Feb
27

The First Meal of the Day for Those Who Win, or Want To

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As a child, breakfast usually consisted of cold cereal–the more sugary the better. I had a close personal relationship with Tony the Tiger, and the chocolate milk that came from Cocoa Puffs was a favorite. Oh we had hot cereal, bacon and eggs, pancakes, and french toast sometimes, but it was usually on the weekends and often made by dad for dinner.

Though it wasn’t super sweet (though topping with tons of sugar made it so), one of my favorite cereals was and continues to be Wheaties. You know, the “Breakfast of Champions.” So it seemed obvious that after flaking my own rolled oats and cracking my wheat for my version of Cream of Wheat, the next logical step was to make my own Wheaties.

So why make my own when Wheaties, or a store version of it, is probably available on every store shelf in the United States? Have you looked at the price of cereal lately? A box of Wheaties at the village market is almost $4. And it’s not even the big box. Sure, it’s probably less expensive at other stores, but for many, this store is their only option.

Then there’s my quest to know what’s in all my food. Sure, I can read the label on the Wheaties box. There are about 18 ingredients in commercial Wheaties. The main ones are whole wheat grain, sugar, salt, corn syrup and preservatives. Vitamins and minerals follow. Oh, there’s a warning that it may contain almond ingredients. Color me weird, but I thought it was supposed to be wheat and maybe a sweetener.

And therefore I began my quest to make my own. Since I grind my own wheat for flour, I had wheat berries. And because I flake my own oats for oatmeal, I have a flaker. My first thought was to run some berries through the flaker. It seemed like a good idea, but in practice, not so good.

Then I did some research and found most wheat flake cereals were made using whole wheat flour. Well, again no problem. Most call for brown sugar. No problem; I make my own. I gathered my four ingredients—flour, table salt, water, and light brown sugar—sifted the dry ingredients and added water. The batter is very thin, but that’s what you want. Then pour the batter onto a parchment lined or lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Bake until crisp, let cool, then break into flakes.

Some may look "well done," but they aren't. They tasted great.

Some may look “well done,” but they aren’t. They tasted great.

It really is that easy. The only problem was of my own making. I wanted to bake them in my counter oven, and the pan I used was smallish. My layer of batter was a bit too thick. I took it out when part of it was done, let cool, and broke off the crisp parts, I flipped over the rest and let it bake a while longer. It was fine then. Next time, I’ll use the regular oven and a bigger pan. As long as you get a thin layer, and I mean really thin, it doesn’t have to cover the pan completely.

HPIM1550Besides making a great bowl of cereal, the flakes make a pretty good snack on their own.

Like the commercial versions, my wheat flakes include salt and sweetener. But when I make my own, I can use the kinds and amounts I want.

I encourage you to try making your own whole wheat flakes. Here’s my recipe. I’m going to try rye, too. If you don’t grind your own wheat (and I suggest you try), you can use store-bought flour. If you prefer dark brown sugar, use it. If you’d rather not include salt, leave it out. Make them your own.

 

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Feb
16

Baking with Miss Marple

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The fourth International Bake Bread Weekend has come and gone. I was happy to hear so many were baking in celebration. As for me, it’s a chance to celebrate something I love to do.

This year I decided to break in a new sourdough starter in honor of IBBW. Most of my starters I make myself using different combinations of flour and liquid. But I was intrigued by one of the dehydrated starters Jane Campbell has available on her Fermenters Kitchen site. I ordered the Tuscan starter, which she obtained from a friend who went to Italy. I must admit it was a hard decision, and I’m sure I’ll be back for more.

The starter arrives dehydrated. To activate, you feed it flour and water twice a day, making sure to stir vigorously each time. I followed directions (don’t laugh) but was beginning to get discouraged after about 4 days. Patience is not one of my virtues. I could see very tiny bubbles (cue Don Ho) when I looked at the side of the jar, but I was used to really big bubbles. There were some larger bubbles on top, though. I let it go a few more days, but didn’t see much bubble increase, though it certainly grew after feedings. Some people say to do a float test to see if your starter is ready. I’ve never had a starter float, though they’ve made great bread. Since I had my doubts about its viability, I decided to try the float test. Eureka, it floated! So on day 8, I made bread.

Incidentally, Jane says it takes 5-8 days before being ready to bake with it, so mine–Miss Marple–certainly came within that window. But remember, patience and I are not necessarily on a first-name basis.

Miss Marple joins the starter line-up

Miss Marple joins the starter line-up

Using Jane’s recipe for a small loaf of bread (and it is small), which I obtained in one of her Facebook groups, I put Miss Marple to work. She has the tang many expect from sourdough, but it’s not a smack-you-in-the-face type of tang. I can see using it often. Jane’s friend says it makes a great pizza dough, so I’ll have to try that, too.

There’s disagreement about whether starters from another location maintain that uniqueness or, after some time, take on the characteristics of the place they’re used. It’s not that important to me. If you’re not comfortable making your own starter or want to experiment, I encourage you to take a look at what Jane has available.

Thanks for participating in the fourth IBBW. The fifth annual will be

February 13-14, 2016

See you then!

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Feb
05

It’s Almost that Time of Year

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Oh yes, it’s almost that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about spring or planting my garden. Or my birthday. Or Thanksgiving. And thought it falls on February 14, it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day. No, it’s the

4th Annual International Bake Bread Weekend!

This year’s celebration of bread bakery falls on February 14-15. It’s a time to pay homage to home-baked breads of all forms. Whether you use your hands, a mixer, a bread machine, or any combination, the important thing is to BAKE BREAD. Make it for yourself, for others. Teach someone to bake bread. And most important, have fun.

On average, I bake bread once or twice a week. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know my go-to bread is Jim Lahey’s basic no-knead recipe. You can find it here. In fact, some wonder if I can make any other type of bread. Short answer: yes. But I like his bread, it’s easy to make, and it’s a great canvas to changing it up from time to time.

Two shall become one

Two shall become one

I made the bread again last night. This time I swapped out 1 cup bread flour for home-milled hard winter wheat. Instead of all water, I used equal parts water and whey from cheesemaking. I usually bake in a loaf pan, and last night was no different. But I’ve seen loaves consisting of three smaller ones melding together in one pan. I decided to try that, but I only did two mini loaves.

Yikes! My bread has a better waist than I.

Yikes! My bread has a better waist than I.

 When I cut into it, I was definitely not disappointed.

Oh so worth the wait!

Oh so worth the wait!

I don’t like a hard crust, and this one is perfect. It also has a very tender crumb.

Bulk fermentation was about 22 hours. After shaping, I let the loaf proof for about 3 hours. Incidentally, the last few loaves have proofed overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, I let them proof at room temperature before baking, and the results have been excellent. This time, however, I went back to proofing and baking the same day.

As for what I’m going to do for International Bake Bread Weekend, I’m not sure. Right now I’m leaning toward a sourdough. I have a couple new starters I want to try. But then I’ve been wanting to make cinnamon rolls. Oh well, I’ve got time to make up my mind. And change it a few times. Whatever it is, I’ll have fun.

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Jan
20

Powder Me This, Powder Me That

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I’ve blogged about my love of onions, especially raw onions. It seems to me I am in the minority when it comes to eating raw onions. Almost everyone else loves them cooked–especially caramelized. Well, I have a confession. Unless it’s in French onion soup, I do not like caramelized onions. Call me weird if you want, but that’s just the way it is.

Imagine how I feel, then, when I keep seeing recipes using caramelized onions. Or shows on the Food Network that extol the flavor of them on sandwiches, including one of my favorites, hamburgers.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to try to find a way I liked caramelized onions. And I did. Powder. Why not? I’ve already made onion powder and smoked onion powder. Caramelized onion powder seemed like the next logical step.

I took 6 small to medium onions and sliced them thinly. I used my food processor to make sure I got a consistent thickness. Then I threw them in the Crock Pot with 8 tablespoons of butter and let it go until they were brown and soft.

HPIM1524On the top right you’ll see where it looks like some burned. Okay, they did. The onions didn’t have enough butter at first.

They took about 12 hours on low, stirring occasionally, to get to this consistency. Slow cooker temperatures vary, of course. And you can cook on the stove in a heavy pot if you want.

The next step is to drain the onions. Be careful not to throw away the liquid. It can be frozen or refrigerated and used in sauces and cooking liquids.

HPIM1525After the cooked onions are well drained, put them in the dehydrator. I dehydrated mine at 115 degrees for about 9 hours, until they were dry and could be easily crushed. Many factors influence the length of time it takes to dehydrate things, so keep an eye on the onions.

HPIM1526You can break up the onions and call them finished. In fact, I did just that with some of them. They’re a pretty good snack, and they are a nice, crunchy addition to salads.

But remember, I wanted powder. So most of them went into the spice grinder and became The Enabling Cook’s Caramelized Onion Powder.

Final Caramalized Onion PowderThis is mighty tasty stuff. It’s great sprinkled on veggies and chicken, in soups, and in salad dressing. And those are just the few things I’ve tried it with.

As for storage, I’m not sure it’s shelf stable, because the onions were cooked in butter. So I’m keeping it in the refrigerator to be on the safe side.

Even if you like caramelized onions, I encourage you to give the powdered version a try.

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Jan
06

Egg Cheese

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Since moving I seem to have a difficult time sitting down and writing a blog post. To be honest, to write anything other than something for work. I’m hoping to change that now and keep to a regular blogging schedule. And I do appreciate hearing from those who have missed the posts.

Now that I have a larger kitchen–with counter space, no less–I have been doing more cooking and baking. I’ve also been experimenting. I’ll be blogging about my experiments in upcoming weeks.

First, though, I want to share something I’d never heard of until a Google session. Egg Cheese. Of course I was immediately drawn to the word “cheese.” But it’s not really cheese. Still, it’s good. And it’s easy to make.

There are multiple terms for this dish. Google “egg cheese,” “cured egg yolks,” “salt-cured egg yolk,” and “preserved egg yolks.”

All you need are egg yolks (and they can’t be broken) and kosher or canning salt. Some recipes call for a combination of salt and sugar. I opted to do the 100 percent salt option. And a dish, of course. Pour a layer of salt into the bottom of a dish. Make enough divots to hold the number of egg yolk’s you’re preserving. I had three, so I made three beds in my salt layer.

HPIM1494The yolks must remain intact, so be very carefully when placing them into the salt bed. Then carefully cover with more salt. In essence, you want to bury them.

HPIM1495This is the beginning of the burial. At the suggestion of someone who has done this before, I added much more salt.

Now they go in the refrigerator for a week or so. I carefully turned them over after they had hardened a bit, about two days later, and reburied them.

After about a week (mine took about eight days) they’ll be ready for the next step. You can tell they are ready if they are mostly solid but have a slight give. Remove the egg yolks from the salt. Brush any salt from the yolk’s surface. If necessary, slightly–SLIGHTLY–moisten a paper towel to wipe it off. To be honest, I didn’t get all my salt off, and they seem none the worse for wear. Make a little cheesecloth bag for each egg yolk, and hang in the refrigerator. This may be the only time I’ve ever been happy I have open shelves in the fridge.

EggCheesePt2Let them hang for a week. They are ready to use when completely dry.

So now what? You can use it in many cases where you would have used Parmesan cheese. It grates beautifully.

grated egg cheeseIt’s good on pasta and salads. I like it in soups. No, it doesn’t taste exactly like cheese, but it does have a similar mouth feel, and the saltiness does remind me of Parmesan.

This is an easy thing to make, and many people will likely not have heard of it. The most difficult thing is dealing with friends who say, “Eww, gross,” when you tell them you’re making egg cheese–once they hear what it is. It’s worth it, though.

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Nov
19

My How Things Have Changed

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Well now. I logged on to blog this morning (finally), and it appears many things have changed here as well as in my life. For example, I can no longer access my stats. Hopefully things are all right with the way the blog functions as a whole.

Anyway, the move is complete. The unpacking, however, has not. It probably won’t be for a long time. When I moved, I decided to leave behind many things I hadn’t used for a HPIM1493long time. In part this was due to saving space in the van and trailer moving me. But it also derived from my wanting to eliminate some extraneous things.

My new home has more space, including in the kitchen, but there are still too many things for that space. Again, I decided to make some changes. I’ve put out the things I use most, and the others are stored in one of the rooms I’m not using this winter.

So what is my kitchen like, now that I’m moved in. Here are the two counter areas.

HPIM1492In the first photo, you can see some of my homemade spice blends. In the second, there’s room for my ferments in progress.

There are also cabinets above and below my sink. I use them primarily for my pots, pans, and dishes.

I have an unheated mudroom, where I can also store things that need to be cool. At least in the winter.

I had a brilliant idea to use one of the counter units for my baking and the other for other projects. In theory it works, but in reality, not so much.

I had been thinking of replacing my kitchen table with a steel work table. And I still may add the work table. But the simple fact of the matter is that there is plenty of room for both. There is a lot of room between the counter areas. A lot of room. I’d like to get something with storage, too.

So what have I made since moving in and getting settled? Lots of soups and stews. I love to have a selection in the freezer, and I have 3 or 4 in there now. Last night’s dinner was homemade chicken noodle soup, and some of those leftovers may go in there, too. I’ve been working on a new BBQ sauce, and I’m quite happy with one I made for some pork ribs the other night. And to make it really seem like home, I’ve made bread. That really makes it feel like home.

Hopefully I’ll be back in the blog mode now and can post regularly. Thanks for your patience.

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Oct
24

“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”*

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It has come to my attention that I’ve not posted much in October. Believe me, it has nothing to do with a lack of interest or a lack of material. Rather, it has to do with too much real life. About a month ago, I received a notice my month-to-month lease for my apartment was not being renewed, and I was not offered a long-term lease. After 12 years here, I had to find a new home.  And finding a new home is made even more difficult thanks to 5 little complications: Clarence, Purrl, Marlin, Norman, and Phoebe–my cats.

Though I originally planned to stay in my current city, it suddenly hit me I didn’t have to. Thanks to being a freelancer, I could move anywhere. Well anywhere there’s Internet access. I turned to Craigslist and found several promising leads. I also found several scams. By the way, apparently the Nigerian scams have expanded to houses on the Internet. I soon learned if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

I finally settled on 2 possibles and put down a deposit on the one I wanted. Then I got an e-mail saying she couldn’t rent it to me; she needed to rent it to a friend. I contacted the other possible, and it was gone. I can’t blame him. After I paid my security deposit, I sent him an e-mail saying I wouldn’t be taking it. So I was back to square 1.

Last weekend I looked again at Craigslist and found one that sounded like a great option. And the cats were no problem. Tuesday, a friend and I went to see it. Oh the potential! It’s not fancy schmantzy, but then nor am I. The kitchen (my most important room) is big. And there’s lots of counter and storage space in the kitchen. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a kitchen with so much space.

Oh, and the kitchen is colorful.

1021141146It’s a little more orange in real life, and I love it. It has been so long since I’ve had anything other than plain, boring off-white or beige walls.

There are counters on both side walls as well as shelves. I hope to make “curtains” for the open shelves. The table can go next to the window, or I could put it in the middle of the kitchen as more workspace. Options! I love options!

So why am I saying so long and thankful for fish? Well, I’m moving. But I’m also changing my lifestyle considerably. I’m moving from an urban area to a former mining hamlet in the Adirondacks. There are no businesses (at least that I could see on our visit) and about 250 people. There are empty storefronts that would be perfect for my dream bread bakery, jam, jelly, butter, cheese, sausage, ferment, etc. shop, including one next to an old cemetery. Depending on weather, my self-sustainability can come in very handy.

I am keeping this blog, of course. But I’ll also be starting one that will cover this life change. A publisher has shown interest in a book about it, so I will be blogging with that in mind. Once I have the blog set up, I hope you will visit it and comment often. But don’t forget The Enabling Cook. I’m moving next week, and I’m hopeful I’ll be back up to speed with posts here soon.

 

*This is the title of one of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guides, as well as the theme song to the film, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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Oct
10

Let the Imagination Run Free

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I knew it was going to happen. So why did it surprise me when my brain filled with visions of sausage flavors?

Well, that’s exactly what has happened since I made my first sausage in casings. It’s as though I opened the floodgates of sausage flavor goodness. I keep trying to find something that tastes good (duh) and allows me to show some creativity. And if I can get some smoky flavor, all the better.

I’m lucky to have an indoor smoker and a nice selection of woods. But I don’t always want to smoke my sausage. My breakfast sausage, for example, is one I prefer not to smoke. But the other day, I thought, I want some smoky flavor in my breakfast sausage. I think that would make a great sausage gravy. But I still didn’t want to smoke it.

One alternative to smoking the sausage is using ingredients that have a smoky flavor themselves. One of my favorites is cumin. I use it so much I buy it by the pound. You can also buy–or make your own–smoked paprika. Even roasted red peppers can impart a very slight smoky flavor.

You can also smoke ingredients going into the sausage. Smoking the ingredients takes less time than smoking the sausage. Smoked onions or onion powder, smoked peppers, and smoked pecans work.

Smoked pecans?

Yes, smoked pecans. I decided to make a pork sausage with maple syrup and smoked pecans. I did a 10-minute cold smoke of the pecans using maple wood chips. When finished, they had a slight smoky flavor. Almost like you know there’s something different about it, but you can’t quite put your finger on what that “something” is. Just the way I like it!

Maple Smoked Pecan BreakfastI chopped them fine and added the maple syrup and other ingredients. I prefer my breakfast sausage in patties, so I rolled and wrapped it rather than put it in casings. After I took the above picture, I realized I should have wrapped it like my baloney, so I rewrapped it. Then into the refrigerator for a 24-hour nap.

Patties of maple syrup with smoked pecans breakfast sausage were featured for breakfast the next morning.

Maple smoked pecanAnd mighty tasty they were. The rest was wrapped well in plastic wrap and then foil before going into the freezer. I can slice off patties as needed.

Many people are hesitant to try unfamiliar flavor combinations. But this is one of the great things about doing it yourself. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not found smoked pecans in my supermarkets, and certainly not in sausage. Think about what flavor combinations you enjoy and try them with other foods. For example, like cranberries and oranges in your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce? Add them to a poultry or poultry and pork sausage. Try a little cinnamon or cocoa in a sausage you’ll use for chili.

It’s likely not all combinations will be successful, or at least as successful as you’d like. But you’ll know. And you’ll probably hit on a great combination from time to time.

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Oct
02

Welcoming Delicata

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One of my favorite parts of participating in a CSA program is discovering new foods. The past couple weeks I’ve had delicata squash in my share boxes. This one was completely new to me. I’d not even seen it in grocery stores, and I don’t remember seeing them at the farmers’ market. But since I’m not a huge squash fan, I may have simply overlooked them there.

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

I looked online for recipes, and apparently you can use it like other winter squashes. But I couldn’t find anything that really interested me that much. Then the farm that provides my CSA posted a recipe for a delicata breakfast hash. Now that grabbed my attention! But of course I had to tweak it a bit.

I peeled, seeded, and chopped the squash. Then I chopped onion and apples. Of course the hash called for sausage, so I made little meatballs out of the bulk sausage I made a while ago. Now those things were part of the original recipe. But that’s where my path veered away. First, I added additional ingredients, like apple cider vinegar, cinnamon extract, and paprika. And I wanted to cook it on the stove. So I added a bit of water. I also added some kale.

Delicata

For my first foray into delicata squash, I must say it is a huge success! And this comes from someone who’s used to eating winter squash with lots of butter and brown sugar. I was a bit concerned about how the apple cider vinegar would work, but I love the slight tang it gives. Of course you could leave it out. And if you want a vegetarian option, leave out the sausage.

If you’re looking for a different way to make squash, give this a try. It will work with any winter squash, and the options are vast. Here’s my recipe.

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Sep
27

Sometimes a Shortcut Can Be a Tasty Thing

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I woke up this morning craving cake. Specifically a spice cake. That’s pretty unusual for me. When I awake with a craving (which gratefully doesn’t happen often), it’s usually for something savory. But there was no fighting it this morning. There had to be cake.

When I was looking through things the other day, I found a boxed spice cake mix. I have no idea when or where I bought it, but I wasn’t going to throw it away. But I knew there had to be a way to make it better. Oh, and this would be a great way to use my Wilton 2105-4827 Easy Flex Silicone 4-Cavity Mini Fluted Tube baking pan. I think I got it the same time I bought the cake mix. Hmmm . . .

71eawUTM0wL._SL1500_

Now how to “fix” the cake mix. The first thing seemed obvious. I added about a teaspoon of my vanilla paste. There’s also about a tablespoon of freshly ground grains of paradise now int there, too. There was an extract I wanted to add, but unfortunately, we’re about 5 weeks from readiness. Oh well, this would work.

Mini spice cake

And it sure did. Well I had to perform quality control, didn’t I?

If you want to make your own spice cake, that’s fabulous. That’s what I usually do. Consider changing up the recipe from time to time. Add some grains of paradise or another spice of your choice. Change up your extracts, or even switch to a paste rather than an extract. Have fun with your food!

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