Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bubble Bread

Don't they just look like little soliders all lined up for their marching orders? Into the oven with you! :)

I have a new Bread Book I'm trying out with a fresh batch of yeast. It's amazing what good yeast will yeild vs year old-sitting-in-your-cubbard-forever yeast.

This recipe is really easy to make and the individual rounds can be frozen and saved for a later date. I've done some twists that worked out really great too. Just make sure they have enough time to rise if they are frozen!

Bubble Bread

3 - 3 1/2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1.25 oz yeast (1 pkg)
1/4 c warm water
1 c milk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
2 tbsp Parmesan
1/3 c melted butter
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme

Lightly grease a large bread pan or deep round casserole dish. In a large bowl combine sugar, warm water, and yeast till frothy. Add in 1 c flour and salt. In a small bowl mix milk, oil, cheese, and egg together. Add to yeast / flour mixture.

With mixer or by hand beat on a low speed, 3 min. With wooden spoon stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until dough has doubled.

Punch down dough and break off golf ball sized rounds of dough and dip in melted butter mixed with herbs. Place in prepared dish forming layers.

Cover and let rise again until bubbles have risen to almost the top of the dish, about 30 - 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake 25-30 minutes or until tapping the top sounds hollow. Let cool, serve warm.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


For Memorial Day weekend we headed up to my parents cabin in northern Wisconsin for a long weekend full of boating, fishing, biking, hicking, golfing, grilling, and everything else we could fit in.

We'd spent the previous week building a new 'Bags' set for the cabin. We tried to follow ACA standards and build the boards to a specific hight and weight the bags to an exact weight. While the boards worked out great, the bags done on my little house wife sewing machine burst after a few throws and I spent the rest of the weekend hand stiching the squares up before all the beans came flying out.
I will be ordering an industrial proof set this week.
We went on many walks with Maddie around the cabin and of course had to drive into Spooner and stop at the Bakery Shop and swing by the Natural Spring to fill up or water bottles before our bike trip. We had to search around for a place to ride but finally found a trail going behind some fields and into a woods that was peaceful and exciting to ride on.

Many of the spring flowers are opening up there. The woods are covered in white spots of Trillium flowers and there are some other little hidden flowers like wild violets and these forget-me-nots we fould on our walks...

It takes so little to amuse the puppers though. One floating log was all she cared about during our fishing trips (and about the only thing 'swimming' we saw)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Veggie Shells

Spaghetti Squash! Round three! ding, ding ding
I finally used up all of the Spaghetti Squash in this dish and also used some left over veggies. We are still making headway on our CSA box and try to add something extra to each dish.
Since we're also big meat eaters, I just had to add something besides veggies, but substitute immitation bacon for a veggitarian meal or just leave it out.

I enjoy using my homemade stock in recipes like this, where a thicker liquid helps the sauce and overall taste of the dish. The shells are very light on dairy, I'm guessing you could even cut the cheese and milk out completely and still retain the smoothness that comes from the mashed squash.

Squash Stuffed Shells with Asparagus
1 pkg large pasta shells
2 cups squash, cooked and mashed
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped Canadian bacon
2 tbsp cup white wine
1/4 cup stock (veggie or bird)
2 tbsp cream or milk
10-15 stalks Asparagus, washed and cut into 2” pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot of water with salt, boil the pasta shells to directions until al dente (slightly undercooked). Drain and let cool.

In a medium sauce pan heat olive oil and cook onion and garlic with a little salt through until soft and translucent. Separate 1/2 of the onion mixture into a large bowl with the squash, both cheeses, and pepper; mix well.
Stuff the cooled shells with the mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the remaining onion mixture with the bacon. Add wine and cook down. Add stock and milk heating through. Stir in the asparagus to heat it slightly until it turns a bright green color. Pour over the shells. Add a bit more stock to the bottom of the dish if it appears ‘dry’.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus is fork tender and the shell mixture is warmed through.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cookies with a Twist Ending....

The island of Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization and culture from 2600-1400 BC. It is the oldest recorded Greek civilization. The Minoan’s may have taken their name from king Minos, who was said to rule over the island with a labyrinth which housed the Minotaur in Greek myth.

One variation of the myth states that after a war Athens was required to send human sacrificial offerings every year, as surrendering terms to be given to the half-man half-bull monster. One year a young man named Theseus volunteered to be part of the offering, in hopes of slaying the Minotaur. On arrival to the island, the king’s daughter Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and gave him sword to fight the bull and ball of string to find his way out of the Labyrinth.

Ariadne is thought to be the true fertility goddess of Crete, depicted as a Snake Goddess, reduced to legend and myth. The Minoans worshiped the snake for its healing powers. A traditional Greek cookie called Koulourakia (koo loo rahk yah) is often shaped into spirals like small snakes.

I made a batch of these up for the first time this weekend and I must say they are deceivingly addicting. They look almost like pretzels, with the egg glaze and sesame seeds, but taste like a light sugar cookie. The hint of vanilla slowly grows on you makes it difficult to eat only one…

3 1/2c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2/3c softened butter
3/4c sugar
3 egg yolks
Reserved egg whites
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp dark spiced rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest or juice
Sesame seeds

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time beating between additions. Stir in yogurt, rum, vanila and lemon.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients gradually, kneading until you have a dough-like substance. Do not over knead or the dough will become too dry. Add some water if needed.
Break off chunks about the size of a golf ball and roll into 3 inch ropes and shape. Brush on reserved egg whites, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake on a sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spaghetti Squash - freak or fantasy?

My mind is still not made up.
If you’ve never heard of a Spaghetti Squash before, don’t be fooled by its name. While some people will tell you it can be substituted for the true pasta, I found it too tender to hold up to the sauces.
But the flavors are much more robust than some people say. I thought that it was a nice light butternut squash-like flavor with a smoother consistency.

After halving the squash (a sharp knife and a little patience is needed) I scooped out the pumpkin-esc seeds, coated it in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and an oregano/thyme mixture. Baking it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 yielded a fun stringy squash that I was excited to try out. Like I said, it just didn’t stand up. The flavor was there, but the texture was lacking. It looked like thin Angel Hair pasta which had gotten cut up into small bits.

Now here we are with a 1/2 cooked squash and no ideas….. hum…. I decided to try frying it with Polenta I had picked up that week.

Another mishap, but this time with the Polenta. Again, the flavors were amazing (the sweetness from the fried corn was incredible) but they just kinda fell apart during the frying. I’ve read that letting the Polenta rest in the fridge for awhile will cause it to harden up and then you can cut it and fry it. I think that will be my next effort.

For interested readers, the mixture I used for the Fritters was: cooked Polenta, mashed Spaghetti Squash, a splash of milk, salt, pepper, oregano. I would recommend cooking the Polenta with less water and longer than recommended, mixing with the remaining ingredients, cooling in a small bread pan or some other shape, and then cutting and frying.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Beginning of the Trend

The CSA season has arrived! I picked up my first CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) box from out farm, Harmony Valley last evening.

The family hosting the pickup site lives just on my way home, so it will be very convenient. We signed up for the ‘every other’ week with another family for veggies and a ‘once a month’ for a cheese share for ourselves. We received a wonderful looking Blue Cheese, a tasty Mozzarella, and a Mild Cheddar this week.

The veggies looked great! Especially the Spinach. So green and leafy looking. There are some varieties of vegetables that I am interested to try out. I’ve never worked with Black Radishes before. It sounds like they have a taste similar to Horseradish. I’m thinking of mixing a sauce up for some of the huge Asparagus that came with.

The packaging is so professional and informative. I was very surprise to see how put-together the boxes were and how smoothly the pick up site was run. Here’s to a great summer CSA start and a new veggie trend on the blog!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Using Veggies - Asparagus Risotto

Today is the day we pick up our first CSA share. We are splitting the share with another couple, and we are all so excited to see what will come in the boxes every other week. I think the biggest challenge will be thinking of new ways to use the veggies. While sautéing or steaming has its purposes and is great for quick preparations, it is not always the most interesting thing at every meal.

One bunch of Asparagus magically made it through three meals this week. First it was sautéed in an olive oil, white wine, stone ground mustard mixture. Then it was steamed and mixed with fresh risotto. Finally it was broiled with squash stuffed shells.

Each preparation tasted and looked a little different, keeping the meal interesting and delicious. With all the veggies we should be receiving, keeping it interesting will be the theme of the summer!

Asparagus Risotto
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh Oregano
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 white wine
2 cups stock (veggie, chicken, or bird)
2 tbsp milk
8-10 stalks Asparagus, washed and cut into 2” pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic with a little salt cooking till soft and translucent. Add the oregano and some fresh ground pepper. Increase the heat and add the rice. Let the rice mix with the oil and cook about 5 minutes, do not let the rice brown however.

Slowly add the wine and cook down till. Continue to add stock to the rice, about 1/4 cup at a time, cooking the rice until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stir every once in awhile; do not over mix during the later parts of the cooking time or the rice will become mushy. Should take about 10-15 minutes for the stock to absorb.

Meanwhile in a sauté pan heat 2 tbsp of water. Add the asparagus and cover, letting the pieces steam. Set to the side once they are fork tender.

Stir in the steamed asparagus with any remaining liquid from the steaming. Add the milk to the rice and a little more water if the mixture is too sticky or if the rice is not cooked through. Adjust the salt and pepper. Serve immediately while warm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chix Salad

One of our most favorite things to grill in the summer is Greek Chicken. I tasty blend of lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper get mixed into a marinade for all types of chicken pieces.

While this in its self is an amazing dish, even better are the leftovers which get turned into the most amazing Chicken Salad you will ever whip up!

I will even write down the secret to this recipe…. Consistent sized pieces. The trick is to cut up the chicken, celery, and onions into very small sized bits. It blends together so much nicer and almost melts in your mouth. We also tend to eat ours a bit dry, ie not lathered in mayo. The longer it sits, the better it gets. Generally that’s not more than a day in our house though….

Chicken Salad
-Makes 4-6 servings-

2 cooked chicken breasts
3 stalks celery, washed
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp mustard, Dijon
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup Almonds, sliced and crushed
Salt/pepper to taste

Chop up the chicken and celery into equal small sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Dice the onion and garlic up, add to chicken mixture. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well to taste. Store in refrigerator overnight for a blended flavor. Serve on salad or for sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hut Hut!

As any experienced mushroom hunter knows, “Hut Hut!” is the cry of victory yelled through the woods when you find Morel Mushrooms.

This variety of mushroom is one of the most sought after species in the fungi family. And while buying them from the Farmers Market would cost you the current going rate on Rolling Stones tickets, finding them in the wild is oh so much more enjoyable.

Maybe it’s because forced cultivation has not been perfected, maybe it’s just the hunt, but every family of mushroom hunters waits for the spring with anticipation and dreams of garbage bags full of little brown, yellow, or grey honeycombed caps. Each family also has their secrets.

It might be the time of year: Only when the apple blossoms are in full bloom.
It might be the location: Under a dead Elm tree.
It might be a guarded located: With just the right amount of dew and sunlight.

But whenever or where ever you find your stash it becomes a treasured and defended plot of land. If you’re lucky the secret gets passed down within the family.

In our house growing up, we always had a mushroom season where the five of us would go out and scurry the valley side. My parents still find tons every year. Yes dad, I am jealous, but thanks for the pictures. My mom will clean the extra morels in water and a little salt and then freeze them in water for the winter season. It’s a wonderful treat!

While the classic French preparation puts morels in the same league as Truffles and Caviar, my favorite use is sautéed in butter with salt and pepper, served with a nice steak….

*Pictures by D.Welch*