Monday, November 30, 2009

MORE on The Bread Project -

Cheddar Jalapeno...
a little slice of heaven!

Dating back several years to our young puppy love days, my husband and I used to spend mini vacations at my now in-laws' lake house. Each trip, we were treated to amazing hospitality, breathtaking views and the most decadent bread we'd ever tasted...cheddar jalapeno!

From a small hearth oven bakery in the next town over, this bread was to die for. For breakfast, it's excellent as toast, for lunch it makes an awesome turkey a snack, it's just great straight up!
Now, we've tried to buy cheddar jalapeno bread from other sources, but none were ever as good...

The Bread Project has provided the perfect opportunity for me to experiment.

ATTEMPT #1 for a little slice of heaven - Straight from the recipes.

Not yet having the experience (aka guts) to attempt a total ad lib version of bread from scratch, I tried to carefully follow this recipe to a 'T'

We begin by activating my newly found friend, Yeast.

The goods are precisely measured.

Notice the chemistry major precision in these measurements...yup, that 4 year degree is showing some other signs of use in everyday life, thanks Mom & Dad!

It's mixed.

It begins to take form (this is between the 1st and 2nd rising)

We have real homemade BREAD!
Doesn't look too bad either...

BUT stay tuned, for this project is to be continued...

A CARE Package from VT

2 glasses of wine...means I've got a friend to cook with!

A CARE Package by definition (via google) is a generic term for a parcel of food or supplies sent for relief or comfort purposes. For authenticity I even thought about throwing in a can of SPAM...but unfortunately forgot, ugh!

My sister has been in Chicago for the last few years. Always having been big on family holidays, we're still not used to her not making home for Thanksgiving.

This year, inspired by a FB note she left, I decided to send her some of my experiments.

Sugar Cookies!
One of my favorite holiday treats are sugar cookies with delicious icing, so thought I'd give it a try -
We mix.

We wait.
We're ready to roll!

Can you guess who our guest star is?!?!?

Yup, some were over done...but enough to salvage.

Now for art co-host's natural talent.

Decorating was so much fun!
A great activity...for any adult!!

Take a look at this Maple Leaf!
I can't take any credit for this,
it's the raw artistic skills of my partner in crime!

A little taste of home...Maple Popcorn courtesy of The Homesteading Hussy (coursing her friend to spill the beans on his secret recipe)!
By the way, The Hussy is not only my friend/fellow hockey mate, but my inspiration for starting this blog!!!

The final FB report from Chicago - "Got the package! Thanks for all the treats.. already had 4 cookies--delicious! I can't wait to dig in to the rest of it! Thanks again!"
Love you lil' sis!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Weeknight Bust

The evening is short after working all day, your energy level is low and you've gotta put something on the table.

For some this task can be a challenge, but for me it's been a tough let the therapy begin!


My company hours are 8am-5pm. Usually by 3pm, I'm ready to call it quits...the coma following lunch has set in, I've dealt with enough BS for my liking and I'm already beginning to plan dinner in the back of my mind.

When I notice the clock in the bottom right of my computer screen is past 5:00 PM, I head for the door.

As soon as I get to the car I turn on some fine country tunes and hit my favorite Hannafords on the way home.

Once inside I begin cruising the produce section and try to stay open minded. You never know when something unique is available, or just on sale, to inspire a whole new dinner menu.
This time, being only 2 days before Thanksgiving, much of the seasonal items have already been cleaned out by the soccer moms and eager holiday shoppers. Tonight, I decide to grab some spinach for a stuffed chicken of sorts.

Next is the deli...hmm, perhaps some mozzarella would be good?
I am not sure if you have ever seen this, but my deli counter has a sign showing the relative width translation for thin, medium and thick. Of course being the cheese lover that I am, I want double-XL. I ask the nice woman behind the counter for "3 slices of extra, extra thick mozzarella, please?" She says "okay, but how thick is that?"

Here I go again...reading into her words, tone, and body language (the whole obsessive compulsive BD part of me) - I convince myself it's going to waste several seconds for her to dial a satisfactory thickness and then a few more to put it back into the normal range. Still planning the meal in my mind, I somewhat realize aloud the rather obvious - "6 slices of the thick cut will do the job." She smiles with a bit of confusion and agrees.

As she slices I explore the array of meats before me. Having just had a conversation about Turducken, I'm inspired to try stuffing meat into meat. I find myself staring at the Italian style options...salami, pepperoni, capicola.
When done, the nice deli lady asks, "is there anything else I can get you?" I feel the pressure mount for a prompt decision. The eyes of the people waiting behind me are burning holes into the back of my head. "Yes, can I please have a half pound of...hard salami?" I hear a sigh or two in the case you didn't know the proper protocol of deli orders is meat first, cheese last...oh well, get over it people!

Next essential is wine. I grab a bottle of a cheap Merlot and continue onto the meat cooler.
A package of boneless chicken breast is added to the basket and I do a 180 down the international aisle for some diced tomatoes. On the way I grab a box of rice and head to check out.
The total? Under $20! I thank my cashier and hop in the car to head home.

Once home I layout my goods and begin prepping. My husband, out of his natural curiosity, stops in.
(I like to accuse him of hovering...which deters from my therapy)

My response to his inquiry:
"um...not sure, stuff chicken of some sort."

I open the tomatoes and season them
with some dried herbs and other spices.

Then butterfly the breasts.

Say hello to my little friend, chicken!
Beating the crap out of raw meat
is quite therapeutic...
especially if you've had a rough day!


The flattened breast are stuffed with spinach, cheese, salami and the tomato mixture.
They are rolled in plastic wrap and set to rest, or rather harden to form, in the refrigerator.

An egg wash is prepared and seasoned breadcrumbs poured out.

With the chicken breasts coated...

Let the cooking begin!






Within 30 minutes of cooking, we're done!


My husband is a pretty quiet person and dinner conversation is not his forte. He is however a honest food critic. I have never made anything where, after the first bite, he looks up and says 'Wow! This is the best thing I've ever had!' Or even 'This is delicious!!'

I ask what he thinks, his response is "good." I know that good is not great, so I dig a little deeper and ask "on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate it?" He takes another bite and looks up at the ceiling to think..."I'd say a 5."

I like my dinners to usually range around a 7+ on his scale, so while this idea might have been good in's a bust in execution.

Next time, I'll likely default to my cheddar and broccoli stuffed chicken (a 7 or 8 rating).

Also worth noting...

This is the first night he has done the dishes in over a week!

Broken collarbone and all, my man helps out :O)

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Don't know beans about chili...'

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may work.
- Anonymous

One of my favorite childhood stories is one that describes just how I got myself into the hot-n-spicy -

My mother has always made large jars of kimchi. An important part of the pickling process is to let the jars sit at room temp, loosely covered to allow 'boil over' (the bubbling overflow that occurs during the pickling/fermentation process).

One day when out of my mother's sight, I crawled right over to one of the jars of red hot kimichi and can you guess what I did?!? The little bugger that I was, I took that lid right off and began stuffing the fiery cabbage by the handful straight into my mouth!
Soon enough my mother discovered her little girl sitting over a jar (the same size as her!), with hands and face covered in red pepper. I was just devouring handfuls of the hot pickled cabbage! What a sight that must have been haha!!!

As most could gather from that early childhood story...I LOVE spicy! There is no mistake I am crazy about fiery foods. I do believe my mother is to credit for this addiction and I couldn't imagine a life without hot peppers...

Most often I get my fix from our Korean mainstays or by dabbling in Mexican cuisine. For me jalapeno, red peppers or hot sauce can make everything better. Chili, being a quintessential meaty stew, is another one pot miracle during the cooler months of the year to get my fix.

Until now, chili in our house has come from a can/jar. We typically reserved this heat-n-eat option as an easy dinner for my husband while I am away on business.
Most of my friends at one time or another have mentioned they make chili. Having never made it myself, I was always wow'ed by how casual their statements of accomplishment were. The official dish of Texas...what could this Vermonter know about chili?!?

If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain't got no beans.

By definition a real chili is nothing more than chili peppers, meat, garlic, onions and cumin. In fact, most official chili cook offs do not allow 'fillers' such as beans, tomatoes, and so forth.

It is a fairly forgivable food, so exact measurements are not needed and the ingredients can vary depending on availability and mood.

Once again, my favorite part...the cook down!

The base for my chili includes, garlic, onions, jalapeno, red and green bell peppers and a variety of spices.

A healthy portion of beef is added. I used a mix...about half is ground Angus (90% lean) and the rest a fattier 73% lean ground beef.

Officially disqualified from entering any chili cook off...
my fillers include plum tomatoes and kidney beans.

I know everyone has their own version and cooks often incorporate some pretty arcane additions. The more common ones I've heard of include corn, chorizo, red wine and beer. Several rather unusual ones came up when I google'd chili secrets, those include peanut butter, pineapples, bananas, oranges, cocoa, chocolate, coffee, tequila, soda/cola, allspice, cinnamon, molasses, the list goes on and on.

Fruit in chili?!?! That is just a little too crazy for my first attempt...I'll just stick with beer.

We mix it all together and let it simmer down...

A true display of the classic bubbling cauldron...

Our first bowl of homemade chili!!

While I found the final product to be perfectly spiced, my husband does recommend I serve it with a bottle of Pepto Bismol haha!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sunday Therapy - Session 1, Part 3: My Foray into Baking

> bread from scratch
> soup
> baking

Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins & Maple Pumpkin Pie

I have said it before, and I'll say it again - I am a self proclaimed non-baker. I can usually pull off baking from a box...with a success rate that is not one to brag about. My annual attempts at making apple pie are usually botched with some element of the pie forgotten, overdone, underdone, etc. I am beginning to think that baking is perhaps an innate've got it or you don't!

FoodTherapy4Me's Foray into Baking

My husband actually said, 'these [blueberry muffins] are probably the best thing you've ever baked.' Did you hear that, he used the word baked!?!?!

I have done it, one small victory at last!!

One of my favorite shows to watch is Top Chef. Season after season it is almost a guaranteed failure to do baked sweets. The worst part, it's a Catch're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. What do the judges, or any diner for that matter, desire most at the end of a savory meal? Closure, aka dessert.

Lucky for me, my husband is a devoted Ben & Jerry's consumer. I just pick up a couple pints of the stuff each week and voilà! Dessert accomplished. When I do try and bake a pie, or other type of dessert, he is usually obliged to eat it.


Could use some improvement...

Homemade crust was scrumptious in flavor; it just lacked the deep golden color.

The filling was good, but I'd reserve this for folks who prefer a milder pumpkin taste.

Overall, I'll not probably make this again, nor would I serve it at a much anticipated Thanksgiving meal.

As they say on Top Chef...'please pack your knives and go."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sunday Therapy - Session I, Part 2: Soups On!

> bread from scratch
> soup
> baking
Minestrone with White Eyed Peas & Kidney Beans

I like soup, I just don't love it. When I am out, I will almost never choose soup over a salad...if I do it is usually some rich concoction such as chowda, bisque, or cream of anything. Paula Deen would be so proud!

Occasionally I make soups, but there are only 3 types that I do: Kimchi Soup, Rice Cake Soup and Ginseng Chicken Soup...they're all KOREAN! I love each of them for their flavors, health benefits, and most importantly, the childhood memories they bring back.

No soup for you!!!
-The Soup Nazi, Seinfeld, 6th Season

I would never and could never demand of my tasters the excessively strict regimentation of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, or Al Yeganeh, the New York inspiration for the charater. I am not sure if it is my like rather than LOVE for soup that keeps me from trying, or if I am intimidated by the unknown technique/process. Regardless of the reason, winter is just around the corner and my plan is for the soup to be on in our household this year!

For my first stab at soup I decided to follow a second recipe from F&W (November 2009) for Minestrone with Black Eyed Peas & Kidney Beans. [Note: since some crazy bean addict held up my supermarket and took all they had, I improvised and picked up the closest thing I could find to black eyed peas...white eyed peas.]

The Base
In Italy, minestrone is a part of cucina povera ('poor kitchen') cuisine.
F&W calls for prosciutto, so I improvised with 2 slices of smoky bacon from the butcher counter...much cheaper!
Sight- It's absolutely fabulous
Touch -
[S]he's a smooth operator...
Sounds - sssssshhhh, crack, sssshhh
Smell - Mouthwatering!
Taste? - TBD

As the base for the soup cooks, the tempting aromas fill the air...
I love this part!

With the bacon rendered, leeks, celery and onion cooked down, it's now time for the cabbage.
Most often consumed in our household in the form of Kimchi, cabbage is somewhat annually eaten as part of a boiled dinner. Today we add [non-kimchi] soup to the list of its uses!

Now for some color... diced tomatoes, juice and all!

Beans, beans, the magical fruit...
It's starting to resemble soup!

I would have never thought of this, but F&W instructed the al dente pasta be sautéed in a pan, with olive oil...what a brilliant idea!!

Ta - da! It's minestrone!!

Minestra (soup) + -one ---> 'The Big Soup'