Everything INCLUDING the Kitchen Sink…

My adventures in the kitchen

Kneading, Who Needs Kneading? February 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 2:54 am

Growing up, we baked a lot of our own bread – well, actually, I baked it, which was not a good thing. I HATED kneading bread, so I never did enough, and consequently, my bread almost never turned out nice – it was usually a pretty heavy loaf of bread!

That dislike has been so ingrained in my psyche that I have avoided baking bread unless I could do it in a bread machine. Then this weekend I came across a recipe for Potato Sour cream Chive Rolls. Nah, it’s too much work, even if it does look really good…. Then yesterday, the baking bug hit me, and those rolls just kept nagging at me “Make me, make me, make ME!” So I did. And you know what, kneading wasn’t half bad!! And the rolls are exceptional, and not as hard to make as they look.

And of course I modified. For one thing, the recipe made 24 rolls or 2 loaves of bread, according to the author. But with 6 cups of flour, I’m thinking those would have been BIG loaves of bread. We have trouble using up one loaf of bread, so I intended to half the recipe. Now since you can’t really measure mashed potatoes before they are cooked and mashed, that kind of tweaked my recipe, because I ended up with closer to 1 c mashed potatoes than the ¾ c that would have halved the recipe. Then of course if you’re doing mashed taters, and sour cream and chives…. You HAVE to have onion, so I added a diced, carmelized onion to the recipe.

The raising process for yeast bread has always been an issue for me – I don’t keep my house very warm during the winter, and yeast doesn’t respond well to that. The stove that we have now has a vent from the oven right at the back of the stove, so I turned the oven on to its lowest setting and put the dough in front of that vent – voile, it actually doubled in size!!!

The rolls turned out to be really nice and light, with a nice crust fresh out of the oven, and a nice soft roll once cooled and bagged.

Potato Onion Rolls

1 cup cooked potatoes (mashed)

1/3 c. low fat milk

2 TBS butter

¼ c fat free sour cream

¾ + ¼ tsp salt

1 small onion finely diced

1/3 c chives, chopped

1 egg

1 ½ tsp yeast

1 + 1 + 1 c flour

Cut the potatoes up (leave peels on) and put in a pan and just cover with water. Add ¼ tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low boil until soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the diced onion in a pan with 1 tsp olive oil. Cook the onions over high heat until brown and cooked through.

Pour off any extra water and put potatoes, sour cream, milk, butter and salt in a bowl. Use a mixer to beat the potato mixture until smooth.

Add onions, chives, sugar and egg and mix well. Ensure that the batter is warm, then add yeast. Add 1 c flour and mix. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes.

Mix in remaining flour until dough is stiff enough to be difficult to mix (approx. 1 cup). Put dough on floured surface and knead remaining flour into dough. Continue kneading dough until it is smooth and elastic, approximately 8-10 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl and put dough in, turning to coat all sides with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, approximately 1 hour.

Remove plastic and punch dough down. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and cut or divide into 8 equal parts for larger rolls or 12 for dinner sized rolls. Lightly form the pieces into rolls and place on a baking sheet covered with wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle tops of rolls lightly with flour and allow to rise again until double, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put sheet in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.


Oven-roasted Mushroom Soup February 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 1:11 am

So I’ve had a recipe sitting around for a while that I really wanted to try.  I love, love, love cream soups – cream of broccoli, cream of potato, cream of mushroom…but I have never found a recipe that matches those bowls full of sinful calories that you get at the restaurant.

This one isn’t as creamy, but has marvelous flavor, and is pretty easy to make.  My daughter made Goat Cheese Stuffed Bread Sticks to go with it – made a fantastic dinner for one of the last cold nights of winter!

Oven Roasted Mushroom Soup

2 pkgs sliced mushrooms

1/2 small onion, finely diced

4-5 stems fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

3 TBS Olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c white wine (if you don’t want to use the wine just omit it)

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 c fat free half and half

Preheat oven to 425F

Put the mushrooms in a roasting pan, pour the olive oil over, add onions, salt and thyme and mix.  Put in oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Add white wine and return to oven for 5-6 minutes – long enough to burn off the alcohol.  Add broth and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and ladle 2-3 ladlefuls of the mix into the blender.  Blend and add back into the pan.  Mix in the half and half.

Makes 4 servings.


Why Buy a Cookbook When You Could Write One? February 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 4:40 pm

Well, that isn’t exactly the evolution of how it came to be that I am writing a cookbook.  But it is the end state of that evolutionary process.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few cookbooks – not nearly as many as I wanted to though.

But I don’t use them more than once or twice a month.  And I recently realized why.  Cookbooks are neatly arranged by type of dish.  Now if you want to design a meal, you have to spend a bunch of time flipping back and forth between several cookbooks and a hundred pages to find everything you need – and most people won’t, can’t, don’t take the time to do that.

My favorite source of recipes though, has become the food blogs.  This is because a food blog isn’t just a recipe, it’s a food story – all the things that happened to make it come about, what happened to the cook and the dish in the making…these are the things that a cookbook lacks, in my opinion.

Anyone who has done much cooking knows that a recipe never turns out the same twice – even if you think you followed it exactly.  I call this the human element of a recipe, and cookbooks don’t even think about the human element.

What is the human element, and how does it work?  It has to do with a person’s psychological makeup (see some of that psychology degree is earning me money – maybe!).  I’ll use my parents as an example.  My mom was lamenting to me recently that they had gotten some brownie mix, and it turned out perfectly for my dad, but my mom’s was runny and never baked out.  Now, they both used the same mix, and all that needed to be added was the prescribed amount of water, so why wouldn’t it turn out for both of them, just the same?  Well, having known my parents for 40 some odd years, I know that my mother’s approach is “if a little is good a lot is better”.  My dad on the other hand is an engineer, and his measurements tend to be pretty precise.  And that was the difference between a good batch of brownies, and one that was brownie soup.

This is the human element – how do YOU interpret the recipe?  Do you use precise measurements and follow the recipe exactly?  Are you maybe a little generous in your measurements?  Do you like things a little spicier so you increase some of the ingredients?  In some recipes these things will only affect the flavor.  In others, they may totally change how the dish turns out.

So my cookbook will be designed to give people meals already organized, and with the story to go with them – how did I end up with that recipe?  What/how else can it be done or have I done it?  I don’t know if it will make me righ and enable me to retire, but I’m hoping so!!


Cardboard Apricots February 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 9:44 pm

A couple of weeks ago I went to the local Farmer’s Market and one of the vendors had gorgeous apricots for sale.  It seemed a bit early for apricots, but that’s a fruit that both my daughter and I can’t get too much of, so I bought a couple of baskets of them.  Sure enough, they were hard and mealy.  I really didn’t want to throw them away, and I had the perfect use for them – cheesecake!

Cheescake is probably my favorite dessert – and definitely not lo-cal.  I had found a recipe for a ricotta cheesecake that looked like I might be able to adapt it to make it a little more waist friendly.  So today I gave it a shot.    We just got done sampling the end product, and I give it two thumbs up!!

And of course, being me, I didn’t quite follow the recipe – I had a 15 oz container of ricotta instead of the 12 oz it called for, one package of cream cheese instead of 2….and the rest was just a matter of personal preference.  I have no idea what the actual nutriotional facts are, but the taste is full on GOOD!!  Oh, and if you never get around to making the apricot topping, not to worry, it’s good on its own, too.

Honey-orange Ricotta Cheesecake


1 – 15 oz container skim ricotta cheese

1 – 8 oz package fat free cream cheese, room temp or put it in the microwave for 30 seconds

1/2 c raw sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 TBS orange zest

1/4 tsp salt

1 TBS cornstarch

4 eggs


2 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joe’s)

6 TBS butter

1/4 c. raw sugar


8-10 apricots, cut in half, pits removed

1/2 c. honey

1/2 c water

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F.  Wrap two layers of aluminum foil securely around the bottom of a 9″ springform pan (this is so the water in the waterbath during baking won’t seep into your pan and make your crust soggy).

TOPPING: Combine honey, water and spices in a large pan.  Place the apricots cut side down into the syrup.  Bring to a boil then simmer until reduced to a syrup. The topping can be made up to a month ahead and frozen.

CRUST:  Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Melt butter and pour into crumb mix.  Mix together thoroughly.  Press into bottom of springform pan.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Cool completely before pouring filling in.


Put the ricotta cheese in a blender or food processor and blend until silky smooth.  Add the cream cheese in bits and again mix until smooth.  Add the honey, raw sugar, cornstarch, salt and orange zest and mix well.  Turn off food processor and add eggs one at a time, turning food processor on just long enough to incorporate the egg each time.

Pour the cheese filling into springform pan. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan; place in the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan to create a water bath. Bake the cheesecake until golden around the edges and the center is set but still jiggles slightly, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the water bath and let cool completely for an hour. Transfer to a refrigerator and let cool overnight. Yield: 8 to 10 wedges.

Rather than putting the apricots on top of the whole cheesecake and having it end up soggy, I just put it on each individual slice as it was served.


Live well, this week.


Of Washing Machines and Dryers February 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 1:45 pm

So I’m a day late with this blog – and didn’t even get my midweek “extra” in this week!

Last Saturday night the washing machine broke.  Now mind you, we knew when we moved into the house a year ago that it wasn’t going to last forever.  The control panel was loose – you had to hold onto it to be able to turn the knobs – it looked like it had been used for a cutting board and all those scratches were rusty… but it didn’t have to break in the middle of a spin cycle!!  I have a whole new appreciation for those women who did and still do laundry by hand – wringing out a pair of wet jeans HURTS!!

So it was time to get a “new” washing machine.  And since the dryer wasn’t in much better condition we decided to replace both.  Now, I’m a gadget geek, and I would LOVE to have one of those brand spanking new systems that weighs your clothes and figures out how much water you need and how long it will actually take to dry them, but when it comes right down to it, all I really need is something that will get my clothes clean and dry – and that extra $1500 in my pocket!

I started shopping on Craig’s List.  Now one might think that if something is listed there that the lister wants to sell it, no?  I found a great set for an awesome price.   The family was moving and so the set wasn’t available until the end of the month.  Ok, I can make do for a week without a washing machine and dryer.  But then they never responded again to set up a time to come get it.

The next one was a similar situation – someone was moving – so I asked if it would be available immediately or would I have to wait until they were ready to move?  She emailed me back with two words, “not interested”.  Huh???  Did she really think someone was just going to show up and give her some money?  So anyway, I finally found a set, made a deposit, and had it delivered last night.  Oh, it has a 3-prong plug, my outlet is 4-prong.  So I’m off to Home Depot this morning to get a plug that I can actually use – then it’s laundry afternoon!!  Well, right after I fix the fence so the dog doesn’t get out again.  He took himself for a walk Wednesday – 5 hours worth.  It was raining and cold, and he was one miserable puppy when he got home.

Food this week.  Well, we had some really good stuff, my daughter made a delicious savory bread pudding, I made stroganoff, and yesterday I made pot pie.  Now potpie is one of my all time favorite dishes, but I’ve always made it with homemade pie crust, which is just more work than I usually go for on a regular basis.  So this week I found a recipe using biscuit mix for the topping.  It turned out pretty good – I would have liked it to be a bit more “saucy”, but I’ll just put more milk in next time.

For the stroganoff, I’ve developed my midweek “quick” version of this, and that’s what I’ll share this week.  I use sliced baby portabella mushrooms.  On Top Chef last season Tom Colliccio said that portabellas were “so 80’s”.  Well, so 80’s or not, they really help “beef” up a vegetarian storganoff.   Besides, what’s wrong with the 80’s???  I usually use Go Lean’s ground sausage too, but we were out so I just used more mushrooms.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do more often is use whole wheat/grain pasta.  Growing up we only used whole wheat pasta, and I hated it – seemed like it always turned out a ooey gooey mess.  ‘Course I didn’t learn how to cook pasta properly until I was in my 20’s, so that might have contributed to it too.  The whole grain pasta adds a heartiness to the flavors of the stroganoff.

Midweek Stroganoff

1 pkg wide egg noodles

1 pkg sliced baby portabella mushrooms

1TBS olive oil

1/4 tsp season salt

1/2 roll ground meat or substitute

1 family size can condensed Cream of Mushroom soup

1 pint sour cream

3/4-1 c milk

1 tsp garlic powder

Cook the noodles, drain and return to pan.

While the noodles are cooking, saute the mushrooms in the olive oil and season salt.  Add ground meat/substitute and saute for 2-3 minutes on medium high, stirring to prevent sticking.  Pour into a large bowl.  Add soup, sour cream and garlic powder and mix.  Add milk until desired consistency.

Pour into pan with noodles and heat through.

Now it’s back to the 6 piles of leaves on my front lawn….

Live well, this week.