Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls (ABM)

I have two dinner roll recipes that I like to use. This one is my favorite. The rolls always rise, they're always light and fluffy. I make them two ways: I either form them into rolls (shown here) or I grease the wells of a muffin tin, and divide each of the 12 equal dough pieces into 3 pieces, place 3 dough pieces in each well, allow to rise and bake. You'll see this method when I share my other dinner roll recipe.

3/4 cup water
1 tbsp shortening [I've used butter with great success]
1-1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp dry milk
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp bread machine yeast

Measure carefully, placing all ingredients in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. For my machine, this is all liquids, followed by all dry with yeast last.

Select dough/manual cycle.

Grease large cookie sheet. Punch down dough; place on lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. [For the best instructions on shaping rolls, go here.] Place slightly apart on cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe from Betty Crocker's Bread Machine Cookbook 1995

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New To Me Kitchen

This little story starts back in September 2010. I attended my cough-cough-unintelligible-mumbling-cough high school reunion. Back story: I used to run with three other girls in high school. These days, one cuts my hair, one is a realtor and has kids in the same daycare as me, and the third is a mortgage broker who had kids in my daycare. The mortgage broker also had a house for sale. In my hometown. A house that I had always dreamed of living in. Okay, actually, it's my third choice for living in but choice number 1 is a family home with the 4th and 5th generations currently living there and choice number 2, while it is for sale dirt cheap requires way too much work to be lived in. Which makes me sad. But choice number 3 is a lovely home. I know because after looking at it (and other houses) for almost a year, in April 2011 I made an offer on the house. On July 1st I signed the paperwork and July 2nd I moved in.

I love my house, not so excited about the My-Other-Personality-is-a-Grandma decor, but still love the house. One of my favorite rooms, obviously, is the kitchen. Not surprising that this is the first room to get a makeover. It was done in this horrendous blue and big flower wall border, and painted dark green and brown. So not my thing. I wish I had better before pictures, it really was atrocious. I stripped, primered and painted. Most of the stripping was done over the course of a week, most of the painting was done over the course of a 3-day weekend that coincided with my daughter's 4th birthday party. I did finally finish painting sometime in November. Okay, maybe it was the beginning of December, there by beating my previous "6 months to paint a kitchen" record by 4-1/2 months.

You may recognize the colors in the new kitchen, the light tan (called Dried Stem) and red (called Crimson Sky) are from the old kitchen. I added a third color, called Tahitian Treat, for a little oomph. It took me awhile to get used to it, but I really like the affect. I outfitted the kitchen with a used $50 stove and The Nightmare From Dugans Fridge. There are a few more things I'd like to do in the new kitchen, painting cabinets, new hardware and new flooring, and they'll come with time.

A few things I love about my kitchen, the stove is not by the fridge. Maybe that's weird, but I actually like having the two appliances separate from each other. I have a range hood above the stove. I have tons of cupboard space. The house came with a built-in dishwasher which quit working after about 4 uses. It's an ancient model and isn't worth fixing as I kept my portable model from the apartment. One of these days I will pull out the old dishwasher and convert the portable to a built-in. For now though, I replaced the kitchen faucet so that I can connect the working dishwasher. It's not convenient, but it works. The final thing that I love about my kitchen is the lighting. The lights are semi-enclosed over the counter top space. It wreaks a little havoc when taking night time food photos for the blog, but I absolutely adore the lighting when cooking. I will eventually figure out the lighting issue to get better pictures (or at least as better as I get) on the blog, I promise.

A few things I dislike about the kitchen... not much. I don't like that I really don't have shelving for cookbooks. Underneath my microwave I have six drawers, only two of which I actually use. I will eventually remove four of the drawers and put shelving in that area for my cookbooks. Yeah. That's about it. One thing and it's completely fixable. Two things if you count the dishwasher situation, but that's also completely fixable with a little muscle and know-how.

Memories are in the making in this kitchen. I know I'm going to be happy here for a long time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm Not Dead!

I'm not dead, I swear! Life's very very very busy these days. Much busier than I ever thought I could be. It seems like I have a hundred things going on - I'm (trying to) resume my German studies, I'm (trying to) keep the house cleaner so I don't waste an entire weekend cleaning, I'm trying to do more yoga, I'm still working on decorating the house - which seems to involve hours of research on Pinterest, and being a multi-millionaire in FarmVille isn't easy. Oh, and kids and a boyfriend. I have those too. Basically I'm spending a lot of time trying to be WonderWoman and reading has been slipping through the cracks.

I'm slowly working my way through A Tale of Two Cities. I'm loving it as much as I did first two times that I read it. Probably understanding a lot more this time around too. I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed in myself. I was really hoping to rock this challenge. Maybe reading isn't going to be a priority this year. I can hear my TBR shelf groaning in misery from here...

We'll see how the next few months of challenges go. I may need to do a six-month evaluation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Potato Chip Chicken Strips

This recipe sounds like it should be a winner - I mean, seasoned sour cream, potato chips and chicken? What's not to love?! - but didn't win over our household. I'm not sure what didn't work. I know for me the chicken came out really dry, perhaps the baking temp is too high. The Spawn has a natural aversion to real chicken so his thumbs down vote wasn't surprising, but even The Diva passed on these. Maybe a good thing as this recipe isn't the healthiest I've ever seen...

1 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp garlic salt [used garlic powder]
1/8 tsp onion salt [used onion powder]
1/8 tsp paprika
12 oz pkg potato chips, crushed
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a shallow bowl, combine sour cream and seasonings. Place crushed potato chips in another shallow bowl. Dip chicken strips in sour cream mixture, then coat with potato chips.

Place in a greased baking pan with sides. Drizzle with putter. Bake at 400 degs for 20-22 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Serve with favorite dipping sauce.

Recipe from Taste of Home Good Food Kids Love Oct 2006

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Ribbon Cookies

Here's another recipe from my mom's files. Possibly one of my favorite cookies from childhood. I was disappointed that my kiddos didn't like them. It's hard to explain why they are so good... the firm soft texture and the burst of chocolate flavor... on second thought, I'm kind of glad I get these all to myself!

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder

In a small bowl, melt chips in the microwave or over double boiler, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla.

Add flour and baking powder. The dough is usually very stiff and I have to finish mixing it [literally] by hand.

Set aside 1/3 of the dough. Mix melted chocolate with remaining 2/3 of dough. Please use the mixer! The chocolate makes this dough soft and sticky so it can't be kneaded.

Divide chocolate dough in half.

Line a bread pan (9x5x3) with saran wrap, enough to completely fold over the top. Press half of the chocolate dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Press plain dough over the layer of chocolate. Press remaining chocolate dough over the vanilla. Cover with saran wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. After chilled, remove dough from saran wrap. Cut dough in half the long way. Cut each half into 1/4" slices. Bake sliced on an ungreased cookie sheet for 7-8 minutes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Apple Bread (ABM)

This loaf turned out beautifully, even though I still haven't replenished my bread flour supply. The sweet potato and apple flavors are very subtle - which seems to be my biggest complaint with this cookbook. I want bread with more pronounced flavors. I did pop this loaf into the freezer to serve with soup at a later date.

Recipe makes 1-1/2 lb loaf

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple, peeled and shredded
2 tsp margarine or butter
3-1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp active dry yeast

In a small saucepan combine water and potato. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, covered, about 8 minutes or until very tender. DO NOT DRAIN. Mash potato in the water. Measure the potato-water mixture. Add enough milk to make 1 cup total. Cool to room temperature.

Add ingredients to machine according to manufacturer's directions. For my machine, I add all of the liquid ingredients first, followed by dry ingredients and add the yeast last.

I set my machine to 1.5lb loaf, basic setting, light crust.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Bread Machine Bounty 1992

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Apple Spiced Pork

First, I apologize for the bokeh-like photography. I'm still getting used to the new camera. I'm not sure if it's not as good as my old camera or my limited photography skills render the new camera useless. Bear with me, folks.

Second, this recipe didn't live up to expectations. Partly my fault because if I had read and thought about the recipe, I would have realized it's pork, apples, etc. in BEEF gravy. Too much of a mix for my tastes. The Boyfriend thought it smelled awesome while it was cooking, but he'd already eaten supper so didn't try it. Another recipe that won't be going on the menu again, but I'm going to share it anyways.

2 cups uncooked yolk-free noodles
1 lb pork tenderloin cut into 1/2" slices
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 tbsp canola oil
2 medium tart apples, chopped
1/3 cup raisins
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4-1/2 tsp cornstarch
14 oz (approximately) can beef broth
2 tbsp chopped walnuts

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown pork with celery and onion in oil; drain. Add the apples, raisins, brown sugar, seasoned salt and cinnamon. Cook and stir over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until pork is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and broth until smooth; gradually add to the pork mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with noodles. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Notebook

The NotebookThe Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I've tried to read this book several times in the past, never getting past the first few pages. This book came up as the selection for Book Club and I promised, promised, her I would read the whole book. So I did it. Thank goodness it was a short read.

I don't care for Nicholas Sparks's writing. Too much tell and no show, to much introspection, too much detail of thought and movement (although not as bad as Ted Dekker) and flat-out too much melodrama.

This book starts out as a boring story - there is no dialogue for the first thirty pages. THIRTY. 3-0. And never ramps up to a climax. It's obvious from the start how the story ends. So finally, reaching page 30 and getting into some dialogue... it's fake, forced and clumsy.

A redeeming quality of the book: if you like heavy melodramatic star-crossed soul mate love stories, this is it. There are a few passages where Sparks shines with a little bit of talent, when he gave me an emotional thought that was real and I could hang onto.

Synopsis: A man with a faded, well-worn notebook open in his lap. A woman experiencing a morning ritual she doesn't understand. Until he begins to read to her. 

The Notebook is an achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, a story of miracles that will stay with you forever.

Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II. Noah, thirty-one, is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories. . . until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.

Allie Nelson, twenty-nine, is now engaged to another man, but realizes that the original passion she felt for Noah has not dimmed with the passage of time. Still, the obstacles that once ended their previous relationship remain, and the gulf between their worlds is too vast to ignore. With her impending marriage only weeks away, Allie is forced to confront her hopes and dreams for the future, a future that only she can shape.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments, and fundamental changes that affect us all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beef and Spinach Lo Mein

I thought I'd share this recipe with you even though my family didn't care for it. The Boyfriend and The Diva weren't fans of the water chestnuts. I didn't care for the sauce. This won't be on the menu again at our house.

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb beef top round steak, thinly sliced
6 oz uncooked spaghetti [used lo mein noodles]
4 tsp canola oil, divided
8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/4 cup sliced green onions
10 oz pkg fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 red chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced [couldn't find red chili pepper so I omitted]

In a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour 1/4 cup into a large resealable plastic bag; add beef. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 10 minutes. Set remaining marinade aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or wok, stir-fry beef in 3 tsp canola oil in batches for 1-2 minutes until no longer pink. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Drain noodles and set aside. In the skillet or wok, stir-fry water chestnuts and onions in remaining oil until onions are tender. Stir in the spinach, spaghetti and reserved marinade. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.

Return beef to the pan; heat through. Garnish with chili pepper.

Recipe from Taste of Home Cookbook 2011