Friday, December 5, 2008

Sandwich bread success

I've been on a quest for a great sandwich bread recipe for my Zojirushi. Mark and I love our Zojirushi. It was totally worth the investment. He's usually the bread baker in the house. We(he) regularly make(s) dough for dinner rolls and pizza dough. We've made naan, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread, jam, pretzels, and more. Our issues with sandwhich bread include over-baked, too-dense, and sometimes even bland loaves. I prefer wheat bread which is more challenging in the breadmaker. Before picking up Sissy from school and Bud from the bustop, I started a loaf in the breadmaker. It was a white bread using a recipe from Annie's Eats and a custom bread cycle recommended by Berlin's Whimsy. Wow, these recommendations really delivered. My mother enjoyed the bread with butter and strawberry preserves. Sissy devoured it with butter. Bud enjoyed it plain. They couldn't get enough. I finally had to cut them off.

With a successful loaf under my belt, I'm on a mission to make a good loaf of wheat sandwich bread. I have vital wheat gluten to try, but dough enhancer has been more elusive. I checked Whole Foods, Ellwood Thompson's, and Good Foods Grocery. Good Foods used to carry it. Used to. Bah. A little research online and I was ready to fork over the money to have some shipped. Then, I stumbled across a recipe for Ellen's Bread Dough Enhancer. I think I've found the ingredients locally. I need to double check the diastatic malt powder. I'll leave out the gelatin for sure. More on this one later...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Under Pressure

Years ago, a friend originally from France cooked dinner for us one evening in a pressure cooker. I was intrigued at how quick and tasty the meal was. A also have a friend from India who extolled the efficiency and effectiveness of the pressure cooker (this is the same friend who sold me on the rice cooker). I've read about them ever since.

I went into Macy's on Black Friday with Mark with the intention of picking up some work shirts for him using the $10 off $25 purchase. We picked up the shirts and walked through housewares. There it sat in a green box. A shiny, basic pressure cooker for $20. It was mine. This past week, I've been searching online for pressure cooking recipes. I found Miss Vickie's. A treasure trove of information about pressure cooking.

Two nights ago I soaked a pound of black beans overnight. Yesterday, I sauteed some chopped onion in the bottom of the pressure cooker, tossed in the beans, and poured in six cups of water. After heating up on the burner for a few minutes, steam started to stream out. I set a timer for 12 minutes. I pulled the cooker to a cool burner after the timer went off, choosing the "natural release" option. When I opened the cooker, I had 6 cups of tasty, cooked black beans in approximately 20 minutes instead of 2 hours. The beans were well cooked and did not get mushy. My mom was over so she taste tested for me. Two thumbs up. Sissy asked for some, too. "Yum." I transferred them over to fridge and freezer storage. I now have fresh cooked black beans at the ready. I think I'll try chick peas today. I'm working my way through the bean category before I attempt a meal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Little man has a nickname. Our oldest is Bud. We started using "Bud" when he was itty bitty. Sissy was "Sissy" before she came home from the hospital. Little man's name came a little later. Sure we called him Little Man, but it wasn't until last week that his the new nickname stuck. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we had Family Dedication at church. A gentleman from church came to find us after the service and asked how we chose Little Man's name. He had a friend who had passed 30 years earlier with the same name who went by "Butch". My husband explained that the middle name was my maiden name and that all of our children share the same middle name. It was very interesting. Just the name of our son triggered fond memories for this man. I thought, "hmmm... Butch..." I pondered it for a day or two. No, I wasn't feeling it. But, Mark started calling Little Man "Awesome". Yes, a la Captain Awesome on "Chuck". And it's sticking. So now our entourage is Bud, Sissy, and Awesome. For now anyways.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Upside Down Pizza Pie

Bud liked it and asked to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Sissy wouldn't try it. I thought it was great. Mark is working late so we'll get his verdict later.

Upside-Down Pizza Pie

  • 1 bag of crumbles
  • 15 oz of Newman's Own Tomato and Basil Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • drop biscuits

Recipe for drop biscuits:
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter -- softened
1/4 cup milk -- or more if needed
Measure flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add butter to bowl and rub butter into flour with a fork or pastry blender. Add milk to make a thick batter, stirring only until dough sticks together.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat up the crumbles with the sauce in a skillet. If you prefer ground beef, brown 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef then add sauce and heat through. Pour crumbles and sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9" x 13" casserole. Spread cheese evenly across the mixture. Evenly space the drop biscuits over the mixture and cheese. Bake, uncovered for about 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles.

Menu Plan Monday

Mark and I sat down last night and talked about the meals for the week. We've been threatening to do this for a long time and finally followed through. I have an overwhelming need to bring order to our home before I go back to work this January. And yes, a household planner is in the works.

mac n cheese
upside down pizza pie
wild card
spaghetti and "meat"balls
corn bread casserole

I play volleyball on Tuesdays so it was suggested that dinner be an easy one since Mark will be alone with all three kids.
The mac n cheese is a favorite around here and goes together quick in the rice cooker. Wednesday is church night so we generally do something quick and just me and the kids. The pizza is Mark's specialty. We are all very spoiled by his home made pizza. Pizza almost any where else is just disappointing. Thanks to Trader Joe's, the kids have discovered meatballs. Lucky for me, they like the veggie meatballs just as well as the others. I use crumbles for anything that calls for ground beef. Thursday, Mark is alone with the 2 older children. I will be headed over to my friend's house for some amazing Indian food with other friends. Awesome will be with me.

Head on over to Org Junkie for more of Menu Plan Monday.