Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rye ask Rye?

Just eat it! And so we did. We ate it. We ate it so fast that I forgot to take pictures of it. I made my first loaf of rye bread today in my bread machine. It was a simple loaf. No over night starters, no specialized ingredients. If for no other reason than I didn't have them or couldn't get them and didn't feel like trying to make the starter. I'm in favor of convenience, but with flavor. Huh. The flavor of convenience! Sounds good to me.

Anyway. I made Reuben sandwiches with 'da works' - sauerkraut, swiss cheese, provolone, Boar's Head corned beef (the best we can get around here), Ken's Steak House Russian dressing (which seemed more like Thousand Island if you ask me). As a child I hated Reubens, mainly because of the Rye bread. It smelled awful to me, and I have discerned that the caraway seeds were the main culprit. My young, under developed palate had not come to appreciate the complexities of such intense spice combinations. And what's even more sad, is that I thought I was relegated to the taste bud penalty box when it came to anything put on rye. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I saw a sandwich that looked like it would be great and I was optimistic, until much to my chagrin I saw the words "served on rye bread". "Ptoo!", said my tongue to my brain. Le sigh.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. The fam wanted something tasty for dinner that we hadn't had in a while, but could never find anything good enough in this town to bother going out for, (or worth ponying up $40+ smackeroos). So I suggested we snag some bread from the local Panera Bread in town, everyone pick their fave and I'd make sandwiches. Once someone mentioned Reubens, everyone but me was in favor. But I agreed to make it for them anyway, and came up with something else for myself. Long story short, I was hungry, I was cooking, the sandwich..it was melty and crunchy and GBD, it was there, I was there, it didn't smell too bad, and so as lips met sandwich I became a Reuben and rye convert, ever more.

I'm sure we'll be having it again tomorrow; but I'll need to make a new loaf, as this one was small and went byebye in no time. If I can manage, I'll snap a few shots to attach to the blog for your viewing pleasure. If not, you'll just have to dream about it. ;P

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I could eat a pound of Pound Cake..

Well..... that's what my eyeballs told me when I pulled these GBD (golden brown and delicious) loaves from the oven tonight. It is the pound cake of my childhood and I am a little bias toward its flavor, but I think it is the best I've ever had. My favorite part is the top "crust" which kind of caramelizes as it cooks and is just sweet and slightly crunchy and alluring with a hint of almond aroma and flavor.

These particular loaves deviate from the recipe only in that I had no cake flour on hand and used All Purpose flour instead. While still worthy of devouring, I find that the AP flour is just a little too coarse for this cake. Otherwise, these are true pound cakes in the sense of the original terminology. I used a pound of eggs, butter, flour and sugar to create these pastry confections. Actually, more than a pound of sugar, but we likes 'em sweet!

We dished it up with some canned pears from September 2006 (yes, they're still good!) And it is delish. A little drizzle of pear syrup on the cake never hurt my feelings either. Here I show whipped cream, but only because the ice cream was eaten days ago. I'm beginning to think this snow storm stuff is going to be bad for our waistlines.

Haven't said too much about the puppies lately, I know. But I can only go on so long about how cute and adorable they still are. Harmony is recovering nicely from her surgery and I would consider Peace well past recovered by now. They are constantly "stealing" each other's toys and taunting each other with them. It's funny for a while, but once Peace gets all put out and possessive the fun stops there and more often than not they end up in a crate time out. I think they love the snow still but the newness has worn off because it's stayed around for about a week now. I must admit, it's kind of worn off on me too, but a new snow fall should cure that right away. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Big Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

These are by far the best biscuits I have ever made. I tried them three different ways.

1) All butter
2) Lard
3) Organic Veggie Shortening

The picture below is from the last batch which was the best looking over all because my technique had improved by that point. As far as taste and texture go though, here's what I have discerned from each trial.

Butter is delish. That's all there is to it. However, it simply does not create the lovely layers nor the tenderness you're looking for in biscuit land. It turns out a little more like the stuff you'd use for strawberry shortcake sometimes. At least mine did anyway.

Lard is by far the most tender and best for obtaining your desired layers of lushious biscuit-ness because of it's high melting point. It is not as tasty as butter and never will be in my opinion, but once you slather a few tablespoons of butter on the biscuit anyway, who cares?

Shortening - organic shortening with no hydrogenated parts or trans fat specifically, is nice like lard and has a light veggie taste to it. It is a completely acceptable alternative to the other two, but still lacking in flavor what butter has.

So in the end I would consider doing a portion of butter with mostly lard and get the best of both worlds. Mm Mm MM!

BTW, the recipe I used was from King Arthur Flour and was called "Best Buttermilk Biscuits".
If you don't have self rising flour, this is what one of their helpful staff, Mary, told me to do: Using All Purpose flour, spoon 2 Tbs of corn starch, 1 & 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt into the measuring cup Before filling the remainder of the cup with flour. Do this for each cup of flour called for. 
It only calls for 3 cups of self rising flour, 1/2 cup fat of your choice, 1 Tbs sugar - optional, and 3/4 to 1 Cup of milk or butter. I recommend the 1 cup for more moist biscuits.

As I got to the end of writing this post, looking over the instructions I was given, I realized I didn't do it right. Pfft. Figures. I'm sure I was distracted at the time. I forgot to make up each cup of flour with the changes Mary told me to do and instead only did it once for the whole three cups. Doh. And yet, they still turned out pleasingly tasty and light. A testament to what a good recipe this is!

Well, there's always another day to try to get them done the right way.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another First - Spanakopita

While I've had spanakopita before, albeit from the grocery store, I've never made the stuff. My brother was dying to make some, and since he isn't all that handy in the kitchen, I was conscripted for the job.  As an aside, the yellow pound cake I'm baking right now smells REALLY good.  And so, here's a few pics of the process, one that I am not likely to repeat.

Put da green goop at the bottom of the phyllo dough sheet strip, (2 sheets melded together with butter)

Then you fold it up flag-style all the way down.

Then ya bake a tray of em for about 45 minutes and this is what you get. Kind of purdy to look at.

All in all though, I don't think I like phyllo that much, or the filling recipe was a poor one. I would've liked more cheese, but then, I feel there can almost NEVER be enough CHEEEEEESE. It wasn't too hard to make and I think since I know how to do it now it would go a lot faster if I ever chose to make it again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow puts me in a good mood!

And apparently it does the puppies too! This is their second snow, and quite a lot better than the first. We had a good time romping around with them, especially Peace. I had to carry Harmony in because we felt that her stitches were pulling too much from the hopping, considering the snow was up to her chest. Otherwise, I think they just love this time of year and could be happy forever in it, if only because there is almost no traffic and they get to be off leash for once outside the pen. I'm going to try to add some video from our romp with Peace, but not sure how to do it, so we'll see if it works. Meanwhile, enjoy pictures of me getting ambushed and nearly smothered by very excited bundles of wagging energy.

Herein lies LJW, nearly buried by puppy love/excitement, encapsulated in about 4 layers of clothing and a really big coat.

Peace apparently wanted to play "defend the fort" or something - and was winning! Just too bad I was the fort.

But can you blame him? I'm sure I was much warmer to sit on than all that snow. Incidentally it was quite a feat to get out of that situation.
A snowy tangle of puppy fury. They hardly knew what to do first, they've been cooped up so long after surgery. I think Peace is busy biting the scruff off of Harmony here and/or burying her in the snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The oddities of trying new stuff

I watched that movie, Julie & Julia the other day - mainly because Meryl Streep did such a wonderful job with the character of Mrs. Child. However, I was nudged to try something new because of it, which just proves what an influence Julia Child was and still is as far as people and their food goes.

I tried a poached egg. I tried it twice. Once yesterday, once today. The first one was woefully overcooked and was more like eating hard boiled without the substance of white being firmly in place, as the hockey puck yolk popped out of it since I'm sure I didn't do the technique right.

The second one was painfully undercooked, runny as a nose - which I've never been able to abide by as far as eggs go. I ate it on toast anyway. I didn't want to waste, and if I kept my mind off the deep golden oozing goo leaking slowly from the paunchy white-sheathed orb of the yolk, I did alright. I think I just grossed myself out describing that...

And now I think that does it for trying new things for a while. I should've taken a picture.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

They grow like Alice in Wonderland

Here you can get a clear view of the rocker(s) they used to fit under just a couple/three months ago. So hard to believe! I remember how they used to use the table as their own personal Kentucky Derby/jungle gym. It was a constant soundtrack of tiny paws galloping and then the occassional scratching scrambling of nails as they'd lose their grip of the carpet and go careening off onto the laminate. We had to put an end to that at around the 25lb mark. They tried it the other day because of being cooped up from rain and I think even they realized it wasn't working out anymore.

Incidentally, Peace is like a moth to flame with that fireplace when it's on. I swear he'd snuggle right up to it if we let him.

Real Men Don't Eat Quiche

At least, that's what someone said once, but I figure that's only because they hadn't seen My quiche...

I can now confirm, that real men DO eat quiche. And very quickly. I nearly lost a hand trying to get this photo. :P

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pizza Pizza!

I just thought I'd tantalize you with pictures of my last pizza, made from scratch, sauce and all. Ok well, I didn't make the cheese, and God grew the veggies of course, but at least I had the good sense to put it all together!

G'head. Go get a towel to sop up your drool, the pic will still be here when you get back. ;)

Sweet puppy love

I think I shall never see, a puppy as cute as she....except maybe he.

                                                                            A cute lil bro, lil sis moment, not sure who was born first. This is early on when they could still fit under the rocker together. One of the few times they weren't biting the scruff off each other.

This is just a couple days ago, just before their 6 month mark. Amazingly, they still love each other! They now weigh 37.9 (Harmony, girl with white paws) and 34 lbs (Peace, almost all black boy).