Tag Archives: baking

Bring on the (new) bread machine

Well. We’ve managed to destroy yet another bread machine. Here’s the thing. Some people eat cold cereal for breakfast. Some eat eggs. Some eat nothing. I eat cinnamon raisin bread — NOT the store-bought spongy, flaccid stuff — only homemade.

Somewhere in the mid-80s, we purchased our first bread machine. Made by  DAK, it resembled R2D2 and made round loaves. Our two then-preschool-age daughters watched, mesmerized, as the dough mixed, began to rise, and baked. One day, it became off-kilter mid-cycle and walked right off the counter and crashed to the floor. Thus began a long line of bread machines. I forget how many we’ve had because like our toasters and irons — they have short lives.

DakSo…a few months ago, the most recent machine died. Mid-cycle. This was not pleasant. My attempts at completing the baking process were useless. We ended up with a half-baked lump of dough. Still, I loved that particular machine and set about buying another one. I couldn’t find the same model nearby so settled for another. My first clue that it might be a dud was when I noticed the pan didn’t click into place when I set it in the machine. I was sure it was a dud when nothing happened after filling it with flour, cinnamon, oil, honey, salt, water and yeast.

After a few choice words, which my husband appeared to ignore, I kneaded it by hand, let it rise, and baked it in the oven. And…returned the machine to the store.

I know. I should have ordered a new one right away but decided instead that I’d drag out my 30-year-old Cuisinart, mix up the dough, and bake it. That has worked fine when/if time allows, but I’d become accustomed to baking it on the one-hour cycle while I run — thus, having fresh bread whenever we’re out.

photo(17)image(10)So, okay. I give. The trusty Cuisinart didn’t let me down today — odd, when you consider the number of other appliances we’ve seen come and go. Given my tendency toward pessimism, I know it’s not going to last. And yes, I know I can mix it up by hand and bake it. But not while I’m running.

So…that’s it. I give. Bring on the next bread machine. May you live as long as (shhhh…) the Cuisinart and the 30-plus-year-old clothes dryer.

Advertisements

Baking to beat the cold and stress

In many ways, yesterday was a typical January day in northwest Ohio. Sort of. There was nearly one foot of snow on the ground, and extremely high winds had created large drifts up the sides of houses and parked cars. Icy roads made driving dangerous.

Okay, so if you live in Minnesota or North Dakota, you might be yawning by now. But hey, this is Ohio. We get snow. Some years we get a lot. Some years we get none. This is one of those “a lot” years. Windchills of 40 below didn’t make it any more palatable.

So there we were. Stuck in the house. Even Bluffton University shut down for two days. So…what to do?

One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. It’s bright. It’s yellow. And it gives me a nice view of the back yard, and the little A-frame that my dad built 20 years ago. He insisted it would probably fall apart after two years.

Backyard
Looking at the A-frame sparked a memory of Dad baking bread on cold winter days. So? I baked bread.
Bread-baked

While that was rising, I figured I could log on to my work desktop and get some work done. But since I’m really good at procrastinating, I shoved that thought to the back of my brain, and instead baked cookies.
Not just any old cookies. It’s January. I hate January. In fact, my stress level rises just thinking about January. So…since whoever decided that dark chocolate and antioxidants are good antidotes to stress, I’ve resorted to the perfect cookie, Anti-Stress Cookies.

Chock full of ingredients like whole wheat flour, olive oil, dark chocolate chips, raisins, dried sour cherries, walnuts, oats, yogurt, brown sugar, butter, and whatever else you feel like adding.  I added 1/4 cup of flax seed this time. You can’t ruin them…unless you leave the room and forget they’re in the oven. Doesn’t matter. Surely, someone in your house likes dark cookies. If not, call my husband.

cookie-plate

Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white flour (or white whole wheat flour)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!)

By the time I was done with all the baking, I’d warmed up the house, and the frigid temps outside didn’t seem nearly so daunting.

Gordon Lightfoot and a really Wacky Cake

It was 1969 when Gordon Lightfoot wrote “If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….” The song may have been about the breakup of his marriage, but the lyrics were solid gold for even the teenyboppin’ crowd. I know this because I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade.

So yesterday when I read in the New York Times that Lightfoot would turn 75 this week, that was the song that immediately came to mind. All through the day as I graded papers, walked the dog, cooked and baked, the song replayed in my head. Over and over.

Maybe it was good luck. Maybe not. Because my success in the kitchen was two for three. The vegetable soup and bread both turned out perfectly.

image (4)Of course, there is no recipe for either one because I pretty much threw both together with whatever was around.

The wacky cake, however, was another story. Actually, the cake itself was perfect as usual. It’s a can’t-miss recipe. But it’s what you decide to do to glitz it up for someone’s birthday that impacts the outcome. Here’s how it looked first:

imagePretty ho hum…unless you can smell it. So just close your eyes and imagine the amazing smell of warm cocoa.

But…it was the hubs’ birthday and I decided to replicate something the girls and I invented long ago. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you cover it with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. They quickly melt and you kind of blend them together with a icing spreader. This works well UNLESS, of course, the marshmallows have outlived their shelf life. Apparently, if they’re old and dried out, they won’t melt.

Nothing worked….not putting it back in the warm oven and not a quick zap in the microwave. I was really beginning to feel frustrated. Lucky for me, I don’t have a picky husband. He took one look and knew what I was thinking because he started humming “If you could read my mind, love…”

Just proves at least some of those lyrics can apply to just about every situation.

photo (11)

Wacky Cake
(Makes one 8X8-in. square cake)

1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
In the 8X8-in. square pan in which you plan to bake the cake, mix dry ingredients with fork. Make three holes. Pour in 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tbsp. vinegar, and 6 tbsp. canola oil.
Pour one c. cold water over and mix up with the fork. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Note: This can be eaten as is, dusted with powdered sugar, iced with your favorite icing recipe, topped with marshmallows and chocolate chips, or with the following:

1/3 c. butter, melted
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nuts
2 tbsp. water
Mix and pour over cake and brown until brown.

Episode 1: The man who cooks in triplicate

Having been raised in a fairly “non-traditional” family — at least for the 50s-60s, my husband learned his way around the kitchen at an early age. His dad often cooked — in fact, his fried potatoes are legendary. Technically, they’re probably called rosti, which is a Swiss concoction made with coarsely grated potato, either cooked or raw.

Pies, on the other hand, were his mom’s specialty. When we first married, I was confused by the fact that these pies always arrived at the table with a very thin sliver missing. And she always delivered them to the table with the same disclaimer: “This is the worst pie I’ve ever made.” Her adult children rolled their eyes and in fact, often spoke the words at the same time or tried to beat her to the punch.

About 10 years ago, the hubs embarked on his own pie project — baking a different kind every Sunday. By this time, our daughters were off at college and since I don’t like pie, he knew he wouldn’t offend anyone if one failed. My mom happily joined him in the tasting/rating process.

A few weeks after the failed attempt at vinegar pie (I’m serious) he said he was completely out of ideas and asked ME to suggest something. I knew we had applesauce so suggested he attempt to create something from that. He was so pleased with the result that he developed a whole new attitude toward baking and, subsequently, cooking. He became Invincible Man in the Kitchen.

Sunday has become baking and cooking day in our house. A few weeks ago, I asked what his plan was. His response was that he “likes to cook in threes.” How could I pass this up? Fortunately, he’s a good sport and went along with the deal.

So….that day began a series of “The man who cooks in triplicate.” Most weeks this includes a variation on granola, which he began making after I raved too many times about my mom and dad’s granola, which they began making in the 70s after reading Francis Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet.” Someday, I’ll share his recipe — if and when he actually creates one.

The first day in this series included granolaIMG_0169[1], a simplified version of eggplant Parmesan,IMG_0170[1]                                                       and blueberry pie. Each year we buy a case of blueberries from Michigan and he freezes them in small amounts. The new case was due to arrive so he needed to use up the leftovers from last year. IMG_0168[1]

His explanation is SO much better than anything I could duplicate, so here it is. Understand that he — and sometimes my mom, a daughter, a significant other-in-law, a niece or nephew, or some other lucky guest — are the testers and rarely do his pies see the public eye.

Blueberry Pie
The recipe calls for 2 cups of blueberries. I like pies to be really tall, so I put in about 4 cups. That’s probably why is was runny. Just added 2 tbsp. of corn starch. Plus had had to get rid of the blueberries from 2012 to make room of the 2013 batch.

Basic fruit pie recipe for me is:

Fruit
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar (I don’t like to put too much in)
Sometimes corn starch
Crust (sometimes homemade from whole wheat flour — which is all we have; usually made from oil, not butter or lard; sometimes purchased.) On this day, he got really creative and used phyllo dough which produced a top that resembled corn husks.

Bake at 350 until I’m hungry.  Sometimes the pie is overdone, sometimes underdone, sometimes just right.  Sometimes I add a top if I have enough pie crust left.

Editor’s note: Yep, it looked this strange. Apparently, it was perfect.

IMG_0166[1]

 

 

 

 

Fighting the flu and other maladies with Anti-Stress Cookies

It’s that time again….flu season. According to health experts, hand washing is one of the most important steps one can take to prevent the flu. Covering your mouth and nose when others cough or sneeze is another step toward warding of the dreaded stuff.

Now, I’m no expert but it’s clear that eating right can’t hurt when trying to keep your body healthy, and loading your body with antioxidants might help in fighting infection and disease.

A few years ago, the Food Network came out with a recipe for Flu Fighter Cookies. This seemed like a good idea and the cookies were good, but I figured I could adjust the recipe to include additional healthy ingredients.

This recipe is chock full of antioxidants and good stuff — hence, the name, “Anti-Stress Cookies.”

Mixing up the good stuff

Mixing up the good stuff

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

 

 

 

Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white whole wheat flour (in place of all-purpose flour, although that also works)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!).

“Twas three days before Christmas…

‘Twas three days before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring ‘cept Ma and her dog. One child and two cats were nestled snug on the couch, when Ma and her Ike tiptoed into the room. From out of the dark, there rose such a howling, the quiet household shuddered and woke with a start.

So much for a quiet start to the day. And so much for my attempts at poetic license. I knew that there would be an extra cat in the house, but I’d been assured that Peaches the Queen and the visiting Casio, would “just ignore each other”. What we didn’t plan on was the rude awakening of said cats and child by one wriggling, tail-wagging miniature Schnauzer, eager to join the sleeping trio.

Ten minutes later, one cat had been relegated to the outdoors and the other one to the basement. Ike, the innocent instigator, was upstairs in bed with the other child and Harvey, the calmest dog on earth.

Phew. Quiet reigned again…for a few minutes anyway. I took that as a sign that I could take a shower. Halfway through that, daughter number 1 pops her head in the door to say that “I was trying to find an outlet for the coffeepot, and I unplugged your bread machine. Does that matter?” Matter? Why would it matter that a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread had been unplugged mid-cycle? A little deep breathing reminded me “not to sweat the small stuff”. Lo and behold, she’d plugged it right back in and the bread kept baking. Huh. Must have some sort of surge protection on it.

30 minutes later, I headed off to work. As I walked out the door, I heard two hoots of laughter from daughters number 1 and 2, watching something on the Internet. Which reminds me. All cat- and dog-fights aside, it’s good to have my family home.

 

 

Random thoughts strike again….and again

It’s another Random Thought Day. Truth be told, every day of my life is made up of random thoughts. Oddly, it’s often one of those thoughts that prompts me to start writing. To whit:

1. This morning, Ike and I were walking over to meet Mary Ann and Sparky (AKA Arthur). Two minutes after leaving our house, Ike decides it’s time to do his thing. Yes, I had a bag with me and scooped it up. Interesting. Usually, this takes a good five or 10 minutes. So…we’re heading down the road and passing a certain superintendent’s house. Ike decides this will be a two-poop day. Ugh. No more bags. Sorry Mr. D. We’ll be over to scoop that soon!

2. Last night as we were getting into bed, Ike (who thinks he is human and therefore, can sleep in our bed), stood at the end of the bed looking at us. I don’t know what he was waiting for, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to invite him to nose in between us. The Saint glared at him and mumbled something like: Just be glad we let you in this room.”

3. Whyizzit every time I buy a pair of pants, they fit fine in the store, but when I get home, they don’t? And whyizzit, just when I pull up to said store to exchange them, the clock strikes 9, and the doors close?

4. How did all that fabric get into my sewing room and what am I supposed to do with it? I’m sure there was a reason for buying it, but that reason now escapes me.

5. Who planted all those morning glories in my garden and why do they take over everything? My poor delphinium got strangled to death.

6. Does the cat really think I want to come out to see what remains of her latest catch? Is it really that crucial to her ego that she share three feathers with us?

7. Who made the decision that if I find a penny I shouldn’t pick it up unless it’s heads up? Why can’t I have good luck either way? Don’t rain on my parade, buster.

8. Some guy at the farmer’s market gave my mom and me a lecture on the advantages of red potatoes vs. white potatoes. She wanted white and all he had was red. He gave her the antioxidant lecture and pointed to a little graph that proved his point, or so he thought. And then he handed her a pile of potato recipes. My mother drew herself up to all of her 5 feet 1 inch, and said, “My dad grew potatoes. I know potatoes.” (Insinuating, of course, that she knew potatoes far better than he.) Guess she told him.

9. Howcum I’m always the last to know everything? Believe me, this is true.

10. Like my friend, Peter, I’m always wishing tomorrow was Friday. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

11. Why is the distance between Ohio, Virgina, Kansas and Arizona so far? Could someone please just scramble the states so I can live closer to my brothers? I want to be able to walk over to their houses when I know one of them is baking or cooking so I can just eat their food. It always sounds better than mine.

12. Why do those damn walnuts keep dropping in my yard? And why do I have to worry about them smacking me on the head on the way to the ground? It’s not even my tree!

Okay, now that I’ve got all those random thoughts off my chest, it’s time to become productive. Time to sift through all that fabric and decide what to do with it. Oh yeah, and time to visit Mr. D’s house for some poop scooping.

Secret family recipe revealed

Whenever I see granola for sale in groceries, a very clear visual pops up in my mind. There is my dad, standing at the kitchen counter with a huge stainless steel bowl in front of him. He’s carefully measuring ingredients into the bowl. Oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds.

On the stove top, a mixture of honey, oil and vanilla are warming. He reaches for the pot, slowly swirls the mixture over the dry ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon, he carefully and methodically stirs the mixture, gently turning it over until each grain, nut and seed is coated.

For Dad, making granola was a welcome change from his usual days spent in the lab and classroom, teaching his students to blend the right ingredients for experiments. Yet, in many ways, his hours in the kitchen were very similar to those in the lab — the right ingredients, perfect measurements, temperature control, and most important — staying nearby throughout the process.

Because once he had the ingredients mixed and spread in baking pans, he knew timing was crucial. If he didn’t watch it carefully, at timed intervals removing the pans from the oven to stir them, he’d end up with a burnt batch. And on a college professor’s salary in the 70s, a batch of granola could be expensive. A burnt batch even more so.

Once the granola was done, he’d remove it from the oven, set it on racks to cool before spooning into old tins and coffee cans saved just for this purpose.

Thinking back, I must have taken that granola for granted. It was always there. Secretly, I’d filter through the cans for the big chunks. My favorite way to eat it was on top of ice cream.

My mom still makes granola regularly; probably some of my brothers do, too. Awhile back, my husband, daughters and I made a family cookbook to give to family members as a Christmas present. My parents’ granola recipe stands front and center, an icon of our family history.

Today I had a hankering for granola…the real thing. No coconut. I don’t think any of my family members (brothers, parents, children) has ever liked coconut so it’s not in the recipe. You could add it, but then it wouldn’t be our granola. It would be yours.

This is the original recipe, with notes about any changes I made. When making mine, I took poetic license and added some flax seed — the wheat germ of the 2000s. Dad would have understood. He was all for change as long as it was a healthy one. Mother, of course, has probably made more changes to her own versions over the years. Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried fruit.

If you decide to make your own, remember this caveat: Do not leave the kitchen. Sit at a nearby table with a cup of tea or coffee and set a timer. Unless, of course, you like your granola with a blackened quality.

Granola

1/4 c. safflower or canola oil
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. rolled oats
1 c. wheat germ
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. whole wheat bran
1/4-1/2 c. flax seeds (OPTIONAL — this is my addition)

Heat first three ingredients. Add to remaining ingredients and stir (mix well). Spread on oiled cookie sheets or baking pans. Bake at 325 degrees (stir twice during baking) 20-25 min.
Store in tightly-closed containers.

A thank you note to a special young woman

Lily Schumacher's tiny ginger cookies with raspberry filling

Dear Lily,

Usually I mail my thank you notes, but I thought it would be fun to send yours in a blog. I’m kind of hoping this will inspire you to start blogging about your baking experiences. You could share all of your favorite recipes!

Every time you show up with your latest culinary success, I am amazed by what a kind, generous soul you have at such a young age. You’ve truly learned the value of sharing what you have with others. Your kindness cheers me every time!

The tiny ginger/raspberry jelly sandwich cookies were terrific. How did you make the ginger cookies so tiny and perfect? You have far more patience than I do.

How do you choose a new recipe? Do you scan cookbooks until you find one that sounds good? Have you ever created your own recipe? I’ll bet you’ll do that some day.

For my birthday, my mom is baking me an ice cream cake roll, my favorite. I’m going to save a slice just for you. Maybe you’ll want to try one next time you have a birthday in your house. I’ll bet your dad would like one.

Someday, maybe we can bake together. What would we make?

Thank you so very much for the “get well” cookies you’ve brought. That means a lot to me and Fred.

Sincerely,

Mary