Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homemade Pretzels



NOTE: I made the pretzel dough in my bread machine (dough cycle). You can use your Kitchen Aid (I will have me one of these one day, I tell you!) or other stand mixer if you prefer.
ALSO NOTE: The decimals in this font are rather obscure (you can't see 'em) so pay attention that you don't get all crazy with the amounts. I mean, who would think you're supposed to use 15 cups of water and 45 cups of flour in a batch of dough? Are you feeding a farm? Anyhow. Don't do it.

All this goes into the bread maker:
1.5 cups room-temp water
1/2 stick melted butter
1.5 tsp. salt
1 TB sugar
4.5 cups all purpose flour
1 TB yeast

Save this for after that:
6 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
Coarse salt
1 stick melted butter (optional, but not really. but seriously.)
Cinnamon/sugar (also optional, with the same caveat).

  • After the dough cycle completes, dump the dough out onto a buttered surface (cutting board, pastry sheet, unsuspecting counter top, etc.). 
  • Press out dough and cut however your little heart desires. You can cut 10-12 equally-sized pieces and roll each one into a rope to form traditionally-shaped (large) pretzels, or you can cut into strips and then bite-sized pieces with a pizza cutter (this is what I did).
  • Leave those to rise a bit on the buttered surface while you...
  • Stir baking soda into water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to continue a steady simmer.
  • Preheat oven to 450. I had to reduce mine to 385, but that's 'cause the dadgum repairman did some kind of voodoo on it last month when it wouldn't heat right and now it's a guessing game on what temp to actually use. Anyhow.
  • Carefully and without 'deflating' pretzels entirely (don't fret over this too much--basically just don't squish them to bits and you should be fine), submerge each one in the boiling baking soda water for about 30 seconds, then flip over for another 20-30 seconds, then remove with a large slotted spoon or spatula to a wire rack or broiler rack to drain. {You can also brush a beaten egg/water mixture over your pretzels if you feel froggy, but I didn't, at least this time. Suit yourself if you want a more yellowish, glossy finished look.)
  • Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  • Leave some unsalted if you're feeling a little wild and want to sprinkle some with cinnamon/sugar after they are baked and buttered.
  • Line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment. Gently brush it with melted or softened butter.
  • Gently place pretzels onto baking sheet (it should hold 6-8 at a time), place into preheated oven, and bake for 12-15 min. or until they reach desired golden brown.
  • I ran mine through a melted butter bath before tossing them all into a wooden bowl for serving, 'cause that's how I roll.
  • ENJOY!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Easterhouse Italian Spaghetti Sauce



I've been making red sauce my whole life, and I'm pretty sure I've never written (typed) out the recipe. Well, I was asked for my recipe today, and since that is usually the way I wind up even thinking in terms of "recipe", here we go.

I wish I had thought ahead and taken photos of each step. For this one, we'll have to settle for a shot during cooking and once during serving. I'll try to get better about that. Thanks for bearing with me and this learn-as-I-go thing.

This recipe fills my largest sauce pot about 3/4 full, so make sure you've got a hefty-sized one before you start. And make sure it has an insulated bottom; you do NOT want to scorch this to the bottom of the pot.

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pods of fresh garlic, peeled.
1 TB Italian seasonings
2 TB Italian spaghetti seasonings (if available)
1 tsp. basil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
3-5 TB olive oil
3 lbs. lean ground beef
2-3 lbs. sweet Italian sausage
1 can (105oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (105oz.) tomato puree
1 can (105oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sugar

First, I get Steve to crush (because I like being able to use my hands for the rest of the day)  about a pod and a half of garlic (yes, that much--trust me and go with it). Put the crushed garlic into a small non-stick saucepan with the olive oil and seasonings and heat on low to blend flavors. Make sure it doesn't cook too fast--just simmer.

While the garlic stuff is simmering and smelling your house up like mad, brown the ground beef and sausage (add in a tad more olive oil if needed to keep it from sticking). I cut my Italian sausage out of the casing and smash it up with the ground beef, but you can cut it up with the casings if you prefer.

After the meat is completely done, add the garlic stuff and prepare to have your smeller assailed again. You'll be good and ravenous by the time this concoction is done. Stir it in, cover, and let it simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. If your windows are open, this will be about the time neighbors, joggers, and the feller on the other side of the river stop by to ask what smells so good. Don't be too alarmed. It's your fault for harboring a taste of Heaven on your stove top.

At this point you remove the lid, nearly pass out from the aroma, and pour in the contents of the three gargantuan cans (I get them at Sam's Club at great prices). Add the sugar (this smooths out the flavor by toning down the acidity in the tomatoes) and stir the whole lovely mess until well blended.

Simmer on low heat, stirring often to keep it from sticking, for as much of the day as you need until dinner. You could serve it after about an hour, but a few hours only blends the flavors more. Leftovers are better still.

Serve over your favorite pasta, with garlic knots or bread sticks, topped with Parmesan cheese if you like. Just make sure nobody loosened the top on the cheese like one of our sons did to the other once. To this day the boy has to put a mountain of cheese on top to duplicate the great taste that happened that day.

Share with your neighbors (I wasn't joking about that--it's a neat thing to do) and tell God how grateful you are for such a good gift.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Southwest Soup



It happens nearly every day, and I grin every time. Well, I grin as I'm scrambling to come up with a recipe like I had one all along ready to produce at a moment's notice.

Here's what happens: I post a photo of whatever I just concocted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (because I can't help myself) and within minutes someone is asking me for "the recipe". Thing is, true to my backward form, I make up recipes from dishes I make, not the other way around.

Today's chuckle courtesy of Southwest Soup.

See, what had happened was...

Over the weekend I made Chicken Tortilla Soup.

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
1. Cut a big gob (I don't know, maybe 3 pounds or so?) of your favorite chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken breast because I get it at a great price at Sam's Club and I had some on hand) into tiny chunks and boil in a giant soup pot about half full of water with a bunch of your favorite seasonings thrown in. I use cumin (a must for any southwest-style soup), sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed fresh garlic (3-4 cloves, if you have it), Adobo, and about 1/2 cup (that's a HALF, not one-to-two) of powdered chicken bouillon. Oh, and a stick or two of real butter. It'll enrich the soup, so hush.

2. Add a can of seasoned black beans.

3. Stir a lot while it cooks, maybe a couple of hours of simmering on low after it comes to a good boil.

4. Serve with the following on the side for adding to individual bowls:
-egg noodles or pasta (both undercooked a little so the soup doesn't mush them)
-rice (white or yellow)
-whole kernel corn
-shredded Mexican cheeses
-tortilla chips for crushing

A couple of days later when this soup was starting to dwindle and I was hearing complaints that there wasn't much chicken left in the bottom and I wasn't about to toss it and make a whole new dinner just yet, I got the bright idea to use it as a starter for new soup. My mama would be so proud of me. Anyway.

So I browned a big bunch (I don't know, maybe 4 pounds or so?) of ground beef with sea salt, black pepper, garlic & onion powder, Adobo, you know...the stuff I put in just about everything...and 1/4 cup or so of taco seasoning mix (I get that at Sam's Club, too, in a big box) until it was good and done and had smelled up the house like Mexican Heaven.

I spooned about 3 cups or so of the ground beef into the remaining chicken tortilla soup and stirred, put the remaining taco meat away for another meal, and stood back quite happy with myself.

I found a leftover baked potato in the fridge, so I peeled it and cubed it and tossed that into the pot, too.

I'm trying to remember now...was that all? I think so.

When Jeff came home he had some, and by his behavior it appears that my stretch-this-longer soup was quite a hit. Score. Fed 8 people with it and still had enough left over for my lunch today. FOR. THE. WIN.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Batter-Fried Chicken Tenders

I admit it: I've got a thing for fried chicken.

It all started when I was little, growing up (for a while, at least), in southeast Georgia. Let me just say that I was blessed with elders who loved to cook and were doggone good at it.

And everybody knows that in Georgia, most everything is fried. Especially chicken.

These babies are delicious, and super easy to make.

Just cut a chicken breast into strips, then tenderize with a meat mallet (notice I said tenderize, not smash to smithereens).

Dip in a beaten egg batter, then roll thoroughly in your favorite breading mix (I used my basic one of flour, garlic salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a tad of powdered sugar).

Fry in hot oil until golden brown and juices run clear when you poke it with a cooking fork.

So good, they'll make you want to slap your granny. So make sure she's a safe distance away.

Deep-Fried Dill Pickle Chips

It's all Brittany's fault. Well, and Tyler's, since he started the whole thing. Britt threw the tease out on Facebook, so I had to ask. She said they were easy to make, so I thought, okay. Maybe I can't mess them up.



Thankfully, this time what I saw in my head actually happened.

Start with crispy dill pickle chips. I just happened to have the Vlasic ovals, which were perfect--a little larger and thicker than hamburger chips, so they handled well.

First dip the chips into a beaten egg batter, then roll them in your favorite breading mix (this was my basic one of flour, garlic salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a tad of powdered sugar).

Drop (carefully!) into oil that you've gotten pretty hot. Fry only a few at a time, and watch them closely as they tend to cook pretty quickly.

As soon as they are golden brown, remove with a metal strainer spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Serve hot. Enjoy!

How Cake Mountain was Born



See, what had happened was...

I had this amazing vision in my head of the perfect birthday cake. And not just any birthday. My only daughter's Sweet 16.

Now, don't get me wrong: all four of the boys' 16th birthdays were just as special, but the girl...well, girls have a SWEET 16, and boys don't really like the whole "sweet" thing...more like Studly16, which now that I see it in print looks completely ridiculous, but I digress. I do that a lot, so you might as well get used to it from the get-go.

Being very practically minded, Rosie wouldn't hear of me paying $70. for a cake from the local bakery. Why do that when we can make it ourselves? she asked. Of course, I replied.

Of course.

I saw this going much, much differently in my head.

What i pictured was what the Google images search pictured: lovely square layers stacked on one another, icing smooth and shiny, flowers trailing delicately down the corners.

Not so much.

I didn't count on the entire thing caving in on itself before I even got to the top layer.



Matt tried to help. He was sure we could salvage it. He went to work.



He worked while Rosie stood a few steps back with her hand clasped tightly over her mouth. "I can fix Cake Mountain, Mom. No worries."

I didn't think it was possible, but it got worse.


I sank into my office chair and wept.

Rosie was laughing so hard she was crying.

I seriously wanted to go Grammy on it and rip it asunder. It couldn't have looked any worse.

Rosie, trying her hardest to stifle the laughter, kept saying, "Mama, please don't cry. Really. This is funny! Ma, please? One day we will all be laughing about this together..."

"Yeah? Well it is not this day!" I sobbed.

I could tell that both Matt and Rosie were about to pull a gut muscle trying not to laugh, which eventually made me laugh, and then we all laughed. And cried.



And then it hit me. I've got two hours to bake a new cake for this party, limited supplies, and no car to go to the store. Fun stuff.

But God binds up the broken-hearted, especially moms crazy enough to think they can bake the perfect tiered birthday cake with absolutely no training whatsoever, so by His mercy I set to work and showed up at the party with a new cake.


And that, Lord bless us all, is how Cake Mountain was born.