Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Ever Bakers Challenge

Before I get into the long version, I should let you know that these were very, very easy to make. Especially if you own a stand have no excuse not to try's that easy. So yes, should try these. Same for the Baba Ganoush. Try it for'll look like an expert:)
For some time now I have been watching posts from other people who have taken part in the Daring Bakers Monthly Challenge, and considered signing up. Take a look at their blog roll and see some of the most awesome food blogs around.........I thought it would be a good way to try something new each month and the September Challenge did not disappoint me. Very often the monthly challenge ends up being a sweet item, and this time it was savoury item. I was pretty happy about the choice this month since I had seen a recipe in an old Fine Cooking magazine on making crackers, that has been on my to do list for some time now. The challenge this month was for making Lavash, an Armenian flat bread/cracker and a vegetarian dip of your choice to go along with. I chose to make Baba Ganoush to go along with it, as it seemed to be the logical choice and was very happy with the results. I will definitely be making Lavash again. This time, I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and the rest white and sprinkled the tops with smoked paprika, black sesame seeds and some pink sea salt. I also tried the Lavash with the antipasto I made last night, and it was very yummy too!

1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 T sugar
1 T vegetable oil
1/3 cup-1/2 cup plus 2 T water at room temperature

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together in a ball. You may not use all of the water, I needed all of it plus a few drops more.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. I did the kneading part in my kitchenaid mixer and it took about 12 minutes on speed 2.

Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (I used a pastry cutter with a fluted edge) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve. I found if you baked them till golden they were crisp on the outside, but chewy on the inside kind of like a pita. The second batch I left to brown more and they were cracker crisp. Both batches had crackers that puffed up like pita. Some other bakers had suggested putting the seasonings in the dough and I would have done this if I had known what spices I was going to use in the end, but it ended up being a last minute I put them on top.

Baba Ganoush

1 large egg plant
3 T tahini
3 T lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cumin
salt to taste
1 T extra virgin olive oil for garnish
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped for garnish
1 tsp parsley,chopped for garnish

Brush eggplant with oil and grill over medium flame to blacken skin, about 10 minutes. Move eggplant to baking sheet and place in 375F oven for 20 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Once soft, remove from oven and peel away skin. Mash eggplant and stir in other ingredients, or pulse in food processor with remaining ingredients. Garnish with drizzled olive oil, parsley and chopped olives.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Busy Weekend Again

There are always too many things on my weekend mental To Do list. This weekend was no exception as I had lofty, and perhaps unreasonable goals for accomplishing things. But, a girl can dream can't she. At the end of this dream....all tasks have been accomplished and my house is spotless by the way. It could happen right?? Maybe after I clean up the mess in my kitchen from making Antipasto last night until 4 am.

I've had this hankering to make some antipasto for the last few weeks and even tried to set up a date with a neighbour to do it. Partly because it makes a lot and partly because canning is always more fun with company there. Kind of like a misery loves company thing.... but with Baileys in your coffee added along to make it more entertaining. I was reminded of something last night...........There is a lot of chopping involved in making antipasto...........and another thing......who really needs 23 pints of antipasto anyway. I have this feeling I'll be giving a lot of it away. I tried a recipe from a friend that I know I like, (the recipe not the friend.....well actually the friend too) this time just for a change. I am not at liberty to share her recipe for antipasto with you, but I can share this one from my family with you today. There are a lot of really good cooks in my family, and this one comes from one the very best. If you have the time or inclination to try it, give it a go. It's really really good!

Aunties Pasto

Prepare Sauce,

4 cups vinegar
1 cup olive oil
3 cups ketchup
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar

Bring the above to a boil and add vegetables below in, one at a time. Total cooking time is about 45 minutes.


8 cups fresh green beans cut in 1/2 inch lengths
8 cups of diced carrot
1 large head of cauliflower, diced
2 cups small silver skin onions, peeled and halved
6 stalks celery, diced
4 red sweet peppers, diced
4 green sweet peppers, diced
4 cans mushrooms, stems and pieces(drained)
3 cans solid white tuna, water packed (drained)
3 jars black olives (pitted and sliced)

Keep in mind the size you would like the vegetables to be in your antipasto when chopping them up. Some people like them bigger, I prefer smaller. The vegetables are listed in order of cooking time required, so just add them in the order provided, and chop as you go. Pack into clean pint jars leaving 1/2inch head space and process for 25 minutes. You can also look into pressure canning since the recipe does contain tuna, if this concerns you, or you could leave out the tuna. In fact, if you go look at a canning site I'm certain they would advise pressure canning since the recipe contains meat.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike's Easy Lemonade & Cookies

Yesterday was the third year that my son has run a lemonade stand at our friends house. Each year this friend and his neighbours have a fall community garage sale involving as many homes as want to take part. Since this friend does not have the clutter issue that I have in my house, he asks friends to bring things over to his house to sell in his garage sale. This is the third year that my "junk" has taken over his yard and my son takes the opportunity to sell some lemonade and homemade cookies. It always amazes me how excited he gets over running a lemonade stand. His obsession this year has been to raise enough money to purchase himself a new DS game. Happily for him, he did manage to raise enough and he had a great time shopping for himself today. We (mostly I) made two kinds of cookies for the sale. His prize winning Peanut Butter Chocolate Chippers, and for those with peanut allergies.....Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. The photo above shows both kinds. The cookie on the top is the Chocolate Chip, and the others below are of the Peanut Buttery variety. Below is the recipe for the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies since I have already given the recipe for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip ones here.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter and sugar, add molasses, egg, vanilla, salt and baking soda. Stir in well. Mix in flour and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoon full. Bake for 7-8 minutes or just long enough to see a bit of browning around the edges. Let sit a few minutes on the cookies sheet before removing to cooling racks. These cookies keep well for 3-5 days in a well sealed cookie tin. The recipe is east to double. To make Chocolate, Chocolate chip cookies, add 1/3 cup cocoa powder and decrease the flour by 1/4 cup. You can try this with white chocolate chips for more contrast.
I think I'm going to go have a cookie now:0 Good Night!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Red Felt Ornament

Here's another felt ornament made for a swap-bot swap. This one was for a heart ornament and it was a good excuse to use up some of the large red piece of wool cloth I had hot washed and felted. I tossed up ideas on how I should go about decorating it and settled on a little bit of needle felting. I had some scraps of left over ecru wool yarn from knitting up a Sophie bag like this black one and this white one, and I laid the yarn down and started to poke it it with the felting needle a few millimeters at a time. It is very simple as all you need to do is poke straight down through the felt over and over until the yarn because felted into the red background. You could easily write letters to personalize an ornament in the very same way. All you need is some felted wool fabric, some wool yarn scraps, a felting needle, and a piece of high density foam to put underneath your project. You could trace a pattern in chalk or fabric marker to outline your pattern first, but I chose to just do it freehand since my design was quite simple. You can work the design in with lots of poking with the felting needle which will flatten out the overlaid yarn, or you can poke it just enough to secure it, leaving the yarn raised above the felt fabric. I like to work the yarn in with the felting needle in enough so that traces of the yarn being felted starts to show through on the back of the fabric. After felting the front piece, I cut a second piece for the back, sandwiched a loop of ribbon into the top and blanket stitched all around to close and piece and to fasted the ribbon loop. I chose to use 3 stands of red embroidery floss to use for blanket stitching, but an ecru colour might also have be nice. This is another quicky project which took me less than a half hour to complete, and that included coming up with a design.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Try Something New

A few days ago I tried something new for supper. It was one of those days when you need a quick meal and I just happened to have all the necessary ingredients laying around. I tried a Knorr packaged mix from a nice friend from New Zealand. It was for Greek Style Pita Filling. The package called for ground Lamb....would that be lamburger???? I wonder..... This was the only substitution I did knowing that others more picky than myself would complain if I used lamb (which incidentally I love). It turned out great! I really liked it and in fact I can tell that it would be really really good with the lamb. Yummy and quick and two thumbs up. If you have the chance to try it out....give it a try. BTW thank you Alison!
Today is another such rushed supper and I am making a super quick kid friendly recipe that was sent to me in a recipe postcard swap. It has already passed the test in this house so it was a safe bet and used things I just happened to have on hand. With the exception of taco seasoning mix.
Here is the recipe for a Quick Taco Bake if you would like to try it.

Taco Bake

Makes 6 (1 cup) servings

1 pkg (14oz) Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 pkg (1-1/4 oz) Taco Seasoning
3/4 cup Sour Cream
1-1/2 cups Shredded Cheddar, divided
1 cup salsa

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare macaroni dinner as directed on package. While noodles are cooking, brown meat and drain fat away. Add seasoning mix and water to meat and simmer 5 more minutes. Stir sour cream into already prepared macaroni and cheese. Spoon 1/2 of the macaroni and cheese into a 8 inch baking dish: top with ground meat, 1 cup of the cheese and top with the remaining 1/2 of the macaroni and cheese. Cover with lid or foil and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Top with salsa and remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Should you find yourself without a packet of Taco Season Mix, this recipe will work just fine.....and is probably cheaper:)

Taco Seasoning Mix

1/4 cup dried minced onion
2 T paprika
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 T salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2T cornstarch
1 T granular garlic
1 tsp cumin

Mix all together. 2 tablespoons are equal to one packet of taco seasoning mix. Keep the rest in a sealed container for another use. This recipe makes enough to equal 6 packets. I just happen to keep dried minced onion in my cupboard which may be unusual....I'm not sure if other people do. I bought it one year when I was making dip mixes for Christmas presents and have found it useful in the times that I have run out of onions. You can get in here in the East Indian spice section in fairly large bags. Maybe there's a cup and a half in a bag and it's cheap and handy to have around. Now, I always keep some in the cupboard just in case. You could substitute onion powder if you don't have minced onion but you'd want to check the conversion amount on the Internet first.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Printable Tooth Fairy Receipt

Tooth number four is officially out! It had an unceremonious exit covered in granola bar. Yuck.....It's difficult to be supportive and excited for a child that's just dropped a wad of chewed granola with a tooth stuck in it into your hand.....But I did my best.....All the while thinking "great now I have to get some cash and write a note." We've been through this a few times really I should have been more prepared. One thing I have learned about selling baby teeth to the tooth fairy is that it's best to put it in a small Ziploc bag so she doesn't have to expend a lot of energy searching for it. I mean.......she works hard for her money already doesn't she?? Plus she is so into recycling that she uses the bag again to leave her payment stub, money, and a little note in, so it's easy to find in the morning. She's so clever! Easy to find for every one but my kid.....that is! Ike came quietly to my room this morning to let me know that the tooth fairy had absconded with his precious tooth ( they don't just grow on trees you know) and left nothing behind:( After assuring him that the tooth fairy would never rip him off, I got up to find that my wild sleeper had worked the Ziploc bag down from under the pillow to halfway down the bed. But it was still there. He read the little thank you note she had left with instructions not to blow it all on candy, and was very impressed with the payment stub also left behind. Perhaps even more excited about that than the actual money which he told me I am to put in his bank account. I think he doesn't want to tick off the tooth know you can't slip one past her.....she's a sharp cookie. Since the whole receipt thing is new for Ike......he is certain that this tooth must have been a special one and that it must be of 'Trophy Tooth' quality. 'Don't ask me what that crazy fairy does with all those teeth' I said, 'I think it's all very creepy'. Ike is certain she is using them to build tooth fairy land......he thinks she must be working on an addition just like grampa is at the cabin.

In case you are in need of a tooth fairy receipt or don't feel like making your own, click on the image above and print off your own copy of what the tooth fairy left here. You my may have to reduce your margin and header heights to a minimum amount to get it to all to print out on one page without cropping. Enjoy:)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some Cleaning, Packing, & Reminiscing

Back from a quick unanticipated trip to Calgary...... The opportunity came up for my MIL to take an opening at a seniors complex which she mulled over and decided to go ahead with. The decision was a very weighty one I'm certain; as leaving the community from which you were born and holds such history has to be very heartbreaking, but sadly necessary. There were lots of items to sift through and stories to share on origins of unusual treasures. Fortunately the new place is a good size so many of her favourite things can go with her, but the task of "house cleaning" gave rise to numerous orphaned items. Above is a silver plate flower vase with glass frog which sat in the China Cabinet for many years......I thought it might like some use, so I pinched a few of my flowers from the front garden.
Also from the china cabinet, this beautiful pair of cups and saucers made their way to my house. I am definitely going to have to do a little clean and purge of my own to make room for them. The teapot in the background is one I picked up on EBay about a year ago. It's a Royal Winton pattern that is not too common at all. My Gramma had dishes in this pattern at her farm, and I remember thinking how beautiful they were when I was a little kid. So, now when I chance upon a piece on EBay I buy it. (So if you see any of this pattern kicking around.....let me know) Curiously enough, after buying a few pieces of this pattern I have discovered that this pattern was manufactured by Royal Winton and also by Royal Windsor with minor differences. If fact, I have one piece which has been stamped by both manufacturers.
This cute set of bone china dogs was also orphaned in the big clean up, and they were so cute I just had to take them home. Honestly there was so much I would have liked to take home......I would have had to get a bigger house. These wall plaques below were very interesting and will likely be my first EBay sales experience as the MIL has requested that these be sold for her. The first one is a scene from 8th Ave in Calgary. The whole piece is molded plaster which has been painted and shows a street scene with street cars and shops.
Another similarly manufactured plaque shows an image of Calgary City Hall. To touch these pieces, it is amazing to realize how long they have remained intact and survived two generations of kids playing. The city hall one does have a chip out of the back which is not visible from the front? I'll have to ask if anyone knows the story behind that chip.
There are more treasures to unpack, but these are just a few of the things that made their way back to my house this weekend. More to come....