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Sourdough Fail

My lovely sister in law (Aunt BB) doesn’t believe I’ve ever cooked something I had to throw out, so here’s another example just from yesterday.

I posted last week that we were going to try homemade sourdough and that I had the starter bubbling on the counter.  I fed the starter for a week, stirring and nurturing it (although I did fudge a little in the beginning and added real not “wild” yeast).  Yesterday, I decided it was time to give a loaf of bread a try. 

My first goof was that I forgot to make the sponge the night before.  The recipe I was using said to leave it in the oven overnight, but the two cups of milk…overnight….just didn’t sound appealing. So I did it right before work and put it in the oven (with the light on) for a couple of hours.  At lunch, I added the rest of the ingredients.  Now since I don’t really like homemade bread that’s all whole wheat, I decided to go half and half with regular white flour.  I mixed it all up, wet and gloppy as advertised, and popped it back in the oven to rise.

It didn’t quite reach the top of the bowl (so not even close to doubled) but I had plenty to pour into my large 1 1/2 lb loaf pan about 2-3 hours later.  I lost track of time in the afternoon so I’m not sure how long exactly.  I popped it back in the oven to rise for a while, and when it reached the top of the loaf pan, I started baking.

Now I’ve had problems with this new loaf pan before.  It’s a commercial one and supposed to be great, but I’ve never been able to get the loaf DONE.  I thought my mistake was taking it out at the same time I took out my 1-lb loaf pan (forgetting it was bigger), but I made a mental note this time to watch the bread carefully.  After 35 min. the top was definitely hard and dark and I didn’t dare leave it in much longer.  The bread had bubbled up over the side and some burned onto my oven.  Grrr.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  I cut around the edges and turned the pan out over my rack…

and the loaf fell into half, with the middle still a gooey nasty mess.

So here we are with half the cooked loaf in the pan, half out on the rack way too gooey to eat (this dough had eggs too), with the top burned, and the inside of my oven nasty to boot.  To top it off, I broke off a corner of the cooked loaf and about tossed my cookies into the trash along with the nasty bread.  It was sooooo sour.  Gah.  Not even close to tasty despite the 1/4 c. honey.

Total fail.  I almost chucked the starter into the trash too, but I’ve been taking care of it a WEEK.  So I’m going to try again, but this time, I’m trusting Suzanne McMinn’s recipe.  Yeah, it’s white flour, and so not as healthy, but right now, I’m shooting for EDIBLE.

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Retake Homemade: Zucchini Muffins

My dad brought me a whole sack of home-grown zucchini, and two of the summer squash were so large, I couldn’t help but picture shredded zucchini in some delish breakfast muffins!  I don’t know that I can convince the two youngest monsters to eat these, but I don’t care — they’re wonderful!  (more for meeee!)  This recipe is adapted from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (she makes bread with hers).

“Grate” Zucchini Muffins

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 egg white
1 whole egg
6 T canola oil
1 1/4 c. packed grated zucchini
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 T milk (not in original recipe, but my batter was a little too thick)

I just dumped everything into the bowl in no particular order and stirred until mixed.  Fill muffin tins (this filled about 9-10 regular-sized muffin cups) and bake 15-20 min at 350 degrees until done.

I was out of cinnamon, so I used allspice and ground cloves instead.  Soooo good, I couldn’t eat just one!

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Retake Homemade: Rice Pilaf

I’m a little late — the “Retake Homemade” posts are supposed to be on Saturday.  But with the holiday craziness this weekend, I just didn’t have time to post.  I figured better late than never. 

My recipe is inspired by Suzanne McMinn’s Homemade “Uncle Ben’s” post.  I went to our local organic foods store and bought wild rice, red and brown rice, and parboiled rice in bulk.  I got several large bags of rice for well under $10 (although I don’t have my receipts handy).  I was nervous because my kids don’t like “weird” textures or things that look odd, and wild rice does have a weird buggy look.  However, it won the approval of 4/5 members of my family — and even Littlest Monster, although she didn’t like it, did eat a few bites.  I’m hoping that over time she’ll get more comfortable with the strange rice.

Homemade Rice Pilaf

2 T butter
1 T dried onion flakes
2 cups assorted rice
4 cups broth (I used water + bouillon cubes)

Melt the butter in a saucepan that has a lid and is large enough to cook the rice.  Saute the dried onion briefly in the melted butter (do not brown).  Add the rice and broth.  Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

You could add parsley, etc. but I didn’t want to put weird green things in the already weird rice until I knew the monsters would eat it.  I also didn’t add salt since I used bouillon cubes (notoriously high in sodium).  This would be FABULOUS with homemade chicken broth if you have it on hand.

Princess Monster had seconds, and Middle went back for thirds.  She LOVED this rice.  It has become a family staple!

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Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Hands down, this is the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever made.  Chef Michael Smith had a show on the Food channel called “Chef at Home” that we really loved, and he inspired the original recipe (I don’t know if the cookbook I linked to actually contains this recipe or not).  I didn’t jot down the instructions and over the months/years, I’ve modified it slightly to adjust for my family (they like it meatier). 

It’s a little expensive to gather all the ingredients and make sauce from scratch, but it’s totally worth it.  This isn’t a “measure carefully” recipe, so don’t be afraid to play around with it.

1-2 T olive oil
1 pkg pancetta
1 large onion, chopped
fresh garlic cloves, crushed and chopped, to taste
2+ lbs sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2+ lbs ground beef (Chef Michael used a mix of veal and ground beef)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1-2 8 oz cans tomato paste (depending on how tomatoey you like it)
1 bottle of your favorite red wine (I used Dancing Bull merlot)
fresh basil, or dried basil/Italian seasoning to taste
Kosher salt to taste

1. Chop up the pancetta.  In a large deep pot, heat 1-2 T olive oil and fry the pancetta until browned.  This gives the spaghetti a delicious roasted taste, even though none of the other meat is actually browned at all.

2. Add the diced onion and cook until softened.  Add the garlic but don’t brown it (it’ll get bitter).

3. Dump in the tomatoes and paste.

4. Add the meats and use a spatula to chop up the sausages a little.  (I leave it pretty chunky — the kids think they’re “meatballs”)  Do NOT brown.

5. Stirring, pour in red wine until the meats are covered.  Don’t worry about incorporating all the ingredients at this time.  It looks a little disgusting with all the raw meat, but trust me.  Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low or med-low, and let it simmer about an hour.

6. If using fresh basil (YUM) don’t add it until near the end.  If you’re using dried herbs, you can add it whenever.  After the sauce has cooked about an hour, you can safely taste it and add salt or even a little sugar if needed (sugar will cut the acidic tomato taste, but I don’t usually have to because of the wine).

The alcohol will cook off, leaving a rich, delicious sauce that tastes as though it took hours and hours to make.  If the sauce is a little thin, you can take the lid off and let it simmer another 1/2 hour or so to cook down a little.

Serve with your favorite pasta, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and some crusty rustic Italian bread.  This much sauce will easily feed 10 people with leftovers.  We usually get at least 2 meals out of the sauce and last time I made it, I still froze some to use for later.  You can always halve the meats and wine — bonus, you get to drink the rest!  (I admit to opening a second bottle tonight to ensure I added enough liquid.)

Something Chef Michael always said:  cook with wine that you like to drink.  I love Dancing Bull cabernet or merlot, so that’s what I used today.  I’ve also used Black Opal merlot which was delicious.

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Old Settler’s Beans

I tweeted about Settler’s Beans yesterday and had several requests for the recipe.  Let me start you with a little background…

Many years ago when I was a teenager (looooong time!), we went to a tiny basically one-room church (complete with outhouse until the addition was finished!) called Coon Creek Baptist.  Every year, they had a fellowship “Homecoming” dinner, and everyone brought traditional old-time dishes.  That’s the first time I can remember having “Old Settler’s Beans,” authentically cooked in a bean crock.  They’re basically sweet baked beans, but with extra meat and a variety of beans added to the mix.

For some random family get together with my inlaws, I made a version of Settler’s Beans from an old recipe I found in one of my MIL’s antique cookbooks she’d given me.  It was a huge hit and has become a tradition for our family.  The monsters love them too. Even though Littlest Monster whines “we’re having beans again!?!?!” she’ll eat Settler’s Beans gladly because they’re so sweet.

I’ve probably been making them about 10 years or so.  Each time, they come out a little different.  I’m going to type up the “recipe” from memory, with the disclaimer that they do come out differently every time, depending on what I have on hand, etc.  This isn’t a recipe you need to follow strictly at all.  I think the “old settlers” would approve most highly of using whatever you have on hand, because I’m sure they did!

Old Settler’s Beans

2 pounds ground beef
1-2 pounds bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large family-sized can of Bush Baked beans
         (any flavor, but we use Maple or Brown Sugar)
2 cans dark-red kidney beans
2 cans butter beans
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
          (we use KC Masterpiece honey or brown sugar flavored)
3 T. yellow mustard
3 T. chili powder

Brown the bacon until crispy, and spoon into baking dish (I use the crockpot). If you really want to be healthy, drain the fat — but I typically don’t at this point. The onions taste fabulous sauteed in the bacon grease! Add the ground beef and brown. I do use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground beef and onions into the pot, or the final beans will be pretty greasy.

Add the Bush’s baked beans to the pot.  Drain the other canned beans and add to the pot.  If you’d like a less meaty dish, add more beans!  The butter beans are my personal absolute favorite and I always use them, even though I have to make a special trip to a different store (our Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them). 

In a med. bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients into a paste.  I admit, this is TRIPLE the homemade sauce  from what the original recipe calls for, but I’m putting in way more meat than the recipe called for too.  You could always knock off a 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. brown sugar if you’re worried it’ll be too sweet.  I’m also very liberal with the chili powder — tastes really good with the sweet sauce.

Dump the sauce into the pot and stir, but not too much (don’t smash the beans).  I typically cook in the crockpot on low for 2-3 hours.  I have also made the beans the night before, refrigerated, and then cooked the following day.  Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven an hour or so at 300 – 350 degrees.

This makes a ton of beans.  As a side dish, it can compliment a dinner of easily 15 people with likely some leftovers.  I make as much as my crock pot will hold,  so that we do have some to eat the next day.


P.S. I don’t typically add much salt since the beans and bacon are loaded with sodium.  You can also add fresh garlic to the ground beef if desired.

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Chicken & Dumplings

This is a rather slow process.  Although you could certainly used canned chicken broth, fresh “carcass” broth tastes soooo good!

History:  at Granny’s (my mom) house for Thanksgiving, it’s tradition that we have a light supper before us kids all head home.  We call it “Carcass Soup” and quite honestly, I’d rather skip the turkey dinner and go straight to the soup.  When she makes it, she uses the turkey carcass and boils it while we visit all afternoon, and then uses the leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes to thicken the broth.  She also adds homemade noodles, which are incredible.

I’ve adapted that idea to just a chicken, something we eat more often, and the kids are just as happy with dumplings, and they certainly don’t take nearly as long to make as homemade noodles.

Chicken & Dumplings

Prepare 1 whole chicken–boil, broiled, rotisserie, etc.  Eat for a meal and save some of the breast meat (or add enough breast meat for soup).  After the legs, thighs, etc. are removed, throw the carcass bones into a large pot, cover with water, and simmer.  Add onions, celery, and carrots to taste.  Boil at least 1 hour, but as long as 2-3 hours is fine.  Strain (I use a pasta pot that has a built in strainer).

Pick over the leftover chicken meat and add to the pot.  Season with poultry seasoning, thyme or sage (I prefer sage because Granny always put the stuffing into the soup), and add celery salt, salt, pepper to taste.

Add diced potatoes, carrots, celery, and whatever frozen veggies (I added corn).  Simmer approx 30 minutes until the veggies are tender.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings.  I use Old Pioneer buttermilk biscuit mix (aside:  today I accidentally used their pancake version which was sweeter) and the recipe on the box.  It’s about 2 cups of mix, 2/3 c. milk, and 1 tsp. poultry seasoning.  Basically biscuits with seasoning added.

I stir 2-3 T flour in cold water and then dump into the soup and stir until thickened.  Then I begin dropping the dumplings into the hot broth by tablespoon.  Although everyone loves dumplings, I can’t make a double batch in my stock pot — they need a little room in between to let the steam rise.  Cover and let steam about 10 minutes.

Our favorite way to serve:  a scoop of mashed potatoes in the bowl, topped with thick, yummy soup and a dumpling.

Stick to your ribs good.

Dessert tonight was homemade bread slathered with homemade apple butter and it was soooo good!!