Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

This is the infamous NY Times No-Knead Bread recipe, and all of the rumors are true. It is the most amazing bread recipe EVER.
No, I've never made bread before. This was my first try. But aside from having an absurdly long rise time (18 hours), I love everything about this bread. Even the rise time isn't that big of a problem if you time it right-you could mix up the ingredients right before you go to bed at night and then bake it when you get home from work the next day. It would totally be worth it.
The only warning I want to issue is this: the dough is incredibly sticky. I mean, very, very sticky. You need to flour anything that touches the dough, including your hands, if you want to avoid getting dough bits stuck everywhere. The plus side to this is that it is the super-wet dough that allows the bread to be so low-maintenance and yet so delicious. The exterior is crusty, the interior is fluffy and chewy.
So do not be afraid of homemade bread! It is easy, I promise. Now go, bake and prosper.

3 C flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 C water (5/8 C = 5 ounces)
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and the salt. Make sure you use a big bowl because the dough is going to double in size.
Add the water and stir just to combine.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for 12-18 hours in a warm place.
After at least 12 hours has elapsed (I usually wait 18, but it's your call), the dough will have doubled in size and will be very bubbly.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold it over onto itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, flour your hands and quickly shape the dough into a ball-ish shape. While you are doing this re-flour the cutting board (or wherever you have the dough resting.) Cover with a floured towel and let sit for another 2 hours. If rest the dough on a towel like I did, make sure you flour the towel really well or the dough will stick to the towel. Also, don't use a terrycloth towel. If you do, the little nubs on the towel will likely become embedded in the bread and we don't want that!
Half an hour before the 2 hours are up, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a heavy covered pot (I use enameled cast iron, but anything heavy like pyrex will work) into the oven to warm up. Turn the dough into the heated pot.
Bake covered for 30 minutes. Half-way done bread! At this point, your kitchen will begin to smell delicious. You will feel unexpectedly happy and secure. This is all part of the plan.
Now bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. The crust will be dark and golden.
Mmmmm, bread!
See all of those lovely air pockets?
I recommend you eat at least a slice while it is still warm from the oven. Butter is (obviously) delicious, but you could dip it in olive oil and balsamic, too. Mmmm.

Another quick note-please make sure you don't put your very hot pan on any uncovered wooden surface. I'm usually very good about this but I accidentally burned my wooden countertop the second time I made this bread. Very sad. Learn from my mistake! Cover your wood!

<3 Stef

Friday, March 27, 2009

Recipe: Blueberry and Cheddar Pancakes

I have to be honest and say that this recipe isn't mine. I stole it from Aleta Meadowlark (which might just be the coolest name EVER), who runs the blog Omnomicon. She stole it from The Joy of Cooking. I took it and made it fit for the lazy person in your life. The original recipe involves making the pancakes from scratch. This is not difficult by any means, but I always use Bisquick for my pancakes. Bisquick is always what my father used, and I always thought that his pancakes (made with Bisquick) were much better than my mother's pancakes (made from scratch.)
Anyway, to view the original recipe, go check out Omnomicon. For my lazy version, read on.

Bisquick (2 C)
2 eggs
1 C milk
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 C frozen blueberries
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese

You are going to make two batches of pancakes-a cheddar batch, and a blueberry batch. This way you can eat the cooked pancakes together, for maximum delicious. Get out two medium sized bowls, and put 1 C Bisquick, 1 egg, 1/2 C milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in each.
Mix the ingredients together half way. Alton Brown (my idol) says that Americans have a tendency to beat batter into oblivion, and that we should all chill out and leave well enough alone. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but he has a point. So resist the urge.Measure out 1/2 C of the frozen blueberries and choose a batter bowl to add them to. I chose the red bowl. You are supposed to thaw and drain them, but I didn't bother. This didn't seem to affect the pancakes in any way, but you can feel free to take the extra step if you like.
Shred 1/2 C of cheddar cheese, and add it to the other bowl.
Mix both bowls again so that the additional ingredients are distributed. Purple pancakes? Awesome!Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat, and add about 1/2 tsp of veggie or canola oil. Once the pan is hot, drop about 1/4 C of batter per cake. Flip when the tops get bubbly. Repeat as needed.
Forthcoming-Pancake Porn.
Mmmmmm.Oh yeah.
Serve stacked on top of each other.
I LOVE the way they look like this, all colorful, stripey and fun! I think this will be my new desktop image. I admit, seeing them stacked on top of each other is part of the reason I decided to make them to begin with. That, and cheddar cheese in pancakes sounded way too good to pass up.
Can you imagine serving these for breakfast? MAJOR points, people. Major points.

<3 Stef

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Read Recipes: Measurement Abbreviations

I've been writing this blog for a bit now, and it recently occurred to me that not everyone may be familiar with the measurement abbreviations found in many recipes, including mine.

I started this blog in an attempt to spread around my cooking philosophy--basically, it's easy, quick, and fun, and anyone can do it! In this spirit, I've decided to start posting little mini-tutorials on basic kitchen tasks, like proper knife handling technique and how to peel garlic effectively, all of that good stuff. The first one, as you may have figured out from the title of this blog, is how to read recipes effectively by deciphering those pesky measurement abbreviations.

The three used the most are for cup, teaspoon, and tablespoon. These are abbreviated as:

C for cup
tsp for teaspoon
TB for tablespoon

A few more:

lb = pound
oz = ounce
gal - gallon
pt = pint
qt = quart

You might also find liter, which is:


You probably won't find many recipes in liters in the US, but it never hurts to know. Learning is half the battle, after all.

These are the basics. If you feel I've missed anything, or have any questions, leave it in the comments!

<3 Stef

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recipe: Cheese Tortellini with Lemony Chicken and Asparagus

I usually post Fridays, but I am flying to Seattle this evening for an interview with Seattle Pacific University. I didn't want to deprive you of my culinary genius for a whole 24 hours, so I thought I would just list my recipe early this week. ;-)
This recipe is very easy and super delicious. I tend to cook a lot of pastas and soups, for a few reasons.
1. I'm broke.
2. They are easy to make, and require minimal clean up.
3. My boyfriend is much pickier than he would have you believe.
I elected not to use a cream sauce for this dish, because I am trying (half-heartedly) to eat healthier and lose some weight.
This recipe can very easily be made vegetarian. Just use a whole pound of asparagus and eliminate the chicken, and substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth.

12 oz cheese tortellini. I used fresh; you can use dried or frozen, whatever. The only thing it will impact is your cooking time.
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 lb asparagus tips
1 TB crushed and chopped garlic
1/3 C chicken broth
Juice of 1 small lemon, approximately 1/8 C
1/2 tsp flour
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
grated parmesean, to garnish
Set a pot of water to boil for your pasta. While you wait for the water to boil, you will be making your sauce.
First, chop your veggies and the chicken. You want to slice the chicken into little strips.
Chop the asparagus into quarters.
Next, crush the garlic with the flat of your knife and chop into tiny pieces.
Heat 1 TB of olive oil in a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly brown, but not burnt.
At this point, add the chicken and cook until half cooked. This is what partially cooked chicken looks like.
Add the asparagus, chicken broth, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. It is important to add the asparagus while the chicken is only halfway cooked because you otherwise run the risk of overcooking the chicken. Dry chicken is just as bad as undercooked chicken. Perhaps worse, actually, because once it is overcooked it is difficult to talk down from the ledge.
Yum yum yum. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir. Allow to simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Add the chicken and the asparagus to the cooked tortellini, reserving the sauce in the pan.
Next, you are going to reduce the sauce by half. Boil the sauce over high heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Bubble bubble bubble.
Be sure to watch the sauce, or it will reduce too much and you will have too little sauce! This is just about perfect, but even then I think I reduced it just a little too much.
Not exactly the most flattering picture, but tasty just the same.
Add the reduced sauce to the tortellini, chicken and asparagus. Stir to coat and serve with lots of parmesean.
Mmmm. Doesn't this look lovely? The end result is slightly lemony, which is perfectly complemented by the parmesean.
I should note that this recipe is meant to serve two people. You could probably serve 4 if you don't eat very much. My boyfriend and I polished off the whole thing ourselves, but we had seconds. We're eaters.

<3 Stef

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recipe: Chicken, Pea Shoot and Fennel Soup

I invented this in a moment of brilliance. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I was thinking. I had a bunch of veggies from my produce box, and I knew I wanted to use the pea shoots. They were getting wilty.
So, I threw a bunch of ingredients together and as I was chopping onion and meditating on the flavor of the pea shoot, I thought to myself, "Hm. I should put some fennel in this!" So I did. And it was good.

Serves 2.
1/2 LB of chicken breast, boneless/skinless, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed and diced
1 large bunch of pea shoots, enough for 2 cups, leaves and outer stems ONLY**
1 TB fennel leaves
1/4 C dry sherry (you can leave this out if you prefer)
5 C chicken broth
1 TB olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

**Note about pea shoots:
Pea shoots consist of three parts--the stalks, the leaves, and the outer shoot. The outer shoots are the bits with the leaves attached. The only parts you want to eat are the leaves and the outer shoots. The stalk is way too tough. Believe me, I tried to eat it! Strip the stalk of the shoots and leaves, then roughly chop them.

Chop all of the vegetables and the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the diced onions and garlic and heat until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock and the fennel and bring to a boil. When the stock is boiling, add the pea shoots. Let boil for about 3 minutes, then add the sherry and turn off the heat. Check seasonings, and add salt and pepper.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Recipe: Winter Chicken Pot Pie

Oh no! I nearly forgot all about my weekly DinnerLove recipe post. Lucky for you I have remembered just in time!
I call this "winter" chicken pot pie because I use a wintery vegetable mix of leek, carrot and potato instead of your basic pot pie veggies like corn and peas. This is yet another recipe of mine in which cream sauce plays a vital role. I'm telling you, all you need is a basic cream sauce recipe and you can make nearly anything.

1 pre-made pie crust (say what you will. I use pre-made crust because it is EASY.)
1/2 LB skinless, boneless chicken, light or dark, depending on your taste
2 small or 1 medium leek, cleaned, split and chopped
1 C chopped carrot, around 2 large carrots
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 large clove garlic, or enough for 2-3 tsp, chopped
2 tsp salt
ground pepper
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 TB butter
1 TB flour
1 C milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚.
Melt the butter in a pot on the stove. Add the garlic and leek, saute 5 min. Add the potatoes, carrot, and about 1/4 C of water. Lower heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10 min.
While you wait for the veggies to cook, dice the chicken. Add the chicken, rosemary, and thyme. Cook for 5 min. Add the flour, stir to coat, and add the milk. Let the sauce thicken at medium heat for about 5-10 min, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the salt and the ground pepper. Pour the mixture into a pie plate (or a medium-sized casserole dish) and cover with the pie crust. Flute the edges and cut several vents into the top of the crust. Put into a 350˚ oven for 40 min.
The crust should be golden brown and slightly crispy. Make sure you let the pot pie sit for at least 10 min before you cut into it because it is going to be very hot. If you can't wait (I never can!) just be very careful. Getting your mouth (or hands) burned is no fun at all. Other than that, enjoy!

If you have any questions about this recipe, feel free to contact me!