Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beautiful Braided Challah

I love Shabbat. Friday is a race against the sun to clean the house, catch up the laundry, fix food for Friday dinner and Saturday and get in a half day of school before lighting the candles and receiving the rest God gave. I love the quietness of Saturday morning as everyone else sleeps in and I can enjoy the Creation reminder that God said "it is very good" then rested.

My friend, Gail, and I were talking about how we are trying to make the special day both restful and rich with tradition for our families. She was looking for a good Challah recipe, I told her I would post mine soon so she could print it and try it since it always got compliments and it was my son's favorite bread. That was a couple weeks ago, oops, sorry Gail, it slipped my mind but here it is now.

1 cup water, 105 to115F.
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
5-5 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons
sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Allow to rest 10 minutes, it will get frothy, if it doesn't then the yeast is dead and you need fresh yeast or the water was too cold or too hot. It is really not hard, just sounds like it at first.
Add the butter, salt and eggs.
Add the flour until you have a good elastic dough, it should not stick to the sides of the bowl, start with 5 cups then add a little at a time if it continues to stick.
Let rise in the bowl for 40 minutes.
Turn out onto the counter and knead for 3 minutes or so.
Now you have several options, you can make two individual loaves, one large with a smaller one on top, sandwich rolls or a ring for a super sandwich.
For sandwich rolls, cut into 18 pieces, roll and flatten, let rise 40 minutes, bake 400F for 25-30 minutes.
Rising/Baking time for all the other options-400F for 35-40 minutes.
For the braid on top of a braid: Cut 1/3 of the dough off and set aside, divide the 2/3 piece into 3 equal pieces, roll into ropes,
and braid, tucking ends underneath.
Place it on a greased sheet pan. Repeat braiding process with the 1/3 you set aside, laying it gently on top of the larger braid.
Cover with a towel
and allow to rise 40 minutes or until double in size.
Brush with the milk and sprinkle with seeds if you want them.
Bake as directed above. Temperature should read around 190F. when done.
This is a very versatile bread, good for sandwiches, with soup or salad, my friend Sue eats it plain, like me she loves bread. I love to share bread with her because I know none will go to waste!
For the ring: Divide into 3 pieces, roll into ropes braid connecting the ends into each other. Place around a glass (oven proof) dish WELL greased. Continue as above.
After this rises, bakes and cools, slice horizontally, fill with sliced meat and cheese, tomato, onion, etc.  I like to mix mayo and dark mustard together in the glass bowl (after washing) and fit it back down into the hole for serving.
Anyway you bake it or slice it, this is a recipe which should serve you well, and a lot of other people too.
Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

I like to have lots of stock on hand for soups, stews and sauces, it's nice to cook rice in too.
After we have a roast chicken, I pick off most of the rest of the meat,leaving the smallest bits, and save the bones in the refrigerator. In the morning, I put the bones into a 4-6 quart pot and fill it almost to the top with water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat then reduce to low to maintain simmer.
Add an unpeeled onion ( the skin adds to the color), a couple stalks of celery with the leafy part, 4-6 peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt,a few sprigs of parsley, and a carrot. Put the lid on and simmer 2 hours.
This is what it should look like after a couple hours.
Two hours is just an estimate, if you are pressed for time an hour will do but 3 is even better.
Pour through a sieve or colander to remove all the bones and vegetables.
After it is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and can be skimmed off easily. Use with in 3-5 days or freeze for another time. I'd like to have several quarts in the freezer but we use it almost as fast as I make it. It can also be pressure canned to save space in the freezer, the Blue Book says - 1 inch head space, 25 minutes, 10 pounds pressure.
So next time you roast a chicken (or turkey, or beef roast) don't waste those leftovers, make the best stock you'll ever have in only a few minutes prep time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to peel a Pomegranate

I recently was eating some pomegranate seeds as my neighbor walked in the back door. Wrinkling her nose and glaring at them, asked what "those things" were. "Why these beautiful, ruby red gems are so delicious and healthy, how is it you have never seen pomegranate seeds? Here, try some." Tentatively, grudgingly, she put one in her mouth, huh. Okay. You eat the seeds? You only eat the seeds?" "Yep!" We often have these intellectually stimulating conversations.  I will give you this much, while peeling, they don't appear too appetizing. But the unwrapping is an exercise in patience and well rewarded.

So here is the unwrapping process.

First, cut off both ends with a sharp knife. 

Score the sides, don't cut too deeply or you will cut into the seeds.

Fill a bowl with cool water and soak the pomegranate for 15-20 minutes.

After the outer peel is softened start peeling the white away.

I peel it over and into the bowl of water because the seeds will sink and the white pith will float making it very easy to collect the seeds.

Gently loosen the seeds. Yum! Juicy, rich tasting pomegranate seeds, packed with antioxidants. Eat these alone, as a snack or toss into a salad, I'm sure once you try them you'll think of lots of ways to use these.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Savory Baked Artichoke Dip

What a cold, snowy day, beautiful, but only from inside. Huge wet flakes, abundantly falling...on top of 3 inches of slush, yuck. The low spots in our yard have open puddles with inches of snow cresting around the brim. There's only one thing to do, yes, make some comfort food.

I started Chicken Enchilada Soup this morning in the crock pot, but Samuel and I wanted something special, warm and cheesy now with some apples and tangerines for lunch.

This is not our usual lunch by any stretch of the imagination, we usually eat leftovers or tuna with salad, healthier fare but not as comforting on a snowy day.

I got this recipe from my friend, Pat, every recipe I've gotten from her is so good, even the cabbage soup was pretty tasty. I've only made a few changes, more garlic and more hot sauce to be specific.

This goes together in just 10 minutes then pop it into the oven, I used my toaster oven for this small dish to save some electricity.

1 14oz. can artichokes, drained
3/4 cup mayo (only the real stuff)
1 cup grated or shredded parmesan
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
4-5 drops hot sauce
In a 1 quart baking dish, mix together the parmesan and mayo,
 then add all the rest of the ingredients.

Stir to combine.
Place in a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown on top.
Mmmm :)
Serve with chips or crackers.
Share with those who did the real work!

They're so cute!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Homemade Cheese Manicotti

This is an act of love, that's what Holly told me when she gave this recipe to me a dozen years ago. It's what my daughter asks for on special occasions because she loves it and only then because she knows how much work goes into it. Don't let me scare you, it is very time consuming but simple and well worth it. So create this act of love for your family tonight.

Start with a simple marinara sauce.

1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano, minced
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
In a large sauce pan, saute the onion in the oil.
 Add the garlic, stir, then add the tomatoes, and paste.
 Add the basil or oregano.
 Taste, add salt, taste again. Mmmm.
Let this simmer while you make the crepes and mix the cheese.

Cheese Mixture:
32 oz. whole milk ricotta
2 eggs
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups parmesan
3 tablespoons minced parsley
This is easy--just mix all this in a bowl.

Crepe mixture:
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup flour
pinch salt
Whisk together.
 Now from here it's just "set up and run". 
I used a 15x10 inch baking dish, a little larger would be good but definitely not smaller. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the pan, leave the rest to continue simmering and set the baking dish where you can reach it with the manicotti rolls.
Place a piece of waxed paper or foil on the counter to catch the crepes when you remove them from the pan. I use an 8" stainless steel skillet as my crepe pan, I have a small kitchen and can't store a lot of specialty cookware. I don't use non stick pans because there has been so much written on the toxicity of the coating.

Turn the burner on to medium high, using a good cooking spray, coat the skillet well. Allow the pan to heat but not scorch the spray. Pour an 1/8 cup of the crepe batter into the hot pan, swirling it around to coat the bottom of the pan.
Place back on burner. When the edges start to come off the sides lift the crepe gently and flip it over.
Excuse my blurry photo, you try flipping a hot crepe and photographing it at the same time.

Now as soon as the one is out of the pan start another. While the second one cooks, put 3 tablespoons of filling into the first one,
then roll it up.
This is what it looks like in just a short time.
Then pour the rest of the sauce over the top, spreading to cover all.
Cover this with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 350F. Remove foil, sprinkle with 2 cups shredded mozzarella and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve with green salad just because it's good for you and it adds splendid color to the plate.

The sad part here is that when it came out of the oven, the aroma was so divine that we all forgot to photograph the finished product. Sorry. It didn't last long either but if you do have leftovers this is even better the next day!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Applesauce Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these little gems in mini muffin tins and they were just darling, does that sound gushy? My daughter and I baked all the desserts for the cast and crew premier of the new full length feature film "The Free Ride", produced by Mike and Rachael Dornbirer. Definitely one of the best movies in a long time. You can find it at 
Great family movie, you can order a copy today!
You'll find a pretty picture of the table at the end of this post.
2 cups white spelt or all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup oil, vegetable, canola or melted butter
1 16 oz. jar unsweetened applesauce
4 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line muffin pan with paper liners or grease a 15x10x1 inch sheet pan.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the oil, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring just to combine.
Fill the muffin papers 2/3 full (or 1/3 empty ;). If using the sheet pan, spread evenly.
Bake mini cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, sheet pan or regular size cupcakes for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla, milk and sugar and beat wildly, or until fluffy.
Now you can just spread this creamy frosting on the tops or you can get out the piping bags and tips you bought once upon a time promising yourself you would learn to use them and do a pretty swirl on top.
Put the rosette tip (#32) on the coupler.
Holding the bag like this, with the sleeve cuffed,
glob a good amount of frosting into the bag, don't fill it more than 3/4 full or it will ooze out of the top as you squeeze it.
 Hold it like this then,
give it a twist.
Now, unfortunately I didn't get a good picture of the swirl but you just squeeze gently in a spiral and you will get a cute little mound on top.
You can find decorating supplies individually or in sets at JoAnn's or some super stores, start small, just some disposable bags, a set of couplers and a couple tips is all you need to begin.
This is a photo of the dessert table, before the crowd and refills. The applesauce cupcakes are near the end.
 Get a copy of "The Free Ride" dvd, bake some cupcakes and have your own premier!
And I would love to hear how you enjoyed the movie as well as the cupcakes.