Archive for October, 2011

October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Projects

Fall is officially here and I am loving it! Fall means beautiful days, cool nights, a chance for snow, and pumpkins! I will be the first to admit that I still love to carve pumpkins, only now I love to cook with them as well. Pumpkin seeds are such a yummy way to use something that most people throw away. It is also so easy! When you head out to pick up some pumpkins this year, remember to grab a baking pumpkin as well to get a jump start on Thanksgiving preparation. We got these beauties at Anderson’s farms…if you haven’t been to their premier corn maze…check it out.

Here are a couple easy projects for a fall evening. What else do you do to celebrate the cooler weather?

Mary & Kelly

Pumpkin Puree

Cut a hole in the top of your baking pumpkin to remove the stem and then cut in half.

Remove the seeds and put them in a bowl of salt water to brine; set aside.

Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on a lined baking sheet. If you don’t want the bottom to brown, add a little water in the bottom of the pan, which will help it steam, not roast.

Bake the pumpkin at 350° for 30 minutes-1 hour (depending on size and the thickness of the flesh) until the flesh is tender.

Scoop the flesh out of the shell and allow to cool. At this point, if you want to use in casseroles, soups, stews or stir fries. Go for it. Otherwise…

You can save this in the refrigerator for up to a week.

When you are ready, place the flesh in a blender or food processor (adding a little water if necessary) and blend until smooth. The food processor will puree it without water, so choose depending on your ultimate use.

Place the puree in a container and place a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the puree cover with a lid and freeze.

You can use as a replacement for canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving. Don’t be afraid! It will look a lot more orange than canned product. With spices, it’ll bake up looking normal in a pumpkin pie.

A homemade and delicious alternative!

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Remove pumpkin seeds from any pumpkin and place in salty water to brine; allow to soak 2 hours-overnight. Separate the seeds should from the goo.

Strain out the seeds and place in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Season generously with salt and seasoning salt (we like Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic seasoning, if you haven’t tried it, go get some immediately!) If you like them spicy, you can add a little extra chili powder to the mix. If you want something sweet, add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar to the mix.

Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until dried out. Turn off the oven and let dry till cool. This adds something. I like it dry and crunchy.

Put in a container on the counter for the fall holidays or serve with soup, salad … everything!

October 21, 2011

Happy Friday!

I hope you all have fabulous plans for the weekend! I will be recovering from last weekend’s CA trip (where Ali took this beauty) for my cousin’s wedding and gearing up for my trip to FL next weekend for a sorority sister’s wedding. Enjoy the lovely fall weather!!


October 20, 2011

Lemon Herb Chicken

There are few things I love more than lemon on chicken. The acid just imparts great flavor and tenderness to something that can end up bland. There are a lot of ways to make lemony chicken; remember Chicken Piccata? Sometimes when it comes to chicken, I just want something easy to throw together that I can reuse for various meals throughout the week. One day I had some leftover salad dressing that I used as a marinade with some fresh herbs; it was surprisingly good and I decided to recreate it with the addition of some wine. This is seriously so easy and you can have it ready very quickly. Just a quick bath in the marinade and throw it on the grill, not to mention it is really healthy. This is a staple that I will be keeping around!

P.S. We have been buying the “thin sliced” chicken breasts because they are closer to a regular serving size than most of the chicken breasts you see in the market now. Organic seems to be better as well. You do have to be careful not to overcook the thin ones because they dry out. Just 2-3 minutes per side is good.


Lemon Herb Chicken

1 Package Thin Sliced Chicken Breasts

Juice of 2 Lemons

¼ Cup White Wine

¼ Cup Olive Oil

½ T Dijon Mustard

2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed

Handful of Fresh Herbs, roughly chopped (anything available that you like ie- rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley)

Salt & Pepper

1 T Butter

Add the lemon juice, wine and mustard to a bowl large enough to accommodate the chicken.

Pour the olive oil in a steady stream whisking continuously to emulsify.

Add the garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper; stir to combine. Add the chicken and marinate for 20 minutes to an hour.

Heat the grill to high heat while the chicken marinates. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side.

You can serve as is or take the leftover marinade and add it to a pan straining out any big pieces of garlic or herbs (adding a ¼ to ½ cup more wine if you need more volume) and bring to a boil.

Add butter and whisk until reduced and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper.

Top the chicken with the sauce and serve.

October 12, 2011

Sausage Sandwiches with Peppers and Onions

So you made your lovely French bread…today I want to share something that we make with that wonderful bread! These sandwiches are incredibly simple and flavorful This is something you can prep ahead of time and make even on a weekday. We used a spicy sausage (habanero pork sausage from our local Whole Foods) which was a nice complement to the sweet peppers. An addition of some tomato adds some depth; they basically disintegrate and create a wonderful sauce. It’s a really great dish for fall; hearty without being heavy. Yum! What do you think??


Sausage Sandwiches with Peppers and Onions

3 Bell Peppers (Assorted Colors)

1 Large Onion

1 Tomato

1 Pound pork sausage

1 T Worcestershire Sauce

½ C Red Wine

1 T Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

1 baguette

Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Slice the peppers and onions lengthwise, keeping the onions separate.

Slice the sausages on the diagonal using a good knife (putting the sausages in the freezer for a half an hour before you slice them will help.)

Preheat the oven to 350° and place the bread in the oven whole. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes.

Move the sausage to the outside of the pan, then add the onions to the center of the pan.

Allow the onions to soften, about 2 minutes, then add the peppers and toss the ingredients together.

Allow to cook about 1-2 minutes before adding the tomatoes and the liquid ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook to reduce the sauce by half.

Slice the bread in half lengthwise and cut into sandwich sized pieces. Serve the sausage and pepper mixture on the open bread making sure to spoon some sauce on top. Garnish with some grated parmesan cheese.


PS. Don’t worry if there are leftovers, we will show you a way to use them coming up!!

October 6, 2011

Baking Bread Part 2: French Bread

Bread is one of those things that I remember my mom making at young age. I think dough is so cool; it’s alive and always changing. Most people talk about how baking is an exact science but we disagree, dough is really forgiving. As long as you know the steps, you can make adjustments if need be. In fact, we have found that our bread is different based on the humidity, heat, etc. so you need to be ready to make a few changes. Eventually, you will start to know the feel of different kinds of dough. This one is a great all purpose bread that we make a lot. It is great with soups, salads, and especially for sopping up great sauces like: Chicken Piccata or Chicken Cacciatore Stew! You might notice that these photos are different from the last time we featured this bread, like I said, it is ALWAYS different. Just play with it and have fun! Yesterday we shared with you the Pâte Fermentée. That is where this recipe begins. It seems like a lot of steps, but there is a lot of down time and I promise it is worth it! I have to stress again, that if you are serious about baking bread, please please please, pick up Peter Reinhart’s books. We have several and all are excellent. Enjoy!!


French Bread

Courtesy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Makes 3 baguettes

3 cups (16 ounces) pâte fermentée

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, at room temperature

Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

Remove the pâte fermentée from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

Stir together the flours, salt, yeast and pâte fermentée pieces
in the bowl of the electric mixer. Add ¾ cup of the water, with the paddle attachment until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball, about 1 minute. Adjust the flour or water according to need so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (He says it’s better to err on the sticky side since it is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter to knead by hand for about 10 minutes or knead in a mixer with the dough hook for about 6 minutes or till the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky and all the pâte fermentée is evenly distributed. The internal temp should be 77-81 degrees F.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 hours or until it doubles in size its original size. If it doubles before 2 hours have elapsed, knead it lightly to degas and let it rise again, covered until it doubles from the original size.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured counter.

For baguettes, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Again, take care to degas the dough as little as possible. Form the pieces into baguettes. (Check this video out for the technique.)

Proof at room temperature for 45-75 minutes, or until the loaves have grown to about 1 ½ times their original size.

They should be slightly springy when poked with a finger.

Prepare the oven for hearth baking as in this video. You will need a baking stone (unless using the pan), a steaming pan preheated with the oven, and a spray bottle.

Generously dust a peel, the back of a sheet pan, or a baguette pan (as shown) with semolina flour or cornmeal (or baking parchment as we do) and gently transfer the baguettes to the pan or peel. Score the baguettes using a serrated knife.

Transfer the baguettes to the baking stone or bake directly on the pan. Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the oven door.

After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals.

After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking.

Continue baking until the loaves are golden brown and register at least 205°F in their center, anywhere from 10-20 additional minutes, depending on your oven and how thin your baguettes are.

If they seem to be getting too dark but are not hot enough internally, lower the oven setting to 350°F (or turn it off) and continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

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October 5, 2011

Baking Bread Part 1: Pâte Fermentée

I started baking bread when I was 14, when I became a vegetarian. I’ve gone on and off with baking over the last 40 years. Sometimes I thought there wasn’t time. But there CAN be time if you break it up. I never got a bread machine == that’s not because I am a purist; whatever helps you get *fresh* bread on the table is great. My Kitchenaid works fine for me. The main reason I don’t usually do it by hand is because it seems like less to clean up, but I’m not really sure if it’s true.

One day this week, we made bread on a work day. Here’s how it was possible. I made up this starter one day and kept it in the fridge. Another day at lunch I mixed up the dough. Luckily, Kelly came home and shaped it up to rise and we baked it that night. If you do things in steps, it feels much easier. I promise you too can do it!

Another way (maybe less crazy) might be to make the pre-ferment on one weekend and make the bread the next weekend. You can freeze it.

The main thing is– people make a lot about how hard it is, how long it takes and how exact you have to be. I find bread to be super forgiving and resilient. So go ahead and give it a try and get some hot *fresh* bread on the table—with real butter, of course.


For the Pre-Ferment (Pâte Fermentée):

This recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Peter Reinhardt is my dough guru. Except I only used the directions for the Kitchenaid. That’s what I do.

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, at room temperature

  1. Use a kitchen scale (a measuring cup works too, but the scale is more accurate) to measure your dry ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.

  1. Stir together the flours, salt and yeast
    in the bowl of the electric mixer. Add ¾ cup of the water, with the paddle attachment until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball. Adjust the flour or water according to need so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (He says it’s better to err on the sticky side).

  1. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter, knead for 4-6 minutes. Or knead in mixer with the dough hook for about 4 minutes or till the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. The internal temp should be 77-81 degrees F.

  1. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour or until it swells to 1 ½ times its original size.

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl, Knead lightly to de-gas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This is what you are going for…you will use this as starter for your fabulous bread!

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!

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October 1, 2011

La Chamba Columbian Pottery

Let me introduce you to La Chamba Columbian Pottery!

There has been some interest in the pot we pictured in the Chicken Cacciatore post. This amazing pot was a gift from our friend Susie. She has the best interior design in Aspen, CO. If you need a referral, let me know.

I’ve never seen anyone else use them, but I’ve always admired the set at her home. On a recent visit I had a chance to cook with them myself. I baked some beets which cooked perfectly. At home they never seem to cook evenly. We also cooked the previously posted summer shrimp. They were so great. They cook more evenly than anything I’ve ever used. They can be used directly over flame. It takes a little longer to warm them up but once warmed the heat stays warm and even.

There are pots and frying pans.

La Chamba Columbian Pottery

Here’s a quote from the site:

Black clay Chamba cookware is well-known throughout Colombia and is used in restaurants and homes for preparing and serving traditional dishes (such as a Ajiaco ). Its origins can be traced back at least 700 years to vases and pitchers found in pre-Columbian archaeological sites. It is still made in the traditional manner, by families in the village of La Chamba, on the banks of the Magdalena River in Central Colombia. Each piece is hand-crafted using local clays, burnished by hand and fired on-site. The painstaking process and natural materials give the dishes an authentic, distinctive and elegant look, yet Chamba is strong enough to use on the stovetop, oven or microwave. Chamba cookware heats evenly and is renowned for retaining heat.

They’re quite inexpensive compared to most cookware and they’re beautiful…as long as you like black!


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