Dinnertime Prep: Slow Cooker Coconut Curry

That’s right it is time for the prep work for dinner. This is one of my favorite easy weeknight meals. While I work from home now, I used to make this all the time when I was working. It is a simple recipe and when I have a busy day ahead, I can prep all of the ingredients the night before and then just put them into the crockpot in the morning and forget about it for the day. It is a longer list of ingredients but many of them are staple pantry items that I almost always have on hand. So making it only requires a little shopping for fresh veg.

Ingredients:

1 can coconut milk (928 per can)

1 coconut milk can’s worth of water (0 cal)

a head of broccoli (60 cal in three cups, which was what my broccoli head yielded)

1 can chickpeas, drained (506 cal per can)

1 sweet potato, cubed (I go with larger cubes so they retain their texture over the long slow cook (114 cal)

1 yellow onion diced (115 cal)

2 cloves minced garlic (8 calories)

2 tsp grated ginger (2 cal)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (6 calories)

1 T ground turmeric (24 calories)

1T cumin (22 calories)

1T paprika (19 calories)

2 tsp salt

28 oz can diced tomatoes (254 calories)

and rice for serving (make separately)

Without the rice the calories for this entire slow cooker’s worth of food is 2058 calories. It gives me and my babydoll four meals. There are two of us so this is eight portions. Each portion is approximately 258 calories without rice. I usually have half a cup of cooked white rice with my portion which adds 121 calories so for me a portion would be about 379 calories. You might separate it differently so I put the calories for the whole thing above. Hopefully that helps you out with your math.

Are you ready for the directions?

  • put the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Add everything except the broccoli
  • If you are home when this is cooking, leave out the broccoli at this point and turn the slow cooker on low for 8 hours or high for four.
  • If cooking for eight hours add one additional cup of water.
  • In the last hour of cooking, add the broccoli and allow it to finish cooking.
  • If you are not home to add the broccoli for the last hour, layer it on top of everything else and don’t mix it in before setting it on to cook. It will still be okay if you add it earlier it will still be good, just softer. Sometimes I like to have left over broccoli (pre cooked) that I just add in the last few minutes to warm up with the rest of the curry. It is something to play with, depending on how you feel about broccoli.

This is really a super simple recipe to make and I find it really delicious. I personally like the heat level on this but my babydoll does add a squirt of siracha to his bowl. In addition, when I make this, it does make enough for use to have four meals. (there are two of us). I only make enough rice for us to eat with that night’s portion and we mix the rise with the curry in our bowls. This mix does freeze very well actually. The broccoli suffers a little with the reheat, but over all it is great to have extra meals ready to go when things get hectic so I will take a little broccoli wiltage for that.

We eat this as a nice hearty vegetarian meal. You an of course add chicken to it if you wanted. Occasionally I have added chicken to use up left overs. However I don’t think that this meal needs the addition. It is hearty and filling and feels far more caloric than it actually is. (In case you are wondering what the speckles are in the picture, we had a little quinoa left in the bag that wasn’t enough for a portion so to clear the cabinet I added it – you can put it in raw and it cooks with everything else, just add about half a cup more water. It mostly breaks down and thickens the sauce) I find it especially satisfying on a cold evening when the wind is icy and I need warming from my bones outward.



Holiday Guide: i Gourmet

Tis the season of snacking. It is also the season of guests, both expected and unexpected. Most of my family is scattered around the world at this point. Travel is always interesting. Some sections of my family will skip a year of traveling, staying home and communicating through the electronic ether instead of in person and then plan a huge trip with multiple stops along the way to grandma’s house.

It means that starting, well, about now, we will get phone calls about people passing through our area. A lot of my family seems to book flights to major airports and then rent cars to just meander and catch whoever they can on the way. My house is located along the way to a lot of places it seems so we will have people staying a night in the guest room or just stopping by for an hour. Sometimes we get family dropping by for coffee and maybe a snack, other times lunch, dinner and those strange in between times that are neither.

Which means we always have snacks and the makings of a quick cheese board, veg plate and possible charcuterie on hand. With the veg plate I always have two dips on hand for those who don’t do meat or dairy – it is my excuse to make fresh hummus as much as possible. And if they give some advance notice, my favorite battered and fried mushrooms, but that is a different post.

One of my favorite places to stock up is igourmet. During much of the year i will order cheeses from them simply because I like cheese and they have a really good selection of things I can’t find near me (They have a truffle cheese that is fantastic. They sell out a lot, so I sort of stalk the website lying in wait). My babydoll loves their sausages so we often pick a few of those up as well. And while we shop one cheese or sausage at a time when it is just us, we also make lists of our favorites as well as lists of who might be stopping by (No surprise that my family leans heavily towards the cheese board while his leans more towards the sausage).

Sometimes we will order a long list, but often times it is actually easier to order a couple of their gift baskets. The one pictured at the top of the post is their International Snacking Extravaganza box in case you are wondering. Out of this box I have tried the Sweet Sangria olives and absolutely love them. They can really add a great dimension to a simple bowl of snacks. I adore olives, as do many of my relatives and there is usually a bowl of marinated ones out. I make one that has lemon and rosemary in it. These Sangria ones are just easier to buy. They have sweet slightly fruity notes that blend really well with the briny olive and always disappear fast. The brine is a fantastic twist on a dirty martini as well.

Also included in this box is Righteous Felon Jerky. While the Victorious B.I.G. is good, I have to confess my favorite is the Darth Garlic That one and Voodoo Chile are the two we order a lot. The Voodoo is a little too spicy for me but my babydoll loves it. And if we order both then we each get our own bag and i don’t have to share the Darth Garlic.

But beef jerky is another post.

Gift Boxes from iGourmet are a great way to stock up on a variety of items for incoming guests. They also make great gifts. They have boxes that focus on locales like France or Germany. They have cheese centric boxes, charcuterie centric boxes, even a box completely focused on nuts, appropriately named The Nut Case. There are bundles of olive oils or even Barbeque Sauces available. In essence you can find pretty much anything for the food, wine or beer lover on your list.

And to be honest something like the Ultimate Party Collection not only makes a great gift, but can really help you out when you know you have multiple people stopping by and don’t have a lot of time to source a lot of different things. At this time of year, it can be a life saver just to know you have something on hand for whoever ends up stopping by.

Wheter gifting or stocking up for company, iGourmet is well worth checking out this holiday season.



Holiday Shopping Guide: Indoor Herb Gardens

I’m sure if you have read my posts for any length of time you will have realized that I love to garden. And while I simply do love to garden, I also find that it helps me with my weight loss. I know the activity part is helpful, but once the summer fades and the garden is munched over for the winter, the physical activity is minimal.

Where gardening mostly helps me, is in the kitchen. If you have ever watched a lot of cooking shows then you have probably heard the phrase fat is flavor. Sadly this is true, however you know what else has flavor? Herbs and spices.

For me fresh herbs especially make something potentially very bland feel somewhat decadent, especially in the cold winter months. Think about rice, Plain old boiled white rice. On it’s own not so flavor packed. It is a blank canvas, usually to spoon something dripping with sauce on to. However, a little bit of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon mixed in and it becomes a little less boring.

When you are trying to loose weight food can feel dull and flavorless. Everything it seems is taken out in the name of calorie reduction. Fat is removed, salt is removed, sugar is banned and sauces are kept to a minimum. For me fresh herbs are just a fantastic way to bring back some of that flavor. And in the winter I rely on indoor gardening. The herb bundles of fresh herbs you can get in our grocery over the winter are usually very pricy for what you get and the herbs are not always the best quality. They look like they sat in their little plastic boxes for far too long. which they probably have.

So I like to keep a few potted plants around to not only cut costs but because having plants around makes me happy. In addition if they are there I feel obligated to use them which in turn makes my dishes taste better without adding a lot of calories. The calories you add from fresh herbs is minimal. It is surprising how much fresh basil you can get on the plate for only three calories.

If you are looking to start an indoor garden this winter, or have a gardener on your gift buying list, Botanical Interest is a place you might want to check out. You can order their seed catalogs for free from the site, or just order directly from the site. They have all sorts of articles and tips if you are starting your own indoor garden. I found this one particularly interesting.

And for easy shopping they now have gift bundles available. They have the chef’s herb garden for a general array of the more classics cooking herbs. There is a bundle for those who want to grow vegetables in containers. There is even a bundle for those simply obsessed with chilie peppers.

these bundles are well thought out collections and a great way to start your own indoor garden, help someone else on their way to gardening or surprise your gardener in the family with something unexpected in their Christmas stocking. I really like these bundles and actually ordered the Butterfly Banquet Bundle for my mother this year. She has this one space in her yard that the plants included in the bundle will fill out nicely and with luck attract butterflies in the spring. which I know will make her happy to see well after the holiday decorations are put away and hopefully for several years to come. And that Makes Botanical Interests a great place to visit when filling out your holiday gift list.

Herbs: DIY Indoor Garden

The Daily: November 1st, 2022

Good afternoon my darlings. I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween. I always like to think of Halloween as the fun kick off to the holidays. The candy fueled, costumed fun-fest before the more serious minded holidays arrive. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the upcoming holidays. I love picking out just the right gift and because I limit my cooking to more healthy options I love the mass baking and preparing of the feast. Actually that is the one thing that I really don’t like about my weight loss plan.

I don’t get to bake as much.

I know, part of the reason for the weigh gain was me trying to perfect baking recipes in the first place. Hence the limiting. But all that is off for the holidays. Especially since there will be more people around so the portion size I consume will be much smaller.

However there is always something special about Halloween. Sure there may be candy that not every child can eat lurking in the candy bag, but no one shows up and asks for the organic origins of the kit kat bar.

This morning was the annual family conference call about the upcoming holidays. It was a bit more interesting than in years past. We always plan the meeting for the first of November. we then break down the upcoming holidays (from Thanksgiving to Easter actually) based on who is hosting, who will actually be traveling to the gathering (versus those who will not be able to make it in person) and of course who is bringing what. I host Easter typically so I typically just bring pies to Thanksgiving. this year since my mother had the operation and is still healing I am bringing the pies and coming home a day early to take care of the turkey.

Part of the discussion is the inevitable food allergies. Everyone likes sticking with tradition but no one wants to risk a hospital visit. We even have a couple of vegan options for a couple of vegan family members. In fact part of the discussion was making sure there were enough options so that it is a decadent feast for the vegans attending as well as the omnivores.

However there was one person who decided to use this as an opportunity to jump in. She had very specific ingredients she wanted for specific items. She wanted items substituted for ones she felt were better. While I have plenty of my own food specifics I don’t actually mind that, however it is amusing that the person wanting the substitutions doesn’t cook. I mean at all, flat out doesn’t cook. I agree with going organic and sustainable and agree with that side, but some of her suggestions didn’t quite work because she doesn’t cook and didn’t seem to really get how recipe substitutions work in some cases.

Most of it had little do do with me (other than the fact that i will be eating).. It was the apple pie that was my issue though as that is on the list of things I am usually responsible for. For my apple pie I use granny smiths because I like the tartness to balance the sweet and I like the texture when it cooks up. Also we have a local orchard that sells them at the right time of year so it is kind of a win win.

She too wanted a specific apple. She wanted to use Pink Lady apples, and specifically Pink Lady apples from a specific farm. Personally while I like to eat pink lady apples I find I don’t like the texture when I bake them in a pie. in addition with all of the other cooking done on Thanksgiving, i tend to bake my pies at my house and then put them in the cooler and drive them down rather than baking them. So while i don’t mind changing apples if it is wanted by everyone, I’m still going to use apples i can get locally rather than use specific apples grown several hundred miles away.

I didn’t actually get to voice any comments, polite or otherwise. I would have been polite, but I did not get the chance. By this point there had already been the great mashed potato discussion and the disastrous Brussel’s Sprout talk.

Here is a hint for free, if you have an English woman in her mid seventies at your family gathering whose one culinary achievement is her her Brussel’s sprouts and it is the one dish she presents year after year flawlessly and feels it is the one thing that redeems traditional British cuisine in the face of potential commentary from the French side of the family, leave the recipe alone. That is her dish and you need to leave it be.

First of all, they are delicious. Second, it is her dish and you just need to walk away.

Yeah so things were pretty tense by the time we got to pie. I was just going to agree and let it go, maybe look for the name of the orchard she uses at the store if i needed to. but we have a 98 year old woman from my mother’s church who has more or less been adopted into the family and spends all holiday meals with us. And has for at least 20 years. (our big gatherings tend to be a mix of family, friends and people who can’t get home for the holiday. It is always a bit wild.)

Anyway before i could say anything about the pie, Miss Emily sweetly suggested that with so many detailed elements thought through that perhaps it would be best if i didn’t make the apple pie this year since I am also taking on the turkey. There was a chorus of agreement that was impossible to refuse. I’m still making the chocolate mouse pie, the mince pie, and the pecan pie in case you are wondering.

But someone else is going to be making their first apple pie.

Which might prove interesting.

I know this is me making fun of someone a bit, and I do feel a little mean about it. But here is the thing. I am willing to work with you on allergies and food choices (like veganism, or vegetarianism). that doesn’t bother me, and truthfully I don’t think such a discussion should bother anyone. The real tradition is the gathering.

Food changes. It changes slowly, but it still changes even if it is traditional. An apple pie may be traditional with our family, but I know that the spices I put in and that are liked by the people who are eating it now aren’t the same spices my grandmother put in when she made the pie and might not have been appreciated when she started making apple pie.

I am already anticipating commentary on the way I make the turkey versus how other people have made it in the past. I have accepted i will have at least three older women watching everything I do when i cook. but I also know, they will eat it when all is said and done and whatever I do differently will be more or less forgotten by the time we all sit down to eat.

It is a meal prepared by many and enjoyed as a singular group. If there is something you don’t eat, don’t put it on the plate. (Its why there are enough options for everyone to get a full meal regardless of what they do and don’t eat. And honestly there will be mass left overs divides among everyone before they are allowed to leave so there is clearly plenty). Yes, there will be things that are done differently from how you would do them. That is inevitable. So you either accept that, avoid the dish, or accept that you might be the one required to make it.

I can’t feel too high minded about passing on a lesson it took me a really long time to learn, because while I was polite I did get a bit of a petty thrill when Miss Emily transferred the apple pie out of my kitchen. But it is a lesson that helps me survive the holidays and actually remembering it takes off a lot of unnecessary stress from the season.

The tradition is the gathering, the love and the sharing. Everything else is a detail that doesn’t really matter.

That thought helps me out during the more stressful holiday seasons and I hope it helps you out. It is my one piece of wisdom.

Well that and don’t mess with the Brussel Sprouts.

There was no makeup today as the conversation took longer than expected this year. And so with this i will leave you and get back to work. have a great day.

Free Butcher Knife On Orders Over $129

Snacktime: Broth Concentrate

This may seem like a strange snacktime post but I have to say that sometimes a warm cup of broth can be the best thing. A lot of my meal prep and planning go into making certain that I have healthy meals in a certain calorie level. I watch my proteins and my carbs as well when I am planning. This way I get the nutrients that i need and generally my food tastes pretty good.

However because the work week is so hectic and lunchtime so short, there is often a craving for something deeper. Here is where the concentrates really help out. A broth concentrate is basically a flavorful broth that has been boiled down to a gel like consistency.

You can buy them in boxes like this one pictured in a variety of flavors, including vegetarian ones). My personal favorite is the pho Chicken Broth Concentrate. There are not only a variety of flavors but a variety of brands. To be honest i really haven’t found that much difference in taste between the less and more expensive ones. This one happened to be on sale at the grocery store around the corner so I stocked up. I think typically the box sells for around $1.50 and contains four packets.

While I will for a dinner, dilute this into a stock pot and add all the delicious veg and noodles making it a full meal, I often find this is good as either a snack or a lunch time on the go. I take an insulated thermos and pour boiling water over the concentrate, stir and pop on the lid. I find my Teami mug perfect for this actually. It is made for tea but it works really well for broth.

Sipped slowly this broth feels far more filling than it actually is. One packet has only 25 calories. It feels like it should have at least a hundred more. It does have a high salt content so I do then to limit consumption to once a week at most and on the days when I drink it i tend to add several extra cups of water to my personal daily intake level.

For me soup has always had a comforting element to it. I think because the best soups seem to take all day to simmer. For me this is a way to get that comfort with out a lot of extra calories added to the day’s diet. It is also a good way to liven up a dinner that requires broth. While I always watch the salt content, for the occasional comforting snack or lunch break, this is a very good option to have on hand.



Weekly Weight: April No Scale Continues

Today I was actually relieved not to have to get on the scale. We had company last weekend and to be good hosts we brought in things we normally wouldn’t have in the house. Much of the week we have been dealing with left overs just to clear them out of the pantry. One of the things I have noticed though is the sugar intake.

I long ago cut out sodas from my normal day. We will keep a six pack of mini ginger ales in the cabinet, but to be honest, a six pack will last several months and then more than likely one can will be incorporated into a Friday night cocktail (Sometimes even a mocktail I really like taking one of those cans pouring it into a glass and adding a drop of sour cherry syrup to it and calling that my Friday Cocktail.)

We had three 12 can (regular sized) boxes on hand for company. My baby took one box to work just for meetings. I had a couple earlier in the week because they were there but after I realized the sugar was affecting me and my sleep patterns, i stopped drinking it. It is one of those things I simply don’t think about any more. People talk about how sugary drinks are bad for diets, but since I rarely indulge I focus more on salt and fat when I think about diets. Also my big weakness is cheese rather than chocolate so I know I can walk away from the sweets more easily than the savory.

It also helps that we don’t bring it into the house. But this week it was there. and because it was just there I indulged. I had one of those moments where I realized how much grocery shopping affects my diet. Simply put, you can’t eat what isn’t in the house. I know that sounds like a foolish statement to make but it was really brought home to me this week. This week I ate things simply because they were there. Why bother to add a little flavoring to water if the soda is right there taking up space? Why cut up celery sticks if there is a bag of chips right there? Do I know the other stuff is better for me? Of course, but the other stuff can be consumed with no effort or thought. And since we prepared things for company instead of preparing snacks and other things for the week, I hadn’t helped myself out by doing the prep work early like i usually do.

It was a bad week for food, but an eye opening one. even when you realize that what you by matters, sometimes you just need a hard reminder that you are the gatekeeper. You are the one who decides what to bring into the house and you are the one who ultimately decides what you will eat based on what you bring into the house. I knew that. Of course I knew that. But sometimes, it is really good to have that hard reminder. This week more than anything else, that was what I got. Sometimes, I just need things spelled out for me.

Hopefully it helps you too if you are on a similar get healthy journey with weight loss.

Kitchen Kit: The Coffee Press

I know, some of you are thinking, ‘But Mimsy I don’t drink coffee.’ I know, and I got you. I am a huge coffee fan and quite honestly I do love a cup of French press coffee.

And I will admit, I bought my first French Press because I had a cup of French Press Coffee and not only thought it tasted good, I thought it looked cool. and I do love a bit of cool Kit. I have several coffee presses and I will tell you that this is one of my favorites because it comes completely apart for easy cleaning, however the truth is i like the orange.

For those who have never used a French Press, You grind your coffee and place it in the bottom of the glass carafe. You then pour boiling water and let it steep (generally around four minutes) then you lower the plunger. The press pushes the grounds to the bottom while leaving the coffee clear and free to pour. The inside lid of my coffee press has a divot cut out for easy pouring. Most do. it should turn so you can keep the heat in while you brew and then turn to dispense. (at the bottom of the page is a diagram with measurements and timing if you are interested.)

I know, not an earth shattering revelation.

Prior to this I only had drip coffee (this was quite some years ago). I loved that i could play around with the strength of the coffee by altering the time I let it steep and adjusting the grind of the coffee. But most importantly I found i could adjust the flavor by adding things to the grind. I believe a cinnamon stick went first. I remember cardamom pods went second and then the third time i tried it, I combined both the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods.

I played around with different additives for my coffee and then I finally thought, what about things other than coffee? i started playing around with beverages. There were things that needed to be boiled like blueberry simple syrup. I made the simple syrup, added the berries to the caraffe and let them steep then lowered the plunger. I also made cold things. I took out the plunger added a bunch of fresh black berries, filled the caraffe with gin and covered the top with plastic wrap. I sat it in the fridge for a week, took it out and used the plunger to seperate the blackberries from the gin. I actually tend to make that almost every summer so we can use it for cocktails.

However, once my brain switched out of ‘this is a coffee press’ mode, the world was my oyster. As long as the world fit into the coffee press.

the three pieces of the machine

While I love making coffee with my coffee press, my favorite thing to do is to use the press to adapt store bought stock. Chicken stock from a reputable brand is fine, but often it tastes very one note. It honestly tastes like chicken, which is what it should taste like. And Veg stock can often just sort of taste like salty water that might once have been near some vegetables.

But boiling up the stock and putting it into the coffee press with crushed ginger, a crushed garlic clove, lemon zest and some bruised rosemary turns it into something else.

Once you have let it steep you lower the plunger and keep all of the added bits in the bottom of the carafe while the delicious, freshly infused stock, tailored perfectly to your taste and your dish, is poured out and ready for you to use. You don’t have to wonder if someone is going to bite down on a chunk of ginger or garlic, or suddenly find themselves flossing with a bit of rosemary.(Although rosemary is sneaky, I suggest leaving it on the stem and using the back of your knife to bruise the leaves so they let out the oils into the liquid but stays as a branch.)

In my house we keep a couple of different coffee presses. We have both metal and plastic ones. Part of why we have multiples is that I had a couple and my babydoll had a couple and then when we combined houses we had many. This carafe is glass and the plunger is metal which doesn’t tend to keep flavors and if it seems like it isn’t getting clean enough by hand, we put it in the dishwasher which takes anything off of the metal, especially on sanitation mode. My babydoll thinks that the plastic of the carafe (which I don’t send through the dish washer) I use for stock smells like herbs, so we have a separate one so the coffee is never rosemary scented.

I have had to replace the glass carafe and places like Grosche International do carry the glass carafe separately. They also sell replacement plungers if yours has reached the end of it’s life. I know we had to replace a plunger on another one we have a while back. I keep thinking i will purchase a new one at some point, but honestly they are such a simple mechanism that if you take care of them they will last for a really long time.

Personally, I consider this one of my essential Kitchen tools. While I love it for coffee, it is a true multitasker. even if you don’t drink coffee, I would urge you to look into picking one up and playing around with it. they are fairly inexpensive models out there and they are versatile enough that I think they easily earn a place in even a non-coffee drinker’s kitchen.

Although if you are using your coffee press to make coffee, this helpful image from Grosche International has all the measurements and timing you need.

best french press

Happy Hour: Blue Cheese Bacon Bread

Ah my darlings, Friday is nearly complete. The work week is done and soon the feet will be clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on the footstool. My baby and I will finally have the chance to sit down together and unwind.

Getting back to work after the holidays was especially hard this year as the bad weather hit just as we were starting to get back to the normal daily grind. Even though it was January, we were previously having 70 degree days so ice storms and snow fall took everyone by surprise. It also delayed projects, rescheduled appointments and a host of other things. For both of us this week was all about catching up and getting things back on track. We both had a lot of late nights this week.

Which makes the Friday wind down extra special. Tonight’s treat is Blue Cheese Bacon Bread. Each week I make a loaf of regular bread to be used for sandwiches throughout the week. This week I doubled the recipe used one half to make the regular loaf and the other to make the blue cheese bacon one. The recipe list is the single one with the ingredients for one loaf. This bread does freeze really well though. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then add a layer of tin foil and it will keep well in the freezer. when you want to use it take it out and let it thaw completely before using. We tend to take the loaves out in the morning before work and then they are ready by dinnertime.

What I like about the recipe is that it is easy to do when working from home. There is about ten minutes of activity, then a forty five minute waiting period. Then another five minutes of activity, with another forty five minute rest followed by a forty five minute bake. I like to use it to focus on activities. For example i had a couple of tasks I was putting off so I took one forty five minute wait and one task and tried to finish it before I had to go back to the kitchen. Then when I returned I took down another task I’d been putting off. It is kind of a nice way to clear off things i’d been putting off doing. Plus I get a delicious treat at the end of it.

pulling away from the sides in the mixer

Ingredients

3 cups AP flour + pinch

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk, room temp (I like to put it in the microwave for 15 seconds to take the fridge chill off rather than leaving it out)

1/2 tsp sugar + pinch

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Table spoon salt

half a cup of cooked bacon crumbled (you can use store bought bacon bits if you don’ want to cook bacon, just get the ones that look like real pieces of bacon (mostly for texture)

half a cup of blue cheese crumbles

Steps:

piled in the center before folding in.
  • stir the yeast together with the 3/4 cup of water and add the pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to the mix (to feed the yeast) Set it in a warm place until it is foamy (10-15 min)
  • If using a stand mixer, using the dough hook: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. When the yeast is foamy add the entire bowl of yeast mix to the flour, then add the milk, melted butter and honey. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed for 3 minutes while the dry and wet ingredients come together. When it no longer looks like flour will fly everywhere, increase the speed just a little bit (for mind it is no higher than three lines and well below medium speed. You are bringing your dough together not beating it into submission). When it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer off.
  • If mixing by hand, once your yeast is foamy combine everything except the blue cheese and the bacon into a bowl and bring it together to form a ball.
  • If your dough ball is sticky, regardless of mixer or no mixer mixing, dust it with a little bit of flour and knead it just until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Lightly grease a bowl (I tend to just use a spray bottle of oil on the bowl from my stand mixer) and put the dough in the bowl. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 min, come back, take your ball of dough out of the mixer (If making regular bread with no flavorings (i.e. bacon and blue cheese) then just put the dough into a well greased bread pan, cover and let sit for 45 min.) For the blue cheese and bacon bread. put the risen dough on a floured work surface and stretch it out as though you were making a pizza (don’t throw it in the air, just stretch on the table and try not to press too much air out. put the blue cheese and bacon crumbles in the center. fold the sides over the fillings, covering them completely. Knead the dough a few times to work the blue cheese and bacon into the dough. Then you can either put it in a loaf pan or make a free formed size on a greased sheet pan. Cover and let sit for 45 min.
  • Just before the 45 min rest is over, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  • When the 45 minute rest is done, put the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When it sounds hollow as out tap it with a knife, it is ready to be removed.
all rolled up, slashes in the top so it looks nice when it comes out

Without fillings, this makes a really good white sandwich bread. The fillings are of course your own choice. Try to go for fillings that don’t have a lot of moisture in them and you can’t go wrong. we often turn this loaf into cheddar and jalapeno bread or walnut and fig. It also makes great cinnamon and raisin bread. If you are going to start adding wet ingredients, reduce the amount of water you use with the yeast to keep it from getting soggy or cook out some of the moisturize from the ingredients. When I use this bread recipe for a mushroom, sage and onion bread, I cook both the mushrooms and onions ahead of time to reduce the moisture so that i can leave the recipe as it is.

the final loaf

Tonight I used blue cheese and bacon and I will pair it with a nice crisp hard apple cider. I find it pairs well with the blue cheese and cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. Sometimes I will even serve this bread with crisp slices on granny smith apple on top. It makes a great snack as well as a happy hour treat. Whatever you do tonight, I hope you take some time to rest and regroup and just allow yourself the space to breath. Have a great weekend.

Creatives to Promote Hint Still

The Daily: November 23rd, 2021

Ah my darlings, another day, another bake. Today is kind of interesting. While I am making pies tomorrow, today I am making pound cake. It is kind of interesting and something I didn’t realize until this year. While my family has many really good cooks, we only have a few bakers. All of the other bakers in the family are older than me and have sadly died off.

Which leaves me.

Last year we didn’t go back for Thanksgiving. Well we didn’t actually go anywhere actually. Apparently there were no deserts at the table. At Christmas someone remembered to pick up a pie from the store, but at Thanksgiving the baking wasn’t on anyone’s to do list, since i wasn’t coming. I think that might be why there was such a request this year. And not just bakes. I made the rum balls yesterday and this afternoon while I the cake is baking, I will be making Chocolate espresso truffles. I’ll post the recipe down below for anyone interested. I know it is kind of strange adding the recipes where the makeup usually goes, but at this time of year I find that having a few quick and easy recipes you can make ahead of time and just have out for guests when they arrive makes entertaining so much easier. with these, you can make them a few days ahead and keep them in the fridge. They actually taste better if they have been allowed to sit and have the flavors mingle and meld a bit better, so getting them done early, not only clears them out of the way, but it is better for the flavor. Don’t you love when things like that work out?

Chocolate Espresso Truffles

Makes 50 truffles

12 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate chopped

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 T instant espresso powder dissolved in 1T boiling water

(Optional – 2 T Sambuca)

1 cup cocoa powder for coating

In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter cream and coffee. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat. If adding stir in the Sambuca. Cool and chill in a covered bowl for at least three hours. Scoop out and form rounded balls. Roll the balls in cocoa powder.


What I like about this is that you can easily play around with flavors. If you decide chocolate and coffee isn’t your thing, take out the expresso and replace it with maraschino cherry liquid instead. You can add alcohol in or not as is your preference. When we have parties, I often end up using the tail ends of flavored liquors in the truffles. Fruit, nut or coffee flavored liquors work well but so do Bourbons and whiskeys. what is important isn’t if they are alcoholic or not, but that you pay attention to your ratios. If you add too much liquid, whether it is Irish whiskey or orange juice, it will throw off the texture. So take the measurements and play around with flavors. A word about fruit juices though. The flavor tends to dull down in the chocolate, so if you are using orange juice as your liquid, grate in some orange zest as well to punch up the flavor. Since it isn’t a liquid it won’t throw off the ratios and it will really make the flavor pop.

And it is easy to make different flavors at the same time, just split the mix and melt the chocolate separately with the individual flavors. If you don’t have a double boiler, just put a bowl over a pot of boiling water, just make certain the bowl is bigger than the pot (but not a huge amount bigger) You don’t want the bowl floating in the boiling water and you don’t want the pot so small that only a small part of the bottom curve gets heated. Or you could just pick up a double boiler. For a long time my only stove top pots were a set that was part of a double boiler set. The bottom could be used as a regular pot, he top pot could either be used separately or as the double boiler and there was a steamer basket for veg as well. So even though it sounded fancy, it ended up being really versatile. I think 360 Cookware has a set like it in their cookware section.

I know having one saved me a lot of space with cookware because it was not only versatile but it stored stacked up in one easy tower. I’ve lived in some rather small apartments in my life. It was practical for cooking and saved space. It has long since worn out though. I really need to replace it. It is on the list. We’ve reached the stage in cookware with a lot of items needing replacement. But that is a new year’s goal this year. For now, we use what we have. And possibly take advantage of sales.

Save 15% Off All Cookware & Bakeware use code: COOKWARE15

Happy Hour: Cheese plate and planning

Hello my darlings. I know I have skipped a few happy hour posts lately and to be honest the next few weeks these posts are going to be more about more than just treats for myself and my babydoll. With so many gatherings there are treats to take with me to other places and easy entertaining recipes that don’t take a lot of time or money to put together.

Tonight’s happy hour is more of a planning session for me and my babydoll. Not that we both won’t enjoy putting out feet up and having a little treat. Tonight’s treat is a glass of beer that my babydoll made himself. It is quite delicious and quite frankly I chose this glass because everything feels fancier when sipped from it. Plus, I really like the way this particular beer smells and the shape of the glass seems to sort of capture the scent and funnel it directly to the nose, which I really like.

To go with the beer we are doing a simple cheese with crackers (and a few late season cherries. I was quite surprised the store had them and honestly they aren’t the best but I like a little fruit with my cheese so we are using them up.). I like water crackers as they have less of a competing flavor when paired with the cheese.

The cheese is actually a truffle goat cheese ordered from the igourmet cheese shop. They have a really great selection. I don’t think the truffled goat is still available at the moment although they do have quite the selection if you are looking to build a holiday cheese board. Since we will always use the goat’s cheese we tend to order extra and freeze what we don’t use right away. Because of the texture and moisture content goat’s cheese tends to freeze really well.

While we are having it plain with crackers tonight, I love putting it into my roasted beet salad. I roast and peel the beets and then use a mandolin to slice them super thin. Then I layer beets, crumbles of goats cheese, walnuts and a little bit of fresh sage in a small roasting pan, like you are layering a lasagna actually. Then I put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to get the cheese soft and oozy (it won’t fully melt like other cheeses so just look for warm and soft with all of the beet layers warmed through).

The earthy truffle pairs well with the beets and the tang of the goat cheese and fresh herbs help lift it up a bit. The walnuts are both a bit earthy and they have that slightly bitter element as well as adding crunch. It is a bit messy to eat and the cheese does turn a bit pink, but it is absolutely delicious. You can make it sweeter by using golden beets instead of red ones, but I personally like the dark red beets with this.

If you are looking to do super simple entertaining, you can also get pre made holiday platters from igourmet. They have pre made plates if you don’t want to choose your own elements or a selection of elements if you are looking to create your own. Where I live sometimes the foods I want aren’t easy to come by so ordering from a reputable company like this really helps. They also have various food based subscriptions and gift baskets if you are looking for gifts for food lovers. We have never had any problems with anything we have ordered from the, the quality is great, the variety is good and even with all that is going on the shipping has still been really good.

They are actually on the list of things my babydoll and I need to discuss tonight. While we will be bringing several things to other people’s houses as our contribution to the gathering, we will also be hosting our own gatherings in the near future. My babydoll looks at this as a way to get all the delightful treats that we don’t usually indulge in so we will be looking at not only my recipes but things to order in. No doubt there will be much perusing of both the igourmet website and the Vital Source website. (we tent to order our seafood from them and we are running low on salmon at the moment).

there will of course be some debate as the things my babydoll wants are usually about three times as many as we actually need. Tonight however is just the listing of desires. It can be as long a list as he wants to make it. We’ll save the paring down to a non-Friday night conversation. So tonight I will nibble my cheese coated cracker, sip my beer and watch my babydoll’s eyes twinkle at the delicious list for feasting.

Paired down reality can wait for a few days.

I hope whatever you are doing tonight, you are planning to have a fantastic evening and an excellent weekend.