Friday, May 29, 2020

What I Read This Week

What is a COVID-19 surcharge? Why some restaurants are adding an extra fee to your bill - We've not seen this hit our area yet, but this is happening in other parts of the US.  My first thought, of many, is that if your a restaurant choosing to do this you need to be upfront about it.  Don't make it a surprise charge when I get my bill at the end of the meal.

One of world's best restaurants will seat mannequins at tables to make it look busy - A couple of weeks ago I shared about a place in Amsterdam that is using small greenhouse-style buildings for dining patrons.  This week we have a restaurant full of mannequins in Washington, VA.  They wanted to make the place feel a little less empty while dining capacity is limited.

The Story Behind One of the Most Striking Photos of the Mount St. Helens Eruption After 40 Years - I love stories like this.  As a novice photographer myself, I always want to know the back story.  This an iconic piece of history with a  great back story.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Consumer Food Habits -  Interesting statistic on how Americans are changing their food habits during this crazy mess.  I find it interesting that 49% are now cooking more meals from scratch.

How I Cured My Black Thumb with a Seed Subscription Box - It seems there is a subscription box for everything these days, but I missed this one in all box options out there.  I'll be checking some of these out.  I really love the idea!

The Internet Told Me to “Milk” My Cucumbers to Make Them Less Bitter. Obviously I Had to Try It Out - My first thought was "are we really that bored?"  I mean seriously? WTF?  I won't be milking any cucumbers, but I had to read the article.  I think this will fall into what I call the "religion" section, you are either a believer or you aren't.  Much like caring for cast iron, baking stones, wood cutting boards, and the like.  Trust me if you knew how I treated these items a lot of you would have hives...but that's a post for another day.

The 5 Things Everyone Should Have in Their Knife Drawer - Let me start by saying I don't think you should keep your knives in a drawer,  I recommend a magnetic strip.  That said I have all but one of these in my kitchen.  I need a Microplane.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Recipe Review: Live Eat Learn How to Make Greek Yogurt

I've always wanted to make yogurt, but many of the recipes seemed so daunting and overly involved.  Then a few weeks ago my foodie friend in Texas sent me a yogurt recipe and kept encouraging me to try it.  She'd made it and it was amazing and tasted so good.  I printed the recipe and then it laid on the kitchen table until a week ago.  I finally got off my lazy excuses and made it.

Recipe:  How to Make Greek Yogurt
Source:  Live Eat Learn
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Ingredients:  Fridge Staples
Rating:  ★★★★★

It took me about 45 minutes to put the initial part of the yogurt together.  Then it was all about the waiting.  I opted to use our Excalibur Dehydrator on the 115° setting, per the instructions in my manual, instead of using the oven to keep it warm while it "incubated" and became yogurt.

I chose to use my large glass bowl because it has a lid, and I knew I'd be straining it.  It took about 8 hours in the dehydrator.  I think using the towel in the dehydrator slowed the process some and just dried the towel out.  The next make I will opt to leave the towel out of the equation.  I'll be making this again, for sure.

I used Dairygold Whole Milk which has 3.25% milk fat and Fage (pronounced fa-yeh) Total Plain 5% which is Whole milk Greek yogurt.  Fage is my all-time favorite Greek yogurt because it's full fat, thick, and so creamy.

I was thrilled to have similar results with my first homemade yogurt.  Especially since I can't buy Fage in our small town, it's always a special item I grab when we go to "town" for things.  I did stain this mixture for about 14 hours to get the super thick creamy results I got.  I simply put it in the strainer and plopped it in the fridge until the next morning.

I haven't done a serious cost breakdown, but I'm fairly certain that my homemade yogurt cost me much less than the $5 I usually pay for the Fage.  If you're looking to try making yogurt, but have always been intimidated by the recipes you've read I highly suggest you try this one from Live Eat Learn.  Easy, clear directions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Snapshots of Our Alaskan Life

If you live in rural Alaska, you know when someone says “town” they mean the nearest large city, usually Anchorage or Fairbanks depending on where they live.  Translation - town means the “big” city. Last Friday we went to town for the first time since the COVID-19 Pandemic started.  It has been nearly three months, the longest we’ve ever gone without going to town.  

We enjoyed our first meal in a restaurant in 70 days.  Yes, 70!  I know there are other states still under  quarantine, but the state of Alaska opened back up for business as usual with a side of social distancing last Friday.  We opted for one of our faves - Friar Tucks  Hoagie House.  The weather was even nice enough to sit outside.  I can only tell you that the French dip is amazing and you really must get the Hoo Doo cheese fries with it.  That’s what we order every single time we eat there.  We did change it up with an order of the pretzels with Hoo Doo cheese sauce, but hunger took over and the photo op was well past when it dawned on me.  I’m sure the rest of the menu is delicious, but I will probably never know as long as the French dip is an option.

I picked got a little rosemary to add to the greenhouse.  We got the new window for the kitchen ordered.  Checked out pellet stoves for the house, as that’s on the list of “do before winter comes” projects.  Snagged the shower pan boarder tile for the mater bath remodel project we’re working on.   Picked up shingles for some roof repairs.  Last but not least, grabbed a few groceries and a much needed new coffee pot.  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that ours died last Thursday.  

We spent our Saturday working on projects in the yard, mostly garden prep.  I got one of my 4x4 foot raised beds planted with seeds for some of the root veggies I want to grow this year.  I’m trying something different, planting in sections rather than rows.  Trying beets and rutabaga for the first time, giving parsnips another go and some carrots.  Hubby worked on the compost pile.  We’ve struggled trying to get our to actually work the way it should, so this year we reworked the entire pile.  Here’s hoping we have the right start for the season.  

It truly is Spring in Alaska when your Egg Lady is back in business.  There is nothing like a farm fresh egg.  Since we buy our eggs from a friend of ours, there’s always a slew of chicken jokes that come with purchasing eggs, or depending on the time of year, a chicken strike.   Every year is a bit different, but chickens in Alaska go through a funk and stop laying and my supply of fresh eggs dries up.  I’m not sure why the chickens quit laying.  Maybe it’s the lack of day light, maybe it’s just the chicken way up here.  I go back to buying eggs at the store until the chicken picket lines ends.   

I should have started this post by talking about how very Unalaska we are.  Most of us live normal lives, we don’t do all the crazy things you see on reality TV shows.  As for us, we aren’t even as Alaskan as some of our friends.  We don’t own an ATV and we don’t have a dog sled team.  We don’t hunt or fish.  We don’t hike and we don’t forage.  We just aren’t Alaskan.  We live here because this is where the job was.  What I hope share with you is a snapshot of what real life is like up here without the glamor of reality tv being sold to the rest of the world.  If you have questions, drop them in the comments.  I’m happy to answer them.  We’ve lived here a little over eight years, and I don’t know it all, but I know a lot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Recipe Review: Glen and Friends Cooking Emergency Cake

Being a house of two I love a dessert recipe that's a small batch kind of thing.  After seeing Glen make this cake I knew it would be the perfect blank slate to start making cakes with, and we wouldn't have to eat it for weeks.  I love Glen's vintage cookbook series and this is another one of the Depression Era recipes from his cookbook collection. 

Recipe:  Emergency Cake
Source:  Glen and Friends Cooking
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Ingredients:  Pantry Staples
Rating:  ★★★★★
Printable PDF:  Emergency Cake
Bonus Frosting Recipe:  Small Batch Chocolat Mocha Frosting

This cake is a basic white cake, nothing fancy but it has a soft, airy texture with a fine crumb.  The flavor is simple, how you'd expect a plain white cake to be.  The small size is perfect for a small birthday celebration, dinner for a few close friends, or to scratch the craving for cake.

I must confess, I didn't gilded the lily right out the gate.  I had to add mini chocolate chips because I already had the frosting idea chocolate coffee frosting dancing in my head. Don't worry, we're getting to that.

I used my 4" springform pans to make three small cakes.  My thought was that we could eat one and freeze the other two if desired.  I'm not sure I'll actually be freezing them, as I made enough frosting make to frost all three.  Remember springform doesn't mean cheesecake only, it's just another type of baking pan.

Now let's talk about the frosting!  This is my own creation, based on a basic buttercream frosting.  I added cocoa powder, instant coffee, and a bit of leftover coffee in with the butter and powdered sugar.   The result is a surprisingly rich, guilty pleasure kind of decadence. 

If you've been searching for a cake recipe that is both versatile and small-batch, this could be the recipe you've been looking for.  This cake has a ton of possibilities in my opinion.  I'll be taking the time to concoct a chocolate cake with this recipe...stay tuned. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Garden Update - Greenhouse Planted

On Mother's Day, we planted the greenhouse, which if you're keeping track, was a few weeks ago.  The weather was beautiful and it was an all-day affair.  I couldn't be happier to have all the plants moved out of the house and into their new home in the greenhouse.

It will take some time for things to grow and fill in, but I think this year is going to be a good garden year.  Here's a look at the full house, wilted plants and all.  I can assure you that nearly everything perked up after a really good drink.  We've only lost two tomato plants and they weren't very hearty when we moved them.

We planted the new raided bed planter with Winter Squash, Swiss Chard, Brussels Sprouts, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Mystery Squash (no really we have no idea what we saved seeds from), Anaheim Peppers, Pie Pumpkins, and Jalapeno Peppers.

The ladder we built is where I planted herbs and lettuce.  I have Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, Rosemary, and Sage in the top two.  Several varieties of leaf lettuces in the middle two.  The bottom is for the Kale.  I can't wait to see what this looks like when it's all green.

The containers along the window side of the greenhouse are all tomatoes.  We planted Moskvich, San Marsano, Sweet Cherry Climbing, Yellow Pear, and Romas.  Yes.  It is a lot of tomatoes, thanks for asking.  We love fresh tomatoes and I can't wait to have all these in my greenhouse.  Seasons end will bring bounty for the freezer and dehydrator, as I don't can.

Our tables have the overflow of other things.  There are a few Anaheims, some Dill, a few tomatoes, two Pie Pumpkins we plan to put outside, the Huckleberries waiting until it's warm enough outside and at the very end there's a seed start of Celery.

There are plans to put up a sunshade tarp on part of the roof, as we learned a few years ago this space will get really hot as we get into mid-June and early July.  I'm quite excited about this year's garden.  This is the first time in years I will be able to tend the garden the full season.

In other garden business, I've built the potato towers for this year's planting and purchased the seed potatoes.  We'll be growing Magic Molly (purple fingerling type), Red Samoyed (round red type), and Yukon Gold (round yellow type).  The empty towers are kind of hard to see in this pic, but they are made of hog wire and are each two-foot tall.

There's also a plan to plant corn, and before you ask, no we don't have a lot of experience with this.  Corn will be one of the experiments we do this year.  We have a cold-weather variety that hubby ordered to try, and we'll be putting it in this raised bed.  The bed is in place, ready to be filled.

We'll be building a small bed outside to plant our root crops of Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, and Rootabegas.  When next I write a garden update I hope to have photos of green and lush plants.  Come back soon!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Weekly Reading Notes

What did I read?  Here's the list.

Pandemic Gardens are Trending - We already had plans for a garden this year, but I'd be lying if I said this wasn't part of our reasoning when it came time to plant seeds.  We're planting a bit more than we normally would, and we'll be exploring storage ideas as we see what produces and how much.

How the sausage gets made: This butcher wants people to eat less meat - For me, the interesting part of the article was about a third of the way down the page when she started talking about using veggies as filler and binder in place of the traditional less appetizing fillers.  Sadly Seemore Meats & Veggies isn't available in my area, but I'd totally try them if they were!

The Secret to Better Egg Salad? Grill Your Eggs - Say What?  I've heard of the traditional boiled egg.  Making them in the oven thanks, Alton Brown.  I've even learned that you can make them in the Instant Pot.  Now we can grill them?  Oh, and if you read the full article, you'll learn you can smoke them when you're done.  What?

How to Kill or Remove Grass (& Grow Food Not Lawns!) - This isn't a new concept in our house, we really aren't lawn people.  We dug up a lovely lawn when we lived in Missouri.  Currently, we have a small bit of acreage with a limited lawn so we haven't opted to tear it out yet.  My take away from this though was just how amazing this project ended up.  Do things in phases and plant a more interesting yard, even if you don't grow food.

Why a Jar of Roasted Red Peppers Should Be in Everyone’s Pantry - I have to admit I haven't had a jar of these in the pantry for a while, but with these great ideas, I'll be adding it to the next grocery list.  I'd like to try using it in place of tomatoes in pasta sauce.

I Ate Chicken for a Whole Year and Wrote a Cookbook All About It. Here Are 10 (Sometimes Surprising!) Things I Learned. - This is totally worth the read, especially if you make a lot of chicken.  I learned that dry brining can actually be better for you chicken, not to mention way less work than the wet brine.  #5 is a game-changer in my opinion and so is #7.  This is gonna change my chicken game.

Dirty Pages - This is a project that really tugs at my heartstrings.  Do you have dirty pages that you cook from, your mother cooked from, or maybe your grandmother cooked from.  Look for the dirty pages in the old cookbooks, you'll find the recipes of many memories.  You can also here and interview here - Why You Should Definitely Learn Your Grandma's Recipes.

It’s not your imagination: Grocery bills are rising, and these are the main culprits - Let's face it with the craziness that has happened if you didn't expect this you might be living under a rock.  The part that concerns me is that these prices most likely won't go back down, even after the food chain is pieced back together.

The Community Cookbook Is Reborn for a Time of Scarcity and Sharing - I love a good community cookbook or as we affectionately refer to them "church" cookbooks.  So many of them from my childhood and currently in my collection are just that, church cookbooks.  Yes, there are recipes for aspic salad in many of them, but they also house some of the best recipes I've ever made.  My much-loved butterscotch oatmeal cookie recipe comes from the pages of a cookbook like this.  This story of community cookbooks being reborn just warms my heart.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Buying & Using a Whole Pork Lion

With the current limits placed on meat purchasing in many places, I felt this was a timely article to write.  Let me be clear, I'm talking about the full pork loin, not just the tenderloin, there is a difference.  The whole pork loin is something that isn't always available, but if you see it at your local grocery store I'd encourage you to purchase it and break it down yourself.  It's more commonly found this time of year, during grilling season. 

If this idea is intimidating for you I'd encourage you to check out Joshua Wiesman's Video - 4 Easy Ways To Cook a Whole Pork Loin.  This is a great video, especially if you've portioned a full loin.

I think we often see a full pork loin and think "we'd never cook that much meat" viewing it as something you purchase to smoke for the company picnic.  Which, while not wrong, is not the only option.  Breaking down whole cuts can be a huge budget saver, whether it's a pork loin or a chicken. 

We've been buying whole loins since we lived in Missouri, which was our first exposure to these large cryovaced pieces of meat.  We bought it based on it being a budget saver.  Not really knowing what we were buying, but knowing we could cut it into roasts and chops and save quite a bit of money. 

We snagged a full loin about a month ago for $27 and broke it down following Josh's video. We elected to cut part of the "country rib" section into meat for kabobs or stew. The loin we got was just shy of 11 pounds and we broke it down into 10 pork chops, 3 small roasts, 2 packages of stew meat and 3 of country ribs, cut for pork sandwiches. Cost break down came to roughly $2/meal. Keep in mind this is packaged based on a two-person household.

Depending on how you elect to cut up a pork loin and the number of people in your household your dollar value may vary, but I'd be willing to guarantee you'll save money either way.  We use a FoodSaver vac sealer to pack our meat for the freezer, which extends the life of our frozen meat by protecting it against things like freezer burn.  Now go buy that big cut of meat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Recipe Review: The Kitchn Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies

I'm always looking for new recipe ideas for dinner that are meatless but are something Hubby will still enjoy.  Not all meatless meals are man-friendly.  Nough said!

Recipe:  Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies
Source:  The Kitchn
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Ingredients:  Mostly Fresh
Rating:  ★★★★

Sheet Pan Gnocchi is easy to make, but finding gnocchi could be a challenge depending on where you live.  I buy Cordabella Potato Gnocchi at our commissary, but you can order gnocchi on Amazon if you can't find it in your local store.  

I added asparagus and mushrooms to the veggies and use chopped bell pepper in place of the baby bell peppers called for.  I also finished the dish by serving it with some pearl mozzarella.  

Next time I make this I will opt for Italian seasoning over the rosemary.  Rosemary was okay, but I think it would be a better dish without it.  I will leave out the tomatoes, they didn't add much to the dish.  I'd rather trade them for some sundried tomatoes in the finishing of the dish as well.

This dish could easily be done with pasta as well.  I would roast the veggies, cook the pasta according to the doneness preferred, toss the veggies and pasta together and dress it with a little additional olive oil.

I like recipes like this because they are very easy to make your own with a few adjustments.  Make the dish yours by swapping in the flavors you prefer.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

One Chicken Multiple Meals

When there are only two people living in a house you get creative with how you make meals and deconstruct meals.  Preparing a whole chicken is one of those things that require some creativity to get the best value out of our money.  We pay on average $8 to $10 per whole chicken.

We usually cook a whole chicken one of two ways in the crockpot, using the Fauxtisserie Chicken recipe from Our Best Bites or beer can style on the grill, sometimes with a little smoke.

The first dinner is usually the chicken from the grill or crockpot with sides that fit the season we're cooking it.  Spring and summer might bring potato salad and baked beans, while fall and winter could bring mashed potatoes and gravy with peas or green bean casserole.

After dinner the night of the cooking, we bone the chicken after dinner and separate white meat from the dark.  White meat will be used for sandwiches or a second chicken and sides kind of meal.  Dark meat is used for chicken salad, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, pizza, pasta, fried rice, etc.

After the chicken is boned, the bones and skin go into the crockpot.  I toss in the veggie trimmings bag that I keep in the freezer, with some onion flakes, carrots, and celery with a good shake of forward spice mix.  I add enough water to cover and cover it, leaving it to cook on low for 10 hours.  This goes into the crockpot right before bed, then in the morning, I strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. I now have homemade stock for later meals. The spent carcass will now be tossed. The crockpot is the one who really does the work in this scenario.  I usually get 8 to 10 cups of stock for the freezer with this method.  The stock will go into other meals down the road.

The cost per meal breakdown on the last chicken we made like this a couple weeks ago ended up being five meals at about $1.80 per meal for the chicken.  This cost will vary based on the price of the chicken and the number of meals you get from the meat.  When the meat isn't the focus of the meal you can stretch it farther in things like pizza, fried rice, or nachos.  Wondering what I made with this chicken?

The first night was the grill roasted chicken with couscous tabouli, fridge quick pickle kraut,  and homemade bread.

The next two meals were chicken sandwiches, sorry no photos of those.  I often forget to photography breakfast and lunch.

The fourth meal was chicken enchiladas, as small pan of eight enchiladas is more than enough for us, unless I'm making a pan for the freezer.  Eight enchiladas will actually get us a bonus meal because we eat four the night of and then there are four of them leftover for lunches or another dinner.

The Fifth and final meal out of this bird was the chicken fried rice, and actually, there is another bonus meal here with a portion leftover for lunch as well.

Maybe this will give you some ideas the next time you cook a chicken.  Think about the possibilities that are out there before you just reheat the meat.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Life Hack for Leftovers

We're all cooking a lot more right now.  Yes, I know things are beginning to open back up around the nation, but this is gonna take some time.  I also think we'll continue to cook more, at least I know we will in our house.  That said, I thought I'd share this quick tip with you all.

I know what a struggle it can be to keep track of all the leftover bits that go into the fridge, with the promise to use it later.  Very often that promise is broken.  Leftover toppings for tacos, that spot of pizza sauce, maybe half a can of beans; all go in, never to be used.  Found months later, unidentifiable, ending up in the trash.   

My life hack for leftovers a small dry-erase board (similar to this one) that hangs on the front of our fridge.  I write all the leftovers on the board, as they go into the fridge. 

It's making packing hubby's lunches easier.  It also helps me when I'm planning and making dinner.  I can easily see what needs to be used up, reinvented, or can be paired together for a quick dinner.

This hack also helps cut down on the food waste in our house, those little containers no longer god to the back of the fridge to die.  I often keep track of how many servings of something remains, especially if we've opted to divide leftovers into containers for lunches. 

It may seem like more step when you're cleaning up from dinner, but trust me it's worth it.  Especially if you want to stop tossing so many leftovers.  Sure much of that food waste can go into the compost, but let's be honest most of us just toss it.

I hope this helps you get a jump on all the little containers of goodies lurking in the fridge before they turn into mystery bits to toss. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Weekly Reading Notes

Weekly Reading Notes is a weekly feature I've been thinking about trying.  I read a lot of amazing blogs every week and I want to share what I'm reading and the takeaways I have from each article.

I Asked My Co-Workers How They Butter Toast. It Got Weird. - Ok, let's be real, who's not gonna read an article with a title like that?  What I took away is that  I think I need a Japanese Butter Knife.

6 Little Gadgets Every Butter-Lover Should Own - Is there a theme? Not really, but this article brings us the Butter Mill.  Yes, please!  This could change every baker's world.

Deli-Style Whipped Cream Cheese - If only I could get my hands on good bakery bagels!  

20 Awesome Avocado Varieties (Type A & Type B Avocados Explained) - I had no idea there were so many kinds of Avocados.  I do love it when we travel to Hawaii and can get the varieties that make the Hass look like a mini version.  

Aldi Has a Good Reason for Not Playing Any Music in Its Stores - While I no longer have access to an Aldi store, I will literally read any article I find on this franchise.  As some who suffers frequently from too much noise stimulus a store with no music is such a peaceful experience.  

Sourdough Starter: Why a “dry” starter is best - This is more of a watch than a read, but it totally fascinated me.  I might give sourdough another try after having seen this.

Vermicomposting 101: How to Create & Maintain a Simple Worm Bin - I don't always read about food.  Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading about gardening.  Hubby and I are thinking about worms, and this article makes me think this is something we could do.

25+Ways to Use Fruit Powders - I love the idea of adding powdered fruit to my yogurt to make some of the flavors I miss.  I got rid of flavored yogurt out of my life a long time ago because of the high sugar.  Fruit powder would be great to dry in the fruit season so I can use it all winter.

The future of fine dining? An exclusive biodome for you and your date - As an introvert, I'm all on board with this ideas, pandemic social distancing rules or not.  I'd love to eat outside in my own space like this, so much less noise, and it would limit eavesdropping.  Who wouldn't love a more intimate setting like this?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Recipe Review: King Arthur Flour Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

OMG!  This Pizza is so good!  No really!  You must make it, but don't run off just yet, let's talk about it.  I found this through Instagram when Kristen Miglore of Food52 Genius Recipes made it.  I learned this is King Arthur Flour Company's 2020 Recipe of the Year.

Fist Make
Recipe:  Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza
Source:  King Arthur Flour Company
Level of Difficulty:  Moderate
Ingredients:  Pantry Staples
Rating:  ★★★★★
Notes:  Food 52 Genius Article on the Pizza with Video

This pizza reminds me of the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza of my childhood, with its crispy exterior, molten hot cheese, and soft tender insides.

I think the real genius of this recipe is that the entire crust isn't covered in sauce.  It's just dropped on in a few pockets to give you a little pop of flavor as you eat your way through this pillow of heaven.

The first time we made it I followed the recipe exactly, including slipping the dough into a gallon ziptop bag for its over-night resting, right down to cutting the finished pizza with scissors.

The second make there were some things that I did slightly differently.  We were out of gallon ziptop bags, so the dough went into a covered bowl overnight.  I would highly suggest this option over the bag.  I felt like the dough had a bit more room to rise this way.  I spaced getting the dough out three hours before ready to bake, so it only got about an hour and a half rise time.  I cheated here by placing it in the oven with the light on for a little added warmth.  I also spaced putting down a little layer of cheese before topping the dough with the sauce.  There were no soggy issues with the sauce being right on top of the dough.  Finally, I cut it with a knife.  Also not that big of a deal.  The second make was every bit as good as the first.

Second Make

I'd say one of the hardest things about this pizza is the timing.  Remembering to make the dough the night before is the biggest hurdle.  Then there is the bit of babysitting you have to do with the folding the dough at five-minute intervals four times, then resting it for 40 minutes before putting it in the fridge over-night.  Otherwise, this dough nearly makes itself.

We'll be making this again, and again, and again...well you get the idea.  This is the first pizza hubby and I have ever made where we agree it needs nothing added.  The sauce, the cheese and the amazing dough are perfect as they are.  I did top the finished pizza with some fresh basil, but that was the only extra I did.  Simple and amazing.  Go make the dough, you won't be sorry you have to wait until tomorrow to eat it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kitchen Library - Reference Books

I started building a kitchen library when we got married, nearly 13 years ago.  Before that, I had a handful of cookbooks and a recipe box.  I know what you're thinking - "well isn't that a kitchen library?"  The short answer is yes, but I'm talking about something that's a little more in-depth, something with a little more meat on the shelves so to speak.

So what's in my kitchen library?  I have an array of cookbooks, books on food writing and how to write cookbooks, books about ingredients, books on dehydrations, books for selling table to market, books on substitutions, and even a book about wine.  I've also taken my recipes out of boxes, because I'm not a recipe box user, as much as I love the idea of one.  My recipes are in 3-ring binders, yes plural, and every recipe is in a sheet protector or photo pocket depending on what it's written on.  I also have a small selection of food memoirs on a shelf in the living room.

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite books, that aren't cookbooks, that make great additions to your kitchen.  Assuming you're a food person like me, you might have a few magazine subscriptions and read any number of blogs and recipe sites to find the next great meal.  You also might need a little help navigating some of the recipes or techniques as you go.

The Food Lover's Companion is like a pocket dictionary for cooks.  No, I'm not kidding.  I've mentioned this book before.  I can't stress how many times we refer to this book.  It doesn't even live on the shelves with the other kitchen library books.  I keep it on the shelf next to the kitchen table.  While you can always "google it" there is something really great about having a book to flip through.  Since it's organized alphabetically and cross-referenced it's easy to use and there is no waiting for a page to load or having to visit several sites before you find the answer to what "x ingredient" is.

Available on Amazon
The Flavor Bible is a great book to have if you want to know how ingredients will be compatible with recipes.  I don't use this as much as I should but, it's still amazing to have when I'm not sure about an ingredient or am looking for options to replace something in a recipe.  This book is organized alphabetically and cross-referenced for ease of use.

Available on Amazon
The Food Substitution Bible another book that's way handy to have.  This is one I would suggest for new cooks, as there's great info in here about substitutions of ingredients, techniques, and even equipment.  This book if for those times when you discover you don't have a key ingredient, the right size pan, or a hard-to-find ingredient. Also organized alphabetically and cross-referenced.

These are my three most used books for reference in my kitchen.  While not all of them get the same amount of use, and yes you could get by with just one of them, I find them equally valuable.  If you're only willing to purchase one though, my recommendation would be for the Food Lover's Companion, as that is by far my favorite when it comes to kitchen library reference books.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Recipe Review: Glen & Friends Cooking 1800's Grasmere Gingerbread

I want to by saying I'm a sucker for old recipes, but I usually just collect them for reading.  I have a great stash of old cookbooks, most of them are church books.  I've made a few recipes, but very few.

I've been entertaining myself by watching cooking channels on Youtube, and a few weeks ago I stumbled onto Glen & Friends Cooking.  The first video of Glen's I watched was the Behind The Scenes Kitchen Studio.  His studio is fantastic, but I digress.  We're here to talk about 1800's Grasmere Gingerbread.

Recipe:  1800's Grasmere Gingerbread
Source:  Glen & Friends Cooking
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Ingredients:  Pantry Staples
Rating:  ★★★★★
Printable Recipe: 1800's Grasmere Gingerbread

Grasmere Gingerbread is like a jumbo soft ginger cookie than it is bread.  While the name is a bit misleading the ginger is not.  There are 2 teaspoons of ground ginger in this soft chewy bit of heaven.

It's like your favorite soft molasses cookie got together with your favorite hard ginger snap and had a baby.  In texture, it's chewy and dense.  In flavor, it's very gingery, but smooth not an in-your-face kind of ginger.

The recipe is easy to make, but I feel like you should be prepared to think it's not gonna work when you put it in the oven.  Have faith it will.  There is no liquid in the recipe, you press buttery crumbs into a pan and say a prayer when you put it in the oven, or at least I did.

The original recipe calls for golden syrup, which you can find on Amazon for as little as $10 and upwards of $20.  I subbed an alternate invert sugar in the recipe.  What's invert sugar?  You can check that out here.  I opted to use agave syrup, but next time I plan to try molasses.  You could use honey or corn syrup as Glen suggest in the video.

When you pull this lovely, chewy, butter heavy, delight from the oven you sprinkle sugar over the top.  I got fancy and used turbinado sugar, also known as raw sugar or baking sugar.  It's larger in grain than white sugar and adds a lovely crunch to baked goods like cookies and muffins.  Sprinkle the sugar, but up your game, if you have turbinado.  It's so worth it.

Grasmere Gingerbread was a hit in our house and I'll definitely be making it again.  We both loved the warm smooth ginger flavor.  I stored the leftovers in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Recipe Adaptation - Homemade Biscuits

I've spent the better part of the last 13 years looking for the perfect biscuit recipe because I was tired of making do with crappy biscuits.  Anyone who really knows me knows the soul purpose of a biscuit in my life is to create the bed for which my sausage gravy will rest.  Those rare times we eat breakfast out hubby always teases "what are you gonna have, if there's no biscuits and gravy?"  Biscuits and gravy is, hands down, my favorite breakfast, so a good biscuit is essential.

I learned to make the sausage gravy years ago, but the biscuit was kind of an afterthought.  I started with the biscuits in the can, fondly referred to as whop 'em biscuits.  Then there was the biscuit mix phase, not bad but I wanted more out of a biscuit.  After that I went through the homemade biscuit mix phase, always dense and never fluffy.  I even tried a handful of "from scratch" recipes out of cookbooks and from websites, never satisfied with the results.  Then, a couple of years ago, when I stumbled onto a King Arthur Flour recipe, that's when the magic started to happen.  Before I found I found King Arthur Flour's Never-Fail Biscuit recipe,  I was the Goldielocks of the biscuits.  This one's too dense, this one's not flaky enough...and the list goes on.

I got pretty good results with their original recipe, but I rarely have heavy whipping cream in the house.  Making these biscuits never fail, but not easily attainable.  Then came the morning I wanted biscuits and gravy and the search for a heavy whipping cream substitute.  While you can't really sub in anything when you're actually whipping the cream to make whipped cream; you can sub when you're baking or making soups and such.  The sub for heavy whipping cream in baking is 1/3 cup butter + 3/4 cup milk.  Both of which I have always.

The recipe adaptation happened as follows.  I measured the flour into a mixing bowl.  Then cut in the cold butter, much like you would for pie crust or any other pastry dough, until I got a fine crumb mixture.  Once I had crumbs I added the milk.  Magic happened and I haven't made biscuits any other way since.  That was almost two years ago.

The end result of this recipe is light, fluffy, flakey baked clouds of goodness.  The bottoms crisp up golden brown without becoming too hard to cut.  The tops turn a lovely golden brown on all the rough and craggy edges.  These really are never-fail biscuits and as long as you keep some self-rising flour in your pantry you can always make biscuit magic.

If you're looking for the perfect biscuit I'd encourage you to try my recipe for Biscuits.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Cooking Every Meal for the Last 57 Days

The other day while eating my lunch on the patio and enjoying the sun, it dawned on me, I have cooked every meal we've eaten for that last 57 days.  Yes.  Every. Meal.  Kind of crazy when you think about that.  We've not eaten out, we've not gotten carry out, nor have we grabbed something from the grocery store deli.  I can honestly say, I haven't really missed eating out.  
Here's a look at some of the things we've indulged in and enjoyed.

French Dip, Fries, & Star Fruit

Spanikopita & Starfruit

Mongolian Beef over Rice

Rum Cake

Focaccia Bread (We've made this twice)

Soft Wrap Bread (So far this one's at three and counting)

Instant Pot Pork Ribs, Potato Salad and Baked Beans 

Meatloaf, Foccacia Bread, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, & Peas

Scotch Eggs & Hashbrown Patties

Garlic Bread Chicken Nuggets & Fries

Grilled Pork with Salsa Verde, Mexican Rice & Refried Beans

Fry Bread

No-Stir Granola (I've made two batches of this so far too) 

Barley Pioneer Bread

Popeyes Copycat Chicken Sandwich, Cheesy Tots & Pickles

Poutine, made with homemade fries

London Broil, Salad, Baked Potatoes & Sauteed Mushrooms

Cinnamon Rolls

Buffalo Chicken Tatertot Casserole

Classic White Sandwich Bread (Three loaves into this recipe)

Bacon & Cheese Dutch Baby

Cranberry Crumble

Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

Jalapeno Cheddar Dutch Oven Bread

Kraut-Kelyean (Bierocks)

Grilled Boneless Spare Ribs, Fried Potatoes & Green Been Casserole

Khachapuri (Georgia Cheese Bread or as we refer to it Egg Bread)

Those are just some of the fantastic things I've made.  I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up this cooking marathon when I go back to work, but I can say I'm going to try.  I honestly feel better eating my own food, I love cooking and I'm so glad to have rekindled my love of food and cooking during this trying time in our lives.