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Friday, April 30, 2010

Cook’s Illustrated Challenge #1: Grill-Roasted Pork Loin & French-Style Mashed Potatoes {Foodie Friday}

I told y’all earlier this month that I was going to make two random recipes from all of the Cook’s Illustrated issues I have sitting around sometime before the end of the month.  (Read about my challenge here.)  Well, that sometime happened to be just this week. 

I’m nothing if not a really good procrastinator. 

It just so happened that my two dishes for the month, Grill Roasted Pork Loin (July/August 2005, pgs. 6-7) and French Style Mashed Potatoes (March/April 2009, pgs. 18-19), were the perfect compliment to one another and I was able to just make a single, complete meal out of it. 

First, I fully read both of the articles and recipes.  Forever ago. 

So when I was at the grocery store to buy the pork loin, naturally I couldn’t remember what kind to get, so I had to call home and have my man look for me.  In the article, CI lists their top choice as the Blade-End Roast.  Naturally, I couldn’t find that at my grocery store, so I had to go with CI’s second choice, the Center-Cut Roast. 

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And, since it had been so long since I had read the recipe and did not re-read it fully that morning, I didn’t realize that the loin needed to soak in a brine for 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.

Oops.

So I just fudged a bit and did not brine it nearly as long, but was able to for just a little while.

I decided to use their “Sweet and Savory Spice Rub” so I toasted some cumin seed, coriander seed and fennel seed then ground them and mixed them with some ground cinnamon and allspice.

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And then I realized it was supposed to sit out for an hour at room temperature after being seasoned.

Double oops.

100_8060I did do the grill instructions as called for.  I browned it on all sides over direct flame and then let it roast over indirect heat.  It cooked a lot quicker than I expected.  It was pretty close to being done after the initial 20 minutes.  It probably only cooked another 5-10 minutes longer, which was just enough time for me to pull together the mashed potatoes.

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I couldn’t figure out what made mashed potatoes “French Style” for the life of me before I read the article.  The writer talks of having had these smooth and stretchy, garlicky and cheesy mashed potatoes he encountered one time in Boston.  The French dish is known as aligot.

First, I peeled and sliced my Yukon Gold potatoes, as called for, and boiled them until very tender.

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I got ready to hand-grate my mozzarella and Gruyere cheeses and then realized that I would be using the food processor already for the potatoes… I could just go ahead and use it now for the cheese as well. 

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100_8059 After adding the butter and garlic, it was a fairly thick mass.  100_8061Then, I added milk and processed for another 10 seconds or so.  I opened the top to scrape down the sides and as I went to click the top back on, something went wrong.

100_8062The top was stuck on and required male and screwdriver intervention to pry it loose. 

100_8063And as you can see, I mean an actual screwdriver… not the drink.

Although I maybe could have used the drink at this point as well.

After we got the top off, I wasn’t going to dare to put it back on at the time, so I had to forego the 2nd 10 seconds of processing and went straight to the saucepan.

I’m still not certain if the food processor is forever damaged

In the saucepan, I added the cheeses a little at a time and was supposed to stir “vigorously” over medium heat.  I had to hand the spoon over to my man for a few minute of vigorous stirring because… WOW… that was a work-out.

Who needs Jillian Michaels when you have French-Style Mashed Potatoes to make.

100_8064Mine did not turn out quite as creamy, smooth and elastic as the writer made them out to be, but I don’t know how much of a difference that extra 10 seconds in the food processor would have made. 

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My daughter was impressed that I made my plate “restaurant style.”  She was so impressed that when we had leftovers the next night, I made everyone’s “restaurant style.”  If she only knew what lengths other real food bloggers go to in order to style and photograph their food, she wouldn’t be nearly as impressed with my pitiful display.

 100_8072Regardless of all the ways I didn’t or couldn’t follow the instructions, both the Grill-Roasted Pork Loin and the French Style Mashed Potatoes were really good.  I am such a sucker for a good garlicky cheesy mash and these were exceptional.  The Gruyere cheese added a nice sharp saltiness and along with the garlic….. oh wow.  Good.  The pork loin was excellent as well.  I would probably just use my normal spice rub on it next time since it has all of the same ingredients and quite a few others along with some brown sugar.  But it was moist, and flavorful. 

I will let y’all know this weekend what my next two recipes will be.  I’ll also update the recipe blog with the recipes if y’all are interested.  But right now, it’s late Thursday night … no… it’s early Friday morning.  I’m tired.  That is all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

God's ABCs

While our own kids were out of town at a family reunion with my parents this weekend, Mike and I were called upon to teach in the preschool area at church on Sunday morning. And when I say that, I mean we were called on Sunday morning.

I originally thought we would be with the 4 year old Pre-K kids which are my son's age. But when we got there, it turned into the director saying, "Well, I've placed you in the 2's class. Most of them have already turned 3."

I don't do well with little preparation and I do even worse when what I have mentally prepared myself for changes.

What makes this whole thing even funnier to me is that when I asked the director what the lesson was for the day, she brought me a single sheet that had the text of a Bible story from Genesis and a single picture to color on the back. This is what I had to go on. Then, not until I was sitting down to try to give the children a Bible story did I find that the sheet I was originally given was completely different from the sheets we were given for the children.

I was just about fit to be tied.

But we pressed on. I was going to teach on the story in Matthew 8 where Jesus was asleep on the boat in the midst of a storm and the disciples woke him and he calmed the storm.

We had somewhat corralled the children to one side of the room and kind of had a circle time going. Several of the children sat right down to listen, but a few continued to wander the room playing with toys like they had no idea what "circle time" was. We tried to reign them back in a little bit, but eventually just moved on and prayed that they would hear the story while they played.

Then the sweetest thing happened.

I have learned a few things from all the volunteering I have done in the preschool program at BSF so I implemented some of those things here. I pulled out my Bible and before we talked about the Bible story, I began talking to the children about the Bible itself.

I asked, "Do you know what book this is?"

One child may have said, "The Bible."

"Yes, it's the Bible. Do you want to see? Do you want to touch it?" I opened it up and had my finger on our story in Matthew and encouraged them to put their fingers on it. And then I asked, "Do you know what the Bible is?"

Then one precious little girl piped up with, "Hey, there are ABCs in there."

"Yes, there are. Do you know who's ABCs these are?"

"They're God's ABCs!" she replied quite excitedly.

"Yes, that's absolutely right. These are God's ABCs. His true and holy Word."

No pastor could preach that sermon any better than a 3 year old saying, "They're God's ABCs."

Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jacks {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

Well, I’m sorry that you didn’t hear much from me last week, but you probably won’t hear a lot from me in the coming week as well.  I hate to admit it, but I got a speeding ticket a while back and now, most of my spare computer time when I might have written for the blog is taken up with an online defensive driving course. 

It is a beating, to say the least.

But I wanted to share this with you. 

Sarah received a set of jacks as a party favor from her teacher last Wednesday as the class celebrated her teacher’s birthday.  The sad thing is she had no idea what they were or any clue how to play with them.

photoSo, I showed her and we talked about them for a while as she tried her hand at it.  We eventually set a couple of towels down to act as a barrier to keep the ball from rolling quite so far away every single time.  Before long, she really had a pretty good handle on it.

As she played, it dawned on me, and I told her, that this is a game that her grandmothers and great-grandmother would have played when they were girls her age. 

And as I thought about this fact, I found it a little sad that she had not heard of jacks before.  But it’s really no wonder with the advent of t.v., video games and computers.  I sat and imagined a little girl having to attend a meeting of some kind with her mother 50 years ago versus today.  50 years ago, that little girl might have carried a small doll, a book and a bag of jacks with her for entertainment.  Today’s girl might pack a book, but more than likely would just bring her Nintendo DS. 

So call me a little nostalgic, but it did my heart a little bit of good that day to see my daughter playing a game so simple as jacks and I felt like it gave us a little connection to the past.  The good ole’ days, if you will. 

Have you encountered a moment like this with your kids?  Do you encourage older games that require no electricity?  I challenge you to find one.  It may do your heart, and theirs, a little good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Me & My Girl {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

On Saturday, Sarah and I attended a conference called You & Your Girl that is put on by Lifeway.  The keynote speaker at these conferences is Vicki Courtney, who is another favorite author and Bible teacher of mine.

I had known that Vicki would be doing one of these conferences here in my local area for quite a while, but only in January did I realize that they had broadened the age range enough for Sarah to attend.  I had been planning for quite a while to try to go to Atlanta in April to attend the simulcast event that Beth Moore was doing for her new book “So Long, Insecurity.”  But having this opportunity to go and do something with Sarah, just us… mom and daughter… well, it seemed a little more important.  A choice had to be made because I wouldn’t be able to afford to do both.  And since the point when she and I decided to go, we had been looking forward to it.

After 10 years of reading her books and doing and leading her Bible Studies, including her most recent “5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter” book and Bible study,  it was really neat to get to hear Vicki speak in person.  And not only that, to get to meet her up close and personal during her “Meet & Greet” time. 

100_7995 100_7996 We had a really great time and I had to just share a couple of little stories.

In Vicki’s first session, she talked about how much we girls like love stories.  She talked a bit about movies and famous romantic movie quotes.  In with all this they showed a montage of romantic scenes from movies.  They ranged from the scene a-top the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle to the beach in the rain scene from Sweet Home Alabama.  The last several scenes that were shown were scenes where the two characters kissed. 

You know what my daughter said? “Why do they have to show the kissing when they know that there are 9 year olds here?”

I never knew my daughter was so “kissing scene” averse.

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After that first session, there was a break-out session where Sarah went with all the other 3rd grade girls to do some activities and things while the moms stayed and listened to a panel discussion with Vicki and 3 other ladies (one of which was Amy Pierson from Prestonwood Baptist  - this is a young lady to keep your eye on. She has a book coming out soon on mentoring.) .  Then we broke for lunch.

Sarah had decided very early that we were going to Pei Wei.  And the fact that I had a kid that would in a heartbeat pick Pei Wei over, say, McDonald’s is a testament to God’s grace and mercy on me if anything is.

After lunch we went down to the Lifeway bookstore so that we could look around and I could meet Vicki.  I had decided that we might buy a CD from the Sonflowerz, who led worship, but that we weren’t going to spend a lot.

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So when you daughter comes to you and says she has found another Bible that she really wants, what are you supposed to say?  When she says, “I want to have a variety kinds of Bibles,” can you in any way say, “No, you can’t have another Bible.”? 

Well, I couldn’t. 

So after another break-out session and a closing session with Vicki, which included a bit of fidgeting by Sarah and  a great skit by Vicki’s youngest son and some of his friends (a rare treat since he is not normally at these events), Sarah’s final analysis of the day was:

“It was long, but it was fun.”

Me and my girl. 

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I hope you and your girl have a similar opportunity sometime soon.  It was priceless.

 

P.S. I hope to do a post this week about and unpack some of what we covered in the “5 Conversations” Bible study and what I learned from it.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mexican Mole Sauce {Foodie Friday}

I have become convinced that a staple in the southwestern or Texan kitchen should be mole (mole-lay) sauce. It is so incredibly versatile and... well... good.

You may be asking, "What is mole sauce?"

Well, I'll tell you as best I can.

Mole sauce is to Mexico what marinara is to Italy.  In simplest terms, it is a blend of chiles, nuts, garlic, onions and in some cases, the seemingly secret and surprising ingredient, chocolate.   According to this site, individual home cooks have their own specific versions and special ingredients.  This Wikipedia page gives a list of different types of mole sauces.

I decided not long ago that I really wanted to make mole sauce.  I never had made it before but had tasted it at some Mexican restaurants, so I wanted to try to make it myself.  And when something like that gets in my head, I can’t shake it.  So, I began searching the internets for a recipe.

I found that there are lots of easy recipes out there for mole, and certainly buying it off the shelf would be easiest. But as I usually say, "Easiest is not always best."  A good mole is complex and has such a depth of flavor because of the intensive preparation of the roasting, toasting, grinding and blending of the ingredients.  So-called easy versions just didn’t seem to me that they would make the cut.

For instance, this recipe, by virtue of using green chilis, must be an attempt at a mole verde.  But then why add chocolate?  Why is the color not actually green? And where are the toasted seeds? It may be good, but not what I would really call a mole sauce.

And this recipe only uses chili powder and, again, no nuts or seeds in it.

The most common mole sauce that we see in this area is probably mole rojo – a combination of Ancho and Guajillo chiles, tomatoes, nuts, sesame seeds, and that special ingredient, chocolate (which should accompany the chiles in the sauce, not over-take the sauce completely). 

It took a little searching, but I finally came across an Emeril Lagasse recipe from Food Network that looked like something I would make.  The ingredient list is long, as was the preparation, but I trusted that the pay-off would come in an authentic tasting full-of-flavor sauce.

I was right.

The original recipe is combined with a tequila marinated chicken.  I wasn’t that fond of the chicken when I made it, but the mole seemed just about perfect. 

One thing I found that I really liked about the recipe is that it is a two step process.  You spend a good bit of time in the first step roasting, charring, and toasting various ingredients, blending them all together in a food processor, then simmering for an hour to make what is called a mole paste.  Then in the second step, you only use a cup of the mole paste, about five minutes and a few other ingredients to make the finished sauce.  I ended up freezing the rest of the mole paste in one cup containers to pull out to make more sauce in small batches at later dates.  It’s a time investment up front that has a huge flavor pay-off in the form of a easy to throw together and quick sauce.

As I’ve had this culinary wonder sitting around, I have added it to just about everything:  tortilla soup, chili,  and chicken and rice just to name a few off the top of my head.  It has added a depth of flavor to each dish that I had not achieved before. 

And you would not believe what it can do for a hamburger along with a couple of onion rings….

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Oh, the YUM!

I had to make a very few alterations to the recipe based upon ingredients I could easily find at my local grocery store and my own preferences.  So here it is (and, as always, it can also be found on my recipe blog):

Mexican Mole Sauce
Adapted from this recipe from Food Network

Ingredients:

Mole Paste:
2 large tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
15 ancho chiles, stems removed and seeded (reserve seeds)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon
4 whole cloves
1/4 cup fresh Mexican oregano leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/4 cup roasted almonds
1/4 cup shelled roasted (unsalted) peanuts
1/4 cup raisins 
1 cup chicken stock, hot
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped

Finished Mole Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (14-ounce) can tomato puree
1 cup mole paste 
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce Mexican chocolate, chopped

To make the mole paste, preheat the broiler to 500 degrees F

Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet and broil until slightly caramelized around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the garlic to a small plate to cool. Turn the tomatoes and onions so that the uncooked sides are up. Return to the broiler until slightly caramelized on the second side, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a large skillet over high heat, toast the chiles on all sides until lightly browned and fragrant, just for a couple of minutes. Do not allow to burn. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover with hot water and allow to sit until softened, about 30 minutes. In the same skillet, combine the sesame seeds and reserved chile seeds and toast until light brown and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, oregano and thyme to the hot skillet and "toast" for a few seconds, just until their perfume is released. Transfer to the bowl with the sesame seeds.

When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic cloves and add these, along with the charred tomatoes and onion, to the bowl of a food processor. Add the seeds and spices. Drain the liquid off of the chiles and add these to the processor as well as the roasted nuts and raisins, and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Puree the mixture until very smooth and thick, scraping down the sides of the blender frequently.

In a large deep pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil until very hot. Carefully pour the pureed mixture into the pot (be careful - it will splatter) and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat so that the mixture simmers, and add 4 ounces of chopped chocolate to the pot. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 hour, or until the mole paste is very thick and flavorful. At this point you should have about 3 1/2 cups of mole paste.

You can leave the paste rough with all the seeds and pieces, or you can strain it through a fine mesh strainer.  I strain about half of the paste and mix it back in with the rough.  This gives a nice in-between texture to the finished sauce.

You will use 1 cup to make the Mole sauce  Reserve the remaining paste for another use.

(The mole paste will keep for at least 6 months, refrigerated, or up to 1 year if frozen.  I freeze in 1 cup containers for ease of thawing for use.)

To make the sauce, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup mole paste and the remaining 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and stir to combine well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is a nice sauce consistency. Add the remaining 1/2-ounce of Mexican chocolate and the salt and cook another 2 minutes, or until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is thick, smooth and flavorful.

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You may look at this recipe and say “15 chiles and 10 cloves of garlic?!? There’s no way I can eat that!”  Be assured that this sauce is not hot.  Nor does the garlic overpower it.  It is mellow and subtle with many layers to the flavor.

Enjoy this Mexican culinary wonder!  I know I have.

In this post:
Mexican Mole Sauce
Chili
Mole Chicken and Rice
Tortilla Soup

~~~~~~~~~~

I am linking this post up to Lisa’s weekly round up of chocolate recipes at Stop and Smell the Chocolates.  Go check out other chocolate recipes at her blog each Chocolate Friday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BBA Challenge #21 - Pain à l’Ancienne

Simple math.  I cannot seem to do simple math. 

My scale doesn’t measure in straight ounces, but in pounds + ounces so I had to figure out the measurement of 27 ounces of flour in pounds + ounces.  I know that there are 16 ounces per pound and somehow when I added 16 + 16 my brain came up with 28.  So clearly 27 ounces is 1 pound & 15 ounces.

Except when it’s not.

Which is always.

Which is also why my husband helps our 3rd grader with her math homework and will continue to do so for the rest of her school years.

I realized my math error AFTER I had already mixed the salt into the flour, but not the yeast yet.  So I took the appropriate amount of flour out of the bowl and added back in a little bit of salt to account for what would have been taken out with the flour that I removed. 

But then, as I mixed, I ended up needing to add back in the flour I had taken out, so NOW the bread had too much salt.  Not much, but more than the formula calls for.

I almost gave up completely at this point.

But I pressed on.

I mixed the dough one evening and put it in the refrigerator. 

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The next day, I took the dough out of the fridge at about 2:45 pm.  I didn’t have my camera the night before, but you can see from the black line on my bucket that it did not rise at all in the fridge.  Those air bubbles you see were a little bigger than the night before, but it clearly was no where near doubled.  So I just went about the rest of my day.

Finally, at 9:30 pm it was finally close to doubling in size.  That’s nearly 7 hours later, people.  SEVEN.

At that point my man and I were sitting down to watch a movie.  Julie & Julia as a matter of fact.  At 9:30 pm, I didn’t have the time or inclination to deal with shaping bread and staying up to bake it.  So, I decided it was best to just put the dough back in the fridge and deal with it the next day.

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The next day, I turned it out on my working surface and finally read the rest of the formula. 

OH… it doesn’t need a time to proof?!?  Interesting.  So I COULD have dealt with it the night before.  Oh well. 

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It turns out such a nice, full of character, rustic looking bread. 

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I love these big holes.

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The batch made six smallish baguettes.  My man and I ate two that night with some pork chops that have a wonderful tomatoey sauce perfect for dipping good artisan bread in.  That left me with four.

It just so happened that I found out that day that one of my favorite authors and Bible teachers, Beth Moore, was going to be practically a stone’s throw away from my house the next day doing a book signing for her latest book So Long, Insecurity .  I looked at her schedule and noticed that she was barely going to have time to breathe with two signings in one day.  So, I wrapped up two of those baguettes and took them to her.  Maybe that makes me weird, but she seemed appreciative and was so gracious about it.  I wrote about it here.

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This bread was so incredibly easy.  I love the long & slow fermentation and the fact that it doesn’t require a 2nd fermentation/proof cycle.  The taste left a little to be desired in my book.  It was okay, but not as flavorful as I thought the French Bread baguettes were.  I think next time I do it I will use some sourdough starter to see if that doesn’t take the flavor to the next level. 

You can find the rest of my Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge posts here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A New Challenge

You know what I’m tired of?  I’m tired of asking, “What do you want for dinner?”  I’m tired of having the same “go-to” recipes.  Don’t get me wrong… most of them are very good.  But they just get a bit old and tired after a while.  And I’m usually a bit too lazy to go in search of something new.

So I have decided that I need to branch out in my cooking.  But, how?  I don’t have tons of time to go scouring through loads of recipes.  And when I do, most of the recipes I find are loaded with canned soup or boxed mixes or ingredients I generally don’t like.  I need a source I can trust.

A-HA!  My Cook’s Illustrated magazines.  I trust them.  Maybe I could just cook my way through my Cook’s Illustrated issues. 

And to be honest, I have over fifty issues sitting here that I do not adequately use.  I’ll flip through the most recent issue and make note of things that look good or interesting (most of every issue, really), but rarely to I really pick a recipe out to make it.  So, yeah, I need to better utilize this wonderful resource that I so often brag about.

But then, to start back at the beginning of issue 50 (which is the first issue I have from when I started taking it in 2001) and cook all the way through looks a little daunting to me.  So maybe I’ll just pick a random recipe to try.  Maybe even one every month.  Or TWO!

I smell a challenge, don’t you?

So here’s how I’m challenging myself.  I am going to make two random recipes per month out of my Cook’s Illustrated magazines.  Our friend random.org is going to help me with my recipe selections.   Then, on the last Friday of the month, I will do a Foodie Friday post telling you about what I made.  That should keep me somewhat accountable.

So for April, I had random.org give me two numbers between 50 and 104 (my most current issue).  That gave me the issues I will be cooking from.  Then I counted how many actual recipes are in those individual issues and had it generate a random number to tell me which dish I will be making.  I’ll do this every month and if I have already made the dish that comes up, we’ll just pick another. 

So.  Here are my numbers and recipes for April:

Issue 97, Recipe 6 “Mashed Potatoes, French-Style” on page 18

and

Issue 75, Recipe 1 “Grill-Roasted Pork Loin” on page 6

If any of you take Cook’s Illustrated and want to join in, please do so.  Just pick two random recipes from the issues that you have and make them sometime during the month (or if you have the issues I am cooking from, you can just fix the same recipes I’m doing if you want).  If you have a blog, post about what you made. And take pictures.  And let me know so I can see.  Because I just love pictures of food.

I’ll post about my recipes here on April 30th. 

Happy cooking!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blessed by my quiver {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

You know, I love those moments when I can just sit back and witness my kids doing something on their own that I feel like I have worked so hard to teach them… and then to realize, it had nothing to do with me at all.

At lunch after church today Sarah really stepped up and displayed such a grown up and respectful attitude toward our waitress at the restaurant where we ate.  Without prompting even one time her speech was full of “Thank you,” “No, thanks,” and “Yes, please.” 

And it wasn’t just a forced response.  I could tell that her attitude was that of gratefulness and appreciation and that her speech was just over flowing from that heart attitude.  I could also tell that her attitude blessed our waitress.  And honestly, if I had my guess, she probably does not get treated as well from many adults who truly should know better.

As we walked to the car, I told her that her that it blessed me to see her interactions with our waitress.  She tried to say, “Well, you taught me well.” 

But I seriously I can’t take credit for this at all.  I explained that many parents try but the heart attitude is something that can’t necessarily be taught except by the Holy Spirit.  I simply told her that I appreciated her being sensitive to His leading and to those around her. 

It’s not a coincidence that my quiet time reading today was Psalm 127. 

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

I am blessed by my full quiver.  They bless me every single day.  I can’t seem to brag on them and what God is doing in them enough.

How about you?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Buttermilk Pie {Foodie Friday}

As I began to think through my Easter menu last week, I thought I had a dessert all picked out.  I was going to make bread pudding out of the Panetone bread that I was making for my Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge (no, I haven’t done a post for that bread yet… I’m still catching up on the blog posts). 

But then I saw a recipe on my computer and my mind kept coming back to it.  Once I got it on my mind, there was no turning back to Panetone bread pudding.

Nana’s Buttermilk Pie.

If there is anything that speaks love to this Texan’s heart it’s pie.  I’ve written about pie before.  You might remember this post from almost a year ago where I explained that the proper way to say this word is to draw it out like “piiiih.” 

But back to Nana’s Buttermilk Pie.

Actually I mostly remember having Buttermilk Pie at my Aunt Mae’s house.  Aunt Mae was my Nana’s sister and just a dear sweet precious lady.  Buttermilk pie reminds me of family gatherings and being at my Aunt Mae’s house. 

So I looked at the recipe that I had written down from my Nana before she died a few years ago and I compared it to one that a friend gave me recently.  There was one big difference.  The recipe my friend gave me included flour in the custard mixture whereas Nana’s did not.  I wondered why.

My culinary curiosity got the better of me so I began to search the knower of all knowledge… my friend Google.  Every recipe on the internet that I came across had anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 teaspoon of flour mixed in the buttermilk and egg custard.  One recipe, from a very well known tv food personality, even used 1/2 cup of Bisquick. 

Something seemed wrong to me.  I began to ask: What purpose does it serve?  Is it merely a thickening agent?  Why doesn’t Nana’s call for flour?  Will flour make it better?

I wanted answers.  Real answers.

Then I remembered.  I got a book for Christmas that should have my answers. 

Do you remember way back when I posted a kitchen wish list of sorts?  It included several books; one of which was On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.  Well, I was given this book by my father-in-law for Christmas.  It’s not really the kind of book you just sit down and read cover to cover – as if I do that with just about any book on any kind of regular basis.  It’s almost more like a textbook from college.  But it’s a wonderful reference for situations just like this.  So I pulled it off of my bookshelf and this is what I found:

“Flour or cornstarch can protect against curdling in custards and creams, even if they’re cooked quickly over direct heat and actually boil.”

The next paragraph states the following:

“A full tablespoon/8g of flour per cup/250ml liquid (or 2 teaspoons/5g pure starch in the form of cornstarch or arrowroot) is required to prevent curdling.  The disadvantage is that this proportion of starch also turns a creamily smooth dish into a coarser, thicker one, and diminishes its flavor.”

So, I felt that gave me my answer.  The flour in the recipe had been used to stabilize the custard and probably to thicken it a little.  But there was potentially a flavor and texture trade-off.  And you know, I’m all about the flavor and texture.  So I decided that if no flour was good enough for Nana, it was good enough for me.

We were going flourless.

The results?  A light custard pie that was smooth and so refreshing. 

Buttermilk Pie Whole

 Buttermilk Pie Slice

I could eat several pieces and it not ever feel heavy.  Not that I did…. necessarily.  But IF I did ever do such a thing as eat more than one piece, it WOULDN’T feel heavy.  THAT’s what I meant to say.

Right.

The neat part is that in my research on the internet, I found some interesting things about Buttermilk Pie.  Like this page that tells how popular it is all across the South, but especially in Texas.  “In West Texas—where there’s not always enough fruit for fruit pies—buttermilk pie is a classic dessert.”  If you’ve ever been to West Texas, you know that there is truth to there not always being a lot of fruit.  There’s not a lot of anything.  Period.  But there are cows (for buttermilk) and chickens (for eggs).  So this statement makes complete sense. 

I also found several variations with different flavors accompanying the buttermilk and egg custard.  Like lemon or nutmeg.  As I looked at my Nana’s simple recipe the only extra flavor I chose to add was vanilla.  Because I honestly can’t seem to bake without using vanilla.

So, without further ado….

Nana’s Buttermilk Pie

3 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter (melted)
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 - 9” pie crust (plated but unbaked)

Preheat oven to 350 ºF.

Cream together eggs & sugar using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Drizzle in melted butter & mix well.  Add buttermilk, salt and vanilla. Pour into an unbaked pie shell.  Bake @ 350  for about 40-45 minutes or until set.  Cool completely.  It is best when made ahead of time and refrigerated to allow the custard to really set up.  Serve either cold from the refrigerator or at a cool room temperature. 

Buttermilk Pie Strawberries

The recipe with more in depth instructions and photos can also be found at WayMoreHomemade – The Recipes in this post.

Other posts you might like:
Friends, Farmer’s Markets and Piiih

Thursday, April 8, 2010

BBA Challenge #20 – Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

This bread has weird stuff in it. Like wheat bran, coarse corn meal and oat meal. It just seems like an odd mixture.

But to my surprise, this weird mixture that I soaked in water overnight…

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… when added with flour, yeast, salt, etc….

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… truly turns into an extraordinary multigrain bread.

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MMMMMM…..

How about some leftover thinly sliced roast and gravy on a couple of slices of toasted multigrain bread. OHHHHH YEEEAAHHHH!

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I was fairly surprised at the texture of this bread. Most multi-grain breads I have encountered are all chunky and have what appears to be bark and twigs in them. I’m not a fan of the bark and twigs bread. But this bread had a more smooth and even texture. I might like to see more wheat flour in it, but overall, I was impressed.

And Mr. Reinhart isn’t kidding when he talks about what great toast this makes. It’s sweet and makes such a nice crunch crust when toasted. I could totally see using bread like this for breakfast toast if I had a diner, inn or B&B.

Not that I ever will. *she says wistfully*

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Your dachshund might be spoiled if…

Your dachshund just might be spoiled rotten if…

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… while wandering around the house one morning while you are doing your quiet time and she is locked out of your bedroom where her bed is, she would rather sit atop your Bible study lesson and clipboard than sit on the floor.

Because there’s nothing worse than having to sit on the floor when you’re a spoiled rotten dachshund.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Real Deal

How was your Easter weekend? 

Ours was really nice.  Thanks for asking.

All of us had the day off on Friday so we decided, while everyone else had school to make up for a snow day, to take the opportunity to go to the zoo.  Sure there was rain in the forecast and a line of thunderstorms headed our way… but that didn’t stop us.  We figured that if we had a good hour or so of fun then we would just leave when it started raining (you can do that when you are zoo members and it doesn’t cost you anything in admission to go for an hour).  We did get a little concerned, however, when it was sprinkling on us before we even got out of our neighborhood.

But we pressed on and it turned out to be just a really wonderful day at the zoo.  The hour that we planned to spend turn into like three with only a little sprinkle.  And then, we topped it off with a trip to Dairy Queen.  Honey, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Saturday was shaping up to be a bit of a busy day.  Sarah had a softball game at the same time as our neighborhood’s Easter egg hunt.  So we had to divide and conquer.  Mike took Sarah to softball and I took Nathan to the egg hunt since it would be close to home and I had bread in the oven.

The egg hunt was scheduled for 11 am.  Now, I have been to these things before and have even been in charge of them before.  Nothing ever starts on time, right?  So when we walked out of our house at 11:03 to go through the gate along our back fence to walk the 50 yards to where the egg hunt would be, imagine my surprise to see kids scattered everywhere and some saying, “All the eggs are gone.” 

Once poor Nathan realized the fact that there were no more eggs to be hunted and that he wanted nothing to do with the really big white Easter bunny walking around, he headed back toward home. 

100_7851He was a little sad to say the least.

But there was consolation in the fact that we would be going to church that evening and would have a chance to do an egg hunt there.

So we hung out and played and enjoyed just a generally beautiful North Texas spring day.  Mike was texting me updates from Sarah’s game (which they won!) and when they got home, we all had some lunch and took a nap.

The boy was out cold when it was time to leave to go to church for the Easter festival (which we decided to do instead of Halloween this year… loved it!).  So Mike took Sarah and her friend up there then called to say, “You’re going to have to get the boy up.  Pre-school egg hunt is at like 4:30.”  We couldn’t miss two in one day.

So I scooped him up out of bed and hurried on up there.  Poor thing was so groggy.  And during the two hours we were there at the church, he had two opportunities to get Easter eggs… both of which he passed on. 

After all of that.

But I think this new version of an Easter egg “hunt” bothers him a bit.  You know what I mean… when they are more like scrambled eggs than hidden.  It’s just a race across an open field of grass with eggs scattered in the open for kids to simply pick up.  It’s chaos.  It’s madness.  And it eludes my introverted son.

But Easter Sunday was the real deal for us.  We had a leisurely morning of breakfast and whatnot before church.  We enjoyed an incredible time worshipping with our church family.  We got home and ate a heavenly lunch.  And then came the egg hunt.  A real egg HUNT.  I hid them everywhere…

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… even up the tree.

But I have to admit that I broke the cardinal rule of Easter egg hiding.  I didn’t count how many I hid.  So we’ll be looking for the swarms of ants who find the ones with the chocolate and jelly beans inside that the kids left behind.  *sigh*

Then they took the Resurrection Egg set that we have and took turns hiding them for each other to find.

It appears to me that he might think it was worth the wait.

And I have to agree.  Sometimes it truly is best to wait for the real deal.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A New Sport {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

Sarah has played soccer for the last few years.  This spring, in an effort to branch out, she is trying softball.

She and Nathan had mentioned being interested in playing base ball back in the fall.  Well, Santa heard about this and got all excited.  So they both got gloves and a bat to share for Christmas.

We finally got her signed up this spring to play softball and her team is the Tiggers (Yes, as in Winnie the Pooh… T-I-Double guh-ERRRRR).

She had her first game a few weeks ago and seems to be enjoying it.  I’m just thrilled that she is finally playing a sport that I have some knowledge of and understand.  (I played softball all through elementary school and on a church rec. team in high school.)

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She has played catcher a few times.  I played catcher so I have a soft spot here.

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At bat.  Her stance needs some work, but she’s getting the hang of it and making contact with the ball.  But this was her first game after only one or two practices.

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Her first base hit.

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She got to first then the next batter allowed her to get to 2nd.  She was forced out at 3rd, but not bad for her first time around the bases.

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And, yeah, can you believe the face mask on her batting helmet?  When did THAT start?!?

She has also played 2nd base some and outfield.

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The one thing that’s getting on my nerves is those darn chain link fences.  They get in the way of my picture taking. 

Her coach is really nice and is excellent about moving the girls around to try different positions.  And it’s coach pitch so the girls get like five chances to hit the ball at the plate.  She said she hasn’t been playing long enough yet to have a favorite thing or position, so we’ll see how the season goes.

But the girl is having fun and the team is doing pretty well so far.  She missed the team’s very first game because it was her birthday and, well, there was a party to be had.  So as far as a record goes, we lost first game she attended and have won the two since then. 

So here’s to trying new things.

Go Tiggers!

Next up…. 4 year old t-ball.  Now THAT should be fun.  Or excruciating.