Monday, August 31, 2009
Until recently (and I've lived hare about ten years now), I still thought that his chosen pastime was a local or regional thing, but it isn't. If you look in the rural areas in your own region, you might just be surprised to find that it exists there as well, as surprised as I was, in fact, to recently learn that there are groups dedicated to this kind of activity very close to where I was born and raised.
My husband hunts......pretty much anything that moves. When I first met him, his main interest was fox hunting. (and no, to all you out there who are horrified, they do NOT actually kill the fox) although in the modern era, fox hunting is generally equivalent to coyote hunting. The main point of it is to have a dog that can hunt and trail, identify his quarry, and corner it for his master. Lately, however, his tastes have veered toward Coon Hunting (yes, that means 'raccoon' to all you city folk). The main differences between the two are:
1. fox hunting is a day time sport, coon hunting is at night
2. with fox hunting, you run a pack of dogs, the more, the better. With coon hunting, its usually just one per hunter.
The major differences end there. There are other slight differences, such as the breed of dog, etc., but there are many similarities as well. For example; with both sports, you can hunt individually, or as a group. Group hunts are often in competition form. And, as with any dog-related competition, there is always a 'show'. A bench show for hunting dogs is not like the fancy dog shows you see on TV, and often (but not necessarily) being called a 'show dog' in hunting circles is not a compliment. But, I've also found that that depends on whether or not you have a dog pretty enough to show. Mainly, at group hunts, the bench show looks for the composition of the dog, his composure on the bench, how well the dog 'stands', and how well the handler keeps the dog on the table and in his stance, etc. The hubs had a group hunt Saturday night, and, of course, there was a bench show. However, this show was strictly for the youth hunters. Now, Ty is not a hunter....yet. But he does want to be just like his Daddy, and the club that Matt hunts with is a very strong proponent for youth hunting. This time Ty got to show his first dog. Daddy took his pride and joy, Chevy (formally known as Leach's Hot Rod Chevy) who isn't just a pretty dog, but a darn good hound, too. Ty had never shown a dog before, so this was his learning experience....for which he took second place. Don't get me wrong, he didn't have much competition this time, which was a big part of why we took him. It gave him an opportunity to learn from the club, and win a prize, which made his just proud as a peacock, and now he can't wait until next month's bench show, where he'll surely do a better job of handling Chevy, and maybe get another plaque, just like this one.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Now, I am not a baker. Not even close. I commonly equate cooking and baking to the subjects in which I excelled or was dismally poor at during my school years. To me, cooking is like an art....a little of this, a little of that, add some color for flair, and give it a personality. I was good at the arts. Baking, on the other hand, reminds me of science and math. Measurements, quantity, temperature, time, and you need to be accurate. Science and Math were not my strong suits (and that's putting it mildly).
On that note, I want to send a big thanks out to PJH from the King Arthur Flour company for leaving a comment on my last post, suggesting their No Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread recipe for my first effort in yeast breads. This recipe could not have been easier. Still, I was nervous. Serious baking has always intimidated me. I don't even get along very well with bread machines, and that's cheating.
So, let me start with the recipe, and then I'll tell you how it went.
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses, maple syrup, dark corn syrup, or brown sugar corn syrup (I used maple syrup)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour, white whole wheat preferred
1) Heavily grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. This loaf tends to stick, so be sure to grease the pan thoroughly with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
2) Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes; an electric mixer set on high speed works well here. You should have a very sticky dough. It won't be pourable, but neither will it be kneadable. Scoop it into the prepared pan.
3) Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes; it should just about rise to the rim of the pan, perhaps just barely cresting over the rim. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
4) Uncover the bread, and bake it for about 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. The bread is done when it's golden brown on top, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers between 190°F and 195°F. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired; this will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread completely before cutting it.Notes: Since I am new to baking, I made sure to follow the recipe to the letter. I timed and measured everything carefully, tented the loaf after exactly 20 minutes, and used my instant read thermometer to make sure it also hit the right internal temperature (don't mind the probe sticking out of the loaf in the pictures!).
Who can argue with a recipe that just says, "Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl"? That prospect won me over from step one. My only thought is that I should have let the yeast bloom a bit in the lukewarm water before adding the other ingredients, as my bread didn't really rise much. I even made sure I bought fresh yeast for the project.
And it worked.
Now, granted, I did not blind fold anyone (come on, like I'm going to take the time to do that when the house smells like freshly baked bread? Please, you're lucky I held off on inhaling the lovely golden stuff long enough to take pictures), but I don't think you could pass this off as white bread. On the other hand, its absolutely nothing like any whole wheat breads I've ever had, either. It had a lovely, somewhat dense consistency, without being heavy, and a texture that was neither airy nor tough. The loaf was moist, but strong. It held up to buttering, and manhandling by my son, who, as you can see, gobbled it up like it was a chocolate chip muffin.
So, how would I rate King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour? And, I will be baking bread again. My loaf is gone and I want more.
Don't change that station, folks! I've got one more recipe up my sleeve - I hope to have it out to you later this week!
Friday, August 21, 2009
4 slices white sandwich bread
4 slices smoked mozzarella
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
To make pesto combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still has a rough texture.
Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of mozzarella and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place the bread over to make the sandwich. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and add butter. Add sandwich and cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy. Remove from pan and rub toasted bread with garlic.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, for garnish
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. Also add the vine cherry tomatoes if using for garnish, leave them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with ½ cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Roast for 20-30 minutes or until caramelized.Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later use). Pour in any liquid, ¾ of the chicken stock, bay leaves and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by1/3. Wash and dry basil leaves and add to the pot.Puree the soup using an immersion stick blender until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with three or four roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin pan, or grease muffin papers and place them in the wells.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Last time we went, Ty's favorite game was the "water shooting game".This time is was the "helmet" game.Some of the games are more like rides, and one even takes the kid's picture with Chuck.My favorite may be the one that actually "draws" your picture while you wait.And then, there is not much more precious than getting a "yee-haw!" out of your four year old while he's riding a"horsie".All in all, it has become one of our favorite places....I just have to try not to spoil him by taking him there too often!
Monday, August 17, 2009
We went to my favorite place to eat in town and I treated him to silver dollar pancakes with chocolate chips while I had my favorite Eggs Benedict.
I just can't get over how handsome my Little Guy is!!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It look about twice as long to bake since it was a much larger dish, but it turned out beautifully, and now I think I have a blackberry CAKE recipe that people are going to request over and over again. These things are so moist, its ridiculous. Its almost like a pancake batter in consistency. I will definitely be making this again!
See, normally, I consider comfort food to be those dishes that remind me most of my youth, or other times when I felt safe, secure, and otherwise content. Swedish Meatballs is not a meal I ever at as a kid, but it reminds me so much of Beef Stroganoff (which IS a meal I remember fondly from my mother's kitchen) which I can't eat because it is generally made with mushrooms.
I dug around a bit and came across this great blog and a recipe for Swedish Meatballs that sounded great. I made my grocery list and planned to go to the store after work to get the ingredients. And then....I got the call....you know the call....the one from the school/daycare that has you turning your work PC off before you've even hung up the phone, standing up from your chair and hollering to your office neighbor that you have to leave because Mt. Vesuvius is erupting breakfast all over his school.....yeah, THAT call.
So, unfortunately, I didn't get to try Gin's recipe, but I did have all the ingredients I needed for another version (from Alton Brown) that I had printed and saved a day or so before. Taking advantage of Ty's four hour uber-nap that afternoon, I mixed up the meat and rolled all the meatballs. When I have a dish with meatballs in it, I like to have one that is actually bite-sized. I want to be able to shove the whole thing in my mouth without either having to cut it, or take a bite out of it while its still on the fork, so I use my little scooper that I use to make my Aztec Truffles (hmmm haven't posted about those yet...mental note to buy chocolate...) so they would be nice and manageable. However, you know what that means...the smaller the meatball, the MORE meatballs you have to roll....yeah, I was at it for a while.
In the end, it was so worth it. I made the meatballs up ahead of time and then left the pan on the stove until Matt got home and whisked up the gravy while boiling some egg noodles. I ate the leftovers the next day while we were at home again (under sick-boy house arrest) and they were just as tasty the second time around.
2 slices fresh white bread
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound ground chuck
3/4 pound ground pork
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside.
In a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds.Heat the remaining butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat, or in an electric skillet set to 250 degrees F. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven. Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet.Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.
**And, if you're me, while the meatballs are cooking, set a pot of salter water to boil and make some nice egg noodles to serve this over...you won't be sorry!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
These turned out so lusciously moist, I had to eat two, and as big as the Texas muffins are, that's making a statement. I'm really thinking that for the next batch, I might try just making it in a square baking dish with a crumb topping...how yummy does that sound? They didn't puff up very well, but I think my baking powder might be at fault for that.
All in all, this one is definitely a keeper...I may have to make another batch this week!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Good Morning, everyone! I am so glad to see all the comments and I know you are all excited about my giveaway. As promised, I am announcing the winner today. Before I do, I just want to say that this last year of blogging has introduced me to so many wonderful people and reunited me with others. I have spent countless hours cooking recipes to post here, expanded my own culinary horizons (and maybe a few of yours) and even had the honor of appearing on Tyler Florence’s blog, along with many other exciting things along the way. I want to thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm, and I am looking forward to doing much more in the next year (and all the years after that!).
So! On to the announcement. If you haven’t already read about the giveaway, I’ll give you a quick overview. I am co-hosting a baby shower next month for a friend and I have been looking for new and creative ways to put together the traditional “veggie tray”. I put a call out for help and asked my wonderful readers to submit ideas for vegetables that could be crafted into little flowers or other garden related items that I could make for my friend’s baby shower.
Kim from Stirring the Pot carved up these lovely little carrot—tops and won the heart of my Little Man (it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that his favorite color is orange!) who pointed to the picture I showed him and promptly said, “I like THAT pretty flower!”
1. carrots are inexpensive and everyone likes them
2. I tried my hand at carving them up and it was pretty easy to do
3. I love basil, and I have a garden full of it right now. If it survives until the shower I’ll be using a bunch of it on the veggie tray. Never would have thought of that one!
4. The idea is very versatile. I can skewer them by themselves, or with an edamame or small grape inside for color, and they really brighten up a garden!
Great job, Kim! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address and I’ll get your prize headed your direction!
Thanks to everyone for their input, you’re the best! Stay tuned….I’ve already got an idea brewing for another giveaway….just have to wait for the right mood to strike!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Come on, you know you wanna.....you know I want you to......and you know you want the prize....no pressure or anything.
A "spiritual" experience....
This weekend, I got the opportunity to go ghost hunting for the first time. Not running around a graveyard at night with a bunch of friends like we did in high school, but out on an actual expedition with legitimate paranormal investigators. This group uses a wide variety of equipment to detect anomalies in the area, including, but not limited to, digital voice recorders, still digital cameras and camcorders, K2 meters, thermometers, and dowsing rods (since this was an area connected to a source of water). But, as one of the investigators said Saturday night, and I think it rings true, the best tool you have is your own senses.
It was amazing. Well, at least until I had to leave early to go home and handle a situation. I wish I could have stayed for the whole night. If I ever get invited back, you can believe I won't let anyone ruin it for me again.
Since I wasn't there very long, I don't have much of a story to tell, except that the location was unreal. Until the owner releases us to give the name, the location shall be undisclosed, but I can tell you that the site is that of a one-time hotel and health spa, set on top of a natural spring. The upper levels of the building are still in use as stores, apartments, etc, but the lower levels have been condemned by the city and those are the main areas we explored. They include two abandoned pools, a meat packing plant, and untold numbers of nooks, crannies, and empty spaces.
In these areas, we encountered a series of sounds that we (at least at the point when I left) had not been able to determine the source of, but I will term them as "curious". Maybe they were nothing….we thought at first that they sounded like clothes tumbling in a clothes dryer. Later that night we did find a dryer on the premises, but quickly found that it was not only not running, but unplugged. Some members of the team also thought the sound was like you would expect to hear a woman in high heels walking on marble, like that which used to be around the pool in the next room, where a man was once rumored to be killed by his wife wielding her high heeled shoe. Although the noise eventually ceased, it seemed to keep drawing us toward it when we wandered into other rooms, as if it was warning us to stay out of those areas. The meat packing area was very uncomfortable. I can't explain why, but just walking into the room made my skin crawl. When I said I didn't know what it was about it, Marie simply said, "Its death". And I think she was right. In another small room in the lower levels, where we sat trying to get some EVPs, I had my camcorder in use, hoping to catch some EVPs or images in that pitch black room. With the night vision feature on my camera, I was able to pan back and forth across the faces of the team there, and had very strange blurring problems. I would pan from Marie, to Brian, to Matt and back again repeatedly. At certain times, I would move to one of the people and the camera would blur the images so much that the person's silhouette was so distorted you couldn't tell it was a person, when only a moment before it had been clear. At first I thought it was a problem with focusing in the dark, but the clarity did not return immediately, as it would have if the camera was trying to focus. Marie described this as something affecting the "depth of field", in other words, something between the camera and the subject, changing the area focused on by the camera. After playing the video back at home, I believe there was something in that room with us, sitting in the empty space between me and Matt. Of course, I can't prove this, but you can believe what you want.
Maybe the most exciting for me, was something that happened when we returned to the main level to take a break. Marie and I were headed through a doorway toward the women's restroom when I suddenly felt like I was walking through a wall of static electricity. Marie was a few feet ahead of me, and we both stopped at the same time. I stepped back into the field, and every hair on my left arm stood up. The skin on my arm tingled for the next 5-10 minutes. Marie also encountered the same sensation and we were able to call some of the other investigators over and although the body of the disturbance had dissipated, they did feel some residual static. This happened at the foot of a staircase where there is reputed to be some paranormal activity. We checked the area for anything that might have caused an electrical charge, and found nothing. Again, believe what you want, but I think Marie and I had a close encounter…..
All in all, the night was very exciting for me, and I have no idea if or when I'll get to go again, but I sure hope so.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This unctuous concoction is like a little mouth full of heaven....superbly creamy, decadently sweet, with little bits of rich date and fig, and a crunchy crumble of toasted nuts on top. Much more substantial than regular yogurts, this was a perfect treat for my breakfast at work today, and with a minimum of effort. The swirl was like a little treasure trove of candy hiding in a milky cloud. I'm seriously considering putting it in my little popsicle molds and making frozen yogurt treats to last all summer! If you love yogurt....I don't care if you've never tried figs before, you are gonna LOVE this! Come on over to Tyler Florence Fridays this week and see all the lovely dishes, including this one, which is my entry for this week.
Recipe by Tyler Florence
***I just used 3/4 cup of a can of deluxe mixed nuts
If you can't find Greek yogurt, drain regular yogurt, refrigerated, overnight through cheesecloth. Toast the nuts in a saute pan over medium heat until they become fragrant. Put the nuts onto a plate and set aside; when cool enough to handle, chop them roughly. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the figs, dates, honey, water, lemon juice, and cinnamon stick. Cook for about 10 minutes until fruit is soft. Set aside and let it cool slightly; remove the cinnamon stick. Place the yogurt in a big bowl. Spoon the warm fruit onto the yogurt and gently swirl the fruit through the yogurt. Sprinkle on the nuts and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.
You want some, don't you?
Monday, August 3, 2009
This is my first week, and the assigned dish was Paula's Hummingbird Cake.
Now, you all know I'm not much of a baker. I didn't even own a round cake pan until this recipe came up. Several times this year I have come across cake recipes that tempted me, but they always call for at least 2, if not 3, round cake pans and I just didn't feel like making the investment for something I don't use very often. But, I decided that I wanted to make a strong start on my submissions to My Girl,Paula, so I bit the bullet and picked up three cake pans. After all, I recently fell in love with a cake stand (I know, I don't bake, so why do I want a cake stand?) because it was absolutely PERFECT for my kitchen. If you know me, you know I have a fetish for serving dishes, especially white ones, and if they have blue accents, even better. So, this was a great excuse for me to pull it out and put it to good use for the first time!
"Hummingbird Cake" is essentially a spice cake, looking very much like carrot cake (at least my version did) but instead of carrots and raisins, it has pineapple and bananas. The cake was not overly sweet, which was what I was expecting, but it had a nice texture to it and was very flavorful. I really enjoyed the pecans mixed in with both the batter, and then on top of the icing. Speaking of which, the icing was lovely, a simple cream cheese frosting which took care of the "sweet" factor nicely, as you can see here....
Admittedly, I am NOT a good decorator of cakes and especially since I overbeat my frosting and it came out a little thing, but no one at work complained on Friday when I put it out in the lunchroom for the vultures. I also made sure I put wax paper under the layers before I frosted so that my lovely cake stand would remain pristine. (Gotta show off the pretty blue patterns on it!) I also used the recipe directly from the book versus the ones online as they seem to differ somewhat.
So, there you go, one very lovely cake, and my very first entry to My Girl, Paula!
For the cake:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup mashed bananas
1 (8-ounce) crushed pineapple, with juice
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
1 (8-ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (1 box) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. For the cake, in a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs and oil and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat. Stir in the banana, pineapple and its juice, the pecans, and the vanilla. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.While the cake cools, make the frosting:In a bowl, blend together the cream cheese and butter. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the pecans, or reserve them to sprinkle over the frosted cake. Fill and frost the cake.Voila!And, the inside: