Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tasty Loaves for Loafers

"What's that mama?" asked Big Dog.
"That's bread dough." I replied.
"Bread doesn't come from dough!" he laughed. Guess I've been slacking too much on my bread baking lately. Damn.

A friend of mine recently discovered that I am a fellow cook/baker and pointed me in the direction of a new bread cookbook. When she told me the name was "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" I laughed, thinking it was absurd, but she held her ground and convinced me to try it.

The idea behind the cookbook is making fresh bread with less than 5 minutes hands on time per day. The dough is quickly mixed, let to rest then refrigerated. Each batch of dough makes about 4 loaves, so you can bake on demand over the next 7-14 days. When you are ready for bread, you form your loaf, let it rest while you heat your oven and bake it. Sounds too simple to be true, but my few experiments from this book have been delicious.

My first loaf was the Master Dough recipe, although I had a few changes due to my supplies on hand, I ended up with a very tasty loaf with a delicious crispy crust. The crumb wasn't quite right, so I tried again and the second loaf was much better. After a mishap that left my bucket of dough out on the counter for many hours, I decided to ditch the dough and start fresh.

My next attempt was a Limpa bread, one of my favorite breads of all time. This light colored Swedish rye bread is flavored with orange peel, anise seed and cardamom. I baked my first loaf last night and had a thick slice this morning with my coffee. Delicious. Chewy crust, fragrant interior and a perfect bakery fresh texture. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Interested in learning more? Check out their website. The authors are very active answering questions, offering advice and troubleshooting the recipes. If they started a cult, this would be one I would be tempted to join.

But Real Boys DO Eat Quiche

And they love it. I think of it as one of my lazy mom meals and frequently make this when I am wiped out from a hard day at the office. A nice plus to this recipe is that it is tasty and "fancy" enough that I can serve it to guests and not look like a total slacker.
I can't make a pie crust to save my life, somehow I am missing that gene, but there are some damn good store bought options out there. My personal favorite is a Whole Wheat Organic pie crust I found in the freezer department at PCC, but any pie shell will work. In a pinch, I use the Marie Callender's pie shells since they don't contain lard, but they lack the nutty goodness and Alpha mom appeal of the whole wheat version. The kids don't seem to mind the difference, but nutritionally the whole grain version is better, and I prefer it.

My personal recipe couldn't be easier:
2 frozen pie shells (or home made crusts, unbaked- if you are an overachiever)
1 8 oz package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 cage-free large eggs
4 cups milk (whole, low fat or even fat free)
3-4 cups chopped broccoli florettes or 1 package frozen broccoli

Preheat oven to 350.
In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and milk with a fork. Add salt and pepper if you like, or leave it and let people add it at the table.
Put half of the cheese in the bottom of each pie shell. Top cheese with the broccoli. Pour half of the egg/milk mixture in each shell.
Place both uncooked quiches on a baking sheet and place in on the middle rack of the oven. bake for about 40 minutes or until the top of the quiche is slightly domed and doesn't jiggle when the pan is wiggled. Start checking on this about 30 minutes, there is nothing less tasty than an overcooked quiche.
When the quiche is done cooking, let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

My boys love this recipe and ask for it regularly. Cold quiche makes a great lunch entree so I have taken to making two at a time. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make a single quiche, but you'll kick yourself after it is eaten up and you want one more slice for lunch so I don't recommend it.
I like to serve this with cut up fruit or a salad, but in a pinch, it can be a stand-alone meal.

Feeding the Tiny Dictators

I'm pretty lucky, my kids will eat most anything. But the challenge at our house hasn't really been getting food into they boys. For me it is getting food in front of the boys before 9pm.

I work full time and after getting home with Big Dog, relaxing for a beat then heading off to the kitchen, I am always struggling to get home made, healthy and tasty food on the table before bedtime. I like to cook, and I am no stranger to kitchen experimentation, so I've decided to keep track of the culinary successes and failures at our house here on this spankin' new blog.

The recipes I post will try to balance a few factors:
1. ease of preparation- while I am not adverse to complex recipes, most week night meals need to be easy for a nearly brain dead mama to prepare

2. general deliciousness- I try not to cater to the preconceptions about what kids like, but I also don't force the kids to eat anything they have tasted and rejected. I also require that food served in my house be tasty to adults. I won't eat processed dreck just because the kids like it. I like variety, not only in ingredients but in the resulting flavors.

3. nutritional soundness- Occasionally I will commit some other kind of sin against the wisdom of a balanced diet and let this one slide, but my general goal is to create meals that meet the nutritional demands of growing kids while managing the nutritional needs to keep my growing ass in check.

4. faceless- When my friend used to travel abroad, he had a hard time communicating his vegetarian preference. He finally simplified his questions to ask "Did it have a face?" when offered food. I use this term here to express my preference for vegetarian options. Generally my meals are vegetarian because I am a "Seattle Vegetarian". From what I've been told, this classification means I eat some fish, but no other farm friends. While the boys do eat meat, I don't usually cook it, so don't look for any fantastic beef recipes here, although you might find a good take on salmon from time to time.

5. shopping friendly- I like to buy fresh local produce, a variety of herbs and spices and explore new ingredients. What I don't like is to have to hit 5 specialty grocery stores just to get all of the required ingredients for one meal. That doesn't mean I won't do it from time to time, but those meals are not as high on my list of servables as those that don't require a day off and a tank of gas to prepare.

And with those goals in mind, I set forth to populate this blog with the tasty things we eat at the Dog house. Enjoy!