Friday, December 26, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Yesterday I worked all morning to create . . . dun dun dun . . . a box of Wheat Thins. Sigh. A lot of work for some crackers. But I was home-bound due to the fact that Chris took the car to have a transmission leak fixed. So, why not bake? (Its not like I have Christmas cards to send, a sewing machine calling my name, a dirty apartment or anything like that.)
I am still trying to figure out some- let's call them- food allergies (I do not have allergies or intolerances by definition, but certain foods do cause adverse affects within my knees and feet) so monitoring what I eat is important. So far, all I have found out is that I cannot eat tree nuts with abandon. But I am still in pain, so I am still eating something(s) that bother me. In order to figure out what those things are, I am trying to eliminate store bought good with funny names, hydrogenated oils and HFCS because they are known to be inflammatory. (Hopefully, I can figure out what is wrong and go beck to eating more "normally.") But for now I needed to find a way to get crackers without the $4.00 price tag of natural crackers.
So I have set out to make my our crackers. I had success with graham crackers, so why not try something new?
Homemade Wheat Thins
adapted from lifespy.com
- 2 3/4 cup Whole Wheat flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 pinch sea salt (plus more for sprinkling on the crackers)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
~Pulse flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together in food processor.
~Add warmed butter and mix until it resembles coarse meal.
~Slowly add buttermilk, stopping when the meal forms a ball.
Now here is the 'fun' part:
~Roll the dough out until it is 1/8'' thick or less.
~Cut to desired size, place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
~Poke with fork and sprinkle with salt.
~Bake until browning on edges. (I really don't remember how long I baked them- I just kept checking on them.)
Cool and enjoy.
I am not sure I will make these again, they were a workout just to roll out. I would roll the dough out until it was thin, but the goal is 1/8'' thick or less. In order to achieve this thickness, I rolled mine so it wouldn't stick. I would roll the dough between parchment paper until I thought they were thin, then cut away half, and roll the dough as flat as it would go again. My arms are definitely going to be sore.
And all my rolling seemed to be for nothing, because the crackers rose in the oven. Why did they rise? I thought it was baking powder's job to make stuff rise, but as this recipe shows, baking powder didn't come to work. Is baking soda also responsible for rising dough?
Friday, December 19, 2008
On Wednesday night, my husband and I were attending a dinner party with some friends from church, and we volunteered to bring dessert. I had to work most of the day Wednesday so I didn't get a chance to make the dessert before the husband got home, so he romantically offered to help make dessert.
Footnote: The husband is a software engineer with some slight OCD tendencies. He likes to do things in the correct order, exactly as the directions say. His need to follow directions and my free spirit and hap hazard way of measuring ingredients causes some tension in the kitchen. I used to measure up to his standards, but ever since I have been doing a significant amount of baking and cooking to avoid foods that cause adverse reactions in my body, I have discovered that even baking is not nearly as precise as they taught us in home ec (however, candy making is definitely an art requiring exact measurements and an accurate temperature reading). In baking and cooking, I have found that as long as you are pretty close with the flour, sugar and such, it seems to work.
So, while making the cookies, I measured by sight, instead of leveling the flour and brown sugar with a knife, and I eye-balled the volume of baking soda and other ingredients, like I have done for the past few months. This was enough to give the husband a heart attack and he left the kitchen saying, "I cannot be part of this." But in the end, he was part of it, and came back to help me roll the dough in sugar and flatten the balls with a spatula (of which he did a superb job).
And guess what? The cookies turned out great! They were a huge hit at our house and the party, here is all we have left:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
modified from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat flour and White Whole Wheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
~In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy.
~Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract.
~Add the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips.
~Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a spatula, lightly flatten, but do not overly flatten cookies.
~Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
So yesterday I was cleaning up our apartment (as it had gotten fairly dirty with both of us being busy and all) and in the kitchen I found an acorn squash from the fall. I decided now was as good a time as ever to cook it up. I have had good luck with butternut squash and I thought my new found skills would carry over into acorn squash.
I got my recipe from Cooking Light, but I didn't use the "spicy" ingredients they suggested. So, in reality, I didn't actually use their recipe, I just baked the squash with a technique most adults know (except for me as a newbie in the kitchen). For others who are new, here is what I did:
~Cut squash in half
~Scoop out insides like a pumpkin (save seeds for toasting later)
~Cut squash into wedges, arrange on parchment papered cookie sheet
~Coat wedges with spray cooking oil, sprinkle some salt, melted butter, honey and brown sugar (Since it was Cooking Light they went light on the good stuff- I went heavy).
~Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes (until tender).
Easy. I did that. They smelled good and even looked good. I took a bite, and my childhood memories came hurling back. Seriously . . . I gaged. I remember why my mother felt when she fed when my sister and I squash as kids we acted like she was trying to poison us. It's 'cuz she was!! I don't what it is about this squash, maybe it is a texture thing, but I do not like it.
Does anyone know the difference between butternut squash and acorn squash? Are their textures really that different? Or was it the baking that did me in? If I had cooked the acorn squash like butternut in the Barley-Squash Pilaf, would I have refrained from gagging?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
While I was writing, I did find time to be a little distracted . . . so I made graham crackers! I think they turned out great- better than expected actually. They are not quite as light and airy as store bought crackers, but what do you really expect from whole wheat flour? Even the husband conceded that they tasted "a lot like real graham crackers." Victory!
I got the recipe from here, and didn't really change much. I did not actually use graham flour but they still tasted good, so I don't know if I will buy graham flour next time or not. If you make these and use real graham flour let me know how it goes.
Homemade Graham Crackers
- 2 heaping cups of whole wheat flour
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 tsp backing powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- a pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 C butter, cut into pieces
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 C water
~Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so.
~Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough starts to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer.
~Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough 1/8-inch thick.
~Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm (I chilled for several hours).
Yield: 48 crackers
Note: I waited until most of my crackers were hard straight out of the oven, but had a few squares that looked like they were not cooked enough, and were going to be soft. However, it is the ones that looked soft that you see in the picture above- they turned out the best. And the others (which were hard out of the oven) are almost burned. So, I guess what I am so eloquently trying to say is this- follow the recipe, and take the crackers out when they start to brown on the edges.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I am very excited to use the sewing machine; I kinda feel like I am back in 8th grade home ec, trying to learn how to sew a duffel bag and bean-bag frog. Oh well, I am sure it will all come back fast one I get it going. I also am back at the blog, so I hope you can stop by every now and again.
Christmas is in full-swing and we have sort of missed it due to finals and thesis deadlines, but we do have our mini-tree up, along with our nativity scene that I got last year for Christmas (which I LOVE). Here are some pictures of our festiveness:
(Notice the dual tree toppers? The husband got to pick and he picked both!)
I love the tropical feeling the scene has with the spider plant hanging out in the back, and did you notice the huge bird peeking out behind the bull? It spices things up a bit, don't you think?
Singer image from target.com
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Last night, one of my bestest friends came over for a girls night (Chris had a bachelor party to go to). I have always wanted to try to make candy- and since my friend likes to bake and likes sweets as much as I do- I thought we could give toffee a try. It seemed simple enough.
So here is what happened:
We tried a Martha Stewart recipe from my magazine. It looked like this.
Beautiful and easy according to the directions. But ours turned out like this . . . and smoke filled the apartment.
It is completely inedible. But we did not give up- we wanted to figure out what went wrong and what to do to prevent it from happening again. We did some online research and found common candy making mistakes. We burned our toffee for two reasons. First, at this altitude, water boils at 202 degrees rather than 212 desgress at sea level. (Subtract 1 degree for every 500 ft above sea level.) So instead of cooking the candy to 300 degrees as per the instructions, we should have only cooked it to 290. Second, some suggested we test the thermometer to make sure it was accurate by boiling water. We did that and found that my candy thermometer said that water boils at 170 degrees. The thermometer is over 30 degrees off! And when you add in the 10 for altitude- we over cooked the toffee by 40 degrees. So yeah, it burned.
We tried again, with Betty Crocker at our side, and came up with this . . .
We made the second common mistake of allowing the butter and sugar to separate. It is a grainy pile of sugar and fat. It sure does taste pretty good- but not much like toffee. So I am returning the candy thermometer today and I hope to find another, more reliable, one soon. (Maybe Christmas?) My friend and I have vowed to get this right- we are going to try and try until we get this candy making science down. If you have any knowledge or advice we would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!
Fleur de Sel Toffee from marthastewart.com
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I love watermelon. I try to pick good ones at the store- but apparently when I "thump" them, I like the sound of overripe melons. So this year I got a couple bad watermelons. I didn't want to throw them out, so I cut them up and froze them to use in smoothies! Today was the first time we tried to make one- and it was pretty good.
I looked online for a recipe, but in the end we just kinda winged it. So here is an approxmation of the recipe.
- 2 C partially defrosted watermelon
- 1 C partially defrosted strawberries (hulled)
- 1 C skim milk
- 1/2 C apple juice
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground flaxseed meal (optional)
(We may have added more liquid than I have posted; we were having trouble getting the blender to blend.)
Friday, November 21, 2008
These cookies turned out well, but the cranberries can be a bit much at times, so if you make these, unless you LOVE cranberries, I might scale it back a bit.
Cranberry-Pumpkin Cookies (adapted from Allrecipes.com)
- 1/2 C butter, softened
- 1 C sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 C pumpkin puree
- 2 1/4 C flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 C cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp lemon zest (the recipe called for orange zest- but I only had lemons
~Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
~Beat in vanilla, egg and pumpkin.
~Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and mix well.
~Gently add cranberries and lemon zest.
~Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Dry Laundry Soap
- 1/2 C Borax
- 1/2 C Baking Soda (not washing soda)
- 1 grated Ivory soap bar (about one cup)
To grate the soap I use a cheese grater. If you make this, I would buy a new grater specifically for grating soap as the soap will leave a residue and may get stuck in the grater. You don't want soapy cheese!
Most sites and recipes suggest using washing soda rather than baking soda but I decided to try baking soda for two reasons. First, I could not find washing soda anywhere. Second, on a site dedicated to washing reusable baby diapers I found that washing soda and baking soda do the same thing, except washing soda is more alkaline, and is thus harsher on clothes and skin. (Don't even ask how I got to a diaper washing site . . . eww.) I have fairly sensitive skin, so I decided to go with baking soda and it has worked great so far.
Most sites also suggest using some sort of laundry soap such as Fels Naptha or Zote. I bought a bar of Fels Naptha at my local grocery store, but have not yet used it. I say, why should I change when what I have is good? Also, Fels Naptha can be irritating to the skin, and with my sensitive skin I am avoiding it until I need to use it.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Okay, now that you know that, I must say, with one small alteration, the pilaf turned out edible, even pretty good.
This was my first attempt at cooking pearl barley. I choose to try barley because I had heard that when cooked it has a quasi-chewy texture that sounded interesting. For those who don't know what pearl barley is or how to cook it (as I did not), I will tell you. It is a grain. And you cook it like rice. Sounds simple, right? Or not.
I found several recipes online with barley, and decided on Barley-Squash Pilaf because I had all the ingredients on hand. But when I prepared the meal as they suggest something when horribly wrong. When cooking rice, the rice is supposed to soak up the water it is being cooked in, and barley is supposed to do the same. But my barley was not soaking up the water in the alloted time, so I just let it cook a bit longer. However, in doing so, the squash became over cooked and started to fall apart. I will not be showing you a picture of the end product because it did not look too appetizing. Plus, it didn't even taste good. It was very bland. In an effort to save the dinner (which we were taking to a friends' house to share), I added a can of diced tomatoes. To my delight, this pretty much fixed the dish. So, below is the final recipe that we shared with our friends.
(However, I must warn you, this dish was not popular with the three-year-old crowd, it caused a dramatic reaction. After putting one dino-bite in his mouth, I believe his trembling words were "I can't do it mama, I can't." But I am sure you will enjoy it . . .)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 12 oz peeled butternut squash, cut in 1/2-in. pieces (2 cups)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 small red pepper, chopped
- 1 cup barley (pearl, not quick-cooking)
- 1 C chicken broth + 1 C water
- 1/2 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
~Heat oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add squash, onion, and pepper and saute for a few minutes.
~Add barley and cook for a few more minutes.
~Add broth and water, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper (if using). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until barley is just tender (or do as I did and wait until the liquid is absorbed).
~Remove from heat and add lemon zest and tomatoes with their juice.
barley image from cookinglight.com
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I did not want to buy expensive drapery because we are not going to live here forever, and I didn't want to spend the money on something that might not move to our next residence well. So I decided to try to find a cheap comforter and nail that puppy to the wall. I thought I could find a comforter for under $10, but after several disappointing trips to the local Salvation Army, I found that the cheapest comforters were $18.00. I had found (much cuter) quilts on clearance at TJMaxx for $20, so I went back there and brought one home.
After more thought, merely nailing the comforter to the wall was probably not the best choice, because then we would never get to see the lake. I needed to come up with a plan that would allow us to move the quilt back every day to let the sun in. After looking online, I decided to try to hang the quilt by sewing several 1' long pieces of nylon on the back making tubes. Then I could of string a Pottery Barn ribbon through the tubes and tack them to the wall. But after destroying a perfectly good nylon bag, I changed my mind about how to hang the quilt. I decided to just sew the Pottery Barn ribbon on to the quilt and put twine every 9''. This way, I could hang the quilt with the twine and then just untie the twine to open the window.
I did not use a sewing machine to attach the ribbon to the quilt for two reasons: first, I do not have a sewing machine and tracking one down may be difficult, and second, by sewing it by hand I was able to only sew on side of the quilt, leaving the backside (the one that faces our room) intact.
After all day of cleaning, pondering, sewing and finally pounding 10 nails into our wall at 8:00pm we hung the quilt up and Voila! We have a light and cold blocking curtain!
My husband was a very big help hanging the quilt, and he even came up with a better way to move the quilt back everyday. He suggested that we just fold the quilt in half and hang the twine from the other nails. Like so . . .
The versatility of this system is superb- we can open the quilt 1 nail, 2 nails, 5 nails- as few or as many as we like. Hopefully the nails will be able to withstand the weight of the quilt, and until they decide to fall out we will enjoy a warm house at night and beautiful waterfront views during the day.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Here is my recipe-
- 4 slices cooked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth + 1 can water
- 1 head broccoli (about 1 pound), cut into bite-size florets, stalks peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz. shredded cheese
~ In a medium pot, cook onion in some olive oil until it starts to soften.
~Add flour, stirring instantly, and cook for 30 seconds.
~Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes (I don't think you need to let it simmer but I did to help break up the flour chunks that I can never seem to avoid).
~Add broccoli, nutmeg, thyme, and milk.
~Cook broccoli until just before "crisp-tender," and add cheese and bacon.
~Melt cheese and warm bacon while broccoli finishes cooking.
~Serve with some extra cheese on top. Nummy!
Surprisingly, the soup turned out quite well. I added some goat cheese to my bowl of soup (because I LOVE it) and it added a nice subtle flavor to the soup.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
A few weeks ago I started a food allergen elimination diet that forced me to take a close look at what I was eating. I had to cut out most store-made bread because ingredients included high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and such. However, after a week with no bread - I still refused to pay $4.50 for a loaf of bread, so I decided to look into making my own bread sans breadmaker.