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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Black Skillet Bread

Here's your weekend baking project, all ready to go. All you need is flour, salt, water, yeast, oil, and a big cast iron skillet. I've made this bread three times so far, and it has turned out great each time. It's good for a weekend when you plan to be in the kitchen, because it takes a few hours and is a hands-on kneading bread.

The recipe is from a magazine my mother-in-law passes on to me: Mary Jane's Farm. It's a mix of crafty projects, rural living, and home-style recipes. This recipe called out to me because of my new cast iron skillet (compliments of my aunt) and because of the neat little quarters that I could easily tear off and give away or freeze for future.

We overspent our food budget in December, and part of getting back on track has been making our own bread. A bag of high-quality King Arthur Flour is around $5. A loaf of high quality artisan bread is around $5-6. I'm not sure how many loaves of bread I can get out of one bag of flour, but it's at least three. And oh! the rewards of smelling the fresh bread baking, of pulling it out of the oven and cooling it on the counter, of tearing off a piece to have with soup, eggs, or just because. It's more than just the money savings.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Easy Dijon Mustard Dressing

I had this salad all last week, and I gobbled it up like it was the best thing ever (because it was). I tend to be somewhat lazy with salads. Usually I have them as a side, and I just don't feel like getting fancy veggies or mincing garlic to make my own dressing. I go for olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which is nice, but it's not special. I make salads as an afterthought.

When I do take the time to make my own dressing, things are different. I make a lot and store it in a jar in the fridge. It transforms the salad. Add to that a nice cheese, a fruit, and some nuts or seeds, and you have yourself an excellent meal.

For this salad I started with my usual: organic spring mix, grated carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers. Then I added tart Granny Smith apple slices, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese. That in itself is great, but wait for it...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pour Over Coffee

So I love coffee. Anybody who knows me knows that. It started in childhood when I loved the smell of my parents' coffee. Whenever I tried a sip, though, I didn't like the taste. Until high school, when I discovered french vanilla Coffeemate, and it was downhill (or uphill) from there.

My taste in coffee has come a long way from Coffeemate (is there even any real dairy in there?). Gradually, I switched from cream and sugar to just cream. Then sometimes black. Currently, I'm on a black coffee kick, but I welcome really good, fresh cream to lighten really dark coffee.

I have five different methods of brewing coffee. What? How did it come to this? I did not set out to become a coffee snob, certainly not by using fake creamer. My first method is a little Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker that my father bought me before I set off for college. This has brought me through the years beautifully, and I still turn to it many days of the week. The second is a French press. A lovely way to enjoy coffee, one with great fanfare in letting the coffee steep and then ceremoniously plunging the grounds to the bottom and straining out good, strong coffee.

The third method came about somewhat by mistake. At a former job as a bank teller, I liked to take my breaks at the now defunct Borders book store to get an iced coffee. The charming barista was so excited about the cold brew coffee method to make the best, smoothest iced coffee. The Toddy method. Makes lower acid, less caffeinated coffee by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for 12 hours, then straining it out to make a coffee concentrate. Add hot or iced water, and you have coffee. I make this whenever my mom comes to visit.

Then there is the little stove top espresso maker. It is like a miniature percolator for the stove, and makes good espresso drinks without actually owning an espresso machine.

And then, friends, the pour over coffee apparatus appeared. It's all the rage at hipster cafes. It's like drinking liquid coffee beans. It makes other coffees taste like coffee flavored water (ok, I exaggerate a little). 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year! Justin, Evelyn, and I got back a couple of days ago from Michigan. We had a great time with family, including a Christmas Eve dinner of grilled salmon, playing games, a family hockey game at Michigan State, singing carols, cooing over Evelyn, and being together. It was so relaxing to be able to go to bed early, exercise every day, and be cozy inside while watching the snow fall. My father-in-law made some good egg breakfasts a few mornings, and my mother-in-law was so helpful with Evelyn. She also made my Benjamin muffins for breakfast on our last morning there. It's good to be back after a 12 and a half hour drive home from Michigan.

Stay tuned for a recipe later this week.