Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Irish brown bread

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I’ve been on a mission since my trip to Ireland last summer to recreate the brown bread that is provided in nearly every single pub there. It was just so moist and delicious, perfect for going along with soup or by itself. I had made Irish soda bread before, but this brown bread is a completely different animal. I tried several recipes, tweaked them, combined them, and finally figured out that the ingredients in the US are very different than those available in Ireland. Specifically, you need a coarse wholemeal flour. It’s very important. Using the standard finely milled flour widely available here will still taste good, but it’s not the same. I could not find it anywhere here, and didn’t fancy spending $12 on shipping to order it online, but I was able to bring some home from a recent trip to the UK. With a final recipe tweaking… success!

Irish Brown Bread
– 2 cups wholemeal flour (or whole wheat flour if wholemeal unavailable)
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– 1/2 cup wheat bran
– 1/2 cup wheat germ
– 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
– 3 tbsp honey

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients and stir. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 400F for 45-50 minutes.

the first fruits of my garden

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Or herbs, as the case may be. I grabbed some basil today…

…to make my favorite pesto sauce.

(If that looks like a lot, it’s because you can’t just eat some of this pesto sauce. You eat it all. Well, I froze half for later to remove it from temptation.)

Since I got my garden going late, I missed out on rhubarb. Luckily, my whole family in NY has it coming out their ears and just sent a bunch down with my brother to distribute.

I had enough to make this rhubarb buckle with ginger crumb tonight…

…and I froze enough to make the lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake from the same cookbook later.

Lonesome Dove book club dinner

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Last year a friend of mine started a book club. It’s just six of us and we take turns picking books and meet once a month at someone’s house for dinner and discussion. Sometimes the cook tries to match the dinner to the book. This month was my turn and I decided to make everyone read Lonesome Dove since none of them had ever read a western before. And because I am who I am, I had to have a themed dinner.

The main course was easy to pick: beef! (The book is about a cattle drive, fyi.) I’ve made this Glazed Corned Beef recipe several times and it’s delicious so I decided to go for it again. I like to throw baby carrots in there to cook too for the vegetable portion of the meal. To go with this, I also wanted to make sourdough biscuits in my cast iron skillet. I got the recipe from my Forty Years Behind the Lid: Chuckwagon Grub by Richard Bolt cookbook. (Sourdough recipe is actually available online here). I made the sourdough starter only a night ahead of time since it has commercial yeast and raw potato to feed it. I halved the recipe and made it in a quart jar. It started bubbling pretty quickly and overflowed the jar constantly for about two hours before I finally scooped some off the top and put it in the fridge. Note for next time: quarter the recipe or use a larger container.

Next was to figure out dessert and I was stuck between choosing vinegar pie or dried apple pie. The vinegar pie is also from the Richard Bolt cookbook (uses apple cider vinegar) so I know it’s good for cattle drives; this recipe has no eggs. The dried apple pie is from MaryJane Butters’ Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook but it also has a custard layer and a meringue layer, and a cattle drive probably wouldn’t have chickens and a dairy cow. It’s more of a pioneer pie but I was eager to use some of the free bushel of apples I had gotten this winter from the farmers’ market and dried.

I was slightly afraid of how either of them would taste though. Here is a review of vinegar pie in which the taster has to be forced to eat it:

“It’s … interesting,” he said, after his first mouthful.

Interesting good or bad?

“You can taste the vinegar,” he decided, “but it’s not a bad taste necessarily. It is strong, though.”

I thought it had a faintly apple juice-y flavor, due no doubt to that apple cider vinegar. Truth be told, it wasn’t the most pleasing flavor. I thought it a little peculiar.

“Mmmm,” said Josh gamely, rubbing his belly in an attempt at appreciation.

But if you were holed up in a dugout in Minnesota, ready to face the long winter, wouldn’t you appreciate the sweet end to a meal? Or if you were a sharecropper in Tennessee, looking to stretch your budget as far as at would go?

“Sure,” nodded Josh carefully. “But I don’t know how much more of this pie I’m going to eat right NOW, if that’s okay.”

It wasn’t okay. I slammed my hand down on the table and demanded he continue eating another SLICE OF HISTORY. He did. But I knew in my heart of hearts he was eating it because he was scared of me, not because he really liked it.

I also felt the name of the pie might be slightly off-putting. And in my The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy by Barbara Swell cookbook, in the place of a recipe for dried apple pie, there is this poem from The Ladies Home Journal, September 1886:

“I hate, abhor, detest, despise,
Abominate dried apple pies!
Tread on my toes and tell me lies,
But don’t give me dried apple pies!”

I personally love old fashioned pies and would enjoy either of them, I was sure, but I wasn’t so sure about my dinner guests. I decided to make both and hope each person liked at least one of them. (I also decided to call the vinegar pie “custard pie” until they had tried it and hope the vinegar smell wouldn’t linger in my kitchen to give me away.)

So how did it go?

The corned beef was good, as expected since I had made it before. The sourdough biscuits were probably my favorite item of the night, simply because I was unsure how well my starter would work; it ended up working beautifully. After I took it out of the fridge, I added more flour and water since it had shrunk a bit but it took a while for it to start bubbling this time. I had to use pretty much the entire quart jar of starter for the pan of biscuits so I really do need a bigger container if I want to be able to make enough to keep some starter for later, which is the whole point of having starter. However, I would be more likely to be making a small amount of biscuits or bread than a whole pan and therefore would need less starter on a daily basis. I actually will be trying a different recipe for starter next time that only calls for one cup each of flour and water so that would definitely fit in my quart jar.

I would not make the vinegar pie again, at least not with that recipe. This recipe was cooked on the stove and I could not find any other vinegar pie recipe to compare it to; every other one I found was baked, some with meringues. My first issue was that I was supposed to boil the liquids, then add the dry ingredients, including some flour. What happens when you add flour to boiling water? It clumps. I could not work out all of the clumps and I stirred this thing constantly for 20+ minutes. It also never thickened like I thought it should either. I eventually just poured it into the baked crust any way and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours. It wasn’t that bad after chilling for so long but I still wouldn’t make it again since it wasn’t especially delicious either. No one knew there was vinegar in it until I told them though. It just tasted like a sugar pie but slightly tart and appley.

The dried apple pie was delicious. I love doing meringues and I loved the custard filling too. It’s a good thing I have lots of dried apples because I will definitely do this again. No one could tell the apples were anything but fresh.

I did something new for my pie crusts. I’ve always just done a shortening-based crust but both the Barbara Swell pie book and my Rustic Fruit Desserts cookbook recommend a butter-based crust. The recipes are pretty much the same in both books. The butter crust was good but it was more trouble than my regular crust so I don’t know how often I’ll use it. If I wanted to be really authentic for tonight, I would have done a lard-based crust. Alas, there is no lard in my kitchen. I do plan on doing a lard-based crust at some point because I hear it’s very tasty. I think only my family would be interested in trying that though.

Winter cooking

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

When it’s cold out all I want to do is cook. It warms my kitchen and my stomach, and my freezer gets stocked up again. Some various recipes I’ve made over the past couple of weeks, most of them in one below freezing week:

Split Pea Soup – Could not find a ham bone at the grocery store but a friend had one in her freezer I could use. Next time, will check the butcher in town. I had to add twice as much liquid to cover the ham bone so I simmered it for a while longer to cook off the extra.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast – Except I ended up doing it in the oven because the turkey breast wouldn’t fit in my small crockpot. I also cooked it in some white wine and didn’t have any onion soup mix so made up my own. Note to self: get a dutch oven.
Company Turkey Casserole – Had this at my grandparents’ house the week before and it was why I cooked the turkey breast to begin with, to have leftovers for this recipe. I also did this in my oven.
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts – I never liked brussels sprouts before but these are so amazing.
Butternut Squash Soup – Always a hit when I serve it. I only use one package of cream cheese. I also take all the seeds to roast for a snack later.
Moroccan Spinach and Chickpeas – Saw this on a friend’s blog and it looked delicious.
Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad – Had some squash leftover from soup making and had to try this after the reviews I saw. I was actually not a fan but I might try it again and tweak the dressing.
Yam Smoothie – I had a yam to use and it looked interesting.
Chicken Pot Pie – I made this before but not in a while. Yum.
Red Potato and Cheddar Soup – Found some red potatoes in my cabinet that needed to get used. I left out the ham. The soup was okay but I think I’ll go back to my standard Herbed Potato Soup in future.
Buttermilk Pie – My brother requested a couple of these pies for his firehouse.
Butterscotch Pie – I did a graham cracker crust instead of pastry. I have to say, my meringue turned out amazing. I’ve only tried a meringue once before and it was a complete failure but I had some more tips this time and it was beautiful.
Veggie Quiche – Nothing is better than quiche for breakfast.
And of course, bread to go with all the soups.

Speaking of bread, here are some more that I’ve made from the book (although not all this week):

Philadelphia stromboli with sausage (using light whole wheat dough):

Pain d’Epi (made for Thanksgiving to break apart for rolls):

Naan (finally made this in my cast iron skillet):

I also made the Oatmeal Pumpkin bread although I have no pictures. That was really, really good. I’ve made the master recipe a few more times as well since it’s just so delicious and goes well with everything.

And speaking of cookbooks, another new favorite is Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More. This is right up my alley since I love old fashioned things and I love fruit desserts. It’s organized by season, so you can go right to the season you’re in and see recipes all made with fruits available at that time. So far I’ve only made the apple cranberry oat crumble (which I very appetizingly called the “crapple crumble” to the people I served it to), the gingered pear and raspberry pandowdy (a new favorite recipe and likely to be repeated soon since I have leftover candied ginger), the cranberry buckle with vanilla crumb and the apple cobbler with cheddar cheese biscuits. I will probably be doing a lot more of the apple recipes over the next week or so since I got a free bushel of apples from my farmers market.

More bread

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

To continue from my Artisan Bread in Five post, here is more bread!

Sun-dried tomato and parmesan:

Focaccia with onion and rosemary:

Vermont cheddar:


Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I put a fire pit in my yard this weekend. Why it never occurred to me before now, I have no idea. There was a ring of bricks in the ground out there before I moved in (3 years ago now, jeez) but it was way too close to the shed, and had a very low hanging tree over it. I decided to move it across the yard, and bought a steel fire ring to go with it. When I told my landlord, he mentioned that there were a bunch of bricks behind the shed I could use, a huge pile of fallen sticks and a chopped down tree that had been hit by lightning that I could burn. So… perfect.

There were enough bricks / brick pieces to just fill the inside of the fire pit.

And I’ve had camper pies for dinner both yesterday and today.


Artisan Bread in Five

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I recently bought the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The premise is that you mix a big batch of dough and then store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you want a loaf of bread, all you do is pop a hunk out and bake it. Now the total time for this is more than five minutes, because it needs forty minutes to rise and another thirty to bake, but the time where you are actively doing something is less than five minutes since you could obviously be doing something else during the rise/bake time. There is a master recipe included to get started, then many other types of breads to keep going with it. So far I have made the boule (master recipe), European peasant bread, and olive oil bread. All three have been delicious.

Step 1:
Mix dough to store in refrigerator. (This is at the end of the batch, it makes much more dough than shown.)

Step 2:
When you’re ready to bake, form a ball and let sit to rise.

Step 3:
Bake on stone, and steam it a bit by pouring hot water in a broiler pan in the bottom of the oven.

Step 4:
Eat delicious bread.

I had read about the book in some blog a while ago but didn’t immediately buy it. I came across the authors’ website recently and saw that they were using their recipe to make naan in a cast iron skillet while camping. So of course, that is when I had to run to amazon and order it. I actually went camping the last two weekends but didn’t get the chance to try the naan because we always bring too much food camping and we just never got around to cooking that one. I did, however, use the olive oil bread to make hummus veggie pizza in my cast iron skillet for dinner at home tonight. I probably used a few too many toppings but it was great.

Next up I will be trying some of their sandwich breads (baked in loaf pans with softer crusts), the pumpernickel, some tasty looking cheese breads (Vermont cheddar, spinach feta, sun-dried tomato and parmesan), roasted garlic potato bread and, finally, the naan in the skillet.

St. Patrick’s Day Feast

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

My parents skipped having their annual party this year so I had to make my own Irish food. I had just read an article about a new Irish cookbook which included a few recipes and decided to make a mix of those and my mother’s recipes. I thought it was all delicious and so did my guests so here are the recipes:

Corned Beef & Cabbage
– 4 lbs corned beef brisket
– 4 medium onions, chopped
– 4 large carrots, chopped
– 1 12 oz beer
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 cubes beef bouillon
– 4 whole black peppercorns or 1/8 tsp cracked pepper
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 bay leaf and some parsley stalks, tied together
– 1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
– packet of seasonings that come with corned beef
– 1 cabbage

Put everything but the cabbage into a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring gently to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut into quarters, then thirds, and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1 to 2 hours. Remove the bay leaf and parsley stalks before serving.

– 3 lbs russet or other floury potatoes, peeled
– 8 tbsp butter
– 3 lightly packed cups chopped kale
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 5 scallions, green part only, minced
– salt and pepper

Put potatoes in a large pot, with the larger ones on the bottom, and add water to come halfway up the potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water begins to boil, carefully drain off about half of it, then return the pot to the heat, cover it again, reduce the heat to low, and let the potatoes steam for about 40 minutes. Melt 4 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kale and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Combine the milk, scallions, and remaining butter in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the kale and stir in well. Drain and cut the potatoes. Add the greens and their liquid and mash until smooth, leaving a few small lumps in the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Irish Soda Bread
– 4 cups flour
– 3 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 3/4 tsp baking soda
– 6 tbsp butter
– 1 1/2 cups raisins
– 1 tbsp caraway seeds
– 2 eggs (optional: reserve 1 tbsp to brush on before baking)
– 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and buttermilk. Mix together dry ingredients separately. Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix only until flour is wet. Do not over mix. Knead dough 10 strokes, no more. Form into ball and place in a greased 2 qt casserole. Cut an X 1/4″ deep in top and brush with reserved egg if desired. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool 10 minutes and remove from casserole.

Irish Potatoes
– 2 lbs confectioners sugar
– 7 oz coconut
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 8 oz cream cheese
– 8 tbsp butter
– 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
– cinnamon

Cream together butter, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Mix in coconut. Slowly add confectioners sugar. Mix in vanilla. Chill for a couple of hours. Form into small balls and roll in cinnamon. Continue to refrigerate until serving.

food processor

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

I got a food processor recently and have been making all kinds of delicious things with it. Here are some recipes of what I’ve made so far:

Pesto Sauce
– 1 1/2 cups (2 oz) firmly packed fresh basil leaves
– 2 tablespoons walnuts
– 1 clove garlic
– 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1 cup (4 oz) grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temp)
– pinch of salt

In a food processor, combine the basil, nuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Process until very finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth. Turn off, add the cheese and butter, and pulse a few times until the ingredients are blended.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
– 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
– 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
– 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
– 3 tablespoons lemon juice
– 2 tablespoons tahini
– 1 large clove garlic
– 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
– salt and ground black pepper
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until smooth.

Butternut Squash Soup
– 6 tablespoons chopped onion
– 4 tablespoons butter
– 6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
– 3 cups water
– 4 cubes chicken bouillon
– 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
– 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

Cut squash in half and roast in oven before peeling and cubing it. In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until tender. Add squash, water, bouillon, marjoram and black pepper. Bring to boil; cook 10 minutes, or until squash is tender. Puree mixture and cream cheese in a food processor in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan, and heat through. Do not allow to boil.

Grandma Delma’s Fresh Cranberry Relish
– 1 bag cranberries
– 2 red apples – cored and sliced but not peeled
– 2 oranges – peeled and with seeds taken out
– 2 cups sugar
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Grind all ingredients together in a food processor. Chill until served.


Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Last year I made a million pies. This year I’m all about the breads.

Apple Breakfast Bread
Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Banana Cranberry Bread
Blueberry Orange Bread
Spiced Banana Bread
Strawberry Pineapple Bread
Pear Bread
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread
Zucchini Pineapple Bread

I guess these breads are more like cakes but boy are they good. Easy to bring camping or visiting too.