Friday, January 29, 2010

Pizza Dough!!!

Alright, speaking of all things dough... I overcame my pizza dough phobia thanks to my recent bread making extravaganza. And it wasn't a big deal at all! I found a recipe that went something like this:
Combine 1 pkg. yeast, 1 tsp sugar & 1 Cup warm water in a bowl. Stir gently to get the yeast to dissolve, then let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until it gets kind of foamy.
Then add 2 Tbs Olive oil and 3 cups of flour - little by little - until combined.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth & elastic.
Then put into a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for about an hour until doubled.
Then divide into 3 equal pieces and let rest another 5 minutes.
Roll out into 12 inch circles and do your thing from there!
Bake in a 400 oven till crispy.

I did one tonight with olive oil, pears, carmelized onions, bacon & gorgonzola cheese - my favorite combo!! It was so good, even my bad dog managed to hijack the last two pieces off of the table when we weren't looking. So much for leftovers..
Anyway, if you think it's too complicated or time consuming to make your own dough, just give this a try. It's super cheap & all you need is a spare hour & you will have pizza to rival C.P.K's!

Houston, we have BREAD!!!

I did it! I made ciabatta bread! It was fabulous. The whole crazy process was worth it, if for nothing else but to give me a little faith and fuel the fire that is burning with yeast and flour.

I must confess however, that my focaccia rolls ended up in the trash due to failure to rise. I realized later, after a call to my sister's yeast hotline, that I didn't add enough of the little magic granules. But I did get the correct measurement and I shall try, try again...

And now I am just days away from pulling my weird little jar of sourdough starter out of the fridge and see what happens.

Here's to the bread frenzy ensuing in my kitchen!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commitment? Obsession? Resolution?

I'm not sure which of the above it is. But my desire to finally figure out the magic & mysteries of bread making has once again taken over. Perhaps it was born from the sad state that my food supply was in for the last week or so. That and realizing that bread is made from about 2 or 3 ingredients, I can do that! That AND the fact that I am a total, unabashed bread junkie.
But, I suck at making bread.

I've been through these times of hope, belief, obsession before. It's always ended in some form of disaster. The least of which is a total disaster in the kitchen, all the way to the disaster of having little bugs in the 7 million pound bag of flour that I obsessively purchased from Costco, (then stored in my garage, in Hawaii = bugs).

Well about a week ago, I figured I would make fococcia. My rosemary plants are going crazy, I could make rosemary focaccia hamburger buns! How hard could it be? So I called my sister to get her recipe, hoping there was no yeast involved. There is. I rummaged through the fridge & behold! I fond a packet. A soggy packet. "Does it need to be dry?" I asked. Uh yeah, it does. So I scrapped the idea. For now.

Then a few days later I did a search for bread recipes that don't require yeast. I discovered that sourdough bread is made from a starter consisting of nothing but a bit of flour & water and a three-day kind of science experiment! Did you know about this? You can check out this site: to see the details. So of course, I was inspired and now I have a little jar of flour & water in a quiet corner of my kitchen. I'm supposed to feed it every day (more flour & water) and it grows! Then it goes into the fridge for a few more days and THEN, it's ready for the whole adding flour & letting it rise a couple of times part. Why am I not just buying a $2 loaf from the bakery at Safeway again? Nevermind. We'll see how it goes...

I now have a spark of belief that I, too can make great bread. So yesterday I found myself at Costco with flour and yeast on my shopping list. And I took the plunge, yes committment. I commited to like, a pound of yeast, and a HUGE bag of bread flour. You know, I'm talking about the giant pillow sized quantities meant for bakers. In a bakery. A commercial bakery. Good God, what am I thinking?

Well, at 11:00 last night I decided to start a batch of ciabatta. I know... I got the "your crazy" text, but here's what's really crazy: for two loaves of bread, there is 15 HOURS of mixing, resting, rising, kneading, shaping, rising again & baking. But there's something about it. Something magical, I tell you. There's something nurturing going on here.

As if those two little bread projects aren't enough I figured, why not tackle that focaccia?! So as I type these words I have:
1). A little jar of flour & water doing it's thing on the counter which will eventually be sourdough.
2). A bowl of ciabatta starter, which is about an hour away from it's first round of adding flour, more yeast, salt, mixing, kneading and the next hour and a half of rising.
3). Focaccia rolls rising in the oven.

Nothing like going from zero to the extreme, right? Well, I will keep you posted and if I can avoid disaster in the next few hours, I will certainly do some show & tell. We shall see.......

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Cook

How about those moments where you are standing in front of the fridge with that hopeless, forlorn, blank stare. Then you move to the pantry, & stand there trying to connect the food dots from the pantry to the fridge. What to do with horse radish, endive & blueberry jam, you ask? Well, I stumbled across this website last night, (thanks to that coffee I had in the afternoon, that kept me up till 2am!) and surprisingly, found the answer! Anyway, thought I would share it with you in hopes of rescuing us all from dispair.

The site is The thing I love about this site is that you type in ingredients that you already have in your kitchen and it gives you suggestions of what you can do with them. You can create a free account and then you can store recipes and your ingredient list. GENUIS!

I even tried to throw it off by entering whacked out ingredients, which was entertaining. I was very happy to see that when I entered "hot pockets" into my ingredients (which I DO NOT have in my kitchen, but let's just say I know someone who would & after watching Jim Gaffigan's stand up bit about them I thought it would be interesting..), so I'm happy to report that a box popped up saying they were "unfamiliar with that ingredient". Thank God!

SO anyway, I know this will come in very handy for avoiding those confrontations with fridge & pantry and it can even provide some late night entertainment!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Pork Roast stuffed with Carmelized Onions & Herbs

When my kids come back from their dad's, I always have this overwhelming urge to nurture them with real food. Not that chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, pizza, & sugary cereal aren't their dream foods... Not on my watch! This was dinner the other night.

First, carmelize some onions in some butter and a couple Tbs. of brown sugar.
Meanwhile, open up an unrolled pork roast so that it lays flat. Sprinkle with garlic salt & pepper & some chopped rosemary and parsley. Then layer on the onions.
Roll up & tie with kitchen string.

Brown on all sides on the stove top in a pot. My mom got me a cast iron pot for Christmas (shown at left). I love it and I have used it almost every day. It's great because it holds temperature great, has a lid and can go from the stove to the oven, which is where it goes after the roast is browned.

Oh! But first, toss some carrots into the bottom of the pot and pour over about a cup of water.

I put it in at about 350 for about a half hour. But my oven is a fossil, so don't hold me to that temp. Make sure you let it rest a while before removing string & slicing. While it rests, put the pot back onto the stove and add about 2 cups of the water from the potatoes that you surely have been cooking for mashed potatoes. Deglaze the bottom of the pot and then add about 3 Tbs of cornstarch to 3 Tbs of water and add to pot. Stir until thickened and voila! You have a perfect gravy.

My children gobbled everything up, which always makes me SO happy to see them eating something they love, and makes me feel like I am doing my part to nourish their bodies & their souls.

Quote of the Day:
"Most people get off on watching porn, I get off on watching men chop pork" ~Anthony Bourdain

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maitre D

Here's another winner from the blokes at Molly Dooker Wines. It's a cab. It's big. It's got a good label. It's not wimpy. What more do I need to say? Try it!

Quote of the Day:
Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Othello, II. iii. (315)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Creamy Rosemary Potato Soup with Bacon

I'm trying to give you all another winter fix here. My kids love potato soup. And they really love bacon. I made this the other day for lunch to rave reviews.

Chop up about half a package of bacon and throw it into a pot. Cook until crispy and then remove from pot, leave bacon grease in pot and add about a half a chopped onion and a clove or two of garlic and cook until soft. Add a few big, peeled & chopped potatoes and some chopped rosemary. Then add about 2 cups of chicken stock & 2 cups of water and simmer until potatoes are tender. Then add about a cup or two of milk or cream. Remove about 2 cups of soup and mush it in the blender for a bit, then add it back to the pot. Add the bacon back in and get ready to curl up with a bowl and some crusty bread!

Quote of the Day:
"When I was a young man, I had a mentor on women and he said when you meet a woman that you think you like, don't ask her for a drink. Take her out for a bowl of soup. Because a woman who can enjoy a bowl of soup is bound to be more interesting".
~Art Cooper

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hot, Creamy Comfort in a Bowl

Speaking of comfort food (as we were a few months ago), oatmeal is one of those things that always works to bring a little coziness to the stomach. I live in Hawaii, so it's not quite the same as when I was a kid and my mom would make me a bowl of hot oatmeal before I trudged through the snow to catch the school bus, but still.

And right off the bat, I must say, I'm not talking about that weird stuff that comes out of a little packet with options like peaches & cream and such. I'm talking about old fashioned oats. Cooked on the stove, not in the microwave. I am a fan of steel cut oats, myself.

I think the comfort part comes from a big blob of melting butter with brown sugar and cinnamon and just a touch of milk, or better yet cream! It's a perfect thing in my book.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Indian Spice Chicken

This has been my new favorite concoction. After my shopping spree at Whole Foods, a while back (see the December, "I'm Sorry!!" post) I splurged on garam masala & cardamon spices, and I've been loving the exotic flavors they bring.

When you open the jar of spices, it smells like Christmas, it smells like India, and when you add that to savory dishes, something pretty cool happens. This dish is similar to the Morrocan Chicken Stew recipe posted in November, except the chicken isn't shredded after it's cooked.

You can improvise with whatever you have on hand, but here's my recipe....
Season Chicken with garam masala, cardamon, ground ginger, paprika, salt & pepper.
Brown in a large saucepan and then remove. (It won't be fully cooked yet, that's ok).
Add one chopped onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves & saute for a bit.
Pour in about a cup of white wine and a cup of chicken stock and stir to deglaze the pan.
Add some chopped cherry tomatoes, or canned tomatoes a bundle of fresh herbs and a cinnamon stick.
Simmer until chicken is cooked then add some chopped, fresh herbs and serve. This is great over rice or pasta.

Friday, January 8, 2010


We had a pretty casual, grown up Christmas eve at my house this year. My parents brought the traditional crab legs and my contribution was a cheese fondue. I have only made fondue once before and it was ages ago. So I thought it would be a good one to tackle for our picky dinner.

I don't have a fondue pot, so of course, I had to improvise. We put a bowl of hot water under the bowl of fondue and it worked fine.

I pulled a million things out of the fridge as dipping materials; french bread, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper & broccoli. I roasted some asparagus, fingerling potatoes, & sweet potatoes, and grilled some chicken & steak that were marinated in indian spices.

Fondue originated in Switzerland as a way to use up hardened cheese, and was therefore a peasant dish. Works for me! There are only a few ingredients, although my recipe called for a cherry liquer called Kirsh, which i didn't have, plus it sounded weird, so I omitted that. Other than that it's pretty much cheese and wine. Say no more, right? It was a hit. And it was really easy, even without the fondue pot. Give it a try for your next picky dinner.

Here's the recipe I used:
Rub the inside of 2 quart saucepan with a clove of garlic.
Add 2/3 C. dry white wine and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
Heat over low heat until gently bubbling.
Gradually add 8 oz. shredded gruyere cheese & stir till melted.
Whisk 1 Tbs. Kirsh (I just used water) with 2 Tbs. cornstarch and a little black pepper & nutmeg until it forms a smooth paste.
Stir into cheese and cook for 3 mins. Adjust seasonings & serve.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Ball Buster

Finally! I am able to introduce you to my favorite, favorite wine. Chosen originally for it's name, of course. there's no way I could resist a wine called the Ball Buster!

Tait Wines makes the Ball Buster & since I discovered this Barossa Valley blend of shiraz, merlot & cabernet sauvignon, I have been forever ruined. What I mean is that I never used to know that wine could be thick and rich and smooth. I've rolled my eyes at the adjective "jammy" when describing wines... until the Ball Buster. I didn't know the feeling of taking a sip of wine and having to close my eyes and really feel how deep & delicious it is. My disclaimer here is that once you do, it's really hard to go back.

I have been jones-ing for the Ball Buster for months. I go into the wine shop hoping to see it on it's usual shelf, but nooooo... Apparently there was some drought in Australia which in turn, brought a drought to my supply of my favorite wine. But behold! Last night TWO bottles were presented to me in my kitchen! The drought is over!

We cracked open a bottle, and once again, I was ruined all over again... Give this one a try if you like big, rich wines. I promise, you will be ruined too.

Quote of the Day: We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine."
Eduardo Galeano