Sunday, February 28, 2010

HBin5: 100% Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil

It's time again for the next "Healthy Bread in 5" assignment.  This week's project was a triplet:  100% Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil, Aloo Paratha and Southwest Foccacia with Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese.

I decided to keep it simple this week and only bake the 100% Whole Wheat bread.  I wasn't sure if my husband and I would like the other two recipes, so I'll wait and see what the other bloggers say about them.

The 100% Whole Wheat Bread turned out terrific.  It was very easy to mix up, and it rose beautifully after an overnight stay in the refrigerator.  But instead of olive oil, I ended up using grapeseed oil.  Turns out that we ran out of olive oil, and I didn't realize it until I opened up the kitchen cupboards and it was gone.  My husband likes to experiment with different cooking oils, so I gave the grapeseed oil a try. 

I definitely liked the results.  The crust was nice and chewy, and the interior was surprisingly moist for a whole wheat bread.  I'll definitely bake up this loaf again.

Please join me in visiting Big Black Dog to see how the other HBin5 bloggers fared with this week's recipes.  I'm always so impressed by how beautiful their breads turn out.  I'm learning a lot from them!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My first doughnut

I was happy to find one of the many food magazines I subscribe to in the mailbox last weekend.  In it, there was a recipe for doughnuts.  I commented to my husband, "I've sure seen a lot of doughnut recipes lately."  Some of my favorite blogs and magazines have featured their own twist on the classic doughnut.  So my husband said, "Why don't we make them tonight?" 

You see, I've never attempted to make doughnuts at home. But as I was stuck in the house again because of the cold and snow, I was ready to take on another project.  Thankfully, most doughnut recipes call for baking ingredients I already have in my cupboards.  So I didn't have to thaw my pick-up truck and scrape the ice off the windshield to drive to the grocery store.

We picked an old-fashioned cake doughnut recipe from the latest issue of "Taste of Home" magazine.  The recipe reminded me of the "Salvation Army doughnuts" that I first heard about at a visit to our county historical museum. 

According to the museum's WWI display, Salvation Army nurses used to hand out doughnuts and coffee to U.S. troops when they arrived in the train stations in Europe.  The doughnut-coffee pairing became so popular with the soldiers that they requested it when they came back home.  Soon, every little diner and cafe in America offered doughnuts and coffee for breakfast.

On a cold night in February, doughnuts and coffee sounded pretty darn good to my hubby and me.  So I mixed up the dough, refrigerated it for 2 hours as directed and then broke out my handy-dandy doughnut cutter, a nice little kitchen tool I picked up at a local antique fair for $1.

I didn't need to roll out the dough, just press it to a 1/4-inch thickness.  Then I cut out the doughnuts.

It was hard to believe that these flat circles would turn into doughnuts.  But they puffed up the minute they hit the hot oil.

Once again, beginner's luck was on our side, because these turned out so good!  Not quite as sweet as the gas-station doughnuts I grew up with, but they more than made up for it with their tender, cakey texture.  Our only problem was that we didn't fry them quite long enough, so a few doughnut were still a little "doughy" on the inside.  But that's an easy remedy with a little more practice.

They were so easy and fast to make (if you don't count the 2 hour chill time, they took less than 15 minutes to cut and fry), I'm not sure why more people don't make their own doughnuts at home. I'm sure we'll be making these again next time we have overnight guests.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter blanket

We received another 3 inches of snow yesterday. It's officially the fourth snowiest winter in central Iowa on record.  We've gone nearly two months with more than 5 inches of snow on the ground, which is also a  new record.  Actually, we have about 1-1/2 feet of snow on the ground.  In some places, the drifts and snow piles are over 6 feet tall.  It truly is an unforgetable winter here in Iowa.

But at least the days are getting longer.  I took a few pictures of our front yard when the sun was setting when I came home from work.  It's tough to show in a two-dimensional picture how deep the snow is.  But I gave it a try.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the giant icicle I keep blogging about, it's still here.  And it's growing!

We're planning to stay inside again this weekend since there is more snow in the forecast.  I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of baking to keep the house warm!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happiness is...

Remember those old "Peanuts" cartoons, the ones that would say, "Happiness is..."  I guess for me, happiness is a cookie. Or baking cookies, to be more exact.

I was bummed out last week watching the snow fall, again -- another 3 inches on top of a good foot-and-half of snow already on the ground.  I wanted to get out of the house and go somewhere, anywhere, but knew it was safer to stay put. 

I was sitting in the kitchen, catching up on my favorite blogs, when I came across a classic M&M cookie recipe from Beantown Baker.  For some reason, I had the sudden urge to make these cookies. And I figured, if I'm baking one type of cookie, I might as well bake another.  I've been curious to try the Ultimate Cookie featured in Iowa Girl Eats. Toffee chips, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and oats: Sounds like cookie heaven.

I wanted to bake cute little M&M cookies in Valentine colors.  But my small-town grocery store only had leftover Christmas M&Ms. The cookies still turned out adorable, though.  But I'm biased.

The Ultimate Cookies weren't colorful, but they sure were fun to make.  However, I wouldn't put them on my "ultimate" list.  I'm not a big fan of butterscotch chips, and I couldn't taste the yummy toffee chips with all the other competing flavors.  That didn't stop me from eating way too many of these, however.

That's sea salt sprinkled on top, if you were wondering.  I'll probably take these cookies to work, since I've got plenty of extras.  I'm thinking about starting a monthly "Cookie Friday" just to give me another excuse to try more cookie recipes.  Happiness really is a warm cookie fresh out of the oven!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

MS Cupcake Club: Smore cupcakes

My apologies to the folks visiting my site for the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club.  I couldn't find graham flour for the Smore cupcakes, nor do I have a kitchen torch (or a stand mixer) to make the toasted marshmallow topping.  So I thought it would be a good month to take a break from cupcakes, for the sake of my waistline.  But I plan to try next month's recipe for Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.

If you're interested in seeing how everyone else did with the Smore Cupcakes, please visit the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club blog.

HBin5: Red Beet Buns and Chocolate Tangerine Bars

In honor of Valentine's Day, this week's Healthy Bread in 5 project was a fitting selection of two recipes: Red Beet Buns and Chocolate Tangerine Bars.

Have to admit, I didn't have high hopes for the Red Beet Buns, and I guess it shows in my fuzzy picture.

I'm not a big fan of beets, but I thought maybe I wouldn't be able to taste them when they were baked in the bread.  The rolls turned out a beautiful red color.  The dough was sticky to work with, though, so I couldn't shape them as well as I would have liked.

I took my first bite...

...and I didn't like it.  I could still taste the beets.  I'm not sure why, but beets just taste like dirt to me, no matter how much I wash them off. And it was a pain to clean up all the beet stains.  Not worth the effort for me, although my husband didn't seem to mind them.  He thought it just "tasted like bread."

On to the next project, another unusual recipe, chocolate tangerine bars.  I mixed up a batch of Chocolate Expresso Bread and used the dough for these bars.  I was a little worried at first, because the dough didn't appear to rise on the counter or in the fridge overnight.  And they didn't look to pretty after I baked them.

But I ended up liking these bars.  Hard to resist the little pieces of chocolate. The bars were surprisingly soft considering that they didn't rise much.  I also had to improvise the recipe and use semi-sweet chocolate, since I couldn't find bittersweet in our little grocery store.  And I thought I had dried cranberries in the cupboard, but couldn't find them, so the bars went without them.

Would I make the chocolate bars again?  I'm undecided.  They were OK, but if I want a chocolate fix, I'd rather make brownies, not chocolate-studded bread.  Maybe if I paired the bread with something, like a raspberry spread.  Looking forward to reading how the recipes fared for the other bloggers.  Please check out Big Black Dog to see their results.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Joys of winter

We got another 6 inches of snow this week. This weather is beyond ridiculous.

Another huge icicle has formed on the opposite side of our house.

Possibly out of complete winter delirium, I decided to buy a second AeroGarden when I saw the little wonders on sale.  I'm growing herbs in my second AeroGarden.  And they are doing remarkably well.


 I ran into one snag, though. The aerator, or "bubbler," in the base of the AeroGarden isn't working.  I contacted the AeroGarden folks, and they agreed to send another base, no charge, no questions asked.  AeroGarden rocks!

My flowers are growing like crazy, too.


 Just a few short weeks, and I'll be planting seeds outside again.  But I wonder, how long will it take for 2 feet of snow to melt:

I think my garden is under there somewhere...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Always time for turkey

Back at Thanksgiving time, I bought an extra turkey while it was on sale.  I decided to roast the turkey this weekend, partly out of winter boredom and partly to make more room in the freezer.  I used a handy-dandy oven bag to roast up the turkey with little fuss.

My husband carved up the turkey before I had a chance to take pictures.  But he immediately knew what he wanted to make with it:  hot turkey sandwiches.  Every little diner and cafe in Iowa serves hot beef or hot turkey sandwiches.  It's the ultimate in economical comfort food -- white bread topped with a mound of mash potatoes, roast turkey or beef and a generous helping of gravy.  My husband is excellent at making gravy, and these hot turkey sandwiches turned out amazing.  Such a treat on another snowy day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Learning to cook

When I say I'm a beginning cook, I really mean it.  I barely know my way around the kitchen.  My husband does almost all the cooking in our house.  He returns home from work before me, so he usually has supper almost done when I get home.  And he's a really good cook.

Most of my cooking attempts are subpar.  I like to try new recipes to learn, but most of them are failures.  Usually, my husband has to step in to "rescue" a recipe by adding a dash of this or that.

But I would love to give my husband a break from the kitchen on the weekends.  So I've decided to stick to the basics and try to learn to cook a few of my favorite meals that aren't in his regular weeknight rotation because they take more than 30 minutes or so to prepare.

When I was growing up, my favorite dish was chicken and rice.  You just throw together white rice, cream of mushroom soup, a little water and onion soup mix together, top with chicken pieces, cover with foil and bake for about an hour.  

I recently prepared this recipe along with my one of my favorite salad recipes, another retro classic from my grandmother.  First, heat crushed pineapple to a boil, then add your favorite jello flavor. Refrigerate until it gels, then mix in cottage cheese and Cool Whip.  No, it's not the fanciest, healthiest salad.  But I always think of my grandmother when I make it.  And she will also be my favorite cooking role model. 
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