Archive for Cooking

Hot Breakfast

I know how to make a couple boys happy on a Saturday morning — make fresh cinnamon rolls!

These were made with brioche dough. The recipe is from one of my favorite baking books — Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. When I first got my mitts on this book (from the library), I quickly memorized the basic boule recipe and have made it almost weekly. It is so good that bread is now my “assignment” for family gatherings because this bread is way better than any you can buy. I tried a few other recipes, like this brioche. After checking this book out of the library for maybe the 8th time, I decided this books makes my very select cut of cookbooks and bought a copy. Now it sits on my kitchen counter, beckoning to me to bake more bread.

So what’s a girl to do? Back to the kitchen I go!


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Freezer Cooking

I love to cook but doing it every day gets old. One way I manage to put meals on the table without burning out in the kitchen is by bulk cooking. An example is this — I bought 10lbs of chicken legs on sale this past week for 59cents/lb. That’s a good deal and a lot of meals can be made from it. When I got home, I immediately cooked all the chicken and parceled it into meal-sized portions.

(yes, I put it on my porch to cool down before making it to the freezer — it was freezing outside).

Then, I plan meals based on what I have. Out of those 10 lbs of bird, I can make:
1 chicken nacho layer dip (gone)
1 meal of chicken taco stew (with bulk cooked & frozen beans, hominy, squash & home-grown veggies — all from the freezer)
buffalo chicken dip (superbowl)
chicken pot pie
chicken & dumplings
lots of broth for soup
and lots of chicken scraps to feed our slightly underweight doggie

Having the chicken already cooked makes meal prep so much easier — I can just assemble & cook or toss in the crockpot. Later this week, I”m planning to bulk cook some pork I have. I imagine it will become more mexican food (carnitas, anyone?). Stay tuned!

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Soup Base

I love soup! Really, I do. I could eat it every day of the year. However, I am picky. I do not like canned soup so I end up making lots of pots o’ soup myself. Often my soups have a chicken stock base (homemade, of course) but there are times when I do not have stock on hand. Then, the soups have a water base. Which, you know, makes a pretty insipid soup. I have never gotten into the habit of using bouillon cubes but have, in the past, used soup base. I like it but it’s pretty expensive and can be full of equally as mysterious ingredients as bouillon. When I saw this recipe for a homemade veggie bouillon, I thought, “why the heck not!”. I had to run out and buy all the ingredients because, you know, celeriac and fennel are not normal veggies in this house. Neither are shallots.

The recipe came together pretty quickly.

According to the recipe, I should have had around 3 and a half cups. I wound up with way more than that.

It smelled pretty good but, man, was it salty tasting! Which should be no surprise since this is just a base — you add a teaspoon for every cup of water in your soup. I was left wondering if this would really work.

Meanwhile, I put all the veggie peelings and leftover bits in a stock pot to boil.

Then strained it and had even more stock to play with.

Finally, I made soup. Using some veggie stock and a few spoonfuls of soup base, I cooked up a pot of cream of broccoli soup.

It was the best soup ever! I think I’m going to like this homemade soup base. And, fortunately, I have tons of it so I can make (and eat) soup every day!

And just for some fun math (oxymoron?), I figured out the cost of the soup base. To buy all the ingredients cost around $10.33 (leeks, fennel & celeriac are pricey) not including the salt….but that would be cheap anyways. If you use a teaspoon of soup base per cup of water, my size batch (a little more than 6 cups) should yield around 288 cups of soup for a cost around 3 cents per cup. That seems impossible to me but, then again, I could seriously have screwed up the math. So this stuff is good and cheap and soup! My favorite things!

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Big Day

Guess how many days my kids have been in school this year?

I can hardly believe it has been that long. It seems like school just started.

To mark the occasion, we needed a special lunch-box treat. Mojo helped me make them — she had the idea to use a shot glass to cut out the zeros. Our hands were covered with melted marshmallow and rice krispies by the time we were through. This was one time when cleaning up was the best part!

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Elderberry Syrup

This winter, I’ve been dosing my kids up with Sambucol — an herbal black elderberry extract that supposedly helps combat colds and flu. I don’t know if it really works but my kiddos have been pretty healthy over here. I thought making my own elderberry syrup was out of the question because, well, I have no elderberries (do they grow here?). Then, I stumbled upon this blog, and her recipe which used dried elderberries to make syrup (also with photos of the steps along the way). I got all excited and ordered some dried berries from a local health food store. Then I made some syrup — my recipe is slightly different from hers since I had less honey on hand and slightly more elderberries in my bag — there are many recipes out there in google-land, which use varying amounts of water, berries, sweetener & spices. I just did what seemed to make sense and it worked.

I used 2 oz of elderberries — this was about 2/3 cup.

Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then cool. Strain the berries out (I was left with almost 2 cups of liquid) and add some sweetener. I only added 1/2 cup of honey (it was all I had on hand).

Bottle your syrup.

While this syrup is not nearly as thick as the store bought kind, it is delicious!! This will make a healthy (and yummy) addition to smoothies. It would also be tasty in tea. I popped the bottle in the fridge (and the extra half bottle in the freezer). Now it’s time for me to kick back and take a tea, errr, medicine break.

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Buche de Noel

Because I’ve always wanted to make one, and because it was the day before Christmas and I still felt the need to bake, it seemed like a good idea to make this traditional Christmas Eve cake.

The recipe for the cake came from here. I made the white frosting — a type of white-chocolate-cream-cheese-whipped cream mixture. I originally attempted to make white chocolate ganache but it didn’t work out so then I improvised. For the outside of the cake, I used *gasp* chocolate frosting from a can.

We made mushrooms for the cake out of marshmallows. It’s traditional to use meringue but marshmallow seemed an easier option — and one the kids could participate in.

As I look at my kitchen sink, piled high with every bowl and pan imaginable, I can now say that I am officially done with my holiday baking.

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Homemade Gifts

I’m still crafting like a crazy woman…..and loving every minute. John and Uncle Bob took the kids off to the movies. I was left with an entire afternoon all to myself. It was bliss.

This was fun to make because it involved cooking and sewing — an apron and home made play dough.

This is a gift for a pre-schooler though I imagine Oli would go crazy over it. In fact, I went a little crazy over it and played with it a bit before packaging it up.

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