Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Favorite Midnight Snack

I'm not even going to call this a recipe, because it's so incredibly simple. It's one of my favorite nighttime snacks - curbs the sweet/chocolate craving, but has some redeeming qualities with the fruit. (Or so I tell myself.)

Simple as pie - graham crackers, Nutella, and sliced bananas. The list of possible toppings (marshmallows, anyone?) could go on and on. There's a reason Nutella has its own day of the year.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

So Ready For Spring!

We've finally had a few sunny days here, and they couldn't have come soon enough! We southerners aren't used to all this snow and all this bitter cold, so being back to high 40s/low 50s during the day has been bliss.

Since we're now 6-8 weeks out from our last frost here, it's time to start those seedlings, and this sunny day was a great day to start! I ordered a ton of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds earlier in the winter, and have been chomping at the bit to get some of them planted. I was practically drooling while I was planting the various tomato varieties I ordered.

In the next few weeks, we'll start tilling up the yard and putting out the wooden borders, so that everything will be ready to go in late April/early May. I have high expectations for this garden this year, and if even half of those expectations are met, I'll be totally thrilled!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fabulous Sandwich Bread

I've been on the hunt for a delicious sandwich bread for the past year or so. I want something chewy, but light, and full, but not dense. I also wanted to it to be at least partially wheat, and wanted to avoid a ton of sugar. I stumbled upon this recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread over at Confections of a Foodie Bride when I was perusing blogs last week. I'm now already on my second loaf, and we love it.

I've adapted it a bit for making the dough in a bread machine. If you're not using a bread machine, just head over to her site and follow the instructions there. Using my bread machine on the dough cycle always gives me near-perfect results with dough, so that's what I did. I use a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme, which can bake up to a 2 lb loaf. The order of ingredients for this machine is liquids first, but be sure to check your own machine for the correct order. (I wasn't totally sure where to put the soaked oats, so I just add them with the liquid component, and it's worked fine.)

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp agave, divided
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast

Set aside 1/4 cup oats. Place the remaining oats in a bowl, and add the boiling water. Mix with a spoon, and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the oats are sitting, in the bread machine bucket, add water, 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp of agave, buttermilk, and olive oil. Once the oats are ready, add them. On top of this, add the 2 flours and salt. Make a little well in the flour for the yeast. Place bucket in bread machine and run the dough cycle (I've been using the quick dough cycle with great results).

When cycle is completed, transfer dough to a floured surface. Flatten it with your hands to release any air bubbles, to about a 12 x 6 inch rectangle, and position it so that a long side is facing you. Fold the 2 short ends on the top, so that they meet in the middle. Starting with the closest side, roll the dough away from you into a log shape, and let it rest on its seam for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 385. Transfer the dough to an oiled 10 x 5 loaf pan (a 9 x 5 pan is too small), pressing dough into the corners. Combine 1 tsp of agave with 1/2 tsp very hot water. Brush the agave/water mixture over the top, and sprinkle the remaining oats over the top. Let sit for 35-45 minutes, just until loaf has risen over the pan.

Bake at 385 for 1 hour, and allow to cool completely before slicing. Enjoy! (I didn't get a picture of the finished product, because when I was making today's loaf, I completely forgot about it rising in the pan. It was a bit puffy. Still good, but not so pretty.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Favorite Spaghetti Sauce & Homemade Pasta

When I was in college, I went through all of my mom's cookbooks one weekend and pulled out all of the recipes that looked easy enough for me to make. One of the gems I came across was this spaghetti sauce, and I've adapted it over the years to our tastes. It is by no means gourmet or in any way authentically Italian. But, I do love it much more than any jarred sauce, and it makes a huge batch at one time, so I can always freeze half. It's a full, hearty sauce, and is just as good on a piece of bread as it is over noodles.

I also finally tried making my own pasta - it's something I've wanted to do for a while, but just haven't taken the time. It was so easy. I know there are still things I can do to make it better (roll it thinner, cut it skinnier), but for a first try, I was very pleased. Because of the addition of AP flour in this recipe, it's also not authentic, but I didn't have enough semolina on hand. I will definitely do an all-semolina (or 00 Italian flour) next time. It really doesn't take much time at all, and I can't wait to try things like ravioli. The recipe I used was found here at AllRecipes - I cut it in half, and we still had more than we could eat. One thing I would suggest is adding more salt to the dough.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 10 oz bag of sliced mushrooms
15 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 envelope Italian spaghetti seasoning (in the packet section)
1-2 Tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

In a skillet, brown ground beef and drain fat. Add onions and green pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer ground beef mixture to sauce pan, and add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes - 2 hours.* Serve over pasta. Freezes well.

*You can cook this quickly if needed, but the flavors taste even better after simmering all afternoon.