Easy wheat baguettes


When I started this post our stuff still hadn’t arrived yet, and I was really feeling the absence of my cookbooks and full range of cooking supplies.  I had all this spare time now, and I wanted to spend some of it baking, but we just had one small rimmed baking sheet and one 9 x 13 baking dish.  Oh, and a borrowed mixing bowl and a partial set of measuring utensils.  It was somewhat limiting, especially for baking.  Not long before we left though, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” app was available for free download, so I at least have that.  It’s a pretty neat app.  I was browsing the other day and came across a recipe for Fast French Bread.  It’s super easy, and luckily, only required things I had (most notably a food processor).  I had to make some, obviously.

This recipe turns out a really nice loaf.  I adapted it just a little by using about half whole wheat flour and half white.  I felt virtuous making wheat bread, and imagine that the whole wheat aspect helps balance out all the butter I smear on.  The logical part of me knows better, but I ignore it, because we already have one philosopher in the house, and it’s not me.

Fast, Wheat, French Bread

3 1/2 cups flour – I use 2 cups white and 1 1/2 whole wheat
1 packet fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/4 cups water

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, add 1 cup of water and process until the water is absorbed.  Bittman’s directions say to start with a cup of water and then add more gradually until the dough comes together in a ball.  I find that about 1 1/4 cups of water is usually where this happens.

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Transfer the dough to a bowl, or just remove the blade from the food processor.  Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel.  Allow the bread to rise for at least an hour.  I’ve been giving mine about an hour and a half to two hours.  Then remove the dough and shape it into whatever bread shape tickles you.  I like to make two small baguette shapes.   I shape these by rolling them just like you would if you were making play-doh snakes, and place them side by side on a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet.  Allow the shaped breads to rise again.  I usually give them another hour, or until they seem nice and puffed up.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (gas mark 6).  Use a sharp knife to make slits in the top of the bread.  Place the bread in to the oven and immediately turn town to 375 (gas mark 5).  Bake until the loaves are browned on the outside and sound hollow when you tap them.  I find the 20-25 minutes is just about right for my two smaller loaves.  I also tried one large round loaf.  That takes significantly longer to bake, probably 40-50 minutes.

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Sister’s Corn Salsa

I’ve been a bad blogger, I know.  It’s been a little busy around here, between the working, and the driving, and a  couple rounds of visitors, and planting my Spring garden.  I’ll try to do better, and I have a thing or two saved up that I can post, but I make now promises.

My sister sent me this recipe, and I made it several weeks ago.  That was approximately two weeks before I went to the Farmer’s Market and saw this –

I will definitely have to make this again now that there is fresh corn, perhaps even grill the corn first.  But when I made this the first time I just used frozen corn and it was easy and still nothing to scoff at in the deliciousness arena.

Corn Salsa
 4 ears of corn, or about half a bag of frozen corn
1 red onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 Jalapeno peppers
4 Roma tomatos
1 Lime
about 1/4 cup Cilantro, really however much you like
2 tablespoons Vinegar ( I used white wine vinegar because that is what I had)
1 avocado
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the kernels off the corn into your pan with a little olive oil, and heat until the kernels soften and get a little translucent (or grill the corn and then cook for a shorter time). Dice the onion and pepper and throw it in with the corn. If you like a little more heat you can leave these raw. Dice the tomatoes and avocado, and mince the garlic and cilantro.  Throw it all in the bowl, mix in the corn and onions, and then squeeze the lime over it all. Finish with the vinegar, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

We used this to liven up a fast black bean and rice burrito, and boy was it good.  And its so healthy, just lots of veggies, so you can really pile it high and not even feel bad!  This will definitely be making several more appearances this summer.

Quick Focaccia Bread

I suffered a blogging set back this past week.  My laptop, with my camera memory card in it, was stolen.  Which means all the pictures of things I’ve made in the past are gone.  I had saved up a few things that I hadn’t gotten around to posting yet, but I guess I’ll have to start over now.  I got an I-pad to replace my stolen laptop, and these are the first baking pictures I’ve tried with it.  It’s got a pretty good camera, so maybe my new toy will help motivate me to keep blogging.

For Christmas my mom got me a pretty awesome cookbook called The Bread Bible.  I wanted to try one of the recipes from it for dinner last night, but in my usual fashion, I failed to pay enough attention to the time required to make the focaccia recipe (5 hours!).  So I had to improvise, and used my trusty pizza dough instead of an actual focaccia dough.  Although slightly different than an actual focaccia, it makes a very satisfying bread to go alongside pasta, and does a nice job of soaking up any left over sauce.

Garlicy Focaccia Bread
1 recipe pizza dough
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 5-10 fresh leaves, chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Make the pizza dough and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, spray a 1/2 sheet pan with cooking spay and set aside.  Once the dough has risen, place it in the pan and push and pull the dough until it is roughly fills the whole pan.  Set the pan in a warm place and let the dough rise again, about 30 minutes, or as long as you feel like waiting.

Preheat the oven to 500.  Brush the bread with one tablespoon of olive and that garlic.  If you are using dry basil, sprinkle it on, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  If you are using fresh basil, wait until the last minute or two of baking to put it on.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom is brown and crispy, and the top is light golden.  Once you take it out of the oven, brush with the last tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (omit if you want vegan bread).

Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

As the title suggests, this is my mom’s spaghetti sauce, and it’s delicious.  She makes her’s with meat, but I prefer it without.

I love to make this when I have a crowd coming over for dinner.  The recipe makes a ton of sauce, but it freezes really well, and is a life saver to have on hand. You can either make this on the stove top is a big pot or in the crock pot.

Spaghetti Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
3 large cans of diced tomatoes (28 ouncces)
2 small cans of tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon brown sugar, or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Dice the onions and the garlic.  Add the onions to the hot oil and cook them, stirring occasionally until they are soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  If you want a thinner texture, you can add some water.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and simmer.  Now, you can simmer this for a little while or a long while, depending on how much time you have.  Somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour is probably sufficient.

If you want to make it in the crock pot, just throw everything in the pot, and turn it on low for 8-10 hours.

Black Bean Burgers

These black bean burgers seem more like a summer food to me, but considering that its 75 and sunny here today, they seem like an appropriate post.  I love Southern California.  Love, love, love.  It’s nearly December and I’m lounging outside in a skirt.  But now I’ll stop rubbing it in for all those poor souls not in Southern California.  I do accepts visitors though…

These black bean burgers quickly became a favorite when we switched to vegetarianism.  They are different from hamburgers, but I find them very satisfying in a similar way.  And, like hamburgers, they are a super simple way to feed a crowd.

Black Bean Burgers
2 cups dry black beans
3 tablespoons bbq sauce
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Rinse and sort through the beans.  Place in a large pot filled with cold water.  Soak the beans for at least 8 hours or overnight.   Drain and rinse the beans, and refill the pot with fresh cold water.  I usually cook my beans in a crock pot on low heat for about 8 hours, but you can also boil then on the stove until tender.  Also, if you’re short on time, you could use 2-3 cans of drained and rinsed black beans.

Reserve 1-2 cups of the cooked black beans.  Place the remaining black beans in a food processor with the bbq sauce, breadcrumbs, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper.  Pulse several times until a thick puree forms.  Spoon the black bean puree into a large bowl and mix in the remaining whole beans and the cilantro.  Form the mixture in to patties.  i usually get around 8-10, but that can vary based on how big you make your patties.

Cook the patties in a large skillet with a half inch of vegetable oil, turning once, until a nice crispy crust forms on the outside and the patties are heated through.  You could also grill these.  Just put a piece of tin foil on top of the grill grate and spray the foil with some non-stick cooking spray.

These also freeze very well.  Just follow the direction through shaping the patties.  Then freeze them solid on a baking sheet.  After they are frozen, you can stack them in freezer bags using tin foil or parchment paper to separate each layer.  Then you can pull out how ever many burgers you need and either thaw them overnight in the fridge or cook them for a few minutes longer.


Kale Chips

We got a beautiful bunch of kale in out CSA box last week.  But I’ve never cooked with kale, and to tell you the truth, I find trying new dark leafy greens a little bit intimidating.  That’s part of the beauty of the CSA box, because it forces me to try new fruits and vegetables that I would never buy on my own.  I’d seen several recipes for kale chips floating around the internet lately, so I figured that would be a pretty unintimidating way to introduce kale into our diet.  These were super easy, and came out light as air. They just sort of crumble and disintegrate in your mouth, and they’ve got a very mild vegetable taste.

Kale Chips (adapted from Epicurious)

1 bunch fresh kale
olive oil
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Wash and trim the kale, removing most of the stem.  Pat dry or spin in a salad spinner.

Spread the leaves in one layer on a baking sheet, or two.  Drizzle with olive oil, or mist lightly if you have a spray can of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, and toss with your hands to coat each leaf.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the leaves are dry and crisp.

$5 Slow Food Success!

This past Saturday 6 friends and I participated in $5 slow food challenge and it was one of the nicest evenings I’ve had in a while.  I shopped, cooked, and ate with friends. Each person contributed one $5 dish and we all shared pot luck style.  We ate delicious food, drank yummy ($3.50!) wine, told good stories, laughed, and enjoyed the food and the company

The menu included:
2 variations of homemade focaccia bread
radish dip with whole grain crackers (recipe below)
curried red lentils and tofu (recipe below)
chick pea and potato curry
zucchini and green beans
apple cinnamon muffins

All in all, I found cooking for $5 to be pretty easy.  We decided that each dish would be under $5, and we had 7 people at the dinner party.  We figured that way it would work out to be about $5 per person.  What we didn’t consider was the possibility of leftovers.

We easily could have fed about twice as many people with our $5 dishes, making it closer to $2.50 a person!

So, here are the recipes for the dishes I provided.  They were both very good.  I’ll list prices for things I bought specifically for these recipes, but not for things I already had in my kitchen.

Radish dip
1 package cream cheese (8 oz), softened ($1.69)
4 radishes, minced
1 green onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
crackers ($1.99)

Just combine everything in a bowl and serve with whole grain crackers or sliced veggies.

Curried Red Lentils and Tofu




2 cups red lentils ($1.79)
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated with a microplane
1 box, 32 oz, veggie stock ($1.99)
1 carton firm tofu ($1)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
a couple shakes cayenne pepper

Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions and cook until they are soft.  Meanwhile, rinse the lentils well and drain then in a colander.  Add the garlic and ginger to the pot and cook for another minute until they are fragrant.  Then add the lentils and the vegetable stock to the pot and simmer until the lentils are soft and starting to fall apart, about 30 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking, slice the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and set them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Heat up the remaining oil in a large skillet and add the tofu, cumin, and curry powder.  Pan fry the tofu, stirring occasionally, until it is golden on all sides.  Pour the tofu and the seasoned oil into the lentil pot, along with the sugar and cayenne, and mix well.  Let everything cook together for a few minutes so that all the flavors can meld.