Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twist it like the Amish! Pretzels baby!!!

So I have dabbled in the idea that I would one day like to be a bread master at home. I think it is an old tradition with amazing patience and skill. The idea of creating something that might take you all day and at the end bake and maybe lather in butter seems like a good goal for any food lover.

Well as of today no age old skills have been pressed upon me so I do what I know and hopefully grow closer to being a white haired old lady bringing loaves of bread to my children and sick neighbors. Again, this is my fantasy, pretty wild right!  I also have wanted to include my kids into baking and really showing them how good things take time and patience.
We saw a CBS Sunday morning special on the beginnings of pretzels a while ago and I began to relish in the fact that they have immense patience to do this technique and I wanted every part of it. Since my kids love soft pretzels it was easy to get them to buy in.

In my search for a great recipe I came across a great bread blog called The Fresh Loaf and he had a recipe adapted from Alton Brown from the food network. It looked easy enough and it sure is! We have been making these pretzels it seems every other week. When father's Day was here we also made them and served them with good old yellow mustard. The part of the TV special that stood out for me was why the Amish twisted the pretzels the way they did.  To summarize I believe they said to teach the children of God's love, The twist looks like two arms wrapping around someone. How awesome is that!

This is the CBS link for the show, I think it's fun for kids, and adults! 

For The love of Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt or Kosher salt for the top of pretzels

This recipe is created for a Kitchen Aide mixer, if you don't have one, get one, or beg your family to use theirs!

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.  
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. I used a heavy spray of Pam since I ran out of parchment paper. 
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.
 In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. we have also just cut them up in pieces for little bits, if you don't have time to twist.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Recipe from Alton Brown and adapted and loved by my family! 

Take your time and enjoy what your hands have made and remember to slow down and have a little patience. 
God Speed!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stuffed Squash Flowers

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My wife and I are re-inspired to eat more locally grown food. We saw this documentary on Instant Netflix called Ingredients. It's about farms in the Seattle area that provide for local restaurants with their healthy veggies, fruits and meats. The restaurants now realize it's worth it to buy local ingredients and support the farm-to-table movement. So as inspired as we were, we went to the La Jolla Farmer's Market on Sunday and did a little "grocery shopping". We had such a great time and found some amazing food. Some stuff we've never seen before like Seaweed Salad or a Banksia flower from Australia. We got a hodge podge of local fruits, veggies, olive oil, and meat.

From Farm to Table, literally! Our loot from the Farmer's Market: Veggies, Fruits, Olive Oil, Bread, Grass-fed Beef & our new Banksia flower!

We came across some Squash Flowers, which I had never seen, but my wife was excited to find. The woman selling them recommended we stuff them with cheese and fry them, like a Chile Relleno. So we bought four to experiment with, here's how they turned out...

Fresh Squash Flowers at Farmer's Market

We only bought four, so this recipe will be for that amount. Two per person is a decent appetizer, four to six is recommended for a main course served with a side of rice and beans along with avocado.

-You want to prep your Squash Flowers. You definitely want to cook them the day you buy them because they wilt quickly. The should be picked while open, then naturally slowly close as the day goes on. First thing's first, that's to remove the pistil in the center of pedals. Some people say it's not good to eat it, I just do it to make more room for stuffing and get rid of pollen. I leave the stem on, it tastes good fried, kind of like asparagus. Now you want to ideally soak them for an hour, if you have the time, to get dirt, pollen & any bugs out. I don't do this. I just rinse them under faucet right side up and fill the pedals with water then dump out water. Now you want to thoroughly dry them since you'll be putting them in hot oil. You can pat them dry or let them air dry for about an hour, I pat them dry. Now you have clean, prepped Squash Flowers ready for cooking!

-Heat pot or a pan with cooking oil to 375 degrees, about medium heat on stove.You need at least and inch of oil to get half of each flour at a time in a pan. If you're using a pot, a couple inches of oil should do to fully submerge the flowers.

-Take 3/4 cup of flour and mix in a teaspoon each of salt and pepper on a plate for dredging the flowers.

-Crack an egg into a bowl and beat it.

-Take any cheese of your choice, preferably a soft one like goat cheese or a faux cheese, as I used. I used an almond pepper jack cheese. You can go spicy like this if you'd like, it makes the finished product taste like a chile relleno. Or you can go sweet like a honey goat cheese, Trader Joe's has an amazing one! You just want to gently stuff each flower with enough cheese to fill it, yet still close. Because then you're going to pin the top close with two perpendicular toothpicks to keep pedals from opening during dredging or cooking.

-Time to dredge. Just dip each stuffed flower into egg first, then the flour mixture, coating it well. Now here's the trick, repeat! Dip in egg again and through flour again for a nice double coat that will protect flower petals from oil heat.

Frying away

-Now you can dip the flowers in the oil carefully with tongs. You just need to brown them to your desire. A golden brown is perfect. The cheese will be melty and you have a nice crust around the flower. As you can see I fried mine in a pan, so I just cooked them on each side for a few minutes, that's all it takes! Now all that's left to do is eat them!

So good!

Below are some more pictures from our Farmer's Market. Hope you will be inspired to support you local farmers more and enjoy how food should really taste!

cornucopia of locally grown food!

Now that's an onion! Organic, giant and only $1.50! Organic doesn't have to break the bank...

A giant head of lettuce

Fiery Squash Flower

The 88 year old man that makes this olive oil told me in my ear as I bought it "be careful, this is better than viagra!" I said, "really?" and he said, "yeah I should know I'm 88 years old!" hahaha. One of the pluses of a farmer's market is the characters you get to meet.

Delicious Japanese grapes. Taste like tiny plums!

The Banksia Flower. Woman dries, dyes and preserves them so they don't need water or ever go bad!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Brother!!!!

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My Brother is officially 30!!!! I can't understand how we are getting older? I feel like we were just kids playing pillow fight and I always was the one getting hurt. Those days my brother used to take me around our track housing before there were houses and ride for hours on our bikes. 
Being kids are some on the best times I can remember with my brother. Relying on my brother to guide me to the right spot and help me if I fell off my bike.My brother always likes the best and that is something that started when we were young too, and he continually wanted the best for me too. Yeah, I was the sister who had my brother cut off my dorky chain guard on my bike and I think he might have even spray painted it for me one time. He taught me how to play Horse on the basketball court, and I must say I can still swish a basketball! 

Now as we are older we have other interest together and I love that part of him now at 30. He is still my big brother picking me up when I am down and loving me no matter what my "bike" looks like, ha! He is now my foodie partner and one of my guides to loving and following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love cooking for my family and if my brother and for the most part all males in my family love my cooking then I know I am here with a God given gift to comfort and receive love. So this recipe is something my foodie 30 year old brother called, "one of the best things I have ever eaten"! So Salude! Brother for surviving this crazy world for 30 years and being a loving and supportive brother form the start! Tear, mush, awe!!!

Levon’s Birthday Appetizer
1 ½ lb. cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
7 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves trimmed
1-2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Sliced French baguette
Goat cheese

Place tomatoes in a non-metal baking dish. Make sure the tomatoes are in a single layer in the dish and not piled on top of each other. Pour the olive oil over so they are well coated and there is a thin layer in the bottom of the dish. Toss in the mint, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bake for 45-60 minutes at 325 until the skin of the tomatoes splits but shape is still intact. Serve on top of toasted bread and goat cheese. Enjoy!
Make sure your tomatoes are fresh and if you can get heirloom ones, they have so much flavor. Spend some time on a lazy day at the farmers market snap a local red wine and bake this for dinner! 
Levon Gene Monte @ 1 yrs. old

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July! I had to give out this recipe just in case you had a potluck to go to today and had no idea what to bring. I had this salad, well a similar one, at a bridal shower and really enjoyed the freshness and dressing. This is a easy make ahead potluck dish so I hope it comes in handy. Lee's Grandma gave me the dressing recipe and I thought I would catalog this one for our future family gatherings.

I got excited and started pouring the dressing, this is an almost finished product

I'll bring the luck, potluck salad!
1 1/2 heads of butter lettuce torn into bit sized pieces
3 Roma tomatoes diced
3 green onions chopped
4 hard boiled eggs chopped
1/2 cucumber peeled and chopped
salt and pepper

2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1 package hidden valley ranch dressing mix
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Layer the bottom of a clear glass bowl or a trifle dish would be nice ( I don't own one) with the butter lettuce. You can use any lettuce you like but I love the texture of the butter lettuce. Add two of the three chopped green onions on top of the lettuce. Next layer the cucumbers and tomatoes on the lettuce give a nice sprinkle of salt and pepper over them. Top that with the eggs. and now after you have combined in a separate bowl the ingredients for the dressings spread it evenly on top over the whole salad, yes that's what I said, the top layer is ALL dressing! On top garnish with a light sprinkle of the third chopped green onion and I will top mine while it is going on a plate with croutons.  Serves 8-10 for a side dish

This is really a day ahead salad because it needs to be refrigerated for at least and hour before serving so the dressing can set but if you are in a pinch at least try to refrigerate for a half hour. But my policy is not to run around like a chicken with my head cut off so I like to be prepared and anything that can be done early I do early!!!!!!!

Enjoy your July 4th, and don't forget to pray for our troops and thank God daily for our freedoms!!!!

God Speed!