Monday, January 21, 2013

Country White Bread

1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Here are the directions EXACTLY as they come from the book that accompanies the bread machine:
  • Measure and add liquid ingredients to the bread pan.
  • Measure and add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the bread pan.
  • Use your finger to form a well (hole) in the flour where you will pour the yeast.  Yeast must NEVER come into contact with a liquid when you are adding ingredients.  Measure the yeast and carefully pour it into the well.
  • Snap the baking pan into the bread maker and close the lid.
  • Press "Select" button to choose the Basic setting
  • Press the "Crust Color" button to choose light medium or dark crust.
  • Press the "Start/Stop" button.
Here is how I actually made the bread:
  • Looked up the recipe for Country White Bread in the book that goes with the Oster bread machine your daughter gave you because you want to try to do this right the first time.

  • Scrap that idea because you also want to use the Kefir your sister gave you to make the bread sort of be like a sour dough bread.
Isn't that little snowman jar topper cute?

  • Strain the Kefir grains from the Kefir your sister gave you. 
I don't think you are supposed to use a metal strainer but that is all I have and the Kefir seems to be holding up well in spite of my inadequacy.

  • The Kefir grains feels like a little rubbery, pellet-like thingy.
Sitting on top of my stubby little finger is one of the Kefir grains.  (I cannot be satisfied to simply mash the curd stuff through the strainer with the spatula, I have to reach into it and feel around and grab the grains out with my fingers.)

  • Put all the Kefir grains in a pint jar and fill it till it is about 2/3 full with milk.  Return the cute little topper and rubber band to the top of the jar and set it aside on the counter.

  • Stir the remaining liquid (looks sort of like mushy curds and whey) till it is a buttermilky looking sort of stuff.
  • Pour one cup of the strained liquid from your Kefir into the bread pan.
  • Add 1 1/2 Tablespoon softened (room temperature) butter.
  • Add one beaten egg that has been allowed to come to room temperature.
I just dumped all this in around the little stirring arm there in the middle.  I so, so wanted to stir it all together, but I decided this first time I would sort-of follow the instructions...

  • Dump in 4 cups bread flour.
  • Carefully measure 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons (because you looked at your hand-dandy conversion chart on the fridge when you realized you didn't have a half Tablespoon measuring spoon and learned that 3 teaspoons equal a Tablespoon and did the math) sugar and dump it atop the flour.
  • Carefully measure and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • Use your finger (I washed my hands good after I finished handling the Kefir...and before I handled it, too!  I really did!) to make a well in the flour.
  • Carefully measure and add 2 teaspoons active dry yeast.  Then, realize that there is only a smidge left in the packet you opened and dump that in, too.
  • Get so involved in carefully measuring (because you hardly ever do that) and forget to take photos.
  • Snap the baking pan into the bread maker and close the lid.
  • Press the Select button and choose the Basic setting.
  • Press the Crust Color button and choose light crust.
  • Press the Start/Stop button and watch through the little window on top as everything begins to stir around.
  • Get a cup of coffee and begin to straighten up the kitchen where you have spilled flour, Kefir, etc.
  • Hear a horrible noise that sounds like the bread machine is getting ready to launch the bread pan into outer space and rush over to see what is wrong. 
  • Realize that the bread pan must be pushed down pretty forcefully to be 'snapped into place' and push it down into place so it will stop being jostled all over the bread machine.
  • Finish up the kitchen clean-up, put a load of clothes in the washer, make the bed, etc. for about a half hour before you wonder what is going on with the bread and stroll in to check it out.
  • Look into the bread pan and think, "My goodness that looks awfully dry..." 
  • Look in the book to see what should be happening and notice the chart that says the dough is kneaded for the second time and decide to add some more milk...and some more...and give it a stir with your rubber spatula...and add some more milk till the dough looks...well, like a dough ball.  (Sure wish I had taken photos!)
  • Leave the machine alone for a while.  (After all, the whole process takes three hours!)
  • Get a pot holder and remove the bread pan immediately when the machine beeps at the end of the three hours.
  • Dump the loaf of bread out onto a plate.
  • Use a table knife to remove the mixing/kneading paddle from the loaf of bread.

  • Curse and drop the paddle onto the counter because you should have realized that something metal or ceramic or whatever it is made of is going to but ultra hot and burn your hand!
  • Briefly let the directions of the book which say let the bread rest for fifteen minutes flitter across your brain.

  • Slice a piece off and taste the bread!
Note:  The bread is quite dense and has a sourdough sort of flavor.  I like the color of the sides of the crust, but the top is not quite as brown as I would like.  It is done and tastes OK.  It just isn't as aesthetically pleasing as I'd like.  Next time I will not use quite as much flour and add a wee bit more milk (even more than I splashed in during the kneading step).  All-in-all it was a fun experience and I'm looking forward to trying out more with this handy-dandy machine!

P.S.  Does anybody know why sometimes Blogger won't let me change the size of my photos?  I am frustrated with this and have tried several times to enlarge the photos in this post!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

This is truly a comfort food recipe.  It is delicious and easy, too. 

2 cups chopped chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can peas and carrots
2 cans mixed vegetables

Topping Ingredients:

1 cup self-rising flour
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup milk
  • Gather all your ingredients because if you don't do that first, you might find yourself in the middle of preparing and realize, "Oh gosh, I'm out of..." and that is just so frustrating.
  • Spray a casserole dish with non-stick vegetable spray.  I'm using my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker but just because it is a good size for this and the crust comes out a nice thickness.  You can use any 9" x 13" baking dish.
  • Drain the liquid into a bowl, pour in your vegetables into the casserole dish, and give them a little stir to mix them together.
  • Since I was using canned chicken chunks, I drained the juices out into the liquid bowl and dumped the chicken into another.  (I have used left-over chicken and that meant I had to add a half-cup or so of chicken broth.)
  • With a fork, break the large chunks up till it is almost like shredded chicken and blend this into the veggies.
  • Blend together the liquids from the veggies and the chicken with the can of soup because that makes the liquid ingredients a nice consistency and so much easier to stir in than that gloppy, clumpy blob of cream soup.

  • Pour the blended liquid mixture over the chicken and veggies and stir it up till it looks like a calico quilt.
Now it is time to make the topping - better known as that rich, buttery crust!

  • Melt a stick of butter.

  • Add a cup of milk and stir.
  • Add a cup of sifted flour.  I know that pile of flour looks like it wasn't sifted but it was... OK. OK.  I did just dump it into the bowl but it still will turn out just fine... trust me.  Stir all that together to make a creamy batter.
  • Pour that batter on top of your casserole, place it into a 350 degree oven, and bake for sixty to ninety minutes or until the topping turns a golden brown.
  • Let set for a few minutes or you will burn your mouth when you dig in!

  • Doesn't that just look like a golden picture of bubbling wonderfulness?  I hate this isn't one of those scratch-and-sniff blogs because that dish is smelling like a warm cuddle on a cold, shivery day!

  • Scoop some out onto a purty Blue Willow plate and set that on a red gingham placemat and it will be a feast before it even hits yore belly - before it even touches yore tongue.  Whew!  That is some kind of wonderfulness!

This is one of those one-dish meals that is so buttery and delicious that it is hard to just eat a little bit on a cold day.  I have substituted ground beef or ham for the chicken and had that as the base for the pot pie and they were equally delicious. I've also substituted the cream of chicken soup with cream of celery or mushroom with success.

Beef Stew

Left-over roast beef - I had enough to almost fill a quart container or about two pounds.
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups beef stock
1 can or bottle of beer
2 Tablespoons tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Paula Deen's House Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water (more, if needed)
3 large carrots
3 small potatoes

  • Prepare roast beef.  I had a left-over roast that Mike had smoked and we froze 'the remains' as he calls left-overs after a couple of meals.  So, I simply thawed it and diced it up into bite sized pieces with my kitchen shears.
  • Melt butter in the bottom of a 4-quart pot.
  • Dice the onion into large pieces and cook and stir it in the butter over medium heat till it is a bit brown around the edges.
  • Add beer, tomato sauce, seasoning,Worcestershire sauce, and beef stirring to scrape all the crusty bits in the bottom of the pan and bring to a slow boil over medium to medium-high heat. 
  • Scrub carrots and potatoes and dice into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add carrots and potatoes to boiling mixture and cook about a half-hour more.  (Add more water if stew begins to dry or thicken too much.)
  • Serve with cornbread or a crusty French bread.
This recipe was inspired by The Pioneer Woman's Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika.  It was easy to prepare and delicious. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chocolate Wet Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs

  • Mix together the sugar and flour and set aside.
  • Combine, butter, shortening, cocoa, and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. 
  • Pour boiling mixture over flour/sugar mixture and stir.
  • Add buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs and mix together well.
  • The batter will be thin and may splatter.
  • Pour into a 9"x13" pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray.
  • Bake in 400 degree oven for about twenty-five minutes.
  • Frost and serve.
This is a very moist cake and is simple and delicious!  A college friend made it for me for my 21st birthday cake and my family has enjoyed it over the years.