Tuesday, June 21, 2022

You Need No Knead!

Crusty No Knead Artisan Bread

Yesterday morning I decided that maybe I needed to add something to the main dish salad that I was taking to book club last night. It was my turn to bring supper. Homemade bread is always a good addition to...well, anything.

This recipe has been all over the internet for years. It's appeared here more than once. But after a few of the "book ladies" asked some questions last night, I'm posting it again and hope I've answered their questions. I've listed my tips for this recipe and tweaked the recipe itself to make it clearer. I hope.

Let's get the tips out of the way...

  • I use King Arthur all-purpose flour because of it's higher protein count. My other "go to" all-purpose flour is White Lily, a soft wheat flour that just doesn't work here. Or in the yummy cinnamon roll recipe we love. Or the dinner rolls I've made several times. If you live somewhere outside of the Deep South, I'm sure there are other brands of "hard wheat" all-purpose flours in your store, but I'm sticking with what I know works. 
  • Measure the flour by scooping it up and leveling it. I don't use my typical "spoon and level" method here.

  • I discovered that the Fleischmann's bread machine yeast in a jar is instant yeast. You need to use instant yeast. The bread machine (no, I don't own a bread machine) yeast in a jar sits right beside the little packets of yeast in your grocery store. There are other brands but make sure you use instant.

  • We have wonderful tap water here that comes from a watershed in the mountains of the county just to our north. So I use hot water straight from our tap. If your water tastes like it comes from a chemical plant you probably don't want to use that. Use whatever water you drink and heat it to 118-120º. I just tested the actual temperature of my hot tap water. It's right at 120º. Much hotter than that and you'll kill the yeast.

  • I no longer preheat the Dutch oven, like most recipes do, before plopping the bread dough into it. I've done it both ways. Both ways work. But there are no burned fingers using the cold pan method.

  • If you don't have a Dutch oven, any large 4-6 qt. pot with a lid works as long as it can go into a very hot oven. 

  • Once you've mixed the ingredients—I stir together the dry ingredients with a whisk, then use a heavy spoon to mix in the water—cover your mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise. The "cover with a damp towel" doesn't work here.
  • My perfect rising spot is on top of my cold toaster oven right under the under-counter lights. I did not always have under-counter lights, so that's surely not a requirement. Back in the dark ages, I'd set the bowl on top of the  warm TV. That's not an option any more. Just avoid the air condition vents. If your spot isn't as warm as mine, the dough might take a little longer to rise which is okay.

  • The rising time is a huge range. Yesterday mine rose about 7 hours. It can sit up to 24 hours. I really thought it hadn't risen much but it was time to bake if I was taking it to book club, so I went ahead with the next step and crossed my fingers.

  • This truly is a no-knead bread. I scrape the sticky dough out of the bowl with a spatula onto a floured piece of wax paper. Then I flip the blob of dough over and pick it up, dust off the excess flour and round it into a ball, tucking the ends under as I work so that the top is smooth.

  • Place the ball of dough onto a piece of parchment paper and use the paper to place it into the Dutch oven. I like the precut baking sheets. Yes, the paper will stick out of the pot when you place the lid on. The paper will get dark as it bakes, but it won't catch on fire. The paper is also useful at the end to lift the bread out of the hot pot.

Don't be afraid. It's only flour, water and yeast. Give it a try. 

CRUSTY NO-KNEAD ARTISAN BREAD

3 cups all-purpose flour, (I use King Arthur—scoop & measure)
1/2 teaspoon yeast (I use Fleishmann's BreadMachine Instant yeast from a jar)
1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon herbs or seasoning, optional (I used Herbs de Provence—no herbs is also good) 
1-1/2 cups hot water (I use hot tap water)

Put flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast, salt and herbs over flour and stir to blend. Stir in water until it's all moist. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 4-24 hours.

Dump dough (which is very sticky) onto a well-floured counter or mat. Form into a round or oblong loaf. (Whatever fits into your pot.)  Tuck the dough under as you shape it, so that the top is smooth.

Place dough onto a piece of parchment paper and use the edges of the paper to set the dough down into a Dutch oven

Bake, covered, at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove from hot pan and let cool for 10 minute or so before slicing. (The crust is nearly rock hard straight out of the oven, but it will soften and be easier to slice as it cools.)


Best NEW TIP...to cut a circular load of bread, cut the loaf in half. Place the cut side down on your cutting board and then slice it from one end to the other. I wish I had a photo of the sliced bread to show you. But I had not intended to post this recipe until we talked about it last night and several questions came up.





Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Teach Them Young – Teach Them Well

Microwave Bread & Butter Pickles

Goodness, it's still at our house this morning. And so quiet, too. Our granddaughters headed back home yesterday afternoon. I don't even remember when they got here. But when they arrived, it felt like there was plenty of time for everything. They had lots of time for bike riding and tree swings and scooters. And there was time at the lake. 


And then very suddenly, it was like we needed to cram in a lot in a very little time. There were things we wanted to do but hadn't even talked about until a few days ago. So for the last couple of days it felt like a circus here as we tried to do it all.

Baby Girl was desperate to learn to sew. So desperate to do it "right now" that I grabbed a clean handkerchief from the laundry basket and we used that for practice. She learned to thread a needle, tie a knot in the thread and she learned how to do a running stitch and a whip stitch. 


At the same time that sewing was happening at the kitchen table, Little Sister was at the kitchen counter making pickles. We have been harvesting cucumbers from the garden faster than we can eat them. Little Sister did all the prep except slicing the cucumbers. She could have done it with a knife, but we needed to work faster, so I did them quickly with the mandolin. (That kitchen tool is SO sharp that I ended up in the ER once myself after I sliced my finger along with the vegetables.) But she measured everything else and mixed it all together and took care of the microwave part. 


The next morning we were back at work. Baby Girl learned about different types of buttons and how to sew them while her sister was putting pickles into jars. All of this was happening while Mommy and J-Daddy were packing their car. A circus, I tell you!


This pickle recipe is so easy. It's so quick. It's so good. And it comes with such special memories attached to it. A dear friend gave me the recipe years ago. I remember reading her directions and not understanding her notes about the microwave part. I called her and asked for clarification. It was one of those things that was so simple–if you knew how to do it. So I rewrote the recipe for the rest of us who hadn't already made these pickles a zillion times. 


My friend Bev was sadly one of the million people that we lost to Covid. But I feel like she is watching from above and smiling that her recipe is being passed down to another generation. She was one of the kindest, most generous people I ever knew. Everyone who knew her loved her. And we all miss her.


It makes me smile to see all of the things these girls have learned to do here at the farm. Little Sister was making muffins last week. She found a recipe online and made them without supervision. I did walk through the kitchen while she was wearing her apron and filling muffin cups. She grinned at me. "Look. I'm Mini Mimi!" 


Before you ask, I don't have a comparable recipe for dill pickles. I just make these sweet pickles.


MICROWAVE BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES


1 cup sugar 

1 cup white vinegar 

2 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon dry minced garlic 

1 teaspoon mustard seeds 

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds 

1/2 teaspoon tumeric 

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin 

2-3/4 to 3 lbs pickling cucumbers, sliced (about 8 cups)


Mix everything except onion and cukes in a large microwave safe bowl. Stir in onions and cukes. Microwave 9 minutes on high, stopping to stir, as the timer counts down, at 6-1/2 minutes to go and at 4 minutes to go.


Remove and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight before placing in jars. Store in fridge. 


NOTE: SPICES WILL STAIN A PLASTIC BOWL OR SPOON OR KITCHEN COUNTER!


Yield: 6 to 7 half pint jars  (We got 8 jars this time.)



I used a scale (kitchen scale or postal scale) to weigh the cucumbers. I learned that three cucumbers from the garden weighed roughly one pound. So I sliced nine cucumbers and measured them---just about 8 cups. I used a 2-1/2 quart Corningware casserole for the cooking part. It looked like it was nearly too small when I added cucumbers and the onion (had to leave out a few cukes.) But as they cooked in the microwave, they started to cook down.



I was telling my book club friends about our flurry of activity at the end of our grandchildren time and it prompted those ladies to start talking about learning to embroider and cook from their grandmothers. Besides teaching my grandchildren life skills this week, we made some deep memories. Two extremely valuable things to do.



***The graphic is from a book called The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift by by Steve Leder. I ordered this last night, so haven't read it yet, but read many excellent reviews.




Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Revisiting A Favorite Recipe

Oatmeal Scotchies


You can thank me later. These cookies have been a family staple of ours for years and years. It's the recipe from the back of the Nestles butterscotch chip bag. We have always baked the one-pan bar cookie version because it's faster than making multiple pans of drop cookies. But we discovered that the bar cookie version of the recipe is no longer on the butterscotch chip bag. 

Not to worry. I have the recipe saved here on the blog. I posted it back in 2012. The actual dough recipe is the same for drop cookies and bar cookies, but the pan size and cooking time are things you need to know if you want to make them in one pan. So I think it's due for another appearance here.


Little Sister may have inherited her Mimi's sweet tooth. She cut these into giant bars! They are very rich, so you might probably want to make yours a little smaller. She made these completely by herself. We just left her alone in the kitchen. She's got mad kitchen skills. She even manages pans in and out of a hot oven by herself.  

OATMEAL SCOTCHIES

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
11-oz. package butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and butterscotch morsels. Press dough into a greased 10x15-inch jelly roll pan

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.

Makes 4 dozen bars.


There are many comments online with brutal reviews saying the Nestles chips are not what they used to be. Evidently the recipe has been reformulated with many saying they have an artificial taste. Mommy says she can tell there's a difference but she's used them anyway. Next time we may try another brand.


Here is a quick peek at some of our granddaughter time this summer. We spent the weekend at the lake on one of those rare weekends with cool temps and low humidity. Low humidity is a big deal in the Deep South. And yesterday we had a "girls day" of shopping in town. Lunch out at a favorite restaurant was a treat. We have enjoyed having this part of the family with us since school got out for the summer. By this time next week it will be just us two old folks here at home. We are soaking up the time with the girls. 


Daddy-O starts every little one out sitting in his lap as they "drive" the boat. And now Baby Girl has graduated to solo driving. Rest assured this was on a Monday morning when the lake was empty and Daddy-O was standing right beside her. I got him to step aside long enough for a quick pic. It's always safety first for us.


As grandparents everywhere are aware, there comes a time when the grandchildren get busy with their own things (as they should) and spending weeks with grandparents isn't the treat that it once was. Not that they don't love us, but they are expanding their world. Big Sister is on her study abroad right now. We have loved seeing photos she posts, but goodness knows life on the farm isn't the same as life in Paris!

We know we are slowly moving in that direction with Little Sister as she starts middle school so we treasure each of these visits. And we are thankful that we still have smaller ones coming along. 










Thursday, June 2, 2022

Everything Bagel Dip

Everything Bagel Dip

About 5:00 most afternoons, I am hit with a bad case of the munchies. And I'm tempted to grab the first thing my eye lands on. And then 30 minutes later, I seriously regret that decision. We don't keep a lot of junky snack foods here, but there is always something, even if it's only peanut butter and crackers. 

My only hope is to keep something like this dip and veggies at the front of the fridge. This dip is really, really good. And it takes minutes to make. I made some last night AND sliced a cucumber in less time than it took Daddy-O to pour us a beverage. 

In full disclosure, last night I mixed up a new batch and didn't slow down to look up the recipe. So of course, my measurements were off. I should have added more Dijon and more seasoning. And it was fine just like I made it. I think you could add "or to taste" after every ingredient. 

I also discovered last week that it makes a great topping for a baked potato. We were out of sour cream so I tried this instead. Definitely will do it again.

EVERYTHING BAGEL DIP


1/4 cup light/reduced-fat cream cheese (vegetable flavor or plain)

1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

1 1/2 tbsp. everything bagel seasoning blend (like the kind by Trader Joe’s), plus more for topping

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard


Place cream cheese in a medium bowl, and stir until smooth.
Add all remaining ingredients. Mix until uniform.




Still not much time to post here. We have family at the farm. That's always fun. But as you grandparents know, it keeps you busy! And FYI, the granddaughter in the white t-shirt (Little Sister) is the preteen version of the baby you see on the blog title banner. And Baby Girl (in the blue shirt) is a baby no longer. Goodness, how time flies!






Saturday, May 21, 2022

Trying Hard To Get Back On Track

Chickpea Salad


We have been working like crazy at the lake cabin trying to wind up a project before family comes to stay. It's one of those projects that has taken way too long. (Is there any other kind?) What started as a plumbing repair grew to become a bathroom redo. And as long as we were putting down a new floor there, I decided we ought to replace the kitchen floor also.

But it's done. At least THEIR work is done. The clean up job, however, belongs to us. You know how sawdust goes everywhere when the sawing is inside. What a mess. And this is a summer cabin, too, so it's unoccupied for the winter. That meant we needed a massive cleaning. While we were deep into to washing and wiping every single thing there, I kept finding things that needed to be replaced. I made more than one trip to into town to buy kitchen and bathroom things.

When I'm on that kind of schedule, I tend to grab whatever is easy for lunch. PB&J. Crackers and pimento cheese. Or, I'll make an even worse choice and head to a drive thru. And since at that point, I'm tired and starving, it's easy to talk myself into chicken strips and fries. Or a milkshake. I always tell myself when I'm that tired that I deserve a treat. 


Starting today I hope to have a better plan. My first choice for meals would be the fresh, healthy foods that we all should be eating. I really do like those foods. But it takes time to make them. I have to remind myself that it actually takes longer for me to drive to Bojangles and back home. But my mind can play tricks!

I saw a recipe for a chickpea salad this week and I wanted to stir it up to have in the fridge. I took great liberties with the recipe. I added celery because I love celery. I swapped out the olive oil and used canola because olive oil gets solid when refrigerated. I used red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice because I wanted a little more zip. And after Daddy-O tasted it and was less than enthused, I added a teaspoon of sugar. He also tasted it the minute I mixed it up. It does needs to chill and let the flavors blend. Even then, I doubt he will like this as much as I do.

So here is my completely rewritten recipe. It took me about 10 minutes to mix it up. And it's ready and waiting for a quick lunch. And it might also be a side dish tonight. 

CHICKPEA SALAD

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I may have used more)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar


Mix all ingredients together and chill before serving.  


Makes a little more than 5 cups. 



My friend Linda and I are always on the lookout for WW friendly recipes, so I sent this to her a few minutes ago. It calculated to 1 WW point (on my plan) for a 1 cup serving. She texted back in minutes that chickpeas are one of the few foods she doesn't care for. I think that any canned bean would work—cannellini or black beans would be good choices. And if you decided to double or triple the recipe, you could surely use a mix of beans. 


So for the next few days at least, I have no excuse for making bad food choices. At least if I DO decide I need a treat it will only be one treat!


NOTE TO SELF: Keep the "good" foods on hand and ready to eat. Then I'm less likely to give in to temptation.








Tuesday, May 3, 2022

It's "Berry, Berry" Good

 

Did you think I was never coming back? I'm still here, but I've spent more time away from the computer lately. Life is better when I turn off the news alerts and limit social media. I keep up, but I'm learning to step away after a quick check.



Then we have more time to do things like picking strawberries at a neighbor's farm. We've been a couple of times already. The granddaughters happened to be here when the berries were first ready and they were some of the very first pickers of the season.


It's hard to beat simply eating fresh berries when they are really sweet and juicy. Unless you make strawberry ice cream. There are many good recipes, but this is delicious and is surely one of the easiest of them all. And it's ridiculously quick.

For those who ask, I have this Cuisinart ice cream maker. There are other models that cost less. There are other brands. They all work pretty much the same, I bought this one to replace an older, simpler Cuisinart model that we thought no longer worked. We had used it for years with no problems. 

Then last summer it wouldn't freeze the ice cream. It turned out the ice cream maker was fine. It was my 20-year-old freezer that wasn't working properly. The freezer temperature was not as low it should have been. (Freezers should be 0 degrees.) So the container part of the ice cream maker was not getting cold enough to make ice cream. 

So now we have a new freezer. And I have two ice cream makers. Strawberry ice cream AND vanilla ice cream at the same time is not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

The recipe makes enough to enjoy, but not enough to get into too much trouble over-indulging! I took this to book club last night. I brought home an empty container. 


STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM (no eggs) 

      for 1-1/2 qt ice cream maker


1 (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand

1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk

1-1/4 cups fresh milk

about 1 cup cut up strawberries 

2 tablespoons sugar

a good squeeze fresh lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon)

pinch of salt

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla


Sprinkle sugar over cut up berries. Stir and add in lemon juice and salt. Let stand while mixing milks. Mash slightly. 


Using a whisk, blend the 3 milks together thoroughly and chill for 30 minutes. (I like to chill the canned milks first.)


Mix strawberries and milk mixture. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to appliance directions. Freeze until done, about 20-25 minutes. 


The ice cream will be soft. Transfer to a container with a lid and store in freezer if you want harder "scoop-able" ice cream


★ To make VANILLA ICE CREAM, use this same recipe but leave out the strawberries—including the sugar and lemon juice— and double the vanilla.


While it might change the texture a little, you can use low-fat or fat-free milk for any or all of the milks called for. Just remember, lower fat content means it won't be as creamy. 




Monday, March 28, 2022

Cool As A Cucumber

Open Face Cucumber Sandwiches

I thought I was the only one. The only one who had never made these. When Joanne asked me to make open face cucumber sandwiches for a funeral reception, I told her I would be happy to...if she would tell me how. I had never made any. Or even eaten any. What!?! She was astounded that I had never had a cucumber sandwich. She told me what she mixed together, but like many excellent cooks, she didn't have any measurements to share.

I googled and found as many variations as there are cucumber sandwich makers. But it did give me a starting place. Of course, I called had to call Joanne back and ask what kind of bread she used. I was pretty sure it wasn't the pumpernickel that many recipes called for. She told me to buy the cheapest white bread I saw at the store. The bread is just a base—this sandwich is all about the good stuff on top.

So I bought a gosh awful amount of cream cheese and loads of fresh dill, too many cucumbers and four loaves of bread and then did what Joanne told me to do in the beginning—mix the spread until it tasted right. I did start with one of the google recipes that used 8-oz cream cheese and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. (I had mixed 3 blocks of cream cheese and 1 cup mayo.) Too much mayo for me. So I added another block of cream cheese to my big bowl. That changed the proportion to 1/4 cup mayo per block of cream cheese. Much better. Daddy-O tasted it after I finished and said a little more garlic would help. In went another pinch. I thought it needed a little more dill and chives. Just a little. And then I stopped. 

I had not planned on posting this recipe because I figured everyone else had been making them for years. (How had I missed these?) But so many people helping in the kitchen that day said, "You are going to post this recipe, aren't you?" "Please put this recipe on your blog." And several asked the same questions I had asked. "What kind of bread did you use?" "How much cream cheese do I need for one loaf of bread?" "Can you make these ahead?"


I'm writing down how I made these for all of us who need guidance. Tweak away.

OPEN FACED CUCUMBER SANDWICHES

1 large loaf sliced white sandwich bread

8-oz block cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Pinch of garlic powder

Pinch of salt

1 long English cucumber (also called seedless—these are usually shrink wrapped in plastic)

With a hand mixer, thoroughly blend cream cheese and mayo. Stir in herbs and seasonings. Taste and adjust the herbs and garlic to suit you. This can be done the day before.

Slice the cucumber very thin. (I used a mandolin...very carefully!) Spread the slices on paper towels and let the towels absorb excess moisture while you cut the bread.

With a 2-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut circles (2 per slice) from the bread. Spread each round with the cream cheese mixture. Top each round with a cucumber slice. Garnish with a sprig of dill.  

Yield: about 40 rounds


Helpful hints:

*Reminder:  3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon. So basically you use one tablespoon of fresh herbs per 8-oz cream cheese. You might rather use all dill. And maybe add a little grated onion.

*Yes, you do need to taste and adjust after mixing. I added a little more dill and chives and another pinch of garlic powder to my giant bowl of cream cheese mix.

*One flat plastic pack of fresh dill from the produce section is enough to mix in and to garnish with. I bought too much.

*The plastic top from a can of Bakers Joy or PAM is about the right size and can be used as a cutter if you don't have a 2-inch one.

*I picked out the largest cucumbers so that the slices were about the same size as the bread rounds.

*The skin on these cucumbers is very thin so peeling isn't necessary. If you used other cucumbers with waxed skin, you might want to peel them.

*This could also be made on round water crackers. We did that with the leftover cream cheese spread. Delicious.

*Store these appetizers covered in the refrigerator until serving time.

*Two 8-oz blocks of cream cheese mixed should be enough spread for 3 loaves of bread, maybe 4. We used rounds from 4 loaves. I mixed one block per loaf and have lots of spread left over. Which we have enjoyed snacking on.

*Save the crusts left from cutting and let them dry out. Whirl them in a food processor to make bread crumbs for later.

*I bought home 4 little rounds that were left when it was all over. We ate them the next night and they were still pretty good. I wouldn't make them too far ahead, but they hold up better than I thought.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This funeral service for a dear friend was truly a celebration of a long life well-lived. So many friends came to honor his memory. The church was full. After the service, the church hall was crowded with people coming together to remember this fine man. 

Here in the South we tend to show our love for the family with food, whether it is delivered to the house or served at church. So on a Saturday afternoon we kept the food trays filled as we listened to shared stories and laughter. We saw lots of hugs and smiles mingled with tears. And I thought how good it is to be in a community that knows how to care for each other.