Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Addictions and Inspirations

  We are addicted to Gordon Ramsey shows.  We can’t help it.  We don’t have cable, but we have Netflix and HuluPlus on our BluRay player (aren’t we cool?), so we have most shows available whenever we want them.  A month or two ago we got addicted to Master Chef.  We picked our favorites and watched episode until we had caught up with when they were airing.  Every Tuesday night we would get home from work and whatever else we were doing that day, look at each other and ask “What should we do tonight?”  The answer was always “Master Chef!”  Not long after we found the greatness of that show, another Gordon Ramsey show was added to the Hulu library: Hells Kitchen.  We started at season 1, episode 1, finishing each season really quickly.  We just started season 5 last night.  
  Watching all the dishes they make, we realized we don’t cook new things very often at all, and don’t know how to make a lot of things they serve.  In my last blog I mentioned I wanted to cook new things and that I was excited about not just cooking the same thing over and over again.  So, over the weekend I pulled out some of the cook books we got for our wedding and looked through them to find some good places to start.  Last night, I made chicken pot pie.  It was so good!  I over cooked the veggies a little, but other than that, it was amazing.  I saw a recipe for a chocolate tart that looked fantastic, and I had left over pie crust dough, so I decided to use it up.  That was one of the best dinners we’ve had!  
 Tonight I’m making a stuffed zucchini recipe I saw a few weeks ago.  I hope it’s as delicious as it sounded.  Being creative and adventurous with our cooking has made not going out to eat pretty easy! We went out once with our pastor and his wife to discuss music stuff, and wen went out for breakfast because we got out of Spanish class really early and we didn’t have any breakfast food at home.  
 Speaking of Spanish, I think that class will go pretty well.  Our teacher is from Brazil and has never taught Spanish before, although she minored in Spanish in college.  I think it will be pretty fun to learn from someone who has never taught it before.  We’ll all learn together.  She seems like a really fun teacher who will do everything she can to make it interesting.  So, I’m not NOT looking forward to it as much as I was. :)
 I know I promised my sourdough recipe, but I still haven’t made more bread since I had SO much left over from the farmers market.  So, if you don’t want to keep feeding your starter until I tell you, you should just put it in the fridge and I’ll get back to you.  I have to tell you about the chicken pot pie I made, because it was just that good. I don’t have any pictures because it’s basically all gone and I forgot to take pictures of the process.  Just imagine it being beautiful.
 To start off, I put two chicken breasts in some water to boil until they were cooked, since the recipe called for 1.5 cups shredded chicken.  Then I made my pie crust.  

Pie Crust
1.5 C flour
½ t Salt
5 T Cold butter
4 T Crisco
3-5 T Cold Water

Put the flour and salt in a bowl, cut in the butter and the crisco until the mixture is grainy. Don’t over mix the dough! If you leave larger chunks of butter/crisco (pea size) you’ll have a flakier crust. Slowly mix in Cold water starting with 3 T. Add more as needed until the dough holds together.  Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie
1 Can Chicken broth
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
½ C White wine
1 Potato, chopped
½ C Chopped Carrots (we used shredded because we had left-overs)
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped

1 Small Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
½ t Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pour the wine and about half the can of chicken broth into a skillet and bring to a simmer.  Put each chopped vegetable in the broth to simmer, starting with the thyme, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, potato and carrot as they will take the longest to cook (and you want the flavor of the thyme, garlic, and onion through the whole thing).  When the carrot and potato are getting close to being done, put the broccoli and squash in the skillet and simmer for a few more minutes. Add more chicken broth as needed. You need moisture, but not too much.  Once your veggies are cooked, add your chicken and your cream of chicken soup and stir together.  If you need it to be thicker, you can thicken up with just a little bit of flour.  Pour into a small casserole dish.  I used something similar to this:
Roll out one half of your pie crust dough on a floured surface. Cut out enough dough to go over your dish and about an each down each side.  I used the lid as a guide and cut it an inch bigger than the lid.  Place the dish in your oven and bake at 425 for about 35-45 minutes (until the crust is golden brown).  this will serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you all are. It would have served 3 of us.  
 Give it a shot sometime. It didn’t take very long to make and it was insanely delicious!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I have been quite the slacker about blogging lately, but not a slacker about much else.  A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks!  I'm currently enjoying my "Sunday" which hasn't been much of a restful day at all.   I got up this morning, made chocolate ice cream, drove to a friends' house and baked for 4 hours. I made chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle cookies, zucchini and banana nut bread, cheddar garlic, challah, sourdough, and crunchy wheat breads.  I've been sitting at the farmers market since 3 and have only sold 4 dozen cookies and one loaf of zucchini bread.  But I'm enjoying being outside in the cooler temps so I can't complain too much.

I got a job in the last 3 weeks.  I started working at Ernesto's, which is one of 3 mexican places in town.  I started shaddowing a waitress, and on Friday night I had 3 tables (under supervision, of course) and I made $13 in tips.  I'm having fun working again.  It is a good job.  It makes me think, is always changing, keeps me moving constantly, and I see people I know almost every shift.  

Sam and I have realized we eat out way too much, so we have decided to stop doing that.  This makes it so we are coming up with more creative dinner options a lot.  The other night I made pretty tasty, tender pork chops.  I'm also perfecting my stir fry skills.  I'm going to start going through cook books and trying new recipes.  I'm excited to try some new things and change things up a little more.  We went grocery shopping on Sunday and found cheap veggies on the "discounted for quick sale" cart.  We got 4 green peppers for 2 dollars, about 5 stalks of broccoli for 99 cents, 8 or 10 bananas for 99 cents, a bag of shredded carrots for 99 cents.  Today Sam got a head of lettuce for 79 cents.  Cheap produce makes cooking a lot more fun.  

Dad came a couple weeks ago and put in a gas line for us.  Due to more frustrations with the city inspector we still don't have gas running through the line, but I'm sure we  will soon.   I can't wait to bake in an oven again and be able to use more than one burner at a time.  I would say we have eaten very well on just one burner and a toaster oven for 3.5 months, though!  

Here's some other news:  Sam and I are taking Spanish this fall.  Sam gets free classes and free books since he works at the college and I get free classes since we are married.  So, we are taking it together.  I never fully graduated from CCU and all I'm missing are 6 credits of foreign language.  It will be good to be finished, but I'm not really looking forward to sitting in class again.  Oh well.  At least Sam will be sitting next to me!

It was incredibly dry through all of July and the first part of August.  It still felt humid to me, but it barely rained and it was at least 100 degrees most days.  My flower bed was looking really depressing, dry, and withered.  The other day it rained and rained and rained.  A few days later, I got a surprise in my flower bed in front of the house:
They are beautiful!  I haven't looked to find out what they are yet, so if you know, you should tell me.  I have about 7-10 stalks of these flowers with about 5 blooms on each stalk.  They are a lovely change to my dry, depressing flower bed.

On the topic of food, the exciting news is: I finally got my sourdough starter the consistency I want.  I've made 2 batches of sourdough now and it is BEAUTIFUL!  Today's is especially lovely.  I suppose it is good that none of it has sold so that I can eat it!  

I need to figure out how to explain how I make my sourdough so that I can give you the recipe.  For now, you should just get your sourdough starter going.    Put a cup of flour (preferably bread flour) in a bowl.  Get a cup of water and mix it in slowly (you won't use the whole cup) until you have a fairly stiff dough. 

 If you get it too soft, add some more flour and work it in until it is stiff.  It will soften as it ages. Put your starter in a glass jar or a plastic container.  Don't close the lid all the way (especially if you're using a glass jar!)  Let it sit on your counter for about 5 days.  It will start getting really bubbly and smell sour.  Once you get to this point, you'll need to take care of it.  Think of your starter as a pet.  Give it a name and treat it well!  Every day you will need to throw half away and feed it.  Put a 1/2 c of flour in a bowl, add the left half of the starter, and add enough water to make a stiff dough again.  Clean your jar or plastic container and put your starter back.  If you don't feed your starter for a few days, it will get moldy and gross.  You want to keep it at a tasty state of fermentation.  If you're going to be making bread and want some extra starter, don't throw as much away the day before and add more flour and water (make sure you put it in a big enough container over night as it will expand!).  If you're going to be busy or out of town for a few days, put your starter in the fridge after feeding it.  When you get back, set it back on the counter and feed it the day after you pull it out!  I'll write out my recipe for sourdough and tell you next time.  Your starters should be ready by then!

Well, I'm about tired of sitting out here.  I sold a couple loaves of banana nut bread and a loaf of challah a few seconds ago, though, so maybe I should stick it out for the last 30 minutes.  Anyway, that's what life has been like down here!  Until next time....