Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daily Bread...Again

Although long since my last post, we have continued on our quest of eating well and right. I believe I may have finally come very close to what will be a mainstay slicing loaf for us as it fits the way we eat, what we would like to eat and it easy on time so can be kept up.

The recipe makes 2 loaves, follows the time efficient methods of the ABin5 loaves we continue to use and depending on how much bread we need, the 2 loaves can feed us for a week to 10 days or so. The crust is crisp and the crumb is dense enough to hold up to any sandwich with a hearty flavor that satisfies.
Country Style Batard

  • 2.75 C Water, very warm
  • .25 C Honey
Dissolve the honey and add:
  • 2 Tbl Active dry yeast
  • 3.5 C Whole wheat flour
  • 3 C Bread flour
  • 1.5 Tbl Kosher salt

Stir to combine into a "shaggy" dough

Let rise covered at warm room temperature until the dough deflates, about 2 hours

Chill for at least 3 hours or up to 14 days in the refrigerator

Shape the loaf on a floured board and set to rest on a floured baker's peel
Let the loaf rest while the oven heats
Preheat the oven and baking stone to 450F
Place the loaf on the hot stone and immediately throw 1 C water on the bottom of the oven and quickly close the oven door
Set the timer for 10 minutes and throw another 1 C water on the bottom of the oven quickly closing the door
Set the timer for 20 more minutes
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack

Monday, March 16, 2009

OMG! These are sooo good!

Scallion pancakes... everyone that tries them loves them, they are a staple in many Chinese restaurants as an appetizer and once you make your own you'll get all kinda pissy about how the restaurants charge so much and you can make them at home in about 10 minutes with minimal ingredients...

Scallion Pancakes
  • 2 C All purpose flour
  • 1 C Water, boiling
Put the flour in the food processor
Slowly stream the boiling water into the food processor as it runs
Stop as soon as it is combined and remove the dough to a plate or bowl
Let rest until room temperature, a good time to make the dipping sauce and chop the scallions
  • 3 to 6 scallions or to taste, if you like more chop more
  • 2 - 4 Tbl Peanut oil - important note, olive oil will not taste Asian - brand new information
Flour a board or counter
Roll out 1/2 the dough into a rectangle until about 1/8" thick
Brush the dough with about 2 Tbl peanut oil
Spread the scallions all over the dough
Roll the long side into a long jelly roll type roll
Cut in half, set one piece aside

Roll one piece under your hands like clay into about a 1/2 to 3/4" tight log
Twist the dough a few times to make more yummy layers
Coil the dough like a rope around and around tucking the end under at the last coil
Repeat with the other piece
Repeat with the other 1/2 of dough so you should have coils
Squish and roll each coil until about 1/4" thick
Lightly oil a 10" non-stick pan heated to medium high
Cook like a pancake 3 to 4 minutes per side
Cut into wedges if desired and serve with dipping sauce of your choice

Dipping Sauce
  • 1 tsp Sesame oil
  • 2 tsp Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp Chili oil
  • 2 Tbl Shaoxing wine
  • 2 Tbl Soy sauce

Eat these with wild abandon, you just spent about $1.00 for an Asian appetizer that would be $7 to $10 in a restaurant. Yummy traditional Asian food at home

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Braised Short Ribs w/ Smashed Red Spuds

Ahh, Sunday dinner...the stuff memories are made of. We utilized the slow cooker as today was a busy day; the annual bike expo, a trip into the city, a plan of another James Bond movie (we're taking them all in order and this is the last Pierce Brosnan edition so we're nearly there) so all in all the slow cooker was just the thing for a fine dinner while we were out and before we enter cinema land...

Anyway, the local natural foods store had grass fed beef short ribs on sale for $4.99 so earlier in the week I ordered 2.5 "long" short ribs for braising. Meaty and good with a high fat content and lot's of connective tissue for gelatinizing the sauce makes for some good eats so here goes...

Braised Short Ribs

2.5 lbs "Long" short ribs
Olive oil
2 Bacon strips, diced
.5 tsp Crushed red pepper
1 Tbl Garlic, minced
1 Onion, large diced
4 Carrots, large diced
2 Celery ribs, large diced
1 C Red wine
2 C Chicken stock
2 Tbl Tomato paste
Springs of fresh herbs, I used mostly thyme and marjoram with some rosemary
1 Tbl Sherry vinegar
A few grinds of black pepper, or to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet
Salt the ribs generously
Brown over medium to medium high heat on all sides
Remove browned ribs to slow cooker

Add bacon to the remaining oil and stir until crisp
Add garlic & stir for about 1 minute so it doesn't burn but flavors the lipids
Add mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery and coat with the lipids and cook for a few minutes before adding the red wine

Reduce until the nearly all liquid is gone

Add chicken stock, tomato paste and herbs; stir until paste is dissolved

Reduce by ~ 50% and add to the preheated slow cooker

Cook on low for 6 hours

Remove ribs to a bowl

Skim off the majority of the fat layer

Blend the vegetables, and juices with an immersion blender until relatively smooth

Serve over smashed potatoes or whatever you would like - buttered egg noodles, rice, etc...


Monday, March 9, 2009

2006 Oreana Winery ?

So this was rated in the runner up category in a recent tasting at Sunset Magazine for budget friendly wines. The rules: available at Trader Joes and under $15.00.

OK, so this wasn't a first pick but I thought there are a number of wines at TJs that I know of that are under $15.00 and quite good so I had a bit of an expectation...well silly me, it just shows you that expectations are not good. This is B-O-R-I-N-G vino; technically it might even be relatively sound to not call this wine and I'm actually not even sure I can (or want to) finish the bottle. Insipid, nearly no fruit flavor at all, absolutely thin as water on the palette and no backbone. This doesn't even qualify as plonk in my book.

Anyway, I paid $5.99 and that's $5.99 I'll never get back. I'm frankly sorry I bought it so this is rated a don't bother.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Yummy Italian Style Pilaf

So I whipped this up with scampi tonight, it's my version of what one of the local natural grocers calls "Rice a Roma" but I didn't like paying $8.00 a lb for the stuff so I made up my own and substituted brown rice where they use arborio...

Jim's "Rice a Roma"
  • 2 C Cooked brown rice
  • 2 tsp Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • .25 tsp Crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbl Oil packed sun dried tomatoes, minced
  • Juice of .5 small lemon
  • 2 Tbl Fresh basil chiffonade
  • .5 C Pistachios, shelled
Add olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to a medium saute pan at room temperature
Turn up heat to medium high and slowly swirl the garlic & red pepper to flavor the oil
Once sizzling but before the garlic starts to brown, add the lemon juice & sun dried tomatoes
Add rice & warm through, about 2 minutes stirring to coat all rice with the oil & herb mix
Add chiffonade of basil and pistachios and combine
I have a substantial amount leftover and will use this for pork tenderloin crusted with fennel tomorrow. It was great with scampi, the local grocer had wild 16-20 shrimp on sale for $9.99 so since it is the birth weekend I treated myself to a half pound.

It's pretty tough eating on a budget

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oh so easy...

And oh soooo good; that's right kids I'm talking about that magical piggy stuff known as pulled pork. Now I'm not trying to say mine will beat out the guys that spends tens of thousands of dollars on custom smokers and win oodles of prizes in places like Memphis, Austin and Columbia but for a winter time budget meal (and then some there is nothing quite like this fine little taste of summer in a bun...

Pulled Pork

You will need:

  • Bone in pork butt
  • Spice rub of your choice, I use my own concoction kinda sorta spelled out below
  • Liquid smoke
  • A slow cooker
  • A strainer
  • A large bowl in which the strainer fits nicely
  • 2 forks
Spice Rub (approximations)

  • 4 parts kosher salt
  • 2 parts freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 parts paprika
  • 1 part Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 part granulated garlic
  • 1 part granulated onion
  • 1 part dry mustard
  • 1 part crushed red chili or to taste
I use this on everything from halibut grilled outside to prime rib roasted at the holidays. Sometimes I add a bit of this or that usually some freshly cracked fennel seeds for pork or some dill for salmon if I'm feeling a bit sporty but this is pretty much the basic and as stated above merely an approximation. I get rave reviews on my burgers with this every time I break it out.

Okay, back to the pork...
  • Rub the butt generously with the spice rub
  • Place the rubbed butt in the slow cooker
  • Pour over a good amount of liquid smoke
  • Put the lid on and leave it alone for 8 to 12 hours; this is not an exact science and it really doesn't matter where the time falls in that window, it'll be great

  • Put the strainer into the bowl and move close to the slow cooker
  • Remove the butt to the strainer
  • Pour off the juices but keep them for a minute or 5
  • Add the drippings from the strained pork to the retained drippings
  • Put the meat into the bowl and pull apart with the forks
  • By this time the juice and the goodly amount of fat that came out of the slow cooker should have separated nicely
  • Skim off the majority of the fat; again this is not an exact science and I keep a pretty good portion of this to mix back into the meat but that's my choice and yours may be different
  • Add the juices back to the pulled meat
Serve on good rolls with the BBQ sauce of your choice, I like mustard based sauces, vinegar based sauces and ketchup based sauces as well as Asian sauces so mine may be far different than what you like. I make my own when I get the time but the tried and true fall back position is Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce in our house along with both BBQ sauces offered by Trader Joe's.

Anyway, this is a bit of goodness that no swine swilling family should be without in their repertoire. The kids love it and so do the adults. As I reported before, easy and budget friendly plus it makes as much as you can fit in your slow cooker

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

If I do say so myself...

My chow mein kicks serious ass!

Big batch of chicken and pork chow mein on Monday night...mmmMMM! Inexpensive, easy even with the chop time it was done in about 40 minutes and I had time to wash dishes in the middle of it. Healthy (or relatively) too!

Spicy Chicken & Pork Chow Mein

2 lb Fresh meki noodles
.5 lb Chicken breast sliced very thin
.5 lb Pork chop, boneless sliced very thin
.25 C Fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbl Peanut oil
.5 lb Carrot in 3-4 inch julienne or cut into matchsticks
.5 lb Onion, sliced in spears
.5 lb Mushrooms, sliced
1 lb cabbage sliced very thin
1 Tbl Peanut oil
6 Tbl Asian noodle soup base, I use Kikkoman Memmi which is easily found in grocers
3 Tbl Shaoxing wine
2 Tbl Sriracha, I like Huy Fong brand with the rooster on the bottle
2 Tbl Soy sauce
1 bu Scallions, sliced

Bring large pot of water to a boil
Mix noodle soup base, shaoxing, sriracha & soy sauce; set aside
Add meki noodles to heat and soften
Heat 1 Tbl peanut oil in smoking hot wok
Stir fry meat and when almost done, add the garlic and cook the meat through tossing constantly
Remove meat and garlic fron the hot wok
Add 1 Tbl peanut oil to hot wok
Add carrot matchsticks, onion spears and sliced mushrooms & stir fry for about 3 minutes
Add cabbage and wilt tossing for about 2 minutes
Drain and add noodles & sauce
Toss over heat for about 1 minute until the sauce is incorporated

Garnish with sliced scallions

Makes about 8 side servings or 4 very generous entree servings

Sunday, March 1, 2009

2006 Epicuro Nero D'Avila

Trader Joe's comes up with a few winners and after reading about this one in this month's Fearless Flyer I decided I needed to try it. Based on the description I had higher hopes than the $5.99 price tag would have led me to believe but this is one of those winners.

A bit light but still a full nose of berries; raspberries, blueberries and blackberries along with some fuller aromas such as you might experience at a winery at crush. In other words a nice fresh fruit nose with flavors enough to standup to the fennel pollen crusted pork tenderloin I made this evening with enough backbone while not so much as to overpower the subtlety of the pollen on the meat. It does what nice little number should do and that's enhance and compliment the food choices.

This is very nice and far superior to many bottles 2 and 3 times the price. Check it out...

Chocolate Crinkles

This is a delicious relatively inexpensive chocoholics treat. No butter helps make this a budget friendly cookie but it does take some forethought as the batter must be chilled to become a dough. Much yumminess and it is a childhood memory come to life each time I make them as my Mum made them when I was a wee one...

Chocolate Crinkles (modified from the original Betty Crocker recipe)
4 oz Unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 C Canola or other vegetable oil
2 C Sugar (We use cane or Sucanat with fine results)
2 tsp Vanilla
4 Eggs lightly beaten
1 C All purpose flour
1 C Whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 C Powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave, add in the oil, sugar and vanilla & let cool to roughly room temperature.
Add the eggs and stir until completely combined
Stir in the dry ingredients until well blended
Cover and refrigerate until solid

Scoop out in teaspoon size portions and roll into small balls
Roll in powdered sugar until completely covered

Bake @ 350F on parchment or greasefree paper for 11 minutes

Remove from oven and let rest for ~5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack

Chewy, chocolatey,goodness warm from the oven with an icey cold glass of milk. This recipe makes about 8 dozen and we're into it about $4.00 or $.50 a dozen. Very budget friendly

Update to 2006 Mano a Mano Tempranillo

OK, the update is this turned our extraordinarily good the 2nd day. Much of the monster tannins / acids dissipated overnight and turned this into a fruit filled mouthful of juice. Enough of the tannic / acidic remained to keep it interesting and I ended up drinking the rest of the bottle with a fine Country Natural Beef burger topped with Tillamook medium cheddar cooked outside on the grill. A fine repast for a Saturday evening.

At $7.99, this is one to try