Japanese Milk Bread or a new way to make squishy soft white bread!

IMG_4170 (1024x765) (2)Okay bread lovers out there…Is this not the most beautiful looking bread? The shine…the find crackles in the crust, the coloration…wow! I am very happy with the way these turned out.

I learned 2 new things! One is how to use the “tangzhong’ method of making dough. The other is in the shaping. I love how this takes pieces of the dough, rolls each one into a mini loaf and puts them together in the pan. It makes pulling it apart fun and groovy. More

Noodles from Zucchini

When I first heard that people were making noodles from zucchini’s I thought they were either terribly desperate or had lost their minds.

I mean-eww.

And yet here we are. If you are reading this you too must be wondering if I have lost my mind or else you have heard of this growing trendy-pasta-imposter thing and want to learn more.

If you or a loved one you cook for is having trouble either with digesting glutenous foods (or maybe just pasta) or perhaps are trying to lose weight, then making zucchini pasta is a way to get around this and still have something to eat with your meatballs. (Which we had just last night and I didn’t think to take any pics, sorry)

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I have heard of mixing half zucchini and half regular pasta to cut carbs, but we went all the way and you know what? It really works!

Zucchini lends very little flavor of its own to whatever dish you are making and holds its shape, making it the ideal pasta substitute.

I am no expert in zucchini pasta but I will share what I have learned.

First, you need some kind of tool. I use a julienne peeler from Pampered Chef. It makes the stringy noodles you see above. It looks like I peeled the zucchini for this batch, but usually I do not. I just start running the julienne peeler down one side of the longest zucchini you can find, slicing it over and over until you reach the seeds. Then STOP!

Turn the vegy over so the flat side is down and start slicing again on the opposite side, until you reach the seeds, then STOP. Now start on another side and so on.

There are spiral slicers you can use to make flat spiral pastas. There are hand crank slicers that you can put zucchini in and they will make long round “pastas” out of them by going around the zucchini instead of just down its length, making much longer pasta. It’s on my Amazon wish list as we speak.

You could even just use a vegetable peeler and peel off thin slices of zucchini to make a type of ribbon “pasta”.

Now zucchini is a very wet vegetable even if it doesn’t feel like it. You will want to drain the excess moisture off. There are lots of ways people do this. One is to slice it, salt it and let it sit in a strainer for a while, like 10 minutes or so. Then wrap in paper towels or cloth towels and wring the dickens out of it.  Then, oddly enough, you can put it in boiling water to cook, just like regular pasta, but not for long. I don’t understand that completely. Some people bake theirs on a low setting until dried out a bit.

Usually I just either cook it for 2-3 minutes in the microwave, drain it, then cook it a bit more in the sauce or I saute it, cooking out the water and cooking until tender, then adding sauce. However you decide to cook it, just don’t over do. Especially with the julienne peeled ones. They are very thin and if you over cook them, they might just break apart.

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I am sauteing here in a non stick pan with a misting of olive oil. I will stir, keeping an eye, until moisture has cooked off and I start to see browning. Then it is sauce ready.

I am sauteing here in a non stick pan with a misting of olive oil. I will stir, keeping an eye, until moisture has cooked off and I start to see browning. Then it is sauce ready.

I usually make this with a tomato and meatball sauce but have also made a garlic, oil and Parmesan sauce for a nice side dish to go with maybe steak, instead of pasta or potatoes. Plus there are scads of recipes on the web using this type of “pasta”. Pretty much anything you can imagine.

There are lots of blogs out there showing how to make this type of psudo pasta too. Here are a couple of my fav’s:

Here are some visuals from Nom Nom Paloe, an award-winning site.

Danielle Walker who wrote “Against All Grain” has a blog where she video’s herself making pasta out of zucchini. I tell you, it makes you want to run out and get a hand crank spiral slicer and a bushel of zucchini. Come to think of it though, zucchini pasta probably doesn’t freeze well, so maybe not a bushel. I wonder if you can dry them like regular pasta? Dehydrate them? Should I try it and start a business selling dried zucchini pasta?

I have her book Against All Grain on our Kindle and have relied on it for several meals. She has an awesome Thai “Peanut” vinaigrette recipe I made with a broccoli slaw the other day. I will post my variation of it later on.  She doesn’t use peanuts thought because as a legume, they are not eaten on a paleo diet. I guess they are hard to digest for many people, not counting those with allergies. I want to try her ginger-garlic broccoli in the hopes of actually liking broccoli. (which so far has only happened when it is raw, such as in broccoli salad and slaw). And we all loved her barbecue bacon burgers with rosemary-garlic mushrooms.

I also made a variation of her wonderful Thai coconut soup (tom kha gai). I never knew you could have so much fun making soup with coconut milk! Its my new favorite thing. This soup was, as my sister would say, “The  bomb!” That post will be next. You’ve got to try it!

Let me know how your pasta noodles work for you!

You know the summer heat has set in when the coconut oil is melted

(I started this post 3 weeks ago. I think it is too late to warn you, you probably figured it out already.)

We here in Southern California have been blessed with a mild summer. Yes, we are in a terrible drought and the price of everything has skyrocketed recently due to that and other considerations, but overall, we have at least been able to cool off at night.

But then the coconut melted.

Up until now, it has been holding solid. This morning I pulled it out to fry eggs with and it was a liquid, with semi-slooshy white in still in it. But the melt is on the way. And the heat-of-death follows.

Granted, I had the oven on early today to bake cookies for an order from my mumm. She likes to reward her kind neighbors, who take out her trash cans, with home-made cookies. It’s probably my last chance to bake for a while. Because once the coconut oil melts…well its time to head for the hills. Quite literally. Mountains… Tahoe? Arrowhead? Big Bear? Sequoia’s?

It’s time to look up all your friends with pools. Or central air conditioning.

It’s the reason everyone leaves Italy in August. Their coconut oil melted. Only a few people stay to take care of the silly tourists who don’t know that the coconut oil has all melted and its time to go elsewhere.  North. Iceland maybe. Siberia even. For heavens sake…THE COCONUT OIL HAS MELTED! GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

And cook cool.

imagesHere is a light and cool lunch or dinner to make. Quesadillas!

Or apple walnut salad with grilled cheese.

Or how about some of grandmas Cheesecake Pie?

Of course, Trifles in summer are a perfect pairing.

Good luck. If you have some cool ideas, pass them along.

Sour Cream Biscuits

Warm home-made biscuits are one of life’s simple pleasures. Slathered with melting butter, drizzled with honey, spread with jam or with ham and cheese layered into the middle, it’s all goodness and love.

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I have a standard biscuit recipe I have used for years and years. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

But I didn’t have any buttermilk, so in a way, it was broke. I needed something new.  I had lots of sour cream and a son going off to fight the Yankees in Huntington Beach this morning at the Civil War reenactment. Nothing better than a well wrapped biscuit after a battle with ol’ Matilda. Plus they are good to trade for other foods. (He usually brings fruit, a slab of cheese, canned beans of course, some corned beef hash, pickles, boiled eggs, etc.. If there is going to be a fire, some salt pork. But not this time.)

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My youngin’ second from left. Him and Maribelle, his rifle.

A young lady waiting her turn for a spin on the dance floor, er grass.

A young lady waiting her turn for a spin on the dance floor, er grass.

But before I get to that recipe, let me tell you about our newest bee invasion. Seems a queen decided to set up housekeeping on the side of our house. I was watching them this morning (we have a call in to have them…removed?) and thought the way they hovered about, waiting their turn to get inside through the tiny opening they found, much like planes circling around LAX. I saw them, hovering, bobbing up and down, coming in closer, then backing away when they realized it wasn’t their turn.Very patient, bees. They are using our bathtub as their burial grounds for their aged worker bees. So we closed the bath window, although I don’t know how they got in through the screen either. But I don’t need to be showering with dead bees floating around my toes.

 

Anyway, on to…                                                             Sour Cream Biscuits!

preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you have it, put a stoneware piece in to warm up. (Bar pan, pizza  stone, etc)

You will need:

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour (or sub 1/2 cup with cake flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, cold
  • 1 cup sour cream

Whisk the dry ingredients together.

Cut the butter into little pieces. Toss it in with the dry ingredients using a fork. Now here is what I did different. I used my fingers to squish some butter pieces flat into the flour on the bottom of the mixing bowl. I kept rubbing some of the butter into the flour, leaving other pieces bigger, until I had a mix of butter sizes from pea size on down to sandy and flat bits.

Then using a fork, mix in the sour cream until it forms a cohesive dough. Push together a few times, kneading gently to make it come together and wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Times up!

Lay out on a floured board. Press dough out, fold over, press, fold over, press. (this helps with the flaky layers) Then roll it out with a floured rolling pin, but not too thin. Thin dough gets you thin biscuits. You want at least an inch high to start. Cut into biscuits. Roll together the spare dough and cut more.

Get out the baking stone and, flipping the biscuits bottoms up, place on the hot stone and put into the oven. OR just place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake until golden brown on top. This may be 15-20 minutes depending on your baking surface. The stoneware bakes more evenly and, since it was preheated, will be quicker and the heat will give it a burst of energy. Metal pans get very hot and tend to burn where the biscuits (or cookies or whatever) touch the metal if you are not careful. Double panning, or placing one baking pan on top of another helps with this problem.

IMG_4123 (800x598)There you go. Beautiful, aren’t they? Well, I think so. My son thinks so too, although his mouth was too full of biscuits and jam to say much.

So, I think I need to clear out any dead bees, take a shower, dress and head out to the reenactment to the smell of gun powder, cannon blasts and to see all the pretty dresses worn by both the southern belles and the yankees. Tonight they will have a dance, which is all kinds of fun to watch or be in. Men in uniforms, petticoats swirling around! But I have to be home to watch Dr. Who again so…

Blessings!

Mango Avocado salsa for fish

While everyone in my family enjoys eating fish, I would not say I am very good at cooking it. I prefer having it at restaurants. Maybe because we can all get the kind we like. To me halibut is bland, but my husband lives and dies by halibut. I love the flavor in salmon, but he raises his upper lip at it.

So I season the fish, whatever it is, grill it, usually on the stove top grill pan and we eat it. Mah…

But, season it, grill it and add mango avocado salsa and voila! Suddenly we are dancing the cha-cha and there is confetti in the air!

This is such an easy salsa, and even though it IS called a ‘salsa’, there is no heat in it, just wonderful fresh flavors. In fact, skip the fish and just give me a bowl of this salsa!

This is just before the red onion went in. I only put in a tiny bit, less than suggested.

This is just before the red onion went in. I only put in a tiny bit, less than suggested.

I will give you the salsa recipe, then a wonderful orange salad dressing recipe from the 2008 Season Best from the Pampered Chef, a great standby dressing with no sugar (I used a dab of honey) and no oil specifically, unless you count the mayo. And then I will show you my planked fish…

So,

MANGO AND AVOCADO SALSA

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced

1 avocado, the same

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine

1/4 red onion, chopped fine.

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbsp honey

1/4 tsp salt

Just dice up the fruits and set aside. In a bowl, whisk the lime juice, honey and salt. Add everything together, including the cilantro and that-is-it! Scoop it onto your plate and love it!

One variation was to used mango and peaches. I thought I might try mango, peaches and avocados, because we all know avocados make everything better.

I was digging around the barbecue, looking for this screen I thought we had for grilling fish, so the little devils wouldn’t fall through the grate. Guess what I found? Cedar planks!? I had no idea! Brand new.

So I got them out, soaked them for, well, all day, and used them to cook the fish.

One side is wild sea bass, caught by my moms neighbor and the other is wild salmon. So wild, I had to cut it up myself, which is why it has a rather mutilated look to it, or did before we dug into it to eat it.

One side is wild sea bass, caught by my moms neighbor and the other is wild salmon. So wild, I had to cut it up myself, which is why it has a rather mutilated look to it, or did before we dug into it to eat it.

I actually deboned the salmon so badly that I cooked the bones on a plank as well and scraped the fish off the bones after.

I have never had planked fish. Turns out I was missing something! It came out so moist and delicious, I was once again dancing the cha-cha.

I just laid out the fish on the planks of cedar. (After soaking for at least an hour.)

I preheated the barbecue with 2 of the 3 burners. When hot, I turned off one burner so just one was going and lay the planks out on the non-burner side. I was not aiming to start a bonfire or anything. Then I close the lid and kept one eye out on them.They looked strange, getting little puddles of fish juice on top.  The Sea Bass did not turn dry and white like I expected, but moist and barely opaque. The salmon did not get as dry and dark either, but had a light, moist texture.

In other words, they were delicious!

Here is the recipe for the orange salad dressing, especially yummy with manderine oranges in the salad, and of course, avocado because…what? (“avocados make everything better”). I will give you the recipe as it is written, not as I made it, as I did not have stone ground mustard and did not add the sugar, but like I said, a small drizzle of honey.

2 oranges, squeezed of their juice.

2 Tbsp. stone ground mustard

2 tsp. sugar

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 tsp. salt and pepper

And that’s it. Mix well. Put in your ‘measure mix and pour’ if you have it.Enjoy over any kind of salad.

Here it is in the premix stages.

Here it is in the premix stages.

 

I managed to snap a quick pic as the plate was being pulled away.

I managed to snap a quick pic as the plate was being pulled away. I love how the carrots come out with the julienne peeler. I prefer those thin slivers to big bone crunching chunks.

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“The Silver Spoon” New Potatoes with Rosemary

There is a big, white, heavy cookbook called “the Silver Spoon” originally made in Italian for Italian mamas and was supposed to be a classic, along the lines of “The Betty Crocker Cookbook” or “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” or “The Joy of Cooking”  on this side of the pond. When it was finally translated into English, my husband bought me a copy assuring me that all the real Italian mamas had a dog-eared, wine stained copy of this on their shelves, along with a huge crucifix in each bedroom and an Alfa Romeo in each garage. (Although I suspect they are actually little dinky Fiats or even dinkier Smart Cars. Lets hope the Smart Cars are smarter than my supposed ‘Smart’ phone or I feel very sorry for them cause my phone is crap.)

More

Nonna’s Pie Cake

Is it a cake?

Is it a pie?

Is it a pake?

or a Cie?

Can you eat it in a house? Can you eat it with a mouse?

YES!

This is a recipe from Rita’s Grandma, (pie crust Rita)  which, in typical Italian jargon, is called Nonna. She used to make these and now Rita makes these. I am going to make these and maybe you will make these them and we will spread the pie-cake love around the world.

Blueberry Pie Cake with whipped cream and the traditional mint garnish

Blueberry Pie Cake with whipped cream and the traditional mint garnish

You can use any kind of pie filling, this just happens to be blueberry. At least I think it was. Sometimes I add berries to the pie filling I buy. Adding blueberries to this blueberry pie filling. Or adding raspberries to apple pie filling etc. More

Blueberry Hand Pies or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the crust”.

I am a Scorpio.

Not that it really means anything, but there is one Scorpio type characteristic that I do have and that is I can be brutally honest about myself. No illusions. Okay, some illusions. But at least I am aware they are illusions and I just like hanging on to them.

We can all use an illusion now and again to help get through the days.

But I digress.

I can bake.

I can make bread with my eyes closed. I can do cookies, beat hell out of scones, and sticky buns? Well, they dare not come out anything but gooey and soft..

But I am worthless when it comes to making pies. Or at least pie crust. I know this about myself and I can still sleep nights.

I just do crisps and crumbles.

All the while my baking buddies are snapping out pie crust like tying shoes, no worries and whats my problem anyway? Crust is soooo easy?

So I begged. There may have been groveling.

“Teach me-Teach me!”

So finally this summer, one of my friends found  some time to show me her pie crust perfection. She made me do some of the rolling out too. You know what? I found out why my pie crusts were crapola! More

Fresh Tomato Pasta

So how is your summer treating you?

GO---AWAY!

GO—AWAY!

Hobbes here must have partied hearty last night because he slept most of the day away.

I was trying to come up with yet another way to use some of these fresh tomatoes that are currently coming out my ears. I freeze lots of them for future sauce, but the little yellow ones I would rather use fresh. Seems kind of silly to freeze a billion little tiny yellow tomatoes. Maybe I could  make yellow pico de gallo? Or yellow salsa and can it?

Anyway, I needed a side dish last night, so after looking at a few recipes, I pooled together what I had to make this pasta side dish with fresh tomatoes, as well as basil and parsley I had in the garden.The picture isn’t the best and I figure I was lucky to get even one out of it, we were so busy digging in. I had put a chicken on the rotisserie (one of my favorite summer appliances) and then sautéed some spinach with garlic, which takes all of 2 minutes-DONE! More

Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins & Life in SoCal

Hello there! Long time no hear…

Sooo, hubby said he was running errands and did I need anything. I asked him to pick up -A- bag of Bobs Red Mill multi grain cereal for bread making.

A bag.

Indicating one.

Here is what he came home with, bless his little heart!

 

The people at Bobs Red Mill should be very happy with my husband.

The people at Bobs Red Mill should be very happy with my husband. Anyone up for some Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly? Sorry? Those games were already there, btw.

He happened to go to Big Lots (remember Pic n Save?) and pretty much bought them out on their baking cereals. Even picked up some gluten-free mix and some polenta. (Polenta, really?) He is too generous for his own good and he brought me home 2 bags of granola too, as well as a brownie mix we haven’t tried. This kind of reminds me of a commercial for TWC, where some guy is supposed to go pick out a sofa and comes home with a whole living room set, hmmm….

So, since I had the gluten-free mix, and some organic blueberries in the fridge, I thought I might as well make muffins.

I mixed the gluten-free mix I had of my own with about half the bag of Bobs GF mix. I have heard people complain that their mix is too beany and has a bean aftertaste in the baked goods. So I mixed it up a bit.

You tell me…

 

Blueberries bursting all over the place.

Blueberries bursting all over the place.

I thought they needed a little something, so I brushed melted butter on top and sprinkles cinnamon sugar. Its like pixie-dust, it makes the muffins fly right off the plates! You would never know these were gluten-free. They are just darn good muffins.

Here is the recipe. Feel free to adapt. You could make them dairy free with substitutions, like using coconut oil or other fruit for the blueberries or add nuts or use buttermilk…

GLUTEN FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour

1/2 cup brown sugar plus 1/4 cup white sugar. Or use all of one or the other

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled.

1/2 cup whole milk (I actually put a large blob of sour cream in the measuring cup and then filled it up to the 1/2 cup mark, whisking it smooth.)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (plus I added a few drops lemon flavoring)

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, but be careful. They will turn batter blue. I add them to each muffin individually, putting some batter in, adding frozen berries and then more batter.)

Preheat oven to 375.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In another bowl whisk together the wet stuff, like butter, vanilla, milk/sour cream mixture, eggs, and zest.

Now just stir these two groups together until pretty much mixed up (that almost sounds political, doesn’t it?)

Add the berries and mix some more, making sure there are not pockets of dry stuff. Batter will thicken up. It says not to over stir, but you certainly don’t have to worry about developing gluten, which is why you don’t stir regular muffins much. But whatever.

Put cute little muffin papers in each muffin cup. Add a large scoop of batter, filling to the top, but not over. I set the muffin pan on a baking sheet just in case it spills over or is thinking about burning the bottoms.

Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pans. Bake another 10 minutes or until they start to get a bit brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.Cool a few minutes in the pan, as they are hot as the dickens to touch! Then put on a rack to cool.

After they are cooled:

Melt just a bit of butter and brush it over the tops. Sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar blend.

Then dig in!

So, what have you all been up to this summer? It is really a busy time of year for many folks. Some of you are doing room additions, others are vacationing, while some are staying home to sew up long overdue projects.

We went to the beach yesterday. What a beautiful day!

We were visiting Corona Del Mar

We were visiting Corona Del Mar. I guess everybody thought this was a good idea, because it was pretty crowded. Lots of sand castle building going on.

My freezer is full of summer tomatoes. Time to get some cilantro and make some pico de gallo!

My freezer is full of summer tomatoes. Time to get some cilantro and make some pico de gallo!

"You mean WE get to eat this??"

“You mean WE get to eat this??”

These are just screaming to be made into pulled pork sandwiches. If they dont sell at the bake sale tomorrow...We's eatin them!

These are just screaming to be made into pulled pork sandwiches. If they don’t sell at the bake sale tomorrow…We’s eatin them!

Shish-Kabobs and...

Shish-Kabobs and…

Apple crisp. Its always apple crisp season. (And you dont have to mess with a pie crust!)

Apple crisp. It’s always apple crisp season. (And you don’t have to mess with a pie crust!)

I am actually going to a friend’s house soon to have a little pie crust workshop. I am pie crust impaired. I am tired of everyone telling me how easy it is.  Buying the pie crust is easy too. But if Rita thinks she can teach me, she is a high school chemistry teacher so maybe she can. My friend baking Julie also offered to help me. She is the sourdough queen among other things. (See what I mean? Everyone else seems to be able to make pie crust.) So whichever house I make it too first. I should probably go to both. I need that much help.

I went to another friends house just last week and we did some canning, making some wonderful jams. But somehow I dont see any pictures of them! What was I thinking?

Oh wait, I found one…

The other Linda and a Rockcroc full of strawberry jam.

The other Linda and a Rockcroc full of strawberry jam. The other pot has peach-strawberry-raspberry jam simmering.

Or two:

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More tomatoes. Did you know you can just wash them, remove the stem and put bags of them in the freezer? Then, when its time to make sauce, you take them out and as they defrost, they just melt down. You can just pick the skins right out. (Or use a food processor and grind them in.)

More tomatoes. Did you know you can just wash them, remove the stem and put bags of them in the freezer? Then, when its time to make sauce, you take them out and as they defrost, they melt down. You can just pick the skins right out. (Or use a food processor and grind them in.)

Someone had his birthday...

Someone had his birthday…

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And someone else got a hair cut!

And someone else got a hair cut! He must have lost at least 10 pounds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that pretty much sums up our summer thus far. That and ribbons from the fair, but that’s another story. I haven’t been there yet.

Have a wonderful rest of July friends!

 

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