Monday, February 25, 2013

Homemade Pizza

We decided to go for homemade pizza tonight. Pepperoni and Pineapple Pizza would be my kids favorite. Of course, you can add whatever topping you like.

Homemade Pizza

3 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp butter

Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 450°

Mix and kneed for 5 minutes. Let test 45 minutes. Kneed and divide in half. Roll each half out to desired size.

Add sauce to edges of the crust. Homemade is best. Tonight I used the pre-made stuff and just kicked it up with a little sriracha, chimichurri paste, and pineapple juice.

Put 2/3 of the cheese you plan to use on the pizza. Add toppings. Pepperoni and pineapple in our case. Then top with remaining cheese. This helps hold the toppings on. Like a seatbelt.

Cook 8-12 minutes. When the cheese is golden brown, and the bottom of the crust is browned... It is done.

Cool on cooking rack a few minutes to prevent crust from getting soggy. Move to cutting board, cut, and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Water Kefir Soda

Over the last year I have been playing with water kefir grains. The kefir water is great tasting, in my opinion. My kids say the kefir water alone has an apple juice taste. It does carry the fermented, or slightly alcoholic, taste. However, I find it generally a pleasant flavor. It can get slightly overpowering if you allow it to ferment too long. The water tastes more like beer. The soda like wine.

Kefir is very good for you. It's a super probiotic drink. I like the soda because I can substitute it in our house as a healthy pop. One without HFCS. One that I know what is in it.

Here is how I make kefir soda.

I start with about 1/4 cup of kefir grains.

I put them in a quart jar and add 2 cups if room temperature water. *Make sure the water is not tap water, as the chemicals and fluoride will kill your grains.* Take 1 cup of hot water and dissolve 1/2 cup sugar (raw, white, brown, etc...) in it. I usually add a Tbsp of unsulfured molasses as well to give the grains minerals. Cool then add to the jar of grains. Don't add it hot because too hot of temperatures will kill the grains. Cover with a cloth, or unscrewed lid. The grains will produce carbonation. If you screw the lid on, the jar will explode.

Let sit 24-48 hours.

When it is ready the grains will release a good amount of bubbles as you move the jar. If you added molasses, the water will be a lighter color as well.

Now you want to strain the grains from the water. Use plastic because metal will react with the grains and can cause them to mold. Bad stuff if that happens. I use a very small holed plastic strainer.

Reserve the strained kefir water in a pitcher or bowl.

In a glass bottle with a resealable flip top (such as EZ cap bottles), or easier and cheaper - clean plastic soda bottles, add juice. I eyeball it. I'll usually add about 1/4-1/2 cup of juice per quart of kefir water. In a 2 Ltr soda bottle, it's just above the first line by the 'feet' on the bottle. Then fill it within a couple inches of the top with kefir water. Cap, shake, and set aside for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, check the fizz level. Shake the bottle. Give it a minute. If you used plastic soda bottles, you can tell when they are hard. With glass bottles you'll want to vent them. If it fizzes up, it should be ready. You can taste it to see if it's what you want. If not, cap it and let it sit another 24 hours.

Rinse the kefir grains you strained previously with filtered water.

Then repeat the steps.

The kefir grains will multiply rather quickly. You can slow them down by putting them in the refrigerator. You can also eat them in smoothies, incorporate them in breads, feed them to livestock, and add them to your compost bin.

Chicken Bone Broth

Oh! There is possibly nothing lovelier than the aroma of chicken stock simmering in a crockpot. 24 hours of delicious anticipation. Dreaming of all the recipes you can add create with the stock. Or save it for drinking when you are sick. Everyone knows how good homemade chicken bone broth is for you.

Anytime I bake chicken or turkey I will save the bones, skin, and meat that I didn't pick from the bones. I just put it in a zip-top bag and throw it in the freezer until I'm ready to make my bone broth. This week I am cleaning out my freezer. Today I started my chicken bone broth. When it is done, I will pull my turkey bones from Thanksgiving and make the broth from that.

Here's the pot after 24 hours of cooking.

Chicken Bone Broth

Bones, skin, and any meat left on the carcass of 2 chickens
Enough water to cover
Celery leaves, one onion - quartered, 3 garlic cloves - halved, and carrots (optional)

Put chicken carcass in a crockpot. Add leaves of celery, onion, garlic, and carrots if desired. Add enough water to cover. Set to Low. Cook 24-48 hours. Add more water if it gets below the bone level. When the bones are brittle and break apart easily, the marrow should be cooked into the broth. It is done. Strain the broth through a fine strainer. Be watchful of any tiny bones that might get through if you use a strainer with slits or larger holes. I use a fine wire mesh strainer to prevent that.

You can now drink it, use it for cooking, or store it long term in the freezer.

*To store long term, put it in zip-top baggies (maybe even double bag to prevent leaking) and freeze. Make sure you burp as much air from the bags as possible before freezing. Lay flat and they will easily stack on top of one another.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

I love whole wheat bread. I had a lot of trouble making it at home with all whole wheat flour, and not coming out heavy and dense. After grinding a lot of wheat, and playing with different variations, I created a bread recipe I love.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread/Rolls

1/2 c warm water
1 Tb active dry yeast
1 Tb sugar
2 c whole milk
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 Tb salt (kosher)
6 c wheat flour (I use home ground white wheat)
1 egg beaten
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1/4 c butter

1) Pour milk into medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear around edge. Remove from heat. Add brown sugar, salt, 3 cups of wheat flour, molasses, honey, butter and beaten egg. Let sit for one hour to allow wheat to soften and soak up moisture.

2) When wheat mixture is ready, place water, yeast and sugar in small bowl. Let stand until foamy.

3) Mix in yeast mixture. When combined mix in the rest of the wheat flour until dough is soft and pliable but still slightly sticky. Knead 10 minutes.

4) Place in greased bowl and rise 1-2 hours or doubled. Knead dough down and rise another 45 min -1 hour. Knead dough down when doubled.

5) Now you can either shape into 2 1/2 dozen rolls and freeze or shape into 2 -3 loaves of bread.

6) Heat oven to 350 deg. if making bread. Rise in greased loaf pans and when doubled (45 min) cook for 25 - 30 min.

7) Heat oven to 425 deg. if making rolls.
Cook rolls - Fresh: rise 30 min and cook 15 min.
- Frozen: proof in warm oven 1 hour; cook 15 min.

Crockpot or Oven Carmel Bread Pudding

I came up with this when I couldn't find any bread pudding recipes that fit what I had and what I wanted. I like it because it has the taste of french toast but it's not too sweet. You will want to cook it in a hot water bath to keep it from burning and moist.

Amanda's Carmel Bread Pudding

6 cups dry bread / cubed or broken apart
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 deg.

Butter a 9 inch baking dish. (You may want to go ahead and put into pan that will have the hot water for the water bath. That way you don't have to do it when it's full.)

Put bread crumbs in baking dish.

Melt butter in pan on stove and add brown sugar. Heat until bubbly. Stir constantly.

Add milk to sugar/butter mixture. Heat until just warm.

Beat eggs and vanilla together.

Add eggs to warm milk mixture.

**If you haven't put the baking dish into another dish for the water bath... do so now**

Pour mixture over bread.

Add boiling water to hot water bath pan.

Bake in oven 40-50 minutes.

It should come out when a knife inserted comes out clean. The pudding should still look moist and the knife will have some moisture on it. The pudding will be slightly firm to the touch.

For an easier approach, you can also use the crockpot.  Put the bread in the crockpot.  Follow the instructions above for the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients over the bread. Put the lid on the crockpot, turn it to LOW, and cook 2 hours. 

Butter Crunch

This is something we would eat every Christmas. My husband's grandmother made it every year. Last Christmas was the first Christmas ever without her, so we made it in her memory.

Butter Crunch

In large pan, cook:

1 cup sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
1 lb butter

Bring to rolling boil for 10 min
- Add 2 tsp vanilla at end

In large bowl, mix:

1 box (17.5 oz) Rice Chex
1 cup coconut
2 cups pecans (halved)
1 cup sliced almonds

Mix sugar mixture with dry.
Spread out on way paper to set up.

Store it in a zip-top plastic bag or a Tupperware.

Sweet Pickled Eggs

Now, before you 'yuck' at this recipe, know this. These are not you average pickled eggs. I do not like regular pickled eggs. My husband and I can easily polish off 2 dozen of these sweet pickled eggs in a day. Yes. One day. That is not sharing with the kids. Haha! We don't feel good later, but it is so worth the gluttony.

Give this recipe a try. I would bet you'll be making it a second time.

Sweet Pickled Eggs

5 cups of sugar
3 cups of apple cider vinager
2T of mustard seed
A little bit of whole cloves about 1/2tsp to 1 tsp
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp of turmeric. (Optional) its just used for coloring.

Put it all in a sauce pan and stir until sugar melts, then occasionally stir until the mustard seeds split open. About 20 mins. I find it better to boil it down a little longer to where it is getting syrupy.

Put hard boiled eggs in the jar first then pour the hot juice in. Let it sit for 24 hours then eat. It's hard to wait 24 hours, but they are much better tasting after that. For better flavor can them and let them sit for a month or more.

You can alterate the recipie and have less sugar and more vinager and visa versa.

Hope it turns out for you!

Rice and Wheat Berry Pilaf

This is one of my family's staple dishes. We love it because it is not only healthy, but very versatile. It is so great tasting on its own. However it is also something that can easily be added to other dishes. Since we have a large family, I always triple the recipe (however I only double the salt). It will last us 3-4 days.

The kids know it as "Wheat Stuff".


3/4 cup wheat berries
5 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup rice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Bring 4 cups water and wheat berries to boil in same saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until wheat berries are tender but still slightly firm to bite, about 1 hour. Drain. **

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Add cilantro, green onions, chopped peanuts, Parmesan cheese and cooked wheat berries; stir until wheat berries are heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or room temperature.

**Can cook wheat berries in a pressure cooker. Add wheat berries and water to pressure cooker. Cook 35-45 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Additional options for left overs:

1) Wheat Breakfast - Heat pilaf in skillet. Add bacon pieces and scrambled egg.
2) Fried "Rice" - Heat pilaf in skillet and add soy sauce with eggs and vegetables (optional).
3) Pilaf Soup - Add pilaf to chicken stock for soup.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coconut Curry Chicken

I was trying to figure out what to cook for our family in our crockpot. As I flipped through a slow cooker book I checked out from the library, I came across this recipe. It looked so good. I had to double it, as I'm feeding a large crowd daily in our family.

It was very good. However, I felt it needed more salt and spice. We added some soy sauce when eating, which took care of the salt. I'm a spice fan. Next time I'll add red pepper oil or spicy curry paste. I will make this again.

Coconut Curry Chicken

1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen snow or green peas (thawed if frozen)
1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted

1. In a heavy plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and pepper. In batches, add chicken thighs to flour mixture and toss to coat. Place chicken in slow cooker, reserving excess flour.

2. In large skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and curry powder. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until onions are translucent and fragrant. Sprinkle with reserved seasoned flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Stir in stock and coconut milk with onion mixture, and bring to boil. Add carrots and chickpeas. Mix well and pour over chicken in slow cooker.

4. Cover and cook Low for 5-7 hours, or on High for 2 1/2-4 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork, vegetables are tender, and curry is bubbling.

5. Stir in green peas, apple, and yogurt. Cover and cook on High for 15-20 minutes longer, or until warmed through. Serve garnished with cashews and toasted coconut.

Serve over rice.

Serves 6

From "300 slow cooker favorites"