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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Bread Baking!

I am not really a baker.  Baking takes science and attention to detail, neither of which I am any good at.  But baking yeast bread I have finally figured out.  I find that working with my hands, really feeling the dough as it's working, helps me to get it right. It has become more instinctive for me than scientific.

There is also no need to fear working with yeast.  I buy a jar of yeast so that if at first you don't succeed in proofing it, try try again.  Just make sure your water is warm, not hot, and I like to add some sugar.  Maple syrup is my preference, but maybe honey or agave nectar is yours.

If you have a stand mixer or a bread machine, by all means use it.  But first work the dough out with your hands, get a feel for it.  From then on you'll know what to look for as you use your machines.

Here is a simple recipe, adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  I used it today and added 1 1/4 cup of pecans and 1 1/4 cup of cranberries to it to make bread for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.
I also, since the oven was going, made some vegan whole wheat cranberry orange muffins...just cause...

Whole Wheat Yeast Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup     Warm Water
1/4 cup  Maple Syrup
2 1/4 tsp Dry Active Yeast
2 2/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups     All Purpose Flour
1 tsp      Salt
1 cup     Warm Water

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Mix the warm water and the maple syrup together.  Add the yeast and stir to combine.  Let sit until it starts to foam and bubble, 5-10 minutes.
Mix the flours and salt together. Add any mix ins, cranberries, nuts, etc. at this time.
Pour the maple yeast mixture into the flour.  Add the rest of the water.  Stir to combine and then start to work the dough with your hands. 

Pour the dough onto a clean hard surface and knead until smooth, 5 or so minutes.  Place back into an oiled bowl and allow to rise, covered with a towel, until double in size.  Altitude is a factor here, where I live it only take 35-40 minutes, may take longer at lower elevations.
Punch the dough down and then place into a greased 9 inch loaf pan. 
Bake for 30 minutes then check on the loaf.  Turn the pan if your loaf is browner on one side than another.  Bake for 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and use a knife to loosen the sides of the loaf.  Take the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.  If you would like a warm slice of bread, wait about 5 minutes after the loaf is out of the oven before slicing it.  This allows any steam that has accumulated in the loaf to dissipate and keeps your slices from getting soggy.

When I made the muffins I took some of the batter and put it into a soup crock to make a mini loaf for some friends.  I'm crafty like that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pho Duy

Headed out for lunch with Mrs. Jones yesterday at Pho Duy.  It was so much fun to find items on the menu that I had never had before. 
To begin we shared a Vegetable Tofu Pancake. It was made with tofu as the pancake, stuffed with bean sprouts, more tofu and straw mushrooms.  Served with lettuce, fresh cilantro, mint and basil and of course nuoc plam to dip it all in.

Mrs. J was a newbie so she had with a Grilled Shrimp Rice Noodle Bowl.

I went for the Spicy Vegetable Tofu Soup, served with rice noodles, corn, broccoli, more straw mushrooms, tofu, fried tofu skin, knotted tofu skin and some little fried vegetable cakes.  Fantastic!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aloo Gobi!

How much do I love Indian Food?  There is no possible way to count the ways.  And my favorite dish is Aloo Gobi Matar.  It is an incredible melange of cauliflower, peas, tomatoes and peas.  Please enjoy the recipe and remember, you can modify the spice to your tastes.


Cauliflower, Peas and Potatoes

(Aloo Gobhi Matar)
Serves 4


1 cup               Cauliflower, cut into florets

2 cups              Potatoes, peeled and cut in ½ inch cubes

1 ½ cups          Peas, fresh or frozen

½ tsp               Ground Turmeric

1 tsp                Ground Cumin

1/8 tsp             Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp                Ground Coriander

2 tsp                Canola Oil

1 ½ cup           Tomatoes, finely chopped


½ cup              Cilantro Leaves, chopped                  

1.      If potatoes are new, don't bother to peel them.
2.      Cook the cauliflower, potatoes, and fresh peas, each separately, in boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.
3.       Combine the turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and coriander powder in a small bowl.
4.      Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over moderate heat, and add the spices. Cook for a few seconds to release the flavors. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes over medium to low heat, and add perhaps a 1/4-cup of water if needed.
5.      Cook a bit more until all is heated through, add salt and cilantro leaves, and cook a few more minutes.
6.      Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I was pretty excited to get a Hachiya Persimmon the other day, having never had one before.  Was I to eat it as is?  Cooked? Baked?

I poured through my cookbooks and found some interesting facts. The astringency of the persimmon can be overwhelming, to the point of "dry mouth" if it isn't ripe.  Didn't want that to happen.  So I waited for a few days, allowing the fruit to ripen on my counter in direct sunlight.
It is a very lovely fruit to look at and I dug up a recipe that sounded perfect.  No baking (often if using persimmons in baked goods it was suggested using baking soda to help cut the astringency) or roasting needed. 
The cookbook I pulled it from was old enough that they were still calling avocado's Alligator Pears.  How fantastic is that?  After slicing it in half I scooped the fruit from the skin as I do with avocado. The flavor was mild and sweet while the texture was soft, almost like a canned peach.

It is a simple salad of romaine lettuce topped with the persimmon, cut into chunks, avocado, orange sections, and pistachios.  The recipe called for French Dressing, but I lightened it up a bit and just drizzled some extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kale Chips and Oatmeal Bars

I know, I know, weird combination.  But I had the oven going and some wonderful Local Kale, so I figured I'd get two things baked off in no time. My friend Michelle gave me some suggestions on the Kale chips, so thank you to her.
I am not a baker.  There are members of my family who can whip up baked goods with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their back.  I do not have that DNA.  But I can make bars, and I really like to make them before I go on a big hike or trek in the mountains because they travel well, are full of energy and taste awesome. The Oatmeal Bars are a total rip off of ones I have tried at a certain local bakery.  I've made my own substitutions, and please feel free to do the same.

Oatmeal Bars
Makes 1 9x9inch pan

1/4 cup         Coconut Oil, melted
1 1/2 cup      Peanut or Almond Butter
1 each           Ripe Banana
2 cups          Quick Oats
1/4 cup         Sesame Seeds or Hemp Seeds
1/2 cup         Cashews or Almonds, chopped
2 TBS           Ground Flax Seed
1/2 cup          Dried Cranberries
2/3 cup          Dark Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup          Coconut Flakes, unsweetened

Preheat oven to 350°
Pour the hot melted coconut oil over the peanut or almond butter in a large mixing bowl.  Mix together with the banana until softened.
Add the oats, seeds and nuts.  Mix thoroughly.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients. If the mixture seems a bit loose add some hot water to make it softer and come together more.
Pour into a 9x9 inch pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove, cool and cut into bars.

Kale Chips
Makes approximately 3 cups

1 bunch    Kale
¼ cup      Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350°
Strip the kale leaves off the stem and break into pieces.  Pour the olive oil over the kale and massage into the leaves.  Season gently with the salt and pepper as it is easy to over do it.
Pour onto a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  If you like your chips super crispy turn off the oven and leave the pan in there for 5 more minutes.