Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My 1st Sourdough Bread and naming my sourdough starter...

Sourdough bread’s history is long and interesting, I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the many ways to start, grow and use it in my daily baking and cooking.  So far, I’ve been more than impressed with the results.   I love seeing how I can make “something” out of practically nothing more than basic ingredients most people – even if their kitchen isn’t “stocked” have – as well as the fact that it’s….dare I say… EASY.   I’m LOVING the fact that I can produce fancy “bakery” style loaves to compliment a simple homemade soup, or produce an Artisan Looking loaf for when we have friends over for dinner.  OH – and let’s not forget to mention… it tastes awesome.
It started with the *NO-KNEAD BREAD Where after searching the web, I fell in love with sites like Breadtopia and Yeastspotting  I’ve also learned that there are some “secret” starters / recipes, that people are more than willing to share their starter… just not their actual recipe.  Now, playing with flour, and yeast (whether naturally leavened or store bought active quick rise) has become an addiction of mine!
This is the latest update from my new Sourdough ventures… as it’s the first loaf I made using a starter that was simple…as long as you remember to feed and water it.  It’s a growing, “living” (kinda weird eh?!) THING that resembles something like “THE BLOB”, I really do think I should name THE BLOB…  as I’ve grown kinda fond of it…. Hmmmmm.
Step One – Sourdough Starter (recipe adapted from Breadtopia)
I used one of Breadtopia’s recipes, and followed along with his basic method for managing the starter.
  • 3 ½ tablespoon  whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice (I used a “no-sugar added” one)
-  Whisk flour/juice in small plastic (clear) container until well combined
-  Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature
-  Stir/whisk well  2 to 3 times a day
48 hours later….
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
- Whisk flour/juice into starter mixture
- Cover, and set aside at room temperature for another 48 hours – stirring 2 to 3 times a day
- At this point, you should see the start of some fermentation activity (BUBBLES).  If you don’t you may want to toss starter and try again
48 hours later….
  • 5 ¼ tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
- whisk flour/water into starter, cover and set aside for 24hours. (Mixture should have bubbles/show signs of fermentation)
24 hours later....
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup water
- Add flour/water to starter mixture and stir well, at this point you should have a very healthy starter.  (if not, you may want to toss, and start again)
At this point do a little bit of research on how to maintain your starter.  Me, I’ve been “feeding” it on a weekly basis, and before I baked with it, I made sure I fed it twice prior to baking, to make sure it was as strong and as “healthy” as I could get it.  (still… haven’t figured out a name for my growing BLOB)
It was just over a week and a bit before I tried out my starter, decided to play a little with the fermentation / proofing a bit, the end result… a delicious loaf of Sourdough Bread, and one of the coolest parts – it’s STILL a NO-KNEAD bread!! Woot Woot!

Sour Dough Bread (No-Knead)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups Bread flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup starter
    *For this recipe, when it came time to actually bake the bread, I used a round heavy 3 QT Ceramic pot with lid, which is safe to use in a 500F oven. * (Winner’s had one for $15)

    - Mix whole wheat flour, bread flour and salt into a large (non-metal) mixing bowl
    - Mix water and the ¼ cup of starter into a separate bowl (I just used my 2 cup measuring cup)
    - combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients  with a plastic (or wooden) spoon.  Dough should be sticky, however, pull away from sides of bowl when done.  *remember this is no-knead so you should be able to mix it well enough with just a spoon!*   If required, add a bit more water, or flour until dough looks like this:
    Here’s the “tough” part….
    - Cover with plastic wrap tightly (so dough doesn’t dry out) and put into fridge for 2 days (up to 4 days) Just leave it,  alone in the fridge to slowly rise/ferment further
    2 days later…
    - Remove dough from fridge, and let sit on counter for 1-2 hours until dough doubles in bulk
    -Take dough out of bowl and turn onto a generously floured countertop
    -carefully “push” out dough to form a rectangular shape.  (be careful not to play with the dough so much that it deflates)
    -fold dough one side of dough into the middle, repeat with other side, then fold in half again
    - Place in a proofing bowl (or I used a lightly oiled ceramic mixing bowl), cover and let rise again for an hour.
    - After an hour, place the ceramic pot with lid (one that’s safe to withstand temp of 500F) into your oven, and preheat oven to 500F, let your dough continue to rest for another 30-40 minutes.
    - Carefully and quickly remove hot pot from the heated oven, and using both hands, take resting dough and “flip” bowl upside down, so that the dough drops neatly into the hot pot.  Place lid back on pot, and put back in oven for 30 minutes at 500F
    - Remove lid and reduce oven temperature to 450F, bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped.
    - Remove finished bread from hot pot, and place on cooling rack.  You should be able to hear the crust crackling!
    This bread was YUMMY with a little herbed butter (Italian seasoning, and 1 gloved garlic minced, and mixed into softened butter)   
    Making this style of bread is teaching me patience; however, the reward is well worth it!  It also helps to know that TIME is really the “one” who’s doing all the work here….This makes it that much easier to wait!  From everything I’ve read, there are a billion variations.. I’m just getting started!
    Then there’s this ongoing small issue I have… I STILL haven’t named my starter.  It’s alive..and healthy… in my fridge, happy to be taken out and feed once or twice a week…  hmmm…  Mr. Blob?? Bob the Blob?  I’ll need to work on that one….maybe over a piece of freshly toasted sourdough….

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Mexican Lasagna & The Code of Ethic's

     Who doesn't love Mexican food?? AND Who doesn't love Italian?? Why not throw em' together and create a yummy mix?!  Mexican Lasagna - for me, curbs the craving for lasagna - which can be quite heavy and loaded with cheese and "stuff", and helps satisfy my honey's love and constant want for Mexican - and all things spice! oooo and did I mention how *easy* this is?!
    Mexican Lasagna
    Well, I’m just home from a fabulous “Girl’s Weekend Away” – Hosted by good friends of mine, and fellow blog writer Shannys Shenanigans and I have to say, can she plan a party! I was impressed with all the “little” details she took care of to make it a successful trip away!  15 ladies, 1 cabin, NO CELL SERVICE and several feet of fresh snow – what could go wrong?! Haha… nothing!  We were all given a goodie bag, full of fun, and some sweet treats, but which also contain a couple of key pieces – the Girl’s Code of Ethics, a button in case you forgot what happened, sleeping mask, and even a hat for those bad hair days! 
    Now, I could go on and tell you about the many hilarious and entertaining details of the weekend…BUUUUTTT that would go against “The Code”,  I can however say, the theme of the weekend – Mexican Fiesta, and although it was cold outside… inside was hot hot hot! *giggledamrequired*
    The orange slice jello shots rocked, and fresh made festive cupcakes a perfect and simple dessert for us ladies!  Mexican food was planned throughout the entire weekend, even down to homemade tortilla shells for our slow cooked pulled pork fajitas – YUM YUM!  This was my first girl’s weekend, and a quick thanks to everyone who made me feel welcome and apart of the weekend – next year is the 10th annual weekend – wow! What a bunch of fun ladies!  Of course not all activities were inside… bonfire and even a late night snowmobile ride added some excitement to the weekend away.
    That's Tiffany hanging out by the sleds
    When I got home, I just wasn’t ready to give up the whole Mexican themed meals, and since my other half loves anything with a kick, I decided to continue on the trend for our Monday night dinner.   This is a simple twist to lasagna, and you can pack it full of healthier options to keep it a little lighter than the traditional Lasagna dinner.  You are in control of the “spice” level, by the heat of the salsa, added Chipotle Chile Spice and peppers you add. Also, this recipe can be doubled easy – or downsized, you be the judge! For a dinner that would feed 2-4, I found this size was perfect – as there were the 2 of us, and enough left over for lunch the next day!
    Mexican Lasagna
    • 1 ½ lbs ground pork (I used 1 small package)
    • ½ cup diced onion
    • ½ cup diced green pepper
    • 2 garlic cloves minced
    • 1 can black beans – (low sodium)rinsed well
    • ½ cup frozen corn (or can of corn nibblets)
    • 1 ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
    • 1 cup favorite pasta sauce
    • 1 cup salsa
    • 4 large tortilla shells
    • 1 ½ cup shredded cheese (I used marbled cheddar & Monterey Jack)
    -Preheat oven to 375F, spray a round casserole dish with PAM Cooking spray
    -In a large non-stick pot or skillet, cook ground meat, onion, peppers and garlic until meat is no longer pink.  Break up ground meat as much as possible.
    -Add Black Beans, corn, chili powder. Cook and stir for another 2 more minutes
    -Add pasta sauce, salsa and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
    -Assemble the lasagna – place 1 tortilla shell in bottom of dish, making sure bottle of dish is covered completely
    - Spread 1/3 of meat mixture over shell followed by ½ of cheese.
    -Repeat with remaining layers. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cover with foil
    -Bake for 35 minutes @ 375F.  Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly.
    -Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes prior to cutting and serving.
    Recipe Variations – ground chicken or beef would be yummy, as well, serve with a dollop of sour cream/green onions.  For more of a kick – add in a diced jalapeno pepper and use spicy salsa.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Garlic & Herb Homemade Pizza Crust & that special "Mushy Day"...

    SO, most "bloggers" I know, did a big write up in anticipation for Valentine's Day - showcasing all the yummy desserts that are often associated with that mushy day.  Me -not so much.  Oh don't get me wrong, my intention was there.  I had the best of intentions to bake up some creative sweet treat for my honey.... but... time just wasn't on my side... heck, I even was "kicked out" of my kitchen....without really even knowing what was going on... while HE took over the kitchen, and the results... definitely "sweet", cute..adorable...and not to shabby tasting!  BUT before I was allowed to see why I was told to "drive home slowly", I thought I'd share what made this year's "mushy day" special.  You see, we decided we didn't need to go to a fancy restaurant, spend inflated dinner prices to enjoy each other's company... nope, we decided we were going to play a little in our own kitchen...  and this was the result:
    Garlic Herb Pizza Dough
    How can you go wrong with Homemade Pizza?! Also... since I've been playing with dough..bread..etc... why not make a homemade crust.  The pizza itself, we added whatever deli meat / cheese, whatever we had (minus the kitchen sink) haha...  ham, pepperoni, peppers, mushroom, capocolla, chorizo, feta, monteray jack and cheddar cheese, used a simple marinara pasta sauce (seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper to taste), and voila!  Homemade YUMMY Pizza.  But of course, it all starts with the pizza dough, this one... is fast and easy... and most important, pretty darn good :)

    Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2/3 Cup lukewarm water
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon active yeast
    • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped garlic cloves
    • 1 tablespoon each fresh oregano, parsley, basil - chopped (if using dried herbs, cut amounts in half)
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    - Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. (let site for 10 mins)
    - Place flour in bowl of mixer. Add dissolved yeast, oil, water, salt, garlic, oregano, parsley, basil, onion powder.
    - Using dough hook, mix well at medium-low speed until all ingredients are incorporated and a dough ball forms around dough hook.
    - Knead for a few more minutes (on a lightly floured surface) until it is smooth.
    - Lightly oil ball and place in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft free area for 1 hour
    - Spread the dough on a large, greased pizza pan (or a cookie sheet works too)
    - Spread pizza sauce onto dough, spreading out to about 1/2 inch inside of the edges.
    - Add desired toppings...be creative!

    - Bake in a pre-heated oven for 22 mins @ 400F
    - Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 mins, cut pizza into desired slices and enjoy!
    And now.... the reason I wasn't allowed in the kitchen... (or even in the house for a few extra hours after work on the 14th...) ....
    OK ... you can say it...  "awwww"  I was totally surprised, and impressed!!  It has to be one of the sweetest things anyone has done for me.  ..... he even made it a layered cake.  *bless* 
    I am one lucky girl to have someone in my life willing to put in that extra special effort.. just for me.  XOR.....

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    No-Pectin Added Blueberry Jam & Dreams of Hawaii *sigh*

    OK - So I know it isn't EXACTLY "berry season" ...  but, in the effort of trying to eat better, keeping fresh, homemade stuff on hand, and, well... just trying new things, aaaannnnnd really - Blueberries were on SALE... as a woman, how am I supposed to pass a SALE up!  (ok, now I'm just making excuses)....
    Homemade No-Pectin Added - Blueberry Jam
     Anyways... I ended up making a batch of No-pectin added, Blueberry Jam. This is a super simple recipe, that can be applied to all different kinds of fruits that naturally have higher pectin levels.  (I tried a similar recipe this past fall with peaches and mango's...yummy...  The key to this is a little bit of patience and frequent stirring. If you're a multi-tasker like I tend to be...while it's on the stove top, there's time to get all sorts of things "done".. or at least started... as now I do have a very healthy Sourdough Starter I mixed up at the same time...  it's a week later, and it's ready for some bread making... I also recently took a Hawaiian Quilting Class - HUGE Thanks and KUDOS to Matt at The Quilted Bear in Ladnar, BC, as he runs a fabulous class, has a great shop and is extremely talented! soooo I worked on that as well. (still a work in progress and I have a feeling will be for awhile).

    No-Pectin Added Blueberry Jam

    • 6 Cups fresh Blueberries
    • 3 Cups sugar
    • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
    - Take 3 cups of the blueberries and put into a heavy saucepan big enough to fit all 6 cups of berries, Using a potato masher, mash the 3 cups of berries until juicy.

    -Pour in sugar and lemon juice, remaining berries, and stir well over Medium to High heat.
    - Stir frequently so not to burn the mixture.  Once all is mixed, and warmed up (about 5 mins), take out your potato masher, and give it a good mash again. (my other half isn't too fond of big "chunks" in his jam, so this ensures its mashed up well)
    - Let mixture get to a slow simmer, stir frequently, letting mixture reduce to almost half. About 30-40 mins.  When in doubt, let it go a little longer. 

    -Remove pot from stove top, and carefully fill clean jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headroom.  At this point, jam is done!  Let it cool in the containers before refrigerating or freezing.  Will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks - freeze any you think you won't use. 
    Enjoy!!  Great on toast...ice cream...crepes... right out of the jar!

    Anyone who knows me, knows I'm obsessed with Hawaii.  Nope - I've never been there.... BUT...**sigh** one day, I will visit.  Every since watching the Gidget movies... I just *HAVE* to go! Part of this obsession, has lead me to Hawaiian Quilting.  I love the detailed work, the unique patterns, as well as the technique.  Though frustrating for beginners (or at least for me it is), I had a great class, and now believe I'm on the road to making some creative quilt designs... Here's the start of my work in progress.... I'll post pictures as soon as I get more completed!!  (it's all done by hand, so this could take awhile!) 
    The patterns are cut like "snowflakes", and then it's hand stitched around... eeek, lots of work, but I think it's going to be worth it!  Stay tuned!

    Maybe after the Girl's Weekend I'm attending up at the lake this weekend, I'll have more to post.  I'm looking forward to it as it's being hosted by good friend's of mine, one who is a party planner at heart as well! (her blog...  Shannon's Shenanigans )  I'm sure she's got a few surprises instore for us!  Until next time....Ciao!

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Orzo Stuffed Peppers...and a Frosty World

    It has been said, that in the same day on the West Coast, you can start your morning off at the peak of a mountain, ski down to the village, have a snack and be on a lush green golf course for an afternoon tee-off.  Our Winter's don't exactly "jive" with the traditional stereo-typed "Winter in Canada".  We don't live in igloos, we don't *have* to take our snowmobiles or dog sleds to the grocery store....  In fact, in order to get a taste of the so-called "Canadian Winter", most of us need to hop in our CARS and drive there!   This past week, we had "spring like temps" on the Coast... but, just a short couple hour drive away, Mother Nature showed us how beautiful a layer of frost and snow...or multiple layers (as you'll see below) can be, especially when twinkling in the sunlight on a bluebird day! 

    Of course, after all that picture taking, one works up an appetite!  If you've been following me at all, you should know by now, I love carbs.  I love PASTA.  However, it loves me too...and so, keeping portion control in mind... I wanted to incorporate pasta...veggies - but in a way that will quench my craving for pasta.  Orzo Stuffed Peppers.....  YUM YUM!  (recipe below)

    Orzo Stuffed Peppers
     Typically our days during the winter months at the lake involve our sleds.  However, we had one antsy puppy, and with the gorgeous frosty morning, instead of racing off on the sleds, we decided to grab the camera, and go see what Mother Nature had been up too.  Duke was quite happy following along, making friends with whom ever would give "hugs" or throw a stick.  Myself, and Jason...  armed with just a point and shoot camera... we found these...

    It was simply stunning to see how the frost seem to be growing off of anything and everything.  Some pieces of frost were the size of small leaves - just way more detailed.

    On whatever trees that had some leaves left, it clung to the branches as leaves like sugar crystals and then sparkled in the sunlight.  These pictures don't do it justice!
    You could also tell which way the wind had blown, as the frost seemed to grow on one side only
    Winter berries even were kissed by the frost, the blast of colour was a brilliant contrast to the layered frost.
    Duke's in the background, looking out over the frozen "river" that pours into Allison Lake.  Looking through the camera lens, it was like we were in a whole different world.

    Of course, after we returned to the cabin, the sleds were fired up, and away we went - who could resist such a beautiful afternoon out on the sleds!!  Which of course, works up an appetite (well it does for me anyways...all that fresh air!)

    Orzo Stuffed Peppers
    • 1 cup favorite pasta sauce
    • 1 small container Ricotta Cheese
    • 1 lb ground sausage  (I used Johnstonville's HOT Italian sausage)
    • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
    • 2 cloves garlic pressed
    • salt / pepper to taste
    • 4 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
    • 1 cup Orzo Pasta
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    - In a saucepan, heat chicken broth until boiling, and then pour in Orzo Pasta, stirring frequently so it does not stick.  Cook until almost done, 3-5 mins. 
    -Using a strainer, and reserving chicken broth, put semi-cooked Orzo into a medium sized bowl
    - Cook ground sausage in frying pan over medium-high heat.  Break apart as best as possible. 
    -Once sausage is cooked, add in garlic and chopped spinach, salt/pepper and stir frequently until spinach is wilted.
    -Once spinach is wilted, mix in meat/spinach mixture, ricotta cheese, pasta sauce into the orzo.

    -Hull out peppers, and cut a thin layer off bottom of pepper if needed so they can stand up straight. ( I used a glass pie plate to cook peppers in. )
    - Stuff the hulled out peppers with the Orzo mixture, and place in pie plate.  Pour 1/2 cup of the reserved, hot chicken broth into the bottom of the pan. 

    -Wrap tightly with tin foil, and bake in a pre-heated oven for about 45 mins @ 425F
    -Remove foil, and turn on your broiler on high, until the peppers start to blister.
    -Carefully remove peppers from oven - and enjoy!!  Careful - filling is HOT!

    The "stuffing" options for these are endless... If Hot Italian sausage is a little much for your taste buds, try regular ground beef.  Feta cheese, with Greek seasoning would be fantastic as well!

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    NO-Knead Bread ---yup...any BEER drinking Gal/Guy can do this!

    OK...SO... I will raise my hand...stand up...and ADMIT IT.  I....L-O-V-E making bread now.  It's like I'm addicted to working with the dough...anxious when it's "supposed" to be rising... and the smells! wow.  When it's finally done... that first slice (if all turns out) is heavenly.  Just made for a butter commercial!

    THEN... reality hits.  I find most people shy away from bread - and it's rising times - and that whole using YEAST thing.  I've been addicted to blogs / books that contain bread recipes. (thank you AGAIN Yeast spotting , Food Wishes - there's a great video Chef John posted using a recipe for this style of bread making)  I'm learning - adapting - adjusting... and so far, results have been awesome! (or I think so!)  I do know of several people that also shy away from just the kneading part, as lets face it....  it's a work out at times!  WELL.. in my latest ventures of bread making 101... I did 2 "new" things.  1st - started off making a "sponge" (ooo getting all techy!) ...and 2nd - I put AWAY the mixer..  brought out a spoon and a spatula as this recipe...no need to KNEAD! SO, while I didn't get that arm work out.. I DID get a beautiful "artisan" looking loaf of bread!
    No-KNEAD Bread! who'da thunk!!
     OK, and here's a lil' secret...  there's a "special" ingredient that's added... BEER! SO, with only a few ingredients, no mixer, no kneading required... even your everyday - Mr or Miss Joe Blow can make this bread!!  ---and did I forget to mention -- minimal rising time...even with the making of a sponge!?  Woot Woot!!

    NO-Knead Bread
    For the Sponge:
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
    • 1/2 cup warm water
    • 1 BOTTLE of Beer  (I used a lager)
    • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt (table salt works)
    • 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
    In a large mixing bowl, place yeast, flour and warm water (not boiling...little warmer than lukewarm), whisk together well.  Cover and place in a draft free - warm area.  Inside of oven with your light turned on works well. - LEAVE IT for 30 mins to let the sponge develop.
    It should look something like the above - bubbly and "spongy" when stirred with a spoon. 

    Next, add the BEER, slowly (it'll bubble up a bit), salt and all 4 cups of flour.
    Give it a real good mix with the spoon until the sticky, gooey dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Be patient with this, as it may take a couple of minutes to  mix the flour in well.  *if it appears too dry - add a bit of water. *if all flour is mixed in, and it doesn't want to start to pull away from the side of the bowl, add a bit more flour.  Your dough should look like this:

    Cover the bowl with a dish towel - I used the tip from Food Wishes and dampened the towel with HOT HOT water, rung out thoroughly.  Placed it back in my oven with the light turned on.   Let it rise to double the size.  (mine took about an hour)...some say it can take up to 2 hours.

    Now, using a spatula, mix the dough well.  This will deflate the dough and unstick it from the sides of the bowl. 

     Turn out the gooey, sticky dough on to a well floured surface, (cover your hands with a bit of flour, as this helps you remove and work with the dough).  I just rolled the dough a few times into a "log" shape, and placed it onto a lightly floured and greased (I used PAM spray) cookie sheet. 

    Back into the oven it goes - and cover it with a DRY tea towel.  Let rise for another 30 mins.

    Keeping dough covered, remove from oven (if in) - or if you placed it else where on a counter... just let it sit there a while longer -  Place a loaf pan half full of water in oven, and pre-heat to 425F.

    Once oven is ready - uncover dough, and take a sharp knife, slice down length if dough.  Then, slice again down same length.  Sprinkle top of loaf with a little bit of flour.  Now place, uncovered, in oven.

    Bake at 425F for 35 mins to 40 mins or until loaf is a golden colour, and sounds hollow when "knocked". 

    Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

    Once cooled.... slice open and ENJOY!  Awesome with butter... and went perfect with a homemade soup! 
    For this loaf... I used the  Whistler Brewing Company - Powder Mountain Lager.  Worked great. 

    Throw in a hearty soup, maybe another Beer (or 2), and you've got yourself a comforting, YUMMY meal! 
    I think, next time... I'm going to start playing with "flavours" for the bread...asiago cheese, roasted garlic, rosemary... okok... now my mouth is watering....mind is creating....  Have a great weekend everyone!