Sunday, July 10, 2016

Unexpected Guest

Friday night, my daughter texted that she was bringing a friend home for dinner.  She caught me right about the time I had decided that I was serving leftovers, and was too tired to stop by the store.  OK, then.  Plan a recipe from scratch and memory.

Chicken Pot Pie.  I had randomly picked up some farm fresh strawberries.  Strawberry Shortcake.  It turned out my store had some fresh corn on the cob, too.  I had a plan.

My recipe for chicken pot pie came from a book called, Cooking for Dummies.  One of the best books that I ever got.  Everything is delicious, but one of the key things that it taught me was that if you don't have something or don't like a recipe, just change it.  It's a good rule.  Change your own recipes.

Chicken pot pie is absolutely delicious, but takes too much time.  It also makes leftovers.  Always worth it.  Basically you are starting with chicken soup.  Saute onions.  Lightly brown chicken.  Add chicken broth and water to cover.  I like to get my vegetables, but hide them too.  Slice the carrots super thin, and add a peeled and sliced potatoes.  Add celery, but keep it big because you'll remove it later.  When everything is nicely cooked, you want to drain it over a pot to save that wonderful stock.

Chicken and vegetables go in a casserole dish.  In the same pan, it's time to make a sauce.  Some butter and flour.  Then add back about two cups reserved liquid and two cups cream.  Yum.

Top it all off with some homemade biscuit dough.  There's lots of options there, but Bisquick is a good fall back.

For a night, when I didn't want to cook I was pretty happy.  The fridge became inaccessible.

Oh, and for the picky eating kids- just give them some chicken after it's cooked but before you dice it into the casserole mix.  They might even eat the carrots.

I used "rainbow" carrots this time.  They have better flavor, but some of the dark carrots really look very unappealing with leftovers.  Little dark blobs in my food.  Sigh.  I'll have to think about that next time.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bread - the substance of a happy family

I baked this morning.  I wasn't actually on task.  My goal walking into the kitchen was to empty and load the dishwasher.  It's 5pm, and I still haven't quite finished the kitchen.  Of course the kitchen is now 90 degrees and I wanted out of there!

New canisters.  That meant that I could restart my sourdough starters.  Both wheat and regular, and while I was at it I thought that I should feed the Friendship starter.  It was too full, and it a state to bake!  OK.  Baking time.

I have beautiful mini baking pans.  I love them.  The children are much more likely to grab a mini-loaf rather than cut a slice.  They are closer to adults than children.  While I was at it, I randomly wondered why you need to grease and flour a pan.  Isn't greasing a pan enough?  I did some research, with the help of Quora.

You need grease and flour for two reasons.  Grease is part of the "non-stick."  but what use is the flour?  It turns out that flour is there for two reasons.  One- it lets the dough mixture rise higher.  I don't really understand this, but it gives the dough something to "climb."  Two - the flour prevents more of the shortening / grease from absorbing into the dough.  That will lead to more fat, and possible a richer cake, but it also changes the baking time and texture.  (One thought was that it will be a harder bread or cake.)  Cookies with more fat spread more and bake faster.  They usually end up crisper.

I tested it with my mini-loafs.  Same quantity, but 7  of the 8 rose far more than I really wanted.  One looked like a dwarf or runt, but I measured the bread mix.  Interesting.  (I won't be eating those, so taste comparisons are out.)

Crazy enough not to be completely done.  I went for a packaged bread mix.  The real goal was to understand what shaping bread was like.  Split into little balls, rolled into snakes and braided.  (One thing to remember, braiding  braid is a two strand process, not three like most braids.)  Then I rolled each small braid into a circle and tucked the ends under.  The bread was delicious, but it met the real goal.  Mini bread loaves- easily broken into bite sized pieces or taken as a snack sized whole.  It's my first attempt at shaping bread, but I might do it again. I'm pretty happy with the results, and this was simple.

I think storage for starters, dry mixes, and mini loaves is a bigger issue for me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thoughts about Pizza

I'm allergic to tomatoes, so I experiment a lot with pizza- without tomatoes.  I've found some great pizza dough recipes.  They are far better than prepared pizza crusts, but honestly not worth it unless you have the time and want to invest the effort.  Some of the absolute best ones involve letting the dough sit from 12 to 24 hours.

Home made pizza dough is drop dead easy to make, but it usually requires factoring some planning into your night.  I like to make it on a night when other things that I'm cooking take time, but not too much attention.  Or I'm likely to be tired the next night.

With home made dough, you can make mini-pizzas that are different for each individual in the family.  This is a great way to prepare a simple cheese pizza for a child, or a more complicated version for an adult.  It also means that you can add meat or vegetables for those that prefer one or the other.  As a cooking note, though- plain cheese will cook faster and brown faster.  Mustn't over bake the pizza for the children!

There are many different white sauces to put on a pizza.  Olive oil and garlic, alfredo sauce, white bean hummus.  The favorite for the children seems to be  Alfredo sauce.

As an extra bonus and planning tip, for homemade pizza make use of leftovers from other dinners.  Leftover chicken is always a win on pizza.  Grilled peppers and onions from another dinner are perfect vegetables!

Tonight was less than 30 minutes, 3 different dinners and lunch for another day.