final product either! Spoon into the muffin tins.

Bake for 15 minutes or so. It may still look pale on top. You don’t have to let them turn golden because the pale ones are more moist.

Optional Glaze:

I like the glaze for an extra lemon zing, but its good without too!

Just stir together powdered/confectioners sugar with lemon juice till you get a pourable consistency. A good starting point is 1/2c powdered sugar and juice of half a lemon, depending on how much glaze you like.

I’m linking this to Seasonal Sunday.

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