Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Home cookin'

I didn't mean to create another food-oriented blog, but I must toot my own horn a little. Because I've had the time this week, I tried a few new recipes, figuring that a combination of recipe reading, common sense, and luck would help me along. So far, I've had success and I want to see if I can get you to salivate.

The first one really came from necessity: We bought a bag of apples and realized that, after about ten days, we either had to eat them or chuck them. So I consulted The Joy of Cooking and with the help of the Cuisinart, T and I made applesauce. It doesn't exactly photograph well, but you can't beat apples, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar. It was so easy to do! I'm all about simple and healthy--we didn't even have to peel them. By the way, applesauce and Cool Whip make a surprisingly tasty dessert.

Next, we tried spinach and ricotta stuffed shells, compliments of Cooking Light. T does not always go for the meatless stuff as a red-blooded American male (I'm teasing, honey), but we took these down with no trouble. Again, the ease of using frozen spinach saved me from chopping anything. I didn't get a picture of them, but you can look at the one from the magazine:

That's about what they looked like, sans the side of asparagus.

Finally, my proudest accomplishment: Using the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I slowly but surely gathered my tools and finally attempted my first loaves of crusty peasant bread last night. The step that took the longest involved actually locating yeast in the grocery store. Did you know it's in the refrigerated aisle? I did not. I stumbled upon the brilliant idea to call my friend H after a good 20 minutes of wandering up and down the baking aisle, muttering to myself and looking for an employee who didn't have something else to do. (In all fairness, the employees at Wegman's do rank above the average in terms of helpfulness; mostly I remained too stubborn to bug one. And did you know they have phones in the store you can use to ask questions such as, "Where do you keep the yeast?" Again, I did not.) H and her mother told me exactly where to look; five minutes later I sailed blithely to the checkout, two packages of yeast in my cart. I assembled the dough last night, letting it rise for three hours:

That's it unrisen; it actually went over the top
of the container. Apparently I need a larger one.

It's easier to work with when refrigerated, so this morning, after waking and actually thinking, "I'm baking bread today!!!!!", I took a stab at it. A little sticky, but honestly, it took less than ten minutes to form the loaves free-form; the rest involved waiting for it to rise or cook.

This is them going into the oven.

A scant 30 minutes later, look what came out! Look!

Aren't they just bee-yew-tee-ful? The book said to wait until they cool to try, but after ten minutes I had to cut off a sliver. It tastes just as bread should, crusty and yeasty and, frankly, just as good as any I've tasted in a restaurant. I'm telling you, you all can do this. It was EASY. Next I'll try a whole wheat batch so we can have that instead of buying it. Oh, BTW: These were about the size of grapefruit when I put them in, so they're a bit bigger than that now. Like giant, mutant, crusty grapefruit.

I found something intensely satisfying in creating something I buy so often. I'd like to make this part of my regular routine, and the recipe I use allows you to refrigerate or even freeze the dough for later use, so you can just cut off a chunk and throw it in the oven as needed. I want my kids to one day come home and say, "Why do my friends' moms not make bread?" or, more realistically, "Why are we such weirdos that we don't use store-bought bread?" There are so many recipes to use, too: Rolls, pita, naan, challah (M, I'll give you the recipe so you can try it for appropriate holidays if you want), rye, pumpernickel.... I find all this very, very cool. I think I'm going to go right now and cut off a piece and simply enjoy. Ok, now I'm salivating a little. How Pavlovian.

This is all part of my quest to live a healthier life and become less dependent on outside sources for my food. How cool will it be this summer if I can serve a lunch of bread and gazpacho, with bread made in my own kitchen and veggies from my own garden? It makes me smile. It's all about the simple joys, and this rates way up there.


feather nester said...

I share that dream...would love to have a theory. Not in reality. Unless I had a whole crew to help me work it. Anyway, the bread and everything else look delicious. Well done. :)

die Frau said...

I'm just going to hire out my sister and her bf to do the slave labor for me. How 'bout it, C? Will you give me a discount?????

Thanks, Feather!