May 21, 2015
Yesterday was a total flop in the kitchen. I started out making this bread, got to step two and couldn’t find the honey ANYWHERE. I asked my 2-year-old daughter, who is notorious for hiding things, where she put it. “Ummmmmmm….in there,” she said uncertainly, and halfheartedly pointed towards the living room. My multigrain cereal was quickly cooling, soon going to drop below the 100 degree mark, and I frantically searched the house, to no avail. I gave up, and scrapped the now very cool cereal, and made granola. (Which turned out great, so I suppose the day wasn’t a total failure. And while I was at my hair appointment, which was also a success, my husband found the honey where Stella squirreled it away in a shopping bag in the kitchen. Sigh.)
Homemade pasta was on the menu for that night, which I got started on immediately after my haircut. I’d made it only once before, but it was pretty easy and seamless, so I thought it would be no problem to make starting at 3:30 pm. Ha. I mistakenly used a different recipe, and after 2 hours of work had to throw out the whole thing. Of course, I cried. And the kids, bored with TV and with me being in the kitchen, started going bonkers. I turned just in time to see my daughter playing in the bowl of flours that I was saving for the bread I wanted to start on again the next day. When my husband came home from work, I was at my wits end, and said I was never going in the kitchen again. Ok, end of rant.
Here I am, the next day, making the bread. I can say it’s because I’m saving us money, but that would only be part of the truth (good bread is expensive!). But it’s mostly because it’s been a month since I made this last, and I have been dreaming about it. I don’t think I can eat another supermarket loaf again, at least not for awhile. This bread is amazing. It takes my family about 4 days to walk through two loaves. I wouldn’t say it’s SUPER easy to make, but so worth it. This winter, when we didn’t have much to do but sit around and read and play games and make food, I kept us stocked with this bread. So, here I am, back in the kitchen, making this bread, while my crazy daughter is doing who-knows-what. This time I will at least make sure I have the honey, and that she keeps her hands out of the flour.
Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (of course)
Tools you will need in order to make this:
-Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
-Two 9×5″ loaf pans (I have made this with 8×4″ pans, and it turned out okay, but I would recommend the bigger size)
-Kitchen thermometer (preferably instant-read)
Tools that really really come in handy when making this:
-Water sprayer/spritzer bottle
-Bench scraper (like this one)
-Kitchen scale (I like this one because it comes in a rainbow of colors, and it slides nicely in with my cookbooks on the shelf because it’s nice and flat.)
A note on ingredients: You will need to get a 7-grain hot cereal mix, like the ones from Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills. You will find it in the cereal aisle, with the hot cereals, but I’ve found that it’s not in all grocery stores. I have bought it on Amazon a few times; it’s a good idea if you’re going to use it often because it’s a bigger package. It’s also really delicious as actual breakfast cereal. :)
6 1/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) 7-grain hot cereal mix
20 ounces (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
15 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting work surface)
7 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
4 tbsp honey *(see below for vegan option)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, *(see below for vegan option)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon table salt
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds (I do half and half if I have both)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1. Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour. Whisk flours in medium bowl.**
2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, melted butter, and yeast and stir to combine. Attach bowl to standing mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer running on low speed, add flours, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until dough forms ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2 to 3 tablespoons additional flour and continue mixing); continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes on low (on my Kitchenmaid, it’s speed level 2). Add seeds and knead for another 15 seconds. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, taut ball. Place dough into greased container with 4-quart capacity; cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.***
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pant into 12×9-inch rectangle ****(see note below); cut dough in half crosswise with knife or bench scraper. With short side facing you, starting at farthest end, roll one dough piece into a log. Pinch seam together gently. Spritz with water all over, then roll in the oats so that they completely cover the loaf. Drop loaf into prepared pan, then repeat process for second loaf. Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes (in the winter, when my kitchen is chilly, I rise the loaves on my stovetop while the oven is preheating). Dough should barely spring back when poked with your knuckle when it is ready to go in the oven. Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 35-40 minutes. (I start checking at 30 minutes). Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.
This bread is called easy, and it is. The 7-grain cereal replaces a whole bunch of different flours, so the ingredient list is pretty minimal for a multigrain bread. I’ve never been much of a bread-baker; baking with yeast seemed daunting to me. This was one of the first bread recipes I ever tried, and it turned out great the first time! However, it is time consuming. It takes almost 4 hours to make this, from start to finish, including resting and rising times. The nice part is that you can get the hot cereal mix going, and get all your other ingredients ready while it’s cooling. But for me, the rest and rise times just aren’t quite long enough for me to go anywhere, so it has to be made on a day that I’ll be sticking around the house.
*Vegan options: For the butter, you can probably substitute Earth Balance, but my trusted vegan source says that what’s way way better is making your own vegan butter from scratch. She uses this recipe. For the honey, my source recommends “Honee”, which is a vegan honey substitute made from apples and lemon. Agave syrup would probably be too sweet, and I think maple syrup is too strong of a flavor, although if you can’t find Honee and don’t want to order on Amazon, maple syrup is probably your best bet.
**Having a digital kitchen scale is so very helpful when baking. I just started doing this, and wish I would have started years ago! It’s a more accurate way to measure flour and other dry ingredients, and it is super fast and easy. I just put my bowl on the scale, hit “tare”, add the first ingredient, then hit “tare” again, and add the next ingredient. “Tare” clears the scale, so you are weighing just what you’re putting in after pushing it. I recommended a scale above, but you can find ones even cheaper on Amazon that get good reviews.
***An easy way to get your dough to the perfect 12×9″ size before making into loaves, spread your flour out on the counter, and then draw a 12×9″ rectangle in the flour with your finger. Then plop your dough in the middle of the rectangle and gently press it to the edges of the drawn rectangle. (See photos)
****Today while baking the bread, I ended up running out of time before it would be ready to go in the oven, so I tried slowing down the final rise process by putting the prepared loaves in the refrigerator. They ended up still really great, so if you are short on time for some reason, I recommend putting your prepared loaves in the fridge until you can bake them. I’m not sure exactly how long you can do this for…the recommended rise time for the loaves is 35-40 minutes at room temperature. I put them in the fridge right after preparing them, and took them out to bake about 3.5 hours later and they had doubled in size in the fridge. I let them get back to room temperature (set them on the stovetop while the oven preheated) before baking. I don’t think you could let them sit in the fridge for much longer than that since they doubled already in that amount of time…definitely not overnight. But this is a quick fix if you somehow run short on time and need to come back to it later!
March 31, 2015
Aunt Suzy says . . .
This winter, Randy and I had what we called “Downton Abbey Dinner Date”. We would record DA and I would cook a soup which we would have while we watched the latest installment, usually Wednesday evenings. It was a lot of fun and great to have warming soups during our coldest months. While I made a few standbys, I tried some new recipes including this one. Margaux had pinned this recipe a while back and while searching for something to cook it caught my eye. I thought it looked really good and that it would be a really quick weeknight meal. We made a number of adaptations to up the deliciousness, but still keeping fast and easy in mind. How quickly you can make this is determined by how much you cook from scratch (chickpeas, e.g.) or how much you use canned/frozen ingredients.
Margaux says . . .
I don’t remember pinning this recipe, but I’m really glad Aunt Suzy brought it to my attention! I just made it last night and it was a hit with the whole family. My son loved that it was spicy, too…he’s very proud that he has a taste for spicy food. If you have someone in your family that is sensitive to spicy things, I would cut the red pepper flakes back to 1/4 tsp. I used fresh chard because I couldn’t find frozen in my grocery store, but I think using frozen is a great idea as a time saver, and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for frozen for the next time I make this.
5 1/2-6 cups cooked chickpeas (four 14-oz cans or 2 cups dried, cooked)
6-7 cups chicken stock, homemade or boxed (or Better than Bouillon no chicken broth for vegetarian)
3 tablespoons EV olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, small dice
1 celery rib, small dice
Swiss chard stems, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Small Parmesan rind, optional
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces or 1-2 bags frozen chopped Swiss chard (see above note about stems)
Salt & pepper
Cooked small pasta – elbows, fusilli or shells, optional (we like whole wheat shells)
If using dried chickpeas, cook according to directions. 2 cups dried will produce the amount of cooked called for in this recipe. If using canned, drain and rinse.
Combine 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1 cup chicken stock. Using a hand or regular blender, process until the texture is like oatmeal. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, chard stems, if using, and rosemary. Saute over medium heat for 5 or so minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the pepper flakes. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add the pureed chickpea mixture, the remaining chicken stock, cooked chickpeas, bay leaf and the Parmesan rind, if using. The amount of stock you will use depends on whether you like your soups on the thick or thin side. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the Swiss chard and cook for another 10-15 minutes until cooked but not mushy. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves before serving.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions until al dente.
To serve, place a little pasta in the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle the soup into the bowl. Serve with baguette if desired.
February 28, 2015
Back in the relaxing days of only having one small child, I used to watch a lot of daytime TV. My son would only nap for long stretches when he was laying on me…if I tried to lay him down in his own bed, on our bed, or on the couch, he would wake up within 10 minutes. And then would be crabby for the rest of the day. Luckily he was my first born, and got lots of snuggles on the couch, every day, for the first 2.5 years of his life. It got frustrating: dirty dishes would sit in the sink, phone calls would go unanswered, laundry would sit in the dryer, dinner would go un-prepped. I had no smartphone, so no emails, Facebook, or Words with Friends. So, I watched A LOT of television. And after I had marathoned Doctor Who, Firefly and Veronica Mars on Netflix (thank goodness we had Netflix), I turned to daytime TV. And a whole bunch of Food Network. And I’m actually glad for it, because I learned a bunch of really great cooking tips from Ina, and quick meal ideas from Rachel and Giada. This was one of them, and I make it on a pretty regular basis. I remember it was on an episode when Giada was cooking with a child, so it’s meant to be a good recipe for a kid to help with. Which is true, my son has helped me make it many times. It can be prepared in about 30 minutes. A great weeknight meal!
Italian Chicken Casserole
This makes enough for 4 people, in an 8×8″ glass baking dish. I like to double the recipe and bake in a 13×9″ dish so we have plenty of leftovers.
1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Note: This can also be made with already cooked chicken. Just saute the onion and garlic on their own, and add the chicken to the bowl with everything and toss.
February 5, 2015
Aunt Suzy says . . .
It’s early February and that means cold where we live – perfect weather for soup. This week, I felt I might be coming down with a cold, so I thought a soup with ginger in it would really hit the spot. I recently filed away this recipe from Bon Appetit, so when I searched for something to make it was at the top of the pile. Randy and I both agreed that we would make this again. Once the ingredients were assembled, it came together in about 45 minutes. Who can ask for more on a cold weeknight?!
Ginger-Spiced Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1/2 to 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 quarts chicken stock or broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups baby spinach
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cooked small pasta, optional
Lime wedges (for serving)
September 10, 2014
I don’t know why it took me so long to make salsa. I make so many other things from scratch, like salad dressing, hummus, granola, sometimes peanut or almond butter…why wouldn’t I make my own salsa, too? So this summer I’ve been making salsa as often as I make hummus, like, weekly! It’s so much better than store bought. I’m posting this recipe because it’s the easiest, quickest, and most fresh tasting for all your garden tomatoes you’re harvesting (and I’m pining after!).
The original recipe called for grilling the tomatoes, but I tried that once and found that it just dried them out too much, and the salsa ended up really thick. If you have exceptionally juicy romas, it might work better, and then you would get that nice fire-roasted charcoal flavor, but I recommend sticking to the oven method if not. I got the idea of broiling them in the oven from a Martha Stewart chili recipe that we also love. The oven method still chars them, and really brings out the flavor of the tomato (we also love oven roasted tomatoes around here…if you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it).
Roasted Tomato Salsa
This makes a pretty small batch…just a little more than a jar of salsa that you would buy at the store.
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1-2 jalapenos, sliced in half and seeded (*note on spiciness below)
1/4 red onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper
Preheat your broiler on high, and place the rack 3″ from the heat source. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place vegetables on sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, until they start to char. Take jalapeno and onion off and place in a food processor or blender. Turn tomatoes over, and broil for another few minutes until they start to char on the other side. Remove from oven, take skins off of tomatoes, and place in the food processor or blender. Pulse a couple times, then add cilantro, lime, salt and pepper. I add about 1/4 tsp salt, and then pulse a few times until it’s the desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, taste, and stir in more salt and pepper if needed. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.
*Note on spicy. We like our salsa really spicy, and our son likes it kind of spicy, and our daughter likes it mild. Ha. So it all depends on the jalapeno seeds. If you don’t take out any seeds, you’re gonna have pretty spicy salsa. If it’s a good jalapeno, it’s gonna be really spicy. For medium spicy, I take out all but a tiny bit of the seeds. For mild salsa, I take out every trace of seeds from the jalapeno.