Monday, September 24, 2012

If at first you don't succeed: Week Two: Yeast Rolls

Partially baked
If we've learned anything from previous kitchen blunders, it's that you can't let a few simple ingredients beat you.

This week I chose a recipe for yeast dinner rolls that I had tried before. It was the first time I had worked with yeast, and I used whole wheat flour (which is what I generally have on hand) and they didn't turn out well at all.

So I did my research. Evidently, wheat flour requires extra kneading and a little more fat. Well, I happened to be out of whole wheat flour today, so I used all purpose flour (the non-bleached, non-enriched variety though).

Anyway, they turned out fantastically! As promised on the blog I stole the recipe from, they were super simple and I will definitely keep this recipe on tap.

A few notes though:
1. If you don't have a fancy mixer with a dough hook, never fear - you can just knead the dough a couple times with your hands.
2. Baking times vary. The above picture shows the rolls after the ten minute suggested baking time. They were still very white, and gooey in the middle. After talking to my all knowing friend, Cydney, I found out that everything from room temperature to kneading styles can affect the length of time needed to finish baking any type of bread. Her rule of thumb is to pull the rolls out when you can smell them, then tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, they are done. So after about another ten minutes.....

All done! Fluffy dinner rolls, with nice crispy top layers. They were so yummy - and so simple! The rolls were a little denser than I thought they might be, still tasty, but maybe next time, with some more practice, I can make them a little fluffier. 

I decided to pair these tonight with spaghetti - which I think was a good choice. Choosing to try a side dish, that could be easily replaced if ruined, took the pressure off, and made the process more enjoyable. 

What have you been working on this week? Anything new and exciting? How did it go?

Stay tuned for next week - butternut squash, here I come!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making up: Or Week One: Meatballs

Sometimes, you make your kitchen mad. You overuse it, you don't clean your appliances appropriately, or in a timely manner. And they stay covered in tomato paste and olive oil scorch marks much longer than they should.

To get your attention, your kitchen has to sabotage your meals. There really isn't any other way for it to say, "hey! I need a break!" So when everything you make comes out crispy and black, there is nothing to do but to give your kitchen some space and get take out.

Preferably, you should eat said takeout on plastic plates that can be thrown out, and won't need washed, to allow your kitchen the ultimate amount of space it needs to heal.

Yes, kitchens can be a little spiteful, but never fear, with a little TLC, you can turn them around.

At least I'm hoping I can!

So, my meatballs didn't turn out so well last night. I actually made a special trip to the grocery store (Which I never do) to buy ground pork, bread, and parsley to make them according the recipe.

I meant to start early in the day, so that I wasn't cooking while I was hungry, and had plenty of time to work slowly.

As Monday's go, that didn't actually work out, and I got started around 5:30. I was hungry, and trying to get dinner on the table, and I'm sure that didn't help.

I had toasted my loaf of French bread to make fresh bread crumbs. I mixed them with the milk and meat and fresh parsley. At this point - the meat balls smelled fantastic! I chilled them in the fridge, and washed up my dishes.

Here's where the problems started. Normally, I would just fry the meatballs in oil, but the recipe said to simmer them in sauce for 15 that's what I did.

 And.....they scorched. The sauce in the pan (cooking on medium-low heat) turned completely black, sticking the bottom of my meatballs to the pan, and preventing the middles from ever cooking through.

The whole pound of them went into the trash, and we called for Chinese take out.

This morning, I cleaned up my kitchen. I am reverting to a staple (Chicken Honey-Ginger Stirfry) for dinner tonight. Hopefully, by next Monday, my kitchen will have forgiven me, and I can try Carly's Cooking Journey Week Two.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jane Fonda and Meatballs

I was standing in my kitchen last week, realizing I had a glorious hour to make dinner...and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to make, and no ambition. 


Now that I'm working part time, mostly from home, I've really looked forward to getting to play Susie Homemaker in ways that would make my mom (and that little nagging voice in the back of my head) proud. 

[Sidebar: did anyone else have a mom that made keeping house look like the most natural thing in the world? Effortless? Now, I helped a lot at home and I know just how non-effortless keeping house is....and how much true strength goes into homemaking....but somehow, when I set out to do anything from scratch that sweaty, tired picture morphs into some perfectly coiffed lady in dress clothes, who would never under pain of death break a sweat. Weird, huh?]

So, as I was bemoaning this to my husband, I realized, that yet again, in my four years of marriage, I'm living with a new routine. Now, the glorious part of this is that after months of late nights and busy schedules and striving just to keep swimming, we chose this new life. Not because we had to, but because God led us here and we want to. 

That is freeing. But it's still new. And Jane Fonda images aside, I love keeping house. I like keeping things clean, cooking, making things beautiful. It suits me. (Housekeeping is the perfect profession for the OCD-creative mind [yes, that's a heavy mix - be grateful you don't live in my head!] because your house becomes your blank canvas, to do anything you like with.) But, like all other grown up decisions, any formation of habit must suit me...not an ideal, not a pintrest board, not my grandmother, just me. 

So, in an effort to make more whole-food meals, where I can name and spell all ingredients used, I'm on a quest. (Yay quest! Cue my theme music, someone?)  I have been moving away from convenience foods for about a year, but there are still a few I hang on to. And rather than go cold turkey, and completely re-learn how to budget and grocery shop, I am picking one new recipe a week. I want to actually learn (as in be able to do without much thought or stress) to make some of the things that now come in little red bags in the freezer aisle. Things that my grandmother would have made sans-recipe because it was just a part of cooking. 

My quest is this: one new recipe per week. I am going to try it according to the actual recipe directions (shocking, I know!) and then practice until I get it right. More than likely, I will do this on Mondays, as that is my unofficial day off, but I plan to blog about each recipe, and how the experience goes. I don't know how long I'll do this for, probably until around Christmas time. Hopefully by then I will have built a new repertoire of dishes that used to scare me - and I'll have that many more cooking skills mastered. 

Would you like to join me? You can read about my kitchen adventures here and try them yourself, or set off on your own culinary journey and just fill me in! More friends always make life more exciting!

This first week, I am going to try mastering meatballs! I found what claims to be the best ever recipe in this old issue of Bon Appetit. So stay tuned - we'll see how this goes! And for those of you that were following the Stretch project on Facebook, I plan to update soon! We're half way through, and it's even opened in a couple of new keep an eye out for that!