Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sourdough Crumpets from Starter

I can't vouch for these being genuine crumpets as I've never had one before but I can vouch for them being a perfect cross between an English muffin and a sourdough bagel. I can also vouch for the fact they're going to be a problem for me. They are just too damn good. Full disclose as to how I ended up making them. They were supposed to be hamburger buns. Or at least so the recipe told me. And while they did the job they were a little too dense for a classic hamburger bun. But the next morning after being popped into the toaster and smeared with butter and jam I found their true calling. Breakfast!

They have that unmistakable sourdough tanginess, a chewy bagel like exterior and yet a soft yielding inside filled with all sorts of mysterious nooks and crannies that equal fluffy bread heaven.

If you're afraid of keeping a sourdough starter - don't be. Seriously if I can do it anyone can. For example, Kris is on this kick of bringing home succulents for the house. And while I love them, I die a little inside every time he buys a new one because I just know that sucker is gonna die on my watch. I've killed literally eight in the past three months.

So trust me when I say if I can keep a sourdough starter alive, so can you. A trick to avoiding the headache of maintaining a starter is to keep it in the fridge instead of at room temp. That way if I forget to 'feed' it for a couple of weeks it's totally fine. On that note feeding your starter isn't scary at all. You basically remove a cup of stirred starter from your batch and either use or throw away then replenish it with a cup each of flour and water (though I tend to use less water sometimes when I think mine's getting too liquid.)

Is 'too liquid' proper grammar? Google's not correcting me so I'm going with it. Anyway if you like to bake, you are always just a few hours away from something hot from the oven. Pretty good payout for letting something just hang out in your refrigerator.

That said 'starting' it is a different story. Not difficult but it has a few steps and involves actually following directions which I'm not always great at much less while chasing after a 19 month old. Anyway I bought mine online from King Arthur and followed the instructions here.

So back to this bagel/English muffin situation. Mine didn't rise that much before baking (probably because I didn't wait for my starter to come to room temp first.) In fact I was pretty much convinced I was making little sourdough flatbreads but then they rose and puffed in the oven and became crumpet like.

One bit of advice is to not over bake them. Once the bottom edges are golden brown - get those suckers out!

Sourdough Crumpets
*adapted from Sparkle People
*yields about 10 crumpets though recipe easily doubles if needed

1 cup sourdough starter (well stirred and if you have the time, at room temp)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil (gently heated to liquid state) or vegetable oil
1 egg yolk (plus one additional egg for the wash)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-5 cups flour, or more (be sure to use the spoon and sweep method for measuring)

Mix all but the flour together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Add half the flour and mix well then gradually add the rest by small increments until the mixture is hard to stir but all the flour is incorporated. Flour a large clean surface and turn the dough out. Kneed, turn over and pressing across with the palm of your hand several times (adding flour as necessary to keep the dough and/or hands from sticking) until the dough is pliable, cohesive and springy. I know this sounds weird but I know my dough has come together when I can gently yet firmly smush and pat it together into a ball and when I pat it like a baby's butt it stays sort of puffed and proud in that shape.

Oil a clean bowl lightly and place the dough inside turning over to coat. Cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and place in a warm place (I never have a 'warm' place so I turn my oven on to 350 for 5 minutes then shut it off for 5 minutes before putting the bowl in. If it still feels hot either wait a little longer or leave the door open.) Leave until doubled (though to be honest after 3 hours mine hadn't doubled or even risen significantly so don't fret and press on if that happens to you as mine turned out great.)

Punch down and let rest another 15 minutes. Pinch off pieces of dough that when rolled lightly between your palms are about the size of a medium lemon. Place at least two inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with kitchen towels and return to a warm place for 30 minutes or as long as you need until ready to bake.

Preheat your oven to 375. Remove the towels from the crumpets and brush lightly with an egg wash (one egg mixed well with a hefty splash of milk.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes until edges are just light golden brown. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack. These will keep in an airtight container for 3 days. They would probably freeze well too!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

The healthy, elegant people at Aloha inspired me to share some winter tips for staying healthy. Living in Austin, my winter routine isn't that different from my spring, summer or even fall routine. I walk outside as much as possible, do yoga when I can and cook often. I don't fret about things like cooking with butter or heavy cream as long as I'm adding them to a vegetable (or at least there's a vegetable involved.)

But this year we've actually had a winter. I feel dirty writing that given it's nothing like what the Northeast has had but for us's been real. It's even had me researching cozy winter stews that also satisfy a hangry appetite like mine. And here is the queen of them all.

When I first made this recipe, lightly adapted from Cookin' Canuck, I fully expected to have to add parmesan cheese to make it edible. I thought it was going to taste like it sounded...healthy.

Wrong. Maybe it's the use of chicken thighs instead of breasts that gives it so much flavor. Maybe it's the comforting, soft bite of the sweet potatoes followed by the salty punch from the kalamata olives.

Or maybe it was simply a lesson that not everything has to have parmesan cheese in it. Who knew?

The original recipe uses butternut squash but because I had a surplus of sweet potatoes from Johnon's Backyard Garden, I used them instead. I also browned the chicken thighs instead of simmering them because I'm lazy and it was one less step. Next time I might even try skipping steaming the sweet potatoes first since happiness truly is only having to clean one pot after dinner.

Hopefully soon we'll be swapping winter stews for spring inspired dishes.

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

Adapted from original recipe by 
Serves 6
  • 1½ lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pitted and quartered kalamata olives, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • pinch red pepper flakes, optional
  • ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley plus extra for garnish
  1. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a large dutch oven and set over medium heat, add the chicken. Sauté until just brown on all sides, about 4-6 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add more olive oil if necessary just to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions. Cook stirring often (still over medium heat) until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the salt, oregano and garlic. Cook, stirring often for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes, bay leaf, nutmeg, tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Add the chicken back to the pot and bring to a boil for two minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the quinoa, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.
  8. At this point you can carefully remove and shred the chicken (or at least break it up with a wooden spoon as I do because I'm lazy.)
  9. Stir in the olives, red pepper if using and 1/4 cup parsley.
  10. Taste for seasoning and serve with additional parsley.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marvelous Zuchinni Muffins. Tops like a sugar cookie, bottoms like a crumb cake.

It's amazing to me that just now, with Sawyer edging towards 17 months, I JUST now feel like I have control of my life again. And that said, now that he's in his second round of teething - that's even debatable most days.

Yet I feel kind of giddy that last Friday evening after a crazy workday, I managed to dream up this recipe and have it turn out as well as it did. It's so classic - I have no less than a couple hundred cookbooks and yet I couldn't find the trusty zuchinni bread recipe I made last. So I wrote down what I thought would work, set out the butter and eggs and went to bed, thinking I'd likely be tossing my experiment the next day. Quite the contrary - I don't think I'll make zuchinni bread or muffins from another recipe for a long time to come.

You can dress these up for winter with a hit of orange zest (or a grating of fresh ginger) or for summer with some lemon zest or just make them exactly as is. I do have to tell you, they are more of an adult muffin recipe as they have a nice mildly salty bite to them. Kris and I love a little salt in our sweets and in my opinion, the flavor balance here is perfect. But it gives them a more complex taste than most super sweet muffins - not that this bothered Sawyer Lee in the least. He LOVES them and to say he is picky is an understatement.

I hope you make them. The crust gets this amazing sugar cookie/oatmeal cookie texture while the center is dreamy and fluffy and soft. Eat them warm (micro the leftovers) with a pat of butter.

Marvelous Zuchinni Muffins
If you set out the butter and eggs the night before so you can literally whip this up in the morning in a half an hour. I was too lazy to get out my electric hand held mixer so I just whipped the butter an oil together by hand with a whisk. Totally worked but no doubt the hand held would be faster.

1 stick salted butter, room temp (leave out the night before morning of baking)
1/2 cup oil (I use Spectrum Canola/Coconut blend) though vegetable or canola would work
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt, 1/2 teaspoon)
2 eggs, room temp and beaten
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup grated zuchinni, pressed with a towel to remove excess moisture
1/2 cup chopped pecans
20-24 muffin liners, optional, or baking/nonstick spray

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and oil with a handheld mixer until smooth. Add in the sugar and cream again until well blended.

In a separate (smaller) bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold into the sugar/oil/butter mixture in three additions until combined. Stir in the eggs then vinegar, zuchinni and pecans.

Fill prepared muffin tins (either lined with muffin cups or sprayed with nonstick spray, number depending on size of your muffins tins but usually between 20-24) 3/4 the way full and bake at 375 for 15-17 minutes, just until tops are very light gold and cake tester comes out clean/with crumbs rather than wet batter when poked down the center.

Serve right away with butter or let cool completely and store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pork and Cauliflower Stir Fry for the Workin' Folk

Happy New Year Y'all. Mine has already started off with a bang. Work's crazy. Toddlers are crazy. Oh and all that holiday eating and drinking has left me feeling less than virtuous. Enter the stir fry. Chock full of veggies and about a million miles away from cheese-laden holiday casseroles. Not that there's anything wrong with cheese-laden casseroles, we just need to take a break from one another for a little while.

The beauty of this recipe is you can prep all the veggies and even the sauce in the morning and store them in the fridge until you're ready to make it. I bet you could even do this the night before.

Hope your new year is starting off wonderfully.

Pork and Cauliflower Stir Fry

Veg to prepare and store ahead (or use right away):
1 large shallot, sliced into thin rings
2 green onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped or cut into strips (I like one red and yellow)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (to cook faster)

Sauce (mix the following together and chill in a small airtight container or use right away):
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce (use low sodium if you are sensitive to salty food)
1/3 cup sake
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (I like brown rice)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Also needed:
Canola/peanut or oil of choice (I like Spectrum non GMO canola/coconut blend)
1 pound lean ground pork
1 cup rice combined with 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock in a medium stockpot with lid - bring to boil then reduce heat to low and let cook for 10-12 minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, optional

To make stir fry:
Add just enough oil of to lightly coat bottom and sides of a wok or large cast iron skillet, turning to help coat. Heat over medium/high heat and allow to warm through for one minute.

Add the ground pork and cook, stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Kill the heat as you transfer the pork to a holding plate or bowl and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and turn the heat back onto medium/high.

Add the veggies (do not season with salt if using regular soy sauce) and sauté, using your spoon to disperse them over as much of the surface area as you can to help sear them. Cook and stir for about 7-10 minutes until you have a good sear on the veg and the cauliflower seems mostly cooked.

Return the cooked pork into the pan and pour over the prepared sauce. Crank the heat up all the way and stir everything to coat in the sauce and let it reduce and bubble away for a couple of minutes.

Serve over the prepped rice.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or red pepper flakes if desired.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Homemade Gingersnaps with Lemon Zest Sugar

Merry Christmas you guys! This year has been so crazy that I hope for some calm or at least more organized chaos in the new year. That said I feel so blessed I shouldn't even complain about a darned thing. My family is healthy. My baby is almost 16 months and full of piss and vinegar. Tomorrow he will wake up and be present enough to realize it's Christmas! I can't wait.

In the meantime I leave you with a new favorite cookie recipe from the cookbook, Baked Occasions. It's a gingersnap recipe and I promise you it's the easiest, most unfussy yet delicious recipe I have ever made. No mixer required and the dough will sit on the counter without getting too soft or weird should you get caught up in other holiday (or life) nonsense.

In fact, it's the PERFECT recipe if you want to make cookies (or have to) but forgot to set out the butter to soften or thought ahead for any other fiddly bits that baking often requires of you. You might even have everything on hand to make them!

Merry Merry, sweet people.

Gingersnaps with Lemon Sugar
* I used large decorating sugar versus granules - colors are even more beautiful!

Lemon Sugar Coating:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon

Dough Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (or a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

How To:
For the lemon sugar, place the sugar 3/4 and lemon zest in a shallow bowl. Stir together, being sure to break up any clumps of zest and set aside.

For the dough, preheat the oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and canola oil until combined. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the molasses and whisk again until fully incorporated.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Use a heavy wooden spoon (and/or very clean hands) to fully combine everything well.

Use a small (1/2 inch) ice cream scoop (or a melon baller) to scoop small scoops of dough from the batter. Mix with your hands into rounded balls, roll them in the lemon sugar and set on the prepared cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until just crackled on top and beautifully spread out. Let set on sheet for a few seconds before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Will keep for 3-4 days in airtight container.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Corn, Sausage & Leek Chowder. A warm hug in a bowl.

If I was one of those organized people who hosted holiday open houses with Vince Guaraldi playing in every room and Mistletoe hanging above the doorway, I'd serve this soup. Comforting yet not too rich with its brothy stock laden with all kinds of textures, it has everything going for it. And that's before you add toppings!

You can use sweet sausage instead of spicy but I love a little heat against the sweet corn. And if you want it 'meatier' feel free to up the sausage to one pound. I find the ratio below makes this a perfect guys and gals soup though. The dudes feel like they're eating a hearty meal and us gals can still hold our head up and say we had soup for dinner. But if you're in the camp of 'mo sausage, mo betta' cheers to that.

Maybe one year I'll be organized enough to actually host that holiday party of my dreams. Until then I'm just happy knowing I already have the perfect recipe.

Corn, Sausage and Leek Soup
* This soup is great to make ahead and tastes amazing reheated.
* I can't stress rinsing your leeks thoroughly enough. This is best to do once you've halved them lengthwise so you can get the water in between the leaves where fine grit hides.
* Serves 6.

3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, loose
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 med sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, white and light green (not tough) parts only, well rinsed, halved lengthwise then chopped into thin strips crosswise
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
pinch pepper
10 oz frozen corn
32 oz low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Chopped Fresh cilantro, for serving
Tortilla chips, crushed up, for serving


In a large dutch oven, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat until cooked through and some bits have become nice and brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove sausage with a wooden spoon and set aside.

To the dutch oven, add 2 tablespoons salted butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Allow the butter to melt then add the onion. Cook stirring often for 3 minutes then add the leaks. Season with coriander, salt and pepper and continue cooking and stirring over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the leeks are super soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Stir in the corn, chicken stock, and cooked sausage and raise heat slightly so the soup comes to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low and stir in the half and half. Taste for seasoning. If it's not the most delicious thing you've ever eaten, it needs more salt so make gradual adjustments until it is.

Serve with chopped fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar and or/any other toppings you see fit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro


This is my new favorite thing to make and eat. I usually keep a bag of chopped onion in my freezer which makes this something I can put together in five minutes in the morning before work.

The following statement may officially make me the lamest person on the planet but remembering that dinner is already made when the work day comes to a close and I get that panicked feeling (baby needs a bath! I need a bath! What are we eating? Why is my underwear on the TV?) is the best. thing. ever. As they say a baby changes everything.

Two notes: I actually like sushi rice with this (rinsed before cooking) but any variety would work. Also this freezes beautifully even with the rice included.

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro

Ingredients/How to:

To a slow cooker, stir together and cook for 4 hours on low:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds thin cut boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut against the grant into thin 1/8 inch thick strips (you can often buy it already prepared this way or have your butcher do this)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika or curry (I prefer curry but both are great)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Big handful cilantro (no need to chop) plus extra chopped for garnish

After 4 hours, stir in the following and cook another 30 minutes while you make 2 cups of prepared rice:
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 (14 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

After 30 minutes, turn the cooker off and stir in:
1 tablespoon honey

Serve over rice and with additional cilantro for garnish.