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Archive for the ‘Sunday Cooking Projects’ Category

A coworker of mine has goats, and she very generously brought in some milk for me last week. It sure felt like very precious cargo as I carried it home- what a treat! I probably would have cast some sidelong glances at someone who was lovingly cradling a jar of milk on the bus like I was. I mean, yeah, I looked like a weirdo.

Anyway, I decided to make yogurt. The idea of making yogurt and cheese is very appealing to me, but the thought of going to the grocery store and buying a half-gallon of milk and then making yogurt out of that has always seemed not that exciting. I don’t know. I just couldn’t get into it. So this was my chance!


To make yogurt, you heat your milk up to 120 degrees, add a couple tablespoons of already-made yogurt, and then keep the mixture at about 115-120 degrees for six to twelve hours.

In order to maintain the temperature, I put the jar full of hot milk in an insulated cooler with two jars full of water as hot as the tap gets. I did a little research online before launching this experiment about ways to do this, and the jars-of-hot-water-in-a-cooler method seemed like the simplest. So that’s what I decided to do, and I filled up the jars and tucked in the milk for the night and went to bed dreaming of delicious, creamy, homemade yogurt.

The next morning I scampered to the cooler and, wiping some excited spittle from my chin, cracked it open. And what did I find? A jar full of lukewarm milk! It was absolutely not yogurt, nor did it have a single yogurt-like characteristic. So, I refilled the jars with hot water and let it sit for the day, thinkin a little more time would do the trick. I got home from work really late that night and went to bed again, having by that point completely forgotten about the yogurt. The next morning, a solid 36 hours after starting the experiment, I finally gave up and put the milk back in the fridge.

I really, really didn’t want to just throw the milk away. I mean, it came from someone I know. So I turned it into a quiche (which was extra-delicious, by the way) and now I’m just really hoping I don’t get food poisoning. How’s that for an illustrious ending to the story?

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In honor of Bike Commute Week, I made some extra-special cookies for my office. The thing that made them extra-special was the guilt they were designed to strike into the heart of everyone who had driven to work that day. Hahaha! Just kidding! I would never, ever be that arrogant.

Ok, so can you see the spokes? And the chains? Yeah, they’re ridiculously charming. Here’s the recipe, which is just a basic sugar cookie recipe that I undoubtedly stole from someone else:

Cream together:
3/4 c shortening
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Combine:
2.25 c flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture. Chill one hour, roll ’em out, and then bake on ungreased sheets for 8-10 mins at 375 degrees. Let cool and then transfer to a rack. When they’re completely cool, you can decorate them.

Frosting recipe:
1/2 c shortening (or use half butter)
2 c powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5 oz cream
food coloring

For the record, I tried to make a little stencil in the shape of a whole bicycle, but that didn’t go too well. They do make cookie cutters in the shape of bicycles, but I didn’t have one, so I figured I could cut a bike shape out of cardboard and just cut each cookie around that. Well, I was mistaken. The dough did not hold together at all. So I went with just the wheel, because those are conveniently cookie-shaped.

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I had a loaf a sourdough flax-seed bread sitting on my shelf, getting a little harder and less palatable every day, so I decided to make it into bread pudding. Usually you can’t just slap the word “pudding” on the end of whatever you’ve got going stale in your kitchen and make it edible again, but you can with bread!

  1. Cube stale, gross bread until you’ve got 4 cups. Dump that into a 9×13 pan, and add a thinly sliced apple.
  2. Whip together 3 eggs, 3 cups milk, approx. 1/2 C maple syrup, 2 tsp vanilla extract, a dash of salt and a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Pour that mixture over the bread and eggs, and bake at 350 for 35-4 minutes.

I used skim milk and won’t be doing that again. There needs to be some fat or it takes a lot longer for the custard to set. But it did eventually, athough the whole thing is a little thinner than I’d like it to be. Luckily for me, it’s not unusual for my bread supply to get away from me, so I’ll have ample opportunity to perfect the recipe.

It’s extremely important that this be served warm with ice cream.

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My cooking life has two constant shaping factors, which are 1) my sourdough starter and 2) the ebb and flow of local veggies. The first matters because sourdough starter has to be “fed” once a week, which means that every week I produce more of it, which means that every week I either have to bake something with the excess or dump it, which I hate doing, so I try to use it. The second matters in different ways at different times of the year. Right now, it feels like spring is coming fast, so I want to use up all the produce I froze and canned and dried last summer. I want my chest freezer and my pantry to be empty before I start filling them up again.

The calzone project made excellent use of both resources, which makes it an astounding success in my eyes. I made sourdough pizza dough and stuffed it with formerly frozen local veggies and made sauce out of tomatoes I’d canned last year. Pretty much perfect.

I’ll include the dough recipe here, even though it won’t be of much use if you don’t have a sourdough starter:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups warm water, half a cup of fed sourdough starter, 1 package of dry yeast, and two cups of whole-wheat flour. Let stand one hour.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons each of salt and sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and about 2 cups all-purpose flour. Knead until smooth and let rise until doubled (2 hours) in a warm place.
  3. Punch down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces, roll ’em out, and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the filling, I used roasted red peppers, spinach, roasted eggplant, and a mixture of beans and summer squash. I know that last one is a little unconventional, but I’ve got a surplus and wanted to use them up. I think you can stuff calzones with basically anything. The only tip I can offer is that you want whatever you use to be relatively dry so the calzones don’t turn out to be a soggy mess. I drained everything really well and roasted excess moisture off the squash and beans.

To assemble, I mixed together some sauce (I just cooked down some tomatoes and added a cube or two of frozen pesto for this) and ricotta and put a dollop of that on one half of each round of dough, and then mixed and matched the veggies and topped the whole shebang with some grated mozzarella. Then I moistened the edge of the dough with some water, folded it over the top, and crimped the edge with a fork.

Bake at 450 for 20 mins on a baking sheet that’s been oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal, and cool them on a rack so they don’t get soggy.

My assembly technique may leave something to be desired, since each calzone had its own, um, wonderfully unique shape, but I was happy with them. And that’s a really good thing, since I made sixteen of them and ate about two a day for the last week. It was pretty intense.

 

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Well, here is very last butternut squash in my stash. Or should I say, there it was? It’s gone, gone, gone now.

I guess it’s possible that another butternut squash will find its way into my hands before next fall, and I do have some frozen squash soup and the like, but this is the last squash remaining from the pile I had squirreled away for the winter. Contemplating the consumption of this final squash felt pretty momentous… and then I decided to use it as a pizza topping. Maybe not the most dignified way to go out, but so it goes.

Here’s the recipe I used for the dough, more or less:

Stir together and let sit until bubbly:
2 C warm water
2 tbs honey
3 tsp active dry yeast

Whisk in 5-6 cups of flour and 3 tsp salt. I used 3-4 cups whole wheat, and the rest was white.

When you can’t whisk anymore, knead it all together for a few minutes, and then cover and let it rise in a warm place for an hour or so. Then divide it in two and flatten it out on greased cookie sheets. I sprinkled cornmeal on the cookie sheets too.

For the topping, I did a few different things. (more…)

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I really like squash- I do! It’s sweet, and beautiful, and creamy, and super adaptable. But by this time of year, it has to be pretty special for it to be appetizing because I am burned out on baked squash with butter and salt and pepper. It’s been done- I won’t be excited about that until next November at least.

So I made a bunch of butternut squash ravioli a little while ago and popped them in the freezer, so now I can cook them up really easily and top them with some pesto (also from the freezer) and goat cheese and it is delicious. Sometimes I add some cashews, but only if I’m feeling fancy. Either way, it feels like a huge treat every time. (more…)

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I love your earthy, sweet, satisfying flavor; your ostentatious greens that stand tall and proud like a peacock’s feathers; your texture when cooked – heavy yet smooth; the sultry red juices that stain my fingers, dish towels, counter tops and table runners; the way your skin slips off easily in my fingers after an hour in the oven, when I run you under cold water and the tough outer layer opens like a little beet jacket, revealing the tender red flesh beneath.(Dan Savage would say that it’s wrong wrong wrong, this girl-beet love, because beets are incapable of giving consent. But Dan Savage is an idiot).

I just finished an early dinner of four small beets. I had planned to simply cook the beets and stow them in the fridge for tomorrow, but once they were sitting on the plate in front of me, peeled and cooked, I just couldn’t resist slicing them, and once they were sliced, well, they just seemed so inviting and warm and delicious – I couldn’t help myself. I’m going a little beet-crazy.
Last night I made orange-glazed beets as part of an extremely labor-intensive dinner that included kale with tahini sauce, asparagus + spinach dip, curried carrot sunflower seed dip, and a vegetable tagine. I love beets on their own – I wrap them in foil, stick them in the oven (400 degrees) for an hour, and then sexily undress them as described above. But my love for beets knows no boundaries, and so I thought dressing them up with a bit of orange glaze sounded like a great idea. The process was kind of messy and probably unnecessarily involved, but that kind of added to the fun. (more…)

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