Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sour Cream Biscuits Supreme

The one recipe where I use shortening. If anyone has a good substitute that yields the same result, please let me know!

These biscuits are flaking and delicious. We use them for everything from creamed chicken, to sausage gravy, to a final act slathered with real butter and local honey.


Sour Cream Biscuits Supreme

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk

Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Add the milk and the sour cream. Stir just until all of the dough clings together and the flour is mixed in. Grab by handfuls and loosely shape into biscuits. Place on a very well-greased (with shortening) baking pan. I like to put these in my stoneware baking dish, placing them just so they barely touch each other. Bake at 450 F fro 10-12 minutes or until golden on the top. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taylor's Traditional Cranberry Sauce

We found this recipe in a book called Thanksgiving Fun: Great Things to Make and Do by Ronne Randall and Annabel Spenceley. Daughter Taylor has been making it for years, now, and has improved it with the addition of crushed pineapple and a pinch of cinnamon. The best part is watching all of the children gather around the pot to see the cranberries pop. Serve it with generous dollops of homemade whipped cream.


Taylor's Traditional Cranberry Sauce

2 cups fresh cranberries (can be frozen)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 can crushed pineapple, drained well
a pinch of cinnamon

Heat everything except the pineapple in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring gently, for about 7-10 minutes. Pretty soon, the cranberries will start popping open! That's the fun part! When they've all popped, add the pineapple. Cool, refrigerate, and serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Current Obsession: Concord Grapes

In my endeavor to eat as locally as possible this year, I've been searching out local growers of foods that can be processed and preserved for eating throughout the winter. Finding local tomatoes was a cinch. Finding local peaches was a bit more of a challenge, but it could be done. Finding local apples isn't a problem at all. And then I started thinking about grapes. I remember as a child seeing grape vines in all of the neighbor's yards, but I haven't seen grapes offered at the farmers' markets. Grapes! A staple! A standard! Whose grandmother didn't make grape jelly thirty years ago?!?

So I started inquiring of my friends who all said that they just buy their grape juices, jams and jellies and don't bother with the mess. While I do have access to a local manufacturer of jellies and jams that don't contain high fructose corn syrup, I don't know where the fruit comes from. I kind of doubt that it's exclusively locally-grown. It's not that we wouldn't eat things that weren't local, but I felt pretty sure I could find someone who could point me to some locally-grown grapes.

After thinking about it for a while, I remembered a former co-worker who'd mentioned that she and her husband had a vineyard of Concord grapes. I stopped by her office and she took me to the kitchen where she had some vine-ripened grapes just waiting to be tasted. We set a time for me to do some picking.

What a fabulous way to start the Labor Day weekend. A beautiful day and a beautiful drive through the countryside, Natalie Merchant on the tape player (thrift store find--25 cents), my husband by my side and the three youngest children tagging along--who could ask for more?

But we were given more.

Have you ever seen 2,000 grape vines up close? When Kathy lead us to the vineyard, I was overwhelmed by the abundance! Grapes hung in pregnant clusters under twining vines and protective leaves. Armed with half-bushel boxes and clippers, Kathy, Bo, eight-year-old Sweetheart and I started harvesting. After about an hour of picking, we'd filled eight half-bushel boxes. And we'd only moved about ten feet down the first row. Kathy told us that the big Concord harvest will take place on Saturday, and they'll have less than a dozen people doing all the work.

A sun-warmed grape is a beautiful thing, and these grapes were breathtaking. I was tempted to crawl under the vines and stretch out on my back, just staring up at the full and perfect light-bathed fruit. But even a beautiful thing has its limits. One can only eat so many fresh Concord grapes (and I did eat so may fresh Concord grapes), and I wasn't about to down four bushels. The plan was to make juice and maybe a couple of jars of jam or jelly. With my new toy and a special grape seed spiral for my new toy, I planned to turn out quart after quart of delicious grape juice concentrate.

And then, a serendipitous moment arose. Just after our grape-picking venture, we headed for our friend Sara's house for a hot-dog roast. When I told her what we'd done with our day, she said, "Then you have to see what I have!" She led me to the basement, to rows of purple liquid in quart Ball jars, beside which stood a gleaming, stainless steel Norpro Krona Steamer. Sara beamed, "Just put water in the bottom, grapes in the basket, and the juice comes out the tube, straight into your scalded canning jars! Wanna borrow it?"

Did I ever!

Watching the steamer at work was a lesson in appreciating the simple things. Basically, the steamer works like a double-boiler with a steamer basket on the top and a clear lid over that. You wash the grapes, drop them into the basket (the instructions say that you don't even have to remove the stems, but we did), and boil the water until the steam extracts the juice from the grapes. Within about forty minutes, light-purple juice appears in a clear tube that's held closed by a clamp at the end. When the juice is ready, about an hour after you begin steaming, the grapes look pale and slightly empty. Open the clamp, empty the juice into a prepared, sterile, hot quart-sized jar leaving 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rim, top with a two-part lid, hand-tighten and then process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Set the jars in a draft-free place and listen for that satisfying "POP!" that means the lids have sealed properly.

We saved a bit of the juice out, of course, and found that we could use about one part juice to two parts water, a bit of sugar to taste, to have a very delicious drink.

The pulp that was left in the top of the steamer looked like it still had some use, so we put it through the Roma strainer and ended up with a very substantial puree. I added some sugar, froze a bit of it and then brought the rest to a boil, poured it into prepared quart jars and boiling-water bathed them for 15 minutes. That grape puree will be used to flavor vanilla yogurt, will be poured on pancakes, and might even find its way into a batch of ice cream.

I was thankful for my husband's help and companionship in the kitchen as the grapes were being processed. I asked him what he thought he'd be doing with his Labor day weekend if he weren't married (certainly not canning grape juice, I thought), and he wasn't really sure. A camping trip, maybe. Something outdoorsy. "What would you be doing?" he asked me. I thought about it for a moment, and then realized with a giggle that I probably WOULD be canning grape juice. It's just part of who I am, what I love to do, what inspires me. It's a beautiful thing to see those multi-colored jewels marching along the fruit-cellar shelves, promising sustenance long into the winter. When a child complains because he's come to the bottom of the jar of home-made applesauce (when he'd never TOUCH the commercial version) or proclaims the grape juice better than store-bought, it's just icing on the cake.

Tomorrow, a bit about butter--apple butter, that is.

Tomato-Basil Biscuits

The basil keeps coming, even while I'm working in the kitchen freezing corn with my new toy (I'll post on that soon) and making apple butter with my other new toy (that post is also in the works), but as soon as I'm done with all of this other bounty, I'll bake a batch of tomato-basil biscuits, maybe even freeze a few, though I haven't tried that yet. For sure we'll eat a batch warm with real butter.


Tomato-Basil Biscuits

1 cup unbleached flour
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons cold butter, in small pieces
1/4 cup half and half
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder together. Cut butter in with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and the tomatoes and stir. Work in basil and mix thoroughly.

Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead lightly for about 30 seconds. Pat out the dough to about an inch thick and cut into rounds or squares, about 2 inches around. Arrange one inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Cool and serve with real butter.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tomato-Basil Tart

When summer heaps its blessings of real garden-fresh tomatoes and pungeant basil upon me, I find as many opportunities to use them in the kitchen as I can. This recipe, using a pate brise crust and your choice of cheeses, is easy to make and delicious to consume. Plus, its beautiful, simple presentation inspires hungry awe in your family and guests. I made two of these tarts for a local houseconcert a couple of weeks ago and they were very well received.


Delicious Summer Duo Tart

1 pate brise crust, pressed into a tart pan and baked in a 450 degree F. oven until crust is lightly browned and thoroughly dry.

1 1/2 cup shredded baking or melting cheese, like gruyere, swiss, mozzarella, queso fresco or feta (reduce the amount if you use feta)

4 garden-fresh roma tomatoes, cut into thin wedges and drained on paper towels

1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves

4-5 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup mayonaisse

1/4 cup grated aged cheese, like parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano or cotija cheese

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the baking cheese into warm tart crust. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degres F. Arrange tomatoes on crust. Process basil and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Combine garlic, basil, mayonaisse, aged cheese and remaining cup of baking cheese in a bowl and spread over tomato wedges.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden on top.

Let rest for five minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Golden Crescent Rolls

This recipe was also given to me by an Amish neighbor. These crescent rolls melt in your mouth! The first time I had them, I was a guest at an Amish quilting and the smell wafted through the house and mingled among the Pennsylvania-Dutch gossip that drifted from corner to corner of the quilt frame. While I think our host must have done something magical with her crescents to make them taste so fabulous and come out so fluffy, mine were good enough to be gobbled up immediately by my family.

Make sure you have plenty of real butter on hand!


Edna's Golden Crescent Rolls

2 packages of yeast
3/4 cup warm water (around 105-110 degrees F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
2 additional tablespoons butter

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, butter, eggs, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl, turn once to grease the top, and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled.

Punch down, divide in half and then roll each portion into a 12-inch circle. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brush over the dough.

Cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll each wedge up crescent-roll style.

Place on a greased baking sheet 2 inches apart with the point-end on the bottom.

Cover and let rise until doubled.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with the additional butter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No-Cook Cucumber Relish

This recipe was originally given to me by an Amish friend whose family uses it as a sandwich spread. For me, it reminds me of the bread-and-butter pickles my mom used to make around this time every year. While this doesn't take as long as those pickles did, the basic ingredients are the same. I make a couple of batches and freeze it. Some I eat on sandwiches and hot dogs and some I eat straight out of the jar. ;-) If you want to use it like bread-and-butters, just slice instead of grating or chopping the cukes.


No-Cook Cucumber Relish

7 cups unpeeled grated, chopped or sliced cucumbers
1 cup diced green peppers
1 cup diced onions

Make a brine using:

1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar

Stir to dissolve the sugar, but do not heat! When sugar is dissolved, add:

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed

Pour over cucumber mixture and refrigerate in a covered container. Let it stand for 24 hours in the fridge before using. Freeze some for later.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vanilla Ice Cream

We've tried a lot of vanilla ice cream recipes and certainly none of them have ever been rejected, but once we'd tasted this recipe, we realized we'd never need another. This recipe comes from The New Best Recipe book from the people from Cook's Illustrated, and it's a custard-style ice cream, which means it's made with lots of egg yolks. So if you're in the country and have access to fresh, free-range eggs (and there is a difference, believe me) and raw milk, this recipe is the way to go. We use a hand-crank ice cream freezer because we like for everyone to earn their ice cream, but the same outcome can be had with an electric ice-cream freezer.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped out, or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

Fill a sink or large bowl with ice-water and have a strainer ready over another large bowl that will fit inside the sink or large bowl. Heat the milk, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the vanilla seeds and pod (if you're not using a vanilla bean, wait until later to add the extract) in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to bread up the vanilla seeds, until steam appears and the milk is warm, about 175 degrees, which takes around five minutes. Do not boil the milk.

Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until combined and pale yellow. Whisk half the warm milk mixture into the beaten yolks, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Whisk the milk-yolk mixture into the warm milk in the saucepan over medium heat amd cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until steam appears, foam subsides and the mixture is slightly thickened or measure 180-180 degrees. Do not boil or eggs will curdle. Immediate strain the mixture into the bowl you have ready and set it in the ice-water bath. Cool and stir until it comes to room temperature. Cover, refrigerate, and chill until it gets down to 40 degrees, 3-24 hours.

Remove and discard vanilla pod. If you're not using a vanilla bean, add the vanilla extract now and stir well. Pour the custard into the ice-cream freezer and churn following the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until solid, at least a few hours, depending on the freezer. We usually wait until the next day to serve it. It will keep up to two days.

Black Raspberry Cobbler

The previous owners of our little cabin in the woods christened the acreage by which it's surrounded "The Thicket" because of the thick growth of brush and cane fruits throughout the woods. All around the cabin grows berries of all kinds, mostly red raspberries, blackberries and black raspberries. Our first year in The Thicket, I was pleased to find that I could fill many baskets with blackberries and black raspberries, and we seized the opportunity to eat as many fresh berries as we could. But we also made Black Raspberry Cobbler, a fabulously delicious treat that we topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

You'll notice that there are several steps in between which you do not stir your ingredients. Folow these directions and you'll end up with a moist cobbler with a delicately crispy top crust.


Black Raspberry Cobbler

1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups black raspberries
1/2 cup sugar

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 7"x11" baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, 1 cup sugar, flour and baking powder. pour this mixture over the butter but DO NOT STIR.

Pour the berries over the batter and butter but DO NOT STIR.

Pour the remaining sugar over the berries but DO NOT STIR.

Bake the cobbler at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the crust is browned and set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Banana Split Muffins

Years ago, Tina, one of my best friends, made these muffins for our family and we were immediately smitten. This recipe is just slightly different from the one she made for us--hers had Miracle Whip and this one has real mayonnaise. Before you shun the recipe because of the mayo factor, notice that the batter doesn't include eggs. The mayo replaces the eggs and makes the muffins deliciously moist. It's a perfect recipe for when you have some of those near-liquid bananas to use. Sixteen-year-old Bard and four-year-old Baby made six batches of these today, giving us enough to eat and enough to freeze for quick breakfasts.

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Banana Split Muffins

1 1/3 cup mashed bananas (about 6 medium)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet miniature chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup real mayonnaise, not light or fat-free
1/3 cup drained, chopped maraschino cherries
12 maraschino cherries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine bananas and mayo. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped cherries. Fill greased or paper-lines muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done. Press a cherry half, cut-side-down, into the top of each muffin. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire cooling rack. Makes one dozen muffins.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Alfredo Sauce

Here's a simple sauce that offers a whole lot of flavor. Be sure to use freshly-grated parmesan cheese, not the Kraft kind, because that has stabilizers and anti-caking agents that keep it from melting, and it ends up a globby mess. Grating your own cheese is so easy with a MicroPlane Grater and a hunk of Parmagiano Reggiano. By the way, I just read in Cook's Illustrated that this raw cow's milk cheese manufactured in the North of Italy really is superior to any U.S. parmesans for a variety of reasons, including animal care and feeding/grazing, hand-processing as opposed to mechanized processing, and aging time. Apparently the U.S. manufacturers of parmesan take quite a few shortcuts, and it shows when put to the taste test. So if you're ever tempted to replace your more expensive Reggiano with a Wisconsin parmesan, remember that. Creates quite a dilemma for locavores. Unless, of course, you live in Northern Italy.


Alfredo Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (try to find some that isn't Ultra-Pasteurized because it thickens better)
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 1/2 cups freshly-grated Parmagiano Reggiano or other high-quality grating cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the cream and heat very slowly for about five minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk. Heat through and cook on low until thickened. Stir in parsley. Serve this over fresh fettucine noodles!

Friday, August 24, 2007


My daughter requests this as soon as tomatoes begin to ripen. When we start to tire of Pico de Gallo, we bring this to the table. This would be delicious with Genovese Basil Bread!



Ingredients for sauce:
12-14 ripe plum tomatoes, fresh from the garden, diced into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine these ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the bread:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, slivered
thickly-sliced rustic bread

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Saute the garlic until golden, 2-3 minutes. Throw away the garlic and keep the oil. Toast the bread in the garlic oil then cut each slice in half. Top with room-temperature sauce.

You can also sprinkle this with a bit of parmesan and pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes until it's hot and toasty.


Nettie's Pico de Gallo

Summer isn't officially here until the first heaping bowl of Nettie's Pico de Gallo hits the table. Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro, a shake or two of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime, and you've got it. I keep a gallon jug of this stuff in the fridge for as long as the seasonal ingredients can be had locally, and then we settle for second-best in the dead of winter; with each huge batch I make, I freeze half for later.

This recipe is totally improvisable, though the original was written out for me by my sister-in-law's mother, Nerita, who grew up in Mexico. She, too, improvises, but gave me some idea of proportions. When it comes down to it, it's all about taste, so do what you like. Add more lime, less lime, cut back on the onions, add more peppers. If it's good for you, you've done it right!

Nettie's Pico de Gallo (or "Garden Fresh Salsa")
(This will make a small batch. If you're smart, you'll make a big batch.)

Garden Fresh Tomatoes--about four large ones (I use a combination of romas and heritage types. This will NOT taste as good if you use store-bought tomatoes, unless you use grape tomatoes, which taste most like real tomatoes and not like water balloons)--cut into bite-sized pieces either by hand or with a food processor
One large onion--sweet or storing--diced
One or two jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (be careful when doing this not to get seeds on hands or put hands in eyes!). Add more jalapenos or a stronger pepper if you like it hot.
A small bundle of cilantro, chopped finely (tip: if you have a food processor, add the cilantro to half of the onion, quartered, and chop them together in the processor. Do the same with the jalapenos and the other half of the onions)
One lime, juiced
Kosher salt to taste

Mix all of these together, adding a bit of olive oil if it seems too dry, and serve with good chips!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Red Beans and Rice

Last year, when finances were really tight, I had to come up with creative ways to feed a large crew. One very excellent blessing was that I learned to cook dried beans. What's even better...we actually liked them!

This is the best red beans and rice recipe I've found. It certainly takes time, but it's quite delicious!


Red Beans and Rice

1 pound red kidney beans, dry
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 5 or 6 cloves)
1 large smoked ham hock, 3/4 pound of Creole-style pickle meat (pickled pork), or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning
1 to 1-1/2 pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced on the bias
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 or 2 bay leaves
Tabasco to taste
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
red pepper and black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice, links or patties, grilled or pan-fried, one link or patty per person (optional)
Pickled onions (optional)

Soak the beans overnight, drain and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a rolling boil, making sure the beans remain covered by water. Boil for 45 - 60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.

While the beans are boiling, sauté the onions, celery, and bell pepper until onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock (or ham or pickle meat), smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot.

If possible, cool the beans, refrigerate, reheat and serve for dinner the next day. They'll taste a LOT better. Add water to get them to the right consistency.

Serve over basmati rice.

YIELD: 8 servings

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Genovese Basil Bread

One thing that I have in abundance this time of year is basil. It's something I absolutely must plant, along with tomatoes, onions, swiss chard and my other herbs. For years, I've had this recipe for Genovese Basil Bread that I found on the King Arthur Flour website, but I just never got around to making it.

When I finally made it, it was declared absolutely yummy, so it's an instant favorite in our house.

This recipe is made in a similar fashion to french bread, so you'll roll out the dough with a rolling pin and then roll each piece up jelly-roll style.

The recipe makes four individual-sized loaves, so if you've got a hungry clan, you'll want to make several batches!


Genovese Basil Bread

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, coarsely chopped and lightly packed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (105-115 degres F)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a heavy, large skillet (I love my cast iron skillets!) over low to medium heat. Add basil and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the yeast in water in a small bowl. Let it stand for ten minutes.

Mound 2 1/2 cups of the flour onto your work surface or in a large bowl; make a well in the center. Add the dissolved yeast, basil mixture, salt and pepper to the well. Mix the ingredients that are in the well, and then incorporate the flour. Knead on a lightly floured surface until it's elastic, adding a bit more flour if it's sticky, for several minutes.

NOTE: You do NOT need to incorporate all 3.5 cups. Just add flour until it's only slightly sticky. This is a sticky dough, so don't try to add flour until it's smooth and firm or your bread will turn out rock-hard.

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil, and then cover it to let it rise until it's doubled, about 45 minutes, depending on the warmth in the rising space.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down the dough. Knead it on a lightly floured surface until it's smooth, about three minutes. Cut the dough into four pieces and then roll one out on a lightly-floured surface to an 8 x 5 1/2" rectangle. Roll it up jelly-roll style, starting at one long end. Transfer to the greased baking sheet, seam side down, then do the rest of the pieces the same way. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, until the pieces are doubled.

While they're rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit. When the rolls have risen, slash the tops diagonally along the top about three times. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until they're golden in color and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of a roll.

Serve warm with REAL butter!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Now, that'll stick to your ribs!

There's only one breakfast that I like almost as much as yogurt and homemade granola, and that's a warm earthenware bowl full of Irish oatmeal with a pool of real maple syrup and a hefty dallop of real butter melting deliciously over the mound. I haven't treated myself to Irish oatmeal lately, so when I saw some at the store this evening, it called to me from the shelf. Not only does the foodie in me love the stuff, but the aesthete in me also gets a kick from the old-fashioned style tin.

So, what is Irish oatmeal, anyway?

Irish Oatmeal, also known as Steel Cut Oats, are whole-grain groats that have been cut into pieces with steel blades. They're substantial, chewy, and full of good stuff for your body, like fiber, protein and B-vitamins (just the stuff you need to keep your body happy and your emotions calm). Plus, the grains are all grown by local Irish farmers and are not genetically modified.

After bringing my Irish Oatmeal home from the store, I showed it off to my husband and then I slipped away to write this post. Before long, I could smell it. That familiar scent of steel-cut oats simmering on the stove. Lucky for me, my husband's generous; I was able to score a couple of bites of his oatmeal, topped with butter and brown sugar. He offered me more, but I'll wait. My bowl will be filled in the morning.

For more information on Irish Oatmeal, visit the McCann's website.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The New Best Recipe Book and The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook

I didn't discover Cook's Illustrated until about a year ago and when I did, I fell head over heels in love. All of those basics I'd never cared to learn as a teen in my mom's kitchen popped out of those beautifully illustrated, ad-free pages. It was as if they knew the very decisions I was trying to make--they knew that I was shopping for the perfect set of knives, and that I had just butchered sixteen chickens and needed to know the best ways to grill them, and that the knew that I had a scad of hot peppers in my garden that were crying out for new recipes. Every page taught me something new, either basic or more advanced, that I'd never tried before.

Now, even in my earnest search to find each issue, I have a difficult time laying my hands on one and really should just subscribe to the thing.

A few months ago, I borrowed several of the Cook's Illustrated cookbooks from the library. I enjoyed Cover and Bake, Baking Illustrated and devoured The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles. I didn't want to return them.

And now, I have one of my very own. Over the weekend, I visited a sweet little bookstore in Mt. Vernon, Ohio called Paragraphs. The wonderful ladies there read book after book to my children while I perused the shelves for goodies of my own. I came away with The New Best Recipe Book which has the heft of a college textbook but at a much more reasonable price. They don't call Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen for nothing. It's fascinating to me to read recipes where someone else has done all of the guesswork for you.

I also bagged The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook by Joey Reynolds and Myra Chanin. I hope to turn my cheesecake-baking fifteen-year-old son loose on this one. Read one reviewer here, who says:

With the "Bonus" Magic Formula Which Will Allow You to Experiment and Concoct
Your Own Personally Flavored Baked Cheesecake, you can add any of the flavors
they haven't already, and you'll never have to make the same flavor twice.

This, my food-loving friends, is right up my son's alley.

I look forward to delving into these books which will, I'm sure, inspire me to collect a few more of Cook's Illustrated's editions. I have my eye on Steaks, Chops, Roasts and Ribs next.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Dinner

No recipes to post today. Just a photo of our Easter dinner--English roast with red onions and baby carrots, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed asparagus with lemon butter. Delicious!

I hope your Easter was a very blessed one!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

An Easter Lunch: Gruyere Fondue Salad

I was a bit dubious about this salad as I was preparing it. It wasn't that I haven't experienced and enjoyed warm-dressing salads before; it was just that the combination of ingredients sounded a bit contrary. Cold endive and warm roasted yukon gold potatoes? Vinaigrette with a gruyere fondue-type sauce? Yet it sounded irresistably appealing.

So the family gathered in the kitchen to make a unique Easter Sunday salad lunch to tide us over until evening when the roast beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, corn and fresh bread would be ready. One person sliced potatoes, one browned the bacon, one rinsed and spun the greens, one mixed the vinaigrette and the white wine sauce and, before long, we were eating a fabulous lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

The white wine sauce would be wonderful alone with a fresh pasta.

Roasting the potatoes takes time, as well as making the different sauces, but I think you'll really enjoy my variation of a recipe that I found published in a 2004 issue of Country Home magazine, created by Red Cat chef Jimmy Bradley.

Be sure the potatoes aren't too thick and that they lay in a single layer, or they won't cook evenly.



Gruyere Fondue Salad

8 oz gruyere cheese, finely grated and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 oz fresh shitake mushrooms, rinsed and de-stemmed
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, chopped, or two cloves or garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups arugula
2 cups belgian endive, chopped, or romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups arugula, torn

Mix vinaigrette: In a screw-top jar, combine vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil and sugar. Shake to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a bowl and drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a greased baking sheet in a single layer on one end of the baking pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes.

Toss mushrooms with remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to other end of the baking pan after potatoes have roasted for ten minutes, then bake ten minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine wine and shallots or garlic. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes or until wine is reduced to 3/4 cup. Stir together the softened butter and the flour, then add it to the wine mixture, stirring well. Add whipping cream. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually add the grated cheese, little by little, stirring after each addition until all the cheese has been added and melted.

Combine the potatoes, mushrooms, greens and vinaigrette.

Divide the warm cheese among six bowls and top each with the potatoes and greens mixture. Top with crumbled bacon. Serve while still warm.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Favorite Lentil Soup

Fifteen years ago, I was a young mother with a toddler and an infant, trying to figure out how to run a household, make decent meals and stay healthy. It was at a mall in Ohio that I first found Jane Brody's Good Food Book.

The Good Food Book was like an amazing textbook to me, packed full of information about whole grains, complete proteins, from-scratch dishes and delicious, healthy recipes. That book became one of the foundational components of my cooking.

At the forensics tournament today, "My Favorite Lentil Soup" was served. The children who were once toddler and infant are now 17 and 15, and they were debating their peers about issues that I'd never thought would even be a part of their world fifteen years ago. The ladies in the hospitality room really enjoyed the lentil soup, and I pointed them here.

So, Hospitality Ladies, this soup's for you.


My Favorite Lentil Soup

2 T olive oil
2 large / 3 medium onions, chopped
3 carrots, grated
3/4 t marjoram
3/4 t thyme
1 28-oz can tomatoes with juice
7 C broth
1.5 C dried lentils--rinsed and picked
1/2 t salt
1/4-1/2 t pepper
6 oz dry white wine
1/3 C fresh parsley or 2 T dried parsley flakes

Heat the oil in a soup pot with a heavy bottom. Sauté the onions, carrots, marjoram, and thyme for about 5 minutes.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes, then add them to the veggies. Add the broth and lentils. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about a half hour to 45 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Add the wine after the lentils are tender, then season to taste. You can add cheddar cheese to the top when you're done for a delicious complete protein!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Morning Glory Muffins

Years ago when we lived in a bigger city, my dad used to stop by a grocery store that carried delicious bakery items and lots of specialty foods. Every once in a while, he'd bring home a couple of HUGE muffins that were chock-full of delicious things--dates, pecans, carrots, apple, coconut--and I would absolutely dive into their moist goodness.

Now we live out in the country, quite far from any gourmet, whole food or specialty grocery stores. Our local grocer just recently began carrying imported cheeses. Up until then, there were only a couple of cheesehouses nearby that carried gruyere or gorgonzola, even though we live in the heart of cheese country. The days of my dad's gifts of gigantic muffins are gone.

The good news is that it forced me to find a recipe and make my own gargantuan muffins at home.

This recipe is very much like the one my dad used to bless me with, though it wouldn't hurt to add a half-cup of raisins, a mixture of dark and golden. Take the time to chop up these ingredients and enjoy a very substantial muffin you'll be proud of.


Morning Glory Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups peeled and grated apple
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly oil 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a second bowl, combine carrots, apples, coconut, dates and pecans. Stir in eggs, oil and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients; stir until smooth.
Spoon or scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.


You can find more Morning Glory Muffins at

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hot Buttered Pretzels!

On a cold, winter day, what could be better than hot, buttery bread? Hot Buttered Pretzels, of course! Follow the recipe to a T and you'll have pretzels to die for! If you have unsalted butter, it really does make the difference. We used salted, and with the gourmet/coarse salt, it was too salty.

This recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour website. Better than Aunt Annies by a MILE!

Pretzels are available crisp and hard from your grocery or, if you're lucky and in the right place, soft and chewy from street vendors. Our recipe is for the soft, chewy kind.
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Food Processor Method: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its two kneading cycles, then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

Manual/Mixer Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel, as illustrated. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave. Yield: 8 pretzels.

Chicken Potpie

It's a Level Three out there, which means that the heavy snow and cold weather has forced me to stay inside my midwestern home, spend time with my family and make some delicious comfort foods.

Fortunately for me, yesterday was shopping day, so I was blessed to have a reasonably full pantry and well-stocked refrigerator, including several pounds of fresh chicken breasts. After thinking it over for a while, I decided that today was most definitely a chicken potpie day. A quick check of the recipe confirmed that I had all that I needed to make the meal, and I had, of course, plenty of time, so by dinnertime, the potpie was served, steaming hot and gratefully received.

Whether you find yourself blessed with a snow day or not, I think you'll enjoy this delicious all-in-one meal, featuring an herbed variation of Pate Brise, adapted from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.


Chicken Potpie

Chicken and Broth:

Three chicken breasts or one 4 lb chicken
1 quart of homemade broth or low-sodium broth
1 large yellow onion, cut in half
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 small bunch of fresh time, or a teaspoon of dried
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds

Combine in a stock pot and add enough water just to cover the chicken. Cover and bring the stock to a boil, rudce heat and simmer, uncovered for an hour.

Pate Brise for Chicken Potpie

1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
10 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg yolk

Combine the flour, salt and thyme in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix.

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, not longer than about fifteen seconds.

With the processor running, add the ice water and the egg yolk, processing until the dough holds together.

Turn the dough onto a flat surface, pat into a disc, wrap well and refrigerate for at least one hour.


5 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups red or russett potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
12 pearl onions or two small cooking onions, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (if pearl onions are large)
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced int 1/4 inch-thick rounds, well-washed (I omitted this in this batch because leeks are out-of-season and expensive right now)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
6 ounces white button mushrooms, if you like them, cut into quarters, if large
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons fresh or two teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Drain the chicken and reserve the stock. Remove the skin from the chicken, if using a whole chicken, and remove all chicken from the carcass. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces (good job for little fingers) and set aside.

Strain the stock, keeping two cups of liquid aside. Save the rest for another use, like rice or potatoes or a noodle soup.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Melt five tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and onions and cook,stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until potatoes begin to turn golden.

Add leek, carrots, and mushrooms; cook five minutes more.

Add flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in the reserved chicken broth and the milk, bringing to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces, parsley, 2 teaspoons of salt, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole. Set aside.

Roll out the dough until it's 1/4 inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow the dough to chill for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and, working quickly, place the dough over the chicken mixture, tucking the extras under arond the edges. Cut slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush with the egg wash, place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Beef Vegetable Soup

"Mom, when I go to class tomorrow, I'd like to take a pot of Beef Vegetable Soup."

That, I can gladly oblige.

There's nothing like a hot, savory soup to warm the bones on a winter day. When my daughter requested this recipe to share at her homeschool co-op, I could practically taste it.

This one is a slo-o-o-w recipe because it's cooked in a crock pot. Normally, I don't care a whole lot for crock-pot cooking because it tends to be bland, turns things mushy, and most recipes rely on highly-processed foods like Velveeta and canned soups. But this recipe doesn't. As a matter of fact, this recipe is very flexible. I make it differently almost every time I throw it together. But I'll share with you the general idea of Beef Vegetable Soup. Do with it what you like.


Beef Vegetable Soup

Brown two pounds of meat. This can be stew beef, ground beef, ground turkey, venison...whatever.

Into your crockpot, place:

A medium-sized bag of mixed veggies, or you can throw in a small bag of peas, 1/2 cup or more of sliced carrots, and a small bag of corn. Whatever veggies you like will work.

Add to this:

Four or five medium-sized potatoes, cubed
Two medium onions, chopped
A large jar of spagetti sauce (I used leftover pizza sauce)
A couple of teaspoons each of your favorite herbs, like thyme, oregano and basil.
A bay leaf or two, if you have them.
Salt and pepper to taste
A few dashes of hot pepper sauce, if you like

When the meat has been browned, add it to the mix.
Add water or broth to cover (beef broth is especially good).

Now, here comes the slo-o-o-w part. Cook it in the crock pot for about eight hours on low or six hours on high.


My family devours this with cheddar on top, with a handful of crackers or just like it is.

After all, soup is Good Food!

Heavy Pizza Sauce

This pizza sauce comes from Diane Morgan's book Pizza. She calls it a robust sauce that won't make the crust soggy. This recipe makes 3 1/2 cups of sauce--enough for several pizzas or a couple of pizzas, with extra to freeze.

2 12 ounce cans of tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt or 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 chopped basil leaves or three additional teaspoons dried basil

In a large bowl, combine the paste, water and olive oil.

Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.

Can be stored in the fridge for five days or in the freezer for two months.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Perfect Pizza Party and Pizza Sauce? Forget the Jar!

Yesterday afternoon, the Time to Cook kitchen was all aflutter. Crusts were mixing and rising. Food processors were chopping. Pots were bubbling on the stove. All of the Time to Cook family was at work in some way preparing for a pizza extravaganza; in just a few hours, we would be welcoming nineteen children and six adults to make pizzas from scratch. Fifteen-year-old Z was my right-hand-man, crumbling the feta, slicing the garlic, making his first-ever batches of pizza dough and mixing up this no-cook sauce in no-time.

The recipe Z threw together is not only delicious, but it's quick! Taking time to cook doesn't always mean cooking, and it doesn't always mean hours of labor. Sometimes it just means doing more than twisting off the top of a jar of store-bought pizza sauce.

This sauce meets the criterion. It doesn't need cooking, only takes a few minutes to assemble and--BONUS--it goes quite well with this crust.

If you don't make your own paste or have your own home-canned tomatoes, you can substitute by using store-bought.

This recipe comes from Diane Morgan's book Pizza. I very highly recommend it if you're a pizza lover, like I am.


New York-Style Pizza Sauce

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice OR whole tomatoes put through the food processor briefly
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
One clove of minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

Mix all of this together, then adjust seasonings to taste. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator up to five days or in the freezer up to two months.


This was one of three sauces we made for the evening, including this slow-simmered sauce, and this other heavy, no-cook sauce, in addition to an alfredo for white pizza.

About an hour before the guest were to arrive, we turned on both ovens and I assembled a Deep Dish Onion and Spinach Pizza Pie so there would be something to munch on while the guests' crunchy creations were cooking. I pulled out the pizza screens I'd ordered from A Best Kitchen Supplies (great prices! quick shipping!) and we began laying out the toppings.

What a variety! We had:

Chopped spinach
Sun-dried tomatoes
Feta cheese
Sliced garlic
Banana peppers
Sliced roma tomatoes
Chunk roma tomatoes
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Sliced red onions
Sliced mushrooms
Olive oil
Crushed Red Pepper

Kids and adults alike had fun taking turns around the big butcher-block island and arranging toppings, coming up with some wonderful creations. Some were tried and true. Some tested the boundaries. A square personal pizza? Why not? Nothing but tomatoes, garlic and olive oil along with a sprinkling of basil and oregano? What the heck? Never eaten Feta on a pizza before? Give it a shot!

The Onion and Spinach Deep Dish was a big hit, even among the young ones and those who claimed an aversion to garlic. I think my personal favorite pizza combination was the alfredo sauce with sliced garlic, feta cheese, chopped spinach, parmigiano reggiano, then drizzled with olive oil. And not just because I made it myself.

Clean-up was a snap, since the mamas of the families dove in to do and dry dishes.

And there were leftovers. I froze the extra dough and sauce. And the leftover pizza?

Breakfast, of course!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Another fascinating food blog:David Lebovitz

When you've mastered your yogurt making, surf on over to David Lebovitz's food blog and check out the recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt. This recipe may even push me over the edge and force me to buy vodka or kirsch, something I've never done.

Photo from David's page.

Fettucine with Carmelized Onions and White Wine Sauce and A New Kitchen Tool

There are times when chaos rules all around me and I just don't care. Today was one of those days.

We'd just returned from morning service at church and I'd decided to experiment with a new pasta and a couple of sauces. The kitchen was still in a state of limited functionality after my previous day's venture into cleaning the spice drawer and reorganizing the pantry and cupboards. Everything hadn't been put back into place yet, but I didn't care. A clean washcloth to make a clear surface on my butcher block, my food processor and a couple of pots and pans were all I needed. Everything else could tumble down around me.

And it practically did.

Kids were tracking snow through the house. Other kids were scattering toys. Other kids were playing board games on the floor of the piano room. There was delightful chaos everywhere, and I was embracing it.

After sixteen-year-old Bard finished the Simple Hot Cocoa, I enlisted her help to make the two sauces I'd be tossing the fresh egg noodles in. She did all of it but chop the onions. The food processor did that.

She even used the best cheese grater in the world to turn a block of Pecorino into a bowl of light, fluffy flakes. If you regularly grate hard cheeses, the Microplane Classic Zester/Grater is the only way to go. It runs about $13.00 at the MegaKitchenType store and is totally worth it. Microplane originally began as a woodworking tool until the wife of a hardware salesman picked up a rasp to zest an orange for a cake after her other zesters just didn't cut it. She was pleasantly surprised by the results and made the Microplane Grater a regular kitchen tool. After trying rotary cheese graters and not being impressed, I'm thrilled to have added the Microplane to my list of favorite kitchen tools. I hope to soon add the Medium Ribbon Grater for soft cheeses, butters, chocolates and apples. It may even give my Cuisinart a run for its money!

Both of the sauces were good, but the one that follows was delicious and proved the favorite of my seven testers. I'm not sure it was quite enough sauce for one pound of fresh egg noodles, and I did have to add some cream during the last stage, but it was still quite tasty. It even stopped the chaos long enough for the masses to be fed.

It takes a good bit of time to make fresh egg pasta, so be sure to set aside an hour for a pound and another twenty minutes or more for the sauce, depending on how quickly your onions brown.

For a bit of variation, try browning a 1/2 pound of bacon, removing the bacon and leaving 1/4 cup of grease, omitting the olive oil and browning the onions in the bacon grease instead. Continue with the recipe from there.

For best results, serve the pasta in warmed bowls. It loses heat fairly quickly.



After making your egg pasta into one pound of fettucine, bring four quarts of water to a boil.

Grate 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano very fine, maybe a bit more if you like to sprinkle the cheese on top of your pasta. Maybe even more, because you must sample it after you've grated it. It's just too light and fluffy to resist. Don't use pre-grated. It doesn't melt as nicely. It's better to just invest in a good grater and buy fresh wedges of cheese. Often, the pregrated cheeses are of lower quality and have anti-caking agents and other preservatives added to them. If you can't find the Pecorino Romano, you can substitute a good-quality parmesan, like Parmigiano Reggiano but you still need to fresh-grate it.

While the water is boiling and the egg pasta is resting, chop four onions very fine.

Heat 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan that will be big enough to accomodate the noodles and the sauce. Saute the onions in the oil (or use the bacon variation suggested above) until well browned but not black.

When the onions are just about done, add two cloves of minced garlic and saute until onions are finished and garlic is lightly sauted.

Turn the heat up to medium and add 1/2 cup of white wine. Bring this to a simmer and make sure all of the onion bits are scraped off the bottom of the pan. Simmer it for about three minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the pan and heat just until warm. Taste it and add salt to taste.

When your water comes to a boil, add one tablespoon of salt, then add your egg noodles. Cook them just until al dente, then quickly drain them and add them to the sauce, along with the 1/2 cup grated cheese.

Serve it warm with some more cheese on the side. A nice dish of steamed broccoli would go really well with this.
It will be worth the chaos, I assure you. Dishes, after all, can wait until tomorrow.

The First Snow and Steaming Cocoa

Last Christmas morning, my darling little ones gasped when they first caught a glimpse of the pile of loot. Sleds! Because they're so huge--and so Christmassey in and of themselves--we didn't bother to wrap them. I just leaned them picturesquely against the tree and let them take center stage, giving the first impression on the most magical morning of the year.

You know what happens when I give my kids sleds for Christmas?

It doesn't snow.

And so it was, the winter of 2005/2006 held no snow for my sweeties to try out their treasures. Every week, I would say, "It's still winter. There's still time. It'll snow. Just wait and see!"

They waited through January, and February, and March, and even April.

But they never did see.

This year, we feared the same fate would befall the sleds as did last year. Would they be destined to hang around in the barn loft, amidst the old farm sink and schoolhouse lights, both of which are waiting for our next building project? It seemed to be so. We passed through November, December and the better part of January with little more than a few fickle flurries, but nary an accumulation. The little noodles had all but lost hope.

And then, this morning as we sat through our church service, the Creator was crafting a world of white. After I'd done my morning gabbing post-service, I stepped toward the front door to find Sweetheart, my seven-year-old, lying flat out in the yard of the church, her arms sweeping wildly, here hair soaked with snow, flakes drifting onto her rosy little cheeks. She was absolutely delighted.

My eldest son brought a friend home from church, and the neighbor boy made his way over the hill. Soon, they were all digging through the piles of gloves, then dragging the long-neglected snow equipment out of the barn. There were snowbikes and snowboards and sleds, oh my, and the bundled boys made short work of turning these Amish hillsides into their own personal snow resort. Even The Baby, age three, bundled up in her brand-new (read: thrifted) hat, gloves and buttonhole scarf, and her hand-me-down snow coat--the same one that had fit her older sister four years ago, and her older brother four years before that. I took in every moment as I watched through the window, the sill decorated with a fluffy dusting of snow that looked so much like the soft pile of Pecorino Romano my eldest daughter Bard had freshly grated for today's lunch.

While I began preparing a Sunday afternoon pasta feast (more on that later), I called Bard into the kitchen to whip up a pot of scratch-made hot chocolate. She was almost caught in the act by her siblings twice, who came in to change their soaking-wet gloves or take a potty break. But she made a quick recovery.

"Are you making hot chocolate?" Asked the inquiring sibling.
"No," answered the misleading older sister.
"What is it?" The sibling persisted.
"Melon soup," she lied.

Disappointedly, they trudged back out into the crisp air.

Hot chocolate is so much better if it's a surprise.

Normally, we top off our cocoa with a dallop of homemade whipped cream, but the heavy cream was reserved for today's pasta meal, so the cocoa had to go naked. For you, however, I'll provide the recipe. You'll have to make it yourself, though.


Simple Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup sugar or honey (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
dash salt
1/3 cup water

Mix all of this together in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, then stir and boil for two minutes.


4 cups milk (I use raw, whole milk, of course :-) )
3/4 teapoon vanilla, or, if you want minty-flavored cocoa, some mint oil

Heat it, but don't boil it. Ladle into mugs and dallop with whipped cream. Serves two big mugs or four small mugs. Double it for best results.

You can make the sauce part ahead of time, put it in a jar and keep it for when-you-need-it use. Just pour a bit of your syrup into a saucepot and add milk to your likeness, heat it up and serve.


Once inside, the children and their visitors were pleased to find not cold melon soup, but steaming mugs of rich, real hot cocoa. The didn't even mind that it was naked.

Ah, yes. Sustenance for more outdoor adventures in the long-awaited snow.

Real Whipped Cream

Use this whipped cream to top the delicious Simple Hot Cocoa or your favorite hot beverage. Mixing with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer makes the task go much quicker than whisking by hand, but either way, you'll want stiff peaks of cream.

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Beat with a whisk until fluffy and firm.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

There are OTHERS? Butter Pecan Ice Cream from Simply Recipes

I'm not completely naive. I did realize that other people probably blogged about food. I just didn't realize how many others! And how amazing they all are!

Elise Bauer is one of them, with her food blog Simply Recipes . I am completely floored by the sheer number of recipes she has on her beautiful, mouth-watering blog.

Now, I don't want to chase you away, but you really have to go see this post which shares a recipe for butter pecan ice cream.

I can't believe that:

a) We just had our first very cold day after a long, grey, rainy winter, and;
b) I just started reading French Women Don't Get Fat, and;
c) I'll have to run an extra interval...

and I'm still going to pull out the ol' hand-crank ice cream maker and whip up a batch of this. Even though I just stocked up on ice cream when Breyers went on sale at the local market for $2.98 a half-gallon.

I've had my eye on a butter pecan recipe in a little booklet that stares at me from the racks by the check-out line every time I go to the grocery. I will not, I say to myself, pay that much for a little booklet wrapped in plastic so that I can't read the ingredients. I mean, I read labels for everything, so I'm not going to plunk down my cold, hard cash for a recipe whose potentially mediocre ingredients I can't read first!

Now I don't have to.

Thank you, Elise. I'm really looking forward to trying this amazing-looking recipe with our next batch of fresh, real, raw milk.


Butter Pecan Ice Cream
from Elise Bauer on Simply Recipes

An ice cream loving friend was in town this weekend, giving me the perfect excuse to make a new batch of ice cream. This time the flavor is one of my all time favorites, butter pecan. In this recipe the butter flavor comes in the custard base, achieved by browning the butter first before adding the other ingredients.

6 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans

Special equipment needed
An ice cream maker, or a KitchenAid mixer with an ice cream attachment


1 In a medium sized heat-safe bowl (metal, ceramic, or glass), whisk together the egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

2 Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top. Set aside.

3 In a medium thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter cook it, stirring constantly, until it just begins to brown. Add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar completely melts.

4 Slowly add the milk, stirring to incorporate. It will foam up initially, so make sure you are using a pan with high enough sides. Heat until all of the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let boil or the mixture may curdle.

5 Whisk in hand, slowly pour half of the milk and sugar mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to incorporate. Then add the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk sugar mixture.

6 Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes.

7 Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the cream. Add vanilla and stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

8 While the mixture is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lay out the pecans on a roasting pan in a single layer. Bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool. Once cool, roughly chop the pecans and set aside. Note, if you want an extra punch to this ice cream, brush the pecans with melted butter and sprinkle with salt before roasting.

9 Once the ice cream mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

10 Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the chopped pecans. Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ode to My Redi-Check

It's the classic situation. I have a basic need. I have a few dollars. I see a killer application. I must have it. Budget? What budget?

That's about the story behind my acquisition of the bestest gadget I have in my kitchen. Yes, I love my KitchenAid mixer, and my Cuisinart is always at hand, but they are only shadows of themselves without my RediCheck remote kitchen thermometer.

It's true. I didn't have the money to spend on the RediCheck, since it was going for about $40 and I had, roughly...uh, nothing. But I was preparing to make something fabulous and yummy on the grill, and when I saw this beauty, I knew it had to be mine.

Now, it wasn't an impulse buy. Oh, no. I stood in the aisle of the Kitchen, Bath and Bedroom Superstore and really, truly considered whether or not I needed such an extravagance when I could have spent a measly couple of dollars on yet another cheap meat thermometer that would go through the dishwasher after I've said five million times that food thermometers and dishwashers are not friends. My husband, waiting for me in the car, would likely not understand how amazing this little device was, how often I would use it, or how I could justify spending $40 on it. But I knew it would be worth it. And I knew that, eventually, the love of my life would see the wisdom of my ways and thank me for it.

Because, see, I'm very terrible about knowing when meat is done, or when candy has reached the soft ball or the hard ball stage, or when the yogurt is precisesly 110 degrees farenheit. A tool like this could improve my cooking 150%. Who could put a price on that?

So I bought it. And then I started explaining. Fast. My spiel probably went a little something like this:

The RediCheck has so many great features, I almost don't know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the fact that you can stick the probe into your food and then walk away. Literally. There's a cool remote unit that you can clip to your belt and then you're off. Go do some laundry, make potato salad, take a nap, and the signal will beep when your food has reached the appropriate temperature, either using the mode for meat doneness, or the temperature you set manually.

The next great feature is that it's very accurate. I've been using it for everything from grilled thanksgiving turkey to homemade vanilla caramels and have had very good success with it.

Finally--and this might be my favorite feature--the temperature probe is attached to the main unit by a heatproof cord, allowing the probe to be placed into the cooking item--in the grill, or in the oven, or on the stovetop--and left there while the unit itself sits on the countertop or near the grill, safely and happily displaying the temperature of the roasting bird or bubbling candy.

Yes, it stretched my budget to buy this gadget, and yes, it does have its problems, like the fact that you have to turn on both the send unit and the remote unit at just the right time to allow them to synchronize, but, all in all, this is one gadget I don't think I could live without.

My husband does see the wisdom of my ways, and now even he uses the RediCheck to do his grilling.

RediCheck. The kitchen gadget even a husband could love.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Homemade Yogurt: Using your Oven and Making it Plain

I decided to do an experiment with making yogurt in my gas oven for those of you who have a gas oven and don't want to buy a yogurt maker, or who would like to make the five-quart version. I'm happy to say that the experiment went well, though it took a bit of babysitting and a little tweaking.

Also, I made this one plain so that I could make it into yogurt dip for this coming Sunday's carry-in.


Quart Version of Plain Yogurt
(If you want sweetened vanilla yogurt, see this post):

1 quart of milk (I use whole raw cow's milk--Jersey milk has the highest butterfat content and makes a very creamy yogurt)
3 oz evaporated milk (which, I think, is a little less than 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup yogurt which has live active cultures. PL says it doesn't matter if it's plain or vanilla. I've used both with the same results. Once you make your first batch, you can use yogurt from your own batches to keep it going until the cultures weaken, then you have to buy more.

Partially fill a sink with cold water and get all of your ingredients ready and measured. It goes quickly, so you want to be ready. Temperatures are very important for good yogurt.

For raw milk, heat the milk to 180-190 degrees F. It creates a creamier yogurt.

Turn of the heat.

Add the evaporated milk. Stir well.

Place your pan in the cold water and stir. Your goal is to quickly cool the milk to between 110 and 115 degrees--temperature is important This happens more quickly than you'd think.

When the milk has cooled, add the yogurt using a very clean whisk. Bad bacteria can take over and make your yogurt clumpy and yucky. Very thoroughly mix in the yogurt.

Pour the mix into a quart container or yogurt maker.

The yogurt must incubate for between 4 and 10 hours at around 100 degrees. Too hot, and you'll cook the yogurt. Too cool and it won't incubate properly. Some people fill a cooler with hot water, place their jars or containers in it and leave it alone until it sets.

For my experiment, I warmed my gas oven to 110 degrees by turning it on and then turning it off after just a minute or so. I use the RediChek remote thermometer for everything like this. I LOVE it. It's one of the best investments I've ever made.

I placed the container in the oven, closed the door, and checked the thermometer occasionally. If the temp seemed to be dipping down too far, I'd turn the oven on for a few seconds (DON'T walk away or you'll cook your yogurt).

Don't touch it. Don't open it. Wait for about four hours, then very carefully check it. If it seems thickened and creamy, you can taste it to see if it's tart enough. If it is, put it in the fridge until it's cool, then you're done! If it's not, you can incubate it more. It will thicken up a bit more in the fridge, but it should be nice and thick when you're finished incubating it.

That's it!

Fresh Egg Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

Just as with the egg pasta, the alfredo sauce is beautiful because of the few ingredients it requires. Heavy cream, unsalted butter, salt, Parmesan cheese, pepper and nutmeg. The result of combining these ingredients with fresh egg pasta is divine. Serve this as an appetizer, because it's so rich, and you'll have enough for 4-6 people. If you want to make a full meal of it, better double it.

The real keys to richness and thickness are to use cream that has not been ultra-pasteurized, to use really good, fresh-grated parmesan cheese (the pre-grated stuff has stuff added that makes it lumpy and isn't fresh enough to melt properly), and to cook the pasta to al dente before adding it to the sauce and then completing the sauce and the cooking of the noodles. These tips come from The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles by Cook's Illustrated, a fabulous source for pasta and sauce recipes, hints, tips and step-by-step instructions.

::.[(.oOo.)]-*-::.[(.oOo.)]-*- ::.[(.oOo.)]-*- .::

Fresh Egg Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

1 2/3 cups heavy cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Pound fresh Egg Pasta cut into tagliatelle
1 cup high-quality Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
Ground white pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg

Bring four quarts of water to a boil.

Combine 1 1/3 cups cream and the butter in a pan big enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta. Heat over low until the butter is melted and the cream just begins to come to a simmer. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add one tablespoon of salt and add the pasta. Cook until almost al dente, drain it, and then add it to the sauce.

Add your last 1/3 cup of cream, the grated cheese, salt to taste, white pepper to taste (you can use black pepper, but the white pepper leaves the sauce white), and a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg (which isn't necessary, but my tasters really love it).

Cook over very low heat, toss to combine ingredients, and watch carefully until the sauce is slightly thickened, a couple of minutes.

Divide among 6 warmed bowls and serve hot!

::.[(.oOo.)]-*-::.[(.oOo.)]-*- ::.[(.oOo.)]-*- .::

The Pasta Experience

As part of my current obsession of making my own pasta dishes, I recently acquired an Imperia pasta machine which arrived on Saturday. Sunday, I promised, would be the day to make our first home-made pasta.

The beauty of pasta is that it requires only two ingredient: flour and eggs. How much more basic can you get than that? The time element to making your own pasta is in the actual rolling and cutting of the dough into noodles. Having a pasta machine is very helpful for this process. While you can make noodles without a machine, using a rolling pin and knives or rolling cutters, the pasta machine makes it much easier. The dough is rolled very, very thin, to the point where you can see the silhouette of your hand through the rolled dough.

You can get more fancy with the ingredients than just the flour and eggs, but it's not necessary. Still, I hope to experiment with some other recipes and techniques, and I'll pass those outcomes on to you as I find them.

The first experiment in The Pasta Experience was to make tagliatelle with alfredo sauce. It took us a long time to make the whole dish, from start to finish. I think the total time was about two hours, and some of that time was spent figuring out how to work the machine and exactly what the dough should feel like. Actually rolling the dough through the machine was not hard at all. My best cooks, which are my two sons, jumped right in to help, and my older son, who is 15, ended up finishing the noodles while I started the sauce. Having an extra hand helps. Even the three year old got into the act, turning the handle to produce long tendrils of fresh noodles. This is a very fun family activity. Make a few appetizers to stave off hunger, whip up your dough, and start rolling! Better than television any day.

So turn off that one-eyed monster. It's time to cook!

Are you ready? Here we go!


We'll begin with an easy-way-out method, and that's using a food processor to make the dough. If you don't have a food processor, keep your eyes peeled because we'll experiment with hand-mixing the dough.

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten

Ingredients should be at room-temperature before you start, so if you keep your flour in the freezer, like I do, be sure to let it warm up before starting. Start with very fresh eggs, too.

Put your flour in the work-bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Pulse it a few times to get the flour all nice and fluffy.

Add the eggs and process the eggs and flour together for about thirty seconds. After thirty seconds, you should see the dough form a rough ball. If it really sticks to the sides of the work bowl, add a bit more flour, little by little, until you get a moist, cohesive dough. On the other hand, if it's too dry and looks like crumbles, add water 1/2 teaspoon at a time until you get the right consistency.

Put the whole mass, including any crumbs or chunks or un-mixed egg, onto a clean work surface and start kneading. It'll be a little tough, not like bread dough, so you're basically just going to keep folding and turning and folding and turning until you get a nice, smooth dough.

Put the dough into a zip-type bag and let it rest anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature.

Divide the dough into about six or eight pieces, take one out, and put the others back in the baggie. Flatten your piece a bit and lightly coat it with flour on both sides.

If you haven't used your pasta machine before, you'll want to throw this piece out after you run it through. I had to throw out two pieces before the pasta machine ran the dough clean. This is a good chance to experiment with the dough and the pasta machine, so have fun with it.

When it's time to run your first real piece of dough through the machine, start it on the lowest number, which is the widest setting. Fold the dough ends so that the meet in the middle, and then put the piece through the machine again on the widest setting, feeding the open end of the dough through first (not the folded end, but the other end). Run it through the widest setting again, getting a nice, smooth dough. Remember to use flour when the dough gets sticky, but not too much so that you make a tough dough.

Now, each time you run the dough through, narrow the setting until you've run the pasta through the narrowest setting and your dough is very, very thin.

At this point, if the dough is stable enough, you can run the pasta through the cutter attachment. If you want to make all of your dough sheets first and then cut them, stack your sheets of dough between layers of moist, clean kitchen towels. If the dough seems too sticky to cut, let it rest a few minutes before you cut it.

After the dough has been cut, hang it on a rack to dry for about fifteen minutes to cure before boiling it. You can leave the noodles out for up to two hours before cooking, if you need to.

Then, you're ready to make your pasta and sauce!

For excellent instructions with photos and illustrations, see The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles by Cook's Illustrated and The Pasta Bible by Jeni Wright. Check your local library for other books on pasta, pasta-making and sauce.

Up next, Fresh Egg Noodles with Alfredo Sauce.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

More on Yogurt

Reader Jill would really like to make yogurt, but she's afraid to try. Jill, I'm encouraging you to go for it! As a matter of fact, I'm so much encouraging you to go for it that I spent a portion of time this afternoon experimenting with making yogurt without a yogurt maker, and I'm pleased to say that I had fabulous results.

Check back here tomorrow for details on how I did it and a modification of the yogurt recipe published here.

Pasta Success!

Today, we christened the pasta machine and turned out two pounds of eggs-ellent egg pasta, tagliatelle-style. We cooked it up with a nice, creamy alfredo and all of my testers devoured it gladly. It was thumbs up from them! One tester rated it above the local authentic Italian restaurant.

Sound delicious? You can do it, too!

Stay tuned here tomorrow for details and recipes for today's dish, and join me for the next couple of weeks as I experiment with different pasta recipes, techniques and sauces!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's here!

Finally, my pasta maker has arrived! Believe it or not, after all of this waiting, I'm now feeling intimidated by this hunk of metal sitting on my kitchen table.

But I shall not be deterred. Fresh pasta tomorrow, I tell you.

Friday, January 12, 2007

In Today's Bookbag: Pasta Books

Now, let's veer back to my current obsession--pasta--just long enough to drool over these two books I brought home in today's library bookbag. I can't go into depth with them, because my pasta maker has still not arrived (this is now Day Five of my wait. Sigh), so I only tortured myself with the stacks and stacks of Italian cookbooks long enough to determine that I must own these two books:

This one truly is a bible of pasta knowledge. It covers all of the different types of pastas-- fresh, dried, designer pastas, shaped pastas--as well as instructions on how to make, cook and serve pasta, what wines to serve with your pasta, creating striped and silhouette pasta, sections on herbs and seasonings to have on hand, oils and vinegars, tomatoes and cheeses. And, of course, there are tons of recipes--over 150--for soups, salads, sauces and baked dishes. Be sure to look for The Pasta Bible by Jeni Wright if you've found pasta to be your current obsession, too.

The Williams-Sonoma book, Mastering Pasta, Noodles & Dumplings includes, as expected, lots of gorgeous pictures, recipes for basic and flavored pastas, and step-by-step instructions on pasta making, accompanied by plenty of photographs. While I haven't made any of the recipes in the book yet, it sure is delicious eye-candy!
Enough torture. As soon as that pasta maker arrives, we'll be revisiting these books for recipes and inspiration.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Homemade Yogurt

Let's take a little bit to veer off the main road--which has been pasta and pizza--and let's talk about dairy. I posted my recipe for granola here, so now you need something to go with it.

I'm thinking about this for two reasons: First, my pasta maker hasn't arrived yet. Argh. Secondly, I've made this yogurt several times since I received my yogurt maker but today was the first time I used my yogurt to make smoothies. Can I just say Oh. My. Goodness?!? Let me tell you, folks--this ain't no Dannon yogurt. It almost feels WRONG to eat something this good.

And once you make it, it's like a whole 'nother culinary world has been opened up to you. Once you know how to make yogurt, you can make your own mock sour cream (delicious), yogurt cheese (very delicious), yogurt pancakes (quite delicious), and smoothies (absolutely delicious). Entire books have been written about how to make and cook with yogurt. Here are just a few of the ones that I've read:

101 Things to do with Yogurt by Geneva Stringham
The Book Of Yogurt by Sonia Uvezian
The Stonyfield Farm yogurt cookbook by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg
Making Cheese, Butter & Yogurt by Storey Books

We'll explore a few recipes using yogurt later, but first, let's make the yogurt, then we'll go from there.

I use raw milk, so if you have access to that, do definitely use it. It's absolutely delicious.

Quart Version:

1 quart of milk (I use whole raw cow's milk)
3 oz evaporated milk (which, I think, is a little less than 1/2 cup)
1/4-1/3 cup sweetener (I used 1/4 honey in one and 1/2 cup honey in one, and neither were super sweet. Today I used 1/3 cup sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup yogurt which has live active cultures. PL says it doesn't matter if it's plain or vanilla. I've used both with the same results. Once you make your first batch, you can use yogurt from your own batches to keep it going until the cultures weaken, then you have to buy more.
(PL adds gelatin to hers, but I couldn't figure out the right ratio, so I left it out. Because we use whole jersey milk, it thickened just fine without the gelatin.)

Partially fill a sink with cold water and get all of your ingredients ready and measured. It goes quickly, so you want to be ready. Temperatures are very important for good yogurt.

For raw milk, heat the milk to 180 degrees F. I was hesitant to do this because I wanted the good health properties of the raw milk, but my first batch didn't come out so well. When I called PL, she said that heating it creates a creamier yogurt. I tried it, heating it to about 186, and she was right. Very creamy.

Turn of the heat.

Add the evaporated milk, sweetener and vanilla. Stir well.

Place your pan in the cold water and stir. Your goal is to quickly cool the milk to between 110 and 115 degrees. This happens more quickly than you'd think.

When the milk has cooled, add the yogurt using a very clean whisk. Bad bacteria can take over and make your yogurt clumpy and yucky. Very thoroughly mix in the yogurt.

Pour the mix into a quart jar or yogurt maker.

This is the tricky part, and this is why I asked for the yogurt maker. The yogurt must incubate for between 4 and 10 hours at around 100 degrees. Too hot, and you'll cook the yogurt. Too cool and it won't incubate properly. Some people fill a cooler with hot water, place their jars or containers in it and leave it alone until it sets.

Don't touch it. Don't open it. Wait for about four hours, then very carefully check it. If it seems thickened and creamy, you can taste it to see if it's tart enough. If it is, put it in the fridge until it's cool, then you're done!

Add fruit and stuff after it's done.

One Gallon version (makes five quarts):

One gallon of milk
2 T gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cup sugar or 1 cup honey
2 t vanilla
1 cup yogurt with active cultures

Follow instructions above, except that you should dissolve the gelatin in the water before you start, if you plan to use it. Add the gelatin when you add the milk, sweetener and vanilla. Follow the rest of the directions, pouring your mixture into five quart jars or containers (doesn't matter if it's glass or plastic, just as long as their really, really clean).

90-120 degrees makes yogurt, so keep your temp within the range. I think around 90-95 is optimal.